As reported today by POLITICO, source within Iowa are claiming Bob Vander Plaats (a conservative politician here in Iowa) called Michelle Bachmann this past Saturday and called on her to end her presidential run and instead endorse Rick Santorum as Mr. Plaats did publicly today. (1) While such attempts to get candidates to quit the race and endorse others is hardly uncommon, the source of this call is what bothers me.
For those who don't know, Bob Vander Plaats is an Iowan businessman who has a less than stellar political career here in the great state of Iowa. Actually, that's being a little too generous. He is by all definitions a political loser who has tried not once, not twice, but three times to get the Republican nomination for Governor here in Iowa..and failed every time. So why would any of the GOP candidates care about what Vander Plaats has to say? It's because where Bob has been somewhat successful at is exhorting his influence on Iowa's conservatives. On two occasions Bob has met with some success. First, in 2008 he threw his support behind Mike Huckabee and with his victory in the subsequent Caucus, Huckabee made Bob the State Chair for his presidential campaign (which ultimately failed).
His second political victory here in Iowa was his effort to oust 3 of Iowa's Supreme Court justices during their retention election in 2010. Why did Vander Plaats want these justices dismissed? Because of a now semi-famous Iowa Supreme Court decision: Varnum v. Brien. In this decision, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously against a state law that only permitted heterosexual couples to apply for marriage licenses, de facto allowing same-sex couples here in Iowa to marry legally. Even though the court rule unanimously (shocking considering the justices were appointed by Republican and Democratic governors), it was rejected by conservatives across the state and Vander Plaats saw an opportunity to get his name back in the news and became the "white knight" for a movement to dismiss three of the justices up for retention in 2010 because he their decision exceeded the bounds of authority of the courts (which I personally believe is ridiculous) and were out of step with Iowa's values. Regardless of the merits, he and his supporters succeeded in dismissing the justices. This feat was shocking because it is the first time it has been done since 1962. (2) Sadly for Bob, it was a bit of a mixed night since it was Terry Brandstad who carried the GOP back to the governor's mansion instead of him but hey, a win's a win right?
Regardless of the merits of the court's decision (I have my own opinion but I don't want to wander), Vander Plaats high profile support for the justices' dismissal propelled him to be something of a leader among Iowa's social conservatives and as such he likely believed he was entitled to some respect for the GOP Presidential candidates when it came to matters in Iowa. As such, he and The Family Leader group (which he helped found) published a marriage pledge for the GOP candidates to sign that would ensure that only those who agree gay marriage should be illegal could possibly get his group's endorsement. However, this time Bob got a bit carried away. The group's pledge was immediately controversial because a section of it's language that claimed the following:
"Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.” (3)
Needless to say, this idiotic section of the pledge drew fire from many of the major candidates, lead by Mitt Romney, that thankfully forced the group to remove that section from their pledge. However, even with that section removed the pledge remained controversial amongst even Iowa Republicans (including Iowa House member Jeff Kaufmann and former gubernatorial candidate Doug Gross), who claimed such a pledge did more harm than good. Mr. Kaufmann's criticism was particularly striking since he personally sponsored a bill in Iowa's legislature to create a constitutional amendment to overturn the Varnum v. Brein decision. (4) Regardless, the first two candidates who agreed to sign the pledge (both of which did so before the slavery section was removed) were Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann.
And that's where the story out today from POLITICO is particularly annoying to me. Even though Michelle Bachmann was the first to sign his group's idiotic pledge, won the Ames Straw Poll, and has consistently polled higher than Rick Santorum (though that's not a difficult feat, even John Huntsman can do that for pete's sake), and has run a better campaign here in Iowa, Vander Plaats thinks Bachmann should be the one to pull out of the race..Say what?
Thankfully, Ms. Bachmann pointed out the later of those points to Bob when she turned down his idea of stepping down and for that I give her credit. When presented with a idiotic proposal, she had enough sense to tell Bob off and move on with her campaign.
The real question is..What was Vander Plaats thinking? Why endorse Santorum over Bachmann? The two candidates are virtually interchangeable on issues that concern social conservatives most here in Iowa and further The Family Leader hasn't endorsed any candidate so far..So why did Vander Plaats throw his weight behind Santorum? I personally can think of only one "logical" reason..But I'll keep that to myself and leave that question for my readers to answer for themselves.
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and not that of the Modern Whig Party or any other political organization.