Thursday, August 2, 2012

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 The Daily Times Herald and La Prensa Hispanic Newspaper last weekend outside of the Capitol in Des Moines before a political rally.

Through the welcome rain, Branstad, only partially shielded by an umbrella, talked enthusiastically about the trip, which also involved time in Chile.

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 said.



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Branstad introduced U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., at a Mitt Romney presidential campaign event on the west side of the Capitol Saturday. 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 speaker.

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.

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 Saturday.

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,” Rubio said.

Branstad told the Daily Times Herald and other media after the event that Rubio deserved to be on 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 lived it.”



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Speaking of the American dream ...

Rubio said his parents weren’t able to save enough for his college or their retirements. “Yet they lived the American dream,” he said.

Isn’t that supposed to be the American dream — having enough to retire comfortably and paying for the education of your kids?

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. By that standard, Rubio passes muster.

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 said.

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; and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.



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In a press gaggle after the rally, Branstad teed off on Illinois — home of President Barack Obama.

“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.



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Any chance Branstad himself would be the vice presidential candidate?

“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 a 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.

As Carroll County Attorney John Werden says, “He loves being governor.”

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 us.

That said, one can make a reasoned case for Branstad as Romney’s vice presidential running mate — primarily based on the +6 math with a variety of routes charted on the electoral map.