The Socialist Revival. It All Began in Iowa

Jeff Cox is encouraged by evidence mainstream Democrats “will increasingly embrace the socialist policies brought into public debate by the Sanders campaign.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

When Bernie Sanders spoke to a sold out crowd at Iowa City’s Hancher Auditorium in August, sponsored by Prairie Lights Books, he prefaced his comments (full video here) by thanking the people of Iowa for their early support for his presidential campaign. “It all began here,” he said.

If that is true, historians will look to the 2016 Iowa caucuses as the beginning, not merely of a presidential campaign, but of a wholly unexpected revival of democratic socialism in America.

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Senate confirms Branstad as U.S. ambassador to China

Minutes ago the U.S. Senate confirmed Governor Terry Branstad as ambassador to China, clearing the way for Branstad to resign on Wednesday, allowing Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to be sworn in as governor. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had unanimously approved Branstad’s nomination earlier this month, but twelve senators voted against advancing his nomination last week, and thirteen senators voted against him on the floor today. The opponents included Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont–all considered potential presidential candidates in 2020. In a list-building e-mail earlier this afternoon, Brown wrote,

Branstad is notorious for busting collective bargaining rights in his state. Legislation he signed into law will force Planned Parenthood clinics to close this summer.

How can we make an anti-labor, anti-women’s rights politician in charge of U.S. relations with a country that has large human rights problems, especially in the areas of women’s and workers’ rights.

Given how unpopular Branstad is with highly-engaged Democratic activists, a vote against confirming the governor certainly wouldn’t hurt any of these senators in the next Iowa caucus campaign.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, also a possible Democratic presidential contender, supported Branstad’s confirmation. I’ll update this post later with full details on the Senate vote once the roll call has closed and some political reaction.

UPDATE: The thirteen senators who voted against Branstad were Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Booker, Brown, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Gary Peters of Michigan, Sanders, Chuck Schumer of New York, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Warren. All are Democrats except Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats. All represent states where organized labor is relatively strong.

SECOND UPDATE: Added below Branstad’s statement and other comments on his confirmation, as well as Senator Chuck Grassley’s speech on the Senate floor before today’s vote.

I had to laugh hearing Grassley “express my disappointment and frustration with the seemingly endless obstruction on the part of the minority.” He is bent out of shape because Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had to file cloture on Branstad’s nomination:

We could have approved this nomination with just a few minutes of debate time, yet, the minority required that we use 30 hours – not because they wanted to debate the merits of the nominee, but simply to delay the business of this body.

It’s unfortunate that their delay has kept an eminently qualified individual from getting into the job to promote American interests in China sooner.

Grassley and his fellow Republicans didn’t give the eminently qualified Judge Merrick Garland even a hearing, let alone a floor vote for his nomination to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Someone is message-testing for Hillary Clinton in Iowa

I haven’t received the call myself, but multiple acquaintances who are registered Iowa Democrats have been respondents for a lengthy message-testing poll about Hillary Clinton in recent days. The survey takes approximately 30 minutes and includes lots of questions about whether X, Y, or Z would be a reason you would or would not support Hillary Clinton in the next Iowa caucuses.

The survey also asks Iowans about several other possible Democratic candidates, including Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar, and former U.S. Senator Jim Webb, who recently formed an exploratory committee for a presidential bid. UPDATE: Other Iowa Democrats confirm the call asked about Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley as well.

From what I’ve heard, this poll did not ask about Republican presidential candidates, with one exception: a question about whether a Hillary Clinton/Jeb Bush match up of American political dynasties would be a good or bad thing.

I hope other Bleeding Heartland readers can provide more details about this poll, including not only questions asked but also what research firm is being used (which should be mentioned at the end of the call). My acquaintances do not recall hearing any organization’s name mentioned, such as the Ready for Hillary super PAC.  Feel free to post comments in this thread or send a confidential e-mail message.

Speaking of Clinton’s presidential prospects, Amie Parnes reported for The Hill this week that only four Republicans worry “Clinton World”: former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. (Parnes didn’t name all of the Clinton associates she interviewed for the story.) Of those four candidates, Walker strikes me as best-positioned to make it through the GOP primaries, if he can raise enough money for a credible campaign. Christie and Bush will be competing for the same donors and the same niche in the various primaries. I think both have taken too many positions that will be deal-breakers for the right wing.

UPDATE: In retrospect, I should not have said in the headline that someone is message-testing “for” Hillary Clinton, because a poll like this could just have easily been commissioned by a group looking for the best arguments to use against Clinton with the Iowa Democrats.

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Iowa caucus hopefuls eager to serve as campaign surrogates

With the 2016 caucuses only a bit more than a year away, many potential presidential candidates have been paying their dues in Iowa this fall. On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is headlining events for Bruce Braley in Cedar Rapids and Davenport on Wednesday, while her husband, President Bill Clinton, will campaign with Braley in Des Moines and Waterloo this Saturday. Vice President Joe Biden was in Davenport today with Braley and Representative Dave Loebsack.

Others who might run for president (if Hillary Clinton opts out) have been here lately too. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts got large crowds of Democrats going in Iowa City and Des Moines last weekend. This past Saturday, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota gave the keynote speech at the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recently visited Iowa for the fourth time since June, headlining events for Braley, Loebsack, gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch, and Steve Siegel, the Democratic candidate in Iowa Senate district 41.

