Another possibility for veep

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So this week Gov. Terry Branstad enthusiastically pitched U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst as a possible vice presidential running mate for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Nothing against our freshman senator, but I doubt that will happen. And I think the governor is missing a more obvious choice. That guy in the mirror, the one with the handsome mustache.

Why not Trump-Branstad?

Our governor is the longest serving governor in U.S. history. He’s undefeated in election campaigns. Trump has said, as president, America will win so often we’ll get sick of all the winning. Branstad, governor for much of my life, has shown it can actually happen.

He’s a swing state governor with tons of experience. He’s a few years younger than Newt Gingrich, who seems to be having a veep moment. He’s got a lieutenant governor ready to move on up.

And I get a strong sense from Trump that he plans to govern in a somewhat unilateral fashion, unencumbered by loser checks and balances, unrestrained by the need for restraint. Branstad is a master of the one-man show.

He closed workforce offices, a juvenile home and mental health facilities without legislative authorization. He privatized the $5 billion Medicaid health insurance program without input from clients, providers or elected lawmakers. He tried to hand his business friends a yuge tax cut simply by rewriting administrative rules. For tourism pals, his education department sought to dictate the date when kids go back to school.

Not Trump enough for you? When state workers’ compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey, appointed to a six-year term in 2009, refused to quit in 2010 to please Branstad’s business allies, the governor retaliated by slashing his pay from $112,000 to $36,000. Godfrey sued, and word comes this week that Branstad’s pricey private legal defense has now cost taxpayers more than $900,000.

Branstad’s administration also has mastered the art of the deal, delivering more than $100 million in incentives for a fertilizer plant and a large package of commercial property tax breaks that now gobbles up a large slice of the state’s available revenue for less important stuff, like schools. He shook up the Iowa Utilities Board after hearing complaints from a utility. When homebuilders wanted to gut a state rule requiring them to put topsoil back on finished sites for soaking up runoff, the governor’s office simply whipped up a “stakeholder group” tilted toward the industry to rewrite those rules.

The billionaire casino magnate and the grandfather of legalized gambling in Iowa would be a fine fit. Branstad says he certainly doesn’t agree with everything The Donald has said during the campaign, but supports him just the same. “Let me just say this: People are so hung up on political correctness today and he is just the epitome of not being politically correct,” Branstad told reporters Monday.

The governor didn’t say what he disagrees with, or what flavor of political incorrectness he favors. But these are the sort of things that can be worked out in the vetting process. As long as Trump didn’t disparage renewable fuels or lean finely textured beef, I’m sure it’s all good.

l Comments: (319) 398-8452; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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