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Weekend open thread: ADA anniversary and Iowa caucus polls edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 26, 2015 at 11:55:31 AM CDT

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

The Americans With Disabilities Act took effect 25 years ago this week. How many laws have changed the country for the better as much as Senator Tom Harkin's greatest achievement? The ADA helped millions of people who might have been housebound--like my friend who was able to run errands or take her son to the park, even though she was confined to a wheelchair. Judy Schmidt, who chairs the Iowa Democratic Party's Disability Caucus, shared how the ADA has affected her in a guest column for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. I've enclosed excerpts after the jump. Bleeding Heartland posted more background and links about the law to mark its 20th anniversary. For the record, Iowa's senior Senator Chuck Grassley also voted for the final version of the ADA, as did most of his fellow Republicans. UPDATE: Added below excerpts from Harkin's guest editorial in the Sunday Des Moines Register.

Donald Trump has led the last five national polls of Republican voters and is rising in stature in Iowa, if you believe the latest surveys of likely GOP caucus-goers. Follow me after the jump for details.

I brought my kids to Bernie Sanders' town-hall in West Des Moines on Friday night. My reflections on that event are at the end of this post.

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Weekend open thread: Hall of Fame and Family Leadership Summit edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 19, 2015 at 11:52:06 AM CDT

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

All five Democratic presidential candidates appeared at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids on Friday night. I've posted below my impressions from the speeches; you can watch the videos on C-SPAN. It's a shame the venue couldn't accommodate more people, because lots of interested Iowa Democrats were unable to get tickets for the event.

Before the Hall of Fame dinner, I spent some time with an old friend who's a huge Hillary Clinton supporter. Huge, as in, she didn't take down her Hillary yard sign until the grass was long enough to need mowing in the spring of 2008. She mentioned to me that she's relieved to see Clinton working hard this year instead of "ignoring" Iowa like last time. When I told my friend that Hillary visited Iowa more than 30 times in 2007, spending all or part of 70 days in the state, she was surprised. I'm amazed by how many Iowans have bought into the media-constructed narrative that Clinton "bombed" in the caucuses because she took the state for granted.

Ten Republican presidential candidates came to Ames on Saturday for the Family Leadership Summit organized by Bob Vander Plaats' FAMiLY Leader organization. C-SPAN posted all of those speeches here. As usual, Donald Trump sucked up most of the oxygen in the room by questioning whether Senator John McCain had been a hero during the Vietnam War. O.Kay Henderson posted the audio at Radio Iowa. Rival presidential candidates with the exception of Ted Cruz rushed to condemn Trump's remarks. Some of the Family Leadership Summit attendees may have been more upset by Trump's comments about his three marriages and his admission that when he's done something wrong, "I don't bring God into that picture."

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Grassley and Ernst remarkably casual about remarkable Iran letter

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 13, 2015 at 09:38:11 AM CDT

You wouldn't know it from reading their press releases, but Iowa's U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst did something unprecedented this week. Along with 45 Republican colleagues, they signed an "Open Letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran," warning that any negotiated agreement with President Barack Obama's administration will not be binding unless "approved by Congress," and therefore could be revoked by the next president.

I have been trying to imagine the uproar if Congressional Democrats had sent a letter like that to Soviet leaders when President Ronald Reagan was negotiating the START arms control treaties. The Iranian foreign minister wasn't the only one to express "astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration." Vice President Joe Biden's response was scathing.

Grassley and Ernst have sent out several official comments on policy issues since Monday, none of them alluding to their extraordinary step to undermine the president's negotiations with a foreign power. When asked about the letter during their weekly press calls, they feigned surprise that the matter has spawned so much controversy.

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A closer look at the Iowa counties Obama and Romney won

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 07:20:00 AM CST

Preliminary results from the Iowa Secretary of State's website show that President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in Iowa by 807,146 votes to 720,323 (51.89 percent to 46.31 percent) amid record participation of 1,555,570 voters statewide.

As expected, the president won a plurality of the vote in fewer Iowa counties this year than in 2008, but he did pick up one county that was a big surprise for me. Some thoughts about the presidential vote in Iowa are after the jump, along with maps showing which counties Obama, Romney, and John McCain carried. You can find vote totals for every county on the Iowa Secretary of State's website.

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Republican filibuster blocks campaign finance disclosure act in Senate (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 17, 2012 at 09:20:00 AM CDT

Yesterday Senator Chuck Grassley and other Republicans blocked an effort to bring new campaign finance disclosure rules to a vote in the U.S. Senate.  
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Panel will study how to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 13:25:27 PM CST

During his State of the Union speech last week, President Barack Obama promised, "This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are." Today the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing today on the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made headlines by saying he believes "the right thing to do" is to let gays serve openly:

Adm. Mike Mullen's statement was the strongest yet from the uniformed military on this volatile issue, although he stressed that he was "speaking for myself and myself only."

