Where are they now? Swati Dandekar edition

Swati Dandekar photo Swati-Dandekar-ADB_zps98s6h4e4.jpg

President Barack Obama has named former State Senator Swati Dandekar "to be United States director of the Asian Development Bank, with the rank of ambassador," the White House announced yesterday. Created in 1966 and representing dozens of member countries, the bank had nearly $23 billion in operations last year. It "finances development in the Asia and Pacific region with the aim of reducing poverty" through "loans, technical assistance and grants for a broad range of development activities."

After growing up and getting her education in India, Dandekar moved to Marion, Iowa with her husband during the 1970s. She became active in local schools while raising her children and served for six years on the Linn-Mar School Board before winning three elections to the Iowa House and eventually a 2008 election to the Iowa Senate. That last victory prompted the Asian-American newspaper AsianWeek to name Dandekar the Asian Pacific American of the year. During her years as a state lawmaker, Dandekar focused on many education and economic development issues; she was also involved in efforts to promote trade between Iowa and India. A past leader of the National Foundation for Women Legislators, Dandekar did not serve out her term in the Iowa Senate, accepting an appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board in 2011. She left that position in order to run for Congress in Iowa’s first district. Dandekar finished third in the 2014 Democratic primary behind Pat Murphy and Monica Vernon.

Dandekar disclosed earlier this year that she was considering running for Congress again. She confirmed by phone today that because of her new position, she has ruled out any election campaign. I doubt she will endorse a candidate in the three-way primary between Murphy, Vernon, and Gary Kroeger to take on IA-01’s Republican incumbent Rod Blum.

Drake Democratic debate highlights and discussion thread

The second Democratic presidential debate kicks off in a few minutes at Drake University’s Sheslow Auditorium. Why Democratic National Committee leaders scheduled this event on a Saturday night is beyond me; but then, their whole approach to debates this year has been idiotic. I wonder how many politically-engaged Iowans who would normally tune in for a debate will watch the Iowa Hawkeyes football game against Minnesota tonight.

I’m not a fan of curtain-raisers such as lists of "things to watch for" or mistakes candidates might make. I will update this post later with thoughts on each contender’s performance.

Any comments about tonight’s debate or the Democratic presidential race generally are welcome in this thread. I enclose below the latest commercials Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been running in Iowa. The new 30-second Sanders spot mostly uses images and phrases pulled from his strong introductory commercial. Clinton’s ad-maker this year is putting out much better material than I remember from her 2007 Iowa caucus campaign. To my knowledge, Martin O’Malley has not aired any television commercials in Iowa yet, but the Generation Forward super-PAC has run at least one spot promoting his candidacy, which Bleeding Heartland posted here.

UPDATE: My first take on the debate is after the jump.

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12 examples of President Barack Obama being weak during his first term


Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign is pushing a new line of attack against Senator Bernie Sanders: in 2011, Sanders said President Barack Obama was "weak" and perhaps should face a challenger in the 2012 Democratic primary. O’Malley’s communications staff have also pushed out reports suggesting Sanders himself was considering a primary challenge to Obama and failed to campaign vigorously for the president’s re-election later in 2012 (not that Vermont was ever in play for Mitt Romney).

Those talking points may fire up Democrats who already resent the fact that the self-proclaimed democratic socialist Sanders has always campaigned as an independent. But I doubt they are a promising line of attack for moving caucus-goers and primary voters away from Sanders and toward O’Malley. The inconvenient truth is that Obama’s record hasn’t always lined up with progressive principles or with his own campaign promises. I suspect those who "feel the Bern" are more likely to agree with than be offended by Sanders’ critique of the president.

I don’t know yet for whom I will caucus, the first time I’ve ever been undecided so late in the election cycle. But I count myself among those "millions of Americans" Sanders described as "deeply disappointed in the president" during the interview O’Malley’s campaign portrays as harmful. I caucused uncommitted in 2012 to send the message that the president "hasn’t stood up for core principles of the Democratic Party." Moreover, O’Malley’s own stump speech hints at some valid reasons for Democrats to be disaffected by Obama’s rightward drift.

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Thoughts on the Iowa Democratic Party's final Jefferson-Jackson dinner

The Iowa Democratic Party held its final Jefferson-Jackson dinner Saturday night, drawing some 6,000 activists to hear three presidential candidates speak in Des Moines. Last night’s spectacle won’t loom as large over the Iowa caucus campaign as the JJ did in 2007, when it took place in November and the caucuses were scheduled for early January, rather than February. But some new tactics emerged during the speeches by presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, and Hillary Clinton. My thoughts on the evening’s highlights are after the jump.

