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Iowa GOP

Weekend open thread: Des Moines pride and GOP clown car edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun May 17, 2015 at 10:57:51 AM CDT

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

According to Gallup's latest well-being survey of people in the 100 largest U.S. metro areas, residents of the Des Moines metro area "are the most likely to say they are proud of their community," with some 76.5 percent of central Iowa respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with a statement about community pride. Gallup's write-up noted a correlation between that sentiment and feeling "safe and secure." A remarkable 85.7 percent of Des Moines area respondents said they "always feel safe and secure," a higher level than in any other metro area Gallup surveyed.

Washington Post reporter Philip Bump speculated, "The two proudest cities are in Iowa and S.C., because people love being fawned over by politicians." I really don't think so.

In the past few years, at least three dozen lists measuring quality of life or economic factors have put the Des Moines area in the top five or ten communities nationwide. Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has raved about some of the amenities our metro has to offer. Having lived in a couple of great American cities and a couple of great European cities, I moved back to the Des Moines area for the long haul. Although I am way more politically engaged than the average person, I wouldn't factor presidential candidate visits into a decision on where to raise my children.

Speaking of being fawned over by politicians, eleven declared or potential contenders for the presidency spoke at the Iowa GOP's Lincoln Dinner last night. Three declared candidates missed the event (former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz), as did at least a couple of others who are considering the presidential race (Ohio Governor John Kasich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie). A dozen or more candidates will likely crowd the stage at GOP primary debates. My thoughts about the Lincoln Dinner speakers are coming in a future post. Philip Rucker and Jenna Johnson wrote a good piece for the Washington Post on Republican insiders' growing anxiety about their large presidential field. Their sources included a heavyweight hated by many Iowa conservatives:

We're in a danger zone," said Doug Gross, a top Republican establishment figure in Iowa. "When the party poobahs put this process together, they thought they could telescope this to get us a nominee who could appeal to a broad cross-section of people. What we've got instead is a confederation of a lot of candidates who aren't standing out - and in order to stand out, you need to scream the loudest."

Speaking of people who stand out by screaming loudly, Representative Steve King posted a picture of himself yesterday with Dick and Betty Odgaard, who (in his words) were "targeted by LGBT activists/litigated out of 1man/1woman wedding business." False. Here's what really happened after the Odgaards refused to let a gay couple rent the Görtz Haus in Grimes for a wedding.  

Discuss :: (5 Comments)

While Iowa GOP levels playing field for underdogs, DNC gives them extra burden

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 07, 2015 at 13:25:14 PM CDT

Democrats in Iowa and nationally have been worried all year that a more competitive GOP presidential campaign will boost Republican organizing and enthusiasm going into the 2016 general election.

Yet this week, while the Iowa GOP announced plans to help long-shot presidential candidates be heard on equal footing, the Democratic National Committee sharply limited opportunities for voters to compare the whole presidential field side by side.  

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Weekend open thread: Tamara Scott ignorance edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 19, 2015 at 13:22:22 PM CDT

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

I just caught up on some recent remarks by Iowa's Republican National Committeewoman Tamara Scott. In addition to representing Iowa on the RNC, Scott lobbies the state legislature on behalf of Bob Vander Plaats' FAMiLY Leader organization and leads the Iowa chapter of Concerned Women for America, an influential group on the religious right. She was speaking at the FAMiLY Leader's southeast regional summit on April 9, an event four potential GOP presidential candidates attended. Scott used the Wiccan invocation that stirred controversy in the Iowa House to make a case for more public expressions of Christianity, including teaching the country's dominant religion in public schools. (Scott has frequently advocated school prayer and alleged that various societal problems stem from removing Christian prayers from public schools during the 1970s.) Miranda Blue covered the FAMiLY Leader regional summit speech for Right Wing Watch; some excerpts are after the jump. For video of all speeches from the regional summit, click here.

I am continually struck by how clueless social conservatives are about the separation of church and state. Though Scott does not acknowledge this legal reality, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from promoting any specific religious viewpoint. Every time a prominent Republican demands more government expressions and endorsements of Christianity, they are driving away Jews and probably members of other minority religious groups too, not to mention the growing number of Americans who do not identify with any religion.

In a fantastic column for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Lynda Waddington offers her own Christian perspective on Scott's prayer for a storm to disrupt the Wiccan invocation. I've enclosed excerpts below, but you should click through to read the whole piece. All I can say is, that Cabot witch sure demonstrated some amazing powers.

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Stop pretending Donald Trump is a real presidential candidate

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 08, 2015 at 22:40:00 PM CDT

Donald Trump spent today in central Iowa, hanging out with Iowa House and Senate members at the state Capitol and speaking to college students in Indianola. I don't care how many "advisers" Trump hires here, and I don't care how many hints he drops about running for president (see video from his press conference). This guy is a publicity hound, not a serious candidate. His name recognition is sky-high, yet he drew support from only 1 percent of respondents in the last Des Moines Register poll of Iowa Republicans by Selzer & Co.

Reading Brianne Pfannenstiel's Des Moines Register story on Trump's event at Simpson College, it's clear the would-be candidate can't answer basic policy questions without turning the conversation back to himself. According to WHO-TV's report, Trump provided few policy details in Indianola. Anyone can promise to "end ObamaCare and replace it with something terrific," and promise to end America's debt crisis while increasing military spending. Show us the money.

