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Hillary Clinton

Martin O'Malley walks like a candidate and talks like a candidate, but...

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 25, 2015 at 07:10:00 AM CDT

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley continues to do everything a politician would do to set up a strong Iowa caucus campaign.

So why am I still having trouble believing he will offer himself to Democrats as a alternative to Hillary Clinton?  

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 1586 words in story)

Who will be Jim Webb's potential Iowa caucus supporters?

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 17, 2015 at 14:00:00 PM CDT

As first reported by Pat Rynard last week, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb has hired an Iowa state director for his upcoming presidential campaign.  
There's More... :: (15 Comments, 358 words in story)

Grassley and Ernst remarkably casual about remarkable Iran letter

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 13, 2015 at 09:38:11 AM CDT

You wouldn't know it from reading their press releases, but Iowa's U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst did something unprecedented this week. Along with 45 Republican colleagues, they signed an "Open Letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran," warning that any negotiated agreement with President Barack Obama's administration will not be binding unless "approved by Congress," and therefore could be revoked by the next president.

I have been trying to imagine the uproar if Congressional Democrats had sent a letter like that to Soviet leaders when President Ronald Reagan was negotiating the START arms control treaties. The Iranian foreign minister wasn't the only one to express "astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration." Vice President Joe Biden's response was scathing.

Grassley and Ernst have sent out several official comments on policy issues since Monday, none of them alluding to their extraordinary step to undermine the president's negotiations with a foreign power. When asked about the letter during their weekly press calls, they feigned surprise that the matter has spawned so much controversy.

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Mid-week open thread: Hillary's e-mails edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 11, 2015 at 21:10:00 PM CDT

Let's kick off this open thread with a few links on the Hillary Clinton e-mail saga, which is obsessing the political media. Mother Jones posted the full transcript from Clinton's press conference yesterday. Excerpts are after the jump. Maggie Haberman posted a good analysis in the New York Times. David Corn's post on "The Return of the Clinton Media Persecution Complex" was excellent. It's not encouraging to see the Clintons back in bunker mode against journalists. And while some critics may be exaggerating the significance of this story,

She was a Cabinet official. She had a duty to ensure that her records-which belong to the public, not her-would be controlled by the department, not by her private aides who operate her private server. Moreover, the day she entered Foggy Bottom, she was a potential future presidential contender. [...]

So it doesn't matter what Colin Powell or Condi Rice did with their emails. Put aside Karl Rove's use of a private GOP party email account when he was a White House official. Hillary Clinton screwed up.

Speaking of screw-ups, the Associated Press ran with a related story that turned out to be false, then covered their tracks by substantially changing the content without issuing an explicit correction. Bad form.

I reject the premise that anything happening in March 2015 will be decisive in November 2016. To my mind, this scandal will only reinforce existing views about the Democratic front-runner. If you've always thought Bill and Hillary Clinton are untrustworthy, you have new fodder for that view. And if you've always thought Republicans and/or the media go too far in attacking the Clintons, you've got more ammunition now. Still, I wish Clinton had used a government e-mail for her official duties, and I wish she had responded to questions on this topic sooner.

What's on your mind this week, Bleeding Heartland readers?

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 353 words in story)

Hillary Clinton to hire Iowa field staff next month

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 10, 2015 at 12:04:22 PM CDT

Hillary Clinton plans to hire "as many as 40 staffers" in Iowa sometime next month to work on her presidential campaign, Ben Jacobs reported for The Guardian.

As described to the Guardian, the Clinton campaign will divide Iowa into a number of regions, each with its own regional field director. Past Iowa caucus campaigns have usually featured seven to 10 regions; Obama's Iowa campaign in 2008 had eight.

A number of top-level Clinton hires already in the works in Iowa have been previously reported. These include Matt Paul, a longtime aide to secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack, to run Clinton's operation, as well as veteran Iowa operative Brenda Kole as political director and DNC deputy communications director Lily Adams.

The Clinton campaign's goal in staffing up in Iowa would represent an attempt not only to lock up a Democratic party nomination in next January's Iowa caucuses but also to use the swing state as a training ground for its field staff in the general election.

Clinton is widely expected to kick off her campaign early in the second quarter of the year. All polling suggests she has no serious competition for the Iowa caucuses, so Democrats have been concerned that a lack of paid organizing this year would leave the Iowa Democratic Party at a disadvantage. As many as a dozen Republican presidential candidates, some of them well-financed, will have staff looking for supporters all over the state before the Iowa caucuses.

