Weekend open thread: Making history

I’m a third-generation Tigers fan—my mother saw Hank Greenberg play at the old Tiger Stadium in Detroit—but most of Iowa is Cubs country. Congratulations to everyone who "Flew the W" Saturday night, watching the Chicago Cubs win the National League pennant for the first time in seven decades. Seeing any long-suffering sports team win a championship makes me happy, so I am glad the next World Series champions will be either the Cubs or the Cleveland Indians. Any thoughts on the potential impact of a Cubs or Indians victory on the election results in Iowa or Ohio?

I shouldn’t tempt fate with November 8 two and a half weeks away, but FiveThirtyEight.com now gives Hillary Clinton an 86 percent chance of winning the presidency. The latest simulation by Reuters/Ipsos sees her winning in 95 percent of scenarios. Recent polls of Iowa voters show no clear favorite in the presidential race. I expect a close result here; the latest absentee ballot numbers give both Democrats and Republicans reason to be optimistic. No matter who wins Iowa’s six electoral votes, Clinton appears very likely to be the next president.

Until a few years ago, I didn’t think a woman would be elected president in my lifetime. Despite all the misogyny and Hillary hate this campaign has brought to the surface, my children’s generation will grow up without the baggage of thinking this country would never elect a woman, just like they would never think an African-American can’t become president. That’s inspiring and empowering.

Any thoughts on which Iowans might get high-profile jobs in a Clinton administration? What place will she find for Tom Vilsack? Politico came up with a short list of five possible candidates to replace Vilsack as secretary of agriculture. (None are from Iowa.)

I’ve reached out to many Iowa Republicans who have kept their distance from Donald Trump or are rumored not to be voting for him. Most have not responded to my queries. I get that it’s a tough political calculation to oppose your party’s nominee, especially when the whole Iowa GOP establishment enthusiastically supports him. But I am convinced many of these closeted #NeverTrumpers will regret lacking the courage to take a stand before November 8. Trump is not some less-than-ideal candidate. He is playing to the ugliest strains in American politics. His demagoguery and blood libel encouraged white nationalists to come out from under their rocks, some explicitly playing the race card for votes while others relentlessly harass Trump’s critics.

Five former heads of the Republican National Committee, dozens of current and former GOP members of Congress, and four former GOP presidential nominees have said they will not vote for Trump. Fifty former senior national security officials in Republican administrations and a former nuclear missile launch officer have said it would be dangerous to give him the nuclear codes. His narcissism is comical, until you remember this man with no impulse control could become president. Meanwhile, Senator Joni Ernst told the whole country Trump would keep us safer. Ernst pretends to care about sexual assault but will vote for a man who threatened to sue all the women who have accused him of assaulting them. This Iraq War veteran hosted Trump at her biggest fundraiser of the year soon after he insulted a Gold Star family.

In contrast to Ernst, Governor Terry Branstad, or state party chair Jeff Kaufmann, some Iowa Republicans have avoided Trump’s rallies or events where they might be seen with the nominee. To them I say: speak up now, or expect your complicity to be a permanent stain on your political career. These people better not claim after Trump’s landslide loss that they secretly didn’t like him and didn’t vote for him.

Hardin County Auditor Jessica Lara told the Wall Street Journal’s Reid Epstein this week that she’s voting for Hillary Clinton. To my knowledge, she is the only current elected Republican official in Iowa to come out publicly for Clinton. Bleeding Heartland was first to report in May that Lara was #NeverTrump.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. History buffs may appreciate Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s phenomenal interactive site showing pictures of street scenes in Budapest during the 1956 Hungarian uprising and in the present day.

Continue Reading...

Trump found yet another way to take American politics to a dark place

Donald Trump proved in his final debate against Hillary Clinton that he hasn’t run out of ways to demonstrate he is unfit to serve as president.

About an hour in, Chris Wallace asked the Republican nominee a simple question: will he accept the result of this election? Trump said, "I will look at it at the time," then rattled off a bunch of bogus talking points. To his credit, Wallace pressed Trump on whether he would honor the tradition of a "peaceful transition of power," with the loser conceding to the winner. "Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?"

