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Three things that are not plagiarism

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 29, 2014 at 15:35:00 PM CDT

2014 is shaping up to be the year of idiotic plagiarism accusations in political campaigns. Here's a good example of real plagiarism: "Senator John Walsh of Montana took most of a 2007 final paper required for his master's degree from the United States Army War College from other sources without proper attribution."

In contrast, these common political actions are not plagiarism:

1. Having boilerplate language on a campaign website.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has alleged in a television commercial that IA-03 candidate Staci Appel was "caught plagiarizing 20 times." No, an early version of her campaign website included political statements about the minimum wage and other issues that were similar to other Democratic campaign websites. That is no different from dozens of Republican candidates parroting the same talking points about how the tax code should be "flatter, fairer, and simpler," or responding to a question about climate change with identical "I'm not a scientist" rhetoric.

2. Introducing similar or companion legislation.

Today the Republican Party of Iowa is pushing a bogus story about Bruce Braley "plagiarizing" a bill by Senator Harry Reid. Members of Congress introduce companion legislation to bills from the other chamber all the time. Republicans in dozens of state legislatures introduce bills that are taken verbatim from American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) drafts.

3. Sending out a newsletter composed largely by staff.

Today Andrew Kaczynski and Ilan Ben-Meir reported for Buzzfeed, "Passages of local paper pieces under [Joni] Ernst's name appear to have been copied word-for-word from templates sent as guidelines to Republican members of the Iowa Senate." What they describe is standard operating procedure for Iowa lawmakers in both parties. While some representatives and senators write their own weekly newsletters, many others rely on text prepared by legislative staff. Sometimes local newspapers will reproduce all or part of those newsletters. I don't consider that "plagiarism."

Some days it's hard to see how our political discourse could get any more stupid or dishonest.

P.S. Speaking of dishonest, look how Joni Ernst's hired gun Daid Kochel re-tweeted my comment about common practice in the Iowa legislature, just minutes after he pushed the Iowa GOP's bogus plagiarism claims about Braley's bill.

UPDATE: Political reporter Gavin Aronsen comments, "Not sure I agree on point 3, once it's printed in a newspaper. Editors should reject that if it's not words of stated author." Point taken. But I blame lazy editors desperate for copy for that mistake, not politicians. Newspapers should not run a bulletin under an elected official's byline if other lawmakers sent out virtually identical text.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Iowa House Republican candidate James Butler has history of abuse, misconduct

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 22, 2014 at 07:35:07 AM CDT

Yesterday the Iowa Democratic Party published online several disturbing documents about James Butler, the Republican nominee in Iowa House district 26. Butler narrowly won a GOP primary and faces first-term Democratic State Representative Scott Ourth. The seat covers most of Warren County, including the cities of Indianola and Carlisle (a detailed map is after the jump). House district 26 is one of central Iowa's most politically balanced state legislative districts. As of October 2014, it contained 6,421 active registered Democrats, 6,802 Republicans, and 7,046 no-party voters.

Before the primary, I didn't hear much about Butler beyond the information in his official bio, which highlighted his career with the Des Moines Police Department. This summer, the Republican Butler defeated in the primary, Eric Durbin, flirted with running for House district 26 as an independent, and I saw some grumbling on social media about Butler's past. I dismissed that chatter as likely to be sour grapes coming from Durbin's supporters.

The official documents uploaded yesterday by the Iowa Democratic Party shocked me. First, a court order of protection that Butler's ex-girlfriend received in 2005 details physical abuse and threats by the police officer. Second, a lawsuit filed by apparently the same woman against Butler, which details further abuse, harassment, and threats, including violation of the no-contact order. Butler allegedly told the woman there was no point in calling law enforcement because he was a police officer. Third, Civil Service Commission and Polk County District Court documents related to Butler's brief suspension from the Des Moines police over an incident in 1997, when he was working as an off-duty police officer at a convenience store. The Civil Service Commission and later the district court judge validated Butler's suspension over severe misconduct.

