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Congress

IA-04: Democracy for America endorses Jim Mowrer

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 08:55:00 AM CDT

Democracy for America announced this morning that it has endorsed Jim Mowrer, Representative Steve King's Democratic challenger in Iowa's fourth Congressional district. I've posted the official statement after the jump. The progressive advocacy group Howard Dean created after his 2004 presidential campaign has 1 million members across the country, including 9,589 members in Iowa. Some of them may be more likely to volunteer for Mowrer knowing he has DFA'a backing.

The group's endorsement should also help Mowrer raise more money from inside and outside Iowa--although he's done quite well in that department already, raising more money than King the last three quarters. Recognizing the strong campaign Mowrer is building, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee already flagged IA-04 as an "emerging race" despite the uphill climb for any Democrat in this district.

Democracy for America has previously endorsed five other Democratic U.S. House candidates, including Staci Appel in Iowa's open third district.

UPDATE: I missed this last week; Mowrer informed supporters that his three-year-old son suffers from a rare degenerative neurological disease. Healing thoughts to the whole family.

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Thoughts on the primary polls in IA-01, IA-02, and IA-03

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 10:30:22 AM CDT

Loras College in Dubuque released its first-ever set of polls on Iowa Congressional primaries this week. Click here for the polling memo and here (pdf) for further details, including the full questionnaires.

After the jump I've posted my thoughts on what these polls tell us about the front-runners (or lack thereof) in each primary. Unfortunately, a big methodological flaw makes it more difficult to interpret the results.

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IA-01: First-quarter fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 12:18:31 PM CDT

Since the last quarterly fundraising reports came in, the Republican primary race in Iowa's open first Congressional district has settled into a predictable win for Rod Blum. The Democratic primary is still highly competitive, though, with all five candidates in a position to run a district-wide race before June 3.  
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IA-02: First-quarter fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 10:25:00 AM CDT

Three candidates qualified for the Republican primary ballot in Iowa's second Congressional district, but the latest fundraising reports suggest that Mariannette Miller-Meeks will get a third chance at beating Representative Dave Loebsack.

Follow me after the jump for details on the first-quarter reports each candidate in IA-02 filed with the Federal Election Commission.

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IA-03: First-quarter fundraising news roundup (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 17:24:28 PM CDT

Yesterday was the deadline for Congressional candidates to file quarterly reports with the Federal Election Commission. Because so many candidates are running for Congress this year in Iowa, I'm breaking up these posts by district rather than doing a statewide roundup.

After the jump I've enclosed highlights from the first-quarter fundraising and spending reports of Democratic candidate Staci Appel and the six Republicans seeking the GOP nomination in the third district. Spoiler alert: one of the GOP candidates is still carrying debt from a previous campaign.

I also added details below on what retiring ten-term Representative Tom Latham is doing with his substantial war chest.

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IA-04: Jim Mowrer out-raises Steve King for third straight quarter

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 07:55:09 AM CDT

If this has ever happened before in an Iowa Congressional race, I'm not aware of the precedent: Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer has raised more money than incumbent Representative Steve King for the third straight quarter in Iowa's fourth district. Not only that, during the first three months of 2014, Mowrer's fundraising eclipsed King's by even more than we saw during the third and fourth quarters of 2013.

Details from the reports both candidates filed yesterday with the Federal Election Commission are after the jump.

UPDATE: The Iowa .Gif-t Shop weighs in. I really did laugh out loud.

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Monica Vernon's Latest Ad is Everything That is Wrong with Politics

by: everettbrowniv

Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 15:20:40 PM CDT

I’ve lived in Cedar Rapids since high school (I attended the same high school at the same time of Monica’s daughters). Anyone who knows Cedar Rapids is fully aware that there are parts of town that have been depressed for many years. We know the neighborhoods on the southeast side of town that have been plagued with high crime rates and poverty. The folks in these neighborhoods who are working hard jobs for low wages are in the throes of an epic and unfortunate struggle.

I recently saw an ad released by Monica Vernon’s campaign that began with the narrator claiming Monica Vernon “understands the struggle.”  From what I know about Monica, she comes from a wealthy home, was the previous owner of a successful business, is married to a well-to-do attorney, and lives a stone’s throw from the country club.

My question to Monica Vernon is simple: what exactly do you know about the struggle? I came from extraordinarily humble beginnings, where you’d be hard pressed to find anyone with a country club membership let alone a home right next to one. I’d like to know where Monica Vernon’s struggle experience originated.

