Politics can be a tough business, but it is especially true for anyone who has ever put their name on the ballot. Thick skin and resolve are important attributes for any candidate, but especially true for a candidate making their 2nd or third attempt at running office.
The question that looms large for them is simple, what’s different this time around the block. For some candidates it can easily answered, but many candidates struggle and can never find a way to answer such a simple question.
Iowa’s political grave yard is littered with the carcasses of failed two and three time candidates. In fact, I can only think of one time in which a 2nd time candidate was successful, Jim Leach in 1976. In 1974 Leach lost to Ed Mezvinsky 56% to 46% but bounced back in 76 and won 52% to 58%. Leach’s victory didn’t set a precedent, and if victory probably has more to do with the unique campaign he waged, than just being a better campaigner. People will also tell you that his marriage to Deba between campaigns had major impact as well.
Here at how some 2 time candidates have done in Iowa.
In 1980 Chuck Grassley defeated Stephen Rapp 50.8% to 49.2%
In the 1982 rematch Grassley won 56% to 44%
In 1980 T. Cooper Evans defeated Lynn Cutler 51% to 48 %
In the 1982 rematch Evens won 55% to 45%
In 1986 Neal Smith defeated Robert Lockard 61% to 39%
In the 1988 rematch Smith won Lockard 68% to 32%
In 1992 Jim Nussle defeated Dave Nagle 50% to 49%
In the 1994 rematch Nussle won 56% to 43%
In 1994 Jim Ross Lightfoot defeated Elaine Baxter 49% to 47%
In the 1996 rematch Lightfoot won 58% to 41%
In 2002 Leonard Boswell defeated Stan Thompson 53% to 45%
In the 2004 rematch Boswell won 55% to 45%
In 2004 King defeated Joyce Schulte 63% to 37%
In the 2006 rematch and 59-37 in 06
Now I understand that Vander Plaats has never been the gubernatorial nominee, but I think the list above clearly shows how difficult it is to be a two or three time candidate. After listening to Vander Plaats this morning on WHO radio, he didn’t say anything new or different from his previous campaigns, which leads me to think he is simply a restoration candidate.
A restoration candidate is one that restores themselves to their original condition after years of wear and tear. The Bob Vander Plaats on the radio sounded just like the one from 2002, just a little better known. For Vander Plaats to be successful he needs to retrofit his campaign with new ideas and new proposals. A lot is different from early 2001 when he first started running for office, and I’m still waiting to see what changes he has made.
I think Vander Plaats has a steep hill to climb. While being the first candidate in the race has its advantages, it can also be difficult to keep a level of excitement for your campaign. I think the jury will be out on Vander Plaats till other candidates emerge. There is no doubt that he can run a campaign against a sitting congressman or someone with a record, but how would he fare against someone who isn’t an elected official? Time will tell.