Iowa GOP unifies around Trump to finish off state’s Democratic Party

Photo by: Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily

Donald Trump’s stronghold in Iowa is undeniable, but in reality, he’s being used. For Electoral College junkies, it might be absolutely baffling that Iowa will most likely swing from blue to red in 2016. Democrats have won six of the past seven presidential elections in the state, and Iowans propelled Barack Obama into the national spotlight with his surprise caucus win in 2008. However, there is one historically important election factor that doesn’t make the reality TV actor’s win in Iowa too mystifying: It’s the Republican Party’s strength in the state, or more specifically, state party unification.

While many media pundits claim things like race and a less-educated population (92 percent of Iowans are white and it’s the 13th least-educated state) are driving forces in the state’s tilt toward Trump, it seems unclear why those forces aren’t having the same impact in states with similar demographics. From Colorado to New Hampshire — or even in Republican strongholds like Utah and Texas — support for the Republican presidential nominee is at historic lows. In all of these states, the GOP’s public civil war over Trump is well documented.

In Iowa, the opposite is true, and the state’s unwavering, full-throttle support of Trump remains under the radar. This is most likely because establishment Republicans in Iowa originally were not fans of the New York businessman, which was on full display during the Iowa Caucus.

The state’s most influential grassroots leader, Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The Family Leader, supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Many of the top-brass donors preferred Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie received the support of Bruce Rastetter, who is the most powerful agribusiness mogul in the state and was named “Iowa’s Kingmaker” by Politico because of his deep ties to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.

So, why the turnaround in favor of “The Donald?”

My family and friends on the ground in Iowa all say one thing: it’s so Republicans can win back three Iowa state Senate seats and take control of the state. Republicans haven’t controlled the state since 1995-1998, yet it’s been at the top of Gov. Branstad’s “wish list” since his return to power in 2011. To make this happen, Iowa’s GOP needed a strong presidential ticket to generate a formidable get-out-the-vote operation. Retail politics is key in Iowa presidential politics; just ask ’08 Hillary Clinton.

Once Gov. Branstad realized the GOP presidential ticket was neither strong nor formidable, the governor, who is the longest-serving in Iowa and American history, took action. Currently serving his 21st year in office, he urged the Iowa Republican Party (which he fully controls) to hop on board the “Trump train” and unleashed his infamous political operatives to identify, activate and mobilize voters.

The evidence of the governor’s brilliant work is clear.

Gov. Branstad’s son, Eric, is the state director of Trump’s campaign in Iowa. The governor is advising the candidate in an “unofficial” capacity, but he also sits on Trump’s agriculture/energy advisory panel alongside his mega-donor Rastetter, who is rumored to be a top pick for secretary of agriculture, following Gov. Chris Christie’s suggestion. Iowa’s U.S. senators, who have historically trusted Brandstad’s political savviness, are following his lead. Freshman Sen. Joni Ernst, the only female senator left supporting Trump, invited the nominee to her big Iowa GOP fundraiser, “Joni’s Roast and Ride.” Chuck Grassley, Iowa’s senior U.S. senator up for re-election next week, welcomes a strong party to block the unwanted national attention around inaction over the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

Some Iowans, I know, will say I’m wrong.

They believe Gov. Branstad would not use Trump to increase Republican power in the state. Rather, he has taken up the noble cause of ensuring the Iowa Caucuses remain first in the nation. Therefore, Gov. Branstad couldn’t afford any fights within the party and had no choice but to support the Republican nominee.

But it seems clear that Gov. Branstad made a genius calculation to strengthen the Trump campaign in order to secure power and land the final blow to the already failing Iowa Democratic Party.

And the Hillary Clinton campaign knows it; the Iowa Democratic Party is weak. Her campaign correctly decided not to contest the state and put resources elsewhere. Since 2010, Iowa Democrats have lost the governorship, lost a U.S. House seat after losing a district in the 2010 redistricting process and lost a senate seat in 2014 after Sen. Tom Harkin’s retirement. The party is on its last breath. President Obama’s historic win in 2008 strengthened the party’s extremes, and it has no state politician with the president’s talents to recreate his unique Iowa coalition.  Iowa Democrats are a few state senate seats away from losing any power they have remaining and becoming the new Kansas Democratic Party: extinct.

Trump’s strength in Iowa wasn’t destiny. But with weak opposition and quick decisions, Gov. Branstad has absolutely nothing stopping him from making it so. And now, he’ll ride the “Trump train” to the end, making the dream of full Republican control in Iowa a reality.

 

Carter Collins grew up in a bipartisan household and lived in Iowa for 22 years, where he was a member of the Iowa Democratic Party. He now lives in Dallas, Texas.

Photo by: Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily

 

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Iowa GOP unifies around Trump to finish off state’s Democratic Party

Photo by: Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily

Donald Trump’s stronghold in Iowa is undeniable, but in reality, he’s being used. For Electoral College junkies, it might be absolutely baffling that Iowa will most likely swing from blue to red in 2016. Democrats have won six of the past seven presidential elections in the state, and Iowans propelled Barack Obama into the national spotlight with his surprise caucus win in 2008. However, there is one historically important election factor that doesn’t make the reality TV actor’s win in Iowa too mystifying: It’s the Republican Party’s strength in the state, or more specifically, state party unification.
While many media pundits claim things like race and a less-educated population (92 percent of Iowans are white and it’s the 13th least-educated state) …

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