He told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday he is deeply troubled by a policy that forces people to "lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate committee he also supports ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell. However, he is appointing a panel to study how to lift the ban for a full year, meaning that hundreds more men and women are likely to be discharged under the policy before it goes away. The Obama administration is expected to implement new rules on purging troops under this policy, but it's not yet clear how much that will reduce the number of discharges while Gates' panel studies the issue. According to MSNBC, "more than 10,900 troops have been fired under the policy" since 1993, but "The 2009 figure - 428 - was dramatically lower than the 2008 total of 619."

Meanwhile, at today's hearing Senator John McCain argued against reviewing the policy at this time, saying it boosts "cohesion" and "unit morale." He also presented a letter signed by 1000 officers who support Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Come on, McCain. Even a jerk like Joe Lieberman understands why this policy is stupid.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin made the case for ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell in this piece for the Politico, but it doesn't sound like he's in a big hurry:

So there is little reason to continue this policy. But as we proceed, it is vital that we are sensitive to any complications of this policy shift. Change is always hard, especially when it involves social issues or personal beliefs. Lack of care as we proceed might spark opposition from those who could be open to change, and inflame the opposition of those already against it. And I would encourage those who favor change not to mistake deliberation for undue delay.

Point taken, but I am concerned by the timetable Gates is setting with a yearlong study. I hope Congress will act this year, because if Republicans retake the House or the Senate this November, there will be no chance of ditching Don't Ask, Don't Tell for the forseeable future.

Daily Kos user TennesseeGurl notes that even if Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed, LGBT Veterans will still get a raw deal. Unfortunately, I see no realistic path to fixing that problem.

UPDATE: Levin "said an amendment could be added to the must-pass Defense Authorization bill which outlines military policy for the year." Taking that path would allow the Senate to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell with a simple majority (as opposed to the 60 votes required to break a Republican filibuster).

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Open thread on Obama's plans for Iraq

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 11:37:34 AM CST

Longtime Bleeding Heartland readers know that I've always worried Barack Obama would leave too many U.S. troops in Iraq for too long. When he decided to stick with George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense, some analysts argued that Robert Gates would give Obama cover to withdraw from Iraq, but I felt it was more likely that Gates would give Obama cover not to withdraw from Iraq, at least not fully.

This week President Obama announced his plans for Iraq. Supposedly "combat operations" will end by August 2010, meaning that the withdrawal will take 18 months rather than 16 months, as Obama promised during the campaign. My concern is not the extra two months, but Obama's decision to leave a residual force of 35,000 to 50,000 in Iraq after August 2010. That sounds like too large a contingent to me and to many Congressional Democrats.

I suppose I should be grateful that Obama isn't following the advice of Colin Kahl, who headed his Iraq working group during the campaign. Kahl has advocated leaving 60,000 to 80,000 troops in Iraq for years (see also here).

Seeing the glass half full, Chris Bowers is pleased that Obama says all U.S. military will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011:

In September of 2007, President Obama refused to promise to remove all troops from Iraq by January 20th, 2013. Now, he has promised to remove them all by December 31st, 2011. That is a positive shift.

This is huge for no residual forces proponents. Now that President Obama has made this pledge, in public, it will be difficult for him to go back on it. This is especially the case since turning back on a promise with a deadline of December 31st, 2011, means violating a pledge during 2012--the year President Obama will be running for re-election. Anti-war proponents need to be prepared to raise holy hell during 2012 if this promise is not kept.

It is frustrating that it took the Iraqi government, rather than internal anti-war pressure, to finally secure a no residual troop promise from the American government (and they actually succeeded in wringing it out of the Bush administration, something Democrats were entirely unable to achieve). Still, as someone who has opposed the Iraq war for more than six years, and who been has writing about the need for no residual American military forces in Iraq for more than two years, any promise of no residual forces from the American government, backed up by a binding, public document like the Status of Forces Agreement, it an extremely welcome development no matter how it was secured.

The Iraq war is going to end. No residual troops after 2011.

I am concerned that some excuse will be found by then to push back the deadline. (Seeing John McCain and other Republicans praise Obama's plans for Iraq does not reassure me.) I have little confidence that the anti-war movement would raise "holy hell" during a presidential election year if Obama backs off on this promise.

But I am biased on this point, because I've never believed in Obama as a great anti-war hero.

So, I'm opening up the floor to the Bleeding Heartland community. Are you ecstatic, optimistic, skeptical, or disappointed with Obama's Iraq policy? Do you believe he will stick to the deadlines he outlined this week for the end of combat operations and the withdrawal of all residual troops?

Feel free to discuss our Afghanistan policy in this thread too. Obama plans to increase the number of U.S. troops there, but Senator Russ Feingold and some others are wondering whether more troops will help us achieve our stated mission.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Bleeding Heartland Year in Review: Iowa politics in 2008

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 31, 2008 at 22:00:00 PM CST

Last year at this time I was scrambling to make as many phone calls and knock on as many doors as I could before the Iowa caucuses on January 3.

