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2014 elections

Iowa Senate Democrats roll out state government reforms

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 01, 2014 at 15:00:00 PM CDT

The Iowa Senate Oversight Committee met yesterday to approve a wide range of recommendations on state government management, contracting, and labor practices. O. Kay Henderson posted audio from the committee meeting at Radio Iowa. On a 3-2 party-line vote, Democrats on the committee approved recommendations in the following nine areas:

• A ban on secret settlements and hush money
• Expanded whistleblower protections
• Anti-cronyism measures
• Reform of the state's "do-not-hire" database
• A ban on no-bid contracts for state projects
• Increase accountability in state infrastructure projects
• Protect Iowans right to fair hearings by preventing political appointees and at-will employees from supervising or evaluating judges
• Restore integrity to Iowa's unemployment trust fund by appointing trusted and transparent leadership
• Require that the Legislature be notified when the Governor receives reports of founded workplace violence in state agencies.

One of the Republicans who voted against the recommendations, State Senator Julia Garrett, characterized the Democratic proposals as "political theater" not "borne out by the facts."

"No laws were broken. No codes of ethics were violated," Garrett said. "Instead, we have discovered that there is a difference of opinion in management philosophies...and we have learned that sometimes front-line workers don't care for or particularly agree with their bosses."

In Garrett's view, Governor Terry Branstad is running the state "exceptionally well" and should get more credit for ending secret settlements through an executive order. However, witnesses appearing before the Iowa Senate Oversight Committee in recent months testified to many problems in state government beyond settlements that included confidentiality clauses (which were the first scandals to get widespread attention). Committee Chair Janet Petersen mentioned several of them in her opening remarks for yesterday's meeting. After the jump I've posted a more detailed list of recommendations, along with findings that prompted them. Whether these proposals go anywhere during the 2015 legislative session will depend on party control of the Iowa House and Senate after the November election.

Rod Boshart paraphrased Petersen as predicting that if Branstad is re-elected, several of his appointees who were involved in these scandals may have trouble being confirmed by the Iowa Senate, "notably Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert."

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IA-03 catch-up thread, with tv ads about education and terrorism

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 30, 2014 at 20:41:36 PM CDT

Although all four of Iowa's Congressional districts are targeted in theory, only the third district is seeing large-scale independent expenditures as well as broadcast advertising by the candidates.

Today Democratic nominee Staci Appel's campaign launched a new positive ad, focusing on her support for public education at all levels. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a new spot bashing Republican nominee David Young over his call to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education. Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee is out with a new ad today about the same "passports for terrorists" canard they featured in their last Iowa effort. Clearly they think this is their strongest card against Appel, and they won't stop no matter how many news media report her real position on the issue.

Videos and transcripts of all the latest ads are after the jump.

I haven't seen any new commercials from Young's campaign lately. Justin Sink reported for The Hill that Young cancelled $107,000 in "reserved television ad time in the Omaha market through election day, according to a source tracking ad buys." Roughly 20 percent of the voters in IA-03 live in the Omaha viewing area, most of them in Pottawattamie County (Council Bluffs). Residents of Mills, Montgomery, Fremont, Page, and Cass counties also receive Omaha television stations, as do some Iowans living in Adams, Adair, and Taylor counties. Click here for voter registration numbers in all of the 16 IA-03 counties.

The NRCC has pledged to spend $1.5 million on this race between Labor Day and November 4, but to my knowledge, they have only been running their anti-Appel ads in the Des Moines market, not in Omaha. The Appel campaign maintains they are already on broadcast networks in Omaha and will be on cable there shortly, for the duration of the campaign.

Last week the DCCC released partial results from an internal poll showing Appel slightly ahead of Young by 47 percent to 44 percent. I expect this race to remain close all the way up to election day. While Republicans have a slight advantage in voter registrations, Democrats lead so far in absentee ballots requested by voters in the district.

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Q: When is an awkward comment worse than an outright falsehood?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 29, 2014 at 20:38:21 PM CDT

A. When it happens in a campaign debate.

Since last night, I've been thinking about a ridiculous unwritten rule of our political culture.

On the one hand, we have former State Senator Staci Appel. While debating her opponent in Iowa's third Congressional district, she expressed herself in a slightly inarticulate way. Later, she and her campaign staff clarified her position: she supports going through the existing system for revoking passports of people affiliated with terrorist organizations. But what she thinks doesn't matter to her opponents. They will keep twisting the meaning of her awkward phrase over and over on television.

