Former RNC chair: Reynolds should be in ‘conversation’ for presidency
By DOUGLAS BURNS
Gov. Kim Reynolds insists a life in Washington is not for her.
But Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and a high-profile political analyst, sees Iowa’s Republican governor as a strong potential candidate for the presidency.
“She should be in that conversation along with a number of other governors who have served over the last four or eight years,” Steele said.
Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland who is considering a Senate bid in that state, and appears regularly on the cable-TV talk circuit, said in an interview with the Times Herald that Reynolds brings a record and style of leadership that could be attractive to Republicans in a post-Trump election — should the former president, who maintains astronomical approval ratings within his party, opt not to run.
“Why not look at the governor,” Steele said. “She’s governed during a difficult time, some of her decisions may or may not have been controversial or popular, but that’s all part of the soup. That’s how the country gets into its next groove.”
Steele delivered the Manatt-Phelps Lecture in Political Science at Iowa State University on Oct. 28 titled “Trumpism and the Republican Party: What’s Next?” The lecture is sponsored by the family of the late Charles Manatt and his wife Kathleen. Manatt grew up in Audubon and went on to a successful career in the law and politics, becoming the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
Steele spoke with The Times Herald before his Ames address and responded to questions about the viability of a Reynolds’ White House bid.
“I actually like that question because as a party in the recent past we would focus on talented governors who are serving at the current time and showcase them and let the rest of the country see them in all their glory, if you will — handling a crisis like COVID, dealing with regional issues,” Steele said.
That’s the transition the party should be moving toward, he said.
“Typically, former presidents can fade back because the next generation, the next team up gets out on the field,” Steele said.
Emerging Republicans like Reynolds are overshadowed by the “omnipresent” Trump, he said.
“We are sort of blindly following down a road that is ostensibly a dead end,” Steele said, who is a fierce critic of former President Donald Trump. “You have these other leaders who offer a different pathway, and maybe have a different set of ideas,” he said.
For her part, Reynolds, talking with the Times Herald and other media this summer, dismissed any speculation that she may opt to follow her close friend, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, to Washington, D.C. by running for the Senate if U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, had opted to leave public office, having served in the Statehouse and Congress since 1959.
“I’m not leaving Iowa,” Reynolds said. “I can say with great confidence I am not leaving Iowa.”
Would she run for the Senate under any condition?
“No,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds, a former lieutenant governor, ascended to the governorship in 2017 when then-Gov. Terry Branstad accepted President Trump’s appointment as ambassador to China. She won re-election in her own right in 2018 over Democrat Fred Hubbell.
Trump drew thousands of people from Iowa and other states to a rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines just weeks ago, an event that had the trappings of a presidential campaign appearance. But Trump has not made a formal announcement on a 2024 bid.