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Joni Ernst confirms she won't endorse before the Iowa caucuses

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 10, 2015 at 08:40:04 AM CDT

The first Republican presidential debates did not affect U.S. Senator Joni Ernst's plans to remain neutral before the 2016 Iowa caucuses.  
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Weekend open thread: Hall of Fame and Family Leadership Summit edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 19, 2015 at 11:52:06 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

All five Democratic presidential candidates appeared at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids on Friday night. I've posted below my impressions from the speeches; you can watch the videos on C-SPAN. It's a shame the venue couldn't accommodate more people, because lots of interested Iowa Democrats were unable to get tickets for the event.

Before the Hall of Fame dinner, I spent some time with an old friend who's a huge Hillary Clinton supporter. Huge, as in, she didn't take down her Hillary yard sign until the grass was long enough to need mowing in the spring of 2008. She mentioned to me that she's relieved to see Clinton working hard this year instead of "ignoring" Iowa like last time. When I told my friend that Hillary visited Iowa more than 30 times in 2007, spending all or part of 70 days in the state, she was surprised. I'm amazed by how many Iowans have bought into the media-constructed narrative that Clinton "bombed" in the caucuses because she took the state for granted.

Ten Republican presidential candidates came to Ames on Saturday for the Family Leadership Summit organized by Bob Vander Plaats' FAMiLY Leader organization. C-SPAN posted all of those speeches here. As usual, Donald Trump sucked up most of the oxygen in the room by questioning whether Senator John McCain had been a hero during the Vietnam War. O.Kay Henderson posted the audio at Radio Iowa. Rival presidential candidates with the exception of Ted Cruz rushed to condemn Trump's remarks. Some of the Family Leadership Summit attendees may have been more upset by Trump's comments about his three marriages and his admission that when he's done something wrong, "I don't bring God into that picture."

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Ryan Wise is the new Iowa Department of Education director (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 06, 2015 at 07:37:38 AM CDT

Catching up on news from last week, Governor Terry Branstad appointed Ryan Wise to lead the Iowa Department of Education, effective July 1. I've enclosed below the full statement from the governor's office, which includes more background on Wise. He should have no trouble during the Iowa Senate confirmation process, having served as deputy director at the education department since September 2013.

Wise replaces Brad Buck, who started work on July 1 as superintendent of the Cedar Rapids Community School District. It's no surprise that he sought new opportunities after less than two years in the top state education job. Branstad instructed Buck to prioritize the tourism industry's demands over the consensus of school district leaders on academic calendars, even though the large body of research supporting shorter summer vacations for students contrasts sharply with the lack of evidence that "early [school] start dates interfere in any meaningful sense with the Iowa State Fair or with any other tourism activity in Iowa." During Buck's tenure as education director, Branstad also asked lawmakers to approve miserly increases in state aid to K-12 schools. The governor's latest draft budget included "allowable growth" for K-12 education of 1.25 percent for fiscal year 2016 and 2.45 percent for fiscal year 2017. Those levels are low by historical standards and not nearly enough to allow school districts to cover growing costs, leading to either staff and program cuts or property tax increases in many localities.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Added below excerpts from fifth-grade teacher Amy Moore's editorial for the Des Moines Register, sounding the alarm about Wise's experience with the Teach for America program.

P.S.- Almost every time I read a press release from the governor's office, I am struck by the relentless branding of Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds as a single unit. The communications staff have been doing this for years, supporting Branstad's desire to make Reynolds his successor. Still, it's jarring to read unnatural-sounding quotes mentioning the "governor and lieutenant governor" or "Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds' leadership." Does anyone really talk the way Wise "speaks" in the enclosed press release ("I admire the Governor's and Lieutenant Governor's commitment to providing every child in Iowa with the world-class education they deserve")?

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Why is Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey blocking a liberal blogger? (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 01, 2015 at 08:27:33 AM CDT

UPDATE: This morning Secretary Northey unblocked me and said the blocking had been unintentional. Glad to hear it.

Pulling together some links for a future post about how Iowans have responded to a new Environmental Protection Agency clean water rule, I checked Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey's Twitter feed yesterday and saw this:

 photo Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 8.51.05 PM_zpswyu83i3v.png

Northey may be the first Iowa Republican elected official to block me. Certainly he is the only statewide official ever to do so. A guy who is likely to run for governor in a couple of years might want to grow a thicker skin.