On the other hand, we have State Senator Joni Ernst. While debating her opponent in the U.S. Senate race, she misrepresented a constitutional amendment she co-sponsored, which calls for recognizing and protecting "the inalienable right to life of every person at any stage of development." Ernst insisted the "personhood" amendment would not threaten access to birth control or in-vitro fertilization, even though independent fact-checkers have confirmed that yes, it would. This wasn't some offhand comment on a topic she wasn't expecting to come up. Ernst agreed to co-sponsor the "personhood" amendment. Four of her fellow Iowa Senate Republicans and more than two dozen Iowa House Republicans chose not to co-sponsor similar legislation, because they understood its implications. In yesterday's debate, Ernst stood by her support for "personhood" as a statement of faith. She also stood by her false claim that it wouldn't affect birth control or fertility treatment options for women.

At best, Ernst's comments reveal stunning ignorance and a failure to research bills before signing on to them. At worst, she knows what "personhood" would mean if enacted, and was lying during the debate. Neither option is acceptable.

Yet for some reason, the smooth way Ernst spoke during the exchange over abortion rights is not considered a "gotcha" moment. Today, she's probably more worried about news emerging that her husband sued a house painter over unfinished work, when she has spent months depicting herself as willing to resolve conflicts "the Iowa way" in contrast to "litigious" Bruce Braley. I'm sick of trivia dominating our political discourse and elections being about everything but the candidates' real stands on real issues.  

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

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Sep 28, 2014 at 16:59:26 PM CDT

In a few minutes Representative Bruce Braley and State Senator Joni Ernst will start their first debate at Simpson College in Indianola. You can watch the debate on KCCI-TV in the Des Moines viewing area and on C-SPAN across the country (in central Iowa that's channel 95).

I previewed what I see as the biggest potential pitfalls for each candidate here. I'll be liveblogging after the jump and will also update later with some reaction to the debate.

UPDATE: KCCI has posted the debate video online. I cleaned up some typos and filled in gaps in the liveblog below.

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IA-Sen debate preview: Risks for Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Sep 28, 2014 at 16:19:05 PM CDT

Representative Bruce Braley and State Senator Joni Ernst face off today for the first of three scheduled debates. You can watch at 5 pm on C-SPAN or on KCCI-TV if you live in the Des Moines viewing area. KCCI and the Des Moines Register will live-stream the debate as well.

Debates rarely change election outcomes, but they are high-stakes events because a mistake provides fodder for a wave of attack ads. Republicans have been bashing Staci Appel for two weeks already over one awkward response she gave during her Congressional candidate debate with David Young.

Follow me after the jump for a preview of the major risks for each candidate in the IA-Sen debate. Braley goes in under more pressure after the latest Des Moines Register Iowa poll showed him behind by 6 points. But the format creates some potential pitfalls for Ernst too.

By the way, in her ongoing quest to displace WHO-TV's Dave Price as the favorite journalist of central Iowa Republicans, the Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs put her thumb on the scale in her debate preview. Jacobs attributes negative views of Braley to "voters" while dismissing criticism of Ernst as coming from "Democrats." Memo to Register publisher Rick Green: we know you're conservative, but it's embarrassing for your chief political reporter to express such a clear preference ahead of a debate your newspaper is co-sponsoring. Maybe you should move Jacobs over to the opinion page during your upcoming job shuffle.

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Weekend open thread: Des Moines Register IA-Sen poll edition (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Sep 27, 2014 at 23:36:24 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This evening the Des Moines Register rolled out partial results from its first Iowa poll since forming a partnership with Bloomberg News on political coverage. The news isn't encouraging for Democrats: State Senator Joni Ernst leads U.S. Representative Bruce Braley by 44 percent to 38 percent, outside the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent. CORRECTION: That's the margin of error for each candidate's support. The margin of error for Ernst's lead over Braley would be larger.

I've posted excerpts from the Register's coverage after the jump. The most worrying points include: Ernst has a double-digit lead among independents; her 25-point lead among men more than compensates for Braley's 13-point lead among women; she leads among every age group (though only by 1 percent among senior citizens); Braley is not ahead in the first Congressional district, despite representing much of northeast Iowa since 2007.

Some Democrats have been grumbling this evening about the biased tone of the Register's write-up. For instance, Jennifer Jacobs dwelled on Braley's negatives, even though the poll showed a higher unfavorable rating for Ernst (44 percent) than for Braley (42 percent). In general, I can't remember a Des Moines Register political reporter showing a stronger bias than Jacobs has shown toward Ernst this whole year. It's remarkable. But that's far from Braley's biggest problem right now.

I expected the Braley campaign to respond that this poll is out of line with their internal numbers, or with other recent polls showing the IA-Sen race tied. But the memo from Braley's campaign manager Sarah Benzing was much more alarming, since it accepted the Register's numbers as a "snapshot of where this race begins" as voters start paying attention. It argued that the race was tied all summer, when "the TV spending numbers were closer to parity." In contrast, "the Ernst campaign and its backers have spent over $500,000 more than the Braley campaign and Democratic groups on television" in the past two weeks. "Unless this disparity is equalized over the next few weeks, there is a real chance that spending by outside groups will determine the Iowa Senate race [...]."

