A look at Jefferson County, Iowa

A former southeast Iowa resident shares insight into an unusual rural county, where Trump supporters campaigned on a unique message. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Given the increasing attention being paid to the continuing decline of rural Iowa, Jefferson County is an interesting absurdity among these conversations and the 2016 presidential election.

Jefferson County, population 16,843, is a mesh of traditional rural Iowa and a hot pot coalition of Transcendental Meditation followers from around the globe. Fairfield, the county seat, is more than 60 miles to the nearest urban center and stands out as the rare rural Iowa community that has gained population in recent years: a 4 percent population increase between 2010-2014, according to a questionable census report. (Questionable because a portion of the census’s reported increase in residents may be international students who took classes in Fairfield, but live in other states for the majority of their student/work visa.)

Fairfield is also known for its progressive views on organic farming and green energy, as well as residents’ higher than average educational attainment and religious diversity. Given those facts, Jefferson County should have been an easy win for the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton coalition in 2016. As it has been reliably, other than in 2000, when the Natural Law Party’s John Hagelin won 15 percent of the vote, shifting the county from the Al Gore to the George Bush column. Instead, Clinton lost Jefferson County to Donald Trump by 38 votes.

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Why Iowa's RNC votes all went for Trump, even though Cruz won the caucuses

The Republican Party of Iowa changed its bylaws earlier this year to prevent a repeat of what state party chair Jeff Kaufmann has called “the 2012 fiasco.” During the last Republican National Convention, 22 of Iowa’s delegates cast their ballots for Ron Paul, who had finished third in the Iowa caucuses. Only six of our state’s delegates cast ballots for GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

Kaufmann has described the Iowa GOP’s new rules as designed to force RNC delegates to “vote with the intentions of the caucusgoers — the wishes of the grassroots.”

So why did all 30 of Iowa’s votes go to Donald Trump during today’s roll call vote in Cleveland?

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Weekend open thread: Improbably smooth GOP state convention edition

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

The Republican Party of Iowa finished all party business at yesterday’s state convention in under six hours. (For comparison, all four of the Iowa Democratic Party’s district conventions lasted more than twice as long.) You’d never guess that a candidate not named Donald Trump won the Iowa Republican caucuses in February, or that his supporters dominated the four GOP district conventions last month. State party chair Jeff Kaufmann assured journalists that the project of uniting the party was well underway after a sometimes bitter primary season.

During their speeches to convention delegates, Governor Terry Branstad said, “We need to support Donald Trump and his choice for vice president because he will make America great again.” Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds echoed the call to stand united against Democrats. As O.Kay Henderson reported for Radio Iowa, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst didn’t mention Trump’s name but argued, “We’ve got to come together, because you know what my motto is going to be this year? Never Hillary! Never!” A massive wall display symbolized the delegates’ commitment to “Stop Hillary” from becoming president.

Representative Steve King, who said a few days ago that he is “not ready” to endorse Trump yet, left little doubt yesterday that he will be able to do so by the time of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The at-large slate of RNC delegates chosen yesterday included Branstad, Reynolds, King, and Bob Vander Plaats, who like King was a high-profile endorser of Ted Cruz before the caucuses. Vander Plaats and Trump had a big dustup on Twitter in January. This week, Vander Plaats told Neil Cavuto of Fox News that he recently met one-on-one with Trump, adding that there was “no endorsement” but that the two men had a “good conversation.”

At least a handful of #NeverTrump types, such as conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart, were among the more than 1550 delegates at yesterday’s state convention, but they did not make their presence known in any organized or vocal way.

The party platform debate proceeded briskly, with no big floor fights. Planks approved by voice vote included one that would eliminate more than a half-dozen federal agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration along with the long-hated-by-Republicans Internal Revenue Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Education. The Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble highlighted some platform planks that are at odds with Trump’s positions.

Some Iowa GOP conventions have involved intense battles over electing the man and woman to represent our state on the Republican National Committee. However, Tamara Scott was unopposed yesterday for re-election, and Steve Scheffler easily outpolled his little-known opponent David Dicks, a homeschooling dad from Des Moines.