This week I had a little more time to reflect on the year that just ended.

After the jump I've linked to Bleeding Heartland highlights in 2008. Most of the links relate to Iowa politics, but some also covered issues or strategy of national importance.

I only linked to a few posts about the presidential race. I'll do a review of Bleeding Heartland's 2008 presidential election coverage later this month.

You can use the search engine on the left side of the screen to look for past Bleeding Heartland diaries about any person or issue.

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Joe the Plumber "appalled" by McCain, (hearts) Palin

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 10, 2008 at 17:30:00 PM CST

Your laugh for the day comes from the Huffington Post, which wrote up an interview right-wing loudmouth Glenn Beck did with Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher.

John McCain made Joe the Plumber famous by dropping his name more than 20 times during the third presidential debate. Although Wurzelbacher is not licensed as a plumber, McCain and Sarah Palin continued to mention Joe the Plumber at rallies, and the campaign even had "I'm voting for Joe the Plumber" printed up on bumper stickers.

Now Wurzelbacher is cashing in with a new book called "Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream." Here's the thanks McCain gets for making this guy a household name:

I honestly felt even more dirty after I had been on the campaign trail and seen some things that take place. It was scary, man [...] When I was on the bus with him, I asked him a lot of questions about the bailout because most Americans did not want that to happen. Yet he voted for it. ... And I asked him some pretty direct questions. Some of the answers you guys are gonna receive - they appalled me, absolutely. I was angry. In fact I wanted to get off the bus after I talked to him.

Wurzelbacher thinks Palin is "the real deal," though:

[...] she definitely had energy and she definitely went to work for American people, and it disgusts me on how often they try to bash her just for her sincerity. It's just, you know, she really wants to work for America and I mean, I wish people would listen to her and let them, and let her work for us. You know, she wants to serve us. She's not looking for power.

Sounds like somebody would love to be part of Palin's 2012 presidential campaign.

Huffington Post has a link to the full text of the interview (scroll down the page to find it).

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Elections have consequences, except for Joe Lieberman

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 12:59:37 PM CST

Only 13 Democratic senators think Joe Lieberman should pay a significant price for actively campaigning against, and repeating Republican lies about, Barack Obama.

In contrast, 42 Democratic senators think Lieberman should be rewarded for his poor judgment and disloyalty. So, Lieberman keeps control of the powerful Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He loses only a meaningless title: subcommittee chairman on climate change on the Environment and Public Works Committee. I say "meaningless" because that subcommittee won't be where the action is on any forthcoming bill to deal with global warming.

This kind of thing is why I don't give to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee anymore.

I'd like to remind the Ed Fallon haters in the audience that urging people to vote for the Republican candidate does twice as much damage to the Democratic nominee as urging people to vote for a third-party candidate.

Don't expect Lieberman to keep whatever promises he made in exchange for this deal. I won't be surprised if he joins with Republican filibusters, for instance.

While he never used his gavel and subpoena power to investigate the Bush administration's homeland security failures (such as the inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina), I bet Joe will aggressively pursue investigations of the incoming administration.

I'm afraid to ask how Tom Harkin voted, since he recently said it might be better to "forgive and forget" what Lieberman did during this year's campaign. If anyone else calls Harkin's office to inquire, please post a comment or send me an e-mail to tell me what they say.

I don't care if Lieberman remains a personal friend of Harkin's. He made his choice and has no business running a major committee in a Democratic-controlled Senate. It's not as if he was even representing his constituents' preferences in the presidential race. Connecticut voted for Obama over John McCain by a 61 percent to 38 percent margin.

Share your opinions on Senate Democrats' stupidity, gullibility or cowardice in the comments.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Surprising results for minor-party presidential candidates

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 12, 2008 at 17:00:27 PM CST

On the whole, Americans rejected minor presidential candidates. The nationwide popular vote stands at 66.3 million for Barack Obama (52.7 percent) and 58.0 million for John McCain (46.0 percent).

Out of curiosity, tremayne at Open Left reviewed the vote tallies for other presidential candidates:

530,200 votes: Ralph Nader

519,800 votes: Bob Barr

179,900 votes: Chuck Baldwin

147,600 votes: Cynthia McKinney

 30,800 votes: Alan Keyes (in CA)

 28,300 votes: Write-in/other

 10,500 votes: Ron Paul (in MT)

The Iowa Secretary of State's office does not yet have the general election results on its website, and the Des Moines Register's election results page only gives the numbers for Obama and McCain, but wikipedia gives these vote counts for Iowa:

818,240: Barack Obama

677,508: John McCain

7,963: Ralph Nader

4,608: Bob Barr

4,403: Chuck Baldwin

1,495: Cynthia McKinney

I am surprised that Nader got so many votes. That's a lot less than he received in 2000 but at least 60,000 more votes nationwide than he received in 2004.

