Memo to journalists: Craig Robinson's firm makes money off the Iowa caucus campaign

Craig Robinson is among the go-to Republicans for national press covering the Iowa caucuses. His insights are partly informed by a wealth of experience: as a staffer on Steve Forbes’ presidential campaign before the 2000 caucuses, as political director of the state GOP during the year before the 2008 caucuses, and as publisher of The Iowa Republican blog since 2009.

One salient fact rarely, if ever, makes it into the news stories quoting Robinson about prospects for Republican contenders in Iowa: his company Global Intermediate has been paid to do direct mail for or against certain candidates in the field.

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Bobby Jindal accepts reality, ends presidential campaign

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal suspended his presidential campaign today, acknowledging that “this is not my time.” I enclose below the full text of his “thank you” message.

Jindal had visited Iowa 27 times, spending all or part of 74 days here since the beginning of 2013. Republican audiences generally received him favorably, despite his disastrous record as governor. His riff on “hyphenated Americans” was a crowd-pleaser, as was his assertion that “Immigration without assimilation is an invasion.” But in a crowded field with at least half a dozen candidates targeting the social conservative niche, Jindal didn’t have a lot of money to raise his profile through direct mail or paid advertising. Nor did he have a path to the main debate stage, since television networks have made the cut using national polls rather than surveys of Iowa Republicans.

Jindal had been scheduled to visit Iowa again this week, including an appearance at the FAMiLY Leader’s Presidential Family Forum. I suspect Representative Steve King’s endorsement of Senator Ted Cruz yesterday factored into the governor’s decision not to waste his time on that event. Although the FAMiLY Leader has showcased Jindal’s illegal efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in Louisiana, it appears to be a foregone conclusion that Bob Vander Plaats will jump on the Cruz bandwagon.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Douglas Burns interviewed Jindal for his latest “Political Mercury” column in Cityview. It’s a good read and a reminder of why some had speculated Jindal might become this cycle’s social conservative peaking at just the right time before the Iowa caucuses.

UPDATE: Added below some reaction and commentary to Jindal dropping out.

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Branstad joins rush to slam door on Syrian refugees

Yesterday Governor Terry Branstad joined the club of 24 governors (23 Republicans and a Democrat) who have said their states will not accept refugees from Syria. They don’t have the power to block resettlement of refugees within their state borders, any more than pandering presidential candidates would be able to adopt unconstitutional religion-based criteria for deciding which people to allow into this country.

Still, Branstad’s knee-jerk reaction to Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris is a disappointing retreat from the more reasonable stance he took earlier this fall on refugees from Syria coming to Iowa.

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When will Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, or Rick Santorum go after Ben Carson?

Two new polls of Iowa Republicans show Dr. Ben Carson has taken the lead from Donald Trump. Selzer & Co’s latest survey for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics shows Carson is the first choice of 28 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers, followed by Trump at 19 percent, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (10 percent), U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (9 percent), former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and U.S. Senator Rand Paul (5 percent each), business executive Carly Fiorina (4 percent), former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (3 percent), Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and former Senator Rick Santorum (2 percent each), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (1 percent), and the rest of the field below 1 percent.

Similarly, Quinnipiac’s latest poll of likely Republican caucus-goers found Carson ahead of Trump by 28 percent to 20 percent, followed by Rubio (13 percent), Cruz (10 percent), Paul (6 percent), Fiorina and Bush (5 percent each), and no one else above 3 percent.

Carson is the best-liked candidate among those likely to participate in the Iowa GOP caucuses. Both the Selzer and Quinnipiac surveys found that 84 percent of respondents view him favorably. I’ve posted more excerpts from the poll write-ups after the jump.

Carson is crushing the competition among social conservatives, an important bloc that tends to break late in Iowa caucus campaigns, as Bleeding Heartland guest author fladem discussed here. He has invested heavily in direct mail and leaving copies of his paperback books on Iowa Republican doorsteps, while generally escaping scrutiny from his competitors.

At some point, other candidates who are appealing primarily to the religious right must recognize that their path to relevance in Iowa runs through Carson. Only 22 percent of Selzer poll respondents said their minds are made up; 78 percent could change their minds. I’m curious to see when 2008 winner Huckabee, 2012 winner Santorum, and/or Jindal will start making a case against the surgeon. To be stuck in the cellar after spending substantially more time in Iowa than Carson must be so frustrating.

Cruz may also need to give Iowans a reason not to support Carson. Perhaps some of his Christian conservative surrogates could take on that role. “Opinion leaders” backing Cruz include numerous evangelical clergy, talk radio host Steve Deace, and Dick and Betty Odgaard, the self-styled martyrs to marriage equality in Iowa.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that Nick Ryan, who led the 501(c)4 group American Future Fund for several election cycles and headed the pro-Santorum super-PAC during the 2012 primaries, signed on earlier this year to lead a super-PAC supporting Huckabee. It might make more sense for that group to go after Carson than for Huckabee to do so directly. Still, the next GOP debate on October 28 would be a good opportunity for rivals to score points against the new Iowa front-runner.

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Republicans not giving up efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in Iowa

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Iowa’s social conservatives have suffered several setbacks lately in their crusade against Planned Parenthood. The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously struck down an administrative rule that would have banned the use of telemedicine for medical abortions in several Planned Parenthood clinics. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller informed a large group of Republican lawmakers that his office has neither “jurisdiction over transfers of fetal tissue” nor the “authority to investigate or demand information about the transfer of fetal tissue.” (Not that it mattered, since Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa have never participated in fetal tissue donation programs.)

Governor Terry Branstad, who has always opposed abortion rights, acknowledged two weeks ago that “we cannot defund Planned Parenthood,” because a review of Planned Parenthood’s contracts with the state revealed that the health care provider has not “violated their responsibilities under the grants that they have received” for family planning services. An official review also confirmed no taxpayer money goes toward abortion services at Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa.

During this year’s legislative session, Republicans successfully pushed for ultrasound requirements for women seeking abortions, but the final adopted language on ultrasounds did not add any new roadblocks or delays to the process of getting an abortion in Iowa.

Advocacy groups like Bob Vander Plaats’ FAMiLY Leader organization continue to pressure Branstad to keep his 2010 campaign promise to end Planned Parenthood’s state funding. Last week, Iowa House Republicans indicated that they plan to continue their “deliberate and unwavering battle” for the “pro-life” agenda.

Here’s how efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are likely to play out during next year’s Iowa legislative session. What happens after that depends mostly on whether the 2016 general election changes the balance of power at the statehouse.

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