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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 19)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 20, 2014 at 09:37:36 AM CDT

Every weekday through November 4, Bleeding Heartland is posting early voting numbers for all of Iowa and in each of the four Congressional districts. All data come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. The latest tables are after the jump. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

Absentee ballot requests from Iowa Republicans and no-party voters now exceed the total early vote from those groups in Iowa's 2010 midterm election. Ballot requests from Iowa Democrats are only about 4,000 below the total early vote cast by Democrats in 2010.

Three big unanswered questions remain: which party is generating more absentee ballot requests from "unreliable" voters who otherwise would not participate in the midterm? Which party has mobilized more of the independents who are voting early? And which party will do better in making sure its supporters not only request an absentee ballot, but also return it to the county auditor on time?

All 99 county auditors' offices are open for in-person early voting during regular business hours through Monday, November 3. Larger-population counties also have satellite voting locations, often in public libraries or community centers. Click here (pdf) for the full list of Polk County satellite voting locations, with dates and hours. The last day for in-person early voting at satellite locations in Polk County is this Friday, October 24.  

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Weekend open thread: Senate polls and polling challenges edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Oct 18, 2014 at 16:15:00 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

I've been reading about opinion polls, and specifically, the polling industry's growing challenge of sampling a group that looks like the electorate. Almost every day, a new poll appears on Iowa's U.S. Senate race. Since last weekend's Selzer poll for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News, which showed Ernst up by 1 point, three other polls have shown small leads for Ernst, while one showed Braley slightly ahead. How Iowa's no-party voters are leaning is anyone's guess; some polls have shown Ernst leading among independents, others have indicated that Braley is ahead.

All of these surveys are reporting results among "likely Iowa voters," but which, if any, have correctly identified a representative sample? The statistical margin of error means little if the pollster is systematically oversampling certain voters while not reaching other groups. As Nate Silver discusses here, data since 1998 show that polls of U.S. Senate or gubernatorial races are less accurate than presidential polls.

Media orthodoxy says reporters and pollsters can never admit their own organization's poll might have been an "outlier." Rather, readers are told that all trends apparent from some group's poll reflect real shifts of public opinion. So we get the Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs saying Braley "has begun to overcome some of the vulnerabilities detected in the Iowa Poll two weeks ago," going from a double-digit deficit among independents to a slight lead, and going from 25 points down among male respondents to 16 points down. Really, is it likely Braley surged so much in two weeks, as opposed to the previous Des Moines Register/Selzer poll overstating Ernst's advantage overall and among certain groups?

Similarly, Quinnipiac's latest Iowa poll shows "independent voters backing Rep. Braley 48 - 43 percent, a shift from Ernst's 50 - 43 percent lead among these key voters last month." Did no-party voters really change their minds in large numbers over a few weeks, or did Quinnipiac's findings change because of statistical noise?

After the jump I've posted excerpts from several articles about polling and some revealing comments by Ann Selzer, a guest on a recent edition of Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program.  

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Iowa Income: Who Gets What?

by: daveswen

Fri Oct 17, 2014 at 17:15:29 PM CDT

(Thanks to daveswen for this post. Facts don't support widespread beliefs about Iowans allegedly being too dependent on federal programs. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Depending on where you live in Iowa and who you interact with, you may have some quirky conclusions about how income gets made.  It’s common and correct to conclude that many folks get along with the help of public assistance: many in fact wouldn’t get along at all without public aid.  But most of us don’t have a clue how money gets made in this state, let alone who the recipients of public assistance are.  We go to annual estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to get the numbers.

Here's how $138.34 billion in 2013 total personal income was divided up: Two-thirds ($91.3 billion) came from total earnings, which are wages and salaries, payments to proprietors, and the value of all employer-supplied benefits like medical insurance and retirement contributions.  Investment incomes (dividends, interests, and rents) made up 18 percent ($24.7 billion).  And transfers – payments by the federal government or, to a lesser extent, state government to individuals either in cash, vouchers, or direct assistance – were 16 percent of state income. 

