Weekend open thread: Making history

I’m a third-generation Tigers fan—my mother saw Hank Greenberg play at the old Tiger Stadium in Detroit—but most of Iowa is Cubs country. Congratulations to everyone who "Flew the W" Saturday night, watching the Chicago Cubs win the National League pennant for the first time in seven decades. Seeing any long-suffering sports team win a championship makes me happy, so I am glad the next World Series champions will be either the Cubs or the Cleveland Indians. Any thoughts on the potential impact of a Cubs or Indians victory on the election results in Iowa or Ohio?

I shouldn’t tempt fate with November 8 two and a half weeks away, but FiveThirtyEight.com now gives Hillary Clinton an 86 percent chance of winning the presidency. The latest simulation by Reuters/Ipsos sees her winning in 95 percent of scenarios. Recent polls of Iowa voters show no clear favorite in the presidential race. I expect a close result here; the latest absentee ballot numbers give both Democrats and Republicans reason to be optimistic. No matter who wins Iowa’s six electoral votes, Clinton appears very likely to be the next president.

Until a few years ago, I didn’t think a woman would be elected president in my lifetime. Despite all the misogyny and Hillary hate this campaign has brought to the surface, my children’s generation will grow up without the baggage of thinking this country would never elect a woman, just like they would never think an African-American can’t become president. That’s inspiring and empowering.

Any thoughts on which Iowans might get high-profile jobs in a Clinton administration? What place will she find for Tom Vilsack? Politico came up with a short list of five possible candidates to replace Vilsack as secretary of agriculture. (None are from Iowa.)

I’ve reached out to many Iowa Republicans who have kept their distance from Donald Trump or are rumored not to be voting for him. Most have not responded to my queries. I get that it’s a tough political calculation to oppose your party’s nominee, especially when the whole Iowa GOP establishment enthusiastically supports him. But I am convinced many of these closeted #NeverTrumpers will regret lacking the courage to take a stand before November 8. Trump is not some less-than-ideal candidate. He is playing to the ugliest strains in American politics. His demagoguery and blood libel encouraged white nationalists to come out from under their rocks, some explicitly playing the race card for votes while others relentlessly harass Trump’s critics.

Five former heads of the Republican National Committee, dozens of current and former GOP members of Congress, and four former GOP presidential nominees have said they will not vote for Trump. Fifty former senior national security officials in Republican administrations and a former nuclear missile launch officer have said it would be dangerous to give him the nuclear codes. His narcissism is comical, until you remember this man with no impulse control could become president. Meanwhile, Senator Joni Ernst told the whole country Trump would keep us safer. Ernst pretends to care about sexual assault but will vote for a man who threatened to sue all the women who have accused him of assaulting them. This Iraq War veteran hosted Trump at her biggest fundraiser of the year soon after he insulted a Gold Star family.

In contrast to Ernst, Governor Terry Branstad, or state party chair Jeff Kaufmann, some Iowa Republicans have avoided Trump’s rallies or events where they might be seen with the nominee. To them I say: speak up now, or expect your complicity to be a permanent stain on your political career. These people better not claim after Trump’s landslide loss that they secretly didn’t like him and didn’t vote for him.

Hardin County Auditor Jessica Lara told the Wall Street Journal’s Reid Epstein this week that she’s voting for Hillary Clinton. To my knowledge, she is the only current elected Republican official in Iowa to come out publicly for Clinton. Bleeding Heartland was first to report in May that Lara was #NeverTrump.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. History buffs may appreciate Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s phenomenal interactive site showing pictures of street scenes in Budapest during the 1956 Hungarian uprising and in the present day.

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Iowa second-worst state for racial disparity in drug possession arrests

The massive racial disparities in Iowa’s criminal justice system have long been recognized as among the worst in the country, spurring calls to action not only by advocacy groups but also by Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady and even Governor Terry Branstad.

Yet a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch shows that African-American adults in Iowa are seven times more likely than whites to be arrested for drug possession—an imbalance second only to Montana.

