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Iowa caucuses news roundup and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

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

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

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

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Four reasons the Iowa caucuses will be a rude awakening for Ted Cruz

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 23, 2015 at 18:28:32 PM CDT

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas officially launched his presidential campaign this morning. Click here to watch his speech at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University or here to read the transcript.

As an outsider candidate, Cruz will need a strong showing in the Iowa caucuses to have any hope of becoming the last man standing against the establishment favorite for the GOP nomination. I don't see that happening.  

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Weekend open thread: Ross Paustian "Sex After Sixty" edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Mar 21, 2015 at 15:03:44 PM CDT

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

The most important Iowa political story of the week was state Republican leaders hounding consultant Liz Mair out of a job with Scott Walker's PAC. Colin Campbell compiled Mair's tweets about the episode for Business Insider, and they are well worth reading. I'm still annoyed by the collective Republican temper tantrum and the Des Moines Register's pandering.

A different Iowa political event drew even more attention, though, including a segment on ABC's Good Morning America show. The fateful photo of Republican State Representative Ross Paustian might have been a footnote to a long Iowa House debate on a collective bargaining bill. But because the lawmaker was apparently reading a book called Sex After Sixty, the photo went viral and could easily become what Paustian is most remembered for when his political career is over. I enclose below background, Paustian's explanation and a few thoughts on the sometimes cruel nature of politics.

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Overreacting to criticism is not good for the Iowa caucuses

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 18, 2015 at 11:44:53 AM CDT

Are Iowans "government-dependent" types who should lose our first-in-the-nation status because we embarrass ourselves and the Republican Party?

No, but the way some people reacted to comments by a political strategist should embarrass Iowans and can only hurt the Iowa caucuses.

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Iowa GOP chooses Boone site for revamped straw poll

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 12, 2015 at 11:40:00 AM CDT

The Republican Party of Iowa's State Central Committee voted this morning to hold this year's presidential candidate "straw poll" at the Central Iowa Expo in Boone on August 8. Three other sites were considered: the Iowa State Center in Ames, the Iowa Speedway in Newton, and Drake University in Des Moines. I figured Ames would be rejected to draw a clear line between the much-maligned "Ames Straw Poll" and the future. I figured Drake was out because it is the new home of the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement. The Newton Speedway is relatively accessible from all corners of the state, but Newton lies east of Des Moines area--the "wrong" direction from the perspective of the GOP base. Boone is more geographically central for the Republican activist community. The fact that Governor Terry Branstad used to live in Boone probably didn't hurt either.

In a press release I've enclosed below, Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann said the Boone location will help "showcase" Iowa's agricultural heritage and "keep ticket prices affordable." Speaking to reporters this morning, Kaufmann said

"Now comes the brass tacks. Now comes the actual details of how the voting will occur," Kaufmann said. "How are we going to go about being fair to the candidates who decide to participate? How much we're going to be aggressive toward sponsors all the way to exactly what is it that we are going to have to charge in order to be fair to the Iowa Republicans that want to attend, but at the same time making sure that our bottom line is guarded."

I expect this summer's event will much resemble previous straw polls, perhaps with less of a "winnowing" effect. Poor showings at the 2008 and 2012 straw polls prompted Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty to make early exits from the presidential race.

UPDATE: Added below excerpts from Kathie Obradovich's commentary.

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Same-sex marriage ban dies without a whimper in Iowa House

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 10, 2015 at 07:15:00 AM CDT

Following up on this post from last month, the latest version of a state constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman in Iowa is dead for this legislative session. House Joint Resolution 4 didn't make it so far as a subcommittee hearing, let alone passage by a full committee before the "funnel" deadline late last week.

Iowa House Judiciary Committee Chair Chip Baltimore never assigned the bill to any subcommittee. When I asked him about the status of the bill on February 24 (a month after the bill was introduced), Baltimore's response was telling.

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Des Moines Register spins for Jeb Bush ahead of Iowa Ag Summit (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Mar 07, 2015 at 09:35:36 AM CST

Ten potential Republican presidential candidates will speak at Bruce Rastetter's Iowa Agriculture Summit today, and a few more may send videotaped remarks. But only one GOP contender was the focus of a long and flattering feature by the Des Moines Register's chief political correspondent the day before the event.

When Jeb Bush hired longtime Iowa GOP consultant David Kochel, I figured friendly coverage in the Register would be coming to the former Florida governor. During last year's U.S. Senate campaign, just about every line Joni Ernst's backers wanted out there ended up in some Des Moines Register piece by Jennifer Jacobs. Still, Jacobs' spread on Bush in Friday's Des Moines Register shocked me. The message could hardly have been more perfectly tailored for Iowa Republicans if Bush's spin doctors had written it themselves.