Stated differently, 84 percent of our incomes came from market activity, and 16 percent came from governmental tranfers.  Market incomes trumped government payments to individuals by a ratio of better than 5 to 1.  

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UNI, ISU among country's most affordable "eco-friendly" universities

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 17, 2014 at 16:03:11 PM CDT

The University of Northern Iowa ranks third and Iowa State University twelfth on Best Choice Schools' list of "50 Great Affordable Eco-Friendly Colleges. The website evaluated more than 300 universities to find 50 that had an "estimated net price of under $25,000 a year" as well as "unique structures or lifestyle characteristics that make them leaders in sustainability." The schools included "have all earned formal 'green' ratings from one major agency or another, and most have been recognized by respected groups such as the Sierra Club." The schools were ranked from least expensive to most expensive, and UNI's tuition of $15,232/year secured third place. Best Choice Schools commented,

University of Northern Iowa's on-campus organization c.a.r.e. (creating a responsible environment) promotes Eco-friendliness and sustainable living through a number of on-campus initiatives. In dining services, most disposable items were eliminated and a refillable mug program introduced. A local buying program was also introduced and has successfully reduced packaging and shipping wastes while simultaneously supporting local vendors. The University itself has done its part, too. Currently, a whopping 23 campus buildings are undergoing energy-saving retrofits or renovations.

ISU's tuition of $19,281/year was affordable enough for twelfth place on the list:

Iowa State University has proven itself willing to go above and beyond when it comes to campus sustainability. Ambitiously, it requires all new construction and major renovation projects to achieve LEED Gold certification. So far, it has succeeded, with two of its buildings achieving the even higher status of Platinum. The implementation of tray-less dining services reduced food waste by more than 50%, and the food that is wasted is composted at the University's very own compost facility. Active student groups include a Solar Decathlon team, The GreenHouse Group, and Keep Iowa State Beautiful.

Click here for more information on sustainability initiatives at UNI and here for more information on ISU's Live Green! efforts.

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Fired Iowa Senate Republican staffer files sexual harassment lawsuit

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 17, 2014 at 12:30:00 PM CDT

Former Iowa Senate Republican staffer Kirsten Anderson filed a lawsuit in Polk County District Court yesterday, claiming she was subjected to "sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act." Anderson served as communications director for the Iowa Senate GOP caucus from February 2008 to the middle of May 2013. Bleeding Heartland covered the circumstances surrounding her firing here and here. Anderson filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission last year. She is suing the State of Iowa, the Iowa Senate, the Iowa Senate Republican caucus, Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, Iowa Senate Republican senior staffer Eric Johansen, and Ed Failor, Jr., the primary advisor to Dix since shortly after Dix was chosen to lead the GOP caucus in late 2012.

William Petroski's report for the Des Moines Register includes a link to the 20-page court filing, which can be downloaded as a pdf file. Pages 3 through 7 list many incidents supporting Anderson's claims about a hostile work environment and sexual harassment, starting in 2010. Several current and former lawmakers are named. The lawsuit paraphrases inappropriate comments by former GOP Senators Shawn Hamerlinck and Merlin Bartz. Senator Tim Kapucian is said to have laughed at an unnamed senior analyst's inappropriate comments about a "loose" female Democratic senator. Senators Joni Ernst and Sandy Greiner allegedly "did and said nothing" after witnessing "sexual innuendo and inappropriate behavior exhibited by their male colleagues." Ernst denied that charge in a written statement, which I've enclosed after the jump. She suggested Anderson was perhaps "being exploited ahead of the election."

Speaking to the Des Moines Register, Anderson's attorney Mike Carroll

denied any political motivation behind the timing of the lawsuit. He said that before a lawsuit could be filed, his client had to file a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. The complaint was filed last year. The commission issued a letter in July giving Anderson 90 days to file a lawsuit, and the filing deadline was set to expire Oct. 29, he said.

In her own statement, Anderson said, "As to the suggestions that I am a pawn in a political drama, that is not the case. I am standing up for my rights as an employee; a right to work in a place without inappropriate and discriminatory conduct."

