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Media

Joni Ernst tapped to deliver State of the Union response

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 15, 2015 at 16:55:00 PM CST

Republican leaders of the U.S. House and Senate announced today that newly-elected Senator Joni Ernst will deliver the televised response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on January 20. Some liberals are already laughing, but from where I'm sitting, she's a perfect choice. One thing we learned about Ernst last year: she knows how to read from a prepared text. She'll stick to her message, and she won't have to answer any unscripted questions about that message:

"Our folks back home sent us to Washington D.C., with a clear mission. And that mission is to get to work. That mission is to craft and implement good policies and good solutions," Ernst said. "We want to ensure that the America we are building leaves a stronger economy and more opportunity for our children and our grandchildren."

When a reporter tried to follow up with Ernst after the announcement, Boehner jokingly batted the question away.

"No," Boehner said to laughter from the press corps.

Ernst provided material for a lot of late-night television jokes last year with her "Squeal" ad, and I expect GOP speechwriters to sneak in some farm references next Tuesday. If the big bad liberal media are seen to make fun of the "ordinary farm girl," they will only generate more sympathy for Ernst among Iowans. Anyway, Senator Marco Rubio set the bar low with his fumbling, water bottle-grabbing performance after Obama's 2013 State of the Union address. Surely Ernst can do a lot better than that.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

P.S. - Jon Neiderbach asked today, "Can you name any Iowa politician who rose so high so fast?" I sure can't think of any. Only four and a half years ago, Ernst was hardly known outside Montgomery County. In fact, if Terry Branstad hadn't picked the little-known Kim Reynolds to be his running mate in 2010, Ernst would still be the Montgomery County auditor. She only ran for the Iowa Senate because Reynolds resigned the seat after being elected lieutenant governor.

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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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Weekend open thread: Stephen Colbert farewell edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Dec 20, 2014 at 09:32:35 AM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Happy Chanukah to those who are celebrating. It looks like most of Iowa won't have a white Christmas, but at least that will make travel easier for people going home for the holidays.

This week Stephen Colbert wrapped up production of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. Dozens of political and cultural celebrities showed up to help sing "We'll Meet Again" during the final show on Thursday. Next year Colbert will take over the CBS Late Show from David Letterman.

Although I've been a fan since the days Colbert was a correspondent on The Daily Show, I didn't expect his character to be able to carry an entire program for more than a year or two before the shtick got old. I was wrong: the quality remained amazingly high. In this podcast, Colbert described his process for getting in character and a typical day in the production of The Colbert Report. So much work went into what came off as effortless commentaries on current events.

Colbert filmed more than 1,400 episodes of his late-night show, but his most memorable performance as his conservative alter ego was surely his routine at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2006. Click here for the video or here for a full transcript.

NPR posted excerpts from six different interviews with Colbert since his show debuted in 2005.

Over the years, Colbert interviewed 81 members of the U.S. House for his "Better Know a District" segments. Click through to watch the final installment, featuring Republican Jack Kingston of Georgia's first district. It was hilarious.

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Weekend open thread: Media ethics edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 18:00:00 PM CST

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

The Washington Post's media critic Eric Wemple caught syndicated columnist George Will red-handed in a flagrant conflict of interest.

This case highlights Will's intersecting lines of influence. He's a director of the Bradley Foundation, an entity with more than $800 million in assets and 2013 grants totaling nearly $34 million to organizations in Wisconsin and across the country, including big-time Beltway entities like the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society. His column is syndicated to about 450 newspapers. Keeping those two worlds separate is quite a job, as the Nov. 19 column demonstrates: Here, Will touted an outlet funded generously by a group he helps to lead. And thanks to the columnist's kind words, WILL may have an easier time finding funders outside of the Bradley Foundation. All very cozy, synergistic and, as media critics might say, an out-and-out conflict of interest - an offense of which Will has been accused before.

Click through to read the whole column, including Will's response. The columnist is unrepentant: "I do not see how disclosure of my connection to Bradley, and Bradley's connection to WILL, and WILL's connection to the school choice program, would be important to readers." That suggests he will not hesitate to pull the same stunt again. Newspapers including the Des Moines Register should drop Will's column if they don't share his views on what constitutes full disclosure.