I've enclosed the Braley memo after the jump. There's some happy talk about the Democratic ground game, which supposedly will deliver for Braley "as long as Democratic spending in Iowa matches the firepower that the other side is contributing to the air war." Really, that's your spin? News flash: Democrats won a bunch of close Senate races in 2012 despite being outspent on television. They were able to connect with voters despite that deficit. Moreover, pro-Ernst and anti-Braley spending will probably continue to surpass Democratic spending for the whole month of October. Braley's campaign manager should not be suggesting her candidate can't win under those circumstances.

Democrats need to hope that either Braley can turn things around in the debates, or that this poll will turn out to be one of Selzer & Co's occasional misses (like when the Register's Iowa poll had Terry Branstad 28 points ahead of Bob Vander Plaats a few days before he won the 2010 GOP primary by 9 points). It's too bad the Register didn't commission an Iowa poll shortly after the June primary, so we would all have a baseline for comparison. But Public Policy Polling has an Iowa survey in the field this weekend too, and claims Ernst is running ahead.

UPDATE: On September 28, Harstad Strategic Research released partial results from a poll conducted between September 21 and 25 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. This poll showed Braley and Ernst tied at 42 percent each and Braley leading among independents by 40 percent to 36 percent. The survey drew respondents from the Iowa voter file rather than through the random-dialing method used by some pollsters. I've added the memo at the end of this post.

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IA-Sen: "No Labels" group sucker punches Bruce Braley

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Sep 27, 2014 at 17:01:02 PM CDT

Few members of Congress have done more to link themselves with the "No Labels" movement than U.S. Representative Bruce Braley. He spoke at the group's launch event in December 2010. He participated in the group's December 2011 release of a 12-point action plan to "Make Congress Work." In 2012, Braley co-sponsored "No Budget, No Pay" legislation supported by No Labels; similar language was included in a budget bill President Barack Obama signed the following year. A review of Braley's voting record on a wide range of issues shows many examples of the Democrat voting with the majority of House Republicans and against most members of his own caucus.

When Braley received the No Labels "Problem Solver Seal of Approval" this July, his U.S. Senate campaign enthusiastically spread the news along with a long list of his bipartisan accomplishments in the House.

It must have come as a shock when No Labels turned around and gave Republican State Senator Joni Ernst the same "Problem Solver Seal of Approval" a few days ago. Just in time for the Senate nominees' first debate on Sunday, without any bipartisan legislative accomplishments to speak of, Ernst got outside validation for her campaign's otherwise laughable pivot from the "mother, soldier, conservative" tag line to "mother, soldier, independent leader." All she had to do to gain equal status with Braley was pay lip service to the No Labels "National Strategic Agenda."

I've long believed that No Labels is an "astroturf" (fake grassroots) movement founded on false premises, and that Democrats who got mixed up with the latest incarnation of Beltway "centrists" were making a mistake. Braley may not be the last to learn this lesson the hard way. Follow me after the jump for more thoughts on No Labels' wrong-headed policy stands and political choices.  

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Both parties targeting Iowa Senate district 15 race between Chaz Allen, Crystal Bruntz

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 26, 2014 at 14:34:22 PM CDT

In recent weeks, I've heard from various sources that Republicans were shifting resources toward the race in Iowa Senate district 15. The longtime Democratic seat covering most of Jasper County and eastern Polk County is open because of Senator Dennis Black's retirement. A district map is after the jump.

Confirming that Senate district 15 is a priority for both parties, positive ads for both candidates are now running on Des Moines area radio stations. Forty days before the election is relatively early for paid advertising to begin in an Iowa state legislative campaign, but with more Iowans voting by absentee ballot, candidates can't afford to wait.

After the jump I've posted the transcript of the radio spot promoting Republican Crystal Bruntz and what I could remember from the Democratic ad promoting Chaz Allen. I'll update this post with a full transcript if I can catch it on tape. UPDATE: Added the transcript below.

Allen's commercial sounds more effective to me. For part of the time, the candidate speaks in his own voice, and the script connects him to economic development in the Newton area, where he was mayor and now heads the Jasper County Economic Development Corporation. The Republican ad for Bruntz wraps biographical information around a more generic "she'll help grow the economy for our children" message. It does not give listeners any clue where the candidate is running for state Senate. The pro-Bruntz spot has one good feature: it doesn't start out sounding like a political ad, which probably keeps some listeners from instantly changing the station.