The more important question is whether the Clinton campaign will fund a robust field operation during the 2016 general election. Democrats' hopes of maintaining the Iowa Senate majority, clawing back some ground in the Iowa House, and winning Congressional races in the first and third districts will depend on a much better "coordinated campaign" than we saw in 2014.

Compared to some other swing states, Iowa is relatively inexpensive, which would tilt toward Clinton funding strong GOTV here. On the other hand, the "Big Blue Wall" leaves any Republican presidential candidate in more desperate need of Iowa's six electoral votes than Clinton ever will be.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

New Iowa poll testing negative messages about Hillary Clinton (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 06, 2015 at 12:31:16 PM CST

Someone is paying to test a series of negative messages about Hillary Clinton among Iowa Democrats. Our household received a call from a Michigan-based polling firm last night. The interviewer asked for my husband by name, indicating that the pollster was working from a list of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers or reliable voters. After typical likely voter screening questions, a ballot test among Democratic candidates, and a few statements about President Barack Obama, most of the the poll focused on unflattering messages about Hillary Clinton. My notes are after the jump. Some messages appear multiple times, because there was quite a bit of repetition in the survey.

I haven't been able to identify who paid for this poll, but I'm confident it didn't come from Clinton's inner circle or any group supporting her presidential ambitions. Unlike two other recent polls of Iowa Democrats, which Bleeding Heartland covered here and Iowa Starting Line covered here, this survey tested almost no positive statements about Clinton or her record. Then again, Pat Rynard suspects the Clinton campaign did commission this poll, citing similarities to the call he received last month.

In theory, a group favoring a different Democratic candidate for president would want to test lines of attack against Hillary. But to my ear, this poll sounded like the work of a Republican or conservative advocacy group. The questionnaire didn't include any positive messages about any other potential Democratic candidates. Near the beginning of the survey, my husband was asked about his first and second choice if the Iowa caucuses were held today. But after the laundry list of negative statements about Clinton, the poll didn't repeat the ballot test to see whether respondents now would be inclined to caucus for Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or Martin O'Malley over Clinton. (I don't think Jim Webb was included.)

I don't know how long this poll has been in the field, but the questionnaire must have been finalized before this week, because there were no questions about Clinton using her personal e-mail account for work during her tenure as secretary of state.

UPDATE: Maybe this poll originated within the Clinton circle after all. Patrick Ruffini pointed out that the call my household received came from the same phone number as polling calls backing the Democratic candidate in a New York Congressional race last year. If the survey firm mainly works for Democrats, then Clinton's team or a group supporting her aspirations must be behind the poll. No rival Democratic candidate would have paid for a lengthy questionnaire including zero positive messages about alternatives to Clinton.

MARCH 10 UPDATE: According to the latest edition of HuffPollster, "many reports of calls from 586-200-0157 from recipients nationwide who were told they had been called by Mountain West Research, a call center used as subcontractor by campaign pollsters." Several past Democratic candidates have used the firm.

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New Iowa Democratic caucus discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 23, 2015 at 15:51:40 PM CST

February has been a busy month for possible Democratic presidential candidates in Iowa. This thread is for any comments related to next year's Iowa caucuses. Here are a few links to get the conversation started.

Hillary Clinton's campaign (or some group close to Clinton) appears to be message-testing Iowa Democrats. Pat Rynard was a respondent in the latest survey, and the questions had a lot in common with the poll Bleeding Heartland wrote up here. One noticeable difference: the new poll hints at a strong focus on paid family and sick leave if Clinton runs for president.

NBC/Marist released the latest poll of Iowa Democrats, showing Clinton way ahead with 68 percent support. Vice President Joe Biden was a distant second place with 12 percent, though that poll did not ask respondents about Senator Elizabeth Warren. In hypothetical general election match-ups, Clinton leads former Florida Governor Jeb Bush by 48 percent to 40 percent in Iowa, and leads Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker by 49 percent to 38 percent.