Speaking of the Register, Lynn Hicks (up to now the newspaper's executive business editor) is taking over this month as editorial page editor as Randy Evans retires from that position. Evans will be missed. Seven people will serve on the Register's editorial board going forward: President and Publisher Rick Green, Executive Editor Amalie Nash, Lynn Hicks, Rox Laird, Andie Dominick, Clark Kauffman, and Brian Smith. Laird has been writing editorials at the Register for about 30 years, Dominick since 2001. Kauffman is a longtime investigative reporter who just joined the editorial board in September of this year. Smith "is taking on a new engagement editor role that emphasizes reaching new audiences and connecting with the community"; up to now he has been an associate digital editor for the Register.

It's probably too much to hope for the Register to make the politics and opinion sections of the website easier to navigate. Every newspaper owned by Gannett seems to operate with the same horrible template now. So I'll settle for hoping that in the future, the Register will disclose any family connections between subjects of guest columns and members of the editorial board.

Rolling Stone magazine is backing off from a widely publicized story about an alleged rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. There were red flags in the original story, and some other journalists have questioned why no one from Rolling Stone interviewed the alleged perpetrators of the gang rape. I agree 100 percent with Olga Khazan: "this whole episode is terrible news for survivors of rape on college campuses and elsewhere." Whatever did or did not happen to "Jackie" (the subject of Sabrina Rubin Erdely's article), the collapse of this story undermines advocates working to get colleges and universities to address the real problem of sexual assault on campus.  

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McChicken Sandwich

by: JonInIowaCity

Wed Dec 03, 2014 at 23:37:34 PM CST

(This has been bothering me too. The woman's nose was broken, but some media accounts are playing for laughs with comments like "Definitely not a happy meal." - promoted by desmoinesdem)

I read that a guy in Des Moines was arrested for hitting his wife with a McChicken sandwich. Which is hilarious because it involved a McChicken sandwich.

And then you read the rest of the story and realize that he battered his pregnant wife because he didn't like what she brought him for lunch. He smacked her around with the sandwich and smashed it into her face until her nose was broken. Plus he knocked the phone from her hands when she tried calling the police for help.

But the media is treating it like a joke because it involved a McChicken sandwich.
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Mid-week open thread: Double standards on crime edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 19, 2014 at 19:42:29 PM CST

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

Today's Des Moines Register featured a front-page article by Kathy Bolten about the massive racial disparity in arrest rates across Iowa. The piece contained new analysis and statistics on a longstanding problem in our state. I've posted some excerpts after the jump. This database includes detailed from 41 Iowa law enforcement jurisdictions that "arrest blacks at a higher rate than people of other races." Iowa-Nebraska NAACP President Betty Andrews noted that when blacks and whites are detained for the same alleged offenses, police are more likely to charge blacks. The American Civil Liberties Union found last year, "Iowa has the largest racial disparity in the country of arrests in marijuana possession, with blacks being more than eight times as likely to be arrested than whites, even though whites use marijuana at about the same rate [...]."

Speaking of double standards, MacKenzie Elmer reported for the Des Moines Register last week that on October 3, an Urbandale police officer let Joni Ernst's spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel get away with driving drunk. Knowing that an arrest would get her fired, he let Hamel off with a warning. I've posted excerpts from that piece after the jump too. Raise your hand if you think a non-white drunk driver who initially lied to the police would have received the same sympathetic hearing from an Urbandale cop. Less than a month later, Hamel was arrested in West Des Moines for OWI. Fortunately, she didn't kill or seriously injure anyone in the meantime.

Hamel's arrest occurred on October 29, and she resigned from the Ernst campaign the following day. Surely reporters covering the IA-Sen race would have noticed that Ernst's primary press contact was gone. Yet the Register's first report on the incident appeared on the newspaper's website on November 6 and in print the following day. Republican blogger Craig Robinson breathed a sign of relief: "Can you imagine the mess this would have created for Ernst if it had gotten out before Election Day?"