UPDATE: I learned this morning that I am unable to view Iowa House Judiciary Committee Chair Chip Baltimore's Twitter feed. That was not the case a few months ago. He may have deleted that account; the old @ChipBaltimoreIA feed has no new tweets since 2013. I haven't mentioned Baltimore at Bleeding Heartland in a while, but in April I did tweet a link to an unflattering story about him.

SECOND UPDATE: It seems Baltimore deleted that @chipbaltimore Twitter account.

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Branstad's plans on Medicaid, mental health facilities unpopular as well as unwise

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 01, 2015 at 11:10:00 AM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad is forging ahead with some major policies he didn't campaign on last year, oblivious to concerns about the impact on Iowa's Medicaid recipients and people served by two mental health institutions the governor wants to close.

According to Public Policy Polling's latest Iowa survey, the governor's plans are deeply unpopular.

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Tom Vilsack future plans speculation thread

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 15, 2015 at 13:10:00 PM CDT

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack plans to move back to Iowa after President Barack Obama's term ends, according to Radio Iowa's summary of his remarks on Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program. Vilsack has served in Obama's cabinet from the beginning and said he's not interested in continuing to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture if Hillary Clinton is elected president in 2016. He wants to move back to Iowa and might teach at a university, but he doesn't want to become the University of Iowa's next president. O.Kay Henderson reports that Vilsack is open to running for office again someday.

"You know, you never want to say never," Vilsack said. After disappointing losses in 2014, the Iowa Democratic Party is in the midst of a rebuilding process and Vilsack seems personally committed to the effort. "It's going to require a lot of work and it's going to require all hands on deck," Vilsack says. "And it's going to require making sure that we are competitive and getting the message out and working in all 99 counties."

How many Iowa Democrats would like to travel back in time two years and talk Vilsack into running for Tom Harkin's Senate seat? There's no doubt in my mind that even in a Republican landslide year, Vilsack could have beaten Joni Ernst. If he agreed to take her on in 2020 (a potentially tougher race because Ernst will be the incumbent), Vilsack would be nearly 70 years old.

Governor Terry Branstad came back to his old job after twelve years--would Vilsack run for governor in 2018? He would be well positioned beat Kim Reynolds or Bill Northey (who appear to be the two most likely GOP nominees), but I don't see Vilsack going back to that job.

If Representative David Young wins re-election to Iowa's third Congressional district in 2016, some Democrats would probaby try to recruit Vilsack to run against him in 2018. But a U.S. House seat in the minority caucus probably wouldn't sound appealing. My best guess is that Iowans will not see Tom Vilsack's name on a ballot again. What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

Tell us something we don't know, Governor Branstad

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 09, 2015 at 21:00:00 PM CST

While in central Iowa to cover New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's event with Dallas County Republicans this evening, Robert Costa of the Washington Post interviewed Governor Terry Branstad today. Here's what passes for breaking news: Branstad told Costa that he is not likely to seek a seventh term in 2018 and is "grooming" Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to succeed him.

"I've had the great honor and opportunity to serve the people of Iowa, and I want to do this job and do it well," Branstad said. "Kim Reynolds would be the best choice to be the next governor."

If Branstad serves through the end of this year, he will become the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, eclipsing George Clinton, who served 21 years as governor of New York during and after the Revolutionary War.

"I need to serve through December 14 or 15 of this year to break his record, so I'm on the way already, I just have to continue to serve one year into this term," he said.

Branstad has been saying for a long time that he is determined to make Reynolds the next governor. Breaking with Iowa tradition of sending the lieutenant governor to events the governor can't attend in person, he continues to bring Reynolds along to most of his public appearances. Press releases from the governor's office continue to refer to the governor and lieutenant governor as a single unit consistently in what appears to be a branding effort to associate Reynolds' name with Branstad's.

I am 100 percent convinced that Branstad will resign well before his term ends in order to allow Reynolds to run for governor in 2018 as an incumbent. (I see two likely windows for the resignation, either shortly after the 2016 general election or shortly after the 2017 Iowa legislative session.) Reynolds would struggle to win a statewide Republican primary if she were not the incumbent, because she didn't have a strong constituency within the GOP base before holding her current position. On the contrary, hardly anyone outside her Iowa Senate district had heard of Reynolds when Branstad picked her to be his running mate.

