When Iowa Democrats criticize Governor Reynolds’ leadership, the public might assume it’s simply political bias. However, when an experienced and respected Iowa Republican criticizes Reynolds’ leadership, it certainly should get the attention of Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike. Reynolds’ gubernatorial primary challenger, Ron Corbett, specifically points to Reynolds’ lack of leadership on a number of issues Democrats have raised as well.
In Corbett’s radio ads he says, “Iowans can’t afford the status quo,” and the state needs “a bold new leader in the governor’s office.” That’s a direct slam at Governor Reynolds’ leadership.
Corbett doesn’t mention Reynolds by name in his ads or in his campaign literature, but he leaves no doubt that Reynolds is the target of his attacks. His campaign theme, “A new game plan for Iowa,” implicitly blames Reynolds for her budget mess, inadequate educational funding, Medicaid privatization failures, inadequate tax proposals and a missed opportunity to clean up Iowa’s polluted waterways. Reynolds as the incumbent governor is responsible for all these failures. In Sunday’s interview on WHO-TV’s Insiders, Corbett turned up the heat by specifically questioning Reynolds’ leadership abilities.
Corbett has great credibility with Republicans due to his long political leadership in the Iowa Republican Party. He was first elected to the Iowa Legislature in 1986 and served seven terms. The fact that he was elected to the Republican Speaker of the House for two terms indicated the respect other Republicans had for his leadership and his grasp of issues. He just ended a successful two terms as mayor of Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second-largest city. Corbett’s criticism of Reynolds’ leadership can’t be ignored. You can certainly count on Democrats using Corbett’s attacks on Reynolds if she wins the Republican primary race.
So far, Governor Reynolds has been playing it safe by remaining silent on controversial issues. She’s letting the Republican-controlled legislature set the policy agenda. Her campaign of setting the Governor’s office on auto-pilot might work if voters were satisfied with the status quo. However, with serious complaints about her budget mess, Medicaid chaos, underfunding of education and questions about the Republicans’ tax cuts make playing it safe a dangerous option.
Obviously, both Corbett and Democrats see Governor Reynolds as vulnerable on many of these issues. In a December Iowa Poll, 49 percent of respondents said that they would vote for someone new. Corbett said in the recent Insiders interview that he wants to have eight debates with Reynolds but would settle with doing four. Corbett is no slouch. He is knowledgeable, persuasive and has support among some conservative Republicans. In debates, he could inflict serious damage on Reynolds’ seeming indecision and lack of conviction.
We know from Trump’s election that many voters are looking for change. Corbett is a long shot and Reynolds has sewed up most of the Republican endorsements. Reynolds has huge name recognition and fundraising advantage and it’s far-fetched to think that Corbett could overcome her advantage. However, he could successfully damage Reynolds in her run against the Democratic candidate.
The hope for Democrats is that Corbett, a well-respected Republican, will hammer Reynolds from now until June and weaken her approval ratings. That will set the stage for the Democrats’ gubernatorial candidate to use Corbett’s attacks as a credible campaign tool to defeat Reynolds. If Democrats defeat Reynolds using the critical words of a respected Republican leader, it will be sweet irony.
by Rick Smith