The delay fueled some suspicions that the Register held back the Hamel story until after the election. Given Ernst's margin of victory, this news could not have affected the outcome, but getting knocked off message in the final days could have been significant in a close campaign. On November 7, I asked the Register's political reporters Jennifer Jacobs and Jason Noble when they noticed Hamel was gone and when they found out why.

After getting no response for two days, I took the same questions to the Des Moines Register's Editor and Vice President Amalie Nash. She responded promptly,

Thanks for asking the question. We published the story on Gretchen Hamel's arrest as soon as we were able to confirm it. We were aware she had exited the campaign and inquired with Joni Ernst's staff as soon as we found out she was gone. We were told she submitted her resignation due to a "drinking incident," but the campaign declined to release additional details. We continued asking questions of other sources until we were able to find out where the incident occurred and get details from the police department. As soon as we got confirmation of her arrest, we published a story.

I was confused about why it took the Des Moines Register so long to confirm Hamel's arrest. Details about the case were posted on the Iowa Courts Online website on October 30 and 31. Searching for Hamel's name would have allowed any Register employee to confirm the arrest in seconds. Furthermore, a major newspaper presumably has a staffer checking arrest logs on a daily basis. When two WHO-TV reporters were arrested for drunk driving in Des Moines this past summer, the Register had a story up with their mugshots less than three days after the incidents.

Nash responded to my follow-up question by saying, "We have staff checking [arrest logs] daily in Des Moines, but not all surrounding communities on a daily basis." Hamel was arrested in West Des Moines and booked at the Dallas County jail. Nash later elaborated,

We received the tip that she may have been arrested on an OWI last Wednesday [November 5] and were able to confirm and publish with details by Thursday [November 6].

As I noted, we don't do daily stops at the West Des Moines Police Department to check arrest logs. We get over there as much as we can, but do not have the staffing to make a daily visit.

It seems unlikely that political reporters who talk frequently with Republican sources would not have heard anything about Hamel's arrest until seven days after the fact. And if that's true, I wonder why Jennifer Jacobs and Jason Noble didn't just say so when I first asked them about it. In any event, that's the official explanation from the Des Moines Register.

UPDATE: Some Iowa politics-watchers have asked me why it matters when the Register covered Hamel's arrest. Although Ernst was winning the IA-Sen race regardless, it matters if anyone at any level in the Register's newsroom held back a story to preserve good relations with and access to people around the senator to be.

The Des Moines rumor mill says other area reporters had the story about Hamel's OWI but decided against running it, period. We can debate whether it's newsworthy that a campaign staffer was driving drunk. But Register Editor Amalie Nash takes a different position: the incident "was newsworthy, which is why we published a story as soon as we learned of her arrest." It is frankly hard to believe that no one in the newsroom knew about that event before November 5.

P.S. I forgot to mention that Annah Backstrom, the Register's "content strategist for politics," also declined to answer my straightforward question about when staff at the newspaper found out why Hamel was no longer working for Ernst.  

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Weekend open thread: Senate polls and polling challenges edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Oct 18, 2014 at 16:15:00 PM CDT

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

I've been reading about opinion polls, and specifically, the polling industry's growing challenge of sampling a group that looks like the electorate. Almost every day, a new poll appears on Iowa's U.S. Senate race. Since last weekend's Selzer poll for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News, which showed Ernst up by 1 point, three other polls have shown small leads for Ernst, while one showed Braley slightly ahead. How Iowa's no-party voters are leaning is anyone's guess; some polls have shown Ernst leading among independents, others have indicated that Braley is ahead.

All of these surveys are reporting results among "likely Iowa voters," but which, if any, have correctly identified a representative sample? The statistical margin of error means little if the pollster is systematically oversampling certain voters while not reaching other groups. As Nate Silver discusses here, data since 1998 show that polls of U.S. Senate or gubernatorial races are less accurate than presidential polls.

