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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One reader's feedback for new Des Moines Register publisher David Chivers

David Chivers started work yesterday as the Des Moines Register’s president and publisher. The Des Moines native comes from a strong background in digital marketing. Speaking to Register employees on the day Gannett announced his hiring, Chivers acknowledged he has a lot to learn about the newspaper and said he welcomed "candid discussions" on how to "push the brand and the business forward."

In that spirit, I offer my thoughts on ways the Register could better serve readers who rely on the paper for political news. Balanced, fact-based reporting is central to the Register’s brand as “the newspaper Iowa depends upon.” Unfortunately, last year’s election coverage hurt the Register’s reputation among many politically-engaged Iowans. Acknowledging the problem is essential to avoid compounding the damage during the upcoming Iowa caucus campaign.

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Des Moines Register spins for Jeb Bush ahead of Iowa Ag Summit (updated)

Ten potential Republican presidential candidates will speak at Bruce Rastetter’s Iowa Agriculture Summit today, and a few more may send videotaped remarks. But only one GOP contender was the focus of a long and flattering feature by the Des Moines Register’s chief political correspondent the day before the event.

When Jeb Bush hired longtime Iowa GOP consultant David Kochel, I figured friendly coverage in the Register would be coming to the former Florida governor. During last year’s U.S. Senate campaign, just about every line Joni Ernst’s backers wanted out there ended up in some Des Moines Register piece by Jennifer Jacobs. Still, Jacobs’ spread on Bush in Friday’s Des Moines Register shocked me. The message could hardly have been more perfectly tailored for Iowa Republicans if Bush’s spin doctors had written it themselves.

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Five takeaways from Jeb Bush's first money drop on Iowa Republicans

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush made a strong statement on Friday when his political action committee announced $122,800 in donations to Republican parties and candidates in early presidential nominating states. The Right to Rise PAC gave $10,000 to the Republican Party of Iowa and $5,200 each to U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative David Young (IA-03).

The money Bush gave (and didn’t give) in Iowa speaks volumes.

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Iowa caucus discussion thread: Romney reality check edition

Speaking in "his best precinct, the top-level donor conference call," Mitt Romney announced this morning that he will not run for president a third time. Though the odds against a successful bid for the presidency would seem obvious to any casual politics watcher, Romney appears to have genuinely believed that he could win in 2016 with a sharper message. But many of his top donors, bundlers, and early-state volunteers were reluctant to board the Romney train one more time. In what may have been the last straw, yesterday news broke that David Kochel will soon move to Miami to work as "senior strategist" for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s new political action committee. Kochel was Romney’s top Iowa consultant during the 2008 and 2012 election cycles but is expected to become Bush’s national campaign manager once Jeb makes his presidential race official.

Kochel told Jonathan Martin of the New York Times that a lot of Iowans “will be interested in signing up” with Jeb Bush, adding that “You compete everywhere because that’s how you win delegates.” Some people had speculated that Bush might bypass the Iowa caucuses, seen to favor socially conservative candidates. He skipped Representative Steve King’s cattle call “Iowa Freedom Summit” last weekend in Des Moines, where several of the speakers took shots at him.

In general, Bush has spent the last month on major donor contacts and strategizing rather than public appearances. Bank on him to raise far more money than anyone else in the large presidential field during the first half of this year. He could raise as much as the rest of the field combined.

With Romney out, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie looks like the only person who can compete with Jeb for the “establishment Republican” niche. He reminded the audience at the Iowa Freedom Summit that he’s visited this state eleven times since 2010. You can listen to that speech at Radio Iowa.

Iowa Republican power-broker Bruce Rastetter spearheaded a “draft Christie” before the 2012 Iowa caucuses. So far this cycle, he is staking out a more neutral position. Last week Rastetter’s public relations team announced plans to hold an Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines on March 7. About two dozen possible presidential candidates from both parties have been invited to participate; the full list is in a press release I’ve enclosed after the jump. Governor Terry Branstad told Radio Iowa this week that Jeb Bush is “very interested” in attending the forum.  

While most of the speakers at King’s overly long Freedom Summit came to town solely for that occasion, 2012 Iowa caucuses winner Rick Santorum toured the state for several days afterward. He is still pushing a message I think Republicans should hear about how the GOP could better connect with working-class Americans. Radio Iowa posted the full audio here. According to Iowa Starting Line, Santorum didn’t draw a lot of applause at the Freedom Summit but was well-received at his small events this past week. Nevertheless, I expect most of his 2012 supporters to flow to other candidates this year, especially Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, or Ted Cruz.

I still like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s chances to win the Iowa caucuses. By all accounts he made a good impression on the Freedom Summit crowd. So did Ben Carson, but I don’t see Carson putting together a professional campaign operation. Radio Iowa posted the full audio and highlights from the Walker speech here. Click here to listen to Ted Cruz, another crowd favorite.

In contrast, former half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin bombed at the Freedom Summit, done in by a malfunctioning teleprompter. With her public speaking experience, she should have been able to wing it. I had to laugh when I saw Sam Clovis bash her to the Sioux City Journal’s reading audience. He’s probably still bitter that Palin endorsed Joni Ernst for Senate last spring when Clovis was campaigning as the true conservative in the GOP field.