I also find it interesting that nationally, Bob Barr got three times as many votes as Chuck Baldwin, even though Ron Paul endorsed Baldwin. Maybe the "brand name" of the Libertarian Party is stronger than that of the Constitution Party, or maybe Barr just has more name recognition because of his prominent role in the Bill Clinton impeachment hearings.

In Iowa, Baldwin and Barr received approximately the same number of votes.

If any Bleeding Heartland readers have contacts in the Ron Paul for president crowd, please post a comment and let us know how the activists split among McCain, Barr and Baldwin.

UPDATE: A Bleeding Heartland reader compiled all the county results from Iowa and noticed something strange about Dubuque County. As he commented at Swing State Project, Dubuque County showed

quite a few votes for third party candidates and in some instances (La Riva/Moses) more than in the whole rest of Iowa.
I suspect there's either something wrong with those numbers or they had some strange butterfly ballot.

Did anyone out there vote in Dubuque County, and if so, was the ballot design strange in some way that would produce an unusually high number of minor-party votes for president?

Discuss :: (14 Comments)

Question about the order of candidates on Iowa ballots

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 15:49:05 PM CST

Someone who poll-watched in a different Iowa county has informed me that the Republican candidate was listed above the Democratic candidate for every race on all of that county's ballots.

My impression, although I didn't look closely so can't remember, was that in Polk County one party was not consistently above the other party on ballots.

It seems reasonable to require that the order of candidates be rotated on ballots so as not to give either party an advantage.

Bleeding Heartland readers, please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you noticed one party's candidates being consistently list first on your ballot (absentee or election-day ballot).

Discuss :: (8 Comments)

The Republicans are in a deep hole nationally (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 16:02:38 PM CST

Pendulums swing in politics, and not every election will be a Democratic wave. However, certain demographic trends seen in this year's election have to be discouraging for Republicans.

Before the election, some Republicans were confident about John McCain's chances, in part because they expected a "Bradley effect" to be skewing polls toward Barack Obama. That is, they thought large numbers of white people might be lying to pollsters about their intention to vote for Obama. Polling experts like Sam Wang and Nate Silver and Mark Blumenthal predicted weeks ago that there would be no Bradley effect, and Tuesday's results showed they were right.

Not only that, Obama did better among white men and white voters generally than John Kerry did four years ago. Obama's relatively strong performance among whites increased his national popular vote lead and swung states like Indiana (which had not voted Democratic for president since 1964) into his column.

NBC's Chuck Todd has drawn attention to Obama's strong showing among college-educated whites in particular:

Our final NBC/WSJ poll before the election showed that Obama had a three-legged stool of support that contributed to his lead over McCain -- African Americans, Hispanics, and 18-29 year olds. And that poll (and others like it) proved to be right. Obama won African Americans, 95%-4%; Hispanics, 66%-32%; and 18-29 year olds, 66%-32%. But Obama had one extra bit of support that turned a three-legged stool into a four-legged chair: college-educated whites. McCain narrowly beat him here, 51%-47%, which helped reverse a 17-point deficit Kerry had with all whites in 2004 to the 12-point deficit Obama had last night. And it's what helped Obama do so well in suburban counties like the ones above in Pennsylvania or the ones in the I-4 corridor of Florida or the ones in Northern Virginia. That's the difference, folks, between losing an election and winning one.

Obama also more than doubled Kerry's winning margin among Latino voters. Nationally, he took about 67 percent of the Latino vote. McCain, who was supposed to be a relatively appealing Republican with this demographic, won just 31 percent of their votes. To make matters worse for the GOP, "the number of Latinos who went to the polls increased by nearly 25 percent over 2004."

In part because of Latino voters, states like New Mexico and Nevada, which were very close in 2004, went to Obama by more than 10 points.

Now look at the charts about the youth vote (aged 18-29) in this post by Mike Connery. Young voters split almost evenly between Bush and Gore. In 2004, they went for Kerry by a 9-point margin. In 2006, they went for Democratic Congressional candidates by a 22-point margin. This year, they went for Obama over McCain by a ridiculous 34-point margin (66 percent for Obama, 32 percent for McCain).

Scroll down this page a little to the graph showing what the electoral map would look like if only 18-29 year olds were voting. McCain would win just eight states for 57 electoral votes and be tied in Arkansas. Also,

Sixty percent of all new voters this year were under age 30, according to a report by Tuft's Tisch College Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or CIRCLE.

The Republicans better figure out a way to reverse this trend quickly, because

Many academic studies show that if a voter votes for the same party in three consecutive elections they disproportionately carry that political identification with them for the rest of their lives.

Voters between the ages of 18 and 29 are a large cohort, because they are mostly children of the Baby Boomers. They have now voted overwhelmingly Democratic in two consecutive elections (2006 and 2008).