Media orthodoxy says reporters and pollsters can never admit their own organization's poll might have been an "outlier." Rather, readers are told that all trends apparent from some group's poll reflect real shifts of public opinion. So we get the Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs saying Braley "has begun to overcome some of the vulnerabilities detected in the Iowa Poll two weeks ago," going from a double-digit deficit among independents to a slight lead, and going from 25 points down among male respondents to 16 points down. Really, is it likely Braley surged so much in two weeks, as opposed to the previous Des Moines Register/Selzer poll overstating Ernst's advantage overall and among certain groups?

Similarly, Quinnipiac's latest Iowa poll shows "independent voters backing Rep. Braley 48 - 43 percent, a shift from Ernst's 50 - 43 percent lead among these key voters last month." Did no-party voters really change their minds in large numbers over a few weeks, or did Quinnipiac's findings change because of statistical noise?

After the jump I've posted excerpts from several articles about polling and some revealing comments by Ann Selzer, a guest on a recent edition of Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program.  

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Weekend open thread, with lots of IA-Sen links

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Oct 11, 2014 at 16:00:00 PM CDT

Whose idea was it to hold so many Iowa candidate debates on Saturday nights this year? At 7 pm this evening, Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst face off in the second of three scheduled debates. (C-SPAN will televise nationwide, and KWQC TV will televise in the Quad Cities area.) Immediately after that, KWQC will broadcast the second and final debate between Representative Dave Loebsack and Mariannette Miller-Meeks in the second Congressional district race. (That debate will be taped earlier in the day.)

I won't be able to watch either showdown live because of a family wedding, but I will catch up later with some links and recap, as well as highlights from the new Selzer poll for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. A bunch of links related to the IA-Sen race are after the jump. I still see the debate as equally risky for Braley and Ernst, for different reasons.

UPDATE: The new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll by Selzer & Co has Braley and Ernst nearly tied. Ernst is ahead by a statistically insignificant 47 percent to 46 percent. I do not believe Ernst lost a lot of ground during the last two weeks. I believe she was never as far ahead as the last Selzer poll indicated. Other polls in the field around the same time showed a much closer race. In particular, I do not believe that in two weeks, Braley went from a 25-point deficit among men to a 16-point deficit now.

SECOND UPDATE: The full debate video is on the KWQC website.

THIRD UPDATE: I wish every undecided voter in Iowa had seen this debate. Having finally watched the full video myself, I understand why shills for Ernst kept reaching for their security blankets on Saturday night. Talk about a disastrous performance. She repeatedly fell back on rote talking points that didn't answer the question. On several occasions it was apparent that she did not understand the policy implications of her own words. I particularly loved how she insisted that the bipartisan Senate-passed immigration reform bill was "amnesty," even though Braley had already explained why it was different from amnesty. She talked about securing the border, even though Braley had already explained that we would have 20,000 more border control agents if that immigration reform bill had become law. Toward the end of that exchange, though, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Ernst say she would not vote to repeal President Barack Obama's DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). A lot of conservatives were presumably surprised too, but not in a pleasant way.

At the end of this post I've linked to several pieces summarizing the debate highlights.

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IA-Sen: First Braley/Ernst debate liveblog and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Sep 28, 2014 at 16:59:26 PM CDT

In a few minutes Representative Bruce Braley and State Senator Joni Ernst will start their first debate at Simpson College in Indianola. You can watch the debate on KCCI-TV in the Des Moines viewing area and on C-SPAN across the country (in central Iowa that's channel 95).

I previewed what I see as the biggest potential pitfalls for each candidate here. I'll be liveblogging after the jump and will also update later with some reaction to the debate.

UPDATE: KCCI has posted the debate video online. I cleaned up some typos and filled in gaps in the liveblog below.

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IA-Sen debate preview: Risks for Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Sep 28, 2014 at 16:19:05 PM CDT

Representative Bruce Braley and State Senator Joni Ernst face off today for the first of three scheduled debates. You can watch at 5 pm on C-SPAN or on KCCI-TV if you live in the Des Moines viewing area. KCCI and the Des Moines Register will live-stream the debate as well.

Debates rarely change election outcomes, but they are high-stakes events because a mistake provides fodder for a wave of attack ads. Republicans have been bashing Staci Appel for two weeks already over one awkward response she gave during her Congressional candidate debate with David Young.