Even if Reynolds becomes governor before 2018, I doubt she will have smooth sailing in the GOP primary. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is likely to run for governor and will be well-funded. I expect some candidate to emerge from the social conservative wing as well.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

Discuss :: (5 Comments)

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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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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Weekend open thread: Politicians and holiday messages

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Dec 27, 2014 at 08:10:00 AM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Did anyone get any noteworthy holiday greetings from politicians this year? It was bittersweet to open Tom Harkin's final holiday card as a U.S. senator. My family also received a card with a lovely photo of Monica Vernon, her husband, and their three daughters. A Cedar Rapids City Council member, Vernon accepted this year's Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor shortly after being runner-up in the first Congressional district primary. I assume her holiday greeting went out to everyone who donated to Jack Hatch's campaign for governor, since I did not contribute to Vernon's Congressional effort. I expect Vernon to run for Congress again in 2016, although she might be angling to run for governor in 2018 instead. First-term Representative Rod Blum should be vulnerable in IA-01 when he has to face a presidential-year electorate.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama turned a typical holiday photo-op into a teaching moment when he and First Lady Michelle Obama delivered gifts to the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots campaign.

The President started putting the sports and the science toys into the 'girls' bin.  Placing a basketball into the bin, Obama says:

"I just wanna make sure some girls play some ball."

A person from the crowd queries his decision to put legos in the girls, rather than the boys collection - because they might not like them.  The President responds:

"Girls don't like toys?"

As he continues to sort, he comes across a T-Ball set.

"T-Ball? Girls like T-Ball" and nodding, puts the set in the girls' bin.  The crowd is snapping photos, with some looking a little confused and he adds. "I'm just trying to break down these gender stereotypes."

I love it. Girls shouldn't be limited to the toys specially marketed to them and their parents (dolls, beauty products, and legos in pink and purple hues).

Obama caused a stir in the White House press corps when he called on eight women and no men at his final press conference this year. The move was not a coincidence:

"The fact is, there are many women from a variety of news organizations who day-in and day-out do the hard work of covering the president of the United States," [White House press secretary Josh] Earnest said. "As the questioner list started to come together, we realized that we had a unique opportunity to highlight the fact at the president's closely watched, end-of-the-year news conference."
Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Bleeding Heartland 2014 general election prediction contest results

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Dec 08, 2014 at 09:00:50 AM CST

The last U.S. Senate election of 2014 concluded over the weekend, with Republican Bill Cassidy defeating Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu. So, I was finally able to tabulate results from Bleeding Heartland's general election prediction contest.

Thanks to all who entered. Follow me after the jump for full results.  

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Mid-week open thread: 2018 IA-Gov scenarios edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 12, 2014 at 21:15:00 PM CST

All topics are welcome in this open thread. I'd like to hear from Bleeding Heartland readers about the next race for Iowa governor. Winning that election needs to be a top priority for Iowa Democrats.

I remain 100 percent convinced that Terry Branstad will not serve out his entire sixth term. By the end of 2015, he will have set a record as the longest-serving governor in U.S. history. He is committed to "grooming" Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to be the next governor. But Reynolds was almost unknown when Branstad selected her as his running mate. She had only two years of experience in the state legislature, all of it in the Iowa Senate minority. Before that, she had a long tenure as the Clarke County treasurer, a job that doesn't allow politicians to build up a profile outside their home county.

Since Reynolds has no constituency in the Republican base, I find it hard to imagine she could win the nomination for governor campaigning from her current job. However, if she has a year or more under her belt as governor by the spring of 2018, she might have a fighting chance in the GOP primary. Even then, I don't think other Republicans would give her a pass. Plenty of people have ambitions to succeed Branstad. I'll be surprised if Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey doesn't run for governor during the next cycle.

On the Democratic side, several state lawmakers could be credible candidates for governor. Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum considered it this past cycle but opted out for family reasons. I hope Jochum will take the plunge in 2018, as she would be a great candidate and a fantastic governor. State Senators Janet Petersen and Rob Hogg would also be excellent leaders and will probably also give this race a look.

UPDATE: Two-time candidate for secretary of state Jake Porter is considering a gubernatorial bid on the Libertarian ticket and sees both outgoing Secretary of State Matt Schultz and newly-elected Secretary of State Paul Pate as likely Republican candidates. Pate sought the GOP nomination for governor in 1998 after one term in the secretary of state's office, so he could easily do that again. I find it hard to believe that the Madison County attorney position will give Schultz a good launching pad for a gubernatorial campaign, but anything is possible.