As far as I'm concerned, that kind of record should be disqualifying in a candidate for political office. How is it possible the public is only now hearing about Butler's background, two weeks before the election and nearly a month after early voting began? The Des Moines Register ran a brief story about Butler's candidacy in March, based on his press release. Just this week, the paper ran a short profile of Butler as part of its "meet the candidate" series, again using information supplied by the candidate. Maybe I'm naive, but I would have thought the Register would be checking court records and public documents for mentions of state legislative candidates. I also would have expected Butler's GOP primary opponent to have brought some of this information to light.

UPDATE: I forgot to raise another question: why was Butler able to remain a police officer with this kind of record?

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Who would joke about feeding people into farm machinery?

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 21, 2014 at 21:04:49 PM CDT

Besides a sociopath, that is. The answer is Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, speaking at a campaign event yesterday.

"Do you know how many lawyers it takes to grease a combine? Only one but you gotta feed him in real slow."

According to Kathie Obradovich, the crowd of about 50 people in Boone found this quip funny, along with State Representative Chip Baltimore's follow-up crack about seeing trial lawyers on combines in the countryside. Obradovich added that in her view, the governor's joke was "a groaner, not to mention in poor taste." That's putting it mildly. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch was more in the ballpark when he called Branstad's comments "offensive and sickening."

In a statement Hatch said "a governor should be focused on promoting farm safety during harvest and not making offensive jokes that play on the tragedies all too common with farm machinery."

I'm sure Branstad wouldn't laugh at any tragedy happening to a "real Iowan." He just enjoys portraying attorneys as lower life forms.

This lawyer's daughter is mortified that any public official, let alone the most senior person in state government, would think it's funny to joke about grinding up people you don't like. I get it: half the Iowa GOP campaign strategy this year is stirring up cultural resentment against "elitist trial lawyer" Bruce Braley. He supposedly doesn't represent "Iowa values," unlike Joni Ernst, the "farm girl" and Sunday school teacher whose husband cracked a joke about trying to murder his ex-wife.

If any Iowa Democratic official or candidate made a self-styled humorous appeal for violence, I'd be the first to call them out. Don't hold your breath waiting for some Republican to condemn our governor's sick sense of humor.  

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Iowa candidate web videos need "paid for" attribution statements

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 21, 2014 at 17:15:16 PM CDT

Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board Executive Director Megan Tooker has determined that state law requiring "paid for by" attribution lines for political advertising also applies to videos posted on free websites such as YouTube. David Chung, a member of the Republican Party of Iowa's State Central Committee, had filed an ethics complaint against Brad Anderson, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state. (Chung is from Cedar Rapids, as is Anderson's GOP opponent Paul Pate.) Anderson's television commercial contains the standard attribution line, but some of his web videos did not. After the jump I've posted the relevant portion of Iowa Code.

Tooker informed Anderson that in her opinion, campaign videos available online should also include a "paid for" statement. Anderson's campaign immediately altered the videos to comply. Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register, "So long as Anderson republishes the videos with appropriate attribution statements or publishes a corrective notice in the newspaper, he will not face a fine or penalty."

Responding to my request for comment, the Anderson campaign noted, "Although state law is ambiguous related to requiring disclaimers on free YouTube videos, in the abundance of caution we have added disclaimers to all of our YouTube videos and will continue to moving forward."

In a press release yesterday, Iowa GOP Co-Chairman Cody Hoefert thundered, "we now learn that Brad Anderson either ignored Iowa's election laws or does not believe they apply to him. Either way, this only goes to underscore the fact that he is not someone Iowans can trust to uphold the integrity of their elections." News flash for Hoefert: the Anderson campaign was able to point to many web videos that lacked "paid for" statements while promoting the Iowa GOP and/or Republican candidates and office-holders. For instance, Governor Terry Branstad's campaign produced a video featuring Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds in order to drum up 2014 Iowa caucus attendance. In that video, she urged supporters to help elect Republicans up and down the ticket in 2014. Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has also promoted his candidacy through web videos without attribution statements. The Iowa GOP itself produced a video promoting State Auditor Mary Mosiman without any attribution statement.