Finally, let's not forget about women voters. They make up more than half of the national electorate, and they went for Obama by 55 percent to 43 percent. Incredibly, 70 percent of unmarried women voters supported Obama. In Ohio, Obama got 54 percent of the women's vote, and in Pennsylvania he got 60 percent of the women's vote.

If I were a Republican anywhere, I would be depressed by these numbers.

In the next day or so, I will write about the deep hole Iowa Republicans are in.

UPDATE: If I were a Republican, I would probably drop most of the social issues rhetoric and stick to big government and taxes. However, via Todd Beeton at MyDD I learned that exit poll data don't show this as a promising path either:

   View of Government

   Should do more 51
   Doing too much 43

   Will your taxes go up if Obama wins?

   Yes 71
   No 27

   Among voters making $200,000 or more

   Obama 52
   McCain 48

UPDATE 2: Paul Rosenberg asserts that the GOP [is] Set to Drive Off a Cliff. Click the link to view charts from a new Democracy Corps report, showing that the electorate as a whole thinks the Republicans lost the 2006 and 2008 elections because they were too conservative, and that the GOP needs to appeal more to moderates to win.

Meanwhile, the subset of Republican respondents in the Democracy Corps survey said the Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008 because they were not conservative enough.

Similarly, this survey yet again shows that McCain's choice of Sarah Palin hurt him more than any other factor with voters who considered both Obama and McCain. But a Rasmussen survey of Republicans taken after the election showed that most think Palin helped McCain's candidacy, and favor Palin more than any other likely contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

If Republicans cannot acknowledge what just happened, they are unlikely to be able to improve their party's standing.

Discuss :: (13 Comments)

I need to link to The Onion more often

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 14:35:03 PM CST

Watch this video: Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

This is also worth a read:

Although polls going into the final weeks of October showed Sen. Obama in the lead, it remained unclear whether the failing economy, dilapidated housing market, crumbling national infrastructure, health care crisis, energy crisis, and five-year-long disastrous war in Iraq had made the nation crappy enough to rise above 300 years of racial prejudice and make lasting change.

"Today the American people have made their voices heard, and they have said, 'Things are finally as terrible as we're willing to tolerate," said Obama, addressing a crowd of unemployed, uninsured, and debt-ridden supporters. "To elect a black man, in this country, and at this time-these last eight years must have really broken you." [...]

Citizens with eyes, ears, and the ability to wake up and realize what truly matters in the end are also believed to have played a crucial role in Tuesday's election.

According to a CNN exit poll, 42 percent of voters said that the nation's financial woes had finally become frightening enough to eclipse such concerns as gay marriage, while 30 percent said that the relentless body count in Iraq was at last harrowing enough to outweigh long ideological debates over abortion. In addition, 28 percent of voters were reportedly too busy paying off medical bills, desperately trying not to lose their homes, or watching their futures disappear to dismiss Obama any longer.

These short pieces made me laugh too:

McCain Gets Hammered at Local VFW

Republican Party, Average Working Joe Bid One Another Adieu Until 2012

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New thread on national election results and fallout

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 07:19:47 AM CST

Jeff Merkley pulled ahead in the Oregon Senate race, which brings the Democrats a sixth seat gained in the upper chamber. (The others were in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado.)

We are headed for a recount in Minnesota, where Norm Coleman leads Al Franken by 0.03 percent of the vote. What is wrong with the 400,000+ people who voted for independent candidate Dean Barkley?

Absentee and provisional ballots are still being counted in Alaska, where seven-time convicted felon Ted Stevens has a narrow lead over Mark Begich. They sure like their Republicans in Alaska.

The Georgia Senate race will go to a runoff in December, but Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss has to be heavily favored over Jim Martin.

If I could choose only one of the late-to-be-determined races to win, I would pick Oregon. Merkley has been very effective in the Oregon legislature and is going to be a huge asset to progressives in the Senate. Also, he is likely to have an easier time holding this seat than our candidates would in AK, MN or GA.

There are still a few U.S. House races to be determined. It looks as if Democrats will end up with a net gain of about 19 or 20 seats, which gives them a solid majority of about 250 (there are 435 seats in the House of Representatives).

However, there's no getting around the fact that many analysts were forecasting Democratic gains of 25 to 30 seats before the election. Republicans have to feel good about protecting most of their incumbents from the Obama wave. The Democrats did not make enough of a case for why a Democratic Congress would be a force for good, and the Republicans may have energized their base with warnings about one-party rule.

As for the presidential race, some of John McCain's staffers and conservative talking heads are already trying to blame Sarah Palin for dragging down the Republican ticket. They are complaining about her clothes shopping spree and her refusal to accept preparation for her interview with Katie Couric. I agree that Palin hurt McCain, but get real: whose fault is it that such an uninformed, unprepared candidate was on the ticket?

