Bleeding Heartland Year in Review: Iowa politics in 2008

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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Forum on women in Iowa politics at Drake on Friday

Normally I mention these Iowa Politics events on my weekly calendar, but I only found out about this one today. There are still some spots available for reservations:

Drake to host forum on women in Iowa politics

Drake University will host a bipartisan forum Friday, Nov. 14, on the role women play in Iowa politics and future prospects for women to be elected to represent Iowans in Congress.

The featured speakers will be:

   * Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University

   * Becky Greenwald, Iowa Congressional candidate

   * Mary E. Kramer, former U.S. ambassador

   * Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Iowa Congressional candidate

   * Jo Ann Zimmerman, former Iowa lieutenant governor

The event, which is free and open to the public, will start at 11 a.m. in Levitt Hall in Old Main, 2507 University Ave.

Reservations are required for the event, which is sponsored by Drake, and Mediacom, as part of the Cookies and Conversation Series. For reservations, call 515-226-8774 or send an e-mail to Julie Rutz at Des Moines Bureau Chief Lynn Campbell will moderate the program and questions will be accepted from audience members. The panel discussion will be televised to a statewide audience on the Mediacom Connections Channel and will be available for On Demand viewing from Mediacom on Channel 1.

Doors to Levitt Hall will open at 10:30 a.m. Free parking will be available in Drake lots at 26th Street and University Avenue and at 25th Street and Carpenter Avenue. is an independent, nonpartisan news operation offering a free Web site at and paid subscriber products.

This is an open thread for discussing women in Iowa politics.

I still believe that the most important reason Iowa has never sent a woman to Congress is the fact that almost every woman who’s tried was challenging an incumbent.

Many women failed to defeat incumbents in other states too this year, including quite a few who had more money to spend on their campaigns than Miller-Meeks or Greenwald did in IA-02 and IA-04.

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Update on the Congressional races

It’s time for a new thread on the Congressional races across the country.

First, I need to make two corrections. I reported late Tuesday night that Tom Harkin had won all of Iowa’s 99 counties. That was based on a map on the election results page of the Des Moines Register’s website, which showed all of Iowa’s 99 counties in blue. However, the Daily Kos election scoreboard shows the true picture (click on “Senate,” then on Iowa). Harkin won “only” 94 Iowa counties. He lost Page County in southwest Iowa as well as Sioux, Lyon, O’Brien and Osceola in the northwest corner.

Second, I have reported that EMILY’s List provided no financial support to Becky Greenwald’s campaign in the fourth Congressional district. However, Bleeding Heartland commenter Bill Spencer pointed out that Greenwald’s third quarter FEC filing shows a $5,000 contribution from EMILY’s List on September 22 (a few days after the group endorsed Greenwald).

It’s worth noting that when EMILY’s List strongly commits to a race, they invest considerably more than $5,000 in the candidate.

Earlier this year, EMILY’s List backed Nikki Tinker in the Democratic primary in Tennessee’s ninth district against Steve Cohen, who had a perfect pro-choice voting record. I have not been able to confirm a number, but EMILY’s list was reported to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars advocating for Tinker.

James L. of Swing State Project compiled this comprehensive chart showing independent expenditures in House races across the country. Look at how much EMILY’s List spent in some other districts: more than $160,000 in IL-11, nearly $150,000 in CO-04, nearly $60,000 in OH-15, more than $30,000 in NH-01, $19,000 in FL-13, $16,500 in NY-26.

That only counts the money EMILY’s List itself spends on behalf of Congressional candidates. The group can also raise substantial funds for candidates through their mailing list. Donors to EMILY’s List receive direct-mail and e-mail appeals regularly, asking them to contribute directly to key candidates from around the country. These letters contain short bios of the candidates EMILY’s List is backing. I have confirmed from more than one source that EMILY’s List did not send out any direct-mail or e-amil appeals urging members to contribute to Greenwald’s campaign.

So, while I was wrong to write that EMILY’s List provided no financial support to Greenwald, it is accurate to say that they did little to help her beyond issuing a press release very late in the game.

Getting to the big picture, Democrats have picked up six U.S. Senate seats: Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia. Three races have yet to be called. Norm Coleman leads Al Franken in Minnesota by 236 votes (out of more than 2.5 million cast) at the latest count. There will be a mandatory recount in this race once the initial count has been completed. I read last night that Franken can win if even one extra vote for him is found in every eight Minnesota precincts.

We may be headed for a recount in Alaska, although it seems unlikely that Mark Begich can overcome convicted felon Ted Stevens’ narrow lead. There is some speculation that Stevens will resign or be expelled from the Senate, in which case a different Republican (Sarah Palin?) could take the seat.

By the way, the election results in Alaska diverged from pre-election polling in an almost unprecedented way, not only in the Senate race but also in the presidential voting and in the race for Alaska’s at-large seat in the House. Further investigation is needed to figure out whether all polls in Alaska (and Alaska alone) were way off, or whether there was any tampering with the vote counting.

