November 23, 2014

Branstad: “I suspect the drama will continue”

Iowa’s Republican governor describes the 2012 presidential race as a “drama” — with the latest plot twist showing the revival of a candidate Terry Branstad says had been “left…for dead” last spring.

“Newt Gingrich is not out of this thing and I think he’s performed well in many of these debates and that has been a benefit to his candidacy,” Branstad said this morning during his weekly news conference.

Recent polling has shown Gingrich rising toward the top of the pack in Iowa and nationally, but Branstad cautions that voter preferences aren’t firmly set yet.

“It’s still a very much wide open race,” Branstad said.

Gingrich seemed to suffer self-inflicted problems last spring shortly after he entered the race. He took heat for criticizing a budget-cutting plan drawn up by the Republican chairman the U.S. House Budget Committee, then most of his campaign staff resigned after Gingrich and his wife took a cruise to Greece.  Gingrich now characterizes those as “temporary” set-backs.

“I always had some deep confidence that, in a time of dramatic change, the American people would want somebody with substance, and at a time when we’re watching how expensive it can be to have an amateur in the White House that they would want someone who actually knew what he was doing and I thought that on both those counts, in the long run, I would eventually have an advantage,” Gingrich said during an interview with Iowa Public Radio early this afternoon.

According to Gingrich, he has an opening because none of his competitors have emerged as the sole challenger to Mitt Romney.  

“A large part of this party…well over half of it, for one reason or another isn’t comfortable with Governor Romney,” Gingrich said.  “…They were going to look for somebody. Early on, it might have been me, but I blew it and so they were floundering around and they went to a number of very nice people, each of whom had an opportunity to consolidate (support) and I’ll let you decide why they didn’t, but gradually during the fall with the debates, people began to come back and say, ‘Gee, maybe we’d better give Newt a second look.'”

Gingrich, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann campaigned in Iowa on today. Bachmann said Iowans are properly pushing the candidates to prove themselves worthy of the party’s presidential nomination.

“I take away that Iowans are fully engaged in the process,” Bachmann told reporters in Le Mars. “They want their candidate to be someone that they can believe in.”

Bachmann entered the race in late June and won the Iowa Straw Poll in August.  She has since faded in public opinion polls.  Governor Branstad suggests there’ll be more fluctuations in the next few weeks.

“We’ve seen a lot of candidates go up and down from the time this thing started until now and I suspect the drama will continue,” Branstad told reporters this morning.

(Reporting in Le Mars by Dennis Morrice of KLEM Radio)