Pages 12 through 17 of the court filing include a memo Anderson handed to Johansen on the morning of May 17, 2013, suggesting that her work was being criticized because she had complained about a "sexually hostile work environment" that "no private sector workplace would tolerate." Later the same day, in Dix's presence, Johansen gave Anderson a choice of resigning or being fired. Pages 17 and 18 list six causes of action under the Iowa Civil Rights Act. Anderson is seeking back pay and benefits, compensatory damages, a ruling that her termination was unfair and/or discriminatory, and injunctive relief requiring (among other things) new training procedures for Iowa Senate staffers.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 16)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 17, 2014 at 09:25:00 AM CDT

Iowa Democrats got a head start on canvassing and collecting vote by mail requests one by one this summer. But after sending absentee ballot request forms to literally every registered Republican in the state, the Iowa GOP has reduced the Democratic early voting advantage substantially. As of yesterday, Democrats lead Republicans in absentee ballot requests by less than 10,000 statewide, and by only a little more than 5,000 in absentee ballots already returned to county auditors.

Follow me after the jump for the latest early voting numbers statewide and in Iowa's four Congressional districts. All data come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

All 99 county auditors' offices are open for in-person early voting during regular business hours. Larger-population counties also have satellite voting locations, often in public libraries or community centers. Click here (pdf) for the full list of Polk County satellite voting locations, with dates and hours. In my experience, voting early in person is fast and easy.  

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IA-Sen: Final Braley/Ernst debate liveblog and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 16, 2014 at 19:00:00 PM CDT

In a few minutes, Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst will hold their third and final debate. KCAU in Sioux City and ABC-5 in Des Moines are televising the debate locally, and C-SPAN is showing it nationwide. I'll be liveblogging after the jump.

Before the first debate, I was concerned that Braley might lose his cool, but he did well both that night as well as in last Saturday's debate.

UPDATE: C-SPAN has the debate video archived here, for those who missed it.

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2,4-D crops rubberstamped

by: pesticideaction

Thu Oct 16, 2014 at 16:32:21 PM CDT

(Bad news for Iowa farmers who grow vegetables and fruits (including vineyards), or who raise livestock on chemical-free pastures. Bleeding Heartland user black desert nomad covered some of the potential risks here. Even for conventional corn and beans farmers, the approach rubber-stamped by the EPA and USDA is likely to exacerbate the "superweed" problem over time. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

It's official. EPA and USDA have both evaluated Dow Chemical's new  line of 2,4-D-resistant seeds, Enlist — and have approved both the seeds  and the accompanying pesticide formulation for market.

This is a turning point, not just for grain production but for food  production in the U.S. and internationally. The introduction of Enlist  corn and soybeans, and the widespread adoption of this new seed line,  will have pervasive impacts on farmer livelihoods, public health and  control of our food system.


This is a decision that our regulators should not have taken lightly.  And yet, it seems they did. Both USDA and EPA set up an intentionally  narrow scope for evaluating the potential harms posed by 2,4-D resistant  crops — one that ignored the biggest problems and held up irrelevant  factors as evidence of safety.

As small farmers brace for the impact of pesticide drift that will  hit with the introduction of Enlist crops, it is time for us to look  forward. It's time to demand a regulatory system that takes a rigorous  approach to pesticides and genetically engineered crops, one that values  small farmers as much as industrial agriculture — and public health as  much as corporate profit.

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Democratic-aligned groups should run some positive ads

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 16, 2014 at 10:23:44 AM CDT

Unwritten rules about the division of labor in campaign advertising dictate that candidates run mostly positive commercials about themselves, while outside groups beat up the opponent. I understand that negative commercials have been effective in many races, but few things are more irritating than cookie-cutter political attack ads. Listening to the radio every day in recent months, the only ads I've heard from Democratic-aligned groups such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, or NextGen Climate Action have been attacks on U.S. Senate nominee Joni Ernst or IA-03 Republican candidate David Young. When the DCCC starts spending money in IA-01, I'll bet the only ads produced will be attacks on Republican Rod Blum.