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Trump found yet another way to take American politics to a dark place

Donald Trump proved in his final debate against Hillary Clinton that he hasn’t run out of ways to demonstrate he is unfit to serve as president.

About an hour in, Chris Wallace asked the Republican nominee a simple question: will he accept the result of this election? Trump said, "I will look at it at the time," then rattled off a bunch of bogus talking points. To his credit, Wallace pressed Trump on whether he would honor the tradition of a "peaceful transition of power," with the loser conceding to the winner. "Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?"

Trump responded, "What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense."

Normal candidates may make gaffes. Unorthodox candidates may say things that are shunned in polite company. But before Trump, even the most offensive candidate didn’t refuse to accept the will of the voters. Associated Press reporters Julie Pace and Lisa Lerer conveyed the enormity of Trump’s break with tradition in the lede to their debate wrap-up: "Threatening to upend a fundamental pillar of American democracy […]."

Every GOP candidate and office-holder must repudiate Trump and affirm that they will respect the outcome on November 8. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate spoke out on Monday, describing Trump’s warnings about "large scale voter fraud" as "not helpful" and "misinformation." Governor Terry Branstad tried to have it both ways, expressing "confidence" in the election system but claiming Trump has been a victim of media bias, and that Iowa county auditors won’t be able to prevent all attempts at voter fraud.

That’s not good enough. By suggesting the result might be illegitimate, Trump could provoke political violence that is unprecedented following a U.S. election in our lifetimes.

Any comments about the third debate are welcome in this thread. For those who missed it, the full video is here, a full transcript is here, and the Los Angeles Times published transcripts of some noteworthy exchanges. Links to a few good fact checks: NPR, New York Times, ABC, Factcheck.org, and Politifact. I enclose below the clip with Trump’s rigged election claims and Clinton’s response to his "horrifying" remarks.

A few other moments stuck out in my mind:

• Clinton’s strong defense of a reproductive rights: "I will defend Roe v. Wade and I will defend women’s rights to make their own healthcare decisions." Members of CNN’s focus group liked Clinton’s answer to that question better than any other from the Democrat.

• The exchange over immigration policy, in which Trump referred to some "bad hombres" while Clinton pointed out, "We have undocumented immigrants in America who are paying more federal income tax than a billionaire."

• Clinton saying Russian President Vladimir Putin would "rather have a puppet as the president of the United States" and telling Trump, "You are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do."

• Trump interrupting with "Such a nasty woman" while Clinton answered a question about Social Security and Medicare. Mental health experts say narcissists "project onto others qualities, traits, and behaviors they can’t—or won’t—accept in themselves."

Wallace was a much better moderator than I anticipated from a Fox News personality, despite a few missteps.

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Iowa House district 72 preview: Dean Fisher vs. Nathan Wrage

When the dust settled after the 2012 general election, I was frustrated to see how close Iowa Democrats came to winning back the Iowa House majority. Democratic candidates picked up seven GOP-held state House seats that year, but lost half a dozen other races by extremely narrow margins, leaving Republicans with 53 of the 100 seats in the lower chamber.

One of the "seats that got away" was House district 72, where Dean Fisher beat Nathan Wrage by only 216 votes in an open seat due to GOP State Representative Lance Horbach’s retirement. President Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney by about 3 percentage points among voters in the district.

The GOP expanded its Iowa House majority to 57-43 in the 2014 midterm election, but many state legislative seats are competitive this year, putting control of the chamber in play. As Wrage challenges Fisher again, Democrats won’t repeat their 2012 mistake of not targeting this race.

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Ken Rizer becomes first Iowa House Republican to abandon Trump

Republican State Representative Ken Rizer announced on Facebook Saturday evening that he "can’t in good conscience" vote for Donald Trump and will write in Mike Pence for president. Rizer, who supported Jeb Bush before the Iowa caucuses, said he had "aggressively prosecuted Airmen who sexually assaulted women" and is aware of "groping" and "lewd conduct" his college-aged daughters face. He concluded that Trump’s comments in a recently-released 2005 video "reveal an arrogant lack of character unfitting for a college undergrad, for an Airman, and most certainly for our Commander in Chief."