Porter also mentioned State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald as a possible Democratic candidate. Fitzgerald considered running for governor in 2013.

SECOND UPDATE: Lots of names being floated in the comments: Bob Vander Plaats, Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, State Representative Peter Cownie, and State Senator Amy Sinclair on the Republican side; newly elected State Senator Chaz Allen or State Representative Nancy Dunkel on the Democratic side.

Erin Murphy, who covers Iowa politics for Lee Enterprises newspapers, has predicted a matchup between Jochum and Reynolds in 2018. I like Jochum's odds there, a lot.

Associated Press reporter Ryan Foley reports that Republican strategists are "keeping a close eye" on Chaz Allen. I wonder whether that may be wishful thinking on their part, as they appear to have no chance of winning Iowa Senate district 15 as long as Allen is around. I think 2018 would be a little early for him to run for governor.

I should also mention that incoming U.S. Senator Joni Ernst will probably go all-in for Reynolds in the 2018 primary. Reynolds helped to recruit Ernst for the Iowa Senate and later for the U.S. Senate race.

THIRD UPDATE: Some Iowa politics-watchers expect State Senator Liz Mathis to run for governor in 2018. I don't think she would run against Petersen or Jochum in a primary, though, and I consider either of them more likely to run than Mathis.

Discuss :: (15 Comments)

2014 election results discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 04, 2014 at 20:52:38 PM CST

Polls across Iowa close in just a few minutes, and I'll be updating this post with results throughout the evening. Any comments about any of today's races, in Iowa or elsewhere, are welcome in this thread.

Many races on the east coast and in the Midwest have already been called. As expected, Republicans picked up the U.S. Senate seats in West Virginia, Arkansas, and South Dakota. Louisiana will go to a runoff in December. Jeanne Shaheen held the New Hampshire Senate seat for Democrats, but Kay Hagan may be in trouble in North Carolina, and in a potentially stunning upset, Mark Warner is behind in Virginia. He needs a strong turnout in the DC suburbs.

As state-level results come in, these are the key Iowa Senate races to watch, and these are the key Iowa House races to watch. For the last four years, Democrats have held a 26-24 Iowa Senate majority. For the last two years, Republicans have held a 53-47 Iowa House majority.

UPDATE: Polls are closed and further updates will be after the jump. News organizations called the governor's race for Terry Branstad immediately.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of November 3)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 04, 2014 at 09:40:00 AM CST

We won't know the final early voting numbers until the Iowa elections are certified a few weeks from now, but after the jump I've posted absentee ballot figures based on the final daily update from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

As of yesterday, more than 455,000 Iowans had already returned early ballots to county auditors, a huge increase on total early voting in the 2010 midterm election. Registered Democrats have returned about 8,000 more ballots statewide than Republicans have. If Democrats identified and mobilized more independents to vote early (as happened in 2012), Bruce Braley could go into election day tens of thousands of votes ahead of Joni Ernst. Iowa Republicans typically perform better on election day than Democrats; how much better is open for debate, since the GOP encouraged many more people to vote early this year who previously voted on election day.

Statewide, about 33,000 Democrats, 19,000 Republicans, and 23,000 no-party voters had requested absentee ballots that county auditors had not received as of yesterday. Not every unreturned ballot represents an Iowan who will not vote. Some people mailed ballots that hadn't reached county auditors by yesterday, but those will still count if they either arrive today or arrive before next Monday with a postmark on or before November 3. Other people will hand-deliver ballots to the county auditors today; those will be counted as long as they arrive by 9 pm.

While canvassing the last few days, I've met a bunch of people who plan to "surrender" their absentee ballots at the regular polling place today, then vote with a regular ballot.  

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Election day links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 04, 2014 at 06:30:00 AM CST

Happy election day to the Bleeding Heartland community. The weather forecast looks good for most parts of Iowa. Polls are open everywhere from 7 am to 9 pm. It's too late to mail absentee ballots, but you can still hand-deliver completed absentee ballots to your county auditor's office, or "surrender" you ballot at your regular polling place, then vote with an ordinary ballot.