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Iowa reaction to Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to Congress

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 03, 2015 at 12:45:47 PM CST

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to members of Congress this morning, covering the expected ground about U.S.-Israeli relations and the danger posed by negotiating with Iran. Yesterday President Barack Obama defended his administration's policies and suggested that events had disproved Netanyahu's warnings about the 2013 agreement designed to halt Iran's nuclear program. Obama isn't planning to meet with Netanyahu during this Washington trip because of the Israeli election happening later this month.

At least 50 Congressional Democrats skipped today's speech, mainly because Republicans had invited Netanyahu to speak without working through White House channels. Furthermore, many people feel it's inappropriate for the U.S. Congress to appear to support one political party leader two weeks before an Israeli election. Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference yesterday, Netanyahu disingenuously said, "The last thing anyone who cares about Israel, the last thing that I would want, is for Israel to become a partisan issue." Which of course has been the entirely predictable outcome of this episode. For that reason, this Jewish blogger is among the roughly half of Americans who disapprove of Republican leaders inviting Netanyahu to speak to Congress.

All of the Iowa Republicans in Congress attended today's speech. I've enclosed some of their comments below and will update this post as needed. UPDATE: Representative Steve King (IA-04) put his reaction on YouTube.

Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02) watched the speech from his office. I enclose below his statement, explaining his views on U.S.-Israeli relations and his reasons for staying away from the "spectacle." I support his position 100 percent. The Republican Party of Iowa accused Loebsack of insulting "America's ally" by not hearing the prime minister's thoughts. But Loebsack did listen to what Netanyahu had to say--from an appropriate distance. Incidentally, House Minority Nancy Pelosi commented that while listening to Netanyahu this morning, she was "saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States."

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Five takeaways from Jeb Bush's first money drop on Iowa Republicans

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 16, 2015 at 09:24:16 AM CST

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush made a strong statement on Friday when his political action committee announced $122,800 in donations to Republican parties and candidates in early presidential nominating states. The Right to Rise PAC gave $10,000 to the Republican Party of Iowa and $5,200 each to U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative David Young (IA-03).

The money Bush gave (and didn't give) in Iowa speaks volumes.

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Weekend open thread: Love and marriage equality edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Feb 15, 2015 at 15:21:03 PM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? I'm not big on "Hallmark holidays," but if Valentine's Day (or "co-opting Valentine's Day") is your thing, I hope you enjoyed February 14. This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

I wanted to catch up on news from a couple of weeks ago, which may continue to reverberate during the Republican Iowa caucus campaign. The owners of Görtz Haus agreed to settle with a gay couple who had wanted to get married at their venue in Grimes. Betty and Richard Odgaard are Mennonites who don't believe in same-sex marriage. Since the law doesn't allow them to discriminate against LGBT couples, they have decided not to hold any weddings at their place of business. They also dropped their own doomed-to-fail lawsuit against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Clips with background on the episode and reaction to its resolution are after the jump.

Social conservatives are outraged over what they see as an assault on religious freedom. Both talk radio host Steve Deace and Bob Vander Plaats' organization The FAMiLY Leader have indicated that the Görtz Haus controversy will be a salient issue in the coming presidential campaign.

What these folks can't acknowledge is that no one is forcing the Odgaards or anyone else to approve of or "celebrate" gay weddings. Many of us have ethical or religious objections to some marriages; for instance, if the couple began dating while married to other people, or if one person appears to be marrying solely for money, or if there is a large age gap between the spouses. Plenty of Jews and Christians would disapprove of my own interfaith marriage. No one is demanding that the whole world applaud every marriage, only that the religious beliefs of some don't interfere with the civil rights of others.

Additionally, it's important to note that no house of worship in Iowa has ever been forced to hold same-sex weddings. If the Odgaards ran a church, they would be fully within their rights to refuse to serve LGBT couples. Görtz Haus is a for-profit business, subject to the same civil rights statutes as other public venues.  

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Iowa House Republicans accept marriage equality but can't admit it yet

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Feb 12, 2015 at 15:10:25 PM CST

Four years ago, Republicans rushed to pass a state constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman within weeks of regaining control of the Iowa House. Every member of the GOP caucus was on the same page.

Two years ago, the marriage amendment failed to come up for a vote in the Iowa House, but a majority of Republican lawmakers still co-sponsored the legislation.