Obviously, Chung and the Iowa GOP were only playing out a stunt to gain an edge for Pate in what looks like a close contest for secretary of state. Nevertheless, it's useful for Tooker to clarify that this portion of state law applies to web videos as well as to television commercials.  

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Fired Iowa Senate Republican staffer files sexual harassment lawsuit

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 17, 2014 at 12:30:00 PM CDT

Former Iowa Senate Republican staffer Kirsten Anderson filed a lawsuit in Polk County District Court yesterday, claiming she was subjected to "sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act." Anderson served as communications director for the Iowa Senate GOP caucus from February 2008 to the middle of May 2013. Bleeding Heartland covered the circumstances surrounding her firing here and here. Anderson filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission last year. She is suing the State of Iowa, the Iowa Senate, the Iowa Senate Republican caucus, Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, Iowa Senate Republican senior staffer Eric Johansen, and Ed Failor, Jr., the primary advisor to Dix since shortly after Dix was chosen to lead the GOP caucus in late 2012.

William Petroski's report for the Des Moines Register includes a link to the 20-page court filing, which can be downloaded as a pdf file. Pages 3 through 7 list many incidents supporting Anderson's claims about a hostile work environment and sexual harassment, starting in 2010. Several current and former lawmakers are named. The lawsuit paraphrases inappropriate comments by former GOP Senators Shawn Hamerlinck and Merlin Bartz. Senator Tim Kapucian is said to have laughed at an unnamed senior analyst's inappropriate comments about a "loose" female Democratic senator. Senators Joni Ernst and Sandy Greiner allegedly "did and said nothing" after witnessing "sexual innuendo and inappropriate behavior exhibited by their male colleagues." Ernst denied that charge in a written statement, which I've enclosed after the jump. She suggested Anderson was perhaps "being exploited ahead of the election."

Speaking to the Des Moines Register, Anderson's attorney Mike Carroll

denied any political motivation behind the timing of the lawsuit. He said that before a lawsuit could be filed, his client had to file a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. The complaint was filed last year. The commission issued a letter in July giving Anderson 90 days to file a lawsuit, and the filing deadline was set to expire Oct. 29, he said.

In her own statement, Anderson said, "As to the suggestions that I am a pawn in a political drama, that is not the case. I am standing up for my rights as an employee; a right to work in a place without inappropriate and discriminatory conduct."

Pages 12 through 17 of the court filing include a memo Anderson handed to Johansen on the morning of May 17, 2013, suggesting that her work was being criticized because she had complained about a "sexually hostile work environment" that "no private sector workplace would tolerate." Later the same day, in Dix's presence, Johansen gave Anderson a choice of resigning or being fired. Pages 17 and 18 list six causes of action under the Iowa Civil Rights Act. Anderson is seeking back pay and benefits, compensatory damages, a ruling that her termination was unfair and/or discriminatory, and injunctive relief requiring (among other things) new training procedures for Iowa Senate staffers.

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Republicans running negative radio ads in key Iowa Senate and House races

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 15, 2014 at 13:45:59 PM CDT

Radio commercials appeared in several competitive Iowa Senate districts during the last week of September, coinciding with the start of early voting. This week, the Republican Party of Iowa has launched the first negative radio spots I've heard in state legislative races this year. After the jump I've enclosed the transcript of the ad attacking Chaz Allen, the Democratic candidate in the open Iowa Senate district 15. Allen's own positive ad, which Bleeding Heartland transcribed here, is still in rotation and promotes the former Newton mayor's record of recruiting businesses. The new Republican spot blames Allen for high property taxes that allegedly discouraged companies from coming to Newtown after "Maytag pulled out on Chaz Allen's watch." The ad also plays up Governor Terry Branstad's support for Crystal Bruntz, the Republican candidate in Senate district 15. While the ad asserts that Bruntz "understands job creation," it fails to mention anything substantive she has ever done to create jobs.

