Iowa Governor Terry Branstad answered questions posed by members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, moving one step closer to his confirmation as the next U.S. Ambassador to China. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds also inched closer to becoming Iowa's first female governor as Branstad's successor.
In this edition of politics day on River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dennis Goldford of Drake University and Chris Larimer of the University of Northern Iowa about the challenges facing Branstad and Reynolds as they make these transitions.
There is no question that Branstad will face enormous challenges in China, and his friendly relationship with China's President is certainly a benefit. But, as Goldford and Larimer point out, Branstad won't be pursuing his own agenda with Xi Jinping, but will be the face of the Trump administration's agenda.
"There are clear disagreements with China on a number of issues," says Larimer. "But there's also the issue of North Korea, and how do you balance those two things, and how do you think of China, as an ally or an adversary, and we've heard President Trump talk about China as both."
Goldford says Branstad was very well prepared for his hearings, but may not be prepared for the unpredictable nature of this presidency.
"I think the chief danger for Governor Branstad is, he could be pursuing one line of discussion, negotiation, one line of policy with the Chinese, and then somebody in the Trump administration could well reverse course and pull the rug out from under him," says Goldford.
Both analysts agree Kim Reynolds' close relationship with Branstad will serve her well as she transitions to the office of Governor, but how she will differ from him in policy and approach remains to be seen.