Meanwhile, front groups for Republicans have been running a mix of positive and negative ads. In the IA-Sen race, some of the best pro-Ernst ads have come from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the National Federation for Independent Business. Similarly, Ernst's campaign has run a mix of positive radio ads about her and attacks on Bruce Braley, including a vicious one that's in heavy rotation now statewide.

I believe that the National Republican Congressional Committee's positive ad featuring Tom Latham's endorsement of David Young in IA-03 was more effective than the cliched attacks on Democratic candidate Staci Appel.

It's been months since I saw any positive television ad about Braley, aside for a few spots produced by his own campaign. Earlier this year, Senate Majority PAC ran some ads that painted Braley in a favorable light, but otherwise it's been non-stop anti-Ernst messaging from that group, the DSCC, NextGen Climate Action, and Sierra Club Political Action. Most of these commercials have been mediocre at best. Even if they were high quality, I don't think the strategy helps the candidate they are trying to help.

For some reason, Democratic ad consultants don't seem to understand that Iowans need to hear reasons to vote for Braley as well as reasons not to vote for Ernst. There is radio silence on the pro-Braley front and not much positive about him on television. Meanwhile, Iowa viewers and listeners are hearing reasons to support Ernst as well as reasons not to support Braley. I believe the lack of positive messaging about Braley is a strategic error and a key reason recent polling in the IA-Sen race has shown slightly better favorability numbers for Ernst.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 15)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 16, 2014 at 09:30:00 AM CDT

Iowans continue to vote early in numbers well ahead of the 2010 pace. More than 333,000 people have requested absentee ballots, and more than 170,000 ballots have been returned to county auditors. Iowans voting by mail can track their absentee ballots here to make sure the envelope arrived safely. But not every ballot that auditors receive will be counted, so it's critical to follow instructions. Seal the secrecy envelope after placing your ballot inside, and sign and seal the affidavit envelope before mailing the ballot back. Do not erase or cross out anything on your absentee ballot; you can request a replacement ballot if you make a mistake.

The latest early voting numbers statewide and in Iowa's four Congressional districts are after the jump. All data come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.  

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Sky blue aster

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 15, 2014 at 22:53:16 PM CDT

Full disclosure: asters can be hard to tell apart, even for experts, and I am not an expert. So while I'm fairly confident that the pictures below depict Sky blue aster, I wouldn't bet the farm on it. They were blooming last month in prairie habitat at Whiterock Conservancy, and I suspect some are still blooming, as many asters continue to flower well into the Iowa autumn.

As a bonus, I've enclosed below a picture of one of my favorite late summer prairie wildflowers, rough blazing star. It was blooming near the patches of sky blue aster.

This post is also an open thread: all topics welcome.

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DMR Iowa caucus poll: Same old story for Democrats but a few GOP surprises

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 15, 2014 at 16:15:00 PM CDT

It's been a few weeks since we had a thread on the 2016 Iowa caucuses. Today's Des Moines Register featured results from the latest statewide poll by Selzer & Co for the Register and Bloomberg News. Selzer surveyed 425 registered voters "who say they definitely or probably will attend" the 2016 Iowa Republican caucuses, and 426 registered voters who plan to attend the Democratic caucuses.

On the Democratic side, it's the same old story: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads the field with 53 percent of respondents naming her as a first choice. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren drew 10 percent support, Vice President Joe Biden 9 percent, Secretary of State and 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry got 7 percent, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders 3 percent, and several others 1 percent or less (the last group included Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who has visited Iowa several times in the last couple of years). Hillary Clinton also registered the highest favorability rating among Democratic respondents (76 percent), shattering the myth that she has a serious "Iowa problem," at least where the caucuses are concerned.

The Register's headline screamed, "2016 EARLY TAKE: CLINTON, ROMNEY," but from where I'm sitting, this poll would not entice the 2012 presidential nominee to try again. Mitt Romney was the first choice of 17 percent of Republican respondents and the second choice of 8 percent. That's hardly a ringing endorsement of the man who has much higher name recognition than most of the other candidates.

