Latest look at Iowa early vote numbers compared to 2012

Hillary Clinton urged her Iowa supporters to cast early ballots at a Des Moines rally yesterday, a short walk from the Polk County Elections Office. Her campaign needs to bank as many votes before November 8 as possible to counteract the traditional Republican advantage among election-day voters.

Republican strategist David Kochel has portrayed Iowa as a lost cause for Clinton, thanks to the large proportion of white, non-college-educated voters. Some Democratic activists felt demoralized last week after two opinion polls showed Donald Trump ahead by 8 percent and 7 percent. I’ve always expected a close presidential result here and think the next few Iowa polls will indicate a tight race, thanks to Trump’s disastrous performance in Monday’s debate.

But delivering this state for Clinton will require stronger early GOTV than what Iowa Democrats have produced so far, especially among women, who were more likely than men to vote early in the last presidential election.

Iowa Democratic early voting still lags well behind the party’s 2012 numbers. The big question is how much of the shortfall reflects deliberate tactical choices as opposed to a voter enthusiasm problem.

After the jump I’ve enclosed tables showing how many absentee ballots Iowa voters have requested and county auditors have received as of today and September 28, 2012 (the same number of days before the November 6 general election). Democrats have gained some ground since last week but are still more than 56,000 ballot requests (nearly 42 percent) behind the numbers from four years ago. Republicans were ahead of their 2012 early vote numbers last week; they are now slightly behind that pace. No-party voters have requested about 17,000 fewer absentee ballots this year than they had by this point in the last presidential campaign. That’s probably bad news for Democrats, because Barack Obama received more early votes than Mitt Romney did from Iowans affiliated with neither party.

You can view every day’s absentee ballot numbers here. I draw on figures released by the Secretary of State’s office but present the data in a different way.

P.S.- Ruline Steininger, the 103-year-old Des Moines woman who starred in a recent Clinton campaign video, stood with Clinton yesterday before casting her own early ballot. She told reporters, "I’m 103. That’s the reason I voted early. I’m not taking any chances." Unfortunately, Iowa law would prohibit Steininger’s vote from being counted if (God forbid) she passes away before November 8. Some states, including Virginia and Hawaii, require early votes to be counted in the same circumstance.

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Weekend open thread: Trump detractors, Trump defenders

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

The Des Moines Register’s Kyle Munson published an excellent profile of Iowa Republican operative David Kochel and his battle with leukemia. I enclose excerpts below, but do click through to read the whole piece. Kochel has worked for numerous Republican candidates, most recently Jeb Bush. He was a senior strategist for Joni Ernst’s Senate campaign in 2013 and 2014 and for Mitt Romney during the last presidential election cycle.

Kochel has been on the #NeverTrump train for months—an anomaly in Iowa circles, where most well-known Republicans have fallen in line behind the nominee. Yet around the country, a stunning number of GOP elected officials, commentators, or former staffers have said they will not vote for Trump under any circumstances.

Last month, Tara Golshan and Sarah Frostenson compiled a list of more than 100 #NeverTrump Republicans, and 50 former national security officials from GOP administrations signed a letter warning that Trump "lacks the character, values and experience" to be president and "would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being."

Several newspapers that had endorsed GOP presidential nominees for decades have rejected Trump, most recently the New Hampshire Union Leader, which called Trump "a liar, a bully, a buffoon."

All those traits were on display this past week, when Trump tried to blame Hillary Clinton for starting the "birther" movement, called for Secret Service agents protecting Clinton to disarm and "see what happens to her," and went off script during a rally to complain about a mosquito.

On the plus side for Trump, the media’s renewed focus on the Republican candidate’s contributions to birtherism kept devastating scoops by Kurt Eichenwald and David Fahrenthold from getting much traction this week. Excerpts from Eichenwald’s cover story for Newsweek are after the jump.

Meanwhile, pathetic lackey and convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza took to Twitter to defend Trump’s admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who "unlike someone else we know—LOVES his country & FIGHTS for its interests." When a commenter pointed out that D’Souza "would be dead" if he were in Russia and criticized the president, D’Souza countered that opposition figure Garry Kasparov "is a public critic of Putin & very much alive." The former world chess champion posted a priceless response: "Have you noticed I live in New York now? Stop spitting on the graves of Putin’s victims with your dictator worship." Kasparov added a few minutes later, "If you can’t articulate criticism of Hillary Clinton or Obama without praising a brutal dictator, you’re incompetent & should just shut up."

It wasn’t for nothing some called D’Souza "Distort D’Newsa" when he became a nationally-known flame-thrower during the 1980s.

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Looking for prominent Iowa Republicans ready to #NeverTrump (updated)

Donald Trump wrapped up the Republican nomination for the presidency by winning yesterday’s Indiana primary, prompting Ted Cruz to suspend his campaign. Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus posted on Twitter, "we all need to unite and focus on defeating @HillaryClinton #NeverClinton." Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann weighed in a little later last night, "The only movement I’m a part of is the #NeverHillary movement #UnitedIowa."