Monica’s ad is everything that is wrong with politics because it is willfully dishonest and leads people to believe that she has experience with real struggles, and had to work doubly hard just to get by, and raise her daughters largely on her own. This is the sort of thing that cheapens our politics and Iowans deserve better.

In my opinion, Monica’s largest struggle will come after she loses this Primary and must decide whether or not to remain in the Democratic Party, or revert back to the Republican Party, where she undoubtedly is more comfortable. 

Discuss :: (8 Comments)

IA-03: First look at Robert Cramer's campaign messaging

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 08:27:24 AM CDT

With six candidates seeking the Republican nomination in Iowa's open third Congressional district, I've decided to focus on individual campaigns rather than news roundups on the whole field at once. Robert Cramer's up first, since he is already running his introductory ad on television.

Cramer is defining himself as the business mind in the field, not a bad place to be in a GOP primary. Although he is emphasizing his connection to "conservative principles and enduring values," he is downplaying his social conservative activism. If you need any proof that Bob Vander Plaats' ship has sailed, even in Iowa Republican circles, look no further than Cramer's case to primary voters.

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Profiles in cowardice: Must-pass Medicare bill edition

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 19:35:23 PM CDT

Members of Congress sometimes go to astonishing lengths to avoid doing their jobs. Rarely working a full five-day week is old news; I'm talking about the procedural gimmicks that let members avoid tough votes on the record. House leaders occasionally move bills through the controversial "deem and pass" method when the majority know something needs to pass but would prefer not to be seen voting for it. In contrast, today Republican and Democratic leaders pulled a fast one on their own back benchers.
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Rick Santorum not ready to back Sam Clovis in IA-Sen race (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 10:00:00 AM CDT

Politics ain't beanbag. As a talk radio host with a sizable conservative audience in northwest Iowa, Sam Clovis must have been a valuable ally for former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum during the 2012 Iowa caucus campaign. Clovis has explicitly modeled his U.S. Senate campaign on Santorum's grassroots effort. But speaking to Iowa reporters yesterday, Santorum indicated that for now, he is staying out of the GOP primary for U.S. Senate.

"I have a very, very good friend who's in the race - Sam Clovis who's a terrific guy, is a good friend and someone who was a great support of mine, you know, Sam's a #1, top-flight kind of guy," Santorum says. "Right now I have sort of not gotten engaged in that race. I may."

But Santorum said he is being selective about his endorsements because, he said, "the more you do, the less effective you are."

You mean, less effective like endorsing State Representative Walt Rogers for Congress, only to see Rogers bail out of the IA-01 primary?

Santorum was in town yesterday to raise money for Secretary of State Matt Schultz's Congressional campaign in IA-03. I wasn't surprised when Santorum backed Schultz, but arguably, Clovis did a lot more to promote Santorum's presidential aspirations than Schultz with his 11th hour endorsement. For sure Clovis was more influential than Rogers during the Iowa caucus campaign.

Unfortunately for Clovis, money talks, and he hasn't raised enough of it to run an effective statewide Senate campaign. How tough to be blown off by Santorum, though. As a consolation prize, Clovis got the endorsement of Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum yesterday. I wonder how many rank and file Iowa Republicans remember Schlafly, a conservative icon of the 1970s and 1980s.

UPDATE: David Bossie's group Citizens United just endorsed Clovis as "the only full-spectrum conservative" in the IA-Sen race.

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NRCC picks Rod Blum in IA-01, not playing favorites in IA-02 or IA-03

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 16:03:18 PM CDT

The National Republican Congressional Committee announced its latest batch of candidates for the "Young Guns" program today. Dubuque-based business owner Rod Blum, one of three GOP candidates in Iowa's open first Congressional district, is among 50 Republicans on the bottom rung, called "on the radar." Candidates who meet certain benchmarks for fundraising and campaign organization have a chance to move up to "contender" status and perhaps eventually to "young gun" level, which entails more direct support from the NRCC.

During the 2012 primary in IA-01, the NRCC favored establishment candidate Ben Lange over Blum. At this point, Blum is the obvious favorite to win the GOP nomination, with State Representative Walt Rogers out of the race and the other contenders way behind Blum financially.

Last year, the NRCC put IA-02 on its long list of targets and indicated that it was ready to defend Tom Latham in IA-03. None of the three registered GOP candidates in IA-02 or the six registered candidates in the open IA-03 are on the NRCC's radar yet. Depending on fundraising, the winner of the IA-03 primary has a strong chance to become a "contender" or a "young gun" by this fall. The NRCC will almost surely spend money to defend that seat. I am skeptical that IA-02 will become a serious target for Republicans, though.

