Debunking the “Roberts Isn’t a Leader” Meme

The one candidate that has largely been without critics in Iowa’s Gubernatorial Race is State Representative  Rod Roberts.  He is pretty universally liked.  The only criticism that I have heard is a consistent meme I’ve heard from supporters of Bob Vander Plaats.  For instance right after I endorsed Rod I heard this from Iowans Rock, an anonymous blogger at Iowa Defense Alliance, who said, “And I believe he will allow Terry Branstad to get the nomination.”

Mike Hartwig of Iowa Family Policy Center also echoed that sentiment:

…if Roberts stays in the race, it will peal votes from MVP and give the primary to Branstad. MVP can’t win without all the conservatives. But Branstad can’t win against Culver without the conservatives and the rumblings are that they’re going to a third party or staying home if Branstad gets the nod. That will give Culver 4-more-years.

To which I reply, so what?  Why is Bob Vander Plaats the person that evangelicals have to coalesce around?  It’s like some people think it’s his turn (now where have I heard that argument before?  Oh yeah Bob Dole and John McCain… and that worked out beautifully).

I saw Representative Roberts the day after I endorsed him and he said that he is an “equal opportunity vote taker,” and is quite happy to take votes away from Bob Vander Plaats and former Governor Terry Branstad.  I hope he does drain votes away from Vander Plaats, as well as, Branstad.  He represents a third option.

Then the second aspect to the meme that I’m hearing from IFPC and company is that Roberts isn’t much of a leader.  Mike said that in the above comment and reiterated in a second comment , and that mirrors what he has written earlier and what Iowa Family PAC said in their endorsement of Vander Plaats.

On Tuesday Steve Deace at WHO Radio joined in on the Roberts lacking leadership meme when he said:

Roberts really hasn’t provided a reason for voters to select him. What is his issue? What is his constituency? What’s his field of expertise? While his record as a legislator is pretty conservative, I’ve heard lots of people I know make the same observation about him the Iowa Family PAC recently made: he’s not known as a leader on any of the issues conservatives care about. He’s considered a solid vote, but not a leader.

Voters are looking for leadership.

Say what you want about Branstad and Vander Plaats, but each of them has offered voters a clear reason why they’re running, and that demonstrates leadership. For Branstad it’s that he can make the economic trains run on time and beat Democrats by becoming just like them. For Republicans hungry for a win at all costs that message has its allure.

Vander Plaats’ bold, principled, and informed stand on the separation of powers and constitutional rule of law is the difference between him and Roberts. Roberts is running the same sort of generic “I’m a nice guy conservative” campaign – without any real policy ideas that grab your attention…

…What issue does Roberts own? I can’t think of a single one. Being “real with Iowans” and being “respectful” aren’t issues—they’re sentiments.

First off, let me state unequivocally that rhetoric on a single issue is not leadership.  Giving speeches is not leadership.  Raising money for Iowa Family Policy Center isn’t leadership.  Bob Vander Plaats has no real experience governing nor has he advanced any idea beyond his executive order (which may be bold and principled, but isn’t very informed like his position on a Constitutional Convention) that really stands out.  Many Branstad supporters that I know aren’t in the BVP camp because of his lack of experience and seeming lack of competency.

Beyond his position on marriage what position is he known for?  That’s great we know what he’s going to do on Day One, but how about Day Two?

Mike Hartwig also mentioned Bob has a big hairy audacious goal and has separated himself from the herd.  Well that he has done, but again does that mean he’ll govern well?  Who was the last person who won an election on rhetoric and BHAG… a little hope and change?  How well has that turned out for us?  I see Vander Plaats as the conservative Barack Obama, a lot of rhetoric, but no experience or substance to back it up.

I don’t think this election is going to be about that.  It will be about who people can trust and who they think will be competent to govern.

As far as issues that Roberts has been advocating:

He wants to create a friendly business climate for Iowa, and is actively opposing the “fair share” or “reasonable reimbursement” bill that will hurt Iowa’s business climate by diminishing Iowa’s Right to Work Law.  He’s advocated eliminating the state corporate income tax and has introduced a bill that would do just that.  Roberts has advocated reigning in government spending and is taking the lead in working toward a constitutional amendment to limit state government spending.  He wants to get government out of the way to promote private sector job growth.

What has Bob Vander Plaats done?  Oh yeah, he has given speeches.

In regarding to his social conservative cred, his record in the Iowa House is impeccable.  He is a solid social conservative.  He supports the traditional definition of marriage.  He has filed legislation that addresses how Supreme Court justices are nominated.  He is solidly pro-life with a legislative record that backs it up.

Again, what has Vander Plaats done except give speeches and promote an idea that fellow conservatives, like Congressman Steve King and State Representative Chris Rants, think is unconstitutional?

Nothing.

Rod Roberts is a strong candidate as Douglas Burns from Robert’s hometown paper points out:

Over his nine years in the Iowa House, Roberts, the Iowa development director with the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, has been a reliable vote on social conservative issues to be sure. He’s vehemently opposed to abortion and is steadfast in his religiously based view that marriage should be between one man and one woman. Organizations such as the decidedly right-of-center Iowa Family Policy Center know this and tell us they’re quite comfortable with the prospect of a Governor Rod Roberts. They trust him.

But it is not with social issues that Roberts has made his name in the Legislature and Iowa politics – or in Carroll. Specifically, Rod, a man who clearly keeps close counsel with successful economic-development leaders in Carroll, fought for legislation that has dispersed money from casino-rich counties to the rest of the state through Endow Iowa. Carroll County and other rural areas without slot-machine-fed streams of cash benefit enormously from this. It is a signature accomplishment.