I am a sucker for hand-made political signs, so I also enclose below my favorite pictures from the crowds in the bleachers. I put "Feel the Bern" in lights up top because I’ve never seen electrified signs at the JJ before.

While I see the value in supporters waving signs (or glow sticks, as many did last night) at a big rally, the "sign wars" some campaigns stage before multi-candidate events have always struck me as pointless. How does it demonstrate "organizational strength" to send a few staffers to put up printed materials in windows or along a road? Why would anyone want their volunteers to stand around yelling for hours before the dinner, rather than saving their energy and voices to show that enthusiasm inside the hall? For those who disagree with me and love the show, Pat Rynard chronicled the morning and afternoon activities by all three campaigns at Iowa Starting Line.

As for why I called it the "final" JJ, the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual fall fundraiser will continue under a to-be-determined name honoring icons considered more inclusive. You can send your suggestion to the state party using this form through February 15, 2016.

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Poll testing pro-Sanders, anti-Clinton messages with Iowa Democrats

Bernie Buttons

A new poll is in the field testing numerous statements designed to convince Iowa Democrats to caucus for Bernie Sanders rather than for Hillary Clinton. I received the call last night and enclose my notes below. If you were a respondent for the same survey and can provide additional details, please post a comment in this thread or contact me via e-mail (the address is near the lower right corner of this page).

My best guess is that an outside group wanting to boost Sanders commissioned the poll. The questionnaire did not include any negative statements about the senator from Vermont. If the Sanders campaign were designing a poll like this, I think they would have tested a few arguments against supporting the candidate, to identify his possible weak points. An outside group planning to produce direct mail or paid advertising to influence Iowa Democrats wouldn’t need that information. They would only be interested in the best way to discourage people from caucusing for Clinton and/or encourage them to caucus for Sanders.

Although Sanders doesn’t have a super-PAC promoting his campaign, progressive advocacy groups that want him to become president may make independent expenditures supporting him. Note that the survey asked respondents whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the environmental group Friends of the Earth; no other non-profit organizations were mentioned in the questionnaire. Friends of the Earth endorsed Sanders this summer and would presumably be interested in knowing how well they are known/liked among early state Democrats.

It’s also possible that a conservative organization would commission a poll like this, hoping to hurt Clinton in the early nominating states.

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First Democratic presidential debate discussion thread

In a few moments, five Democratic presidential candidates will take the stage in Las Vegas for their first televised debate. I wish the Democratic National Committee hadn’t stood in the way of scheduling more debates, starting this summer. Listening to DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz try to defend her stance in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer today, all I could think was, thank heaven for the "Big Blue Wall." We aren’t going to win elections on Wasserman-Schultz’s strategic skills, that’s for sure.

All of the candidates are under pressure tonight. Hillary Clinton wants to change the dominant media narrative, which has been relentlessly negative about her candidacy for months. Bernie Sanders has his first substantial block of tv time to talk about his policies. In recent months, network news coverage has devoted far more air time to Joe Biden’s possible presidential bid than to Sanders’ actual campaign, which is drawing record crowds.

As the loudest voice for more debates, who has received relatively little media attention so far, Martin O’Malley needs a strong showing tonight, especially since the other debates scheduled before the Iowa caucuses are all happening on weekends, when viewership will likely be low. Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee will also want to break through to a national audience, but they are not building real campaign organizations the way O’Malley has done. Twitter user dcg1114, who posted this guest piece at Bleeding Heartland last month, noted today that the first debate of the 1984 election cycle gave Gary Hart his “first real sign of life.” In particular, that debate helped Hart improve his standing for the Iowa caucuses.

Incidentally, former Iowan and Democratic activist Tommi Makila wrote a blistering commentary contrasting O’Malley’s criticism of the DNC’s “rigged” process with the “rigged” Democratic primaries Makila has observed since moving to Maryland years ago.

Please share any relevant comments in this thread. I’ll update this post later with first thoughts on the debate. UPDATE: My impressions are below.

After the jump I’ve posted videos of the latest commercials Clinton has been running, as well as the debut tv ad the Generation Forward PAC put on the air in Iowa supporting O’Malley.  

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