In Iowa Senate district 41, a leading pickup opportunity for Democrats, Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren's new radio spot highlights flippant and sarcastic responses Siegel mailed in response to a survey Chelgren circulated in 2010. More details on that commercial are after the jump.

In the open Senate district 39, another seat targeted by both parties, a Bleeding Heartland reader tells me that the new Republican radio spot attacks Democratic nominee Kevin Kinney over his support for "Common Core" educational standards. I have not heard the ad yet and would appreciate any further details. It seems like an odd angle for an attack, but I guess Kinney's background as a deputy sheriff and family farmer didn't give them easy targets. Politics-watchers generally believe that education is a campaign issue favoring Democrats. As far as I can tell, fear-mongering over Common Core only resonates with social conservatives who would already be voting for Kinney's opponent, Michael Moore.

I have not yet heard details on radio spots attacking State Senators Daryl Beall or Rita Hart, the Democratic incumbents in Senate districts 5 and 49, respectively. Nor have I heard of any attack ads against three-term Democratic incumbent Amanda Ragan in Senate district 27, although anecdotally, Republicans have supposedly given up on taking back that seat. I always appreciate tips from Bleeding Heartland readers, so please let me know if you've heard radio ads in the Fort Dodge, Clinton, or Mason City area.

In the open Iowa House district 55 (northeast Iowa), Republican Daniel Branhagen started running a commercial this week calling his Democratic opponent Rick Edwards a big spender. I haven't heard attack ads against any Iowa House Democrats yet on Des Moines area radio stations.

Any comments about the state legislative races are welcome in this thread.

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IA-03: Trouble on David Young's right flank (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 13:48:07 PM CDT

Prominent central Iowa conservatives are voicing concerns about David Young, the GOP nominee in the third Congressional district. Young can't afford to run too far to the right in his race against former State Senator Staci Appel. He needs to keep the margin close in Polk County, because the Republican voter registration advantage in IA-03 isn't large enough to save him if he gets blown out among suburban moderates. Consequently, Young has taken several middle-of-the-road positions during the general election campaign. During his first debate against Appel, he offered qualified support for a minimum wage increase. Last week, he told the Des Moines Register's editorial board that he favors some form of legal status for some undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

Speaking at a health care forum in Des Moines yesterday, Young said the Affordable Care Act is "here to stay," so Congress will "have to work to make it better." Whereas many Republicans have pledged to repeal "Obamacare," Young said he'll "be at the table trying to fix it." That pragmatic stance contradicts his promise in a pre-primary television commercial to make Obamacare disappear.

Although Young has Iowa Right To Life's support for the general election, some "pro-life" activists haven't forgotten that he once told a journalist abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest.

Social conservative talk radio host Steve Deace laid out his case against voting for Young in a Facebook post yesterday. I've enclosed excerpts after the jump. Many Iowa Democrats dismiss Deace as irrelevant, but his show is broadcast on two stations in the Council Bluffs area (the second-largest metro in IA-03) and one station in Des Moines. During the next three weeks, you can be sure Deace will urge listeners not to vote for Young.

Casting a protest vote will be easy for right-wing Republicans, because two conservative candidates qualified for the ballot in IA-03. Bleeding Heartland posted background on Libertarian Ed Wright and independent Bryan Jack Holder here.

UPDATE: On October 14, Deace bashed Young on his website and featured on his radio broadcast a segment on "John Boehner's next plan to screw conservatives." Pointing to a blog post claiming the U.S. House speaker wants to expand his majority "so the crazies you hate will be irrelevant" in Congress, Deace commented, "Another reason not to vote for David Young, as if he hasn't provided enough of them already."

SECOND UPDATE: The Iowa Republican publisher Craig Robinson had a go at Young's "schizophrenic" campaign. I've added excerpts at the end of this post.  