On the education front, Roberts, a former member of the Carroll Community School Board, has shown a keen understanding of the state’s public systems, which consume a lion’s share of the tax dollars we send to Des Moines. What’s more, he provided crucial advocacy for private schools with support of tuition tax credits and the rescue of logical state transportation programs for parochial students – funding that was under heavy assault at one point from former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.

With regard to constituent service, an underrated but perhaps the best measure of a legislator, Rod’s performed diligently. He’s listened and delivered, most recently where the city of Carroll and a much-needed traffic signal project at U.S. Highway 30 and Griffith Road is concerned. I’ve personally never seen Rod Roberts unprepared or ill-informed on legislation. This teacher’s son does his homework.

In an in-depth analysis of a potential Roberts gubernatorial bid we published Monday, fiscal-issues-first Des Moines Republican David Oman, former state chairman of that party, described Rod as having "a winning personality." This is right on the money for Rod is that rarest of political creatures with whom one can disagree but still hold in esteem, for while he’s a sharp tactician and not afraid to mix it up, Rod isn’t guided by guile.

In 2010 the Iowa GOP has a barn-door opening provided by an at times stumbling Chet Culver and overreaching Democratic Party, which appeared more interested in political paybacks than governing. But Republicans face political Siberia if they can’t nominate a competitive candidate for Terrace Hill and shape an agenda that reaches out from the ideological single-issue madness of fringe players to life in the middle of Iowa, where most of us live.

There’s every reason to believe Rod Roberts can erect the political bridges Republicans so desperately need.

He can bridge the rift between moderates, fiscal conservatives and social conservatives, and from one of his new radio ads you can see that is exactly how he is positioning himself:

I’m running for governor because I think our state needs new leadership. State government is spending taxpayer dollars at record highs. Next year’s budget gap could run over one billion dollars, and over 100,000 Iowans are out of work. The Roberts for Governor campaign is about using common-sense conservative values to solve these problems. As a five-term state representative, I have real experience being both a fiscal and a social conservative. As governor, I promise to restore fiscal discipline and to stop out-of-control state spending, and I will continue to be a strong advocate for policies that are pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. The Roberts for Governor campaign is about building a better Iowa. It’s time for new leadership, a fresh face, and a new direction for the state of Iowa.

He is the candidate who is the complete package in the race.  He is a fiscal conservative with a record that Vander Plaats can’t measure up to and whose record isn’t tarnished like Branstad’s.  He is a social conservative and has been very vocal about that and has been consistent unlike Governor Branstad.  He has a strong record with parental choice in education, an issue Vander Plaats has been wishy washy on.  He has the temperament and experience to be an effective governor.

So set aside the meme that you hear from the Vander Plaats camp and support Roberts for Governor.

Please read our comment policy before leaving a comment.

  • http://iowadefensealliance.com/ Iowans Rock

    Good try Shane. Glad to see you are on the Branstad/Roberts bandwagon.
    .-= Iowans Rock´s last blog ..Mike Huckabee’s Iowa Blitz =-.

    • http://www.caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

      @Iowans Rock, That’s all you can come up with? I’m on Roberts’ bandwagon btw. I’m voting on principle, not pragmatism which is what you want me to do if I vote for Vander Plaats.

    • http://www.caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

      @Iowans Rock, Lori, why is it that you can’t offer any rebuttal to my points? I mean really? By saying to me I’m on Branstad’s bandwagon does nothing to make your candidate more attractive to me. Actually just the opposite.

      You must agree with my points if all you can offer is snark.

      • http://iowadefensealliance.com/ Iowans Rock

        I was going to rebuttal your points and try to make my candidate “more attractive” to you, but instead of wasting a perfect Sunday afternoon I did not due to these two points:

        1. Your non-support of Vander Plaats appears to go deeper than the issues.

        2. You blog post was very weak in even attempting to make Roberts look like a viable candidate.

        Vander Plaats is a bold leader. I sure hope Roberts takes him up on his offer to participate in debates. The contrast will be stark.

        BTW, Ronald Reagan ran for the nomination three times.
        .-= Iowans Rock´s last blog ..Mike Huckabee’s Iowa Blitz =-.

      • http://www.caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

        @Iowans Rock, First, Bob Vander Plaats is no Ronald Reagan, sorry!.

        Calling my post “weak” isn’t a very good rebuttal. He would be a strong general election candidate. I didn’t say his winning the nomination wasn’t going to be a long shot. I just think he’s better qualified to lead than Vander Plaats.

        Why is it that you resort to labels when somebody doesn’t support your candidate, like I’m on the Branstad bandwagon, anyone who reads this blog should know that isn’t the case. Then you say he isn’t a viable candidate.

        The only people I hear say that are a handful of BVP supporters and frankly the rhetoric doesn’t endear people to your candidate of choice.

        To say that Bob Vander Plaats is a “bold leader,” ok you are certainly entitled to your opinion. But again I see the same talking points crop up. Why is he bold? Because of the executive order. That frankly is the only thing that separates him from Roberts on the Iowa Marriage Amendment. Unfortunately he would lack the power and authority to back it up. It’s just rhetoric, the marriage amendment would still need to be voted on. And he’ll end up looking weak in the process, and not so bold.

        Now would you like to compare Roberts and Vander Plaats when it actually comes to experience governing a state and with fiscal issues? You know what will actually take up most of a Governor’s time? Roberts is much, much stronger there.

        Also, why do you think my non-support of BVP goes deeper than the issues? It doesn’t. I’ve met the guy. I think he’s a nice guy. This isn’t personal. I think he makes a better candidate for U.S. Senate, and I hope that he will consider that when Harkin is up for re-election.

        Also, I’ve been very clear that I will support BVP if he is the nominee. So exactly what are you getting at? Please do tell since it seems like you know my motives better than I do.