Three new polls of the U.S. Senate race came out on Monday. Quinnipiac found Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst tied at 47 percent. (That pollster's previous Iowa survey had Ernst leading by 49 percent to 45 percent.) Fox News found Ernst ahead by 45 percent to 44 percent. Public Policy Polling found Ernst ahead by 48 percent to 45 percent.

All three polls confirmed my belief that the Des Moines Register's Iowa poll by Selzer & Co was an outlier. No other survey has found Ernst above 50 percent or ahead by such a large margin. If she does win the IA-Sen race by 7 points, I will declare Ann Selzer a polling genius.

Incidentally, the new polls also found Governor Terry Branstad ahead of Democratic challenger Jack Hatch by a smaller margin than in the Register's final Iowa poll. Quinnipiac found Branstad ahead by 52 percent to 41 percent. That was similar to Public Policy Polling's finding of Branstad at 54 percent and Hatch at 43 percent. Fox News found a bigger lead for the governor: 53 percent to 36 percent.

PPP has been the only firm to consistently poll down-ballot statewide races in Iowa this year. Its final poll found Democrat Brad Anderson ahead in the secretary of state race, with 44 percent support to 38 percent to Paul Pate and 3 percent each for Jake Porter and Spencer Highland. (Porter, a Libertarian, received about 3 percent of the statewide vote in the 2010 secretary of state race.)

PPP found State Auditor Mary Mosiman leading her Democratic challenger by 46 percent to 41 percent. State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald is ahead of his Republican challenger Sam Clovis by 48 percent to 38 percent, with Libertarian Keith Laube pulling 5 percent. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has a comfortable 51 percent to 33 percent lead over Democrat Sherrie Taha, with a minor-party candidate pulling 5 percent. Finally, Attorney General Tom Miller leads Republican Adam Gregg by 55 percent to 36 percent.

While canvassing in Windsor Heights and Clive on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, I didn't see any Republicans knocking on doors, nor did I see Republican campaign literature on doorknobs or front porches. Another Democratic canvasser in a different part of the state had a similar experience. I would like to hear from Bleeding Heartland readers about what you've seen of the Republican "ground game" during the final days. As far as I can tell, the GOP has relied mainly on robocalls and perhaps live-caller phone-banking. Republicans paid for many robocalls in the final days.

Speaking of robocalls, many Democratic households in the third Congressional district (including mine) received a call Monday evening recorded by Senator Chuck Grassley, making the case for David Young.

Any comments related to today's election are welcome in this thread.

P.S. - A testy exchange with a reporter about how President Barack Obama has handled the ebola outbreak underscored why Joni Ernst's handlers didn't want her sitting down with most Iowa newspaper editorial boards.

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of November 2)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 03, 2014 at 09:43:16 AM CST

More than 430,000 Iowans have already returned absentee ballots to county auditors, but nearly 90,000 absentee ballots requested statewide are still outstanding. If you have not yet returned your absentee ballot, either "surrender" it tomorrow at the polling place (and receive a new ballot to vote like everyone else on election day), or hand-deliver a completed ballot to your county auditor's office today or tomorrow by 9 pm.

Today is the last day for in-person early voting: all 99 county auditors' offices are open until 5 pm.

I've enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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Weekend open thread: Final Iowa polls edition (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Nov 01, 2014 at 20:00:00 PM CDT

The Des Moines Register dropped a hammer on Iowa Democrats this evening with the latest statewide poll by Selzer & Co. The Register's new poll finds Joni Ernst ahead of Bruce Braley by 51 percent to 44 percent, leading Braley in all four Congressional districts, and winning independent voters by 12 points. The poll looks like an outlier to me, compared to most other surveys that were in the field these past two weeks. No other poll has found Ernst above 50 percent this fall, and no non-partisan poll has found her leading Braley by more than four points. Of the ten other polls in the field during the last two weeks, two found Braley ahead by one point, two found the race tied, two found Ernst ahead by one point, and four found her ahead by margins between two and four points.

On November 5, either Ann Selzer will look like a genius, or a bunch of other pollsters (whose surveys found a close race here) will laugh.

The problem for Democrats is that the Register's Iowa poll always generates more media coverage than any other poll. Even if this poll turns out to be an outlier, it could depress volunteers during the final days. A good GOTV program can overcome a one-point deficit but not seven points.