Follow me after the jump for a preview of the major risks for each candidate in the IA-Sen debate. Braley goes in under more pressure after the latest Des Moines Register Iowa poll showed him behind by 6 points. But the format creates some potential pitfalls for Ernst too.

By the way, in her ongoing quest to displace WHO-TV's Dave Price as the favorite journalist of central Iowa Republicans, the Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs put her thumb on the scale in her debate preview. Jacobs attributes negative views of Braley to "voters" while dismissing criticism of Ernst as coming from "Democrats." Memo to Register publisher Rick Green: we know you're conservative, but it's embarrassing for your chief political reporter to express such a clear preference ahead of a debate your newspaper is co-sponsoring. Maybe you should move Jacobs over to the opinion page during your upcoming job shuffle.

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Weekend open thread: Des Moines Register IA-Sen poll edition (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Sep 27, 2014 at 23:36:24 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This evening the Des Moines Register rolled out partial results from its first Iowa poll since forming a partnership with Bloomberg News on political coverage. The news isn't encouraging for Democrats: State Senator Joni Ernst leads U.S. Representative Bruce Braley by 44 percent to 38 percent, outside the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent. CORRECTION: That's the margin of error for each candidate's support. The margin of error for Ernst's lead over Braley would be larger.

I've posted excerpts from the Register's coverage after the jump. The most worrying points include: Ernst has a double-digit lead among independents; her 25-point lead among men more than compensates for Braley's 13-point lead among women; she leads among every age group (though only by 1 percent among senior citizens); Braley is not ahead in the first Congressional district, despite representing much of northeast Iowa since 2007.

Some Democrats have been grumbling this evening about the biased tone of the Register's write-up. For instance, Jennifer Jacobs dwelled on Braley's negatives, even though the poll showed a higher unfavorable rating for Ernst (44 percent) than for Braley (42 percent). In general, I can't remember a Des Moines Register political reporter showing a stronger bias than Jacobs has shown toward Ernst this whole year. It's remarkable. But that's far from Braley's biggest problem right now.

I expected the Braley campaign to respond that this poll is out of line with their internal numbers, or with other recent polls showing the IA-Sen race tied. But the memo from Braley's campaign manager Sarah Benzing was much more alarming, since it accepted the Register's numbers as a "snapshot of where this race begins" as voters start paying attention. It argued that the race was tied all summer, when "the TV spending numbers were closer to parity." In contrast, "the Ernst campaign and its backers have spent over $500,000 more than the Braley campaign and Democratic groups on television" in the past two weeks. "Unless this disparity is equalized over the next few weeks, there is a real chance that spending by outside groups will determine the Iowa Senate race [...]."

I've enclosed the Braley memo after the jump. There's some happy talk about the Democratic ground game, which supposedly will deliver for Braley "as long as Democratic spending in Iowa matches the firepower that the other side is contributing to the air war." Really, that's your spin? News flash: Democrats won a bunch of close Senate races in 2012 despite being outspent on television. They were able to connect with voters despite that deficit. Moreover, pro-Ernst and anti-Braley spending will probably continue to surpass Democratic spending for the whole month of October. Braley's campaign manager should not be suggesting her candidate can't win under those circumstances.

Democrats need to hope that either Braley can turn things around in the debates, or that this poll will turn out to be one of Selzer & Co's occasional misses (like when the Register's Iowa poll had Terry Branstad 28 points ahead of Bob Vander Plaats a few days before he won the 2010 GOP primary by 9 points). It's too bad the Register didn't commission an Iowa poll shortly after the June primary, so we would all have a baseline for comparison. But Public Policy Polling has an Iowa survey in the field this weekend too, and claims Ernst is running ahead.

UPDATE: On September 28, Harstad Strategic Research released partial results from a poll conducted between September 21 and 25 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. This poll showed Braley and Ernst tied at 42 percent each and Braley leading among independents by 40 percent to 36 percent. The survey drew respondents from the Iowa voter file rather than through the random-dialing method used by some pollsters. I've added the memo at the end of this post.