I will be surprised if Bruntz pulls out a victory here. My sense is that Republicans are targeting Senate district 15 for lack of a better idea. Having failed to recruit a top-tier candidate in Senate district 27, they seem to recognize that beating three-term State Senator Amanda Ragan of Mason City isn't in the cards. But Republicans need at least two pickups to gain an Iowa Senate majority (assuming they hold all their current seats, no easy task). Aside from Ragan's seat, the only other Democratic-held district on the ballot where Republicans have a voter registration advantage is Senate district 5, now held by Daryl Beall of Fort Dodge. They will go all-out for Beall's seat, but they need at least one more gain.

Not only is Senate district 15 an open seat, it looks fairly competitive on paper with 13,869 active Democrats, 12,632 Republicans, and 13,542 no-party voters according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. That's more promising for the GOP than other seats they could shoot for. I can't see a Steve King staffer winning Ames-based Senate district 23. The Republican nominee in Senate district 29 is an amateur who had $50 in the bank four months before the election. While Republicans have an experienced office-holder running in Senate district 49, the voter registration numbers favor Democrats more there, and Senator Rita Hart is a hard-working incumbent.

Any comments about the Iowa Senate races are welcome in this thread. I appreciate tips from Bleeding Heartland readers on any direct mail, radio or television advertising for or against state legislative candidates. You can either post a comment on this site or send a confidential message to desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com.

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Auditor details mismanagement by Matt Schultz and Mary Mosiman

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 26, 2014 at 07:39:48 AM CDT

If you thought nothing could surprise you anymore about Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, I recommend reading the report Chief Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins released yesterday. Jenkins reviewed payments to Schultz's former chief deputy Jim Gibbons after Gibbons stopped coming to work. You can download a pdf of the audit here. I've posted the full text after the jump.

Key points: Schultz told Gibbons in May 2012 that his position would be eliminated at the end of the calendar year. Gibbons stopped coming in to work regularly the following month. Normal procedure calls for at-will state employees to be paid "until the end of the pay period, up to a maximum of 2 weeks after being notified their position is to be eliminated." After learning that state agencies are not allowed to make severance payments to at-will employees, Schultz decided to keep Gibbons on the payroll through December 2012. There are no timesheets or records of how often Gibbons came to work between June and December of that year. Former colleagues could not provide Jenkins with much information about anything Gibbons did for the Secretary of State's Office. Gibbons reported directly to Schultz.

The audit concluded, "Based on the lack of documentation supporting work performed by Mr. Gibbons, we cannot determine the public benefit of the Secretary of State's Office paying Mr. Gibbons $90,738.67 in salary, vacation, and benefits for the period June 8, 2012 through December 31, 2012." Jenkins also questioned the public benefit of paying more than $21,000 to two other at-will employees whose positions were eliminated.

Schultz is now running for Madison County attorney. That election will be a good test of whether Madison County Republicans care more about partisan allegiance or basic competence. A statement from Schultz tried to pass off Gibbons' work arrangement as something advised by the Department of Administrative Services. That spin is misleading, for reasons I explain after the jump.

Current State Auditor Mary Mosiman was one of Schultz's deputies during the period examined, and to put it mildly, this report casts an unflattering light on her. She has claimed that she warned Schultz that keeping Gibbons on the payroll was damaging to morale in the agency. But the bottom line is, she never blew the whistle on a colleague getting tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars for doing no work.

In addition, Jenkins found that neither Mosiman nor Gibbons submitted timesheets or "leave slips" documenting approval of planned time off. As a result, Mosiman "was paid for one week of accumulated vacation she should not have received" when she left the Secretary of State's Office for her current job. She has reportedly already returned to the state her excess payment of $2,500. No one knows whether that's the full extent of overpayments to Schultz's subordinates. Jenkins' report states, "Because timesheets and leave slips were not required to be completed and were not submitted by the Deputies, we are unable to identify any additional vacation hours used but not properly recorded for the Deputies."

The state auditor is supposed to make sure the public's money is well spent. How can someone do that job without understanding the need to record essential information such as time spent working and time spent on vacation? Even if Mosiman was not aware that she received too much vacation pay, she should have recognized and taken steps to correct the lack of record-keeping at the Secretary of State's Office. She should not have stood by and let Gibbons collect month after month of salary and benefits, long after he stopped coming to work.

After the jump I've posted comments from Schultz, Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis (who requested the audit), Democratic candidate for secretary of state Brad Anderson, and Democratic candidate for state auditor Jon Neiderbach.

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IA-04: Mowrer emphasizes crossover appeal, King finally agrees to debate

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 23, 2014 at 15:55:05 PM CDT

Catching up on news from Iowa's fourth Congressional district, a veteran who served with Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer in Iraq is the star of Mowrer's fourth television commercial. I've posted the video and transcript after the jump. The veteran explains that although he usually votes Republican, he supports Mowrer for Congress, because Mowrer "put his men and his responsibilities above himself" in Iraq and will "put Iowa first" in Washington. Mowrer appears near the end of the spot. Without mentioning Representative Steve King, he draws an unspoken contrast between himself and the incumbent, saying Congress has forgotten to put service "to the people" above a party. While campaigning around the district, Mowrer points out that King is an obstructionist who "has never passed any major legislation or brought anything back to Iowa."