Yet many lifelong Republicans have vowed not to vote for Trump under any circumstances. After the jump I’ve listed some well-known Iowa activists and strategists in that camp. I have not yet found any elected GOP official in Iowa willing to say #NeverTrump. Governor Terry Branstad and our state’s Republican U.S. Senators and House representatives are poised to support the nominee, despite Senator Joni Ernst’s discomfort with Trump’s way of expressing himself. I welcome tips on any GOP state lawmakers, school board, city, or county elected officials willing to go on record that they will not vote for Trump.

UPDATE: Hardin County Auditor Jessica Lara (R) confirmed on May 4 that she is "not ashamed" to say, "NEVER TRUMP." She further commented that she is "low key when it comes to politics" and did not endorse any candidate before the Iowa caucuses, adding that Trump "does not represent me or my values."

Senator Chuck Grassley, Ernst, and Representatives Steve King and David Young confirmed that they will support Trump. I’ve added below excerpts from the Des Moines Register story by Brianne Pfannenstiel and Matthew Patane.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa Ag Summit anniversary edition

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

A year ago this weekend, nine presidential candidates, both of Iowa’s U.S. senators, three of our U.S. House representatives, Governor Terry Branstad, and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds were among the speakers at Bruce Rastetter’s inaugural Iowa Ag Summit. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was the early front-runner in the presidential field and had just rolled out his first big batch of endorsements here. Although Donald Trump had recently hired heavyweight conservative organizer Chuck Laudner, few people expected him to be a strong contender for the Iowa caucuses. The billionaire didn’t make it to Rastetter’s event; like Marco Rubio, he initially accepted the Ag Summit invitation but developed schedule conflicts later.

Jeb Bush looked like a strong presidential contender in March 2015. He was raising money like no one else in the GOP field and had hired veteran Iowa political operative David Kochel earlier in the year. The day before the Ag Summit, the Des Moines Register ran a front-page feature on Bush that was so flattering to the former Florida governor, I felt compelled to write this post and begin work on a lengthier critique of the Register’s political coverage, which took nearly two months to complete.

Chris Christie was among the Ag Summit speakers. More than six months later, he picked up endorsements from Rastetter and several other prominent Iowa business Republicans. Christie’s poor performance on caucus night showed the limits of the would-be kingmaker’s influence, and that of others in Branstad’s orbit who had actively supported Christie’s presidential campaign.

Rastetter invited more than a half-dozen prominent Democrats to his Ag Summit. Wisely, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and all of the potential presidential candidates blew off the event. Only one Democrat spoke to the gathering: former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, in her capacity as co-chair of America’s Renewable Future. That group was formed and funded by biofuels companies and related interest groups to advocate for the Renewable Fuel Standard. (Later in 2015, America’s Renewable Future spent more than $100,000 on radio ads and direct mail attacking Ted Cruz over his stand on the ethanol mandate.)

I enclose below a video of Judge’s remarks a year ago this weekend. Near the beginning of her speech, she commented, "Let me say from the outset, I truly believe that I disagree with just almost everyone that you will see on this stage today, on almost every issue. However, I certainly hope that we do agree on the importance of maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard and keeping Iowa leading our nation forward in the development of renewable fuel."

I doubt anyone would have predicted a year ago that Walker wouldn’t even make it to the Iowa caucuses, that Trump and Cruz would be leading in the GOP delegate count, or that Judge would enter the race against U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley.

P.S.- The Greeley (Colorado) Tribune published a good backgrounder on where all the remaining presidential candidates stand on agricultural issues.

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Memo to journalists: Craig Robinson's firm makes money off the Iowa caucus campaign

Craig Robinson is among the go-to Republicans for national press covering the Iowa caucuses. His insights are partly informed by a wealth of experience: as a staffer on Steve Forbes’ presidential campaign before the 2000 caucuses, as political director of the state GOP during the year before the 2008 caucuses, and as publisher of The Iowa Republican blog since 2009.

One salient fact rarely, if ever, makes it into the news stories quoting Robinson about prospects for Republican contenders in Iowa: his company Global Intermediate has been paid to do direct mail for or against certain candidates in the field.

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A Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll to give the GOP establishment nightmares

Selzer & Co’s new survey of Iowa Republicans for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News gives GOP strategists plenty to worry about.

The top three “outsider” candidates (Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz) are the first choice for 49 percent of respondents. The top three “establishment” candidates (Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio) are the first choice for only 20 percent.

The survey also indicates that several candidates considered heavyweight contenders are yesterday’s news for likely GOP caucus-goers. The 2008 caucus winner Mike Huckabee is sitting at 4 percent, tied with Rand Paul, who had been expected to inherit much of his father’s support from the last election campaign. The 2012 winner Rick Santorum is at 1 percent.

The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs wrote up the key findings here, with input from Jason Noble. My first thoughts about the numbers are after the jump.

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