Speaking of Scheffler, how about that guy’s survival skills? The founder of the Iowa Christian Alliance, whom conservative talk radio host Steve Deace has called the “least trustworthy & most gutless person in Iowa politics,” was first elected as RNC committeeman in 2008. His victory over a legend of the Iowa Republican establishment was seen as a sign the Iowa GOP was moving to the right. Scheffler held on as RNC committeeman in 2012 amid the takeover of Iowa GOP machinery by Ron Paul supporters, winning a spot on their approved delegate slate. (Craig Robinson described here how Scheffler did “a 180” on Paul.) The “Paulinista” faction was mostly swept away in 2014, but Scheffler is still standing.

His ability to align himself with establishment figures goes back a long way. Scheffler first made a name for himself as a “lead organizer” for Pat Robertson before the 1988 Iowa caucuses. Robertson’s second-place finish in that contest shocked the political world. Scheffler went on to become a prominent Christian Coalition activist but disappointed some allies in social conservative circles by endorsing Bob Dole before the 1996 caucuses. As head of the Iowa Christian Alliance in 2007, Scheffler did not endorse a presidential candidate but “often spoke highly” of Mitt Romney (see here) and “was accused of trying to undermine Mike Huckabee’s campaign,” which had much more support among Iowa evangelicals at that time. I’ve posted more background on Scheffler below.

UPDATE: Every Iowa Republican who has endorsed Trump should be asked about this article by David Cay Johnston: “Just What Were Donald Trump’s Ties to the Mob?” Johnston won a Pulitzer prize in 2001 for his reporting on loopholes and inequities in the U.S. tax code.

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Michigan and Mississippi primary discussion thread: Epic fail for Rubio--and pollsters

Lots of votes remain to be counted from tonight’s primaries, but two losers are already clear.

Republicans are overwhelmingly rejecting Marco Rubio. To my mind, that’s a bigger story than Donald Trump winning the two biggest contests. In Mississippi, Trump won nearly half the vote, Ted Cruz won more than a third of the vote, and Rubio is down around 5 percent–in fourth place behind John Kasich. Trump won Michigan with more than a third of the vote, Kasich and Cruz are fighting for second place with about 25 percent each, while Rubio is unlikely to hit the 10 percent cutoff for delegates. As Taniel noted, Rubio missed statewide delegate cutoff thresholds in Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Maine, and Vermont, and barely cleared them in Tennessee and Alaska.

Rubio and his surrogates continue to express confidence about winning the Florida primary a week from today, but the way he’s been hemorrhaging support, that scenario seems highly unlikely. Furthermore, Taniel observed, “Michigan & Mississippi (from which Rubio is probably being shut out) have as many delegates combined as Florida. Can’t all be about 1 state.”

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders trailed by double digits in every recent Michigan poll but is leading by 50 percent to 48 percent with about half the results in. Although Hillary Clinton may be able to win the state narrowly once all the votes from the Detroit area come in, pollsters need to ask themselves some tough questions. For instance, did they underestimate how many independents would vote in the open primary? CNN’s exit poll suggests Clinton won Michigan Democrats by double digits but Sanders is ahead by more than 40 percent among independents. Whatever the final results, Sanders will be encouraged going into next week’s contests.

Clinton won Mississippi in a rout, with nearly 83 percent to just 16 percent for Sanders, at this writing.

Any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread. Trump’s victory speech/press conference was one of his most absurd yet–more like an infomercial than a political event.

UPDATE: Referring to the Michigan Democratic primary, Harry Enten pointed out that the difference between winning or losing narrowly means little in terms of delegates awarded to Clinton and Sanders. Psychologically, a win is always better than a loss, though.

SECOND UPDATE: One key factor for Sanders in Michigan was cutting down Clinton’s margin with African-American voters. She is still winning the black vote, but “only” by about a 2 to 1 margin. Nate Silver pointed out that Michigan results have confounded pollsters before.

