DES MOINES - Chet Culver has re-emerged at campaign events for President Barak Obama, raising the question of whether Iowa's former Democratic governor and secretary of state intends to get back into politics.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Culver argued that while he hasn't been seeking attention since his 2010 loss to Republican Terry Branstad, he never left politics and government. What's changed, he said, is his role.
He cites his appointment to the credentials committee of the Democratic National Convention and Obama's appointment of him to a seat on the board of the Federal Agriculture Mortgage Corp., known as Farmer Mac. That job pays about $100,000 a year, including shares of stock that board members receive.
In this 2010 file photo, former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver speaks at a rally at Hoover High School in Des Moines.
"I've never really taken much of a step away. It's just a different role, whether it's serving at the request of the president on the Farmer Mac board or highlighting the differences between Mitt Romney and President Obama on the campaign trail," Culver said in a telephone interview last week while returning from a campaign event in Kansas City.
At that stop, Culver criticized likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at a shuttered GST Steel factory. Romney's company Bain Capital bought the company, which ultimately went bankrupt, idling 750 workers.
Romney left the Bain before the bankruptcy, but the plant was the focus of an Obama advertisement that has run in Iowa.
Romney's campaign has argued that overall, Bain created far more jobs than it lost.
Culver, who started a renewable energy consulting business after leaving office, said he's getting more requests to make campaign appearances as he did for Obama in 2008, when he campaigned in a half dozen states.
"I enjoy getting involved. This is a big election. We have a real choices and I'm doing my part to make that choice as clear as I can and I firmly believe that President Obama deserves to get elected," Culver said.
Obama's campaign spokeswoman in Iowa, Erin Seidler said it makes sense for Culver to work on the president's behalf again because both men have similar priorities.
"Governor Culver's record from his time in office match well with a lot of the key messages we're going to be talking about in the campaign here in Iowa," said Seidler, who served as Culver's spokeswoman for about seven months in late 2009 and early 2010.
She noted that renewable energy, for example, has been a priority for both Culver and Obama.
Culver said he finds the work on the Farmer Mac board fascinating. He travels to meetings six or seven times a year but continues to live in the Des Moines area with his wife and two children and runs his consulting business.
"I've really enjoyed starting a small company," he said. "I can still stay involved with policy. I'm wearing a little different hat now in the private sector but it's been very rewarding and I certainly enjoy the time I'm able to spend with my wife and two kids."
Culver deflected questions about whether his campaigning indicated a desire to again run for office.
Bill Knapp, a prominent Des Moines real estate developer and long-time Culver supporter, said he also thinks it's too soon to speculate on Culver's future.
"I think what he's doing for the president is just because he's a good Democrat and he cares about politics and I think at this point he will continue to do that," Knapp said. "Whether he'll get involved in running for office again is too early to speculate on."
Doug Gross, an Iowa Republican strategist, who ran for governor in 2002, said it's more likely that Culver is working to raise his visibility to generate income and perhaps position himself for a potential role in a second Obama term if the president is re-elected.
"It appears to me he's sort of on a track of income generation rather than political regeneration," said Gross, who was Romney's 2008 Iowa campaign chairman but isn't working for any candidate this year. "You do this so you have some capital associated with Obama and if he wins again there's an opportunity for further appointment beyond what he has now."
Culver acknowledged he misses aspects of his job as governor, but he said he's not focused on potential opportunities in the Obama administration.
"We'll just see what the future holds," he said. "I'm just enjoying this new chapter."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.