Branstad Up, Olson out, game over?

Polls show high job approval for the governor as Tyler Olson drops out of the race

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So, if you had December 17, 2013, in the "What Day Will Iowa's race for Governor Effectively End?" pool, I'm calling winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Yes, I know it's so premature. So early. Ten months is a lifetime in politics. And it's going to seem like one for Democrats who hoped to tackle Terry, smash the 'stache, etc.

First, two big 'ol opinion polls came out, from The Register and Quinnipiac University, showing Republican Gov. Terry Branstad with a 58 percent job approval rating. In this age of American politics, when so many people loathe American politicians, that makes him Gov. Tom Hanks. Approaching Gov. Beyonce. And his trend lines are headed up.

Then, hours later, and two weeks after he announced the breakup of his marriage, the final shoe dropped on state Rep. Tyler Olson's campaign for governor:

I'm not saying Olson. D-Cedar Rapids, would have won, either the nomination or the whole enchilada. But his generational counter argument to Branstad's drive for an unprecedented 24 years in power, was, at least, an argument worth considering. It was something to build on, a rationale that might have led somewhere, with a little luck.

But his personal issues dashed all that. Relaunch and reinvention were unlikely.

So Olson's decision to get out makes sense, given the personal challenges he and his family now face. It was no time to run for governor. And at age 37, there still might be other times, other campaigns.

Now what kind of race for governor are we left with?

Will all due respect to the skills and accomplishments of Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, if the Branstad campaign could order up an opponent from central casting, it would be someone a lot like Hatch. A very liberal state lawmaker from Des Moines who has spent many, many years at the Statehouse, like Branstad.  The Quinnipiac poll shows Branstad leading Hatch 49-33, and 52-29 in The Register's poll.

Never say never. But you can say unlikely. Very unlikely.

And, Godspeed to them, but Bob Krause, a former state lawmaker, and Paul Dahl, a bus driver from Webster City, don't seem like likely candidates to stun a sitting governor.

But hey, maybe somebody else will jump in to the chasm, some Democrats are thinking, hopefully. A big name! Maybe that guy who parachuted from space is available.

Branstad is going to be re-elected, barring a lightning strike, no, make that a meteor strike. The state's economy is good. Iowans are very comfortable with having TB in charge at a time when our politics and institutions have been jarringly unpredictable and not very dependable. He represents stability. And that, apparently, trumps any misgivings we might have about the length of his time in office. About half of my life, for heaven's sake.

That said, there are some serious issues and problems in this state that should have gotten a good going over within the context of a real gubernatorial campaign. That's probably not going to happen now. And that's too bad, because being comfortable isn't always what we need.

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