Now, signs point to Iowa House Judiciary Committee Chair Chip Baltimore letting the marriage amendment die quietly, as he did in 2013. Fewer than a quarter of the 57 House Republicans signed on to the latest effort to turn back the clock on marriage rights. At the same time, only one GOP lawmaker is "loud and proud" about supporting the right of all Iowans to marry the person they love.

Follow me after the jump for a breakdown of where Iowa House Republicans stand on the "traditional marriage" amendment, and speculation on why so many of them aren't trying to pass it anymore, even though they ostensibly don't support LGBT marriage rights.  

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Rand Paul's Iowa visit highlights, plus: should Rod Blum endorse?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 09, 2015 at 11:46:47 AM CST

U.S. Senator Rand Paul came to central Iowa this weekend. He drew more than 200 people to an event in Des Moines on Friday night, packed a restaurant in Marshalltown on Saturday morning, and took in the Iowa State men's basketball game that afternoon. It was Paul's first visit to our state since October, when he campaigned in eastern Iowa with Congressional candidate Rod Blum and Senate candidate Joni Ernst. Clips with more news from Paul's appearances are after the jump, along with excerpts from Shane Goldmacher's recent article for the National Journal, which depicted former Iowa GOP chair A.J. Spiker as an "albatross" for Paul's caucus campaign.

Before I get to the Rand Paul news, some quick thoughts about Representative Blum, who joined Paul for his Marshalltown event. Blum didn't endorse a candidate before the 2012 Iowa caucuses and told The Iowa Republican's Kevin Hall that he doesn't "plan to endorse anyone" before the upcoming caucuses, adding,

"I might at the very end. We need a strong leader. We need genuine, authentic leadership and I may rise or fall in my election in two years based on who this presidential candidate is."

I will be surprised if Blum doesn't officially back Paul sometime before the caucuses. The "Liberty" movement got behind him early in the GOP primary to represent IA-01. At that time, many Iowa politics watchers expected the nomination to go to a candidate with better establishment connections, such as Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen or State Representative Walt Rogers. Paulsen eventually chickened out of the race, and Rogers bailed out a few months before the primary after overspending on campaign staff. Arguably, Blum owes Liberty activists for helping him scare off the strongest Republican competition. Without them, he might be a two-time failed GOP primary candidate, rather than a first-term member of Congress.

The case against Blum endorsing Paul before the caucuses is that doing so might anger GOP supporters of other presidential candidates. Even if Paul remains in the top tier by this time next year, 70 percent to 80 percent of Iowa Republican caucus-goers will likely prefer someone else. Blum will need all hands on deck to be re-elected in Iowa's first district, which is now one of the most Democratic-leaning U.S. House seats held by a Republican (partisan voting index D+5). It will be a top target for House Democrats in 2016.

Still, I think Blum would be better off endorsing than staying neutral. Most Republicans in the IA-01 counties will vote for him in the general election either way. By getting behind Paul when it counts, Blum would give Liberty activists more reasons to go the extra mile supporting his campaign later in the year, regardless of whether Paul becomes the presidential nominee or (as I suspect) seeks another term as U.S. senator from Kentucky. Besides, if Blum really believes that Paul's outreach to youth and minorities has the potential to grow the GOP, he should invest some of his political capital in that project.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?  

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Why the vaccination issue is a minefield for Republican presidential candidates

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 03, 2015 at 07:05:00 AM CST

The recent measles outbreak has sparked more media discussion of the trend away from routine vaccination. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tried to walk a fine line when asked about the issue yesterday, saying parents should have "some measure of choice" over immunizing their kids. I enclose his comments and his staff's later attempts to clarify below.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, who is also a medical doctor, told a popular right-wing radio host yesterday, "I'm not anti-vaccine at all but...most of them ought to be voluntary. [...] I think there are times in which there can be some rules but for the most part it ought to be voluntary." He took a shot at former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has said it was a mistake for his administration to try to require the human papillomavirus vaccine for pre-teen girls in Texas.

As these and other Republican presidential candidates tour Iowa this year, I guarantee that they will face many more questions about the vaccine issue. In my non-blogging life, I have encountered hundreds of Iowa parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. They are a diverse group and can't be stereotyped as "crunchy hippie" lefties or religious conservatives. Some don't trust the government to regulate toxins in products pushed by pharmaceutical companies. Others may not believe vaccines cause autism but fear different adverse reactions. Or, they think "natural immunity" acquired through getting a disease is stronger. Many conservative evangelicals and Catholics shun vaccines because of concerns about the use of fetal tissue in their manufacture (see also here). Although the most influential homeschooling group, the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, does not take a position for or against immunizations, my impression is that anti-vaccine views are more prevalent among homeschoolers than among parents who send their children to public or parochial schools. Homeschoolers were a critical base of support for Mike Huckabee's 2008 Iowa caucus campaign and were courted by multiple presidential candidates before the 2012 caucuses.

