You’ve probably spotted the most popular man in Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad, in a cutaway shot during the debates. With his wire-rim glasses, drooping mustache, and salt-and-pepper hair, he’s a picture of calm, the professorial politician. Over and over on live television, Republican presidential candidates shower him with praise. But Branstad rarely reacts; he’ll twitch an eyebrow, maybe nod. He’s content, he tells me, to stay in the background, watching.
Branstad, a 65-year-old attorney, was elected last year, ousting incumbent Democrat Chet Culver. It’s his second stint at Terrace Hill, the governor’s mansion; Iowa politicos quip that with his whiskers and split tenure, he’s the Midwest’s Grover Cleveland. Branstad previously held office from 1983 to 1999 and retired as Iowa’s longest-serving chief executive. A few years later, he became president of Des Moines University, a medical college.
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