Bleeding Heartland covered Mowrer's first three ads here, here and here. To my knowledge, King has not run any tv ads yet. I cannot think of any other example of a Congressional incumbent waiting so long to go up on the air against a well-funded challenger. I can only conclude that King is not at all worried about this election. It's also noteworthy that the incumbent is relying on his son and daughter in law to manage this year's effort, as he did in 2008 and 2010. In contrast, King brought in seasoned campaign professionals to run his 2012 re-election bid against Christie Vilsack in a substantially redrawn district.

To have any chance against King, Mowrer needs quite a few Republicans to cross over and vote for him, in addition to good Democratic turnout and a big lead among independents. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office indicate that the 39 counties in IA-04 contain 122,996 active registered Democrats, 179,418 Republicans, and 172,126 no-party voters. Democrats have a small lead in absentee ballot requests so far.

Over the weekend, King finally agreed to debate Mowrer. After months of stonewalling, which was attracting some unflattering media attention, King accepted Iowa Public Television's invitation to an "Iowa Press" debate on October 23 in Storm Lake. He is still refusing to debate Mowrer in Sioux City, the largest metro area in IA-04.

I haven't seen much polling on this race. Loras College surveyed 300 voters in the district earlier this month and found King leading by 47 percent to 36 percent. That poll had a fairly high margin of error of 5.6 percent and some methodological issues that made me question the results. But if King's internal polling showed major warning signs, he would probably be on television right now, and/or the National Republican Congressional Committee would get involved, as they did in 2012. So I would assume King leads by enough not to feel threatened. Let's hope he is taking too much for granted.

Any comments about the IA-04 campaign are welcome in this thread.  

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Iowa absentee ballot numbers in the 2014 general election

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 22, 2014 at 11:52:18 AM CDT

This morning the Iowa Secretary of State's Office started posting absentee ballot statistics for this year's general election. They will update the chart on weekdays here (pdf).

As in 2012, Bleeding Heartland will update the absentee ballot totals daily as they become available. The first set of numbers are after the jump. I've organized the data a bit differently from the Secretary of State's Office. For each day's totals, I will create two charts: the first shows the number of absentee ballots Iowans have requested, in each of the four Congressional districts and statewide. The second shows the number of absentee ballots county auditors have received from voters, in each of the four Congressional districts and statewide. (For now, those numbers are small, because most of the county auditors have not yet mailed ballots to voters who requested them.)

In-person early voting will begin on September 25 at county auditors' offices. Some counties will open satellite locations for in-person early voting as well. When an Iowan votes early at the auditor's office, that counts as an absentee ballot requested by the voter and as an absentee ballot received by the auditor on the same day.

Today's press release from the Secretary of State's Office noted that "demand for absentee ballots with 43 days before the election is much higher this year for all party affiliations than at a similar point in 2010." Absentee ballot requests as of September 21 totaled 112,178 statewide, compared to 56,725 at this point in Iowa's last midterm election campaign. Registered Democrats had requested 57,869 absentee ballots (versus 34,318 at this point in 2010), Republicans had requested 31,099 ballots (12,710 in 2010), and no-party voters had requested 23,043 ballots (9,664 in 2010). Click here for more information about voting early, or to download an absentee ballot request form.

Note that not every mailed-in absentee ballot will count. Some ballots mailed late will not get a postmark proving voters sent them before election day. John Deeth goes over other common errors that can lead to absentee ballots not being counted, such as voters not signing the "affidavit envelope" or re-opening the affidavit envelope after sealing it. Everyone planning to vote by mail needs to read the instructions carefully and follow them exactly.

UPDATE: I should have noted that if this year's turnout is similar to 2010, about 1.1 million Iowans will cast ballots, meaning that roughly 10 percent of those likely to participate in the midterm have already requested a ballot. The Republican Party of Iowa's first mass mailing of absentee ballot request forms went out in early September, while the Iowa Democratic Party's went out last week.

SECOND UPDATE: Adding latest daily numbers after the jump.

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IA-03: Republicans try oldest trick in the book against Staci Appel

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 19, 2014 at 14:42:37 PM CDT

UPDATE: Appel's response ad is here.

For decades, Republicans have tried to win elections by painting Democrats--especially Democratic women--as soft on crime or weak on national defense. So no one should be surprised by the smear at the heart of the National Republican Congressional Committee's latest attack on Staci Appel in Iowa's third district. Taking out of context comments Appel made during her first debate with David Young, the NRCC is claiming Appel supports "passports for terrorists."