Any comments about Iowa's Congressional races are welcome in this thread.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Grassley, Harkin support failed bill on military sexual assault cases (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 12:24:55 PM CST

Yet another good idea has fallen victim to the U.S. Senate's rules requiring a super-majority to advance legislation. Although 44 Democratic senators and eleven Republicans supported a bill that would have taken sexual assault cases outside the military chain of command, backers fell five votes short of the 60 needed to pass a cloture motion yesterday. Iowa Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley both voted for cloture (roll call) on the bill sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Pentagon leaders and Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Claire McCaskill lobbied against the measure. A weaker sexual assault prevention bill proposed by McCaskill advanced after senators rejected cloture on Gillibrand's bill.

After the jump I've posted the key arguments for both sides in the debate, as well as comments from Grassley and Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01). In the floor statement I've enclosed below, Grassley urged colleagues, "We need a clean break from the system where sexual assault isn't reported because of a perception that justice won't be done." Braley has long supported reforms along the lines of Gillibrand's bill, and yesterday he promised to keep pushing on the issue, saying opponents are "on the wrong side of history." Braley is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat Harkin will vacate at the end of this year.

P.S. - Of the Republican senators considered most likely to run for president in 2016, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul voted for cloture on Gillibrand's bill. Marco Rubio voted against it.  

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Senate rejects first Obama nominee since change to filibuster rules (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 07:05:00 AM CST

Since Democrats changed U.S. Senate rules in November to remove the 60-vote threshold for cloture motions on most presidential nominees, senators have confirmed dozens of President Barack Obama's appointees as federal judges, ambassadors, and to various executive branch positions. In fact, fifteen presidential nominees sailed through the process during the past month alone.

Yesterday, for the first time under new Senate rules, Democrats could not muster even a simple majority of votes in favor of cloture on a presidential nominee. Alexander Bolton and Ramsey Cox reported on the controversy that torpedoed Debo Adegbile's nomintaion to be assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's civil rights division. Critics said Adegbile was unfit for the job because as director of litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, he had supported efforts commute the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal, "who was convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981."

Seven Democrats joined all the Republicans present to defeat the cloture motion on Adegbile's nomination by 52 votes to 47 (roll call). The Iowans split along party lines, with Senator Tom Harkin supporting cloture on Adegbile's nomination and Senator Chuck Grassley voting against the motion. Harkin sharply criticized his colleagues, saying Adegbile would have been confirmed if he were white.

Bolton and Cox saw yesterday's vote as "a stinging defeat for Obama." I see it as a more stinging defeat to basic concepts underlying the American justice system: everyone has a right to a defense, and defense attorneys should not be held accountable for their clients' conduct. Going back to the colonial period, this country has a tradition of attorneys providing a vigorous defense at trial to even odious criminals. President John Adams remained proud of his work defending the British soldiers responsible for the Boston Massacre of 1770 and opposing the death penalty for them, even though they had shot and killed patriots.

UPDATE: Added comments from Harkin after the jump.

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Grassley, Senate Republicans block veterans bill

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 16:36:00 PM CST

Iowa elected officials from both parties have embraced policies to support veterans. But last week Republicans in the U.S. Senate used a procedural move to block a bill that would have supported veterans' access to health care and higher education. Ramsey Cox reported for The Hill,

Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) bill, S. 1982, would have expanded veterans' healthcare programs, given veterans in-state tuition rates at all schools across the country and provided advanced appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It also sought to permanently fix a cut to the growth rate of veterans' pensions. Earlier this year, Congress passed a bill to avoid a cut in the growth rate for current service members and veterans, but anyone enlisting after 2013 would still see a cut. Sanders's bill would have eliminated that cut as well.

Cox explains that this bill got caught up in a longstanding dispute over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's efforts to limit floor votes on minority amendments, especially those that are "non-germane" or unrelated to the subject of the bill. Republicans wanted to vote on a substitute amendment that would have included sanctions against Iran. They also didn't agree with the "pay-for" section of Sanders' bill, which offset expected costs of about $20 billion "by limiting overseas contingency funds from 2018-2021."

As a result, after Senate Democrats defeated a Republican effort to refer the bill back to the Veterans Affairs Committee, Republicans rejected a "motion to waive all applicable budgetary discipline" with respect to the bill. Democrats could muster only 56 votes in favor of that motion; under Senate rules at least 60 votes were needed to advance the bill. Iowa's Republican Senator Chuck Grassley voted against the motion, while Senator Tom Harkin voted for it, along with all the Democrats present and two Republicans.

