Throwback Thursday: 2008 Iowa Caucus Day, Richardson Campaign

I had forgotten that Robert Becker, the Iowa director for Bernie Sanders this cycle, ran Richardson’s campaign. About 10 percent of caucus-goers in my precinct stood in Richardson’s corner. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Immediately prior to the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, I traveled to Iowa as a volunteer for the Bill Richardson for President Campaign. On the morning of January 3, 2008, the day of the caucuses, Robert Becker, the Iowa State Director for the Richardson campaign addressed the volunteers at Richardson’s Des Moines headquarters. Here is the link on YouTube to the video I filmed.

The Richardson campaign at that time was discounting polling predicting a tidal wave of first time and young voters coming to the caucuses to vote for Obama. That night Richardson received the support of an estimated 20,000 Iowa voters.

In 2004, this number of voters would have given Richardson 16% of the total vote and he would have finished in a strong fourth place. However, in 2008, 20,000 voters amounted to only about 8% of the total voters.

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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Richardson out--Who should be the new Commerce Secretary?

I didn’t see this one coming. Bill Richardson has withdrawn from consideration for the Commerce Department job in Barack Obama’s cabinet because of a pending FBI investigation. He denies any wrongdoing and will continue to serve as governor of New Mexico. (It’s bad luck for Diane Denish, who was set to become that state’s first woman governor in a few weeks.)

The Commerce Department is big and oversees a lot of important agencies, like the Census Bureau and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Whom will Obama pick for the Commerce job, and whom should he pick?

UPDATE: Jake Tapper says people on the Obama transition team feel Richardson “was not forthcoming with them about the federal investigation that is looking into whether the governor steered a state contract towards a major financial contributor.”

A CNN report suggests Richardson was forced to withdraw his name from consideration.

Reuters speculates about who might replace Richardson.

Iowa caucus memories open thread

A year ago tonight, nearly 240,000 Iowans spent a couple of hours in overcrowded rooms during the Democratic precinct caucuses.

Thousands of others came to freezing cold Iowa to knock on doors or make phone calls for their presidential candidate in late December and early January.

Share any memories you have about caucusing or volunteering in this thread.

After the jump I re-posted my account of what happened at my own caucus. I was a precinct captain for Edwards.

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New thread on Obama cabinet appointments and speculation

Barack Obama named Bill Richardson to head the Commerce Department today. Click the link to read Obama’s prepared remarks. It’s not a top-tier cabinet appointment, but Commerce still oversees a lot of significant government activities, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. Click here to view all the bureaus within the Commerce Department.

The Hispanic Caucus in Congress has sent Obama a letter asking him to appoint more Latinos to the cabinet.

Obama has asked Congressman Xavier Becerra of California to accept the position of U.S. trade representative, but Becerra has yet not made a decision. He is the fifth highest ranking Democrat in the U.S. House, and some believe he could become the first Latino Speaker of the House someday if he stays in Congress.

Obama’s short list for secretary of labor apparently includes Mary Beth Maxwell, “the founding executive director of American Rights at Work.” According to the Wall Street Journal,

Maxwell already had the strong backing of former Rep. David Bonior, who despite repeated attempts to get his name removed from consideration continues to be on the short list of potential labor secretaries. Bonior, 63 years old, says it is time for his generation to turn over power to a new generation, and Maxwell, whose labor-backed organization pushes for expanded collective bargaining rights, is his pick.

Some labor leaders from both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, a splinter union group led by the Service Employees International Union, back her as a consensus choice, citing her efforts on behalf of legislation to allow unionization at workplaces with the signing of cards, not secret balloting.

The Wall Street Journal says Obama is also vetting Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius for secretary of labor.

I haven’t heard much lately about a possible secretary of education or transportation.

Who would you like to see in the cabinet?

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that if nominated and confirmed, Maxwell would become the first openly gay cabinet secretary in this country.

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Open thread on Obama's economic team

Apologies for not getting this thread posted yesterday, when President-elect Barack Obama unveiled his economic team.

On the plus side, there are no incompetent hacks in this group. I’ve heard particularly good things about Peter Orszag’s work at the Congressional Budget Office, and he will produce reliable numbers at the Office of Management and Budget.

People I respect speak quite highly of Melody Barnes, who will run Obama’s Domestic Policy Council.

Also, it’s encouraging that Obama is committed to a major stimulus bill that will focus on infrastructure investments. I’ll reserve further judgment until we see more specifics about Obama’s plans, because spending $350 billion on stuff worth doing is a lot better than spending $350 billion on boondoggles.

I also agree with Matthew Yglesias that if you’re going to throw tens of billions of dollars at the economy, high-speed rail in the Midwest would be an excellent place to start. (UPDATE: Senator John Kerry has introduced a major bill that would promote high-speed rail development across the country.)

On the down side, since I opposed the series of Wall Street bailouts we’ve been seeing this fall, I’m not thrilled to see Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary and Larry Summers as chief of the National Economic Council. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, I wanted economic policy to be more in the direction that Labor Secretary Robert Reich was proposing, but Clinton and now Obama are clearly favoring the approach of Clinton’s Treasury Secreatry, Robert Rubin. Almost everyone on Obama economic team has close ties to Rubin.

I think Bill Richardson will do fine at the Commerce Department, but I would have preferred to see him in a different cabinet position.

If you were one of those Obama supporters who claimed during the primaries that he would govern in a much more progressive way than Hillary Clinton, now would be a good time to rethink your views.

Meanwhile, George W. Bush’s team is taking care of one troubled financial firm after another. The latest bailout plan, for Citigroup, is a particularly bad deal for taxpayers, according to Paul Krugman (who reluctantly supported the $700 billion bailout package approved before the election).

What do you think about the team Obama is assembling to handle the economy?

UPDATE: The members of the New York Times editorial board are not wild about putting Geithner and Summers in charge:

As treasury secretary in 2000, Mr. Summers championed the law that deregulated derivatives, the financial instruments – a k a toxic assets – that have spread the financial losses from reckless lending around the globe. He refused to heed the critics who warned of dangers to come.

That law, still on the books, reinforced the false belief that markets would self-regulate. And it gave the Bush administration cover to ignore the ever-spiraling risks posed by derivatives and inadequate supervision.

Mr. Summers now will advise a president who has promised to impose rational and essential regulations on chaotic financial markets. What has he learned?

At the New York Fed, Mr. Geithner has been one of the ringmasters of this year’s serial bailouts. His involvement includes the as-yet-unexplained flip-flop in September when a read-my-lips, no-new-bailouts policy allowed Lehman Brothers to go under – only to be followed less than two days later by the even costlier bailout of the American International Group and last weekend by the bailout of Citigroup.

It is still unclear what Mr. Geithner and other policy makers knew or did not know – or what they thought they knew but didn’t – in arriving at those decisions, including who exactly is on the receiving end of the billions of dollars of taxpayer money now flooding the system.

Confidence in the system will not be restored as long as top officials fail or refuse to fully explain their actions.

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