Trump responded, "What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense."

Normal candidates may make gaffes. Unorthodox candidates may say things that are shunned in polite company. But before Trump, even the most offensive candidate didn’t refuse to accept the will of the voters. Associated Press reporters Julie Pace and Lisa Lerer conveyed the enormity of Trump’s break with tradition in the lede to their debate wrap-up: "Threatening to upend a fundamental pillar of American democracy […]."

Every GOP candidate and office-holder must repudiate Trump and affirm that they will respect the outcome on November 8. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate spoke out on Monday, describing Trump’s warnings about "large scale voter fraud" as "not helpful" and "misinformation." Governor Terry Branstad tried to have it both ways, expressing "confidence" in the election system but claiming Trump has been a victim of media bias, and that Iowa county auditors won’t be able to prevent all attempts at voter fraud.

That’s not good enough. By suggesting the result might be illegitimate, Trump could provoke political violence that is unprecedented following a U.S. election in our lifetimes.

Any comments about the third debate are welcome in this thread. For those who missed it, the full video is here, a full transcript is here, and the Los Angeles Times published transcripts of some noteworthy exchanges. Links to a few good fact checks: NPR, New York Times, ABC, Factcheck.org, and Politifact. I enclose below the clip with Trump’s rigged election claims and Clinton’s response to his "horrifying" remarks.

A few other moments stuck out in my mind:

• Clinton’s strong defense of a reproductive rights: "I will defend Roe v. Wade and I will defend women’s rights to make their own healthcare decisions." Members of CNN’s focus group liked Clinton’s answer to that question better than any other from the Democrat.

• The exchange over immigration policy, in which Trump referred to some "bad hombres" while Clinton pointed out, "We have undocumented immigrants in America who are paying more federal income tax than a billionaire."

• Clinton saying Russian President Vladimir Putin would "rather have a puppet as the president of the United States" and telling Trump, "You are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do."

• Trump interrupting with "Such a nasty woman" while Clinton answered a question about Social Security and Medicare. Mental health experts say narcissists "project onto others qualities, traits, and behaviors they can’t—or won’t—accept in themselves."

Wallace was a much better moderator than I anticipated from a Fox News personality, despite a few missteps.

Continue Reading...

Latest Iowa polls and election forecasts ahead of the third debate

For reasons I cannot comprehend, few pollsters have surveyed Iowa voters since the first presidential debate. Even fewer Iowa polls have come out since the release of a 2005 videotape sparked the latest Donald Trump meltdown.

Forty years of data indicate that third presidential debates "have had less of an impact on the polls" than earlier debates. (Dan Guild reviewed here how first debates have affected previous presidential races.)

In lieu of a time-wasting "curtain-raiser" about things to watch for at tonight’s big showdown in Las Vegas, let’s look at what the latest opinion polls and election forecasts say about chances for Trump or Hillary Clinton to win Iowa’s six electoral votes. Last time Bleeding Heartland covered this territory, several analysts had shifted Iowa from "lean Democrat" to "toss-up" or from "toss-up" to "lean Republican."

Continue Reading...

Iowa Democrats' early vote lead remains smaller than in 2012

I have good news and bad news.

Registered Democrats in Iowa have requested more absentee ballots than Republicans, and a higher percentage of Democrats have returned those ballots to county auditors.

On the other hand, a daily review of data released by the Iowa Secretary of State’s offices shows Democrats are not building the absentee ballot lead they enjoyed in 2012, when strong early GOTV delivered this state for President Barack Obama. Furthermore, Iowa Democrats are lagging further behind their 2012 numbers than are Republicans.

Hillary Clinton is poised to win the presidency and could carry Iowa, but Democrats have reason to worry about the cushion she will take into election day.

Continue Reading...

How many more Iowa GOP women will find their voice on Donald Trump?

Melissa Gesing reached her limit this week. Four days after a 2005 video showed Donald Trump telling a reporter he could "do anything" to women, two days after Trump insisted in the second presidential debate that those comments were merely "locker room talk," Gesing stepped down as president of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women. In her October 11 resignation letter, she described her move as a "last resort," saying she can’t "look at myself in the mirror each morning if I do not take a stand against the racism, sexism, and hate that Donald J. Trump continues to promote." She explained her decision at greater length in a blog post called "Ending this bad and unhealthy relationship."