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Gannett continues to cut the heart out of the Des Moines Register

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 24, 2014 at 14:53:30 PM CDT

As one of the shrinking number of Iowans who still subscribe to the Des Moines Register, I'm used to being disappointed by management decisions. The redesign to incorporate more daily content from USA Today leaves me cold. The website looks more slick but is less user-friendly than it was a few years ago. The Sunday opinion section is only four pages long. The talented Lee Rood could be exposing real dirt, but too many of her "Reader's Watchdog" columns focus on individual grievances with no public policy relevance.

As if that weren't bad enough, yet another round of newsroom layoffs is coming soon. Since the "Great Recession" set in, the Register has been cutting news staff almost every year, either through buyouts or (more frequently) pink slips. It's been nearly six years since the Register employed its own political cartoonist. Managers let a Pulitzer Prize winner go. Perhaps the biggest mistake, in terms of news value, was closing the Washington bureau and sending Philip Brasher away, along with his wealth of knowledge on agriculture and the federal government.

The Register put a good spin on changes to its political reporting by announcing this week a "new partnership" with Bloomberg politics "on polling, content and events heading into the midterm and 2016 elections." After the jump I've posted an excerpt from the paper's story on the move. I am skeptical the change will add any value for politically-minded Iowans. The emphasis seems to be on format. I don't need "an updated caucuses app so readers can follow up-to-the-minute coverage on their mobile devices." I would rather see a larger team of political reporters dig in with more background and analysis. If it's true that "There will be just one 'metro government' reporter and just two state government reporters," good luck figuring out what's going on at the statehouse during the Iowa legislative session, or within state agencies at any time of year.

The Des Moines-based weekly Cityview reports regularly on the Register's declining circulation and layoffs prompted by disappointing revenue numbers for Gannett's newspaper division. I don't share the feeling of Schadenfreude that comes through in Civic Skinny's columns, but I share the sense of outrage that newspaper veterans are being forced to reapply for their positions, with the threat of losing severance payments if they turn down a new job offer. I've enclosed details on the process below. What a horrible way to treat employees. By the end of this year, the already lean Register newsroom will have lost 16 percent of its positions.

Please share any comments about changes at the Des Moines Register, or in the newspaper business generally.  

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No welcome mat from Terry Branstad for unaccompanied immigrant children

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 13:46:09 PM CDT

For two days I've been trying to find the words to react to Governor Terry Branstad slamming the door on unaccompanied and undocumented immigrant children who are staying in crowded facilities near the U.S. southern border. Since last fall, at least 50,000 children are estimated to have entered the country via Mexico from various countries of origin, mainly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The Obama administration has asked governors to help house the kids. During his Monday press briefing, Branstad made clear he doesn't want any of the children sent to Iowa.

It's not that I expected Branstad to welcome any of these kids. This is a guy who demagogued on illegal immigration during his last campaign and disagrees with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows undocumented children to be educated in public schools. Still, for those of us old enough to remember Governor Bob Ray welcoming refugees from Asia to Iowa during the 1970s, it's dispiriting to hear Branstad trot out tired excuses and talking points. He wants "empathy for these kids" but doesn't want to "send the signal to send these children to America illegally." As if these children deliberately broke the law. As if families in desperate circumstances, trying to save their kids from murderous gangs in central America, would be influenced by "signals" from generous Iowans.

I have nothing profound to say, I just find it depressing to hear the governor cite some charitable work by his wife as an excuse not to do anything to alleviate a humanitarian crisis. After the jump I've posted some news clips on the story, along with a call to action from the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa. Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

P.S.- What a disgrace for WHO-TV to allow reporter Aaron Brilbeck to file a story referring to human beings as "illegals" in the headline and the lede. Where were the newsroom editors? I expect that kind of language in a press release from Representative Steve King's office, not from a reputable media organization.

P.P.S.- Philip Brasher, formerly of the Des Moines Register, filed an excellent feature for Roll Call about "The Other Side of the Border."

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End of two eras: Stephen Colbert to replace David Letterman on CBS Late Show

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 21:10:00 PM CDT

It's been nearly twenty years since I watched David Letterman regularly, so I didn't take much notice when he announced recently that he will retire sometime in 2015. Today's news hits home, though: Stephen Colbert will end his run at Comedy Central to replace Letterman on the CBS Late Show next year.

