Kim Reynolds should have made one clean break from Terry Branstad

Governor Kim Reynolds made a strategic error by not distinguishing herself from her predecessor in any meaningful way, judging by the new Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom.

Changing course on even one high-profile policy could have demonstrated strong critical thinking and leadership skills. Instead, Reynolds is in effect running for a seventh Terry Branstad term. Unfortunately for her, Iowans are inclined to think it’s “time for someone new” in the governor’s office.

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How Kim Reynolds built her $1.1 million war chest

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will take many advantages into the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, by virtue of being the incumbent after Governor Terry Branstad leaves for China.

Though Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett is considering a bid for the Republican nomination next year, he may have second thoughts after looking at the Reynolds committee’s latest campaign finance reports. The lieutenant governor ramped up her fundraising during 2016 and has more than $1.1 million in the bank.

Contrary to the picture painted by spin doctors for Reynolds, most of the money came from major donors.

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Latest look at Iowa early vote numbers compared to 2012

Hillary Clinton urged her Iowa supporters to cast early ballots at a Des Moines rally yesterday, a short walk from the Polk County Elections Office. Her campaign needs to bank as many votes before November 8 as possible to counteract the traditional Republican advantage among election-day voters.

Republican strategist David Kochel has portrayed Iowa as a lost cause for Clinton, thanks to the large proportion of white, non-college-educated voters. Some Democratic activists felt demoralized last week after two opinion polls showed Donald Trump ahead by 8 percent and 7 percent. I’ve always expected a close presidential result here and think the next few Iowa polls will indicate a tight race, thanks to Trump’s disastrous performance in Monday’s debate.

But delivering this state for Clinton will require stronger early GOTV than what Iowa Democrats have produced so far, especially among women, who were more likely than men to vote early in the last presidential election.

Iowa Democratic early voting still lags well behind the party’s 2012 numbers. The big question is how much of the shortfall reflects deliberate tactical choices as opposed to a voter enthusiasm problem.

After the jump I’ve enclosed tables showing how many absentee ballots Iowa voters have requested and county auditors have received as of today and September 28, 2012 (the same number of days before the November 6 general election). Democrats have gained some ground since last week but are still more than 56,000 ballot requests (nearly 42 percent) behind the numbers from four years ago. Republicans were ahead of their 2012 early vote numbers last week; they are now slightly behind that pace. No-party voters have requested about 17,000 fewer absentee ballots this year than they had by this point in the last presidential campaign. That’s probably bad news for Democrats, because Barack Obama received more early votes than Mitt Romney did from Iowans affiliated with neither party.

You can view every day’s absentee ballot numbers here. I draw on figures released by the Secretary of State’s office but present the data in a different way.

P.S.- Ruline Steininger, the 103-year-old Des Moines woman who starred in a recent Clinton campaign video, stood with Clinton yesterday before casting her own early ballot. She told reporters, “I’m 103. That’s the reason I voted early. I’m not taking any chances.” Unfortunately, Iowa law would prohibit Steininger’s vote from being counted if (God forbid) she passes away before November 8. Some states, including Virginia and Hawaii, require early votes to be counted in the same circumstance.

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Weekend open thread: Trump detractors, Trump defenders

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

The Des Moines Register’s Kyle Munson published an excellent profile of Iowa Republican operative David Kochel and his battle with leukemia. I enclose excerpts below, but do click through to read the whole piece. Kochel has worked for numerous Republican candidates, most recently Jeb Bush. He was a senior strategist for Joni Ernst’s Senate campaign in 2013 and 2014 and for Mitt Romney during the last presidential election cycle.

Kochel has been on the #NeverTrump train for months–an anomaly in Iowa circles, where most well-known Republicans have fallen in line behind the nominee. Yet around the country, a stunning number of GOP elected officials, commentators, or former staffers have said they will not vote for Trump under any circumstances.

Last month, Tara Golshan and Sarah Frostenson compiled a list of more than 100 #NeverTrump Republicans, and 50 former national security officials from GOP administrations signed a letter warning that Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”

Several newspapers that had endorsed GOP presidential nominees for decades have rejected Trump, most recently the New Hampshire Union Leader, which called Trump “a liar, a bully, a buffoon.”

All those traits were on display this past week, when Trump tried to blame Hillary Clinton for starting the “birther” movement, called for Secret Service agents protecting Clinton to disarm and “see what happens to her,” and went off script during a rally to complain about a mosquito.

On the plus side for Trump, the media’s renewed focus on the Republican candidate’s contributions to birtherism kept devastating scoops by Kurt Eichenwald and David Fahrenthold from getting much traction this week. Excerpts from Eichenwald’s cover story for Newsweek are after the jump.

Meanwhile, pathetic lackey and convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza took to Twitter to defend Trump’s admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who “unlike someone else we know–LOVES his country & FIGHTS for its interests.” When a commenter pointed out that D’Souza “would be dead” if he were in Russia and criticized the president, D’Souza countered that opposition figure Garry Kasparov “is a public critic of Putin & very much alive.” The former world chess champion posted a priceless response: “Have you noticed I live in New York now? Stop spitting on the graves of Putin’s victims with your dictator worship.” Kasparov added a few minutes later, “If you can’t articulate criticism of Hillary Clinton or Obama without praising a brutal dictator, you’re incompetent & should just shut up.”

It wasn’t for nothing some called D’Souza “Distort D’Newsa” when he became a nationally-known flame-thrower during the 1980s.

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Looking for prominent Iowa Republicans ready to #NeverTrump (updated)

Donald Trump wrapped up the Republican nomination for the presidency by winning yesterday’s Indiana primary, prompting Ted Cruz to suspend his campaign. Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus posted on Twitter, “we all need to unite and focus on defeating @HillaryClinton #NeverClinton.” Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann weighed in a little later last night, “The only movement I’m a part of is the #NeverHillary movement #UnitedIowa.”

Yet many lifelong Republicans have vowed not to vote for Trump under any circumstances. After the jump I’ve listed some well-known Iowa activists and strategists in that camp. I have not yet found any elected GOP official in Iowa willing to say #NeverTrump. Governor Terry Branstad and our state’s Republican U.S. Senators and House representatives are poised to support the nominee, despite Senator Joni Ernst’s discomfort with Trump’s way of expressing himself. I welcome tips on any GOP state lawmakers, school board, city, or county elected officials willing to go on record that they will not vote for Trump.

UPDATE: Hardin County Auditor Jessica Lara (R) confirmed on May 4 that she is “not ashamed” to say, “NEVER TRUMP.” She further commented that she is “low key when it comes to politics” and did not endorse any candidate before the Iowa caucuses, adding that Trump “does not represent me or my values.”

Senator Chuck Grassley, Ernst, and Representatives Steve King and David Young confirmed that they will support Trump. I’ve added below excerpts from the Des Moines Register story by Brianne Pfannenstiel and Matthew Patane.

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