Georgia will hold a runoff in December between Jim Martin and the Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss. I don’t have high hopes for this one, since Georgia is a Republican state to begin with and I think the GOP base will be motivated to reduce President Obama’s working majority in the Senate. However, anything can happen. On a related note, there are some anomalies in the turnout figures in Georgia that will require further analysis.

As for the U.S. House, Democrats picked up 23 seats on Tuesday and lost four for a net gain of 19 and a total of 255. Seven races have not been called, all of them in Republican-held districts. Democratic candidates are leading in only two of those (MD-01 and VA-05). Republican leads are extremely small in OH-15 and CA-04, but the picture looks more discouraging for our side in CA-44 (a real under-the-radar race), WA-08 and Alaska’s at-large seat.

If all the candidates currently leading are eventually declared the winners, Democrats would hold 257 House seats and Republicans 181. Crisitunity posted these charts showing Republicans in blue districts and vice versa. Note that the partisan voting index for every Congressional district will have to be recalculated, tossing the 2000 presidential voting and adding the 2008 presidential voting. But using the current partisan voting index numbers (which are based on the 2000 and 2004 presidential voting), only nine Republicans in the whole country represent districts with any Democratic lean at all. One of them is Iowa’s own Tom Latham.

In contrast, at least nine Democrats represent deep-red Congressional districts with a partisan index of at least R+10 (for perspective, Iowa’s fifth district is R+8). Many more Democrats represent districts with only a slightly less Republican lean. We lost incumbent Nancy Boyda in KS-02 (R+7) but picked up Betsy Markey in CO-04 (R+9).

What does Crisitunity’s post mean for Iowans? I take away two lessons.

First, there’s no question that Latham will be tough to beat in 2010, but if he vacates the seat IA-04 becomes a top pickup opportunity for Democrats. I would be very surprised to see him run for governor, but if Chuck Grassley were to retire for any reason I think Latham would take a shot at the Senate race.

Second, looking at the nationwide picture, Democrats are far more competitive in red Congressional districts than Republicans are in blue districts. I am confident that the Republicans have very little chance of recapturing IA-01 and IA-02.

Also, a new Democratic candidate will be favored to hold IA-03 whenever Leonard Boswell retires, even if redistricting after the 2010 census somewhat reduces the Democratic lean in this district.

This is an open thread for any commentary on any of the U.S. House or Senate races.

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Money wasted on Becky's race prevented victories elsewhere?

I sit here tonight wondering if we should be apologizing to some other good liberal candidates for the resources Becky Greenwald's poorly run campaign sucked out of the system. 

DesMoinesDem – you owe true liberals an apology for all the ink you gave Greenwald all over the blogasphere.  You were blind in your support for her with numerous posts that were misleading and full of inaccurate facts about how that race was really playing out.

It was clear that Becky was already running a horrible race long before her bailout blunder — and after that it was more than over — it was a dead cause – unsaveable.

But you and so many others blindly marched on claiming that it was close and momentum was on her side.  Anyone who had taken a one hour drive around that district could tell that she just was not doing well based on the lack of signs along the road.  And yes — I know that signs don't win elections — but they are a good indication of the strength of organization and intensity of support – it just was never there for Greenwald.

Back to the question to soberly ponder: were precious financial resources – that could have been used on closer races where actual pick-ups were still within our grasp – wasted when they were directed to Becky's bumbling blundering campaign of woe and disaster?

I mean — come on – 21 points?!?!?  Harkin and Obama's name on the same ballot should have gotten her to within 10 easily. 

Think of what the money spent by the UAW and Emily's List and the many other groups that were misled into tossing cash because you and others made them think that anyone over at Greenwald knew what the heck they were doing.

Case in point – Al Franken alone could have benefited from that UAW money — that could have made the difference — but it was wasted on a waste of a campaign and candidate.  Or how about Don Cazayoux who lost in LA?  Kansas Congresswoman Nancy Boyda could have saved her seat with the EMILY's List funds wasted on Greenwald.

I think there are those – and you know who you are because I saw your postings all over the place – who owe Democrats an apology for your misjudgment on this one.

All the best — NOT William Meyer.

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Why didn't the wave bring along more Democrats?

Barack Obama had an incredible showing last night. Not only did he win just about every “swing state” from 2004, he won several states that have long been considered safe for Republicans.

Who seriously thought Indiana, which last voted for a Democrat for president in 1964, would go for Obama? He flipped Virginia, Colorado and North Carolina, and may yet win Missouri.

But the down-ticket races have been disappointing in many states. Becky Greenwald and Rob Hubler underperformed Obama and Tom Harkin in Iowa’s fourth and fifth Congressional districts.

Minnesota Democrats failed to pick up any Congressional seats and may not win the U.S. Senate race either, even though Obama won the state by double-digits.

Oregon’s U.S. Senate race is too close to call, despite a huge Obama victory in that state. Democrat Jeff Merkley has led all the recent polls in that race.