So far, no other woman in the top echelon of Iowa Republican politics has jumped ship. The Iowa Federation of Republican Women named a new president today and restated its support for the Trump-Pence ticket.

But how long can that last, with more women coming forward every day to say Trump kissed or groped them without consent, and used his position of power to walk in on women or underage girls undressed?

Continue Reading...

IA-02 GOP nominee Christopher Peters joins #NeverTrump camp

Dr. Christopher Peters, the Republican nominee in Iowa’s second Congressional district, announced today that he will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. In a prepared statement, Peters said his "views don’t fully align with either party’s platform" and asserted that neither major-party nominee has exhibited the "character and judgment necessary to be president." He rejected the "lesser of two evils" approach to voting, which in his view won’t "bring us closer to fixing" a "deeply flawed" political system.

Since launching his campaign in March, Peters has often promised to be an "independent voice" for Iowans, in contrast to five-term Representative Dave Loebsack, who "votes with the Democrats more than 90 percent of the time." Up to now, he had avoided taking a clear stand on Trump’s candidacy. For example, speaking to Kevin Barry of KGAN-TV in Cedar Rapids in May, Peters said, "The top of the ticket I can’t control, so I’m not going to worry about it. It’s kind of like taking the Serenity Prayer at a certain point. My focus is the second district, specifically Iowa, more broadly the country as a whole. […] I don’t think Mr. Trump cares whether I endorse him or not, because he’s rich, and I’m not that rich. So I think he’ll do just fine. […] I don’t think it affects this race too much, or in any way I can control."

When Barry pressed Peters on whether he is behind Trump, Peters replied, "He’s got till November to earn my vote. We don’t know who all the candidates are going to be yet, and we don’t know all their policy positions. Again, if I’m an independent voice, and that’s who I am, I’ll vote [for] whoever I want to vote for in November, and I haven’t made that decision yet."

Peters did not attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, nor has he appeared at any Trump campaign rally in Iowa. He spoke at U.S. Senator Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride fundraiser in late August, but left that event before Trump’s featured speech and photo op with Iowa GOP leaders. A Libertarian candidate for Iowa Senate in 2010, Peters went to Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson’s rally in Des Moines over Labor Day weekend but didn’t endorse Johnson then or now.

In today’s statement, Peters said "Trump’s behavior and temperament are only a part of the problem. He has repeatedly demonstrated a poor grasp of constitutionalism, civil rights, the rule of law, the role of diplomacy versus military interventionism, and even fundamental economics. I should have spoken out against him much earlier, and regret that I failed to do so." Scroll down to read the full commentary.

Peters and Loebsack are will attend their first candidate forum today at the Coralville Public Library, beginning at 2 pm. IA-02 leans Democratic, with a partisan voting index of D+4. The latest figures from the Secretary of State’s office indicate that the district’s 24 counties contain 171,027 active registered Democrats, 146,108 Republicans, and 172,729 no-party voters.

Although dozens of GOP members of Congress have joined the #NeverTrump ranks, Peters is the only federal candidate in Iowa willing to repudiate the party’s nominee. To my knowledge, only two other Iowa Republicans on the ballot this year have said publicly they will not vote for Trump: Hardin County Auditor Jessica Lara and State Representative Ken Rizer. State Senator Jack Whitver, who is up for re-election in 2018, has called on Trump to step aside without saying whether he would vote for Trump, assuming he remains the nominee. State Senator David Johnson, whose term also runs through 2018, left the Republican Party in June to express his opposition to Trump.

Final note: While numerous Republicans cited their concern for daughters or granddaughters when denouncing the explosive Trump videotape from 2005, I applaud Peters for condemning Trump’s "character deficiencies" as a father of three teenage sons: "if I ever learned that any of them grew up to be men who conduct themselves like Trump, I would be deeply disappointed."

Continue Reading...
View More...