On the Republican side, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did an event for Representative Steve King before headlining Governor Terry Branstad’s “birthday” bash in Des Moines on Saturday. (King helped Christie out of a jam once.) The New Jersey governor will be back later this week to campaign with Branstad, Senate nominee Joni Ernst, and IA-02 nominee Mariannette Miller-Meeks in Burlington. Last week, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky came to Cedar Falls for an event with IA-01 GOP nominee Rod Blum, and Texas Governor Rick Perry made stops in Des Moines and the Cedar Rapids area for attorney general nominee Adam Gregg, Blum, and Ernst. Former Senator Rick Santorum did an event for King last week too, and Donald Trump did earlier in October. Senator Marco Rubio is coming back to eastern Iowa tomorrow to raise money for the Scott County Republicans and for Blum.

I’ve heard that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee have recorded radio ads for Sam Clovis, the social conservative favorite who is running for state treasurer. However, I haven’t heard those spots on the radio yet. Speaking of social conservative heroes, Dr. Ben Carson (possibly the new “flavor of the month” for Iowa Republicans) is slated to keynote the FAMiLY Leader’s fall fundraiser on November 22.

Any comments about the next presidential race in Iowa are welcome in this thread. P.S. Imagine if any Democratic candidate or elected official followed Branstad’s lead and moved his “birthday party” up from November 17 to October 25 for political reasons. There would be a chorus of outrage from pundits: Phony! Not acting like a real Iowan!  

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U.S. begins bombing ISIS targets in Syria

This evening a U.S. military official confirmed to news media that airstrikes have begun in a part of Syria largely controlled by the terrorist group ISIS. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain are partnering with the U.S. on the airstrikes, though the extent of their cooperation is not yet clear. The Obama administration had previously announced plans for “targeted actions against ISIL safe havens in Syria — including its command and control, logistics capabilities, and infrastructure,” according to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. I don’t understand the endgame, since the Obama administration has vowed not to cooperate with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Last week, the U.S. House and U.S. Senate authorized the Obama administration to train and arm “moderates” in Syria and Iraq. But in a pathetic act of cowardice, Congress approved the president’s request as part of a huge must-pass spending bill, rather than as a stand-alone measure. Why should anyone respect the separation of powers if most members of Congress would rather punt than have a serious debate over whether to get the country more directly involved in a civil war? Especially since no one seems to know who these moderate Syrian rebels are. For all we know, we will be inadvertently training the next group of terrorists in the region, or supplying weapons that will fall into the wrong hands.

The funding bill containing the military authorization language passed the U.S. House by 273 votes to 156, with bipartisan support and opposition. Iowans Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were among the 114 House Democrats who voted yes. Representatives Tom Lataham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) were among the 159 Republicans who voted yes.

When the same bill passed the U.S. Senate by 78 votes to 22, Senators Chuck Grassley (R) and Tom Harkin (D) both voted yes. Rebecca Shabad and Ramsey Cox reported for The Hill, “The ‘no’ votes included several senators seen as prospective presidential candidates in both parties, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).” Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and is considering a presidential campaign, voted no. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, considered a possible presidential candidate if Hillary Clinton does not run, voted yes.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I will update this post as needed with Iowa political reaction to the airstrikes in Syria. But don’t hold your breath: last week I did not see any official statement from anyone in Iowa’s Congressional delegation about having voted to authorize weapons and training for rebel groups in Syria and Iraq.

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New Iowa caucus speculation thread

How about a new thread on the Iowa caucuses? The off-year caucuses in 2014 could be extremely important on the Republican side. The U.S. Senate nomination could be decided at a statewide GOP convention, if no candidate wins at least 35 percent of the vote in the June primary. Furthermore, supporters of Governor Terry Branstad will need to focus on electing delegates at the precinct, county, and district levels, if rumors of an attempt to replace Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds on the ticket are accurate.

Democrats in the first Congressional district have extra incentive to turn out supporters for the 2014 caucuses as well, in case none of the five declared candidates in IA-01 wins at least 35 percent of the vote in the primary.

As for the next presidential-year caucuses, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota was the featured speaker at the north Iowa Democrats’ “Wing Ding” event in Clear Lake last Friday. She indicated that she is not interested in running for president and even joked that Minnesota supplies the country with vice presidents. If Hillary Clinton does not run for president again, Klobuchar is one of several Democratic senators who might join the race.

Former U.S. Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts visited the Iowa State Fair on Sunday with his wife, Iowa native Gail Huff. He wants to know if there is substantial support for his “brand of leadership and Republicanism.” I can hardly imagine a worse fit than Brown for Iowa Republican caucus-goers.

Speaking of which, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey signed a bill banning so-called gay conversion therapy for minors in his state. That intrusion on parental decision-making will be a deal-breaker for social conservatives.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, the new darling of the Iowa Republican base, has released his birth certificate to show that he is eligible to run for president. He will also renounce his dual Canadian citizenship.

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, my early pick to win the 2016 Iowa caucuses, previewed his future case against GOP members of Congress who may become rivals for the presidential nomination.

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