The vice president stopped in central Iowa earlier this month. After meeting briefly with Governor Terry Branstad, Biden visited the Des Moines Area Community College, where he touted free community college tuition. Speaking at Drake University, Biden encouraged Democratic candidates to run on the Obama administration's record in 2016. Playing for laughs, the Des Moines Register's coverage focused on "great Joe Biden-isms.". (For what it's worth, where Jason Noble heard Biden calling former Representative Neal Smith his "old butt buddy," to my ear it sounded more like a mini-stutter: "an old bud- buddy.") Pat Rynard's write-up was more substantive, and I tend to agree with his conclusion: Biden didn't sound like a future presidential candidate at Drake.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders just finished a three-day swing through Iowa. He spoke to supporters at Iowa City's Prairie Lights book store, talked to students at Drake and the University of Iowa, headlined the Iowa Citizen Action Network's annual dinner in Johnston, spoke in Cedar Rapids and Tipton, and finally was the start guest at the Story County Democrats' soup dinner in Ames. Sanders continues to highlight his key issues of economic inequality and money in politics. At several of his Iowa stops he also called on Republicans not to tie Department of Homeland Security funding to rolling back President Barack Obama's immigration policies. He has yet to indicate whether he might run for president as a Democrat or as an independent.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley hasn't been to Iowa this month, but he'll headline events for the Scott County Democrats in March and the Polk County Democrats in April.

Finally, Iowa Starting Line has kicked off a series of posts on how Democratic presidential candidates can win key counties in Iowa. Author Rynard has worked on various campaigns in different parts of the state. The first two installments focused on Clinton County and Woodbury County.  

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

Most Iowa Democrats are not "tired" of Hillary Clinton already

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 10, 2015 at 12:29:00 PM CST

As poll after poll demolishes the "Hillary's Iowa problem" narrative relentlessly pushed by some journalists and bloggers, a new narrative is emerging: Clinton is "old news" who doesn't energize Democrats. Robert Costa reported for the Washington Post on a recent meeting of thirteen "Ready for Warren" volunteers in Ames. They are "tired" of the Clintons and resent the "hacks" who feel "think Hillary is entitled to be president." They feel that Senator Elizabeth Warren better represents where our party should be on the big issues.

Clearly these are not isolated views among Iowa Democrats. Both the latest Selzer poll for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics and the latest Loras College poll found that Warren was the first choice of between 15 and 20 percent of Democratic respondents. I can relate, because even though I consider the "Run Warren Run" campaign a waste of progressive energy and money, I also feel closer ideologically to Warren than to Clinton.

By the same token, I wouldn't exaggerate the level of "Clinton fatigue" here. You don't have to look hard to find Iowa Democrats who are very excited about Clinton running for president again. Pat Rynard talked to some of these activists for a recent post at Iowa Starting Line. I've been talking with many acquaintances who reliably attend the caucuses--not just longtime Hillary fans, but also people who caucused for Barack Obama or John Edwards in 2008. Some were donors or even precinct captains for Obama or Edwards. Overwhelmingly, they have told me they hope Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. They are ready to caucus for her and in some cases ready to volunteer for her campaign. For some, it's a pragmatic belief that Clinton is best positioned to win the general election. Others are genuinely enthusiastic about the chance to elect the first woman president. Republicans may gripe about Clinton's age and long time in the national spotlight, but I don't think that the prospect of electing a woman president will ever be "old news."

I enjoy a competitive Iowa caucus campaign as much as anyone, so I hope other Democrats will enter the presidential race. But Warren's not running, and whoever does run is not likely to give Clinton much trouble in Iowa. We are going to have to figure out how to organize our own grassroots without multiple presidential candidates spending millions of dollars on dozens of field offices around the state. One key will be mobilizing those who are "ready for Hillary."

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

New Iowa and swing state poll discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 06, 2015 at 10:18:02 AM CST

Iowa politics watchers are still talking about the latest statewide poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics. Bleeding Heartland discussed the topline Iowa caucus numbers here. Harry Enten took issue with various "Scott Walker leads" headlines, writing at FiveThirtyEight that the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll indicates "chaos" rather than the Wisconsin governor leading the Republican field. Pat Rynard's take on the implications for Democratic and Republican presidential contenders is at Iowa Starting Line.

Anyone who is vaguely familiar with Iowa Republican discourse shouldn't be surprised that Jeb Bush's stands on immigration reform and "Common Core" education standards are a "deal-killer" for many conservatives polled by Selzer. As for why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has the highest negatives (with 54 percent of GOP respondents viewing him unfavorably), there are many potential explanations. It's only been a year since the scandal involving politically-motivated bridge lane closures made national news. Before that, he angered social conservatives by signing a bill that bans "gay conversion therapy" and by not fighting a court ruling that overturned New Jersey's ban on same-sex marriage. Who knows, maybe some Iowa Republicans are still mad that Christie praised President Barack Obama's handling of Hurricane Sandy right before the 2012 presidential election.