The Selzer poll showed no clear favorites among potential GOP presidential candidates. Ben Carson may be the new "flavor of the month" with 11 percent picking him as a first choice, second to Romney. Perhaps Iowa Republicans are looking for a fresh face after two cycles in a row of nominating men who had run for president before. Nine candidates pulled between 3 percent and 10 percent as a first choice in the Selzer poll, suggesting that the race will be wide open next year. (I've posted the full list after the jump.) The findings will be discouraging to former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. Despite winning the 2012 caucuses by a handful of votes, he is now the first choice of only 3 percent of respondents, and the second choice of only 8 percent. Marco Rubio's immigration reform misadventure may have ruined his image among Iowa Republicans, because he is way down the list in this poll.

Any comments about the next presidential race in Iowa are welcome in this thread.

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Republicans running negative radio ads in key Iowa Senate and House races

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 15, 2014 at 13:45:59 PM CDT

Radio commercials appeared in several competitive Iowa Senate districts during the last week of September, coinciding with the start of early voting. This week, the Republican Party of Iowa has launched the first negative radio spots I've heard in state legislative races this year. After the jump I've enclosed the transcript of the ad attacking Chaz Allen, the Democratic candidate in the open Iowa Senate district 15. Allen's own positive ad, which Bleeding Heartland transcribed here, is still in rotation and promotes the former Newton mayor's record of recruiting businesses. The new Republican spot blames Allen for high property taxes that allegedly discouraged companies from coming to Newtown after "Maytag pulled out on Chaz Allen's watch." The ad also plays up Governor Terry Branstad's support for Crystal Bruntz, the Republican candidate in Senate district 15. While the ad asserts that Bruntz "understands job creation," it fails to mention anything substantive she has ever done to create jobs.

In Iowa Senate district 41, a leading pickup opportunity for Democrats, Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren's new radio spot highlights flippant and sarcastic responses Siegel mailed in response to a survey Chelgren circulated in 2010. More details on that commercial are after the jump.

In the open Senate district 39, another seat targeted by both parties, a Bleeding Heartland reader tells me that the new Republican radio spot attacks Democratic nominee Kevin Kinney over his support for "Common Core" educational standards. I have not heard the ad yet and would appreciate any further details. It seems like an odd angle for an attack, but I guess Kinney's background as a deputy sheriff and family farmer didn't give them easy targets. Politics-watchers generally believe that education is a campaign issue favoring Democrats. As far as I can tell, fear-mongering over Common Core only resonates with social conservatives who would already be voting for Kinney's opponent, Michael Moore.

I have not yet heard details on radio spots attacking State Senators Daryl Beall or Rita Hart, the Democratic incumbents in Senate districts 5 and 49, respectively. Nor have I heard of any attack ads against three-term Democratic incumbent Amanda Ragan in Senate district 27, although anecdotally, Republicans have supposedly given up on taking back that seat. I always appreciate tips from Bleeding Heartland readers, so please let me know if you've heard radio ads in the Fort Dodge, Clinton, or Mason City area.

In the open Iowa House district 55 (northeast Iowa), Republican Daniel Branhagen started running a commercial this week calling his Democratic opponent Rick Edwards a big spender. I haven't heard attack ads against any Iowa House Democrats yet on Des Moines area radio stations.

Any comments about the state legislative races are welcome in this thread.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 14)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 15, 2014 at 08:53:10 AM CDT

Every weekday morning through November 4, Bleeding Heartland will post new absentee ballot numbers, based on data released from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

The statewide Democratic advantage in absentee ballot requests now stands at just under 15,000. The largest Democratic early vote advantage continues to be in IA-02, followed by IA-01 and IA-03. Republicans have requested and returned more ballots in IA-04. Democrats say that as in 2012, they have identified the majority of the independents who are voting early. There is no way to confirm that claim using publicly available data.