The most interesting thing about Trump's pseudo-campaign is that the billionaire was able to hire Chuck Laudner. A legend on the Iowa GOP's social conservative wing, Laudner used to work for Representative Steve King, was active in the 2010 campaign against retaining three Iowa Supreme Court justices, ran Rick Santorum's 2012 Iowa caucuses effort, then led the unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign of Sam Clovis. I wouldn't have pegged him for a Trump guy.

Speaking of Santorum, he's in Iowa again this week. But Laudner's decision to join Trump of all people is another sign that Santorum has little chance to repeat his strong Iowa caucus showing.  

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Ted Cruz's first tv ad, plus highlights from his latest Iowa trip

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 06, 2015 at 14:07:21 PM CDT

On Easter Sunday, Senator Ted Cruz became the first presidential candidate this cycle to run a television commercial. The video and transcript are after the jump, along with highlights from Cruz's events in Sioux City, Dubuque, Durango, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines on April 1 and 2.

Nothing I've seen or heard from Cruz lately changes my view that he will crash and burn in the Iowa caucuses.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa marriage equality anniversary edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 05, 2015 at 07:00:00 AM CDT

Happy Passover or Happy Easter to all who are celebrating this weekend. In past years Bleeding Heartland has posted links about those religious holidays. For today's open thread, I'm reflecting on the Iowa Supreme Court's Varnum v Brien ruling, announced on April 3, 2009.

Lambda Legal, which represented the Varnum plaintiffs, published a timeline of the case. The LGBT advocacy group filed the lawsuit in December 2005, banking on the Iowa Supreme Court's "extraordinary history" of independence and "civil rights leadership."

If Iowa lawmakers had approved a state constitutional amendment on marriage, the Varnum case might never have been filed (in anticipation of Iowans approving a ban on same-sex marriage, as voters had done in many other states). But during the 2004 legislative session, the marriage amendment failed by one vote in the upper chamber, thanks to the united Senate Democratic caucus, joined by GOP senators Maggie Tinsman, Don Redfern, Mary Lundby, and Doug Shull. All four Republican moderates had left the legislature by the time the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on Varnum. Redfern retired in 2004. Tinsman lost her 2006 primary to a social conservative challenger. Shull retired from the Senate in 2006 and unsuccessfully sought a seat in the state House that year. Lundby retired from the legislature in 2008 and passed away the following year.  

Reading through the early Democratic and Republican reaction to the Varnum decision should make all Iowa Democrats proud. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and former House Speaker Pat Murphy deserve credit for their leadership at a time when some Democrats would have run for cover on an issue perceived to be unpopular. Minority civil rights should never be conditional on majority approval.

As for the Republicans in the Bleeding Heartland community, you can be proud that your party's state legislators seem less and less interested in fighting the losing battle to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples.

Three of the seven justices who concurred in Varnum v Brien (Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, Justice David Baker, and Justice Michael Streit) lost their jobs in Iowa's 2010 retention elections. Justice David Wiggins survived a campaign against his retention in 2012. The remaining three justices who concurred in the decision are up for retention in 2016: Chief Justice Mark Cady (author of the ruling), Justice Daryl Hecht, and Justice Brent Appel. It's not yet clear whether Bob Vander Plaats and his fellow-travellers will make a serious effort to remove them, or whether they will give up in the face of Iowans' growing acceptance of marriage equality.

The LGBT advocacy group One Iowa holds an annual gala around the anniversary of the Varnum ruling. Last night the group honored Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum and Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu, among others. I enclose below a statement from the group marking six years since gay and lesbian couples won the freedom to marry in Iowa.

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Mid-week open thread: Iowa caucus myths edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 01, 2015 at 21:51:22 PM CDT

Bleeding Heartland doesn't participate in the annual ritual of publishing fake news stories on April 1, but Pat Rynard's recent post on Iowa caucus myths captures the spirit of April Fool's Day, in a sense, by highlighting some common misconceptions about our state's marquee political event. I agree with a lot of his points, especially debunking the idea that agricultural issues are of primary importance to Iowa caucus-goers, and that county party chairs are the best analysts regarding the state of play on the ground.

One myth not mentioned by Rynard would be high on my list: the idea that only Barack Obama's campaign turned out a significant number of first-time caucus-goers in 2008. In fact, both John Edwards and Hillary Clinton attracted enough supporters that same night to have blown away any Democratic candidate who had ever won the Iowa caucuses before. A superb combination of GOTV and messaging delivered the victory Obama needed, but the outcome was much more about him winning than Clinton or Edwards losing. Reporters and commentators who have repeatedly pushed the frame of Hillary's big "Iowa problem" continually fail to acknowledge that she inspired roughly 70,000 supporters to stand in her corner on a cold January night--a much higher number than most Iowa politics watchers would have anticipated a few months earlier.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

P.S.- Bleeding Heartland is a few weeks out from re-launching Iowa wildflower Wednesday, but signs of spring wildflowers are visible across the state. I've heard reports of snow trillium in bloom, and I've seen foliage for many native plants that will flower within the next month or so, including dog-tooth violets, Virginia bluebells, Virginia waterleaf, and toothwort.  

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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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