The Des Moines Register has rolled out other findings from the latest Iowa poll this week. Sad to say, I'm surprised that only 39 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers agreed with the statement "Islam is an inherently violent religion, which leads its followers to violent acts." I would have expected more to agree with that statement and fewer than 53 percent of GOP respondents to lean toward "Islam is an inherently peaceful religion, but there are some who twist its teachings to justify violence." Among likely Democratic caucus-goers in the sample, only 13 percent said Islam is inherently violent, while 81 percent said the faith is inherently peaceful.

Not surprisingly, Selzer's poll found a big partisan divide in whether Iowans see U.S. Senator Joni Ernst as a potential president. I wish the question wording had been more clear. To me, "Do you think Joni Ernst does or does not have what it takes to become president one day?" is ambiguous. Were they trying to get at whether respondents think Ernst could do the job, or whether she could be elected? I don't think Ernst has "what it takes" to be a good legislator, but obviously she had "what it takes" to win the Senate election. The results would be easier to interpret if respondents had been asked something like, "Would you ever consider voting for Joni Ernst for president someday?" or "Regardless of whether you might personally support her, do you think Joni Ernst could be elected president someday?"

No Des Moines Register story by Jennifer Jacobs about Ernst would be complete without some pro-Ernst slant, and in this case I had to laugh reading the pulled quotes from poll respondents. The ones who had good things to say about Ernst sounded reasonable and well spoken, whereas the one Democrat Jacobs quoted criticizing Ernst was made to look petty: "She kind of represents everything that makes me want to throw up in the morning - and I'm not even pregnant."

Bleeding Heartland doesn't usually comment on polls from other states, but Quinnipiac's latest findings from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida will interest any political junkie. In head to head match-ups, Hillary Clinton leads by double digits against every Republican tested in Pennsylvania. She "dominates" all of them in Ohio, except for Governor John Kasich, who trails her by a statistically insignificant 1 percent. She also has a comfortable lead in Florida against all of the Republicans except former Governor Jeb Bush, who trails by 1 percent. Yes, it's "too early" for a 2016 general election poll; in 1999 many polls found George W. Bush way ahead of Vice President Al Gore. Yes, name recognition may be contributing to Clinton's leads. Nevertheless, if the Q-poll is anywhere in the ballpark, the Republican nominee will go into the next presidential election as the underdog. Thanks to the "Big Blue Wall," Clinton could get to 270 electoral votes with the states John Kerry won in 2004 plus Florida, or the states Kerry won plus Ohio and one or two other smaller states (such as Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, or Iowa).

Republicans may take heart in the fact that some of their likely presidential contenders (such as Walker) were not included in Quinnipiac's swing-state polls.

Discuss :: (5 Comments)

Democrats should skip Bruce Rastetter's Iowa Agriculture Forum

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Feb 05, 2015 at 17:58:09 PM CST

Seven potential Republican presidential candidates have accepted Bruce Rastetter's invitation to attend an "Iowa Agricultural Forum" in Des Moines next month, Erin Murphy reported yesterday. The seven are Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and national laughingstock sorry, entrepreneur Donald Trump. No doubt more Republicans will show up to be heard as well.

Rastetter also invited U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack as well as a half-dozen Democrats who may run for president this cycle or in the future: Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, and former U.S. Senator Jim Webb. So far no Democrats have accepted the invitation.

I hope they all steer clear of this event.

It's a bit late for Rastetter to reinvent himself as some kind of non-partisan elder statesman. He provided the seed money for the 501(c)4 group American Future Fund, which quickly grew into one of the biggest-spending and most deceptive dark money groups on the right. After leading an effort to bring Terry Branstad out of political retirement, Rastetter became the top individual donor to Branstad's 2010 campaign, landing a prestigious appointment to the influential Board of Regents. As a Regent, he has thrown his weight around more than most of his predecessors. In what many viewed as a conflict of interest, Rastetter continued to pursue a business project involving his biofuels company and Iowa State University in an extensive land acquisition in Tanzania. Later, he tried to get the University of Iowa's president to arrange a meeting where biofuels industry representatives could educate a prominent professor whom Rastetter considered "uninformed" about ethanol. Rastetter was also involved in the fiasco that eventually led to Senator Tom Harkin pulling his papers from Iowa State University.