We didn’t win as many down-ticket races in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida as many people expected.

Republican incumbents in Alaska who trailed in all the recent polls may keep their jobs.

A lot of analysis needs to be done to figure out what has happened. Perhaps the Republican scare-mongering about “socialism” failed to turn voters off from Obama, but helped convince them to vote for divided rule in Washington. Maybe with so much media commentary about the presidential race being a foregone conclusion, Americans wanted some checks and balances on Obama.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Swing State Project runs through what Democrats won and lost in the U.S. House races. With some districts still too close to call, we have picked up 21 Republican-held seats while four of our own incumbents lost (two who captured heavily Republican districts in 2006 wave). We lost a lot of seats that had seemed to be trending our way, as well as some districts where we outspent the Republican candidate in the final weeks (MN-03, MN-06).

Jerome Armstrong has some thoughts about the apparent swing against Democrats in a lot of the close U.S. Senate races.

Having slept on it, I realize that one wrong assumption I made was that the universal commentary about McCain being toast would depress the Republican vote.

Instead Republicans seem to have turned out in large numbers to prevent one-party “socialist” rule in Washington. Perhaps also a lot of independents voted for gridlock (Obama plus GOP down-ticket).

Of course the presidential landslide is the most important result from yesterday, but I can’t help feeling like wise-beyond-his-years Populista:

Couldn’t this election have nicer frosting? The cake is great but this frosting makes me sick.

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What happened in Iowa's fourth Congressional district?

Becky Greenwald is losing by 20 points in D+0 IA-04 and appears to have lost all 28 counties in the district. I wasn’t optimistic about winning that race, given the lack of tv and radio advertising on her behalf, but I thought she’d come closer than she did, with a strong turnout for Barack Obama and Tom Harkin in the district. I absolutely expected her to win Story County at least.

Ultimately, Greenwald lacked the resources to define her opponent or even respond to his ads that defined her. Tom Latham’s last radio ad pulled quotes from the Des Moines Register’s endorsement of Greenwald, making it seem as if they had rejected her for toeing the Democratic line. If you heard the ad but hadn’t read the paper, you would think the Register endorsed Latham because of his bipartisan leadership.

Latham was able to run away from his voting record, with a big assist from the Democratic leadership that gave him two chances to vote against the unpopular bailout bill.

Latham might have survived even against a well-funded challenger who ran a perfect race. Instead, he faced an under-funded challenger who made her share of mistakes.

Greenwald got in the race late and had to spend a lot of money to get through the Democratic primary. Then she spent most of the summer fundraising instead of getting out in the district to raise her name recognition.

Probably her biggest error was to go up on tv in mid-September with a commercial that did nothing to make the case against Latham. It wouldn’t have been terrible as the first in a series of tv ads, but it was completely inadequate as a stand-alone ad–especially since Greenwald was hardly able to run any commercials during the final month of the campaign.

This gamble might have paid off if the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee or EMILY’s List had decided in late September to commit to this district. However, it looks like a poor call in retrospect. Greenwald should have saved her cash for a strong direct-mail campaign in October, or perhaps two weeks of tv ads right before the election.

It’s also important to look at Iowa’s fourth district in the context of House races nationwide.

As in 2006, this is shaping up to be a Democratic wave election in which Democratic women candidates are not doing nearly as well as Democratic men.

“Sam” Bennett lost by double digits in D+2 PA-15.

Linda Stender lost in R+1 NJ-07 (an open seat and one I thought she’d win, because she almost beat the retiring Republican incumbent in 2006).

Victoria Wulsin lost by a big margin in OH-02.

Anne Barth didn’t come as close as many people expected in WV-02 either.

I hope Darcy Burner pulls through in WA-08, but the early returns are not encouraging.

Jill Derby also doesn’t appear likely to win in NV-02.

Former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes was considered a great candidate but didn’t come very close in MO-06.

Most surprisingly, incumbent Nancy Boyda lost in KS-02.

(UPDATE: Matt Stoller has a more comprehensive list of Democratic women challengers and how they did.)

The DCCC put a lot of money behind quite a few of these women challengers, but it wasn’t enough to carry the day, even with the strong presidential-year turnout.

There were a few bright spots for Democratic women challengers tonight. Jeanne Shaheen won the Senate seat from New Hampshire, and Kay Hagan won the Senate seat from North Carolina. Betsy Markey beat the horrendous Marilyn Musgrave in CO-04, and Dana Titus may win in NV-03.

But there’s no escaping the fact that women Democratic challengers for the U.S. House are for the most part falling short. I don’t know why, but that’s how it is.

UPDATE: NCDem Amy reminds me that North Carolina just elected its first woman governor, Bev Perdue. Also, some people at Open Left think I am writing off Darcy Burner too quickly.

Final note, to the person whose diary on IA-04 I deleted earlier tonight: exposing the real name or other identifying details of any Bleeding Heartland user is prohibited on this blog. More site guidelines are here.

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