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Mitt Romney in Iowa links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 15:10:00 PM CDT

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been campaigning in Iowa yesterday and today with U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst. After the jump I've enclosed excerpts from some of the news coverage of Romney's visit. Free publicity is always helpful in a close election, but I'm not sure Romney can bring any voters who aren't already supporting Ernst into her corner.

Social conservative talk radio host thinks appearing alongside Romney "makes absolutely no sense": "Ernst is being blasted in endless commercials for being a corporate shill, so why bring in to campaign for you a guy Iowans just rejected in the last election as a corporate shill? Ernst already has the moderate, corporatist GOP vote all locked up." He thinks Ernst needs to do more public appearances with solid conservatives. I think that would alienate moderate voters. What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

The Des Moines Register's headline-writers misrepresented a finding from the new Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News. Among respondents who are "likely voters" in 2014, Romney leads President Barack Obama by 41 percent to 39 percent. The Register's headline on Jennifer Jacobs' article read, "In 2012 re-run, Romney wins." Not really. Not only is that lead within the poll's margin for error, a new presidential election would bring out a presidential-year electorate. This poll sampled likely midterm voters. We know that several Democratic-skewing groups (young people, unmarried women) are less likely to vote in a non-presidential year.

I don't expect Romney to run for president again, but likely future presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio did a "telephone town-hall" with Ernst a few days ago. Past and future presidential candidate Rick Santorum will come to Dubuque and Davenport this week.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that in a separate piece on the latest Selzer poll, Jennifer Jacobs reported that Romney "leads Clinton in 2016 matchup." Sorry, no. The poll shows Romney barely ahead of Hillary Clinton by 44 percent to 43 percent among Iowa respondents considered likely 2014 election voters. That doesn't tell us whether Romney would be ahead among a presidential year Iowa electorate.

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End of the road for opponents of marriage equality? (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 06, 2014 at 16:15:47 PM CDT

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year, justices side-stepped the issue of state bans on same-sex marriage, either by statute or by constitution. Since that time, various U.S. Courts of Appeal have struck down state-level bans, using reasoning similar to the high court's in U.S. v. Windsor. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will not hear appeals of five such rulings. As Adam Liptak reported for the New York Times, the move "may signal the inevitability of a nationwide right to same-sex marriage."

The development, a major surprise, cleared the way for same-sex marriages in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Officials in Virginia announced that marriages would start at 1 p.m. on Monday.

The decision to let the appeals court rulings stand, which came without explanation in a series of brief orders, will almost immediately increase the number of states allowing same-sex marriage from 19 to 24, along with the District of Columbia. The impact of the move will in short order be even broader.

Monday's orders let stand decisions from three federal appeals courts with jurisdiction over six other states that ban same-sex marriage: Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. Those appeals courts will almost certainly follow their own precedents to strike down those additional bans as well, meaning the number of states with same-sex marriage should soon climb to 30. [...]

Other appeals courts are likely to rule soon on yet other marriage bans, including the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco. That court has jurisdiction over nine states. If it rules in favor of same-sex marriage, as expected, it is unlikely to enter a stay, and, given Monday's developments at the Supreme Court, there is no particular reason to think the justices will.

It's all over but the shouting. And speaking of shouting, I've enclosed below the reaction to today's news from the FAMiLY Leader organization, which spearheaded the backlash against the Iowa Supreme Court over its 2009 decision in Varnum v Brien. No Iowa Supreme Court justices are up for retention this year. The remaining three justices who were part of the Varnum ruling will be up for retention in 2016: Chief Justice Mark Cady (author of that unanimous decision), Justice Brent Appel, and Justice Daryl Hecht.

The Alliance for Justice has compiled details on every federal court ruling related to marriage equality here. That organization's president, Nan Aron, said in a statement today, "It is disappointing that the Supreme Court declined to take any of the marriage equality cases decided by federal appeals courts.  In 2013, in its decisions on the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and on Proposition 8, the Supreme Court began to bend the arc of history toward justice on this issue. By declining to take these cases, the Court passed up an opportunity to finish the job."

