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Thoughts on the primary polls in IA-01, IA-02, and IA-03

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 10:30:22 AM CDT

Loras College in Dubuque released its first-ever set of polls on Iowa Congressional primaries this week. Click here for the polling memo and here (pdf) for further details, including the full questionnaires.

After the jump I've posted my thoughts on what these polls tell us about the front-runners (or lack thereof) in each primary. Unfortunately, a big methodological flaw makes it more difficult to interpret the results.

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IA-02: First-quarter fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 10:25:00 AM CDT

Three candidates qualified for the Republican primary ballot in Iowa's second Congressional district, but the latest fundraising reports suggest that Mariannette Miller-Meeks will get a third chance at beating Representative Dave Loebsack.

Follow me after the jump for details on the first-quarter reports each candidate in IA-02 filed with the Federal Election Commission.

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Weekend open thread: Liberty movement missing in action edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Mar 30, 2014 at 07:30:00 AM CDT

Here's your weekend open thread: all topics welcome.

I'd like to hear views from the Bleeding Heartland community on a question that's been on my mind lately, as the "Liberty" movement ceases to be the dominant force in the Republican Party of Iowa. Why haven't more people from the large contingent of Ron Paul/Rand Paul admirers stepped up to run in this year's Iowa Republican primaries?

Despite plenty of speculation, no one associated with Ron Paul's presidential campaign went for Iowa's first open U.S. Senate seat in 40 years. Why not? This opportunity won't come around again soon, not with Senator Chuck Grassley already planning to seek a seventh term in 2016. Did fundraising concerns or some other factor keep Drew Ivers, David Fischer, or others from believing they could run a strong Senate campaign?

In Iowa's open third Congressional district, none of the six Republican candidates publicly endorsed Ron Paul for president, as far as I know. Nor did any of the three Republicans running against Representative Dave Loebsack in IA-02.

Iowa's most prominent "Liberty" candidate is Rod Blum in the open first Congressional district. There are a few Paulinistas running in GOP primaries for the Iowa House and Senate, but not as many as I would have expected, given the Liberty movement's takeover of the Iowa GOP apparatus in 2012.

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NRCC picks Rod Blum in IA-01, not playing favorites in IA-02 or IA-03

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 16:03:18 PM CDT

The National Republican Congressional Committee announced its latest batch of candidates for the "Young Guns" program today. Dubuque-based business owner Rod Blum, one of three GOP candidates in Iowa's open first Congressional district, is among 50 Republicans on the bottom rung, called "on the radar." Candidates who meet certain benchmarks for fundraising and campaign organization have a chance to move up to "contender" status and perhaps eventually to "young gun" level, which entails more direct support from the NRCC.

During the 2012 primary in IA-01, the NRCC favored establishment candidate Ben Lange over Blum. At this point, Blum is the obvious favorite to win the GOP nomination, with State Representative Walt Rogers out of the race and the other contenders way behind Blum financially.

Last year, the NRCC put IA-02 on its long list of targets and indicated that it was ready to defend Tom Latham in IA-03. None of the three registered GOP candidates in IA-02 or the six registered candidates in the open IA-03 are on the NRCC's radar yet. Depending on fundraising, the winner of the IA-03 primary has a strong chance to become a "contender" or a "young gun" by this fall. The NRCC will almost surely spend money to defend that seat. I am skeptical that IA-02 will become a serious target for Republicans, though.

Any comments about Iowa's Congressional races are welcome in this thread.

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Jonathan Narcisse to challenge exclusion from IA-Gov primary ballot

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 18:24:03 PM CDT

Gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Narcisse plans to fight for inclusion on the Democratic primary ballot. The Iowa Secretary of State's Office rejected some of his petitions because the line listing the office he was seeking was left blank. After the jump I've posted a statement from Narcisse blasting what he called a "gross act of political disenfranchisement" to use a "technicality" to keep him off the ballot. I also enclosed the letter Director of Elections Sarah Reisetter sent to Narcisse and an example of one of the invalid signature pages, provided by the Iowa Secretary of State's communications director.

No doubt, some of the people circulating Narcisse's petitions did not fill all of them out correctly. Iowa law on ballot access is clear, and our rules are less restrictive than those in many other states.

One recent event bolster's Narcisse's case, however: two years ago, State Senator Joe Seng was able to get on the Democratic primary ballot in Iowa's second Congressional district despite the exact same problem with his petitions in two counties. Three senior state officials (Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Attorney General Tom Miller, and Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins) reviewed the matter after a voter in IA-02 challenged Seng's petitions. That panel unanimously decided "to count a few pages of petition signatures that had previously been tossed out because the top portion - listing Seng's name, where he was from and what office he was seeking - hadn't been completely filled out." Schultz told the media that while "Senator Seng probably should have been more organized," it was a "close call." Miller cited an Iowa tradition of "being somewhat favorable, deferential to someone having access to the ballot."