THIRD UPDATE: Shortly after 10:30 pm, the Associated Press called the Michigan primary for Sanders. With a little more than 90 percent of the votes counted, he leads by 50 percent to 48 percent. Clinton is still above 80 percent in Mississippi, which is remarkable, but the Michigan upset is clearly the bigger story on the Democratic side.

Cruz leads in the early returns from the Idaho primary (Democrats didn’t vote there today) and has edged in front of Kasich for second place in Michigan.

According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network,

Here’s a run down of spending in support of each candidate in Michigan as of March 6:

Bernie Sanders, $3.5 million
Hillary Clinton, $2.6 million
Marco Rubio (Conservative Solutions Super PAC), $1.2 million
John Kasich (Kasich campaign, New Day For America Super PAC), $770,353
Donald Trump, $184,636
Ted Cruz, $1,112

Likely final delegate allocation from Michigan: 25 for Trump 25, 17 for Cruz and Kasich, zero for Rubio.

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: Many people on social media have shared anecdotes about Democrats in Michigan who crossed over to vote for Kasich, thinking (based on polls) Clinton would easily win the Democratic primary. Nate Silver called the Sanders win the biggest upset since Gary Hart winning the New Hampshire primary in 1984. However, Bleeding Heartland user fladem worked on that Hart campaign and showed why Silver is wrong.

Cruz won Idaho’s primary with 45.4 percent of the vote, to 28.1 percent for Trump, 15.9 percent for Rubio, and 7.4 percent for Kasich. Trump took the Hawaii caucuses with 42.4 percent, to 32.7 percent for Cruz, 13.1 percent for Rubio, and 10.6 percent for Kasich. Neither Rubio nor Kasich will win any delegates from Idaho or Hawaii.

Former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina endorsed Cruz at a rally in Miami on March 9.

I haven’t seen a definitive delegate count yet, but fladem and Taniel have both updated their tables.

On the Democratic side, Mark Murray calculates that Clinton now leads Sanders by 761 to 547 in pledged delegates and by 1193 to 569 when superdelegates are counted. The overwhelming majority of superdelegates (including in Iowa) have endorsed Clinton.

After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from three early attempts to explain why Sanders won Michigan.

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Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, and Nebraska presidential contest thread

Democrats and Republicans are caucusing today in Kansas and voting in the Louisiana primary. Republicans are also caucusing in Maine and Kentucky; Democrats will caucus in Maine tomorrow. Democrats caucused in Nebraska today, while Republicans will hold a primary there in May. This thread is for any comments about the presidential race. I will update throughout the evening.

Ted Cruz won the Kansas caucuses, which went to Rick Santorum in 2012 and Mike Huckabee in 2008. Speaking from Idaho about his latest victory, Cruz told supporters, “The scream you hear, the howl that comes from Washington DC, is utter terror at what We the People are doing together.”

Trump is still on track to win the Republican nomination, but a brokered GOP convention can’t be ruled out, especially if Cruz wins states dominated by social conservatives, John Kasich wins Ohio and possibly Michigan, and Marco Rubio wins the Florida primary. Ben Carson has ended his campaign, which could help alternatives to Trump win other states. Cruz just won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a sign of his continuing strength with hard-core activists.

Pat Rynard previewed the Democratic caucuses in Nebraska and in Kansas (where some voters will have to drive very long distances to participate). His account and others suggest that Bernie Sanders will win those states. However, Hillary Clinton is favored in Louisiana and has already built up a substantial pledged delegate lead. Unless Sanders can overtake Clinton in pledged delegates, the superdelegates are expected to go overwhelmingly for Clinton (Iowa is no exception).

UPDATE: Further updates are after the jump. It’s a disastrous night for Rubio: a distant third in Kansas, where most of the establishment was supporting him, and fourth place in Maine. He pursued a flawed strategy over the past couple of weeks, culminating in Thursday night’s debate in Detroit. Rubio went after Trump by getting down to Trump’s maturity level. Cruz had a much better debate, attacking Trump on policy and mocking him as childish. After some particularly un-presidential comments by Trump, Cruz scored his best points, asking the viewers at home whether this was the kind of debate they want to see play out over the summer.

