Kim Reynolds said last week she would not rule out campaigning with President Donald Trump next year as she seeks to remain Iowa’s governor.
Not all of Reynolds’ GOP gubernatorial colleagues across the country feel the same as they prepare to navigate next year’s elections.
Reynolds recently attended a meeting of the Republican Governors Association in Texas, where GOP governors discussed winning in next year’s mid-term elections while potentially facing some national political headwinds.
A decisive victory for the Democrat in Virginia’s recent gubernatorial election grabbed the attention of some Republican governors, according to a New York Times report from the governors association’s meeting.
And other GOP governors acknowledged the challenge of running while the Republican president has an historically low approval rating.
Trump’s approval rating is just 39 percent nationally, according to Real Clear Politics’ average of recent polls.
“Any time the titular head of the party is underwater, obviously there’s going to be issues there. You can’t just ignore that,” said Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, according to the Times.
Reynolds does not appear to share Sununu’s concerns. Last week, she did not rule out campaigning with Trump next year, assuming she secures the Republican Party’s nomination in the June primary election.
“We’ll take a look at that moving forward, but I wouldn’t say no,” Reynolds said.
The disparity between Sununu’s and Reynolds’ perspectives may simply boil down to voter behavior in their respective states.
In Sununu’s New Hampshire, Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by less than half a percentage point.
In Reynolds’ Iowa, Trump defeated Clinton by more than 9 percentage points.
Reynolds, along with then-Gov. Terry Branstad, did not shy away from supporting Trump during the 2016 campaign, even when other prominent Republicans were less enthusiastic about embracing their party’s candidate. And it does not appear Reynolds feels any differently now.
What kind of impact that could have on next year’s gubernatorial campaign — if any — remains to be seen.
Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University, said he could see multiple scenarios play out.
On the one hand, Goldford said, voter turnout historically drops in midterm elections, which then become more about appealing to the parties’ base supporters.
“In that regard, to the extent that Trump appeals to that more populist base, that could help (Reynolds),” Goldford said.
On the other hand, he added, campaigning with Trump could subject Reynolds to questions about the authenticity of her support for preventing and addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault. Trump has been accused of harassment by at least a dozen women and has supported Alabama’s GOP U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexual assault or misconduct by eight women.
Campaigning with Trump also could motivate more Democratic and no-party voters to turn out and vote against Reynolds, Goldford said.
“It raises questions of her commitment to the prohibition and prevention of sexual harassment, and could continue energizing likely voters that might not have turned out otherwise,” Goldford said.
Reynolds is between a political rock and a hard place when it comes to campaigning with Trump, said Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University.
Because Iowa voted for Trump, Reynolds needs to appeal to those voters, Schmidt said. But, he added, she also must appeal to no-party voters, the type polls show are not happy with Trump.
“Iowa voted for Trump, so she needs to harvest the voters that turned out for him. They like him. The base of the party in Iowa and around the country is still on board with Trump,” Schmidt said. “She also needs to argue that she can get enough of a slice of nonparty voters compared to the other GOP contenders, because there are not enough Republicans to win an election. ... Can she campaign with Trump and then pivot away from him for the general election?”