Some libertarian-leaning conservatives may not worry about the safety or ethics of vaccines, and may even have their own children immunized, but on principle don't think the government should tell parents anything about how to raise kids. That group looks like a natural Rand Paul constituency, but they may be open to other candidates who cater to their views.

Regardless of how far the measles outbreak spreads, this issue will remain a minefield for GOP candidates.

Side note: In central Iowa, more and more pediatric practices are rejecting families whose parents want to deviate from the accepted vaccine schedule. In my opinion, that is a huge mistake. There is no one perfect immunization schedule. Medical associations in different countries recommend that babies and toddlers get shots for various diseases at different times. Based on my conversations, many of these parents would agree to most or all of the vaccines eventually; they just feel uncomfortable with so many shots clustered close together. Instead of accommodating those concerns with a delayed schedule, pediatricians are driving families away. So worried parents either stop taking their kids to regular wellness checks, or seek medical care only from chiropractors or alternative health providers.

UPDATE: Added below further comments from Rand Paul on why vaccines should be voluntary.

Likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton weighed in on Twitter: "The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let's protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest"

A Bleeding Heartland reader reminded me about this report from last year, indicating that "In West Des Moines, 37 percent of home-schooled children are not fully vaccinated."  

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Weekend open thread: Des Moines Register Iowa caucus poll edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jan 31, 2015 at 21:26:55 PM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Bonus points if someone can suggest a good reason for Senator Joni Ernst voting against renewable energy tax credits this week. Her staff should have informed her that those tax credits are important for Iowa's wind turbine manufacturers. Then she could have followed Senator Chuck Grassley's lead. Or maybe that information wouldn't have mattered, since Ernst owes a lot to the Koch brothers, who strongly oppose federal incentives for renewable energy.

The Des Moines Register just published the latest Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa poll, which was in the field a few days after Representative Steve King's Iowa Freedom Summit generated substantial political news coverage. Selzer & Co. surveyed 402 "likely Republican caucus-goers" between January 26 and 29, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent. No candidate has a statistically significant lead; the "top tier" are Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, 2012 nominee Mitt Romney (who hadn't announced yet that he wasn't running), former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (who won the 2008 Iowa GOP caucuses), Dr. Ben Carson, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. You can read the highlights on the Register's website; after the jump I've embedded the polling memo. For my money, this is the most interesting part of Jennifer Jacobs' story:

Sixty percent say it's more important to vote for the person who aligns with their values, even if that candidate isn't electable, compared with 36 percent who say winning the White House for Republicans is more important.

A majority - 51 percent of likely GOP caucusgoers - would prefer an anti-establishment candidate without a lot of ties to Washington or Wall Street who would change the way things are done and challenge conventional thinking. That compares to 43 percent who think the better leader would be a mainstream establishment candidate with executive experience who understands business and how to execute ideas, the new poll shows.

For respondents who say they want an establishment candidate, Romney is their first choice. With Romney out of the picture, Walker leads. Huckabee is next, then Bush.

Among those who want an anti-establishment candidate, Paul is the favorite, followed by Walker and Carson.

The 401 "Democratic likely caucus-goers" surveyed by Selzer & Co. overwhelmingly lean toward former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She's the first choice of 56 percent and the second choice of 15 percent of respondents. Senator Elizabeth Warren polled 16 percent as a first choice and 23 percent as a second choice. Vice President Joe Biden polled 9 percent as a first choice and 26 percent as a second choice. All other potential candidates were in single digits.

FEBRUARY 1 UPDATE: Ben Schreckinger is out with a Politico story headlined, "Iowa Dems high and dry as Hillary decides." I've added excerpts after the jump. The story is full of angtsy quotes about how there's not as much activity on the Democratic side as there was before the 2004 and 2008 caucuses, and how Republicans will benefit from more organizing by presidential hopefuls. It's true, Iowa Republicans have had way more candidate visits, including events to raise money for county parties or down-ballot candidates. Guess what? It's going to stay that way for all of 2015. Our party has a prohibitive front-runner, and she is well-liked by the vast majority of likely Democratic caucus-goers. We're not going to have multiple presidential candidates spending millions of dollars on dozens of field offices around the state. So stop whining about it to national reporters and start figuring out how to build a grassroots network without an Iowa caucus as competitive as 2004 or 2008.

