Branstad campaign's $4.1 million announcement termed boast, warning

Five-term Republican eyeing re-election bid, but hasn't formally announced candidacy

James Q. Lynch
Published: January 6 2014 | 4:00 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:42 am in

Gov. Terry Branstad’s announcement this morning that his re-election campaign has $4.1 million cash on hand is both a boast and a warning.

“First, it’s bragging. That’s what he’s doing,” said Drake political science Professor Art Sanders. “He’s saying, ‘Look how much we have.’”

Branstad campaign spokesman Tommy Schultz is more modest, saying the campaign merely wanted to share its good news ahead of the Jan. 21 reporting deadline. Branstad has not yet formally announced his candidacy, but has campaign office and staff raising money and organizing support.

“It’s a tremendous number,” he said. “It shows what folks in Iowa think about the governor.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Jack Hatch of Des Moines is the frontrunner with Webster City bus driver Paul Dahl also eying the race.

Hatch was neither surprised nor impressed with the governor’s big number.

“The governor is very good at politics and loves to campaign, so a strong fundraising number comes as no surprise,” Hatch said. “Iowans aren’t impressed with big money -- they have given organized people the victory over organized money time and time again. What they value is straight talk, honesty and results -- and the truth is Iowa is succeeding in spite of, not because of, Branstad.”

Schultz called the $4.1 million, including the $3.4 million raised in 2013, “a tremendous accomplishment.” The total, the campaign pointed out, is the largest ever posted by an Iowa gubernatorial candidate. The previous record was set by Democratic Gov. Chet Culver -- $3,225,600 on May 19, 2010.

Branstad beat Culver that fall in a race that saw the winner spend about $8.5 million and Culver spend about $8 million, according to officials in those campaigns. Branstad won a competitive three-way primary. Culver also had a primary challenger.

The Branstad committee, which will report a debt-free campaign with 94 percent of donations from Iowa, is starting 2014 with $1.5 million more than Culver had at this same time in 2010.

And that, in part, is the warning, Sanders said. The Branstad campaign hopes that the fundraising number will make potential contributors to Hatch’s campaign think twice before opening their checkbooks.

“They’re, in effect, saying, ‘It’s so easy for us to raise this kind of money that you would be wasting your money on Hatch,” Sanders said.

It’s also a message to any potentially more competitive Democrat who is thinking about getting into the race to challenge Hatch for the party’s nomination, Sanders added.

By announcing his fundraising number early, Branstad hopes to make Hatch’s number look unimpressive -- unless Hatch can match or exceed the governor’s number.

Hatch hasn’t released his fundraising numbers. However, he did say last week he plans to contribute $200,000 of his own money to the campaign as a signal to supporters – and potential contributors -- that he is serious and confident.

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