DES MOINES - Gov. Terry Branstad has begun sending strong signals that he will seek re-election in 2014, while no Democrats have yet stepped forward to challenge him.
Potential challengers include former Gov. Chet Culver, whom Branstad, a former governor himself, defeated in a comeback two years ago.
Both Culver and Branstad say they are keeping their options open, but the Republican governor acknowledged he has taken steps consistent with launching another campaign.
"(Democrats) can see the handwriting on the wall," Branstad said in an Associated Press interview.
Those signals include him raking in $600,000 in campaign contributions this month at a fundraiser hosted by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a rising star for the GOP nationally.
Branstad also says he has not yet accomplished policy goals he laid out in his 2010 campaign, although he has the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions ahead of him. At age 66, he also says he still enjoys the job he has held longer than any governor in Iowa history.
"I've been pretty open about it," Branstad said, noting that he won't take decisive action on his political future until 2014. "And I love what I'm doing. So, that should be an indication."
Branstad served four terms in the 1980s and 1990s, and emerged from political retirement to run against Culver, the first Iowa governor defeated in a re-election bid in nearly 50 years.
While Iowa's improving unemployment and state revenue are factors in Branstad's favor, his plans to curb property taxes and enact wide-ranging education policy changes are likely to meet opposition from an emboldened Democratic state Senate majority. Democrats held their narrow margin in the chamber despite an aggressive challenge from Republicans in this year's general election.
Among the Democrats weighing a run for governor is state Sen. Jack Hatch of Des Moines. Hatch has been a sharp critic of Branstad's handling of Iowa's response to requirements in the federal health care law enacted in 2010.