Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds & Governor Terry Branstad at the Iowa GOP Legislative Breakfast last January.

(Des Moines, IA) Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds announced that their initial organization of county chairs across the state has reached over 1000 Iowans.

Here is the entire list.

There are some who have dismissed this as Governor Branstad not having a contested primary.  Sure that may be part of it, but this is incredible organization for so early in the campaign – actually in a campaign that Governor Branstad hasn’t formally announced yet.

The Democrats view Branstad as vulnerable, but I’m having a hard time seeing that, especially with the candidates that they have fielded.  You have the “I’m for small businesses, but won’t vote for a tax cut” candidate in State Representative Tyler Olson (D-Cedar Rapids).  Really?  I know he’s the bright and shining star of the Iowa Democratic Party, but can’t they see the inconsistency of his messaging compared to his voting record?  Low hanging fruit in a general election.

Then there is State Senator Jack Hatch (D-Des Moines) who decided to run his first ad focusing on the speeding incident with his Iowa State Patrol driver.  He titled it “Smokey and the Bandit.”


First, the driver was issued a speeding ticket.  Second, Governor Branstad has ordered his state troopers to obey all traffic laws unless there is an emergency.  That said, from what I’ve been told by former campaign workers, is that Governor Branstad was busy working and making phone calls while being driven.  It’s very plausible that he didn’t know how fast his vehicle was going as he was focused on work.

Craig Robinson made a good point about this ad:

I bet Hatch has spent every dollar he’s raised producing the ad and putting it on the air.  While he provided us all with a chuckle on Monday, not many people will ever see the ad since he spent just $21,980 in the Des Moines TV market and a paltry $12,750 in Cedar Rapids.

He has some good Smokey & the Bandit analogies as well.

Governor Branstad also is way, way ahead of the game in terms of fundraising.  He is going to be very tough, if not impossible, to beat.  He is undefeated in statewide elections.  He’s not the candidate that I’d want to face if I were a Democrat.

While I haven’t heard of a direct primary challenger for Branstad, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.  He has taken positions that are out-of-sync with the grassroots, like his defense of the Common Core State Standards for instance.  Even so I don’t see any primary challenge being successful.

Mike Glover writes today about an internal threat.  The challenge may not come at Branstad directly so it would be harder to tamp it down.  Glover says that Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds may be at risk at the State Convention.

But at some point, Branstad will step down and that will lead to a very interesting election. If Reynolds is still his running mate, it is very likely that Branstad would lead the charge for her. Ever mindful of his legacy, playing a key role in bringing the state its first woman governor would likely appeal to him. He does, after all, care about his role in the history books.

That prospect doesn’t appeal to many conservative Republican activists. Some worry she isn’t conservative enough, while others worry about whether she could win a statewide election. They’ve begun talking about the potential of using next year’s State Republican Convention as a vehicle for replacing Reynolds. While gubernatorial candidates traditionally can pick their running mates, that selection must be ratified at that convention. There’s talk brewing about a showdown. It’s far from clear how serious that talk is being taken, but the fact that it’s going on is important.

The Republican State Convention is traditionally dominated by conservative activists, who would likely be open to the concept of a more conservative running mate.

“I do know there is a lot of concern out there,” said one GOP strategist. “I think it’s a threat.”

“I have heard the postulate going around,” said another strategist.

Publicly, Branstad and Reynolds dismiss the suggestion.

“I haven’t heard anything about that,” said spokesman Tim Albrecht. Privately it is a very different story.

“They are aware of this footsy game,” said another GOP strategist. “They are forewarned and I’m guessing armed.”

Bob Vander Plaats attempted to subvert Branstad’s pick of a running mate and it wasn’t successful in 2010.  It is possible, but I don’t see it as probable – not to say the Branstad camp should be dismissive.  If this were 2012 rather than 2014 seeing how the Ron Paul wing of the party dominated the convention I’d think differently.  The Ron Paul strategy is one that can be pulled off once.  Now people expect it and will be ready.  When the Branstad camp has over 1000 county chairs I’d have to believe they are grooming some of those activists to be delegates for the county, district and state conventions.

The key is simply showing up to the mid-term Iowa Caucus.  If Branstad folks don’t show up for the Caucus then Reynolds could be in trouble.  If they do, it should be smooth sailing.

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