The Political Clout of Unbeatable Branstad

Jan 20, 2015

The Republican Governor of Iowa is on track to become the longest serving Governor in the history of the United States. Terry Branstad was sworn into his sixth non-consecutive term last week.

Many of his governor friends will be making appearances with him this year in the state that kicks of presidential elections.

"(Appearing with Bransatd) doesn't mean that he is endorsing you. His position is the more the merrier and Iowa is important and I appreciate your coming out here to affirm the importance of Iowa." - Drake Political Science Professor Dennis Goldford.

Plain-spoken and mustachioed 68-year-old Terry Branstad has never lost an election in the swing-state of Iowa. He was governor through much of the 1980s and 90s and came back to knock off an incumbent Democrat in 2010. Branstad easily won re-election in November and his supporters celebrated at his latest inauguration last week.

After taking the oath of office, Branstad was quick to point out his long tenure as governor.

“I still marvel at system and a state where a poor north Iowa farm boy can be elected governor,” Branstad says to the crowd of more than 1,000 people. “It remains a great honor and privilege to have been chosen by the people of Iowa again and again to serve as your chief executive.”

Branstad’s speech focused on bipartisanship, the state has a split legislature so he regularly has to work with Democrats. He also talked about strengthening the state’s infrastructure and economy.

Iowa’s Republican U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst were in the audience. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was there too. He’s chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association. He tells reporters he’s just there to see his friend sworn in.

“Branstad’s taught me a thing or two about politics and how to govern. He’s good at both,” Christie says. “Nobody gets elected six times if they’re not. He’s taught me a lot.”

“Terry Branstad has the magic touch. It is remarkable,” says Drake Political Science Professor Dennis Goldford. “He seems to campaign in terms of saying constantly to audiences everywhere: I love Iowa. I love this state. I don’t think anybody doubts that. That itself is not a political program. But I think Iowans see him as one of them.”

In 2012, the Iowa Republican party was controlled by the Ron Paul Liberty Movement. Branstad is seen as a more mainstream Republican and led an effort to reassert control of the state GOP. Goldford says potential Republican presidential candidates will want to be seen with Branstad.

“That doesn’t mean that he’s endorsing you – his position is the more the merrier and Iowa is important and I appreciate your coming out here to affirm the importance of Iowa and start your campaign here,” Goldford says.

Branstad’s advice to any candidate is to spend a lot of time in Iowa.

“Go to all 99 counties – meet with the people – answer their questions,” Branstad says. “That’s how I think you can be successful. It’s certainly worked well for me for all these years.”

Meanwhile, back at the inauguration, Joni Scotter is posing for a picture with Governor Chris Christie. The 73-year-old is a longtime G-O-P volunteer who’s sought after by many presidential Iowa campaigns. She hopes Christie runs and spends a lot of time in Iowa. She says there’s plenty of room for all facets of the Republican Party. She says Iowa Republicans will just need a candidate to run for president like Terry Branstad.

“You wanna know what? When we get a real good candidate like Branstad,” Scotter says with excitement. “Did you see how many votes that man got? It was just phenomenal.”

Iowa Republican activists will get a chance to meet plenty of potential candidates this weekend Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and many more are scheduled to attend an event sponsored by Iowa Congressman Steve King and Citizens United. Chris Christie says he’ll be back here, too…. But don’t read too much into that.

“We’re not voting in Iowa here for nearly another 13 months, so let’s everybody take a deep breath, ok?” says to reporters. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel the need to rush something as serious as deciding whether you want to pursue the presidency of the United States.”

The unbeatable Terry Branstad will be one of the keynote speakers at Saturday’s event.