The Sentiment

Vander Plaats Announcement Analysis: Wise Move for Bob, Marriage & GOP

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This morning, Bob Vander Plaats announced that he will not be running as an independent for Governor but instead he will be working to unseat the three justices up for a retention vote.  Vander Plaats made it very clear at the conference that he would not be endorsing any candidate or political party.  The question of endorsement arrived several times because Vander Plaats has yet to endorse the Republican nominee Terry Branstad, a common practice as part of  post-primary unity.  Today’s press conference marked the first time Vander Plaats has made a public appearance since his challenge of Kim Reynolds for Lt. Governor at the Republican State convention in early July.

This Republican primary in particular had been a controversial one for the three time runner Vander Plaats.  The controversy began with his plan to issue an executive order on day one that would place a stay on gay marriages in Iowa.  Vander Plaats pledged he would issue the order directly following the court’s decision in April 2009.  In January 2010, the Iowa Family PAC announced their endorsement of Vander Plaats because of his strong stance on marriage andpromised they would not support Governor Terry Branstad if he won the nomination.  This endorsement began speculation of whether or not Mr. Vander Plaats would run as a third party candidate if Branstad were to win the June 8th primary.  That rumor came to rest during today’s press conference.  However, it is still to be seen if Vander Plaats will endorse Terry Branstad.  It has become known that the two have been in talks since the state convention, but any form of agreement has yet to be seen.

As a former Vander Plaats employee, I think this was a very wise move for Bob to decide not to run third party, but instead take on the courts.  Vander Plaats’ bold stance on marriage throughout the Republican primary in addition to his stance on immigration drew distinct differences between him and now GOP nominee Branstad. Bob’s stance on marriage also garnered him a lot of support from the Christian right with endorsements from Mike Huckabee, Dr. Dobson, Chuck Norris, Iowa Family PAC, and David Barton.  The differences between the candidates on marriage may be the reason Vander Plaats was able to get 41% of the vote in a three way primary against a popular former governor.  Bob’s decision to continue to champion this issue may be the best way to keep him relevant.

If the campaign is successful in removing the three justices, Vander Plaats will become a popular name in the 2012 Iowa caucuses.  Those seeking the Christian right vote will likely court Mr. Vander Plaats to help garner support.  Success in removing the judges would not only impact Vander Plaats, it would also greatly impact the tone of discussion across the state and country.  Justices may give their opinions a second thought when they think the people may vote to remove them.

Another impact of BVP’s ‘vote no’ campaign will be its assistance to the Republican ticket.  The campaign will surely turn out Christian right voters on election day.  With many of them before threatening to sit out for Branstad, they will now be encouraged to vote.  This will greatly assist down-ticket races including the Republican’s push to take back the state legislatures and in several competitive congressional races.  If this energizes the base like I think it will, Governor Culver and the Iowa Democratic party should be very concerned.  Their base will not likely be nearly as energized.  Overall, a smart move by Vander Plaats.