If Fox News goes along with the effort to discredit Palin (and judging from this clip, they will), it will be interesting to see if the network's ratings decline. Palin now has a loyal following among ideological conservatives who are the core viewers for Fox. If you watch Fox or listen to any right-wing talk radio, post a comment or write a diary about how the various hosts are explaining McCain's loss. I am curious to see how many parts of the right-wing noise machine try to undermine Palin, and how many will keep encouraging her to run for president in 2012.

Also, if you know Republicans who were active in supporting a presidential candidate this past year, do you think they would stick with that candidate in 2012, or might they prefer Palin?

Looking to the future on the Democratic side, Clinton White House staffer Mike Lux explains what's wrong with the conventional wisdom about Clinton's so-called "overreaching" in 1993 and 1994.

Early analysis of the presidential voting is already appearing. Obama did better than Al Gore or John Kerry among protestants and evangelicals, including frequent church-goers.

At Swing State Project, Crisitunity has already calculated the new partisan voting indices for all 50 states, taking into account the 2008 election results. The partisan voting index looks at the popular vote in each state from the last two presidential elections, and compares that to the nationwide popular vote. So, in a state that is R+5, the share of the vote garnered by Bush in 2004 and McCain this year is about five percent higher than the share of the national popular vote Bush and McCain received.

Although Obama did substantially better than Al Gore and John Kerry in many states, he also outperformed those candidates in the national popular vote. The result is that the change in partisan voting index is minimal for most states. Crisitunity explains,

In most people's minds, this was a sea change election, a total map-changer... but if you look closely at the underlying data and not just the colors on the TV screen, it wasn't. Most of the states behaved exactly as you'd expect them to, coming in a few points more Democratic in a year where the Democratic candidate performed a few points better than the previous few Democratic candidates. In other words, most states' boats were lifted the same amount by the one overall rising blue tide.

There were some big shifts and drops, though; where were they? The states where the PVI most notably shifted to the Democrats were Colorado (+3), Hawaii (+6), Indiana (+3), Montana (+4), Nevada (+3), New Mexico (+3), North Dakota (+3), South Dakota (+3), and Vermont (+5). With the exception of Hawaii (favorite son effect) and Vermont (large 2000 Nader effect falling out of the equation), the explanation for these states seems to be a combination of two factors: Obama's greater appeal (maybe personality-wise more so than policy-wise) to midwestern and western states, and the fact that the Obama campaign actually put a lot of ground game effort into these states instead of treating them as an afterthought.

Based on the 2000 and 2004 presidential election results, Iowa had a partisan voting index of D+0, meaning the state as a whole closely mirrored nationwide popular voting for president. Dropping the 2000 numbers and adding the 2008 results, Crisitunity calculated a PVI of D+1 for Iowa, meaning our state has a very slight Democratic tilt compared to the national electorate.

This is an open thread for any thoughts you have about the election or anything interesting you've read lately about the results.

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New thread on Iowa election results

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 05, 2008 at 13:29:17 PM CST

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that overall turnout in Iowa in 2008 was lower than it was in 2004. That is surprising, given the well-documented surge in new voter registrations.

Which people who participated in 2004 stayed home yesterday, and how did that affect the results?

Tom Harkin won all 99 counties, which is remarkable considering that John McCain beat Barack Obama in 46 or 47 of Iowa's counties. Even in Republican areas, they're looking for more in a U.S. senator than trash talk and smackdowns. Does anyone remember whether Chuck Grassley carried all 99 counties in 2004?

(UPDATE: The Daily Kos election scoreboard shows Christopher Reed beating Harkin in Page County in the southwest part of the state and in the four counties in the northwest corner. There may be a mistake on the Des Moines Register's map, which shows all 99 counties in blue for the Senate race.)

The words "idiot" and "insane person" will be removed from the Iowa Constitution.

Speaking of idiots, Steve King got away with barely campaigning in the fifth district, winning by at least 20 points. Politics can be cruel, and I feel for Rob Hubler, who worked so hard for so long to give fifth district residents a credible candidate.

Nationwide, many Democratic challengers in districts like IA-05 fell far short. Nancy Boyda, a surprise winner from 2006 in KS-02, was a surprise loser last night. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee invested millions of dollars in other similarly Republican districts like MN-06 and AZ-03, and our challengers lost those too.

After beating Kim Schmett by 57 percent to 42 percent (about double his margin of victory in 2006), third district Congressman Leonard Boswell immediately vowed to run for re-election in 2010. Can't some Democratic heavy-hitters who are on good terms with Boswell encourage him to retire? Barring that, is there anyone willing to start fundraising for a 2010 primary challenge who would have some establishment support?

We may have to run against Tom Latham in a redrawn third district in 2012, and it would be helpful to have a new Democratic incumbent in place before that happens.