Early in the 2012 election cycle, Rastetter led a group of Iowa businessmen who tried to recruit New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to run for president. Although he is now cultivating an image as a corporate leader who is above the political fray, he will always be seen as a Republican power-broker in Iowa. I don't see much upside to any Democrat showing up to kiss Rastetter's ring. At best, the national and local reporters covering the Agriculture Forum will write about the "frosty reception" Democratic speakers got from a conservative audience. Or more likely, disruption by hecklers will overshadow any Democratic message on agricultural policy.

Democrats who may run for president will have lots of opportunities this year to address Iowans who might actually listen to them.  

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Is the latest Hillary Clinton message-testing poll for men only? (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 04, 2015 at 07:45:00 AM CST

A new poll is in the field testing messages about Hillary Clinton with Iowa Democrats. The live-interviewer survey is coming from a Michigan-based phone number (586-200-0081). The caller will not say who paid for the survey, only that he or she represents "the National Data Collection Firm." The caller asks respondents for their views on several prospective Democratic presidential candidates and various public-policy issues, then tests the respondent's agreement with numerous statements about Clinton's record and asks whether certain statements would make you more or less likely to vote for Clinton.

John Deeth took the call and posted his account here. My notes on the same survey are after the jump. Some New Hampshire residents are getting similar calls, but from a different phone number.

Although I don't know who paid for this survey, the questionnaire suggests to me that it came from a group supporting Clinton's presidential aspirations, not from a rival Democratic camp. There appears to be a special interest in gauging support for Senator Elizabeth Warren and her views on the system being rigged in favor of big banks and wealthy interests.

I also have a hunch, as yet unconfirmed, that the contact universe for this survey may consist only of men who are registered Democrats and have participated in past Iowa Democratic caucuses. I have not yet been able to find a woman who received the call, despite asking quite a few likely suspects (including some who took part in the previous message-testing poll about Clinton in Iowa). The caller asks for a specific voter by name, and so far I have only heard of men being targeted. When I picked up our landline, the caller asked to speak to Mr. desmoinesdem about "important issues in Iowa." I said he was not available but that I would be happy to answer the questions. The caller insisted that they are supposed to talk with certain people and again asked for my husband. I said, "Are you sure I'm not on your list too?" and gave my name--I'll bet that's a new one for that poll-taker! He politely said he would call later for Mr. desmoinesdem. True to his word, he called back in a few hours, and my husband put the phone on speaker so I could take notes. The survey takes about 15-20 minutes.

UPDATE: Thanks to crowd-sourcing, I can confirm that women as well as men are in the respondent pool for this survey.

Toward the end of the survey, the caller asks whether the respondent supported John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama in the 2008 caucuses (no other options given). This question was not preceded by any question about whether the individual caucused that year, suggesting to me that the pollster drew up the sample from a list of Iowa Democrats who did caucus in 2008.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I would particularly like to hear from Bleeding Heartland readers (male or female) who received the same call.

UPDATE: Bleeding Heartland user DCCyclone notes in the comments, "It's definitely a high-priced survey for a campaign, party, or superpac or similarly campaign-focused interest group.  That the caller asked for a voter by name proves that, because only high-priced internal surveys sample that way." I tend to agree that Ready for Hillary is the most likely suspect.

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Why the vaccination issue is a minefield for Republican presidential candidates

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 03, 2015 at 07:05:00 AM CST

The recent measles outbreak has sparked more media discussion of the trend away from routine vaccination. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tried to walk a fine line when asked about the issue yesterday, saying parents should have "some measure of choice" over immunizing their kids. I enclose his comments and his staff's later attempts to clarify below.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, who is also a medical doctor, told a popular right-wing radio host yesterday, "I'm not anti-vaccine at all but...most of them ought to be voluntary. [...] I think there are times in which there can be some rules but for the most part it ought to be voluntary." He took a shot at former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has said it was a mistake for his administration to try to require the human papillomavirus vaccine for pre-teen girls in Texas.

