Over at The Atlantic, Josh Green has the essential profile of Bob Vander Plaats. Despite having “lost every campaign he’s ever run in,” most recently Iowa’s 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary, Vander Plaats has basically become the state’s “kingmaker” in the run-up to next year’s presidential caucuses, Green says. It’s a role he assumed in the wake of the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage:
While the marriage decision influenced Iowa’s elections, nationally the GOP has all but abandoned the fight against gay rights: last December, eight Senate Republicans joined Democrats in repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The combination of a recession and shifting societal norms is a big reason: polls show that voters are preoccupied with the economy and steadily more accepting of gay marriage. Even Iowans are roughly split over the court’s decision–and the most telling number in a recent Des Moines Register poll was the 30 percent of respondents who said they didn’t care about it one way or the other.
Such attitudes alarm people like Vander Plaats. But he has a plan to fight back. Because of his standing in Iowa–and because Iowa will be crucial in determining who challenges President Obama–he has seized the opportunity that the presidential nominating process presents to open another front in his crusade against gay marriage, and a potentially transformative one. Having established a position of leverage, he hopes to use the prospective Republican candidates, and the national media that cover them, to amplify his message and ultimately swing momentum in the culture wars back in his favor.