Saturday, August 21, 2010

Iowa Governor Race

Race of the Day

Iowa Governor

August 21, 2010
73 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (Midwest)

Outlook: Likely Republican

For decades, the Hawkeye State has been known to swing both ways politically. Both Democrats and Republicans have won top races, with both labor unions and farmers holding sway. Still though, the state is considered to have a liberal lean on some issues, and Democrats having been making gains, as evidenced by winning the last three Gubernatorial elections.

Before that streak began though, Republican Terry Branstad held that prestigious office for four terms, between 1983 and 1999. After more than a decade outside of government, Brandstad, who first served as Governor in his 30s, looks like a good bet to return to his old job, now in his 60s.

While several Republicans jumped into the race for the office last year, most yielded last fall when Branstad announced he was leaving the post as President of Des Moines University for a political comeback. While Branstad has long been an unabashed social conservative, his top remaining primary opponent continued to run against him from the right. Businessman and activist Bob Vander Plaats had previously run for the GOP Gubernatorial nomination in 2002 and 2006, before agreeing to be the Lt. Governor candidate the final time. In his third attempt, Vander Plaats was defeated by Brandstad, but came closer in the June primary than many expected. After conceding the race, Vander Plaats seemed to threaten that unless Brandstad selected him as his running-mate, he would perhaps run as an Independent in the general election, which could have complicated GOP efforts to regain the office. Brandstad did not give in to the political blackmail attempt and selected a different running mate (his fourth ever.) Very recently, Vander Plaats ruled a further bid for Governor this year.

In the meantime, the political landscape in Iowa looks pretty bleak for first term Democrat Governor Chet Culver. At age 44, Culver is the nation's youngest Governor and had a famous Iowa political name and two terms of service as Secretary of State when he fairly easily won the job in 2006 . He has appeared to struggle politically though as Governor and appeared very vulnerable in a reelection effort. The fact that such a statewide figure such as the near legendary Branstad is opposing him has only made the situation more dire for the current Governor and polls are showing the Republican ahead by upward of 15 points, and at more than 50 percent total support. Absent something dramatic, Iowa will see it's incumbent chief executive rejected by a landslide margin, and Branstad, mustache and all, will be moving back into the home his family once spent many years in.

After this election, the political eyes of the nation will once again look to Iowa for it's continuing status as home of the first Presidential caucus. If Branstad is Governor, his endorsement could be highly valuable. He would perhaps be unlikely to endorse the 2008 winner of the caucus, as Mike Huckabee had backed Vander Plaats (his state's campaign head that year) in the 2010 primary, but other potential Republican candidates such as Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney had indeed endorsed Branstad before this year's primary, with Romney having gone on record first.

Branstad campaign link:

2010 Governor races predicted thus far: 4 D, 9 R
Predicted Gubernatorial totals thus far: 11 D, 15 R