Background and details are after the jump, along with the latest ads from both sides. Politico's "Morning Score" reported on September 18 that David Young's campaign has "gone dark"--not airing any television commercials--for the time being. It's not clear whether the Young campaign is running short of funds or simply taking a break while the NRCC does the heavy lifting. Typically candidates will run positive ads while outside groups run attacks. The NRCC already has a positive spot running about Young as well as the misleading ad they've launched against Appel.

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IA-02: First Miller-Meeks ad draws contrast with Loebsack

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 19, 2014 at 12:58:00 PM CDT

Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks is on the air with her first television commercial in her third campaign against Representative Dave Loebsack in Iowa's second Congressional district. Her debut ad from the 2010 campaign contained entirely negative material about the incumbent. In contrast, the new spot jumps quickly from saying Loebsack is part of the problem to positive statements about Miller-Meeks. That strikes me as a more effective message, especially for reaching voters in counties that weren't part of IA-02 during her previous two Congressional campaigns. Notably, Miller-Meeks is emphasizing her credentials as a doctor and a veteran. This ad says nothing about the three years she spent in state government running the Iowa Department of Public Health.

After the jump I've enclosed the video and transcript of "Problem." I am seeking comment from Miller-Meeks' campaign on where the commercial is running. The 24 counties in IA-02 are located in five separate media markets (Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities, Des Moines, Ottumwa-Kirksville, and Quincy, Illinois), making it fairly expensive to reach all voters in the district.

Any comments about the IA-02 campaign are welcome in this thread. I consider this race an uphill battle for the challenger.

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Catching up on the IA-01 race, with ads from Pat Murphy and Rod Blum

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Sep 18, 2014 at 16:47:46 PM CDT

Since the June primary, I haven't written much about the first Congressional district campaign between former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy and longtime business owner Rod Blum. In theory, the race could be competitive. IA-01 leans Democratic with a partisan voting index of D+5, meaning that in the last two presidential elections, voters living here skewed about 5 percent more Democratic than the nationwide electorate. Crucially, this is a midterm, not a presidential year. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office indicate that the 20 counties in IA-01 contain 156,344 active registered Democrats, 134,313 Republicans, and 186,446 no-party voters. Hardly an overwhelming advantage. The right Republican could win this district.

Nevertheless, I doubt Blum has a strong chance in IA-01 for three reasons. First, the hero to the "Liberty" crowd and Steve Forbes is not moderate enough to win a lot of crossover voters. Blum applauded a key vote that led to last year's federal government shutdown. The Republican won't be able to run up the score in his home county either, because both Murphy and Blum are from Dubuque.

Second, Bruce Braley's Senate hopes are dead in the water if he doesn't get a strong Democratic turnout in the Congressional district where he is best known to voters. So his campaign and the Iowa Democratic Party have incentive to focus on GOTV in the key IA-01 counties. Unless the "coordinated campaign" is an epic failure, Murphy should benefit.

Third, as in Iowa's second Congressional district, we haven't seen a lot of activity from outside groups in IA-01. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is committed to defending this seat, but to my knowledge has not spent any money on radio or television commercials here. Likewise, the National Republican Congressional Committee put Blum in its top tier of challengers but hasn't reserved air time or spent significant money against Murphy. I believe they would do so if they smelled a real opportunity here.

We haven't seen much polling on this race. In August, Murphy released partial results from an internal poll indicating that he was ahead by 51 percent to 40 percent. Blum countered with his own internal showing Murphy leading by just 40 percent to 35 percent. Take those with a grain of salt, as with all internals.

Loras College surveyed 300 voters in IA-01 earlier this month and found Murphy barely ahead, by 34.6 percent to 33.0 percent, with 32.3 percent either undecided or refusing to answer. Both candidates have been campaigning around the district, but neither Murphy nor Blum started running general election television commercials until this month, which could explain the high number of undecideds. On the other hand, Loras doesn't have a long track record in polling, and that survey had a relatively small sample and a relatively large margin of error (plus or minus 5.6 percent). The cross-tabs included some unusual findings, such as Murphy barely ahead among women and Blum barely ahead among men. If true, that would be a big red flag for Murphy, who defeated three women candidates in the Democratic primary. While Republican blogger Craig Robinson draws big hope from this aspect of the Loras poll, I am skeptical that the gender gap we've seen in so many elections for decades is magically absent from this race. The margin of error for a subsample of a poll is always larger than the margin of error for the whole survey.

After the jump I've posted the first two general election ads for Murphy and the debut general election ad for Blum, as well as the spot Blum ran before the GOP primary. They all look solid to me. Any comments about the IA-01 race are welcome in this thread.  