If Narcisse manages to get on the ballot, he will face State Senator Jack Hatch in the Democratic primary on June 3. Otherwise Hatch will be unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

UPDATE: To clarify, I understand and support the reasoning behind Iowa's ballot access rules. Senior officials never should have bent the rules to accommodate Seng. Now that they have, Narcisse can claim he deserves the same indulgence. John Deeth notes in the comments that it's not clear exactly what information was missing from some of the Seng petitions. Perhaps scanned copies still exist somewhere, which would show whether the problem was a blank space where he should have indicated the office he was seeking.  

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Iowa Senate district 45: Joe Seng has a primary challenger, Mark Riley

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 15:22:00 PM CDT

If any Iowa Democrat deserves a primary challenge, it's three-term State Senator Joe Seng. Although the Davenport-based veterinarian represents one of the Democrats' safest urban districts, Seng is anti-choice and supported Republican calls for a vote against marriage equality in 2010. As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, he has helped pass several bills that are good for industrial agriculture but bad for the environment, especially clean water. In addition, Seng himself challenged three-term U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack in the IA-02 Democratic primary two years ago, so he couldn't claim the moral high ground against a primary challenger for his state Senate seat.

I was excited to see yesterday that another Democratic candidate, Mark Riley, had filed papers to run in Senate district 45. When I realized Riley was Seng's Republican opponent in 2010 and ran an independent campaign against Iowa House Democrat Cindy Winckler in 2012, I became disappointed. Was he just a fake like the "Democrat" who ran against State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad in 2010?

I sought comment from Riley about why he was running as a Democrat in Iowa Senate district 45, having campaigned as a Republican in the same district a few years ago. I've posted his response after the jump. You be the judge. Riley would have my serious consideration if I lived on the west side of Davenport.  

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IA-02: Miller-Meeks officially launching campaign

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 10:48:00 AM CST

Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks finally made it official: she is running for Congress a third time in Iowa's second district. Her campaign is on Facebook here and on Twitter here. After the jump I've posted excerpts from her announcement and details on the campaign launch tour Miller-Meeks has planned for February 26 and 27. She will hit twelve of the 24 counties in IA-02, as well as attending a West Des Moines meeting of the National Association of Women Business Owners. She plans to focus on her "real world experience" as a doctor, as well as her work with Governor Terry Branstad over the past three years.

Although Miller-Meeks just filed papers with the Federal Election Commission within the last two weeks, she has been unofficially campaigning for some time. She has been meeting with GOP county officials around the district since at least the middle of last year, and she stepped down from her job in state government last month.

I think Miller-Meeks has a good chance to win the GOP primary. Although it may be challenging to convince some Republicans to give her a third chance at this seat, her competition looks weak. The only other announced candidate, State Representative Mark Lofgren, has raised very little money and doesn't have a reputation as a great communicator on the stump. Beating four-term Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack will be a taller order. Besides aligning herself with Branstad, Miller-Meeks will hope that the new Iowa map improves her prospects. During the 2010 midterm election, she lost to Loebsack by about 11,500 votes in a district where registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans by about 48,000 on election day. The current district contained 166,022 registered Democrats, 135,770 Republicans, and 181,463 no-party voters as of February 2014.

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Obama backs off from proposing Social Security cuts (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 09:18:00 AM CST

Small but important victory: White House officials revealed yesterday that President Barack Obama's proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year will not include Social Security cuts he proposed last year. The president had hoped Congressional Republicans would agree to small tax increases in exchange for using the "chained Consumer Price Index" to calculate annual cost of living adjustments for Social Security recipients. It's a terrible idea that never should have emerged from a Democratic administration.

Maybe Obama recognized that in an election year, he was never going to get any real Republican concession in exchange for cuts that would inflict real pain on seniors who rely on Social Security. Democrats may need to fight this battle again before the end of Obama's presidency, though.

[White House] Spokesman Josh Earnest said the decision to move away from chained CPI was motivated partially by the "substantial progress in reducing the deficit." [...]

Earnest repeatedly insisted that Obama would still consider chained CPI as part of a grand bargain on the debt, and that the move "does not reflect any reduction in the president's willingness to try to meet Republicans in the middle."