I did not see any statement from Grassley explaining his vote on this bill. He has repeatedly criticized Reid in recent months for not allowing more votes on minority amendments.  

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DCCC flags Jim Mowrer in IA-04 as "emerging race"

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 14:34:00 PM CST

Jim Mowrer, the Democratic challenger to Representative Steve King in Iowa's fourth Congressional district, is one of twelve candidates the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee considers to be "emerging races" in 2014. According to the statement from the DCCC, enclosed below, this category "highlights candidates and districts that are making themselves competitive by running smart campaigns which are becoming increasingly competitive." Mowrer's campaign out-raised the six-term Republican incumbent in both the third quarter and the fourth quarter of 2013. He is running as a "common-sense" candidate more in touch with the values of Iowans than King, who gets bogged down in "reckless partisan politics." Mowrer's official comment on today's news is after the jump.

Candidates in "emerging races" do not receive as much financial or logistical support from the DCCC as the top-tier "Red to Blue" candidates, but in past years a fair number of these races were bumped up to "Red to Blue" status during the general election period. IA-04 is an uphill climb for any Democrat, with 123,932 registered Democrats, 174,879 Republicans, and 174,235 no-party voters as of March 2014.

Speaking of King, he has long been one of the House Republicans progressives most "love to hate," and he is commonly quoted in fundraising appeals by a wide range of Democratic Party committees and Democratic-aligned organizations. But he does have limits. I noticed last week that someone came up with an anti-gay bill that was too stupid and bigoted even for King to co-sponsor. Some idiot lobbyist claims five House Republicans and one senator are interested in co-sponsoring a bill to stop gay athletes from playing in the National Football League. King commented,

"I don't support the idea that we advertise our sexuality, whatever it might be," said King. "So, therefore I don't support the idea of legislation addressing anyone's unidentified, unadvertised sexuality."

King presumably doesn't have a problem with heterosexuals "advertising" their sexuality by appearing in public with their spouses.  

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IA-Sen: PPP finds Jacobs leading primary, Braley leading general

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 11:18:00 AM CST

Public Policy Polling's latest Iowa survey shows Mark Jacobs with a small lead over the rest of the Republican field in the U.S. Senate race. Democrat Bruce Braley leads all the major Republican contenders, but by a smaller margin than he did last July. Click here for complete results, including question wordings and cross-tabs. PPP surveyed surveyed 869 Iowa voters, including 283 Republican primary voters, between February 20th to 23rd, producing a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percent for the statewide poll and 5.8 percent for the Republican primary findings.

The GOP Senate candidates are still largely unknown, even to Republican voters, but Jacobs has the highest name recognition, thanks to radio and television commercials his campaign has been running since early December. Among PPP's Republican respondents, 42 percent were undecided, followed by 20 percent for Jacobs, 13 percent for State Senator Joni Ernst, 11 percent for former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker, 8 percent for Sam Clovis, and 3 percent each for Paul Lunde and Scott Schaben.

Among the full sample, Braley has the highest name recognition but is still unknown to nearly half the respondents. He leads Whitaker by 40 percent to 34 percent, Ernst and Jacobs by 41-35, and Clovis by 42-34. In PPP's July 2013 survey, Braley's lead averaged 11 points. The polling firm's Tom Jensen argued that the "pretty clear reason" for the tightening in the Senate race is that "Barack Obama's approval rating in the state has dropped a net 10 points compared to the summer."

Earlier this month, Jacobs' campaign released partial results from an internal poll showing Jacobs leading the Republican field for the primary, with 22 percent support compared to 11 percent for Ernst, 8 percent for Whitaker and 6 percent for Clovis. Jacobs' poll, conducted by Hill Research Consultants, found Jacobs and Braley essentially tied (Jacobs 42 percent, Braley 41 percent), with more upside than for Jacobs because of the Democrat's higher name recognition.

I agree with the Republicans who claimed that Jacobs' higher name recognition and GOP support is merely a function of his heavy spending on paid advertising. He should be polling better after two months of radio and television while his opponents' campaigns are dark. On the other hand, who's going to stop him if his GOP rivals lack the resources to get their message out before June?

