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ERIN MURPHY: Branstad: Trump, if he runs again, should move on from 2020 election

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Terry Branstad has had Donald Trump’s attention before.

Trump thought highly enough of Branstad, the former Iowa governor, that during his term as president Trump made Branstad his U.S. ambassador to China.

And Branstad’s son Eric has worked as a member of Trump’s campaign team in Iowa.

So what advice would Terry Branstad, who has enjoyed more than a little electoral success in Iowa over the years, give Donald Trump if the former president decides to run for president, especially regarding Trump’s ongoing but entirely unfounded and refuted claims he only lost the 2020 election because of voter fraud.

If you’re a parent of a child who watches Disney movies, you might summarize Branstad’s advice to Trump in terms of two Disney films: “Frozen” (Let it go), and “Meet the Robinsons” (Keep moving forward).

Branstad was asked, in a brief interview after the announcement of his new partnership with Drake University, what advice he would give Trump regarding the 2020 election results should Trump decide to run for president again in 2024.

“My advice is that you don’t win elections on what you’ve done; you do on your vision and what you’re going to do,” Branstad said. “So I would say don't focus on the past. Focus on the future and what you want to accomplish.”

Branstad was first elected to public office in 1972, when he successfully ran for a seat in the Iowa House while he was still attending law school. He eventually became the longest-serving governor in the nation’s history, winning elections in 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 2010 and 2014.

All this is to say Branstad is not unfamiliar with what it takes to win elections.

Branstad chalked Trump’s issues with 2020 presidential election results to the way results poured in on Election Day and the days that followed. Due to significant early voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, some states were still counting ballots for days after the polls closed.

Trump’s ongoing claims of a rigged election or fraudulent results have been refuted dozens of times over by local elections officials of both major political parties, myriad recounts and investigations, and dozens of rejected or defeated court cases.

“I know that he’s very upset, disappointed with what happened in the 2020 election. And that because of COVID, a lot of things were done that are not normal, and of course because of that he feels that the election was stolen,” Branstad said. “That’s counterproductive, as far as I’m concerned.”

Branstad noted the rally Trump held in Iowa in October was attended by thousands of people, a sign that Trump’s popularity has not waned in a state that he won by double digits in 2020.

“He has a big following,” Branstad said. “And Trump has been able to attract the working people, blue collar people who had never supported Republicans before.”

And if Trump decides to once again seek the White House, Terry Branstad suggests he put the 2020 election in the rearview mirror. And in the immortal words of Elsa and Wilbur, let it go and keep moving forward.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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