For now, Congressional Democrats are celebrating. Senators including Iowa's Tom Harkin had strongly urged the president to abandon the "chained CPI" proposal. More than 100 House Democrats, including Iowa's Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02), sent a similar letter to Obama this week. After the jump I've posted press releases from Harkin and Braley about the issue. UPDATE: Added a comment from Loebsack below.

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"No Labels"? More like, "No point"

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 17:12:10 PM CST

Last week Jennifer Jacobs wrote a strange feature for the Des Moines Register exploring why the "No Labels" movement is not gaining more traction in Iowa.

A better question: why would smart guys like State Senator Jeff Danielson or U.S. Representatives Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack hitch their wagons to this useless group? Leaders of No Labels express grand ambitions to "make government work again," but the organization looks more like make-work for political consultants who are between campaign jobs. Resting on false premises, No Labels promotes the wrong "fix" for what's broken in public policy. It's also a classic example of a Washington-based astroturf (that is, fake grassroots) movement.  

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IA-02: Mariannette Miller-Meeks is in for the third time

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 13:55:00 PM CST

Catching up on news from last week, Mariannette Miller-Meeks filed a formal statement of candidacy in Iowa's second district with the Federal Election Commission (hat tip to Greg Hauenstein). An ophthalmologist based in Ottumwa, Miller-Meeks was the Republican nominee against Representative Dave Loebsack in both 2008 and 2010. She served as director of the Iowa Department of Public Health from early 2011 until resigning last month.

I have not seen any formal campaign announcement yet from Miller-Meeks, but she has been attending central committee meetings and other Republican events around the 24 counties in IA-02 for some time. During the past month, she has met with GOP central committee members in Johnson County, Marion County, and Mahaska County. She attended an off-year caucus in the Quad Cities (Scott County). Last week Miller-Meeks tweeted a photo of her campaign co-chairs in Muscatine County--the home base for State Representative Mark Lofgren, who announced his campaign in IA-02 last summer. Lofgren has a lot of support in the GOP establishment but has not raised much money for his Congressional bid.

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IA-02: Loebsack supports another Republican anti-regulation bill

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 09:13:54 AM CST

Catching up on news from last week, Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02) continued his pattern of voting for certain Republican bills aimed at undercutting federal regulations, especially in the environmental area (see also here). The latest example came when the U.S. House approved a bill "aimed at reducing the federal government's restrictions on hunting, fishing and sport shooting on federal land."  
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Door wide open for Miller-Meeks in IA-02

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 09:10:39 AM CST

Can someone please explain Mark Lofgren to me? If you're going to the trouble of getting in a Congressional race early and lining up a bunch of endorsements (presumably to deter would-be rivals in your own party), why wouldn't you work hard on fundraising? Lofgren's year-end financial report was even weaker than his third-quarter Federal Election Commission filing, which is saying something.

Lofgren isn't giving four-term Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack a thing to worry about, and he's leaving the door wide open for Mariannette Miller-Meeks to come in and take the Republican primary to represent IA-02. Follow me after the jump for details from the FEC reports.  

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IA-Sen, IA-02: Braley and Loebsack vote for another GOP bill on Obamacare

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 07:20:00 AM CST

For the second time in a week, Iowa's Democratic representatives in the U.S. House Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted for a bill calling attention to problems with the federal government's implementation of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Depending on whom you believe, the Exchange Information Disclosure Act is either an effort to improve oversight and transparency through weekly updates or what Representative Henry Waxman called an attempt to impede the new law by "drowning the Department of Health and Human Services in red tape." Nevertheless, 33 Democrats including Braley and Loebsack joined all of the Republicans present to approve the bill yesterday (roll call). I haven't seen any comment on this bill from them or from Representatives Steve King (IA-04) and Tom Latham (IA-03), who both supported it.

No matter how many anti-Obamacare bills Braley and Loebsack vote for, their opponents and outside conservative groups will run campaign ads attacking them for having helped pass the 2010 health care reform law. In fact, Americans for Prosperity (a right-wing group funded by the Koch brothers) is running television commercials in Iowa right now targeting Braley, the Democratic candidate to replace Tom Harkin in the U.S. Senate. The commercials focus on the so-called "lie of the year," President Barack Obama's claim that "If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan." Scroll to the end of this post to read the Braley's campaign's response, which includes the ad script. In November, Braley and Loebsack voted for a bill that would let some consumers stay on insurance plans that don't comply with all Affordable Care Act requirements.

