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Iowans split on party lines over 20-week abortion ban

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 14, 2015 at 13:50:00 PM CDT

Yesterday the U.S. House passed by 242 votes to 184 (roll call) a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. House GOP leaders originally planned to pass this legislation around the anniversary of the Roe v Wade ruling in January, but pulled the bill from the floor "following a revolt from female members who objected to language regarding exceptions for rape." Sarah Ferris and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill yesterday that the bill "requires a 48-hour waiting period, informed consent forms and mandatory counseling for victims of rape and sexual assault before abortions." The latest version "eliminates a requirement for rape victims to go to the police, though it did not change a controversial provision that allows victims of incest to receive an abortion only if they are under 18 years old."

Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for the 20-week abortion ban, while Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted against it. Iowa's House members split along the same party lines regarding another anti-abortion bill that passed earlier this year, as well as a resolution that would "overturn the District of Columbia's law prohibiting workplace discrimination based on reproductive health choices."

I haven't seen any comments from Blum, Loebsack, Young, or King on yesterday's votes, but I'll update this post as needed. UPDATE: Added a statement from Blum.After the jump I've enclosed comments from Iowa Democratic Party Chair Andy McGuire, an e-mail blast Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign sent regarding the vote, and a statement from the pro-choice PAC EMILY's List, which has endorsed Monica Vernon in the Democratic primary to challenge Blum.

There's More... :: (8 Comments, 703 words in story)

While Iowa GOP levels playing field for underdogs, DNC gives them extra burden

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 07, 2015 at 13:25:14 PM CDT

Democrats in Iowa and nationally have been worried all year that a more competitive GOP presidential campaign will boost Republican organizing and enthusiasm going into the 2016 general election.

Yet this week, while the Iowa GOP announced plans to help long-shot presidential candidates be heard on equal footing, the Democratic National Committee sharply limited opportunities for voters to compare the whole presidential field side by side.  

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Highlights from Bernie Sanders' first day as a Democratic presidential candidate

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 30, 2015 at 18:26:39 PM CDT

After serving in Congress for 25 years as an independent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont announced today that he will seek the Democratic nomination for president.  
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Iowa caucus: PPP finds Walker leading GOP field, Clinton way ahead among Democrats

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 29, 2015 at 11:14:50 AM CDT

Public Policy Polling is out with its first Iowa caucus survey since last May. Click here for full results or here for Tom Jensen's polling memo. I enclose below highlights and my thoughts on the most interesting findings.

Any comments related to the Iowa caucus campaign are welcome in this thread.

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Fake Iowan for Hillary

by: sarased

Mon Apr 20, 2015 at 22:05:06 PM CDT

(Thanks for this first-person account of an Iowa campaign stop that drew international attention. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Last Tuesday morning, I woke up a lifelong Iowan, a working mom, a wife, a small business owner. By dinner, I was being portrayed by national - and international - media as a "fake" Iowan.

It has taken nearly a week for the reality of my unexpected cup of coffee with Hillary Clinton to sink in. As soon as she sat down, I realized how privileged I was to have her ear that morning. The experience, from start to now, has been surreal, to say the least.  

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 701 words in story)

Excessive demands for personal attention hurt the Iowa caucuses

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 14, 2015 at 08:41:47 AM CDT

Hillary Clinton embarked on a road trip to Iowa immediately after making her campaign official on Sunday. She has several small-scale events scheduled for today and tomorrow in Monticello (Jones County) and Norwalk (Warren County), a sign she is committed to winning over Iowa caucus-goers.

Most politically engaged Iowans look forward to seeing presidential candidates in person during caucus season. We like to hear first-hand where the contenders stand on issues that matter to us. As a group, we are generally willing to give all contenders serious consideration before making up our minds.

Unfortunately, some Democratic activists seem to think that candidates prove their worth in Iowa by fawning over local VIPs. That mentality hurts the Iowa caucuses, especially when pooh-bahs broadcast their sense of entitlement to national reporters covering the campaign.

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Still not convinced Martin O'Malley is running for president

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 12, 2015 at 22:49:00 PM CDT

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has been laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign for quite a while. These past few days, he continued to walk and talk just like a presidential candidate would in Iowa. On Thursday, he spoke at Simpson College and headlined a fundraiser for State Representative Scott Ourth before speaking to a good crowd in a heavily Democratic Des Moines neighborhood. The next day, he taped an episode of "Iowa Press" on Iowa Public Television (video and full transcript here; excerpts after the jump). O'Malley wrapped up Friday with a well-received speech at the Polk County Democrats' spring event (click through for video or audio). The stump speech blended a summary of his accomplishments as Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor with a vision for the future. For laughs and applause, he threw in some good jabs at tea party Republicans. Before and after the speech, O'Malley worked the room of activists. His staff had put down placemats and postcards for people to take home.

Yet I still can't shake the feeling that O'Malley will not follow through with running for president.  

There's More... :: (6 Comments, 1223 words in story)

Hillary Clinton's Iowa campaign team taking shape

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 09, 2015 at 12:40:00 PM CDT

As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to formally launch her presidential campaign later this month, her team continues to hire capable staff who are well-known to Iowa Democratic activists.
There's More... :: (1 Comments, 706 words in story)

Mid-week open thread: Iowa caucus myths edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 01, 2015 at 21:51:22 PM CDT

Bleeding Heartland doesn't participate in the annual ritual of publishing fake news stories on April 1, but Pat Rynard's recent post on Iowa caucus myths captures the spirit of April Fool's Day, in a sense, by highlighting some common misconceptions about our state's marquee political event. I agree with a lot of his points, especially debunking the idea that agricultural issues are of primary importance to Iowa caucus-goers, and that county party chairs are the best analysts regarding the state of play on the ground.

One myth not mentioned by Rynard would be high on my list: the idea that only Barack Obama's campaign turned out a significant number of first-time caucus-goers in 2008. In fact, both John Edwards and Hillary Clinton attracted enough supporters that same night to have blown away any Democratic candidate who had ever won the Iowa caucuses before. A superb combination of GOTV and messaging delivered the victory Obama needed, but the outcome was much more about him winning than Clinton or Edwards losing. Reporters and commentators who have repeatedly pushed the frame of Hillary's big "Iowa problem" continually fail to acknowledge that she inspired roughly 70,000 supporters to stand in her corner on a cold January night--a much higher number than most Iowa politics watchers would have anticipated a few months earlier.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

P.S.- Bleeding Heartland is a few weeks out from re-launching Iowa wildflower Wednesday, but signs of spring wildflowers are visible across the state. I've heard reports of snow trillium in bloom, and I've seen foliage for many native plants that will flower within the next month or so, including dog-tooth violets, Virginia bluebells, Virginia waterleaf, and toothwort.  

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Iowa caucuses news roundup and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 30, 2015 at 16:46:17 PM CDT

Aside from Senator Ted Cruz kicking of his presidential campaign, last week was a relatively quiet one in Iowa caucus news. But there are still plenty of stories and prospects to discuss.

Any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread. Follow me after the jump for a news roundup.

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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.

There's More... :: (8 Comments, 860 words in story)

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.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 985 words in story)

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)
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