DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad says he trusts that fellow Republican Donald Trump will keep Iowa’s precinct caucuses first in the nation but the same is not true for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who the governor insists “has an Iowa problem” based on less-than-stellar performances here.
However, officials in the Clinton campaign and Iowa Democratic Party were quick to refute Branstad’s contentions as off base and purely political during Monday’s exchange.
Branstad told reporters during his weekly news conference the GOP presidential nominee gave assurances during a campaign stop in Des Moines last month that he supports keeping Iowa first in the nation’s presidential nominating process although he likes primary elections better than caucuses.
The Iowa Republican governor said he “comfortable” that Trump — who finished second to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Iowa’s Feb. 1 precinct caucuses — will support Iowa’s leadoff position, but by contrast he said Clinton has not made similar commitments and he would not trust her even if she did.
“She has not made it clear that she supports keeping the Iowa caucuses first,” said Branstad, who speculated it was rooted in her third-place finish in Iowa in 2008 and her razor-thin win in 2016 over Bernie Sanders when many experts believed she would put him away early and she did not.
“Iowa has embarrassed her and Iowa has been a problem for here again and again and again,” he said. “It’s obvious I think that she’s got an Iowa problem.”
Branstad noted that Trump has made more campaign appearances in Iowa since July’s national nominating conventions and pointed to recent public-opinion poll numbers showing Trump ahead in the race for Iowa’s six key swing-state electoral votes as evidence of that Iowa problem.
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Kate Waters, Iowa press secretary for Hillary for America, shrugged aside Branstad’s claims, saying "Hillary Clinton has and will continue to support Iowa's first-in-the-nation status,” while Ben Foecke, executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party, said: "Gov. Branstad's ridiculous assumptions are pure partisan games — Hillary Clinton continues to support Iowa's first in the nation status, period. It appears that our governor has decided to join Donald Trump by embracing conspiracy theories that have no basis."