Bruce Braley was the incumbent re-elected by the largest margin, 64 percent to 36 percent. I agree with John Deeth that Republican moderates are going to challenge Dave Hartsuch in his 2010 state senate primary.

Dave Loebsack won big in the second district, by 57 percent to 39 percent. The hill in this D+7 district is just too steep for a Republican candidate to climb. Mariannette Miller-Meeks would be better off seeking a different political office in the future, although the Iowa GOP may encourage her to run for Congress again in 2010. Loebsack won't have the Barack Obama turnout machine cranking in Johnson and Linn counties two years from now.

Iowa Democrats are looking at small net gains in the House and Senate. Dawn Pettengill got away with switching to the GOP after the Iowa Democratic Party worked hard to elect her. A couple of races may have a different result once the absentee and provisional ballots are counted. Deeth has more details.

Jerry Sullivan has not ruled out requesting a recount in House district 59, although it seems unlikely to me that there are enough provisional and absentee ballots outstanding for him to reverse Chris Hagenow's 141-vote lead (out of more than 16,000 votes cast).

UPDATE: Johnson County voters narrowly approved a controversial bond measure. The proposal was designed to generate

$20 million in a 20-year period to conserve open space.

By collecting taxes for two decades, the Johnson County Conservation Board will have the funds to buy and preserve remnant areas of land scattered throughout the county from willing sellers.

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Election results open thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 17:53:02 PM CST

Keeping in mind Mark Blumenthal's cautionary note about exit polls, I am trying not to get too excited about these early exit poll numbers that point to a massive landslide win for Barack Obama in Iowa and elsewhere.

What are you doing tonight? Are you going to an election night party or watching the returns come in at home? I am making one of my favorite dishes for dinner, which I haven't cooked in many months.

I'll update periodically tonight as results come in.

Note: David Yepsen thinks McCain should have picked Mike Huckabee for vice president. I think that would have been a less-bad choice than Sarah Palin, but McCain still would have faced an enormous gender gap and problem with suburban moderates.

I still think the Republicans would have done better to nominate Mitt Romney, and that Romney must be kicking himself for not knocking out McCain earlier this year.

UPDATE: At around 6:30 pm I got a robocall from Barack Obama, reminding me that I still have a few hours to vote in this historic election, and asking me to go out and vote. A different voice then reminded me that polls are open until 9 pm and gave me a toll-free number that I could call to find my polling place.

Best. GOTV. ever.

UPDATE 2: Obama is only down a few points in Indiana, and several Democratic strongholds (like Gary and Indianapolis) have not reported. Also, exit polls suggest Obama is only losing white voters in Indiana by about 3 percent, which would be groundbreaking if true.

UPDATE 3: Doors are closing for McCain. Pennsylvania has been called for Obama, and he still looks like he has a chance to win Indiana and North Carolina. Ohio also seems to be turning blue.

In the Senate races, we have picked up seats in New Hampshire, Virginia and North Carolina. We probably are going to lose Kentucky. Looks like I was wrong about Georgia being the closest U.S. Senate race--Republican Saxby Chambliss seems to be leading there.

My husband got tired of the talking heads and switched over to the BBC America channel. It brought back too many traumatic memories for me--I stayed up all night in England watching the 2000 election returns on the BBC. It was around 3 am when they announced Florida was no longer in the Gore column, but was "too close to call."

UPDATE 4: That's all she wrote. Fox News just called Ohio for Obama. There is no mathematical way for McCain to get 270 electoral votes.

To put some icing on the cake, Obama leads in Florida with half the votes counted. McCain clings to narrow leads in Indiana and Virginia, with some heavily Democratic areas not counted yet.

Also, we picked up a fourth U.S. Senate seat (in New Mexico). Minnesota has been called for Obama, but that Senate race is too close to call.

UPDATE 5: No one is calling Florida yet, but things sure look good for Obama if you compare his share of the vote in the counties that are in to what John Kerry received four years ago.

We picked up at least one House seat in Florida and lost FL-16, but good riddance to him as far as I'm concerned. Let the record reflect that even though I am a yellow dog Democrat, I would not have voted for that creep Tim Mahoney in FL-16.

Virginia and North Carolina both appear within reach, but still too close to call.

CBS is showing an incredible celebratory scene at Howard University (a black college) in Washington.

UPDATE 6: I was putting my son to sleep and missed McCain's concession speech. Mr. desmoinesdem said it was gracious.

Florida, Colorado and Virginia have been called for Obama. Only North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri and Montana haven't been called yet, as far as I can tell.

UPDATE 7: Nice victory speech by Obama. He's not going to rub it in the Republicans' faces. He will reach out to them. I predict more than a token Republican or two will be in his cabinet--perhaps even Colin Powell.

North Carolina has been called for Obama.

I feel bad that Obama's grandmother did not live to see this moment. However, he did get back to see her a couple of weeks ago, and she did cast an absentee ballot before she died. I'm sure she must have known that he was going to win.