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is not going to fight against marriage equality in Wisconsin anymore. Accepting reality may work against him if he runs in the 2016 Iowa Republican caucuses.

SECOND UPDATE: I've enclosed below a statement from Republican Party of Iowa Co-Chair Cody Hoefert. I am intrigued that Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann doesn't seem interested in speaking out on this issue anymore. In 2011, he voted for a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Kaufmann retired in 2012, and his son Bobby Kaufmann was elected to succeed him in the Iowa House. Bobby Kaufmann declined to co-sponsor a marriage amendment in 2013.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 5)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 06, 2014 at 09:49:07 AM CDT

Bleeding Heartland is updating the early voting numbers (absentee ballots requested and returned) statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts, based on figures released by the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables, which make it easier to spot trends in the numbers.

Since Friday, Republicans cut further into the Democratic advantage in ballot requests, which now stands at just under 37,000 statewide. Democrats claim that the majority of some 44,000 no-party voters who have requested ballots were identified by their organizers. There is no way to independently verify that claim, but it was true in 2012.

Based on turnout the last two midterm elections, the 221,701 Iowans who have requested absentee ballots for this year's election probably account for about 20 percent of all voters who will cast a ballot.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 2)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 09:49:49 AM CDT

Bleeding Heartland is updating the early voting numbers (absentee ballots requested and returned) statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts, based on figures released by the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables, which make it easier to spot trends in the numbers. The latest Iowa GOP mass mailing to generate early votes continues to filter through, as Republicans added about 1,000 more absentee ballot requests than Democrats did over the past day. The statewide Democratic advantage in ballot requests now stands at roughly 41,000.

In the 2010 midterm election, 360,467 Iowans voted early. As of yesterday, more than 209,000 Iowans had requested absentee ballots, and more than 61,000 had returned them. The 62,881 registered Republicans who had requested absentee ballots as of October 2 represent about 46 percent of the total number of early-voting Iowa Republicans in 2010. The 103,537 Democrats who had requested absentee ballots represent about 67 percent of the number of early-voting Democrats in the last midterm. The 42,424 no-party voters who had requested absentee ballots by October 2 represent about 62 percent of the independents who voted early in Iowa's last midterm election.

As Bleeding Heartland user Julie Stauch has repeatedly mentioned, these numbers do not tell us which party is doing a better job of mobilizing early votes from "marginal" voters who otherwise would not participate in the midterm. That said, every early vote banked, even from the most reliable Democrat or Republican, helps parties by shrinking the universe of voters they need to contact on or shortly before election day.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 1)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 02, 2014 at 09:17:21 AM CDT

The latest Iowa GOP mass mailing of absentee ballot requests appears to be bearing fruit. For the first time since the Iowa Secretary of State's Office started releasing early voting numbers on September 22, Republicans added more absentee ballot requests than Democrats did over the past day. The statewide Democrats advantage in ballot requests now stands at roughly 42,500, down from about 44,000 yesterday.

Follow me after the jump for updated early voting numbers, including ballots returned as well as those requested. Click here for previous tables to look for trends in the numbers. Democrats continue to lead in ballot requests in all four Congressional districts. The largest margin remains in IA-02, where four-term Representative Dave Loebsack faces Republican challenger Mariannette Miller-Meeks for the third time. Several Iowa Senate seats targeted by both parties are located within that Congressional district.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of September 30)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 01, 2014 at 08:51:23 AM CDT

Every weekday through November 4, Bleeding Heartland will post updated totals absentee ballots requested and returned, statewide and in Iowa's four Congressional districts, based on data from the Iowa Secretary of State's website. The latest tables are after the jump. Previous tables are here.

