I've been posting less often at MyDD lately because Iowa campaign news is keeping me busy at my home blog, Bleeding Heartland. From time to time I will keep MyDDers up to date on our highest-profile races: Roxanne Conlin's bid against five-term Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Democratic Governor Chet Culver's re-election campaign against four-term former Governor Terry Branstad.
After the jump you'll find lots links on the Iowa governor's race since Branstad won the June 8 primary with about 50 percent of the vote to 41 percent for Bob Vander Plaats and 9 percent for Rod Roberts.
The decision won't be final until the Republican National Committee's summer meeting in August, but it appears likely that the Iowa caucuses will remain the first presidential nominating contest in 2012. This week the RNC's Temporary Delegate Selection Committee recommended adopting a rule that would allow only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to hold primaries or caucuses before March 6, 2012. Click here to read the rule, which would also require all states that hold nominating contests before April 2010 to award their delegates proportionally, rather than through a winner-take-all system that is typical for the Republican Party.
Former four-term Governor Terry Branstad, the likely Republican nominee against Governor Chet Culver, launched his campaign's third television ad today, about a month after his first commercials started running statewide in Iowa. The latest ad depicts Branstad as "the real conservative change we needed then... and now."
The farm crisis ... Budget deficits... Skyrocketing unemployment...
That’s what Terry Branstad faced when he was elected governor.
But this Winnebago County farm kid put his rural values right to work, recruiting thousands of jobs, cutting out half the state agencies and taxes $124 million – leaving us record employment, and a $900 million surplus.
Terry Branstad is the real conservative change we needed then... and NOW.
Time for a reality check.
Branstad was first elected governor in 1982, near the bottom of an economic cycle (at that time the most severe recession since World War II) and was fortunate to retire near the peak of the Clinton boom years. However, job gains during Branstad's tenure as governor did not fulfill promises he made during his campaigns.
The huge growth in the general fund budget would not have been possible without various tax increases Branstad signed into law. Increased revenue from two sales tax hikes dwarfed the $124 million in tax cuts highlighted in Branstad's new commercial. Those cuts came primarily from reducing income and estate taxes, delivering most of the benefits to wealthier Iowa families. Unfortunately, Branstad's sales tax increases disproportionately hit lower-income families, who spend a greater share of their money on essentials.
Branstad was far from reluctant to raise taxes. He asked the state legislature to increase the sales tax in his very first budget address, within days of being inaugurated in 1983.
However, during the general election campaign, Branstad will face an opponent with the resources to compare his record with his rhetoric. I wonder how many conservative Republicans will either stay home in November or check the Libertarian box in the governor's race.
Everyone who moderates a debate this year could learn from the journalists who guided the May 1 Iowa Republican gubernatorial candidates' debate: Todd Dorman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Paul Yeager of Iowa Public Television, and Jeneane Beck of Iowa Public Radio. Too many journalists ask long-winded questions that are easy to evade, or ask about hot topics of no lasting importance, or ask about policies outside the scope of the office the candidates are seeking. In contrast, almost every question the panelists asked during Saturday's debate was direct and addressed an issue the next governor of Iowa will face.
Mind you, asking an unambiguous question doesn't guarantee that you'll get a straight answer from a politician. Look what happened when Dorman asked the Republicans, "Can you identify one tangible way Iowa has been harmed during a full year of legal same-sex marriage?"