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IA-02: Miller-Meeks officially launching campaign

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 10:48:00 AM CST

Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks finally made it official: she is running for Congress a third time in Iowa's second district. Her campaign is on Facebook here and on Twitter here. After the jump I've posted excerpts from her announcement and details on the campaign launch tour Miller-Meeks has planned for February 26 and 27. She will hit twelve of the 24 counties in IA-02, as well as attending a West Des Moines meeting of the National Association of Women Business Owners. She plans to focus on her "real world experience" as a doctor, as well as her work with Governor Terry Branstad over the past three years.

Although Miller-Meeks just filed papers with the Federal Election Commission within the last two weeks, she has been unofficially campaigning for some time. She has been meeting with GOP county officials around the district since at least the middle of last year, and she stepped down from her job in state government last month.

I think Miller-Meeks has a good chance to win the GOP primary. Although it may be challenging to convince some Republicans to give her a third chance at this seat, her competition looks weak. The only other announced candidate, State Representative Mark Lofgren, has raised very little money and doesn't have a reputation as a great communicator on the stump. Beating four-term Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack will be a taller order. Besides aligning herself with Branstad, Miller-Meeks will hope that the new Iowa map improves her prospects. During the 2010 midterm election, she lost to Loebsack by about 11,500 votes in a district where registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans by about 48,000 on election day. The current district contained 166,022 registered Democrats, 135,770 Republicans, and 181,463 no-party voters as of February 2014.

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Obama backs off from proposing Social Security cuts (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 09:18:00 AM CST

Small but important victory: White House officials revealed yesterday that President Barack Obama's proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year will not include Social Security cuts he proposed last year. The president had hoped Congressional Republicans would agree to small tax increases in exchange for using the "chained Consumer Price Index" to calculate annual cost of living adjustments for Social Security recipients. It's a terrible idea that never should have emerged from a Democratic administration.

Maybe Obama recognized that in an election year, he was never going to get any real Republican concession in exchange for cuts that would inflict real pain on seniors who rely on Social Security. Democrats may need to fight this battle again before the end of Obama's presidency, though.

[White House] Spokesman Josh Earnest said the decision to move away from chained CPI was motivated partially by the "substantial progress in reducing the deficit." [...]

Earnest repeatedly insisted that Obama would still consider chained CPI as part of a grand bargain on the debt, and that the move "does not reflect any reduction in the president's willingness to try to meet Republicans in the middle."

For now, Congressional Democrats are celebrating. Senators including Iowa's Tom Harkin had strongly urged the president to abandon the "chained CPI" proposal. More than 100 House Democrats, including Iowa's Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02), sent a similar letter to Obama this week. After the jump I've posted press releases from Harkin and Braley about the issue. UPDATE: Added a comment from Loebsack below.

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IA-Sen: Rod Roberts rules out running

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 19:06:00 PM CST

It's been nearly ten months since former State Representative Rod Roberts confirmed that he was considering a campaign for U.S. Senate. I've long been a skeptic that Roberts has any niche or large constituency in a statewide Republican primary. In fact, I'd forgotten he was still thinking about the race. This week Carroll-based journalist Douglas Burns got the scoop in an interview: Roberts will not run for Senate, or Congress in the open third district, or for Iowa secretary of state in 2014. He cited family reasons and said he plans to continue his work as director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. In late 2010, then Governor-elect Terry Branstad offered Roberts that position without considering any other candidates, even though Roberts had not applied for the job.

Burns has long been high on Roberts as a possible Senate candidate, but for once I agree with Steve Deace: "Rod didn't offer a reason other than, 'I'm Rod Roberts and I'm a nice guy.' What's your plan? [...] Offer people something." In his latest column, Burns floats the scenario of Roberts emerging as a compromise Senate nominee at a statewide convention if none of the current candidates receives 35 percent of the vote in the June primary.

Not bloody likely.

I do largely agree with Burns' assessment of Mark Jacobs, though. Many Iowa Republicans will be skeptical of a candidate who only recently moved back to the state. Nor will they cut Jacobs slack for giving money to Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Corzine in 2000, on the grounds that Corzine was CEO of Goldman Sachs, where Jacobs worked at the time.

I have a post in progress with more news on the Jacobs campaign. Meanwhile, any comments about the U.S. Senate race are welcome in this thread.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

IA-Sen: Now or never for Sam Clovis

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 12:53:42 PM CST

Sam Clovis dodged what could have been a fatal blow to his U.S. Senate campaign when Bob Vander Plaats decided not to run. But to have any hope of winning the GOP primary, the Sioux City-based college professor and former radio host needs to raise real money and consolidate social conservative support quickly.  
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