Not only did Cruz dominate the field in Kansas, he won the Maine caucuses, a rare victory for a social conservative in New England and a rebuke to Governor Paul LePage, who endorsed Trump on February 26, less than a week after trying to mobilize GOP governors to stop Trump. So far, Trump leads the vote count in Kentucky and may carry Louisiana as well, but Cruz took a big step toward cementing his position as the viable alternative to Trump. He has called on Rubio to promise to drop out if he doesn’t win the Florida primary on March 15.

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Super Tuesday election results and discussion thread

Polls have closed in a few of the Super Tuesday primary states, so here’s a thread for any comments about the Democratic or Republican presidential contests. I will update this post periodically with results. So far Virginia and Georgia have been called for Hillary Clinton, while Vermont was called for Bernie Sanders. In his victory speech, Sanders vowed to take his fight to every one of the 35 states that have not yet voted.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump is the early winner in Georgia and is expected to win most of today’s primaries and caucuses. However, the size of his delegate lead will depend greatly on how many other candidates exceed the threshold for winning delegates in various states. Guest author fladem’s post on Republican delegate scenarios is essential reading, in case you missed it yesterday.

UPDATE: A disappointing night for the “Stop Trump” forces. (By the way, who was it who said, “whenever you hear about a ‘Stop X’ campaign, bet on X?”) Ted Cruz won Texas and Oklahoma, Marco Rubio won Minnesota, and Trump looks likely to sweep the rest of the states. John Kasich and Rubio split enough moderate votes to give Trump the win in Vermont and perhaps also in Massachusetts. Rubio may not hit the 20 percent threshold needed to win any delegates in some of the southern states. Trying to put a good spin on the results, Rubio told CNN that “this was supposed to be Ted Cruz’s big night” and depicted himself as the only person who can stop Trump from winning the GOP nomination. The look on his face when Jake Tapper asked him whether he was in denial was priceless.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie didn’t look very happy at Trump’s victory party. The times being what they are, Christie’s face spawned immediate memes and caption contests. So far this is my favorite: “That moment when you realize you misunderstood literally every Bruce Springsteen song.”

Clinton had a very big night. Sanders is on track to win just four states: Vermont, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Colorado. Massachusetts was probably a must-win for him. According to Nate Silver, “Clinton is running ahead of her benchmarks by an average of 16 percentage points tonight, which is equivalent to her holding a 16-point lead over Sanders in national polls.”

Twitter user Xenocrypt (who long ago posted a fascinating piece here) commented tonight, “A socialist won in Oklahoma! Just like old times. Really, really old times.” Turns out Oklahoma had one of our country’s strongest socialist parties a hundred years ago.

Clinton won the four states awarding the most delegates by large margins. Nate Cohn commented, “The biggest lesson of the Sanders campaign is that there is no progressive/left majority in the Democratic Party without black voters.” Farai Chideya speculated, “Pragmatism about black political interests and how the game is played is likely the primary factor [in Clinton’s overwhelming margin among African-Americans], since Sanders has also spoken to issues of core interest to black voters.”

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: In the UK, they would call this “a right royal mess” for Republicans. By splitting the establishment vote, Kasich and Rubio allowed Trump to win Vermont and Virginia by narrow margins. Trump also barely won Arkansas. Cruz picked up Alaska, despite Sarah Palin’s Trump endorsement. Rubio missed the cutoff for at-large delegates in Texas and Alabama. Cruz outperformed his recent polling numbers to win Texas by a wide margin. One unofficial delegate count puts Trump at 338, with 233 delegates for Cruz, 112 for Rubio, 27 for Kasich and 8 for Carson; full spreadsheet here.

According to Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, Clinton easily surpassed the number of delegates she needed to put her on track to win the Democratic nomination.

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who ran for president as a Libertarian in 2012 and is doing so again this year, said in a statement I’ve enclosed below that he “may have won Super Tuesday,” because more voters will be looking for a third-party alternative to Clinton or Trump.

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