As these and other Republican presidential candidates tour Iowa this year, I guarantee that they will face many more questions about the vaccine issue. In my non-blogging life, I have encountered hundreds of Iowa parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. They are a diverse group and can't be stereotyped as "crunchy hippie" lefties or religious conservatives. Some don't trust the government to regulate toxins in products pushed by pharmaceutical companies. Others may not believe vaccines cause autism but fear different adverse reactions. Or, they think "natural immunity" acquired through getting a disease is stronger. Many conservative evangelicals and Catholics shun vaccines because of concerns about the use of fetal tissue in their manufacture (see also here). Although the most influential homeschooling group, the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, does not take a position for or against immunizations, my impression is that anti-vaccine views are more prevalent among homeschoolers than among parents who send their children to public or parochial schools. Homeschoolers were a critical base of support for Mike Huckabee's 2008 Iowa caucus campaign and were courted by multiple presidential candidates before the 2012 caucuses.

Some libertarian-leaning conservatives may not worry about the safety or ethics of vaccines, and may even have their own children immunized, but on principle don't think the government should tell parents anything about how to raise kids. That group looks like a natural Rand Paul constituency, but they may be open to other candidates who cater to their views.

Regardless of how far the measles outbreak spreads, this issue will remain a minefield for GOP candidates.

Side note: In central Iowa, more and more pediatric practices are rejecting families whose parents want to deviate from the accepted vaccine schedule. In my opinion, that is a huge mistake. There is no one perfect immunization schedule. Medical associations in different countries recommend that babies and toddlers get shots for various diseases at different times. Based on my conversations, many of these parents would agree to most or all of the vaccines eventually; they just feel uncomfortable with so many shots clustered close together. Instead of accommodating those concerns with a delayed schedule, pediatricians are driving families away. So worried parents either stop taking their kids to regular wellness checks, or seek medical care only from chiropractors or alternative health providers.

UPDATE: Added below further comments from Rand Paul on why vaccines should be voluntary.

Likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton weighed in on Twitter: "The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let's protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest"

A Bleeding Heartland reader reminded me about this report from last year, indicating that "In West Des Moines, 37 percent of home-schooled children are not fully vaccinated."  

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Four reasons Mike Gronstal will win another term in Iowa Senate district 8

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 02, 2015 at 09:07:00 AM CST

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal celebrated his 65th birthday on January 29. The Des Moines Register's William Petroski caught up with Gronstal after fellow senators sang "Happy Birthday" and confirmed that the longtime Democratic leader has no plans to retire. He's up for re-election next year in Senate district 8, covering the Council Bluffs area and Carter Lake (scroll to the end of this post to view a detailed map).

Now that Tom Harkin has retired, Gronstal may be the Iowa Democrat whom Republicans most love to hate. But I have news for them: he's going to win another term in 2016, and here's why.

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Weekend open thread: Des Moines Register Iowa caucus poll edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jan 31, 2015 at 21:26:55 PM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Bonus points if someone can suggest a good reason for Senator Joni Ernst voting against renewable energy tax credits this week. Her staff should have informed her that those tax credits are important for Iowa's wind turbine manufacturers. Then she could have followed Senator Chuck Grassley's lead. Or maybe that information wouldn't have mattered, since Ernst owes a lot to the Koch brothers, who strongly oppose federal incentives for renewable energy.

The Des Moines Register just published the latest Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa poll, which was in the field a few days after Representative Steve King's Iowa Freedom Summit generated substantial political news coverage. Selzer & Co. surveyed 402 "likely Republican caucus-goers" between January 26 and 29, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent. No candidate has a statistically significant lead; the "top tier" are Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, 2012 nominee Mitt Romney (who hadn't announced yet that he wasn't running), former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (who won the 2008 Iowa GOP caucuses), Dr. Ben Carson, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. You can read the highlights on the Register's website; after the jump I've embedded the polling memo. For my money, this is the most interesting part of Jennifer Jacobs' story:

Sixty percent say it's more important to vote for the person who aligns with their values, even if that candidate isn't electable, compared with 36 percent who say winning the White House for Republicans is more important.

A majority - 51 percent of likely GOP caucusgoers - would prefer an anti-establishment candidate without a lot of ties to Washington or Wall Street who would change the way things are done and challenge conventional thinking. That compares to 43 percent who think the better leader would be a mainstream establishment candidate with executive experience who understands business and how to execute ideas, the new poll shows.

For respondents who say they want an establishment candidate, Romney is their first choice. With Romney out of the picture, Walker leads. Huckabee is next, then Bush.

Among those who want an anti-establishment candidate, Paul is the favorite, followed by Walker and Carson.