I also added below a statement from the Iowa GOP, contrasting the "vibrant" and "diverse" Republican presidential field with the Democratic landscape ahead of the 2016 caucuses.

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Iowa caucus discussion thread: Romney reality check edition

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 30, 2015 at 11:46:12 AM CST

Speaking in "his best precinct, the top-level donor conference call," Mitt Romney announced this morning that he will not run for president a third time. Though the odds against a successful bid for the presidency would seem obvious to any casual politics watcher, Romney appears to have genuinely believed that he could win in 2016 with a sharper message. But many of his top donors, bundlers, and early-state volunteers were reluctant to board the Romney train one more time. In what may have been the last straw, yesterday news broke that David Kochel will soon move to Miami to work as "senior strategist" for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's new political action committee. Kochel was Romney's top Iowa consultant during the 2008 and 2012 election cycles but is expected to become Bush's national campaign manager once Jeb makes his presidential race official.

Kochel told Jonathan Martin of the New York Times that a lot of Iowans "will be interested in signing up" with Jeb Bush, adding that "You compete everywhere because that's how you win delegates." Some people had speculated that Bush might bypass the Iowa caucuses, seen to favor socially conservative candidates. He skipped Representative Steve King's cattle call "Iowa Freedom Summit" last weekend in Des Moines, where several of the speakers took shots at him.

In general, Bush has spent the last month on major donor contacts and strategizing rather than public appearances. Bank on him to raise far more money than anyone else in the large presidential field during the first half of this year. He could raise as much as the rest of the field combined.

With Romney out, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie looks like the only person who can compete with Jeb for the "establishment Republican" niche. He reminded the audience at the Iowa Freedom Summit that he's visited this state eleven times since 2010. You can listen to that speech at Radio Iowa.

Iowa Republican power-broker Bruce Rastetter spearheaded a "draft Christie" before the 2012 Iowa caucuses. So far this cycle, he is staking out a more neutral position. Last week Rastetter's public relations team announced plans to hold an Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines on March 7. About two dozen possible presidential candidates from both parties have been invited to participate; the full list is in a press release I've enclosed after the jump. Governor Terry Branstad told Radio Iowa this week that Jeb Bush is "very interested" in attending the forum.  

While most of the speakers at King's overly long Freedom Summit came to town solely for that occasion, 2012 Iowa caucuses winner Rick Santorum toured the state for several days afterward. He is still pushing a message I think Republicans should hear about how the GOP could better connect with working-class Americans. Radio Iowa posted the full audio here. According to Iowa Starting Line, Santorum didn't draw a lot of applause at the Freedom Summit but was well-received at his small events this past week. Nevertheless, I expect most of his 2012 supporters to flow to other candidates this year, especially Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, or Ted Cruz.

I still like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's chances to win the Iowa caucuses. By all accounts he made a good impression on the Freedom Summit crowd. So did Ben Carson, but I don't see Carson putting together a professional campaign operation. Radio Iowa posted the full audio and highlights from the Walker speech here. Click here to listen to Ted Cruz, another crowd favorite.

In contrast, former half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin bombed at the Freedom Summit, done in by a malfunctioning teleprompter. With her public speaking experience, she should have been able to wing it. I had to laugh when I saw Sam Clovis bash her to the Sioux City Journal's reading audience. He's probably still bitter that Palin endorsed Joni Ernst for Senate last spring when Clovis was campaigning as the true conservative in the GOP field.

The Republican Party of Iowa is accepting straw poll venue bids until Thursday, February 12. A recent press release said "Venue proposals should be able to accommodate large crowds and have ample parking." The major fundraiser coming this August has traditionally been held in Ames, but I'm hearing there will be a strong push for Farm Progress Show in Boone. The State Fairgrounds in Des Moines are another leading contender for the event.

In news from the Democratic side, Mike Allen reported for Politico that former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "strongly considering delaying the formal launch of her presidential campaign until July." A lot of Iowa Democrats are upset that Clinton has in effect frozen the field of play. They won't be happy if she leaves everyone hanging until mid-summer. By this point in 2007, several Democratic presidential candidates already were opening field offices in key Iowa cities.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley made his first Iowa hire recently. Jake Oeth, who served as political director for Bruce Braley's U.S. Senate campaign, is now doing outreach for O'Malley as a consultant to the O'Say Can You See PAC. According to Pat Rynard at Iowa Starting Line, O'Malley had been recruiting Oeth for some time. The former Maryland governor has Iowa connections going all the way back to Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign and paid his dues last year with several Iowa visits, including the keynote speech for the state Democratic Party convention and fundraisers for Democratic candidates. Although some consider the former Maryland governor a possible rival to Clinton, I see him more as a back-up candidate if some unexpected development prevents Clinton from running.