The Republican Party of Iowa is accepting straw poll venue bids until Thursday, February 12. A recent press release said “Venue proposals should be able to accommodate large crowds and have ample parking.” The major fundraiser coming this August has traditionally been held in Ames, but I’m hearing there will be a strong push for Farm Progress Show in Boone. The State Fairgrounds in Des Moines are another leading contender for the event.

In news from the Democratic side, Mike Allen reported for Politico that former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “strongly considering delaying the formal launch of her presidential campaign until July.” A lot of Iowa Democrats are upset that Clinton has in effect frozen the field of play. They won’t be happy if she leaves everyone hanging until mid-summer. By this point in 2007, several Democratic presidential candidates already were opening field offices in key Iowa cities.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley made his first Iowa hire recently. Jake Oeth, who served as political director for Bruce Braley’s U.S. Senate campaign, is now doing outreach for O’Malley as a consultant to the O’Say Can You See PAC. According to Pat Rynard at Iowa Starting Line, O’Malley had been recruiting Oeth for some time. The former Maryland governor has Iowa connections going all the way back to Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential campaign and paid his dues last year with several Iowa visits, including the keynote speech for the state Democratic Party convention and fundraisers for Democratic candidates. Although some consider the former Maryland governor a possible rival to Clinton, I see him more as a back-up candidate if some unexpected development prevents Clinton from running.

MoveOn.org Political Action opened a Des Moines office for the Run Warren Run effort two weeks ago. I’ve posted the announcement after the jump; it mentions the first Iowa staff hires. As Bleeding Heartland discussed here, I think the “draft Warren” effort is mostly a waste of progressive energy and resources. Not that I’m against house parties for liberals, but they could be organizing around a more practical political cause. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to recruit Warren won’t change the fact that she is not running for president. Pat Rynard attended the Run Warren Run office kickoff party on January 29 and posted his thoughts on the campaign’s “murky mission.”

I haven’t heard much lately about U.S. Senator Jim Webb, who formed an exploratory committee late last year to consider a presidential bid. I never bought into him as a serious rival to Clinton, and he didn’t respond adeptly to the first real scrutiny of his PAC’s activities. I’m keeping an open mind about the Democratic race until the field is set, but if Webb turns out to be the only alternative candidate, I will be caucusing for Hillary.

Any comments about the Iowa caucuses are welcome in this thread.

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50 "most wanted" Iowa Republican discussion thread

Following up on last week’s look at "most wanted" Iowa Democrats, Jennifer Jacobs wrote a feature for today’s Sunday Des Moines Register on "50 of Iowa’s makers and shakers for the Republican presidential caucuses." Any comments about the list or GOP politics in general are welcome in this thread.

It seems like Jacobs couldn’t decide whether she was making a list of the 50 most influential Iowa Republicans, or the people who will be most sought out by presidential candidates. A lot of names in the top ten will almost certainly not endorse any candidate before the Iowa caucuses (Governor Terry Branstad, Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann, Branstad’s chief of staff Matt Hinch). For that reason, I expect some of the presidential campaigns to do far more courting of donors and activists who are lower down on Jacobs’ list. Big money men (they are all men) who will be highly sought after include Kyle Krause, Pete Brownell, Bruce Rastetter, Gary Kirke, Jim Cownie, David Oman, and Robert Haus.

I was surprised Jacobs put David Kochel and Sara Craig Gongol so far down the list at numbers 36 and 39, respectively. Not only were they deeply involved in Romney’s 2012 campaign in Iowa, millions of dollars passed through dark money groups those two ran during this year’s U.S. Senate race. To my mind, they will be among the go-to Iowa Republicans for people who want to slime a less-preferred candidate before the caucuses, but don’t want their fingerprints on the job. Kochel and Craig aren’t shy about skating close to the edge when it comes to federal rules designed to ban coordination between campaigns and outside groups making independent media expenditures.

I was also surprised Jacobs left out talk radio host Steve Deace. Along with Sam Clovis and a few leaders of megachurches, he will be a loud voice in the Iowa GOP’s social conservative wing, and I’m sure several presidential candidates will work hard to win his endorsement.

UPDATE: I thought it was strange that former Iowa House Speaker Chris Rants made Jacobs’ list—he hasn’t been speaker since 2006, and he retired from the legislature in 2010. James Lynch pointed out that it’s even more odd for Rants to be there, given that Jacobs did not mention current Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen or Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix. Paulsen endorsed Newt Gingrich shortly before the 2012 caucuses. Dix did not endorse any of the contenders.

SECOND UPDATE: Shane Vander Hart commented n the Jacobs list at Caffeinated Thoughts. I largely agree with his take, especially this part:

Being an effective campaign staffer doesn’t (necessarily) equal influence. […] There are some people who are on this list who are great at the work that they do.  Tim Albrecht is an effective communications/PR guy, Phil Valenziano, Grant Young, they are great, hardworking campaign staffers, but influencers?  That can be debated and it depends on how you define influence and/or who the target of the influence is.  


Vander Hart also pointed out that WHO radio host Jan Mickelson was left off the list, even though he has a large audience around the state: “Mickelson doesn’t endorse, but he is a great conduit to grassroots Republicans and candidates need to shoot straight with him (ask Mitt Romney).”  

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