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Polling . . House District 71?

by: idiosynchronic

Wed Sep 17, 2014 at 17:38:33 PM CDT

(For the past week or so, telephone polls have been in the field in many Iowa House districts, but this is the first I've heard about someone getting polled for the wrong statehouse race. Anyone else had the same experience? - promoted by desmoinesdem)

 . . but it's debateable how good the polling of House 71 is.

I got a call last evening on my cell which is issued to a number (I thought) in the Story County phone exchange.  It's from 801-685-8913, Murray, Utah, from "National Polling". Basic demographical data is asked, and then they ask me if I know these two names: Mark Smith & Jane Jech. Hell, no, I say. 

Okay, moving on, whom do you support for Governor, Senate . . etc. Operator specifically names *all* the names on ballot for each race, with party affliation. How likely am I to vote; what am I registered as? 

Getting back to Smith and Jech, do you like/dislike either? Whom will you vote for, Mr. Smith, the Democrat, or Ms. Jech, the Republican?

Thank you, end of call. 

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 193 words in story)

IA-Sen polling discussion thread: Still looks like a tossup to me

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 17, 2014 at 15:59:27 PM CDT

Iowa's U.S. Senate campaign has been stuck in a holding pattern for most of the summer. Seven straight opinion polls showed either a tied race between Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst, or one candidate ahead by 1-2 percentage points, well within the margin of error. For weeks, I've seen negative ads against both candidates almost every day on television, with a positive spot occasionally sprinkled in. I keep hearing the same anti-Braley or anti-Ernst ads again and again on radio too. Since no major external event has occurred to change the dynamic of the race, I was expecting to see more statistically tied polls at least until the first of three debates to which the candidates have agreed.

Instead, last week Loras College released a poll showing Braley ahead by 45.3 percent to 40.5 percent. Braley had better favorability ratings than Ernst.

Today Quinnipiac released a poll showing Ernst ahead by 50 percent to 44 percent. Ernst had better favorability numbers, led among independents, and had a much bigger lead among men than Braley's lead among women.

The Loras poll of 1,200 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.82 percent. The Q-poll of 1,167 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent. At least one of these polls is way off. Neither Loras nor Quinnipiac have polled in Iowa before this election cycle, so we don't have a track record to judge them by. For what it's worth, the available evidence hasn't convinced me that either Braley or Ernst has a significant lead, and here's why.

UPDATE: Fox News is out with their latest Iowa poll: Braley and Ernst are at 41 percent each. Notably, the sample includes 36 percent self-identified Democrats, 34 percent Republicans, and 25 percent independent/other.

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IA-03: Latham and Grassley endorse David Young in NRCC's latest ad

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 17, 2014 at 09:46:27 AM CDT

Here's something you don't see every day: an independent expenditure for a positive commercial. Yesterday the National Republican Congressional Committee started running a tv ad in Iowa's third district featuring retiring Representative Tom Latham and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley endorsing David Young.

I can't remember the last time I saw a commercial from the NRCC or its counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, that didn't attempt to tear down the other candidate. Unfortunately for Democrats, this spot is probably way more effective than the NRCC's previous effort to undermine Staci Appel. Latham won the newly configured IA-03 by a comfortable margin in 2012, carrying every county but Polk, and losing Polk by a much smaller margin than Mitt Romney did. Grassley has carried all of the sixteen counties in IA-03 in every U.S. Senate election that I can remember.

After the jump I've posted the video and annotated transcript of the new commercial. Any comments about the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread.

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IA-03: Appel's fourth tv ad draws contrast with "Washington insider" Young

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 16, 2014 at 12:55:00 PM CDT

Former State Senator Staci Appel released her Congressional campaign's fourth district-wide television commercial today. Whereas Appel's first three spots had an entirely positive message (see here, here, and here), the new ad contrasts her background as a lifelong Iowa resident with Republican candidate David Young's 20-year career as a "Washington insider." In a press release today, Appel's campaign manager Ben Miller commented, "There is a clear choice in this campaign between Staci Appel, who has lived in Iowa her entire life and worked in Iowa to cut government waste and balance budgets, and David Young, who has spent the last 20 years in Washington, D.C and is part of the problem."

For his part, Young is campaigning on a promise to bring "a dose of Iowa reality to Washington." His campaign has also highlighted work he's done for Iowans as U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley's chief of staff, as well as his record of listening to voters' concerns.

I've posted the video and annotated transcript of the new Appel commercial after the jump. Any comments about the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Young's "good meal" commercial hasn't gone over well with many Republicans, according to The Iowa Republican blogger Craig Robinson. I've enclosed an excerpt from his post below.

