Donald Trump paid a price for not doing his homework

Donald Trump’s unrehearsed speaking style has been an asset for most of this campaign. People want to watch a guy who could say any off-the-wall thing at any moment.

Perhaps for that reason, or perhaps because he has a short attention span, Trump spent a lot less time preparing for last night’s debate than Hillary Clinton did. His aides didn’t try to hide that fact. His spokesperson mocked Clinton’s intense prep sessions. Trump himself needled his opponent about it during the debate.

Not doing his homework turned out to be a big mistake.

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The First Debate: Irresistible Force Meets Immovable Object

A must-read review of what recent history tells us about the impact of presidential debates. You can find Dan Guild’s past writing for this site here and here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Debates have arguably remade the race for the Presidency in 1976, 1980, 2000, 2004 and 2012. Even in races where arguably they are less important, they still are significant events. Having said all of this there are patterns that repeat themselves. Guideposts that can help evaluate how they will affect this race. Here they are:

  1. Typically debates consolidate support within their Party for each candidate. Where this is unequal, the candidate who is behind tends to benefit.

  2. In races where there is significant discontent, debates often help the candidate of the party that is on the outside.

  3. Third Parties frequently decline afterwards

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Branstad talks big on family incomes but opposes concrete steps to raise them

Since the day he launched his 2010 campaign for governor, Terry Branstad has been promising to raise Iowa family incomes by 25 percent. That aspiration is still highlighted on the front page of the governor’s website.

Family incomes haven’t increased in any significant way, according to a September 2015 report by the Iowa Fiscal Partnership: "Median household income was $53,712 in 2014 — compared with $53,031 the year before. It was also statistically unchanged from 2007 ($53,994 in 2014 dollars) and from 2000 ($52,483 in 2014 dollars)." U.S. Census Bureau data indicate that as of July 2015, the median family income in Iowa was $52,716.

Despite the lack of progress toward one of his central goals, Branstad has opposed various policies that would raise incomes, especially toward the lower end of the scale.

Most recently, he moved last week to block a new U.S. Department of Labor rule, which would make at least 120,000 Iowans eligible to earn overtime pay.

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Weekend open thread: Revisionist history

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Many cities and towns in northeast Iowa have been flooded over the last few days, and Cedar Rapids is bracing for the city’s second-worst flood in history. The latest forecast indicates the Cedar River will crest Tuesday morning around 23 feet, about two feet below the projected crest from a couple of days ago but still seven feet above "major flood" level. Many downtown streets are closed, National Guard members will assist local law enforcement, and a small army of volunteers have been sandbagging and trying to protect local landmarks. The Cedar Rapids Gazette is regularly updating this page with more 2016 flood coverage.

Several Iowa House Republican candidates began running television commercials this past week. Some GOP candidates for the Iowa Senate have been on the air for a couple of weeks now, and campaigns on both sides have begun to send out direct mail. Usually, those communications are not available online, so I appreciate reports on any direct mail pieces or state legislative campaign commercials you’ve seen or heard on radio and tv stations in your area. Whatever details you can remember are helpful, as are screen shots or pdf files showing images. My e-mail address is near the lower right-hand corner of this page.

In Iowa House district 43, one of the top targets for Democrats, House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow is running a tv ad whitewashing his record on education. Several other Republicans are trying out similar talking points, which presumably tested well in polls that were in the field a few weeks ago. I’ll have more to say about Hagenow’s ad in a future post. A few key points for now:

• Five legislative sessions in a row, House Republicans have refused to pass bills setting state support for K-12 education ("allowable growth") on the timeline required by state law. Their delays left school district leaders unable to plan their budgets on time.
• Six legislative sessions in a row, Iowa House and Senate Democrats have fought House Republicans over education funding. Every year, House GOP leaders insisted on a final budget below what school districts, community colleges, and state universities would need to keep up with rising costs.
• Hagenow absurdly postures as a supporter of more funding for preschool. In reality, within weeks after Republicans took over the Iowa House in 2011, Hagenow and everyone else in his caucus voted to eliminate state preschool funding. If Hagenow had gotten his way, Iowa would not even have a state-supported preschool program for 4-year-olds.

Speaking of revisionist history, Donald Trump’s campaign is now claiming that Carter Page was never a foreign policy adviser to the presidential candidate. Both Trump and Page talked to journalists in March about his adviser role. Why the change? Probably because according to Michael Isikoff’s September 23 story for Yahoo News, "U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine" whether Page "has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials." Questions center on Page’s activities during a July visit to Moscow.

But how well-connected is Page in Russia anyway? Julia Ioffe talked to specialists in the U.S. and Moscow and reported in her must-read piece for Politico, "despite the tightly knit nature of the expat business community in Russia, no one I spoke to had ever heard of Carter Page." Several people who have worked in the Russian energy sector discounted Page’s self-described role with the gas monopoly Gazprom. People who knew Page from Merrill Lynch’s Moscow office or his work with Russia’s electricity monopoly were unimpressed. Talk about irony: the ultimate con man Trump, who lies about matters large and small, may have been tricked into elevating Page’s stature.

Ioffe’s reporting suggests that Iowa’s own Sam Clovis recruited Page on behalf of the Trump campaign. Clovis refused to answer the journalist’s questions.

Final note: Craig Robinson and I discussed the Trump campaign’s Russia connections with Dave Price for one of WHO-TV’s September 21 newscasts; click here to watch that video. Robinson and I talked about other aspects of the presidential race on today’s edition of "The Insiders." I’ll add links when they become available.

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ISU president used university plane for personal trips, didn't pay to fix damage

Iowa State University President Steven Leath has flown one of the university’s planes on at least four personal trips, without the apparent knowledge of the official in charge of ISU’s flight program, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press on September 23. Leath reimbursed the university for some costs associated with those trips but not for expenses incurred after he damaged one of the planes through pilot error in July 2015.

Although Leath’s use of the plane appears to have violated both ISU policy and state law, Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter has already released a statement supporting Leath.

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