IA-Sen: Chuck Grassley's back on tv, and he brought his lawnmowers

The "barrage" of television commercials promoting U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley’s re-election began a few days ago. The senator’s campaign stayed off television for most of the summer following short buys for two commercials in late May and early June.

In style and content, the new 60-second ad resembles the first commercials Grassley ran during the 2010 general election campaign. The focus is on the senator’s personal qualities and work ethic, not policy accomplishments. The viewer hears about Grassley’s past work in factories as well as on the farm, his near-perfect attendance for Senate floor votes, and his commitment to visiting all 99 counties every year. Finally, as Iowa politics watchers have come to expect, the ad includes footage of Grassley mowing his own lawn, using his "cheap" invention of two push mowers attached to the back of a riding mower.

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Weekend open thread: Trump at the Ernst "Roast and Ride" edition

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was back in Des Moines yesterday as the headliner for Senator Joni Ernst’s second annual "Roast and Ride" fundraiser. Approximately 400 people rode their motorcycles to the state fairgrounds, where politicians addressed a crowd of about 1,800. Radio Iowa posted the full audio of Trump’s remarks and highlights here. Shane Vander Hart live-blogged the event for Caffeinated Thoughts.

I got a kick out of the Ernst Twitter feed, featuring photos of the rock band The Nadas, various other special guests and crowd shots, but not a single picture of headliner Trump.

Why so shy, Senator?

Not to worry, lots of other people got pictures of Ernst standing next to Trump and recorded her urging Iowans to get out the vote for the whole GOP ticket.

Representative Steve King (IA-04) was up there with Trump and Ernst, despite telling Radio Iowa on Friday he was "uneasy" about the presidential nominee seeming to backpedal lately on his promise to deport undocumented immigrants. ABC’s Meghan Keneally recapped Trump’s mixed messages about immigration policy this past week. For more, see Nick Corasaniti’s latest report for the New York Times and this piece by Peter Beinart for The Atlantic. Trump attempted to clean up the mess in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday. His campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tried but failed to articulate a coherent position on CBS this morning.

At the Roast and Ride, Trump promised, "We’re gonna get rid of these people, day 1, before the wall [is built on the Mexican border], before anything." The family of Sarah Root, the inspiration for Steve King’s "Sarah’s law," joined Trump on stage. My heart goes out to them. Losing a loved one to a drunk driver would be devastating.

Senator Chuck Grassley and Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) all spoke to the Roast and Ride crowd but declined to stand on stage for the group photo with Trump. Who can blame them?

Speaking of Trump’s toxicity, Hillary Clinton delivered an excellent speech this week to connect the dots on how Trump has promoted racist and race-baiting ideas, giving hope and cover to white supremacists. The full transcript is here. Watching the white nationalist movement become emboldened by Trump’s campaign has been one of the most disturbing political developments of the last year.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. I skipped the Roast and Ride to go knock some doors on behalf of Jennifer Konfrst, the Democratic candidate in Iowa House district 43. Incumbents have a lot of advantages when running for re-election, especially a powerful legislator like Konfrst’s opponent, House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow. But a leadership role has drawbacks in a campaign too. For instance, when a no-party voter in this district tells me at the door she’s upset the legislature hasn’t done anything on bike safety, it’s nice to be able to mention that as majority leader, Hagenow has a huge say in what bills come out of committee and up for votes on the House floor. So if you want the House to act on bills that have already passed the state Senate (like the safe passing law that’s a high priority for the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, or real medical cannabis reform, or insurance coverage for autism services, or better oversight of privatized Medicaid), you need to change the House leadership.

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Throwback Thursday: Ed Fallon reflects on endorsing Ralph Nader for president

Before #BernieOrBust or any other hashtag existed to convey some activists’ feelings about the Democratic Party’s establishment candidate, there was Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Iowa’s best-known politician to endorse Nader rather than Al Gore was State Representative Ed Fallon. The Des Moines Democrat had found himself at odds with the rest of his Iowa House colleagues before. Some of his politically inexpedient decisions have aged well, most famously his heartfelt speech before casting the legislature’s only vote against our state’s Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

Supporting Nader caused more intense fallout.

Though Fallon no longer considers himself a Democrat and has devoted most of his energy lately to environmental activism, he still endorses some Democratic candidates, including Bernie Sanders before this year’s Iowa caucuses.

Fallon spoke with Bleeding Heartland recently about his decision to back Nader, how that choice affected his subsequent bids for public office, and his advice for activists drawn to Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein instead of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

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An Iowa mom's perfect care package for Mylan CEO Heather Bresch

Outrage has been building for several days over news that the Mylan corporation jacked up wholesale prices for EpiPens from $56.64 to $317.82 between 2007 and 2015. Mylan is the sole suppler of devices patients can use to inject epinephrine in case of life-threatening allergic reactions. Manufacturing costs for EpiPens have not increased, and the active ingredient is a "generic drug that has been in use for decades." Adding to the scandal, the annual total compensation for Mylan CEO Heather Bresch has increased from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068 since 2007. The company exploited a loophole called "inversion" two years ago to reduce its tax bill.

Yesterday Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called on Mylan to reduce the price of EpiPens. Members of Congress including Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley have asked the company to explain the pricing changes and asked the Food and Drug Administration "to answer questions about its approval process and other steps for alternatives to the EpiPen." Michael Hiltzik reported for the Los Angeles Times that another device used to self-inject epinephrine "was taken off the market last year because of manufacturing defects," and a similar product from a generics company "hasn’t yet won approval from the Food and Drug Administration." Another generic product is available at a lower cost but works differently, "in ways that can lead to critical errors if users aren’t properly trained," and it "can’t be substituted when filling a prescription" for an EpiPen.

