Eric Branstad, the son of six-term Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, will lead presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign in the Hawkeye State, according to multiple GOP sources.
Reached for comment, Eric Branstad says he attended the Trump campaign’s “leadership meeting” in New York last week and volunteered his services, but adds, “There’s nothing formal yet.”
The impending appointment of Eric Branstad — to the expected position of Iowa state director, which could be announced this week or next — will cap a whirlwind political romance between the nation’s longest-serving governor and the electoral novice who turned this year’s presidential campaign upside down.
Governor Branstad, historically known for welcoming all candidates to Iowa and remaining rigorously neutral throughout the process, boosted Trump in the home stretch before the February 1 caucuses by casting his chief opponent, Ted Cruz, as a “big oil” advocate whose anti-ethanol stance could be “very damaging to our state.”
Two weeks before the caucuses, Governor Branstad sent shockwaves through the state by saying of Cruz at a renewable-fuels summit, “It would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him.”
At the same time, Eric Branstad, who runs a Des Moines-based consulting firm called Matchpoint Strategies, was leading a pro-ethanol group, America’s Renewable Future. In that capacity, he and his colleagues in January began shadowing Cruz around the state in a decked-out Winnebago with “Ted Cruz Can’t Be Trusted!” slapped across its side.
Eric Branstad surprised Iowa GOP veterans by not just hounding Cruz, but promoting Trump. Any doubts about his allegiances were erased on caucus night, Republicans say, when Eric Branstad spoke on Trump’s behalf at Merrill Middle School in Des Moines.
If the younger Branstad’s support for Trump was surprising to peers, his father’s accommodation of the controversial candidate was perplexing. Governor Branstad refused throughout the Iowa campaign to condemn or criticize Trump, even when he skipped the Des Moines debate three days prior to the caucuses.
“He’s held up through all of this,” Governor Branstad said that morning at a Wall Street Journal-sponsored breakfast, noting the candidate’s other controversial and unconventional maneuvers.
The governor’s son has shown a similar willingness to side with Trump — especially when the alternative is Cruz. In late March, as the two candidates feuded over photographs of their wives being shared on social media, the younger Branstad took to Twitter in defense of Trump.
After Trump effectively clinched the nomination last month, Governor Branstad announced his plans to support him in November. He also said, according to the Des Moines Register, that during his next meeting with Trump he would recommend Iowa Senator Joni Ernst as a “great vice presidential candidate.”
Today, Eric Branstad’s Twitter avatar shows him wearing a white hat — emblazoned with “Fueling America Great Again” — and posing alongside Trump.