The 401 "Democratic likely caucus-goers" surveyed by Selzer & Co. overwhelmingly lean toward former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She's the first choice of 56 percent and the second choice of 15 percent of respondents. Senator Elizabeth Warren polled 16 percent as a first choice and 23 percent as a second choice. Vice President Joe Biden polled 9 percent as a first choice and 26 percent as a second choice. All other potential candidates were in single digits.

FEBRUARY 1 UPDATE: Ben Schreckinger is out with a Politico story headlined, "Iowa Dems high and dry as Hillary decides." I've added excerpts after the jump. The story is full of angtsy quotes about how there's not as much activity on the Democratic side as there was before the 2004 and 2008 caucuses, and how Republicans will benefit from more organizing by presidential hopefuls. It's true, Iowa Republicans have had way more candidate visits, including events to raise money for county parties or down-ballot candidates. Guess what? It's going to stay that way for all of 2015. Our party has a prohibitive front-runner, and she is well-liked by the vast majority of likely Democratic caucus-goers. We're not going to have multiple presidential candidates spending millions of dollars on dozens of field offices around the state. So stop whining about it to national reporters and start figuring out how to build a grassroots network without an Iowa caucus as competitive as 2004 or 2008.

I also added below a statement from the Iowa GOP, contrasting the "vibrant" and "diverse" Republican presidential field with the Democratic landscape ahead of the 2016 caucuses.

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Iowa caucus discussion thread: Romney reality check edition

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 30, 2015 at 11:46:12 AM CST

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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Three pros and three cons of Andy McGuire as Iowa Democratic Party chair (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jan 17, 2015 at 15:59:23 PM CST

Earlier today the Iowa Democratic Party's State Central Committee selected Dr. Andy McGuire to lead the party for the next two years. McGuire was the favorite going into the election and won on the third ballot against Kurt Meyer. Another candidate for state chair, former Congressional candidate Jim Mowrer, then ran for first vice chair and was elected on the first ballot.

Dr. McGuire has been active in Iowa Democratic politics for more than 20 years, since working on her sister-in-law Sheila McGuire's 1994 Congressional campaign in Iowa's fifth district. (Sheila McGuire later served as state party chair for a term.) In the political world, Andy McGuire is best-known for being Mike Blouin's running mate during the 2006 Democratic primary for governor. The pro-choice mother of seven helped balance the ticket, as many Democratic activists were concerned about Blouin's stance on abortion rights.

In recent years, McGuire has often been mentioned as a possible Congressional candidate, but she ruled out running in Iowa's third district in 2016 if elected to lead the party. Many central Iowa Democrats expect her to run for governor in 2018.

Although I favored one of the other candidates, McGuire brings a lot to the table as a state party leader. My first thoughts on the pros and cons of her election are after the jump.  

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Who Should Lead the Iowa Democratic Party?

by: 2laneIA

Thu Jan 15, 2015 at 00:18:19 AM CST

(This guest diary raises important issues. A post is in progress containing the case for each of the four candidates for Iowa Democratic Party chair. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

On Saturday the IDP will elect a new state chair.  Douglas Burns has a useful summary of the candidates' positions and experience. I have the impression from conversations with a few members and other committed Democrats that all the candidates are viewed as capable and with their hearts on the left side.

I have a question:  should the IDP chair be a declared partisan for one (as yet undeclared) presidential candidate? That is Dr. McGuire, according to The Hill

A new Democratic Party chairman also will soon be in place in the state, and a Clinton friend, Andy McGuire, is in the running for the top spot, which will be decided in a Saturday election. 

A Bloomberg Iowa poll in October found the former secretary of State received support from 76 percent of Democrats who planned to participate in the caucus, a sign to Crawford and others that Clinton is right where she wants to be.

“What she needs to do is come to Iowa and use it to get very connected at the retail level, which will be good for her in Iowa and nationally, as well,” Crawford said. “Are there some activists who want another option? Of course there are. That will always be the case. But I’m not particularly concerned.”

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15 Iowa politics predictions for 2015

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 02, 2015 at 09:41:49 AM CST

Happy new year to everyone in the Bleeding Heartland community! Undeterred by my failure (yet again) to win, place, or show in my own blog's election contest, I offer fifteen Iowa politics predictions for this calendar year.

Your own predictions or any other relevant comments are welcome in this thread. At the end of this year I'll look back to see what we got right or wrong.