MoveOn.org Political Action opened a Des Moines office for the Run Warren Run effort two weeks ago. I've posted the announcement after the jump; it mentions the first Iowa staff hires. As Bleeding Heartland discussed here, I think the "draft Warren" effort is mostly a waste of progressive energy and resources. Not that I'm against house parties for liberals, but they could be organizing around a more practical political cause. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to recruit Warren won't change the fact that she is not running for president. Pat Rynard attended the Run Warren Run office kickoff party on January 29 and posted his thoughts on the campaign's "murky mission."

I haven't heard much lately about U.S. Senator Jim Webb, who formed an exploratory committee late last year to consider a presidential bid. I never bought into him as a serious rival to Clinton, and he didn't respond adeptly to the first real scrutiny of his PAC's activities. I'm keeping an open mind about the Democratic race until the field is set, but if Webb turns out to be the only alternative candidate, I will be caucusing for Hillary.

Any comments about the Iowa caucuses are welcome in this thread.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa Freedom Summit edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jan 24, 2015 at 11:40:00 AM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? Many prospective presidential candidates are speaking at the Iowa Freedom Summit today. I'll update this post later with clips and highlights.

An MSNBC story on Representative Steve King (IA-04) made a splash yesterday with this revelation:

King is not above gloating. His staff kept a running list of some 12-16 prominent Republicans who've leveled personal criticisms against him. The congressman said he went over it himself the other day, just for old time's sake.

"Their agenda [on immigration] has been marginalized," a smiling King told msnbc. "Mine's been strengthened."

True, but that's to the long-term detriment of the country and the Republican Party.

Who do you think is on King's enemies list? Probably not many Iowans, aside from Doug Gross.

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Iowa caucus discussion thread: Romney delusions edition

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 13, 2015 at 21:35:23 PM CST

It's been a while since we had a new thread for discussing the next Iowa caucus campaign. Most of the action lately has been on the Republican side, but any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread. Here are some links to get the conversation started.

Mitt Romney confirmed last week that he may launch a third campaign for the presidency, even though he had previously ruled out another bid on many occasions. He leads some early polls of Republicans, but with 20 percent support or less--not impressive for someone with his level of name recognition. I can't imagine why Republicans would ever nominate him again, or how anyone in his inner circle can believe he has a chance. Maggie Haberman and James Hohmann shed some light on that subject in "The selling of Mitt 3.0," which you should read in full. After the jump I've enclosed a few excerpts from that piece and from John Dickerson's report for Slate. Apparently some people believe that with better messaging and no incumbent president to face, Romney has a decent shot. Sounds delusional to me. Romney still has all the baggage from his last campaign. His dire predictions about the economy have proven false. Surely many of his donors and grassroots supporters will be looking for a new candidate, such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie or former Florida Governor Jeb Bush or even former Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Maybe The Onion was right after all in this 2012 report: "Mitt Romney Terrified What Will Happen If He Ever Stops Running for President."

Also on the establishment wing of the GOP, Jeb Bush has stepped down from various corporate and non-profit boards and started raising money for his new leadership PAC. Bush will have a well-funded campaign and is more electable than many of the other potential candidates, but I don't see him as a strong contender for the Iowa caucuses. The four issues Eric Pianin identified here (Common Core, immigration, taxes, and Obamacare) will all be deal-breakers for the conservative activists who tend to show up on caucus night.  

Seeking to cash in early on anti-Jeb sentiment, some conservatives have formed a PAC and created an "EndJeb2016" website. Sounds like a fundraising and list-building scheme to me (a la Ready for Hillary), as opposed to an effort to run a real campaign against Bush in the GOP primaries.

Romney's 2012 running mate Paul Ryan, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said this week that he will not seek the presidency in 2016. He would be a fool to try when the field is already crowded, and he can afford to wait another four or eight years.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee quit hosting his weekly show on Fox News, saying he can't rule out another presidential bid and will make a final decision this spring. Huckabee has a huge grassroots following in Iowa, and his entry to the race would greatly complicate matters for the likes of former Senator Rick Santorum or Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Santorum is promising to run "a very, very different candidacy than the last time around," but for quite some time, many of his Iowa supporters have been looking at fresher faces like Ted Cruz or Ben Carson. Craig Robinson described Huckabee as the "first love" of Iowa social conservatives. Jamie Johnson, who worked on Santorum's 2012 campaign here, told David Weigel last week,

"I can tell you, I took Rick Santorum across the state three years ago," Johnson says. "People loved Huckabee. They liked Santorum. There was never a heart connection between them and Santorum the way there'd been for Huckabee."