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IA-Gov: Final Branstad-Hatch debate liveblog and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 18:55:00 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad and State Senator Jack Hatch debate for the third and final time tonight, starting at 7:00 pm. The candidates are meeting in Sioux City's Orpheum Theater. KTIV will live-stream here. I'll be liveblogging after the jump and will also update later with reaction to the debate. C-SPAN does not appear to be televising.

Any comments about the governor's race are welcome in this thread. It's been a discouraging couple of months for Democrats, as Hatch had to pull his television advertising in late September for lack of funds. Meanwhile, Branstad's campaign has been advertising statewide almost continuously since early June. For a lot of this year, polling indicated that there was an opening for a challenger to make a case against Branstad. The governor's re-elect numbers were below 50 percent in many polls, despite decent approval ratings--indicating that quite a few Iowans who liked Branstad questioned whether he deserved another term. I liked Hatch's commercial that hammered on the theme of Branstad being around too long, but he wasn't able to follow up with other spots to raise his profile and highlight the incumbent's failures. Most recent polls have shown Branstad ahead of Hatch by 15 to 20 points. I wish money were not so influential in our campaigns and elections.  

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IA-03: Trouble on David Young's right flank (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 13:48:07 PM CDT

Prominent central Iowa conservatives are voicing concerns about David Young, the GOP nominee in the third Congressional district. Young can't afford to run too far to the right in his race against former State Senator Staci Appel. He needs to keep the margin close in Polk County, because the Republican voter registration advantage in IA-03 isn't large enough to save him if he gets blown out among suburban moderates. Consequently, Young has taken several middle-of-the-road positions during the general election campaign. During his first debate against Appel, he offered qualified support for a minimum wage increase. Last week, he told the Des Moines Register's editorial board that he favors some form of legal status for some undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

Speaking at a health care forum in Des Moines yesterday, Young said the Affordable Care Act is "here to stay," so Congress will "have to work to make it better." Whereas many Republicans have pledged to repeal "Obamacare," Young said he'll "be at the table trying to fix it." That pragmatic stance contradicts his promise in a pre-primary television commercial to make Obamacare disappear.

Although Young has Iowa Right To Life's support for the general election, some "pro-life" activists haven't forgotten that he once told a journalist abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest.

Social conservative talk radio host Steve Deace laid out his case against voting for Young in a Facebook post yesterday. I've enclosed excerpts after the jump. Many Iowa Democrats dismiss Deace as irrelevant, but his show is broadcast on two stations in the Council Bluffs area (the second-largest metro in IA-03) and one station in Des Moines. During the next three weeks, you can be sure Deace will urge listeners not to vote for Young.

Casting a protest vote will be easy for right-wing Republicans, because two conservative candidates qualified for the ballot in IA-03. Bleeding Heartland posted background on Libertarian Ed Wright and independent Bryan Jack Holder here.

UPDATE: On October 14, Deace bashed Young on his website and featured on his radio broadcast a segment on "John Boehner's next plan to screw conservatives." Pointing to a blog post claiming the U.S. House speaker wants to expand his majority "so the crazies you hate will be irrelevant" in Congress, Deace commented, "Another reason not to vote for David Young, as if he hasn't provided enough of them already."

SECOND UPDATE: The Iowa Republican publisher Craig Robinson had a go at Young's "schizophrenic" campaign. I've added excerpts at the end of this post.  

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U.S. Supreme Court rejects appeal of defamation case based on Iowa political ad

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 10:25:00 AM CDT

Hot off the press: the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear Republican State Senator Rick Bertrand's appeal of a Iowa Supreme Court ruling rejecting his defamation case. Bertrand's lawsuit stemmed from a negative ad the Iowa Democratic Party ran against him during his 2010 campaign against Rick Mullin. To my surprise, Bertrand won significant damages in a jury trial, and a partial victory at the Iowa District Court level. The district court judge reduced the damages awarded to Bertrand but determined that the controversial television spot constituted "implied libel."