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House approves omnibus budget bill: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 13:50:00 PM CST

In recent years, Congress has funded the federal government mostly through a series of continuing spending resolutions. But yesterday, the U.S. House approved an omnibus budget bill that would fund most federal agencies through September 30 (the end of the 2014 fiscal year). The massive bill passed by an overwhelming margin of 359 votes to 67. All but three Democrats present voted yes, including Iowa's Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-03). Republican Tom Latham also supported the bill, but Representative Steve King (IA-04) was among the 64 conservatives who voted no.

I've enclosed statements from Loebsack and King below. (I have not seen any public comment from Braley or Latham) Loebsack called attention to provisions he fought to include in the omnibus budget bill. King's statement on yesterday's vote is just one sentence long--the shortest comment I can ever remember receiving from his office.

Because the bill is so massive, it's hard to get a handle on the good news and bad news. Here's a summary of spending levels for various agencies. It looks like many domestic areas will be funded above "sequester" levels, including nutrition for Women, Infants and Children and some transportation programs. Some anti-environmental riders sought by Congressional Republicans were removed before the bill came up for a vote. Others made the cut, such as language supporting incandescent light bulbs and investments in overseas coal projects.  

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Braley, Loebsack back latest Republican anti-Obamacare bill

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 09:40:00 AM CST

As Republicans prepare to make "Obamacare" a central argument against any incumbents who voted for the 2010 health care reform law, many House Democrats are looking for political cover. So it was on Friday, when a third of the Democratic caucus voted for the latest Republican bill in the U.S. House targeting the law. Pete Kasperowicz reported for The Hill,

The one-sentence bill says that no later than two business days after any security breach on an ObamaCare site is discovered, "the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall provide notice of such breach to each individual." [...] The White House said it opposed the bill, arguing the government already has plans to tell people if their information has been compromised. [...]

Democrats said the GOP was trying to stir up fears about HealthCare.gov and the other enrollment sites by raising the idea that people's personal information could be stolen.

"There have been no successful security attacks on HealthCare.gov, and no one has maliciously accessed personal information," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). "This is just another one of those scare tactics, and I just hope that my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, are not fooled by this."

The roll call on the "Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act" shows that Iowa Representatives Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were among the 67 House Democrats who joined all the Republicans present to approve this bill by a large margin. Neither called attention to the vote with a press release. After the jump I've posted the statement from Representative Steve King (IA-04), who has long been one of the most vocal critics of the Affordable Care Act. I didn't see any statement from Tom Latham (IA-03), who also voted for this bill.

Like the last anti-Obamacare measure Braley and Loebsack supported, this bill will neither become law nor insulate the Democrats from attacks during this year's campaigns for U.S. Senate or Iowa's second Congressional district.  

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Iowans split on party lines over bill to weaken hazardous waste laws

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 07:34:00 AM CST

Talk about lousy timing: just before a chemical spill made tap water unusable for 300,000 West Virginians, the U.S. House approved a bill that would "weaken the nation's hazardous waste laws and place American communities at increased risk of toxic exposure." The Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act of 2013 (H.R. 2279) includes three bills House Republicans drafted last year. In a letter signed by 129 public interest groups, Earth Justice listed the key points of each bill and explained why the package would "threaten human health and the environment while protecting polluters from liability for the costs of toxic cleanups." I've posted an excerpt from that open letter after the jump. In a post for the Earth Justice blog last week, Lisa Evans called this bill "Kryptonite for Superfund" and "a con job of the highest order, allowing polluters to walk away without losing a penny, while taxpayers are left footing the bill."

Under its current leadership, the House has been called "the most anti-environmental House in our nation's history" because of the many bills passed that would curtail federal regulations and take power away from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Occasionally Iowa's two House Democrats have gone along with those efforts, but I was pleased to see that on January 9, Representatives Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted against the latest effort to hamstring the EPA and for the Democratic motion to recommit this bill with instructions (often a last-ditch effort to kill legislation in the House). Iowa Republicans Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) lived up to their abysmal voting records on the environment by voting for the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act and against the motion to recommit.

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Miller-Meeks resigns from the Iowa Department of Public Health

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 09:35:00 AM CST

Governor Terry Branstad's office announced today that the governor accepted Mariannette Miller-Meeks' resignation as director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. I've posted the press release after the jump. It does not explain why Miller-Meeks stepped down after nearly three years running the state agency.

Yesterday Miller-Meeks told the Des Moines Register that her false comment about Mountain Dew being the top purchase for Iowa food stamp recipients was "not political at all."

"What I was trying to - perhaps not deftly - argue or state was: Should we have nutritional education for SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program], like we do for WIC [aid for Women, Infants and Children], and some prohibition for certain items?"