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IA-02: First Loebsack tv ad, and how close is this race anyway?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 15, 2014 at 11:59:09 AM CDT

If campaign strategy is anything to go by, four-term U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack is a creature of habit. Loebsack's debut television commercial launched late last week, and I've enclosed the video and transcript after the jump, with my initial thoughts about the message. The biographical information and visuals echo Loebsack's opening commercial from his 2010 re-election campaign. The ad highlights the same public policy he led with in 2012. The same narrator performs the voice-over. The mid-September launch is precisely when he went up on the air in 2010 and 2012. (Loebsack's not the greatest fundraiser in Congress, so he can't afford to advertise district-wide for more than a couple of months.)

Several Bleeding Heartland readers have asked me about last week's Loras College poll, showing Loebsack ahead of Miller-Meeks by 48.7 percent to 32.1 percent among 300 likely voters in the second Congressional district. I have a hard time believing those results, partly because Loras doesn't have a long track record with polling. In addition, the statewide sample for the Loras poll includes too high a proportion of no-party voters for a mid-term election. Although a plurality of Iowa registered voters are independents, no-party voters comprised only about a quarter of the electorate in the last three Iowa midterm elections (click through for reports on turnout in 2010, 2006, and 2002). Perhaps most important, Loebsack defeated the less-credible challenger John Archer by a little more than 12 percent in 2012, a presidential election year. So I consider it unlikely he's 16 points ahead of Miller-Meeks, who came fairly close to beating him in 2010.

By the same token, I don't believe the Tarrance Group survey that the Miller-Meeks campaign hyped in mid-August, showing her trailing Loebsack by just 45 to 42 percent. Internal polls are always suspect, especially when the campaign releases almost no information about the sample demographics, question wording or question order.

Miller-Meeks and her suporters are optimistic because the district leans less Democratic than the one where Loebsack won his first three elections to Congress. The old IA-02 had a partisan voting index of D+7, whereas the current district is D+4. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office indicate that the 24 counties in IA-02 contain 165,834 active registered Democrats, 139,034 Republicans, and 180,843 no-party voters. In contrast, Democrats had a voter registration advantage of nearly 48,000 in IA-02 going into the 2010 general election, when Loebsack defeated Miller-Meeks by about 11,500 votes. Notably, Loebsack's current district includes the Quad Cities area (Scott County), traditionally more Republican-leaning than the Cedar Rapids area (Linn County), which was part of his old district. Under the previous map, Bruce Braley narrowly lost Scott County to his GOP challenger Ben Lange in 2010.

That analysis overlooks a few salient points, though. Since Iowa lawmakers adopted the current map of political boundaries, Loebsack has had three and a half years to build up his name recognition and support in the Quad Cities. He's attended hundreds of public events there. He's gone to bat for the Rock Island Arsenal, a major local employer. Nor are the new IA-02 counties a natural base of support for Miller-Meeks, who has spent most of her career in the Ottumwa area. In fact, her woefully under-funded opponent Mark Lofgren carried Scott County and neighboring Clinton County, as well as his home base of Muscatine, in this year's Republican primary to represent IA-02.

I suspect we would have seen a greater sense of urgency from Loebsack's campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee if Democratic polling indicated a close race here. The DCCC swooped in to rescue Loebsack in 2010, running a couple of negative spots against Miller-Meeks in the final weeks. I'll believe Miller-Meeks has a real shot if we see more independent expenditures for both candidates than occurred in IA-02 during the Loebsack's race against Archer. While the National Republican Congressional Committee placed Miller-Meeks on the top tier of their program for challengers, I have seen no sign that the NRCC plans to spend significant money on this race.

There's More... :: (7 Comments, 429 words in story)

Weekend open thread: Final Harkin Steak Fry edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Sep 14, 2014 at 12:35:32 PM CDT

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

The weather is perfect in Indianola this afternoon for the roughly 5,000 people expected to attend Senator Tom Harkin's final "Steak Fry" event. At least 200 journalists will be on hand, mostly to see Hillary Clinton's first appearance in Iowa since the 2008 caucuses. If you see a lot of "Hillary doesn't appear to have much of an Iowa problem" stories tonight and tomorrow, remember that you heard it here first, and repeatedly.

I stand by my prediction that Hillary Clinton will face only token Democratic opposition in Iowa and elsewhere if she runs for president again. But in case she doesn't run, 2012 Harkin Steak Fry headliner Martin O'Malley is building up a lot of goodwill among Iowa Democrats. In addition to raising money for key Iowa Senate candidates this summer, the Maryland governor's political action committee is funding staffers for the Iowa Democratic Party's coordinated campaign, gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch, and secretary of state candidate Brad Anderson. I still don't see O'Malley running against Clinton in any scenario.

President Bill Clinton will speak today as well. That's got to be a tough act to follow. No one can get a crowd of Democrats going like he can. I'll update this post later with highlights from the event and news coverage. I hope other Bleeding Heartland readers will share their impressions. C-SPAN will carry the main speeches, starting at 2:00 pm. That will be on channel 95 in the Des Moines area.

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