I’m rather torn as to whether this is some sort of indicator that’s worth watching tomorrow or just a piece of inevitable political minutia like so many others which gets flushed away with the next dawn. We learned something about Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s primary preferences last month at that same time that he celebrated the milestone of becoming the longest serving governor in the nation’s history. He insisted that he wasn’t going to be endorsing anyone or playing favorites, but he definitely didn’t want Ted Cruz to carry the day. At the same time we saw how the rest of the candidates felt about Branstad as they jumped all over each other to congratulate and praise him.
“Congrats to Iowa’s @TerryBranstad as he becomes the longest serving governor in U.S. history today! -John #iacaucus,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich tweeted, with a picture of himself and the governor.
“Congratulations to @TerryBranstad for becoming America’s longest serving governor,” said Rick Santorum, who narrowly won the Iowa caucus in 2012 despite losing his bid for the GOP nomination.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s spokesman noted the anniversary on Twitter, as well.
“Good read: AP’s @catherine_lucey profiles @TerryBranstad as he nears historic record as longest serving Gov ever,” Alex Conant tweeted.
Well, we’re down to the final hours and Branstad still isn’t technically endorsing anybody, but he may be sending a signal. Despite the well wishes I noted in the article above, the Governor will be showing up at an event tonight with the Governor of New Jersey. (CNN)
Chris Christie is relying on deep connections to long-time Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to boost his Iowa campaign. Now, he’s going to get a helping hand from Branstad himself.
While the six-term governor will not officially endorse his New Jersey counterpart, Branstad will introduce Christie at his West Des Moines rally on Sunday night. For a candidate sitting at around 2% in the polls, it’s quite an assist. Yet it tracks with how — and why — Christie’s late Iowa push came to fruition.
“Team Branstad is with Team Christie,” the New Jersey governor said at one point during a town hall Friday, one of about a dozen mentions of Branstad during the event at a Burlington baked goods shop and restaurant.
Before getting to the heart of the question, there’s one quick side note for Chris Christie: you could have announced that Branstad was going to stand by your side nearly anywhere you liked, Governor. But you picked a bakery? Seriously? It’s like you’re just asking for more donut jokes.
But getting back to the question of the moment, does Branstad actually intent this to be a signal of support to his loyal following in his home state? If so… why? Sure, Christie was all on board with King Corn as soon as he got in the race, but so was nearly everyone else. And if you’re looking to give a boost to the best candidate for your socially conservative, evangelical base in Iowa, Christie again seems like a peculiar choice. I’ll tack on one more bit of criteria here and add that the Governor himself has commented on the need for Iowa to back a winner this season. There were easily a half dozen other choices to look at without tapping the guy who only makes it above 4% in one state – New Hampshire – and not by that much of a margin there.
The more I dwell on this today, the more I begin to think that Branstad and Christie are just friends and he doesn’t mind doing him a small favor. A second, more mundane explanation is that the location was just convenient to the Governor’s plans this evening. If I really have to stretch the fabric of the political universe and read something into the tea leaves, he might be concerned about giving even the appearance of an endorsement by showing up in the vicinity of anyone in the top five and decided to watch the show with a guy who is still not going to get above 2%.
Exit question: I know Branstad remains popular among Republicans in Iowa, but does he still have that kind of juice? Could he show up today and campaign with somebody and really swing the numbers in the final 24 hours if he had gone with Trump or Rubio? It just strikes me as unlikely.