Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Culver plays Offense with Western Iowa Trip

Governor on offense with western trip

It's not an Official re-election announcement, but an email from Governor Chet Culver's campaign committee landed in in-boxes this morning announcing a campaign swing via train through the western end of the state tomorrow.

The vehicle, of course, has been a Democratic icon since way before Joe Biden. Harry Truman rode the very same tracks in his upset 1948 win. One of his major speeches of that campaign was in Dexter, where he unveiled the new definition of the GOP acronym as "gluttons of privilege," which Tom Harkin loves to quote.

Culver isn't inviting such direct comparisons. He's stopping one town before and two stops after Dexter. But he is playing offense with this trip. All four stops are in counties he lost to Jim Nussle in 2006: Earlham (Madison County), Menlo (Guthrie), Atlantic (Cass), and Council Bluffs (Pottawatamie). The billed end-of-day event in Council Bluffs is a $10 a head county party event. (Presumably, fundraising god Mike Gronstal has a low-key heavy hitter event tucked in somewhere.)

Now, granted, Culver only lost Guthrie County by 23 votes. But the symbolic swing through the more Republican end of the state is interesting at a time when Culver's ratings are at mediocre levels. If anything, Culver's problem is a lukewarm base rather than Republican-leaning voters.

Perhaps the governor expects the upcoming Vander Plaats vs. Rants vs. whoever primary to become a presidential proxy war, and with potential contenders Mike Huckabee and Haley Barbour and John Ensign passing through, that's entirely likely. That amps up the hard right's stake in the race, helping Vander Plaats.

The national handicappers don't have Culver's race on the radar yet, and it's not likely it will be until the Republicans settle their nomination. After that, even if the 2010 legislative session fails on high-profile items like the labor bills, if the left is faced with the prospect of a Governor Vander Plaats, they'll come around. BVP won't win a county east of I-35.

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