Both Bertrand and the defendants in the defamation case (Mullin and the Iowa Democratic Party) appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, which heard the case in January. In May, justices unanimously dismissed the case. Bleeding Heartland posted key excerpts from that unanimous ruling here. You can read the full decision here (pdf).

Bertrand's only option left was a U.S. Supreme Court appeal. I never thought he would get far with this lawsuit, because of extensive case law supporting strong protections for political campaign speech, as well as a high bar for any public figure claiming defamation (libel or slander).

Today, Bertrand v. Mullin et al appeared on a long list of cases in which the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari.

UPDATE: Bertrand reacted to today's news on his twitter feed. I've added those comments below. He still doesn't have a grasp of the First Amendment issues.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 13)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 10:06:07 AM CDT

More than 300,000 Iowans have requested absentee ballots for the November 4 election, and nearly 140,000 have returned those ballots to their county auditors. The latest tables showing absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts are after the jump. The data come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.  
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Kent Sorenson tested positive for marijuana

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 21:22:05 PM CDT

Former State Senator Kent Sorenson tested positive for marijuana two weeks ago, according to court documents released today. Sorenson is on probation pre-trial release under supervision while he awaits sentencing for concealing illegal payments he received from Ron Paul's presidential campaign and giving false testimony about the scheme. Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register,

His attorney, F. Montgomery Brown, said Sorenson disclosed using marijuana prior to making his plea and denies using since he's been under court supervision. Testing shows declining levels of the drug, Brown added, which is "consistent with abstinence."

In the court documents, the probation officer assigned to Sorenson asked that no action be taken in response to the drug test, noting that he has maintained full-time employment. The U.S. Department of Justice attorney assigned to the case did not object.

"I would not expect it to have any impact upon his pretrial release at this time," Brown said. "They're not asking for any revocation of that release.

Brown added, "He's not the first tea partier to have a substance abuse issue."

I hope Sorenson gets the help he needs to abstain from habit-forming drugs. Questions for those in the Bleeding Heartland community who are familiar with the criminal justice system: is it typical for a probation officer and a DOJ attorney not to recommend immediate consequences for a defendant who violated probation by failing a drug test? And would a positive drug test likely affect the sentence Sorenson will receive, even though the crimes to which he pled guilty are unrelated to illegal drug use?

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Mitt Romney in Iowa links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 15:10:00 PM CDT

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been campaigning in Iowa yesterday and today with U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst. After the jump I've enclosed excerpts from some of the news coverage of Romney's visit. Free publicity is always helpful in a close election, but I'm not sure Romney can bring any voters who aren't already supporting Ernst into her corner.

Social conservative talk radio host thinks appearing alongside Romney "makes absolutely no sense": "Ernst is being blasted in endless commercials for being a corporate shill, so why bring in to campaign for you a guy Iowans just rejected in the last election as a corporate shill? Ernst already has the moderate, corporatist GOP vote all locked up." He thinks Ernst needs to do more public appearances with solid conservatives. I think that would alienate moderate voters. What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

The Des Moines Register's headline-writers misrepresented a finding from the new Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News. Among respondents who are "likely voters" in 2014, Romney leads President Barack Obama by 41 percent to 39 percent. The Register's headline on Jennifer Jacobs' article read, "In 2012 re-run, Romney wins." Not really. Not only is that lead within the poll's margin for error, a new presidential election would bring out a presidential-year electorate. This poll sampled likely midterm voters. We know that several Democratic-skewing groups (young people, unmarried women) are less likely to vote in a non-presidential year.

I don't expect Romney to run for president again, but likely future presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio did a "telephone town-hall" with Ernst a few days ago. Past and future presidential candidate Rick Santorum will come to Dubuque and Davenport this week.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that in a separate piece on the latest Selzer poll, Jennifer Jacobs reported that Romney "leads Clinton in 2016 matchup." Sorry, no. The poll shows Romney barely ahead of Hillary Clinton by 44 percent to 43 percent among Iowa respondents considered likely 2014 election voters. That doesn't tell us whether Romney would be ahead among a presidential year Iowa electorate.

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