The Colbert Report is the late-night program I've watched most often during the past several years, even more than The Daily Show. I am concerned about how Colbert will make the transition from performing as a right-wing caricature to playing it straight on a major broadcast network. Still, I can't blame him for wanting to make a change after what will be a full decade at The Colbert Report. Supposedly he plans to bring his whole writing team with him to CBS, so that's promising.

Any comments about Letterman or Colbert are welcome in this thread. The word "legendary" is overused, but Colbert's performance at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner was one of the greatest comic routines I've ever seen. You can find the video on various YouTube pages and read the full transcript here.

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Mid-week open thread: Ripoffs, real and imagined

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 21:18:18 PM CDT

Here's an open thread: all topics welcome.

The Iowa Policy Project has called wage theft "an invisible epidemic" costing Iowa workers an estimated $600 million each year. Click here for a few examples of how wage theft works. Last week the Iowa Senate approved on party lines a bill to address common forms of wage theft (full text here). However, that bill is not moving in the Republican-controlled Iowa House.

Joseph Williams published a depressing account of his short career in low-wage retail after losing his journalism job. Even though he made more than minimum wage, it wasn't enough to cover basic expenses. Williams also experienced wage theft and the small humiliations inflicted by "loss prevention" policies.

The Center for Public Integrity's Daniel Wagner wrote a disturbing piece about aggressive debt collection tactics targeting Americans doing military service.

Sometimes feeling cheated and getting a raw deal are very different things. After the jump I've posted an excerpt from a Detroit News feature on a Michigan woman now starring in a television commercial attacking health care reform as "unaffordable." Turns out she will save quite a bit of money under her new "Obamacare" health insurance--but she doesn't believe it. Classic case of cognitive dissonance.

Your unintentional comedy for the week is a letter to the editor from the March 7 Des Moines Register, in which a man complains of being ripped off at a "Duck Dynasty" speaking engagement.

After shelling out a considerable sum for a VIP meet-and-greet session, I arrived to stand in line with over 300 other VIP patrons. I was told I would have 7.5 seconds with each of Willie and Phil Robertson. When I finally made it to their table, I was rushed through in seconds. I handed my Bible to Phil for an autograph and he scribbled an illegible name. My "VIP Seating" ended up being in the 15th row next to non-VIP patrons who paid nearly one-tenth the price of my experience.

When the program started, Willie spoke about the makings of their show. Phil then took the stage with a few minutes of duck-calling, followed with a lengthy rant about how Americans are being denied the rights written in the United States Constitution.

Disgusted, I got up and left before it ended. The event was nothing but a marketing scheme that took money from hard-working Americans.

A marketing scheme--who could have guessed? But seriously, isn't it blasphemous to ask a television celebrity to sign your Bible?

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Weekend open thread: Time-wasting edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 20:15:48 PM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? I've decided that the best way to deal with NBC's horrible Olympics coverage is to tape and watch later or the following day, fast-forwarding over the endless commercials and filler material. It's amazing how few events and competitors you see during hours of watching NBC. Prime-time is the worst, but even the daytime coverage is very light.

Ever heard the old blogging expression, "Don't feed the trolls"? New psychological research shows that it's good advice, because being an internet troll is correlated with personality traits such as "Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others)." I appreciate commenters who bring substance or a different perspective to the table, but engaging with trolls is pointless.

Speaking of wasting time, how would you like to be one of the people who supposedly helped lay the groundwork for Bob Vander Plaats to run for Iowa's U.S. Senate seat? Whether sincere fans or soulless political consultants, they turned out to be props helping him drum up publicity for his new pet project. Outside a certain conservative subculture, few people would have cared that this has-been wrote a book, if not for the extensive media speculation in recent months that Vander Plaats would join the IA-Sen Republican field.

This is an open thread. All topics welcome.

