The spirit of rivalry is thick in the air as Mitt Romney’s PAC announced today that Romney has endorsed Terry Branstad in Iowa’s republican primary race for the Governorship. In addition to the endorsement the PAC wrote out a check for the maximum possible donation the PAC can give, $10,000, which is incidentally among the highest contributions given by the PAC this year.
The rivalry with this endorsement is evident when you consider the fact that Branstad’s main opponent, Bob Vander Plaats, has been heavily endorsed by Mike Huckabee AND his trusty sidekick Chuck Norris. According to The Iowa Independent other similarities with Huckabee and Vander Plaats abound:
The comparisons between this year’s Republican gubernatorial primary, with Sioux City businessman Bob Vander Plaats and former Gov. Terry Branstad as the frontrunners, and the 2008 Iowa Republican Caucuses, where former governors Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney squared off, are many. The biggest similarity, ultimately, is that the race represents a fork in the road for the Republican Party of Iowa, observers say, with voters facing stark differences in choosing the de facto leader of their party.
“The 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary runs parallel to the Romney/Huckabee match-up insomuch as the internal struggle for control of the party remains,” said Graham Gillette, who runs a public affairs/communications firm and occasionally blogs for The Des Moines Register. “The players are different. The campaign strategies being employed are not like 2008. But, ideology is driving the race as it did the 2008 Caucuses.”
Vander Plaats’ campaign is being run by Eric Woolson, who helped steer Huckabee to a caucus victory in 2008. In fact, Vander Plaats served as Huckabee’s state chair, and the former Arkansas governor has endorsed and repeatedly campaigned on Vander Plaats’ behalf.
Branstad remained neutral during the caucuses, but his staff is made up of numerous former Romney aides, including his spokesman, Tim Albrecht, his main fundraiser, Nicole Schlinger, and the person who put together the “Draft Branstad PAC,” Sandy Greiner, among others. But Doug Gross, Branstad’s former chief of staff and longtime adviser, represents Branstad’s closest ties to Romney. In fact, the two of them sat down with the former Massachusetts governor when he visited Iowa [in the end of March].
So Romney is going in big with 2012 implications on the line. Huckabee already put all of his chips into this one, nearly a year ago. With Huckabee’s busy TV and radio schedule, plus his daughter’s upcoming wedding (May 25th, Virgin Islands), Huckabee won’t be able to make it the state to campaign for Vander Plaats so his proxy, Chuck “Texas Ranger” Norris, is filling in for him. The legendary Mr. Norris will be in Iowa on June 4th and 5th.
The Iowa 2010 primary elections are set for June 8th – mark your calendars. The way I see it Romney has nothing to lose on this one and much to gain, as he would be the underdog going into Iowa should Huckabee run. I couldn’t find any head to head polling of Branstad and Vander Plaats, but Rasmussen did do a hypothetical match-up of both candidates against incumbent Democrat Chet Culver in a general election:
Romney’s statement of endorsement for Terry Branstad:
Terry Branstad served Iowa well in the 1980s and 1990s, compiling an enviable record as a pro-growth fiscal conservative who will make jobs his first priority. Iowa is ready for a comeback, and Terry’s proven leadership is just what Iowa needs to get its economy back on track. I am proud to endorse his candidacy to lead Iowa to a more prosperous future.
Update by Luke:
Sarah Palin Joins Mitt Romney in Backing Terry Branstad for Governor of Iowa
Read her Facebook note here (6/3/10)