If Branstad does win the GOP nomination then I think he is the clear favorite to win the Governor's Mansion. However, I think Branstad will be bloodied by the GOP primary. Branstad does have a moderate record as governor that included raising the sales tax and Branstad did have a pro-choice Lieutenant Governor for half of his time in office. The modern Iowa GOP does not tolerate either of those positions and Branstad's Republican opponents are already lining up to take shots.
The other big news is that Sen. Chuck Grassley(R-IA) might have a big name challenger. Former First Lady Christie Vilsack is exploring a possible run for Senate. Ms. Vilsack certainly gives off every intention of running by saying "I think I am well qualified to serve." Vilsack definitely has the policy chops and the popularity to be a formidable challenge to Grassley and Grassley's popularity has dipped over his role in the health care debate. I still think Grassley is the favorite to win but Vilsack is the most formidable person that Democrats can probably nominate.
As a personal note, Liturgygeek serves on the board of the Iowa Intiative, which is a program to reduce unintended pregnancies in the state of Iowa, and where Christie Vilsack serves as Executive Director . After Ms. Vilsack called Liturgygeek a couple of times, I tried to convince Liturgygeek to invite Christie Vilsack to our wedding but Liturgygeek was not as enamored with the idea as I was.