He throws a little jab at Governor Palin, but we all know her grassroots team is working hard in Iowa, and making progress. This is good news! ~ teledude
By ALEXANDER BURNS
If Mike Huckabee runs for president, he won’t just have to win Iowa — he’ll have to blow away the competition there, according to his former state chairman.
Bob Vander Plaats, the influential Iowa Christian activist and former gubernatorial candidate, told POLITICO Monday that Huckabee has “got to win Iowa, or you’re done.”
“Not only does he have to win the straw poll, he has to dominate the straw poll,” Vander Plaats said, speculating that Huckabee might stall his 2012 decision to avoid a make-or-break moment in the Ames vote this summer.
Vander Plaats, who now heads the social conservative group Family Leader, said he doesn’t know whether Huckabee will run for president again in 2012. As the head of Huckabee’s Iowa operation four years ago, Vander Plaats helped propel the former Arkansas governor to an upset victory in the first-in-the-nation caucuses.
This time, he’ll be staying neutral as the Family Leader hosts a series of presidential hopefuls for forums with social conservative voters.
Vander Plaats said the Family Leader may endorse a candidate — or give its stamp of approval to a group of candidates — later in the year. That won’t happen until after a forum the group plans to host in November. Multiple candidates will be invited to address an activist-heavy audience.
That makes Vander Plaats one prominent member of a group of onetime Huckabee backers who have made other plans for 2012.
Eric Woolson and Wes Enos, two former senior aides to Huckabee, have signed on with Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann, respectively. Former Iowa House Speaker Danny Carroll, another high-profile Huckabee backer, has endorsed former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s long-shot presidential run.
Though Vander Plaats won’t be working for Huckabee, he’s positioned squarely at the center of the 2012 action as a list of presidential candidates trek out to Iowa to address the Family Leader.
So far, Pawlenty, Bachmann, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum have addressed the group. Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain will follow suit next month.
But several 2012 prospects, including Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, have so far resisted committing to the speaker series, though both have been invited by the Family Leader. Vander Plaats said of Romney, "I don’t see it as hopeful at this point that he’s going to participate."
“We don’t hear a lot about Palin or from Palin,” he added, characterizing exchanges with Palin’s team as “polite.”
“I’m not even sure there was an authentic buzz in Iowa” for Palin, Vander Plaats said.
A Sioux City-based business consultant before he entered politics, Vander Plaats lost a GOP gubernatorial primary last year to once and future Gov. Terry Branstad. He then spearheaded a successful effort to vote out several Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of legalizing gay marriage.
In his interview with POLITICO, Vander Plaats left the door open to another run for governor.
“I’m open to building a great organization in the Family Leader,” he said. “If that leads to another run for public office, whether that be for governor or another office, that remains to be seen. ... As I’ve told my supporters, I’m staying in the fight."