Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman
who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald
and offers columns for Cityview.
Gov. Terry Branstad introduced U.S. Sen. Marco
Rubio, R-Fla., at a Mitt Romney presidential
campaign event on the west side of the Capitol
recently. Rubio, a leading contender for the
GOP vice presidential nomination, could not
make the rally, as his plane was grounded in
New Mexico. But Rubio did speak via phone and
A takeaway line:
“My parents never saved enough money even for
their retirement or for our college, and yet
they lived the American Dream,” Rubio said.
Isn’t that supposed to be the American Dream?
Having enough to retire comfortably and paying
for the education of your kids? And if you can’t
do that, who do most Americans want by their
side, Ayn Rand, the atheist do-it-yourselfer
and patron saint of Congressional Republican
budget point man Paul Ryan, or Uncle Sam and
Social Security and Pell Grants?
I asked several Republican Party leaders in
Iowa this question. Their collective comeback:
the American Dream is for your children to have
a better life than you did. Period.
By that standard, Rubio passes muster. But it
is a low bar.
With an athletic bearing, Rubio, who earned
a law degree from the University of Miami, is
strong on television (and YouTube, where I watched
a number of his speeches and appearances). Rubio
and his wife, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader,
have four children.
His mother worked at Kmart and as a hotel maid,
and his dad tended bar.
“They had jobs because somebody who had made
some money decided to risk it building a hotel,”
The working-class and Christmas card bona fides
are indisputable. Rubio, as a Miami-born son
of Cuban exiles, speaks Spanish (he’s done political
analysis for the major Latin TV network Univision)
and also knows the language of modern conservatism.
It could prove to be a politically lethal blend
if he knows when to shoot, and when to hold
his fire. He’s got the bio for politics at the
highest levels. Does he have the substance?
“When government goes too far and does too much,
it starts to hurt,” Rubio said at the rally.
He challenged President Barack Obama, saying
the Democrat is hostile to capitalism.
“His anti-business rhetoric is probably unprecedented
in the history of the American presidency,”
Branstad told Cityview and other media after
the event that Rubio deserved to be on the vice
presidential short list.
“Marco Rubio, I think, tells it very much like
it is,” Branstad said. “He’s somebody that has
come up the hard way and has shown great leadership.
He’s now one of the bright young senators from
the state of Florida, an important and key state,
so he’s certainly one I’d like to see considered.”
Branstad added, “It’s the American Dream. He’s
• • •
Branstad sees Rubio as being among several
contenders for Romney’s VP slot. A five-term
governor with an exceptional political ear,
Branstad acknowledges Rubio carries possibly
both the most potential for upside, and the
greatest risk for Romney.
“Yes, but he comes from the big state of Florida,
and he’s come up the ranks in Florida,” Branstad
Branstad added, “I’ve always been a risk-taker.
I’ve never been afraid to do what I think is
the right thing to do.”
In the end, Branstad said, Rubio is “one of
the people” who should be considered. Other
candidates widely reported to be on Romney’s
short list: U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; former
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; former
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty; and Paul Ryan.
• • •
In a press gaggle after the rally, Branstad
teed off on Illinois — home of President Barack
“Both parties, you’ve had a lot of corruption
and mismanagement in Illinois, and that’s who
we’ve got in charge of the federal government
right now and we need to change,” Branstad said.
• • •
Any chance Branstad himself would be the vice
“I’m not going to make any predictions,” Branstad
said. “I’m just delighted to be here, and we’re
pleased to get some rain.”
Both the Obama and Romney campaigns have targeted
Iowa and its six electoral votes as crucial
in November. A Branstad selection would essentially
lock Iowa for Romney, and the Iowa governor
does have the experience for the job. Branstad
is superb in certain settings — in small groups,
meeting with businesspeople.
If I were in the Romney camp, though, I’d pore
over the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary debates
between Branstad, Sioux City conservative ideologue
Bob Vander Plaats and former State Rep. Rod
Roberts, R-Carroll. Branstad didn’t exactly
show A-game in the debates — which helped launch
a promising statewide future for Roberts.
Granted, there likely will be only one vice
presidential debate this fall. Thinking Republicans
surely would take their chances with Biden vs.
Branstad over Biden v. Palin.
The most likely explanation for Branstad’s coyness
on speculation about a No. 2 role for him on
the top of the ticket is that he simply enjoys
toying with the media, having a little fun with
That said, one can make a reasoned case for
Branstad as Romney’s vice presidential running
mate — primarily based on the plus-6 math with
a variety of routes charted on the electoral
• • •
“Now is not a time to apologize for our greatness.”
Who, exactly, is doing this?
• • •
Just hours after returning from a trade mission
to South America, Gov. Terry Branstad said prospects
for Iowa on that continent are second only to
China — a country with whom he has well-established
and chronicled ties.
In particular, Branstad spies opportunities
for the pork industry in Iowa with Brazil, he
told Cityview and La Prensa Hispanic Newspaper
outside of the Capitol in Des Moines before
the Rubio rally.
Through the welcome rain, Branstad, only partially
shielded by an umbrella, talked enthusiastically
about the trip, which also involved time in
Specifically, Branstad said he toured JBS, a
Goliath food processor in Sao Paulo, Brazil,
which employs 2,300 people in Marshalltown through
its Swift division. The governor also met with
an aircraft manufacturer that does business
with Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids.
Additionally, Principal Financial is interested
in doing more business in South America, Branstad