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New Iowa caucus thread: Jeb Bush exploring and a "Run Warren Run" event in Des Moines

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 16, 2014 at 20:22:06 PM CST

Who's up for a new thread on possible presidential candidates? The big news on the Republican side today was former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announcing that he will "actively explore" a presidential bid. Bush is forming a leadership PAC to raise huge piles of money "help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation."

I can't see Bush winning the GOP nomination, given his past support for immigration reform including a path to citizenship. Among Iowa conservatives, his support for "Common Core" educational standards will be a deal-breaker too. On the other hand, Bush poses an immediate threat to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The two would be competing for many of the same donors and Republican moderate voters.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio's staff says Bush's decision won't influence Rubio's plans for 2016. I am 100 percent convinced that Florida's junior senator will run for re-election. He has pretty good odds of winning a second term but would be a long-shot to win the presidential nomination.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (technically an independent) was in central Iowa today. I've posted excerpts from news coverage after the jump. It's Sanders' fourth Iowa visit this year, but he told a supportive Ames crowd he hasn't decided whether to run for president.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren continues to repeat that she is not running for president in 2016. But MoveOn.Org's "Run Warren Run" project is organizing an event at Java Joe's coffee house in downtown Des Moines. Some central Iowa Democrats received phone calls from MoveOn today inviting them to the pro-Warren event, which is set for 5:30 pm on Wednesday, December 17.

I still think the draft Warren effort is a waste of time and energy. Apparently, so does progressive hero Al Franken. Minnesota's junior U.S. senator is "ready for Hillary" Clinton:

"I mean, I think that we've not had someone this experienced, this tough, and she's very, very impressive. People have asked me about Elizabeth Warren. She is great, but she's not running. She says she's not running. So I don't-I think Hillary would be great."

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

UPDATE: Democracy for America announced on December 17 that it will invest $250,000 in the Draft Warren effort. I've added the group's press release at the end of this post. Run Warren Run ran a full-page ad in the Des Moines Register on December 17, featuring hundreds of Iowans who are urging the Massachusetts senator to run for president.

Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum attended the "Run Warren Run" event in Des Moines and called Warren "brilliant" and "courageous." But Jochum is not endorsing Warren over Hillary Clinton and hopes the Democratic field will include both women, as well as Vice President Joe Biden and others.

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The "Draft Warren" movement is a waste of progressive energy

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 11, 2014 at 10:33:26 AM CST

At least three progressive Democratic groups (Democracy for America, MoveOn, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee) are mobilizing liberal Democrats to support U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren for president. The idea is to make sure the 2016 campaign includes a strong voice for economic populism. In a statement released yesterday, Democracy for America's executive director Charles Chamberlain said one of the group's "top priorities will be ensuring that the battle for the Democratic nomination is a contest, not a coronation." I've enclosed their full press release after the jump.

There's a first time for everything, and I believe this is the first time I've disagreed with DFA's strategy. Warren has consistently said and continues to say that she is not running for president. I don't believe she is open to changing her mind, unless Hillary Clinton surprises everyone by not running. Instead of wasting time trying to draft a candidate who doesn't want to seek the presidency, progressive groups should wait until the field is set and then support the contender who most closely aligns with their interests.

Although I would certainly consider caucusing for Warren if she did run for president, progressives need her to be focused on her work in the Senate, not on raising money for a hopeless Democratic primary campaign. Warren can be a strong voice, not only against bad language Congressional Republicans try to sneak into legislation, but also against Obama administration shortcomings on personnel and policy. Everyone has a role to play, and we need outspoken liberals in the Senate, especially with Tom Harkin retiring.

Finally, it's hard to disagree with Governor Howard Dean's contention that "Hilllary Clinton is by far the most qualified person in the United States to serve as President." The only Democrat who even comes close is Vice President Joe Biden, who said this week that he will decide whether to run again "at the end of the spring or early summer." Clinton has the highest name recognition and sky-high favorables with almost every key Democratic constituency.

I understand the concept of a candidate like Warren pushing Clinton to the left during the primaries, but let's get real: a Harvard professor turned senator from Massachusetts, in the middle of her first term, is not going to be elected president, even with the "Big Blue Wall" propping her up. Whereas Clinton would go into the general election as the front-runner against almost any conceivable Republican nominee.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: A Bleeding Heartland reader shared an e-mail that some former Barack Obama campaign workers received this morning. The Ready for Warren Presidential Draft Campaign PAC is urging "Obama alumni" to sign a petition calling on Warren to run for president in 2016. I've enclosed that message at the end of this post.  

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