Rizer represents House district 68, a swing seat in the Cedar Rapids suburbs. He defeated Democrat Daniel Lundby in 2014, but Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney here in the last presidential election cycle by 54.45 percent to 44.08 percent. The latest voter registration numbers show the district contains 6,596 active registered Democrats, 6,103 Republicans, and 7,384 no-party voters. As of October 7, Democrats in Rizer’s district lead Republicans in absentee ballots requested by 1,698 to 844 and lead in early votes cast by 672 to 221.

I enclose below more comments from Rizer this evening, a map of House district 68, and background on the incumbent and his Democratic challenger Molly Donahue. She’s on the web here and on Facebook here.

The precincts in House district 68 also lie in Iowa Senate district 34, where Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis faces Rene Gadelha in a race both parties are targeting.

I will update this post as needed if other sitting Iowa Republican lawmakers announce that they won’t support Trump. On the morning of October 8, State Senator Jack Whitver posted on Twitter, "The comments and actions by Donald Trump are inexcusable and despicable. He should step down." However, Whitver did not clarify whether he will vote for Trump, assuming he stays in the race.

Also on October 8, State Senator David Johnson issued a statement calling on Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to "condemn Trump publicly" now that "Trump’s true anti-women sickness has been revealed." Johnson is the only Iowa legislator affiliated with neither party, having left the GOP in June to protest Trump’s impending nomination for president.

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Weekend open thread: Des Moines Register poll and latest Trump uproar

Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 43 percent to 39 percent in the new Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register. It’s the first Selzer poll here since before the June 7 primary elections, and its findings are in line with other recent statewide surveys showing Trump ahead. Some 6 percent of respondents favored Libertarian Gary Johnson and 2 percent Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

This poll was in the field from October 3-6, before Friday’s explosive news that Trump was videotaped in 2005 bragging to an entertainment reporter about how he liked to assault women he found attractive ("I just start kissing them. […] I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. […] Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything"). Jason Noble’s write-up notes that Trump’s attitude toward women was already among the biggest concerns for Iowa voters about the GOP nominee.

I enclose below excerpts from that story and from others about the latest Trump uproar. A separate post is in progress about the hole Iowa Republican leaders have dug for themselves by fully embracing Trump’s candidacy. All of our state’s top GOP elected officials are standing behind their party’s nominee, even as they condemn his comments in the 2005 video.

At tonight’s Reagan dinner in Des Moines, Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann said the country has "two flawed candidates" but confirmed he will vote for Trump. Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler offered a prayer expressing hope that people will understand "elections are not always about perfection." U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley didn’t mention Trump in his speech, which framed the election as a battle over the direction of the Supreme Court for the next 40 years. Senator Joni Ernst bashed Clinton’s character while not discussing Trump, whom she praised at the Republican National Convention and invited to headline her biggest event of the year. Governor Terry Branstad, whose son Eric is Trump’s campaign manager in Iowa, told the Reagan dinner crowd, "We need to elect Donald Trump and Mike Pence to make America great again!"

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. UPDATE: Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson posted the audio from most of the Reagan dinner speeches. The featured guest speaker, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas,

said Trump has let the GOP down “again.”

“The words on that tape were demeaning and they were shameful,” Cotton said and, as he continued, one woman yelled “Impeach Hillary” and others grew agitated. “Donald Trump doesn’t have much of a choice at this point. Tomorrow night at that debate, he needs to throw himself on the mercy of the American people. He needs to take full responsibility for his words and his actions and he needs to beg for their forgiveness and he needs to pledge that he’s going to finally change his ways.”

If Trump will not act contrite, Cotton said Trump needs to consider stepping aside so an “elder statesman” may run in his place. That declaration was initially greeted with silence, then many in the crowd applauded.

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