Vander Plaats at Hamburg Inn
There's a certain apples and oranges to comparing crowd sizes, especially in Iowa City between second semester and summer term. But if crowd size is any sort of measure, Bob Vander Plaats has some catching up to do in Johnson County before the primary three weeks from today.
In February, Terry Branstad packed the house at the Hamburg Inn. This morning, at a far more casual event, BVP worked a room with a dozen or so diners, most of whom looked like they were there by happenstance rather than for the special guest.
BVP said he drew a larger crowd of 100 or so to a Cedar Rapids event at the home of former congressional candidate Peter Teahen last night.
The Hamburg Inn was a change of fare for Vander Plaats, who's well known for scheduling events at Pizza Ranch's across the state. "It worked out for Mike Huckabee, so why change," said BVP, one of the leaders of Huckabee's winning 2008 caucus campaign. The Pizza Ranch connection was BVP's idea; a high school friend founded the chain.
BVP worked the room after an extended chat with those of us in the press corps. A lieutenant governor question gave him the opportunity to mention Branstad's recent heart stent and a chance to contrast his LG priorities with Branstad's. "If you look at the past, his lieutenant governor didn't follow the platform. Was that a mistake in `90? Was that mistake repeated in `94, or is that who you really are?"
BVP said he wanted people in his administration to have different life experiences than his own but to share the same core valies of "the sanctity of life, traditional marriage and a clear understanding of the constitution." Those social conservative stands have been the hallmark of this three campaigns; he finished a very close third in the 2002 gubernatorial primary, and dropped out in 2006 to become Jim Nussle's running mate.
"I'm more trusted on the fiscal issues and on teh social issues" than Branstad, said BVP. "If you grow government 2 1/2 times in your time in office, is that being a fiscal conservative."
Asked about Branstad's campaign finance report from yesterday, BVP said "the big thing I was impressed with was how much Branstad spent." He says his own report, due by tomorrow, will be good, but he's running a more grass roots campaign. "We don't stay in a lot of hotels," said BVP, who instead stays at 'safe houses' of supporters. "I'm impressed with the statewide network we have."