Vaudt Out; Who's In For Governor?
The real issue in State Auditor Dave Vaudt's yesterday's announcement that he was running for re-election (and, by extension, NOT running for governor) is that a name is scratched off the Anyone But Vander Plaats list. If you read the GOP blogs you see the broad theme: the business wing of the party, with 2002 governor nominee Doug Gross as point person, is desperately searching for someone, anyone, who can beat the evangelical's choice in a primary. Because they know Vander Plaats will sweep the primary, then lose every county east of I-35 in November.
How desparate? The name Terry Branstad is being mentioned. That would be in keeping with the national GOP's pantheon of fresh faces: Gingrich, Cheney, and Limbaugh. Where they hell is Gopher when they need him? (Answer: doing talk radio in DC. He's fluent in French and Arabic... looking for another Republican Ambassador, Mr. President? Algeria and Tunisia are beckoning...)
Beating Bob in a primary is a tough call, since the deck of likely primary voters is stacked in his favor. The religious right is motivated, and they're also scaring moderates away (to the wishy-washy "No Party" designation or all the way over to the Dems). If you want All Gay Marriage All The Time, Vander Plaats is your guy. Unless it's Steve King, but I think he keeps dropping his name because he likes the attention, and is content with his safe seat and the bully pulpit it gives him.
Even the national political press is picking up on the Iowa GOP dynamic with this Congressional Quarterly piece.
Apart from ideology, BVP also risks a "loser" tag. He came up short in the 2002 primary against Gross and Steve Sukup (though in fairness that was a three way tie with less than six points between first and third), and got bought out of a losing primary bid in `06 when Nussle made him the running mate.
The centrists's problem is getting one and only one candidate to take on Vander Plaats, who'll easily prevail if the votes split. The name Bill Northey gets mentioned a lot; he was an unexpected winner in 2006 (granted, Denise O'Brien got slimed in the end of that Sec of Ag race) and he's been reasonably adept at reaching across the aisle while doing his job. But an ag-based candidate might also have trouble in urban Eastern Iowa.
Douglas Burns keeps mentioning his hometown legislator, Rod Roberts of Carroll. Burns argues that he splits the difference, with an evangelical background and business ties. His biggest problem is "Rod Who?"
Bleeding Heartland also has a good overview of the field as it stands and doesn't.
As for Vaudt's own race, the state auditor actually audits, unlike county auditors who run elections, pay the bills and map the plats. So there's not an obvious talent pool for Dems, who will have to hustle just to avoid the embarrassment they faces in 2006 when Vaudt was completely unopposed for a second term. He was the GOP's only statewide winner in 2002 when the job was open for the first time in a lifetime or so as Richard Johnson retired. (Johnson and Branstad tangled from time to time during some of the more gimmicky budgets of the mid-90s.) The only issues I remember in his 2002 race against longtime legislator Pat Deluhery (who made the statewide run when the legislative map looked bad) was party label and "Vaudt is a CPA and Deluhery isn't." It's an odd elected office, as accounting and charisma aren't often linked. Maybe the Dems will recruit this guy.