Every day since September 22, Democrats have added more absentee ballot requests than Republicans, but not by much today. The Iowa GOP would be happy to reverse that trend as soon as possible.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of September 29)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 30, 2014 at 09:34:08 AM CDT

Every weekday through November 4, Bleeding Heartland will post updated totals absentee ballots requested and returned, statewide and in Iowa's four Congressional districts, based on data from the Iowa Secretary of State's website. The latest tables are after the jump. Previous tables are here. If turnout in this year's election is roughly on the level of 2010, with about 1.1 million Iowans participating, than approximately 15 percent of those who will vote have already requested early ballots.

Today Nate Cohn posted his analysis of the Iowa early voting numbers at the New York Times' Upshot blog. His main takeaways:

Over all, the early voting tallies in Iowa tell us that both Democrats and Republicans are better mobilized than in 2010 - which is no surprise in a state where there was no competitive contest that year - but not as well mobilized as in 2012. The Republicans are more obviously outperforming their past figures, but Democrats may be doing a better job of turning out marginal voters. The early vote tallies seem consistent with the polls: a close contest in which either side could prevail.

I agree with the broad conclusions but think Cohn is missing a few important factors.

First, every day since the Iowa Secretary of State's Office started updating the absentee ballot figures, Democrats have added more ballot requests than Republicans. We don't know whether that trend will continue for the next five weeks, but it's encouraging for Democrats.

Second, Cohn ignores the no-party voters who have requested early ballots (about 35,000 people as of yesterday). But independents added considerably to President Barack Obama's advantage in the early vote in 2012. On the eve of that general election, registered Iowa Democrats who had returned early ballots outnumbered registered Republicans who had done so by about 65,000. But Obama received 137,355 more early votes in Iowa than Romney, meaning he must have been supported by about two-thirds of the roughly 200,000 no-party voters who cast early ballots. Democratic canvassers have done more this year than Republicans to target independent voters, which could add to the party's early voting advantage.

Third, Cohn repeatedly characterizes the 2010 midterm election in Iowa as uncompetitive, presumably because Terry Branstad and Chuck Grassley were heavily favored in the races for governor and U.S. senator. But aside from the national mood that favored Republicans in 2010, one huge factor driving turnout in Iowa was the first judicial retention elections following the Iowa Supreme Court's 2009 decision allowing same-sex marriage. That motivation for social conservatives is absent this year because no one on the Supreme Court is up for retention. Branstad recruited unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Sam Clovis to run for state treasurer right after this year's Republican primary in an obvious attempt to give that part of the GOP base more reason to turn out. I'm skeptical that social conservatives will be as energized to vote for the Republican ticket as they were in 2010.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of September 28)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 29, 2014 at 10:20:00 AM CDT

Every weekday through November 4, Bleeding Heartland will post updated totals absentee ballots requested and returned, statewide and in Iowa's four Congressional districts. Follow me after the jump for the latest tables. I took the numbers from the Iowa Secretary of State's website. Previous tables are here.

As of September 28, registered Iowa Democrats have requested about 40,000 more ballots than Republicans have. Democrats also claim to have generated a higher percentage of ballot requests than Republicans among Iowans who did not vote in the 2010 midterm election.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of September 25)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 26, 2014 at 10:20:00 AM CDT

Thousands of Iowans took advantage of the first day for in-person early voting yesterday. The latest totals for absentee ballots requested and returned, statewide and in Iowa's four Congressional districts, are after the jump. I took the numbers from the Iowa Secretary of State's website. To spot trends in the numbers, you can find tables from earlier this week here.

Both parties have been pushing early voting, and both have generated more absentee ballot requests than at the same point in Iowa's last midterm elections. For now, Democrats are running ahead in the early vote statewide and in each Congressional district, but the numbers are far from decisive.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of September 24)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 09:35:00 AM CDT

Based on the latest data from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office, I've updated tables showing how many absentee ballots Iowans have requested and returned, statewide and in the four Congressional districts. Democrats still lead in ballot requests statewide and in each district, as you can see below. The largest lead is in IA-02; the smallest in IA-04.