Jindal was just in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids to meet privately with pastors. I can't see him putting together a winning campaign in Iowa or anywhere else. Why should people support him when he's not even popular in his (conservative) home state?

Ben Carson was caught plagiarizing part of his book America the Beautiful. He is working to "rectify the situation." My guess is that few Iowa Republicans will care about this ethical lapse.

My pick to win the Iowa caucuses, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, has selected a likely campaign manager and will soon launch some kind of PAC.  GOP activists here will appreciate that Walker took on public sector unions, refused to expand Medicaid, and doesn't support comprehensive immigration reform. But they won't react well if they learn that he put the brakes on efforts to pass a "right to work" law.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that Senator Rand Paul hired a presidential campaign manager this week. I still think he will bail out of the race in time to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2016. Kentucky law doesn't allow him to be on the ballot for two offices in the same primary election.

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Iowa GOP will continue straw poll fundraiser

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jan 10, 2015 at 21:21:25 PM CST

The Republican Party of Iowa's State Central Committee voted unanimously today to hold a "straw poll" fundraiser next August, as has occurred every year before the Iowa caucuses since 1979. The date and location will be announced later; the three most likely venues are the Iowa State University campus in Ames, the Farm Progress Show in Boone, and the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

I've enclosed the official Iowa GOP statement after the jump. Note that it identifies former Republican presidential nominees George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, and Mitt Romney as past winners of the straw poll, but does not mention Michele Bachmann, who won the 2011 straw poll and went on to finish fifth on caucus night. O. Kay Henderson posted the audio from the committee deliberations and vote. State party chair Jeff Kaufmann emphasized that Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus is strongly supportive of Iowa's first in the nation status, and said the straw poll will not jeopardize that role.

Shortly after the 2012 presidential election, Governor Terry Branstad declared that "the straw poll has outlived its usefulness." That's easy for him to say when he is able to raise millions of dollars through other events. There's no way the Iowa GOP would fail to hold some kind of statewide fundraiser featuring as many presidential candidates as possible. Continuing the straw poll element will increase the national media's interest in the event.

Speaking to State Central Committee members after today's vote, Kaufmann thanked Branstad, Senator Chuck Grassley, and Representative Steve King for their feedback on the straw poll. He added that Branstad had offered to help the party secure presidential candidates' participation if the straw poll continues. Some analysts have speculated that certain candidates would skip the fundraiser, either because the event is seen to skew toward social conservative activists, or simply to save money. (Texas Governor Rick Perry joined the presidential race shortly after the Ames straw poll.) Kaufmann said today that if some candidates decide not to participate, "I can guarantee that RPI will maintain its strict neutrality policy whether or not that candidate attended the Straw Poll or not."

During today's meeting, several State Central Committee members praised the straw poll's role in giving every presidential candidate, not just well-funded ones, an opportunity to address activists from all over Iowa. A few also favorably cited the straw poll's function in "winnowing the field." Sam Brownback ended his presidential campaign soon after the 2007 straw poll, and Tim Pawlenty did the same soon after finishing a distant third at the 2011 event. I suspect that this year, presidential candidates will not invest as much money in winning the straw poll, nor will they over-react to a less than stellar showing. Bachmann started fading almost immediately after winning the 2011 straw poll. By the time the Iowa caucuses rolled around, Republicans had cycled through three more front-runners (Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich), before Rick Santorum surged to finish in a near-tie with Romney and Ron Paul. According to some reports, Pawlenty regretted dropping out of that race so early.

Any comments about the next Republican presidential campaign are welcome in this thread.

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Weekend open thread: Passages

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jan 04, 2015 at 07:00:00 AM CST

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

Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo passed away on New Year's Day. He was a hero to many liberal Democrats during the 1980s, thanks to the policies he promoted in New York and especially his legendary keynote address to the 1984 Democratic National Convention. I've posted the video after the jump, along with some excerpts from the full text and from obituaries. It has been ranked the 11th best American political speech of the 20th century.