I would guess that her resignation is related to plans to run for Congress in Iowa's second district, not any gaffe about food stamps. Heck, in the Republican Party what Miller-Meeks said probably isn't even a gaffe.  

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Where did Miller-Meeks get her "fact" about food stamps and Mountain Dew?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 06, 2014 at 11:08:31 AM CST

In an excellent two-part series on food stamps and the need for food assistance in Iowa, Mike Wiser caught Iowa Department of Public Health Director Mariannette Miller-Meeks in an embarrassing lie:

"The No. 1 food item bought with food stamps in Iowa is Mountain Dew," said Miller-Meeks, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health [in a speech to the World Food Prize Hunger Week symposium in October].

Several in the audience of a few hundred -- an international crowd of academics, journalists and nonprofit types -- shook their heads or smiled with bemusement. Phones came out, tweets were sent.

But what Miller-Meeks said wasn't true.

At least not in any verifiable way. The Iowa Department of Human Services -- the state agency that oversees the food stamp program, correctly called Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, in Iowa -- doesn't track food purchases down to the brand of soft drink. Asked where she came up with the statistic, Miller-Meeks later said through a spokesperson she "found it online" but couldn't remember where.

Bleeding Heartland has long argued against cutting food assistance for many reasons. The SNAP program addresses real need efficiently and is rarely abused. In addition, government spending on food assistance has tremendous "bang for the buck" compared to most other policies designed to stimulate the economy. I recommend reading the full text of Wiser's latest reports on the rhetoric and reality of the food stamp debate and on reasons private aid agencies are struggling to help all the hungry Iowans.

Today I want to speculate on how a fake "fact" about food stamp purchases landed on Miller-Meeks' radar.

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House wraps up work for the year: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Dec 13, 2013 at 07:40:00 AM CST

The U.S. House adjourned for the rest of 2013 yesterday after approving several major bills. By a surprisingly large 332 to 94 majority (roll call), representatives approved The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, a federal budget compromise worked out by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan. Most of the House GOP caucus supported the budget deal, including Tom Latham (IA-03). Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were among the 163 Democrats who voted for the budget deal. Steve King (IA-04) was one of the 62 Republicans who voted no because the agreement increased domestic discretionary spending. The 32 House Democrats who opposed the deal objected to the fact that it did not include an extension of unemployment benefits, did not reverse more of the "sequester" federal spending cuts, and increased federal worker contributions to their pensions.

Also yesterday, House members passed by voice vote a one-month extension to most federal agricultural programs, giving a conference committee more time to work out a deal on a long-term Farm Bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the upper chamber won't pass any more short-term farm bill extensions, but he'll probably have to backtrack now to prevent farm programs from expiring on January 1.

Finally, the House approved by 350 votes to 69 a compromise on the defense authorization bill. All four Iowans voted for the National Defense Authorization Act, negotiated informally by House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders after the Senate Republicans blocked a vote on the defense authorization bill before Thanksgiving. I need more time to read up on what's in the final compromise, so will cover the details of the defense authorization bill in a future post.

After the jump I've enclosed comments on yesterday's votes from the Iowans in Congress and some of the candidates for U.S. House and Senate, where available. UPDATE: Added more comments below. However, Steve King has uncharacteristically not released a statement explaining his vote on the budget compromise. His office did not respond to my request for comment or to the Sioux City Journal's Bret Hayworth.

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Seeking information on a push-poll in IA-02

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 08:05:00 AM CST

I've heard several accounts of a push-poll going around Iowa's second Congressional district since shortly before Thanksgiving. The call apparently asks about four-term incumbent Dave Loebsack, his declared Republican opponent Mark Lofgren, and his 2008 and 2010 opponent Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who appears likely to run for Congress again. Some Republican-aligned entity clearly paid for the calls, because the script alleges that millions of people have lost their health care (a reference to many health insurance plans being cancelled for not meeting new federal requirements). The script also suggests that Loebsack lied about the health care reform law he voted for in 2010.

I encourage Bleeding Heartland readers to stay on the line and take notes whenever you receive a push-poll or a legitimate survey testing messages for or against any candidate. If you received a call like this recently in IA-02, any details you can remember would be helpful, such as the question wording, question order, or who paid for the call (should be mentioned at the end). You can either post information in this thread or contact me confidentially: desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com.

One person thought the call came from "Victory Polling." The Davenport-based political consulting firm Victory Enterprises has a polling division and has been doing work for Lofgren's campaign. It's also possible that the National Republican Congressional Committee or some conservative group that gets involved in House races would pay for calls hitting Loebsack on health care reform.  

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