Tables from previous days can be viewed here. The number of ballots returned is creeping up slowly, but that will change very soon. Early voting in-person begins today, and every vote cast at a county auditor's office counts as a ballot requested and a ballot returned on the same day. Also, more and more Iowans who are voting by mail will receive their ballots by this weekend.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of September 23)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 24, 2014 at 10:35:00 AM CDT

Based on the latest data from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office, I've updated after the jump tables showing how many absentee ballots Iowans have requested and returned, statewide and in the four Congressional districts.

Tables from previous days can be viewed here. Note that the number of ballots returned is still quite low, because most of the 99 county auditors are starting to mail ballots this week. In-person early voting begins tomorrow, 40 days before the general election.

Among the four Congressional districts, IA-02 has both the largest number of ballot requests so far and the largest difference between the Democratic and Republican numbers. That's bad news for Mariannette Miller-Meeks in her third attempt to unseat Representative Dave Loebsack, an uphill battle in my opinion. It may also be good news for Democrats hoping to maintain or expand their Iowa Senate majority, because several of the most competitive Iowa Senate districts are located within the second Congressional district (namely, Senate district 39, Senate district 41, Senate district 15, and to a lesser extent Senate district 49).

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of September 22)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 23, 2014 at 09:37:46 AM CDT

You might be an Iowa politics junkie if you are excited to see the new absentee ballot numbers in the morning. Follow me after the jump for tables showing the absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of the four Congressional districts, updated to include the latest data from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office.

I'm compiling all the tables on this page to make it easier to spot trends in the numbers. Note that the number of ballots returned is still quite low, because most of the 99 county auditors are starting to mail ballots this week.

Yesterday, some Iowa Republicans were crowing about how much better their party is doing this year on early GOTV. Although Democrats have requested more ballots than Republicans, GOP ballot requests were up by a greater percentage than Democratic requests compared to the 2010 campaign. I suspect one factor is the Republican mass mailing of absentee ballot request forms, which hit mailboxes shortly after Labor Day and created a surge in ballot requests to county auditors.

The Iowa Democratic Party's mass mailing of absentee ballot request forms reached supporters between September 18 and 20. Over the next week to ten days, I'll be closely watching the Democratic numbers to see whether the "low-hanging fruit" produce a big jump in ballot requests. Since yesterday, Democrats added significantly more ballot requests than Republicans did in each of the four Congressional districts. Statewide, total ballots requested by Democrats increased from 57,869 as of September 21 to 63,485 as of September 22. Republican requests increased from 31,099 to 33,073.  

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IA-03: First Staci Appel/David Young debate discussion thread (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Sep 11, 2014 at 19:01:10 PM CDT

Democrat Staci Appel and Republican David Young are holding their first debate in the third Congressional district race. Iowa Public Television will live-stream the Council Bluffs debate on the "Iowa Press" page. You can also watch on C-SPAN 2, which is channel 87 for Mediacom subscribers in Des Moines. I will be live-blogging the debate after the jump.

P.S.-I've also enclosed below the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's latest television commercial against Young. The format seems a little stale, and I wonder how many people even remember Young's magic-themed ads before the Republican primary.

UPDATE: I didn't realize the Appel campaign is also running a new ad. Scroll to the end to see that video and transcript.

FRIDAY UPDATE: Iowa Public Television has the debate video up on the "Iowa Press" page and will broadcast this debate tonight at 7 pm and Sunday morning.

I've added lots more below, including post-debate spin and Young's second television commercial of the general election campaign, which started running on September 12. Young is presenting himself as a reasonable, moderate, experienced problem-solver. The theme of the Democratic communication is that Young spent the debate hiding from more radical positions he took as a Republican primary candidate for U.S. Senate and later for IA-03. That's accurate, but the reality is that Young does not present as a wild-eyed extremist. Voters may conclude that he was just pandering to wingnuts during the primary campaign.

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