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Five links for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 20, 2014 at 17:35:00 PM CST

Government offices and many public school districts were closed today in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Bleeding Heartland has compiled links about King to mark this day for the past three years, as well as on last summer's 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Here's a new batch:

The civil rights leader was a fan of the "Star Trek" television series and persuaded Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) not to leave the show during the second season.

Thomas J. Sugrue on Restoring King: "There is no figure in recent American history whose memory is more distorted and words more drained of content than Martin Luther King."

Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon on The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV: "[N]ational news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for during his final years."

Daily Kos user HamdenRice on why Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did: "his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer."

Todd Dorman on King's visits to eastern Iowa in 1959 and 1962:

"We have come to the point,' Dr, King said, "where we can say in the South to those who use violence against us:

"We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering.

"We will meet your physical force with soul force.

"Do to us what you will, and we still love you."

P.S.-"Abigail Van Buren" published this quote from Dr. King in today's "Dear Abby" column. It was new to me, but I agree with her that it "applies to many aspects of life": "All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face-to-face with another problem."

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CBS finally acknowledges Benghazi story debacle

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 27, 2013 at 06:50:00 AM CST

"60 Minutes" correspondent Lara Logan and her producer Max McClellan are taking a leave of absence after an internal review at CBS News acknowledged major problems with a segment broadcast last month. Logan highlighted an alleged eyewitness's sensational account about the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. compound at Benghazi, Libya. But much of that security contractor's story appears to have been fabricated, leading to his publisher taking the extraordinary step of pulling his book about Benghazi.

Here's a timeline of the "Benghazi Trainwreck", and here are seven major problems with the story Logan aired.

Among the unanswered questions surrounding this black eye for the flagship CBS news program: "why the hell did CBS News continue to defend this story after evidence emerged that Davies had fabricated his tale?" Jay Rosen chronicled the network's "reckless denials" here.

Also, did Logan's husband play a role in getting some unsourced allegations on the air in her Benghazi piece? Perhaps most important, why hasn't Logan been fired, rather than merely asked or forced to take a leave of absence? After an inaccurate "60 Minutes" story aired in 2004 about George W. Bush's National Guard service, CBS commissioned an independent panel (rather than an internal review) and eventually fired several employees who were involved in producing the segment.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.  

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Iowa Supreme Court seeking public comments on new media rules

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 08:35:00 AM CDT

Via the On Brief blog, I saw that yesterday the Iowa Supreme Court made public proposed changes to rules about electronic media coverage of its proceedings. I've posted the full press release after the jump.

The new rules are based on recommendations by a Committee on Expanded Media Coverage, appointed last December. Iowa Supreme Court Justice Bruce Zager chaired that committee, which included journalists as well as court officials and submitted its final report in August 2013. You can view the proposed rule changes here; words to be removed are crossed out, while suggested new language is underlined. Instructions on submitting a public comment on or before January 6, 2014, are here. People may submit their comments in person, by regular mail, or via e-mail.  

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Iowa AG Tom Miller previews case for his re-election?

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 06:25:00 AM CDT

Although Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller hasn't made any official announcement about plans to seek a ninth term in 2014, he recently previewed what could become central themes of a re-election campaign. Storm Lake Times editor Art Cullen made a splash in the Iowa newspaper world last month with editorials calling for Miller to retire. Cullen cited the attorney general's position on open records controversies and his alleged efforts to thwart the work of Iowa's ombudsman. Newspapers including the Des Moines Register and the Des Moines-based weekly Cityview republished Cullen's case for Miller to step aside and clear the path for "an attorney general for the people." Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu cited several other troubling examples of how Miller has lost his way in recent years.

To defend his work and "set the record straight," Miller wrote guest editorials for various publications. You can read his specific rebuttals to Cullen here. I was more interested in the list of achievements he cited as proof that "in the last few years," the Attorney General's office has "done more than ever to serve Iowans." It sounds like the kernel of a stump speech or television commercial to me. I've posted those excerpts after the jump.

Please share any relevant thoughts in this thread. I haven't heard yet about a Republican challenger to Miller, but I would not be surprised to see his 2010 opponent Brenna Findley take another shot next year. She is currently Governor Terry Branstad's legal counsel and just completed a six-week stint as the governor's interim chief of staff.

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