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Branstad gets ready to run

By Staff | Nov 13, 2009

Terry Branstad doesn’t need political office to satisfy his ego. Having already served four highly successful terms as Iowa’s governor, his place in the Hawkeye State’s political history is already secure. At age 62, he could easily have concluded that a few more years as the prestigious head of Des Moines University would be a respectable – and financially attractive – way to round out his professional life.

Instead, Branstad is signaling strongly that he is about to respond to the leadership vacuum demonstrated by the state’s current financial crisis by coming out of political retirement. He is widely expected to announce that he will seek to reclaim the post he once held and resume the role he performed so well. Terry Branstad is already unofficially back on the campaign trail and stands a good chance of being this state’s next governor. As the state confronts a dark economic period, that is very good news.

In difficult economic times, even superb governors find it hard to win re-election unless they can convince voters that they have a viable, long-term game plan for restoring economic prosperity. Unfortunately, Gov. Chet Culver chose to pretend that the state government’s economic woes could be finessed rather than addressed. He allowed the Legislature to adopt a budget based on revenue assumptions that were horribly unrealistic. As a result, the state government now is faced with responding with massive layoffs to a revenue shortfall that could have been foreseen.

Culver’s failure to show the political courage to insist that the Legislature budget frugally in these hard economic times has turned what would have been a difficult set of choices into a catastrophe. The chance for carefully weighing priorities in budget-cutting decisions has been lost. The governor did not lead. The well-being of all Iowans is now threatened by that grievous failure.

Terry Branstad was also governor during years when Iowa faced economic difficulties. The farm crises of the 1980s were overcome on his watch. He came into office during a recession and proceeded to build a record on the economic-development front that few governors anywhere equaled then or are matching today.

As governor, Branstad dealt with a wide assortment of development and tax issues with wisdom. He responded to real-world crises with solutions that reflected a sophisticated appraisal of the situation at hand rather than slavish adherence to ideological purity. He didn’t ignore issues in the hope they would disappear or be handled by others. He worked across the political aisle to find solutions. His pragmatic approach to governance served this state well in the 1980s and 1990s.

The problems today aren’t identical to those Branstad faced. The leadership skills he deployed to address them, however, are exactly in line with what is needed now.

Given the tough challenges ahead, it is imperative that we have a governor who can lead. Farm News strongly believes Terry Branstad’s return to the governor’s mansion could be an important first step toward getting Iowa back on the right track. That’s why in August this newspaper called upon Branstad to take a hard look at getting into the race for governor. We’re delighted that he heard our call and the similar pleas of so many other Iowans concerned about the future of this state.

Welcome back to the political arena, Gov. Branstad. We badly need your common sense and courage.

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