The Register's latest poll found Governor Terry Branstad ahead of Democratic challenger Jack Hatch by 59 percent to 35 percent, one of the biggest leads any poll has found for Branstad. Selzer only polled on two other statewide races. Democratic Attorney General leads challenger Adam Gregg by 50 percent to 39 percent. The secretary of state race looks too close to call, with Republican Paul Pate ahead of Democrat Brad Anderson by 44 percent to 41 percent.

P.S. - There's still plenty of time to enter Bleeding Heartland's election prediction contest.

UPDATE: Below I've added excerpts from the Register's analysis of the Selzer poll, along with the Braley campaign's reaction, calling the Register poll an "outlier."

SECOND UPDATE: Added more commentary on Senate polling below.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 30)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 31, 2014 at 10:13:49 AM CDT

Early voting by Iowa Democrats, Republicans, and no-party voters already exceeds the number of absentee ballots cast by each of those groups in the 2010 general election. Depending on how many more ballots are returned in time to be counted, this year's early vote may exceed 40 percent of the electorate.

Democrats lead in absentee ballots returned by about 7,000 statewide but have many more ballots outstanding (about 47,000) than do Republicans (about 30,000). Each 11,000 to 12,000 ballots left on the table represents roughly 1 percent of the expected statewide vote.

Although Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley have asked the U.S. Postal Service to put legible postmarks on all absentee ballots, I would not risk dropping a ballot in the mail now. If it arrives after election day with no postmark, it will not be counted. Safer to either take your ballot to the post office and demand a postmark on the envelope, or hand-deliver the envelope to the county auditor's office.

I've enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

The big question remains: which party has mobilized more voters who otherwise would not have participated in the midterm election? A new Des Moines Register analysis suggests Democrats have only a "thin edge" in early voting. But Nate Cohn of the New York Times' "Upshot" blog has a different take:

In Iowa, the overall early vote is nearly tied in a state where Democrats usually fare well in the early vote.

But Democrats insist that the Republicans are merely banking voters who would have voted on Election Day anyway, and back it up with data showing a lead among people who didn't vote in 2010, 40 to 29 percent. If the G.O.P. is faring better in the early vote by attracting voters who would have turned out anyway, then they diminish their ability to fare as well on Election Day as they have in the past.

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Enter Bleeding Heartland's 2014 general election prediction contest

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 30, 2014 at 14:32:51 PM CDT

Time for another Bleeding Heartland election prediction contest. To enter, post your guesses as comments in this thread before 7 am on Tuesday, November 4. Predictions submitted by e-mail or social media will not be considered. It's ok to change your mind, as long as you post your revised predictions as an additional comment in this thread before the deadline.

No money's at stake here, just bragging rights like those enjoyed by Bleeding Heartland users ModerateIADem (twice), American007, Johannes, and tietack. This isn't "The Price is Right"; the winning answers will be closest to the final results, whether they were a little high or low.

Even if you have no idea, please try to take a stab at answering every question. We had no clear winner in this year's primary election prediction contest; the best guessers on some races were way off on other races.

Minor-party or independent candidates are on the ballot for some races, so the percentages of the vote for Democratic and Republican nominees need not add up to 100. You can view the complete list of candidates for federal and state offices in Iowa here (pdf).

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 29)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 30, 2014 at 09:40:00 AM CDT

Roughly 50,000 registered Iowa Democrats, 35,000 Republicans, and 35,000 no-party voters have requested but not yet returned absentee ballots. The Iowa Secretary of State's Office sent out a press release yesterday on deadlines for returning those ballots. Excerpt:

Absentee ballots returned by mail and received in the county auditor's office by 9 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, November 4 are eligible for counting. Absentee ballots returned by mail and received by the auditors office after the polls close must be postmarked by November 3 or earlier and be received by the auditor before noon on Monday, November 10.  Mail is not always postmarked so it is important to return the ballot as soon as possible. Absentee ballots can also be returned to the county auditor's office in person no later than 9 p.m. on Tuesday, November 4.

I would not simply drop a ballot in the mail at this point. The risk of it arriving late without a postmark is too great. Either take it to the post office and demand a postmark on the envelope, or hand-deliver it to the county auditor's office.

If you make a mistake while filling out your absentee ballot, or your ballot gets lost or damaged, or you realize after mailing that you forgot the secrecy or affidavit envelopes, call your county auditor's office. In many cases you will be able to come in, sign a form to void your original absentee ballot, and fill out a new absentee ballot right there.

I've enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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