Apparently Obama has offered Rahm Emanuel the job of White House chief of staff. That's got to be a tempting offer, but if Emanuel stays in the House of Representatives he might become speaker someday.

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Election-day links for you

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 13:00:35 PM CST

It's perfect weather for voting in Iowa, and my polling place was busy this morning. Of about 1200 registered voters in my precinct (Windsor Heights 2), 125 had already voted in person by 8:30 am. I don't know how many people voted by absentee ballot in my precinct, but statewide it was about a third of the electorate, so I assume several hundred people in my precinct voted early.

The "mystery pollster" Mark Blumenthal posted this cautionary note about any exit polls that may be leaked later today. He also linked to this piece from two years ago, which explains how exit polls are conducted.

If you encounter any problems with voting, don't hesitate to call the Obama campaign's voter protection hotline:

1-877-US-4-OBAMA (1-877-874-6226)

The non-partisan Election Protection also has a hotline:

1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683)

Swing State Project's final House race ratings can be found here. They have IA-04 as "likely Republican" and IA-05 as a "race to watch."

Lots of websites will be tracking results closely tonight. For presidential and Congressional results, I will be hopping back and forth between Open Left, Talking Points Memo, Swing State Project, MyDD and Daily Kos, and will highlight notable results here.

It could be an early night if Virginia and Pennsylvania look to be going Obama's way. Polls close in those states at 7 pm eastern time.

The Iowa House Democratic Caucus blog will have live results on the House races tonight, but I don't know where to go for live results on the state Senate races.

UPDATE: More voter protection numbers:

ACLU Voter Protection Hotline (1-877-523-2792)

Lawyers' Committee Hotline (1-800-OUR-VOTE / 1-800-687-8683)

Here's a funny story from Talking Points Memo about some flaws in the vaunted Republican microtargeting operation.

Republican spin doctor and focus-group master Frank Luntz tells it like it is: "I cannot foresee a scenario that John McCain is elected the President of the United States."

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Open thread on Palin's rally in Dubuque

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 13:17:14 PM CST

Later this afternoon vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin will headline a Republican rally in Dubuque (why I don't know).

If you're watching on television or following the coverage online, post your thoughts and comments here. I will update this post later as well.

I'm curious to see whether state senator and first district Congressional candidate Dave Hartsuch will get to speak today, or at least be acknowledged from the stage. As John Deeth reported, Hartsuch was entirely left out of John McCain's recent rally in Davenport.

Iowa may be a lost cause for the Republican ticket, but I predict Palin will draw a larger crowd in Dubuque than the approximately 1,100 people who came to hear John McCain in Tampa, Florida this morning. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank called that "a disastrous showing for an election-eve event in this big, Republican town."

After the election it will be entertaining to watch the pro-Palin and anti-Palin camps in the Republican Party blame each other for the loss.

UPDATE: I forgot to update this post yesterday. Chuck Grassley went a bit far in defending Palin's qualifications while warming up the crowd:

"You know from watching television and the debates that no one is more qualified to vice president of the United States," [Grassley] said. "All you got to think about is the governors that have gone to Washington to be the chief executive. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind about her qualifications."

She's halfway through her first term and already has been found to have abused her authority, but I guess to a Republican that makes her highly qualified to be president.

The Des Moines Register reported that more than 5,000 people came to see Palin in Dubuque. Some of them are already looking forward to her return to Iowa as a presidential candidate someday.

If this poll of Republicans is accurate, Palin trails Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee in the race for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

Getting back to the current election, Palin declined to say whether she voted for convicted felon and Republican incumbent Ted Stevens in the U.S. Senate election today:

I am also exercising my right to privacy and I don't have to tell anybody who I vote for. Nobody does, and that's really cool about America also.
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A few good links for political junkies

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 09:00:00 AM CST

Swing State Project has posted a useful map and chart showing poll closing times and key races across the country.

Also, Swing State Project has maintained an incredible independent expenditure tracking chart so you can see how much various interest groups have been spending on the Congressional races, and in which districts. I noticed that EMILY's List has not been spending in many of the districts where they endorsed a candidate.

Fivethirtyeight.com runs 10,000 presidential election scenarios every day. On Sunday, they came up with 624 McCain victories out of 10,000. Nate Silver shows you the most likely McCain victory maps in "What a McCain Win Looks Like."

Daily Kos is running its first election prediction contest, and you have until 3 am central time on Tuesday to enter. It's better than Bleeding Heartland's contest in that they ask fewer questions and are giving the winner a brand new 2.0GHz Apple MacBook.

On the other hand, you have to have been a registered Daily Kos user for a least a week to participate, and your chances of winning are a lot better here. They will probably have thousands of entries at Daily Kos, and you have to guess the national popular vote percentages within a tenth of a point.

What websites are you reading, and where will you be watching the election returns come in?

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