I was unable to watch Cuomo's keynote live, because I spent July 1984 at summer camp. But listening to it this week brought back many emotions. Liberals felt discouraged and embattled during the Reagan years. Cuomo gave voice to those frustrations. He focused on economic inequality in particular: "There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces that you don't see, in the places that you don't visit in your shining city. In fact, Mr. President [...] you ought to know that this nation is more a tale of two cities than it is just a shining city on a hill." Cuomo's words speak to me more than anything I've ever heard from Barack Obama, including the "Yes We Can" speech and his vaunted 2004 DNC address.  

By the way, this line from Cuomo's speech is as true now as it was 30 years ago: "Now we're proud of this diversity as Democrats. We're grateful for it. We don't have to manufacture it the way the Republicans will next month in Dallas, by propping up mannequin delegates on the convention floor."

Only on reading Cuomo's obituaries did I learn that in September 1984, he spoke at Notre Dame University and explained why a devout Catholic could support a woman's legal right to an abortion. The full transcript from that speech is here. I've posted excerpts below.

Former Iowa Lieutenant Governor Art Neu passed away on January 2. After Governor Bob Ray and Congressman Jim Leach, Neu was Iowa's most prominent moderate Republican of the 1970s and 1980s. I enclose below a few comments on his passing.

Having been raised by a "Rockefeller Republican," I remember when moderates were a real force within the Iowa GOP. Now there is not a single pro-choice Republican in our state's legislature, and only a handful of elected Iowa GOP officials accept marriage equality. In recent years, Neu made headlines primarily when breaking ranks with the conservatives who now dominate his party. He opposed the campaign to recall three Iowa Supreme Court justices in 2010 and endorsed Christie Vilsack for Congress over GOP incumbent Steve King. Neu caucused for Mitt Romney in January 2012 but said he would vote for Barack Obama in the general election, in part because of the abortion issue.  

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50 "most wanted" Iowa Republican discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Dec 21, 2014 at 20:45:00 PM CST

Following up on last week's look at "most wanted" Iowa Democrats, Jennifer Jacobs wrote a feature for today's Sunday Des Moines Register on "50 of Iowa's makers and shakers for the Republican presidential caucuses." Any comments about the list or GOP politics in general are welcome in this thread.

It seems like Jacobs couldn't decide whether she was making a list of the 50 most influential Iowa Republicans, or the people who will be most sought out by presidential candidates. A lot of names in the top ten will almost certainly not endorse any candidate before the Iowa caucuses (Governor Terry Branstad, Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann, Branstad's chief of staff Matt Hinch). For that reason, I expect some of the presidential campaigns to do far more courting of donors and activists who are lower down on Jacobs' list. Big money men (they are all men) who will be highly sought after include Kyle Krause, Pete Brownell, Bruce Rastetter, Gary Kirke, Jim Cownie, David Oman, and Robert Haus.

I was surprised Jacobs put David Kochel and Sara Craig Gongol so far down the list at numbers 36 and 39, respectively. Not only were they deeply involved in Romney's 2012 campaign in Iowa, millions of dollars passed through dark money groups those two ran during this year's U.S. Senate race. To my mind, they will be among the go-to Iowa Republicans for people who want to slime a less-preferred candidate before the caucuses, but don't want their fingerprints on the job. Kochel and Craig aren't shy about skating close to the edge when it comes to federal rules designed to ban coordination between campaigns and outside groups making independent media expenditures.

I was also surprised Jacobs left out talk radio host Steve Deace. Along with Sam Clovis and a few leaders of megachurches, he will be a loud voice in the Iowa GOP's social conservative wing, and I'm sure several presidential candidates will work hard to win his endorsement.

UPDATE: I thought it was strange that former Iowa House Speaker Chris Rants made Jacobs' list--he hasn't been speaker since 2006, and he retired from the legislature in 2010. James Lynch pointed out that it's even more odd for Rants to be there, given that Jacobs did not mention current Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen or Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix. Paulsen endorsed Newt Gingrich shortly before the 2012 caucuses. Dix did not endorse any of the contenders.

SECOND UPDATE: Shane Vander Hart commented n the Jacobs list at Caffeinated Thoughts. I largely agree with his take, especially this part:

Being an effective campaign staffer doesn't (necessarily) equal influence. [...] There are some people who are on this list who are great at the work that they do.  Tim Albrecht is an effective communications/PR guy, Phil Valenziano, Grant Young, they are great, hardworking campaign staffers, but influencers?  That can be debated and it depends on how you define influence and/or who the target of the influence is.  
 
Vander Hart also pointed out that WHO radio host Jan Mickelson was left off the list, even though he has a large audience around the state: "Mickelson doesn't endorse, but he is a great conduit to grassroots Republicans and candidates need to shoot straight with him (ask Mitt Romney)."  
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