George Pataki's Iowa Mojo
Summer's official start is just around the corner, but New Yorkers are ice cold when it comes to Gov. George Pataki, who leaves office at the end of 2006 after three terms in Albany. Faltering poll numbers for the governor make clear that voters in the Empire State are ready for change.
But over in America's heartland, Hawkeye State Republicans are warming up to this unlikely suitor.
New York's governor makes his seventh trip to Iowa tomorrow and Saturday -- raising cash for the Republican Party of Iowa, which holds its convention this weekend, and stopping by receptions for Rep. Jim Nussle's gubernatorial campaign and Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Tonight he's raising money in New York City for Iowa state Sen. Jeff Lamberti, who is running against 3rd District Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) in the fall. Pataki is scheduled to do a fundraiser for Nussle on July 26 in New York.
Pataki currently belongs in the second (or even third) tier of GOP presidential hopefuls, but his aggressiveness and attentiveness to Iowa shows that he could surprise some people come January 2008.
Earlier this week Pataki announced who will comprise the Iowa leadership team of his 21st Century Freedom PAC. The team includes state Sen. Stewart Iverson, Iowans for Tax Relief's Ed Failor Jr. and Dianne Crookham-Johnson, an influential state Republican Party activist. Iverson will be the PAC's chairman, Crookham-Johnson its executive director and Failor will serve as a senior adviser. When it comes to assembling presidential campaigns in Iowa, Failor and Johnson are considered among the 50 most-coveted Republican activists in the state.
Iverson said he met Pataki a few years ago and their relationship has strengthened as he has found out more about the governor's policies in New York. Policy aside, Iverson said Pataki excels at the retail politics that make Iowa and its presidential caucuses unique. "He works a room as good or better than anyone I have ever seen," Iverson said of Pataki.
In conversations with a variety of Iowa politicos -- the vast majority of whom are uncommitted when it comes to 2008 -- Pataki's name regularly came up as the most surprising candidate. He draws praise for his accessibility, especially when compared to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose entourage during a recent visit to the Hawkeye State turned off some people -- including influential Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen. (Yepsen, by contrast, had kind words for Pataki during an Iowa visit by the New York governor last fall.)
Alicia Preston, a spokeswoman for Pataki's PAC, carefully danced around the idea that the inordinate amount of attention Pataki is paying to Iowa has anything to do with his presidential ambitions. "The organization of the leadership team [is part of a] nationwide effort to help Republicans to get elected in 2006," she said. "At the end of the day, Governor Pataki is able to unite people behind the ideals that really represent Republican values."
That sounds dangerously close to a campaign slogan to us.
Of course, Pataki faces major hurdles in Iowa and elsewhere. As mentioned above, he is leaving office with less-than-stellar poll numbers and his successor is almost certain to be a Democrat -- not exactly the ideal springboard for a national campaign. Pataki also favors abortion rights, a major strike against him with the social conservatives who traditionally play an outsized role in the Iowa caucuses.
Still, The Fix believes that hard work in politics often pays off. And Pataki is working Iowa as hard as anyone at the moment.
June 15, 2006; 4:31 PM ET
Categories: Eye on 2008 , Republican Party
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