You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours. That seems to be the nature of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s trip to Iowa next month.
Walker, who is viewed as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, is slated to speak at a Polk County GOP fundraiser on May 23rd in West Des Moines. The news of Walker’s latest foray into the First-in-the-Nation Caucus State created a buzz among presidential prognosticators and news outlets, but Walker isn’t just traveling to Iowa to help local Republicans and introduce himself to potential caucus goers. Walker is also coming to raise funds for himself.
Walker may be coming to Iowa to dip his toes into the state’s political waters, but he also has his hand out looking for contributions for his own re-election campaign. Before attending the Polk County GOP event, Walker will participate in a $2,500 per person round table discussion, the proceeds of which will go to Friends of Scott Walker. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds are hosting the event. Campaign Headquarters, an Iowa-based fundraising firm, is handling the arrangements for the event.
As a neighboring governor, soliciting funds from Iowans isn’t outside of the norm. In fact, Branstad helped Walker raise money for his 2012 recall election last year with a large fundraiser in Dubuque. That event reportedly netted Walker a six-figure haul. That wasn’t the first time a hotly contested national race prompted Iowans to donate to a neighboring politician. In 2004, many Iowans donated to John Thune’s campaign for the U.S. Senate against then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
It’s apparent that Walker and Branstad have developed a close personal relationship. Last fall, Walker headlined a fundraiser for Branstad’s campaign in Cedar Rapids, and now Branstad is returning the favor. The two governors are also currently on a trade mission to China where both will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has a warm relationship Branstad.
Many rightfully viewed Walker’s 2013 trip to Iowa as a sign that he has interest in seeking the Republicans presidential nomination in 2016. However, knowing that Walker is raising money for his own re-election campaign while traveling to Iowa somewhat tamps down the 2016 talk. Still, before Walker can be viewed as a serious presidential contender, he first has to win re-election.
Potential presidential candidates raising money in Iowa isn’t new, but the others who have solicited funds from Iowa were either raising money directly for their campaigns or for a federal committee that would allow them to give money to local candidates and hire staff to help promote their political activities. In short, all of that money raised was in some way being used to promote their potential candidacy. In Walker’s case, the money he is raising in Iowa is being used to help him win re-election in Wisconsin.
While Walker’s Iowa fundraising has been limited to larger donors, who, by the way, don’t typically get too involved in the caucuses, there is a fine line to walk should he want to run for president in 2016. If Walker widens his fundraising approach in Iowa, it may help him generate more money for his re-election campaign, but at the same time, it also sends a message that he’s not a formidable national candidate.
It would be odd for someone like Marco Rubio or Rand Paul to travel to Iowa in an effort to raise money for their re-election efforts. Iowans are used to seeing candidates come in to the state to help them, not the other way around.
It will be interesting to watch and see if Branstad and Walker continue to scratch each other’s backs when it comes to political fundraising. It would also be interesting to know what kind of political conversations Branstad and Walker have had on their trip to China. Branstad has always freely given political advice to potential presidential candidates, especially fellow governors, but not all have followed it. If Walker is interested in running for president in 2016, his decision to cozy you to Branstad was a wise first step.
Below is a copy of the invitation: