Weekend open thread: Des Moines Register Iowa caucus poll edition

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Bonus points if someone can suggest a good reason for Senator Joni Ernst voting against renewable energy tax credits this week. Her staff should have informed her that those tax credits are important for Iowa's wind turbine manufacturers. Then she could have followed Senator Chuck Grassley's lead. Or maybe that information wouldn't have mattered, since Ernst owes a lot to the Koch brothers, who strongly oppose federal incentives for renewable energy.

The Des Moines Register just published the latest Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa poll, which was in the field a few days after Representative Steve King's Iowa Freedom Summit generated substantial political news coverage. Selzer & Co. surveyed 402 "likely Republican caucus-goers" between January 26 and 29, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent. No candidate has a statistically significant lead; the "top tier" are Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, 2012 nominee Mitt Romney (who hadn't announced yet that he wasn't running), former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (who won the 2008 Iowa GOP caucuses), Dr. Ben Carson, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. You can read the highlights on the Register's website; after the jump I've embedded the polling memo. For my money, this is the most interesting part of Jennifer Jacobs' story:

Sixty percent say it's more important to vote for the person who aligns with their values, even if that candidate isn't electable, compared with 36 percent who say winning the White House for Republicans is more important.

A majority - 51 percent of likely GOP caucusgoers - would prefer an anti-establishment candidate without a lot of ties to Washington or Wall Street who would change the way things are done and challenge conventional thinking. That compares to 43 percent who think the better leader would be a mainstream establishment candidate with executive experience who understands business and how to execute ideas, the new poll shows.

For respondents who say they want an establishment candidate, Romney is their first choice. With Romney out of the picture, Walker leads. Huckabee is next, then Bush.

Among those who want an anti-establishment candidate, Paul is the favorite, followed by Walker and Carson.

The 401 "Democratic likely caucus-goers" surveyed by Selzer & Co. overwhelmingly lean toward former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She's the first choice of 56 percent and the second choice of 15 percent of respondents. Senator Elizabeth Warren polled 16 percent as a first choice and 23 percent as a second choice. Vice President Joe Biden polled 9 percent as a first choice and 26 percent as a second choice. All other potential candidates were in single digits.

FEBRUARY 1 UPDATE: Ben Schreckinger is out with a Politico story headlined, "Iowa Dems high and dry as Hillary decides." I've added excerpts after the jump. The story is full of angtsy quotes about how there's not as much activity on the Democratic side as there was before the 2004 and 2008 caucuses, and how Republicans will benefit from more organizing by presidential hopefuls. It's true, Iowa Republicans have had way more candidate visits, including events to raise money for county parties or down-ballot candidates. Guess what? It's going to stay that way for all of 2015. Our party has a prohibitive front-runner, and she is well-liked by the vast majority of likely Democratic caucus-goers. We're not going to have multiple presidential candidates spending millions of dollars on dozens of field offices around the state. So stop whining about it to national reporters and start figuring out how to build a grassroots network without an Iowa caucus as competitive as 2004 or 2008.

I also added below a statement from the Iowa GOP, contrasting the "vibrant" and "diverse" Republican presidential field with the Democratic landscape ahead of the 2016 caucuses.

From Ben Schreckinger's February 1 Politico story headlined, "Iowa Dems high and dry as Hillary decides."

In Iowa, the annual parade of appearances by big-name presidential candidates normally has ripple effects for fundraising and party-building activities among local organizations.

But this year, said State Sen. Jeff Danielson, "It's an absolute ghost town, and I'm deeply concerned about it. All of that activity builds the party base. It allows down-ballot candidates like me to host events in the district."

Danielson is up for re-election in 2016 in Iowa Senate district 30, covering Cedar Falls and part of Waterloo.

More from Schreckinger:

The ancillary benefits of a heated Iowa caucus play out at events like the Johnson County Democrats' largest fundraiser, the annual fall barbecue. In 2003, the barbecue drew John Kerry, Howard Dean and non-candidate Ted Kennedy. In 2007, it drew five presidential candidates and the actor Forest Whittaker, who came as a surrogate for then-Sen. Barack Obama.

[John] Deeth said he doesn't believe this year's barbecue will compare. "Nobody expects that Hillary Clinton plans to do those kinds of activities," he said.

A lively contest also draws new blood and fresh energy into the Democratic fold.

"When it's a highly competitive caucus, we often have folks show up who aren't only Democrats but independents and some Republicans who then register as Democrats," said Polk County Democratic Chair Tom Henderson. "They're more likely to stay with our party and vote with our party."

"It does seem to be slower than I'd like to expect," he said.

That's right, Hillary Clinton is not going to spend as much time in Iowa this year as the leading presidential candidates did in 2007. Complaining about it won't do a damn thing to help.

Statement from the Republican Party of Iowa:

DES MOINES - The Iowa caucuses are scheduled to take place one year from tomorrow on Feb. 1, 2016.

Statement from Chairman Jeff Kaufmann: "I am extremely encouraged by the quality, talent, and vision of the Republicans considering presidential campaigns. I expect a vibrant and substantial debate over the next year, which will help decide our next party leader. I urge each candidate to spend as much time as they can in Iowa, get to know voters, and let them get to know you. We're a friendly and open state, and all we ask is that you come prepared with a compelling vision for the future."

Statement from Co-Chair Cody Hoefert: "I am struck by the vast difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates. Republicans have a vibrant field of candidates with diverse strengths and backgrounds. The Democrats have only one real candidate and she has been a Washington insider for nearly three decades. Republicans will hold a healthy and exciting debate and I'm so proud that Iowa will again lead the way."

  • Early but

    Been talking to a lot of political types lately and they are antsy. My GOP friends believe that regardless of what happens in Iowa,  jeb wins the nomination and will be a great candidate in the general. For dems, Hillary has light but no heat.  In the run-up to the 2014 election, like around the steak fry, these folks were all gung ho for Hillary. But after the 2014 election, there's been a shift. They now believe that Hillary is too old and yesterday's news ...that her time has come and gone. She will generate less excitement and could lose to Jeb Bush quite handily. The right candidate could jump in and snatch it away from her. It's not sanders nor O'Malley or Webb. But a name I keep hearing: Andrew Cuomo.  

    • Cuomo would be a nightmare

      Horrible, horrible candidate.

      I don't think Jeb can win the nomination with his stance on immigration and Common Core dragging him down. And even if he did, I think Hillary could beat him in the general. Sure, he wins Florida but she still wins Kerry states plus Ohio, New Mexico, and Nevada, and possibly Iowa and Virginia.

    • seriously

      I don't think Cuomo would run against HRC but if he were the alternative, I would not only caucus for Hillary but make phone calls to turn people out for her. Cuomo has absolutely nothing to recommend him as a presidential candidate. It will be a dark day for our party if we ever nominate him.

      • Cuomo has hired legal counsel

        Preet Bharara is supposedly looking at him next (after Silver), and he apparently has some things to be worried about.  We'll see what actually happens, but I think Andrew is going to have his hands full.

  • Convinced of Walker

    The poll sells me on Walker - I think if his campaign can keep improving, survive the inevitable few setbacks over the next months, his record and rhetoric could carry him to the 'real' frontrunners pack of 2 or 3. He's acceptable to libertarians, business conservatives like him, he's persecuted by those goddamn liberals and and kicking' those losers' asses, and the religious right like him well-enough because he says the right pro-life things. Up to now, Walker's image to me has been the less charismatic Christie.  

    • I tend to agree

      He's not too moderate but not too conservative. That plus the fact that he's from a neighboring state and took on the hated labor unions should really help him.

      Counter-argument: no one's gone after him yet. If he truly becomes the front-runner, some super-PAC will start spewing slime about him. He has a long record in politics, and I'm sure there will be plenty to pick apart.

    • I forgot where I read it

      but Walker has a seedy history when he was a supervisor/executive for Milwaukee County. Story as I remember it is that Walker would vote against staff increases and/or funding increases for the state's corrections facilities, then cite "underperformance" as an incentive to privatize corrections.  Just so happens that CCA was more than happy to take over and then fund his subsequent gubernatorial campaigns.  It is analogous to Romney and his vulture capitalism, although arguably worse given he was a public official at the time.  It happens with almost all politicians I am sure (heck, somebody is paying for Warren's campaign signs, too), but that is just an example of where his record may come to light.  

      • A bunch of his employees went to prison

        And if you read the stories about what was going on in that County office, you can't come away from it thinking that Scotty wasn't part of it. For example, they had a private wi-fi router so they could exchange campaign emails during the day not on their government email accounts. Doesn't that sound like private business being done on government time? And there was misuse of funds, too.  But Scotty spins it like he cleaned up the corruption in that office.  His opponents will have a field day noting all the folks that went to jail for him.  Every story I've read about him in the Wisconsin papers, going back to college student government elections, just reeks of slime.  I saw a headline yesterday that said if you loved Nixon, you'll love Walker!

      • there is dirt for sure

        I haven't followed that case closely, but if Walker gains traction I'm sure some super PAC supporting someone else will dump a lot of this information into the public sphere.

        Side note: The investigation into that shady deal produced the document in which Walker wished a Jewish constituent "Happy Chanukah and Molotov!"  

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