Mylan promised today to offer more assistance for people who need to buy EpiPens. But as Andrew Pollack reported for the New York Times, the extra discounts are "not lowering the list price of EpiPen, just making it easier for consumers to pay for it. So insurance companies, federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and school districts that stock the products could still pay the same price." Bresch sounded shameless this morning during a CNBC interview, justifying the price increase because of higher marketing and distribution costs and other improvements to the product. "No one is more frustrated than I am," she claimed.

My friend Colleen Kinney, a Des Moines mother of a child with severe food allergy, is mailing Bresch a care package today. She gave me permission to publish this photo of the cookies she baked and will send along with a note: "Heather Bresch, Please provide explanation for epipen price hike. Enjoy these treats. If my son ate these, he would die without Mylan’s epi-pen."

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Forecasters still mixed on whether Iowa is toss-up state or leans Democratic

When Bleeding Heartland reviewed presidential election forecasts nearly two months ago, four projections had Iowa leaning Democratic, while five labeled our state a toss-up. Since then, Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence have each visited Iowa twice. Hillary Clinton and her running mate Tim Kaine have each visited Iowa once. Clinton’s campaign and allied groups including the super-PACs Priorities USA and VoteVets have spent substantial sums on television commercials here. After the Republican and Democratic national conventions, Clinton improved her standing in many nationwide and swing state polls, but Iowa polls continue to show no clear advantage for either side.

The fourth Iowa poll released this month is another snapshot of a closely contested race. CBS/YouGov surveyed 987 "likely voters" via the internet between August 17 and 19 and found Clinton and Trump tied at 40 percent, with 7 percent of respondents supporting Libertarian Gary Johnson, 2 percent backing Jill Stein of the Green Party, 4 percent "someone else," and 7 percent not sure. The cross-tabs show Clinton leading among women by 44 percent to 38 percent and Trump leading among men by 43 percent to 36 percent. Among the CBS/YouGov respondents who identify as Democrats, Clinton leads Trump by 80 percent to 9 percent (3 percent Johnson, 1 percent Stein). Trump leads Clinton among self-identified Republicans by 76 percent to 4 percent (8 percent Johnson, 0 percent Stein) and also leads independents by 39 percent to 31 percent (10 percent Johnson, 4 percent Stein).

With relatively few Iowa voters undecided and both candidates quite well-known, the election is shaping up as a test of identifying supporters and turning them out, rather than a persuasion game. Speaking with highly engaged Iowa Democratic activists lately, I’ve heard many acknowledge Trump could carry this state, although the general feeling seems to be "I’d rather be us than them." Early voting begins less than 40 days from now on Thursday, September 29.

Time to check in again with leading election forecasters.

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Ten presidential candidates qualify for the Iowa ballot

The filing deadline to run in Iowa’s general election ended at 5 pm today, and the Secretary of State’s Office has updated the list of candidates who submitted nominating papers and petitions with enough signatures. The following ten presidential tickets will appear on Iowa ballots:

2016 presidential candidates in Iowa
Names Party affiliation
Donald J. Trump/Michael R. Pence Republican
Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine Democratic
Darrell L. Castle/Scott N. Bradley Constitution Party
Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka Iowa Green Party
Dan R. Vacek/Mark G. Elworth Legal Marijuana Now
Gary Johnson/Bill Weld Libertarian
Lynn Kahn/Jay Stolba New Independent Party
Gloria La Riva/Dennis J. Banks Party for Socialism and Liberation
Rocky Roque De La Fuente/Michael Steinberg Nominated By Petition
Evan McMullin/Nathan Johnson Nominated By Petition

The last three public polls in Iowa put Johnson at 12 percent, 6 percent, and 12 percent in a four-way race against Clinton, Trump, and Stein. Although those surveys probably overstate Johnson’s support, the unusual unpopularity of this year’s major-party nominees gives the Libertarian a good chance to improve on all of his party’s previous showings in Iowa. Click here to view results for Libertarian presidential candidates going back to 1976. At a Polk County Democratic event last night, a number of activists were concerned that Johnson’s name was not yet on the Secretary of State’s candidate list, because Johnson is presumed to draw more support from traditionally Republican-leaning voters. Libertarian activists cut it close by submitting nominating papers today, but all’s well that ends well.

Others who filed on the last possible day included Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer who launched his presidential campaign only last week, and the candidates for the New Independent Party and Legal Marijuana Now, which seem like decent names for picking up protest votes.

Five candidates qualified to run for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat: Republican Charles E. Grassley, Democrat Patty Judge, Libertarian Charles Aldrich, Jim Hennager of the New Independent Party, and Michael Luick-Thrams, “Nominated By Petition.”

Only major-party candidates will appear on the ballot in three of Iowa’s four Congressional districts: Republican Rod Blum and Democrat Monica Vernon in IA-01, Republican Christopher Peters and Democrat Dave Loebsack in IA-02, Republican Steve King and Democrat Kim Weaver in IA-04.

The field will be more crowded in IA-03, with Republican David Young, Democrat Jim Mowrer, Libertarian Bryan Jack Holder, and two candidates to be listed as “Nominated By Petition”: Claudia Addy and Joe Grandanette.

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