Corbett's Hail Mary campaign hopes for an upset

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Are you ready for some football? You’d better be if you’re watching Ron Corbett’s campaign for governor.

His book, “Beyond Promises,” is filled with tales of his days playing for powerhouse Newton High School, including a state title game, then at Morningside and Cornell colleges, where he still holds a rushing record. After college, he dreamed of going pro, even filling out paperwork for NFL and USFL teams.

In June, the Cedar Rapids mayor announced his candidacy for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2018, promising a “new game plan for Iowa.” Heck, his entire challenge to Gov. Kim Reynolds could be considered a Hail Mary pass — uphill into a savage blitz.

“I’ve always used sports analogies,” Corbett said. We noticed.

But nowhere does Corbett’s campaign mine the metaphorical depths of gridiron glory more than it does online in a series of online “Corbett Gameday” videos. He has made 12 as of this weekend, one for each week of the football season since September.

The videos are produced to look like a college football pregame show. Corbett breaks down a “matchup” that’s actually a campaign issue — the Board of Regents versus parents and students, the tax code versus the taxpayer, Iowa farmers versus big government regulations, and so on.

His primary targets are “establishment Republicans” and Reynolds.

“It’s the homeowners, the cities, school boards and the counties against Gov. Kim Reynolds. What’s at stake? Property tax increases,” Corbett said in Week 5, addressing the possibility Statehouse Republicans will cut payments to local governments intended to offset commercial property tax cuts.

Reynolds has said all options, including the backfill, are on the table amid budget problems.

“When an establishment Republican says everything is on the table, you’d better hold on to your wallet,” Corbett warns.

But not all of Corbett’s gamedays are intrasquad battles with Republicans.

“We all know that the liberal Hollywood elite is out of touch with Iowa families,” Corbett says in a Week 7 video smacking Democrats for inviting actor Alec Baldwin to speak at their Fall Gala later this month. “They hate our values. They want government to control more and more of our lives. But apparently, the Iowa Democratic Party thinks we can learn something from these clueless celebrities.”

Corbett, wearing a shirt that says “Pigs, The Inventors of Bacon,” goes on to blast Baldwin’s ties to radical groups such as PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

In other videos, he dons his old Cornell jersey, a shirt claiming “Corn: It’s Feed. It’s Fuel. It’s Food. It’s Everything” and another proclaiming “Bad Boy.”

In Week 9, Corbett is dressed as a referee, tossing flags at ever-changing Revenue Estimating Conference state tax collection estimates (“about as accurate as a Wyoming punter”) and a delay-of-game penalty against Reynolds for waiting too long to react to sliding state revenues.

The videos have received roughly 80,000 views. Not exactly a viral sensation, but more than enough clicks to fill Kinnick Stadium.

“It’s not me clicking the video 80,000 times,” Corbett insisted.

“It’s harder for me to get traditional publicity,” said Corbett, who understands nearly everything a sitting governor says is news. “I kind of have to make my own.”

He’s got videos. He’s traveling the state. He’s handed out 4,000 books, with three-quarters of a pallet remaining in his garage.

“I’d like to get them out so I can park my car in there this winter,” he said.

But for all his efforts, Corbett may be less a ball carrier and more a stadium vendor, shouting over crowd noise to sell a product Republican voters may not buy.

Reynolds may remain high above the fray in the GOP’s cash-flush luxury box, seeing no need to take the field against her long-shot rivals. Boone City Council member Steven Ray also is running for the Republican nomination.

But, hey, the Iowa Hawkeyes, a huge underdog, did upset Ohio State a couple of weeks ago. Corbett predicted the win in a video, and sees a political analogy in football reality.

“Just like Ohio State, Gov. Reynolds thinks she has already won before the kickoff,” he says.

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

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Corbett Game Day: Week 12

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