Excuse the lazy sports metaphor, but Gov. Kim Reynolds hit a triple during Tuesday's Condition of the State address.
Tuesday's address, her first, was more than just a litany of policy asks. It was the unofficial roll-out of her 2018 re-election campaign.
And sandwiched between sometimes glowing platitudes about Iowa and its residents sat legitimate policy and a willingness to break from her former boss. Agree or not with Reynolds' politics, any objective observer will admit that she accomplished precisely what she set out to do. And, perhaps of greatest import, Reynolds distinguished herself from her predecessor, Terry Branstad, who vacated the Governor's Office and headed to China as an U.S. ambassador.
Reynolds fared well on some of Iowa's most pressing issues, such as water quality, mental health and the mess Branstad made of Medicaid. The latter included consequential admission that "mistakes were made" in 2016 when Branstad ignored all advice and rammed through Medicaid privatization. Reynolds, after all, was his lieutenant governor at the time. Democrats howled after her defense of privatized Medicaid, but, at the very least, Reynolds' stated readiness to grapple with the issue -- one that's falling far short of projected budgetary savings -- was noteworthy.
Reynolds rightly called for a funding mechanism for central Iowa's water quality disaster. She vowed to rework local and state funding for mental health care and announced the creation of "Crisis Access Centers," which would serve people in need of short-term care, a major boost for county jails across Iowa. And she pledged, if in vague terms, to right the Medicaid mess, while defending the overarching concept. Politically, that's as far as she could go.
Reynolds kicked things off by ticking ideological boxes, highlighting big conservative wins in the 2017 session and what's on the table in 2018. Last year, union power was substantially undercut. "Pro-growth" regulatory policies were instituted. This year, Reynolds wants a tax cut, but pushed back against nonsensical calls to slash the corporate tax rate in the process. That last bit marked a significant departure from conservative orthodoxy, signaling Reynolds' willingness to submit to the state's precarious budgetary situation. But it was among this litany of preordained GOP ideological bullet points where Reynolds fell into the trap of intellectual inconsistency.
Reynolds lauded sweeping expansions to gun rights during last year's session, declaring Iowa "restored liberties." Then, in the very next breath, she lauded deep cuts to Planned Parenthood that, as designed, made a woman's constitutionally protected right to an abortion less attainable throughout the state.
One right bolstered, another hacked at the knees. It was a rare, but glaring disconnect.
In another instance, Reynolds -- whose history of drunken driving arrests are a matter of record -- said she believes Iowa should be a place for "second chances." She should put that rhetoric to work and end her predecessor's draconian resistance to restoring voting rights for felons.
In so doing, Reynolds would draw yet another bright red line between herself and Branstad without risking a full-blown GOP revolt at the ballot box.
Reynolds' unwillingness to entertain cuts to the corporate tax rate displayed a measure of independence from partisan orthodoxy. Her no-bones rejection of corporate tax rates acknowledged Iowa's festering revenue shortfalls. Her call to overhaul the state's foundering mental health network couldn't have come sooner.
In one short address, Reynolds managed to speak to the GOP base while concurrently rebuffing against some of the fiscal lunacy at its fringes.
On Tuesday, Reynolds' showed herself to be something much more than a hand-picked place holder. And that's precisely what she set out to do.