Perspectives on our election, our future

Herb Strentz reflects on Donald Trump’s ongoing influence over the news media and his “cult” of supporters within the Republican Party. -promoted by Laura Belin

As the electoral college has done its work, joy and relief at the outcome of the 2020 election is tempered by recollections of the 2008 and 2016 elections and three recent commentaries in the Des Moines Register and the New York Times.

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IA-Sen: Joni Ernst's first tv ad arrives at remarkably convenient time (updated)

In what may be merely a coincidence, two stories related to Iowa’s U.S. Senate race made a big splash yesterday on national blogs and cable news networks as well as in local media.

In what may be merely a coincidence, State Senator Joni Ernst’s campaign released its first television commercial on the same day the 501(c)4 group Priorities for Iowa released a video drawing national attention to a gaffe by Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

In what may be merely a coincidence, several prominent Ernst supporters run that 501(c)4 group, which was created a few weeks after Ernst’s campaign launch.

It’s common nowadays for candidates’ campaigns to spend money spreading positive messages, while outside entities (political action committees, 501(c)4 advocacy organizations, or 527 groups) pay to get the best opposition research into the public sphere. But candidates are not allowed to coordinate messaging or timing with those outside groups.

I’m not saying someone from the Ernst campaign gave Priorities for Iowa a heads-up on when they were planning to release their tv ad. I’m not saying someone from Priorities for Iowa let Ernst staffers know ahead of time when they planned to drop their bomb on Braley. I’m just saying, the clip from a two-month-old speech by the Democratic candidate couldn’t have been released at a better time for Ernst to capitalize on her attention-getting “castration” spot.

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New IA-03 Republican candidate discussion thread

The GOP field in Iowa’s third Congressional district may soon grow to six candidates. In addition to the three Republicans who have already declared (Joe Grandanette, David Young, and Matt Schultz), State Senator Brad Zaun told conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart yesterday that he will announce his campaign after the Iowa caucuses on January 21. Two other likely Congressional candidates attended the same Iowa GOP event on January 13: Robert Cramer and Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw, who serves on the Iowa GOP’s State Central Committee. Cramer indicated last week that he is “90 percent there” in planning his campaign. A close associate of Shaw told The Iowa Republican blog that he will enter the race soon. Kevin Hall commented,

Thanks to his role with the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, Shaw has strong contacts with farmers and agri-business people throughout the Third District, as well as power brokers in Des Moines. Outside of Polk and Dallas counties, the Third District is mostly rural. […]

Additionally, Monte Shaw is an experienced campaign operative. He ran Jim Lightfoot’s congressional campaign in 1994, Chuck Grassley’s U.S. Senate campaign in 1998 and Elizabeth Dole’s Iowa caucus campaign in 2000. Shaw also assisted the Bob Dole and Steve Forbes presidential campaigns and chaired the SCC’s organizational committee for three years.

One well-connected Republican who won’t be running in IA-03 is David Oman, a former chief of staff to Governor Terry Branstad. I’ve posted his comment today after the jump. If Oman was too moderate to win the 1998 GOP nomination for governor, he’s way too moderate to have a prayer in any Republican primary today. Oman’s leadership of the now-defunct Iowa Rain Forest Environmental Project would also be disqualifying in a GOP primary.  

At this point I don’t expect any Republican woman to run in IA-03. I doubt State Representative Mary Ann Hanusa will give up a safe Iowa House seat in Council Bluffs to enter a crowded primary, especially with former Council Bluffs City Council member Schultz in the race. Hanusa did not respond to my recent request for comment. Branstad’s legal counsel Brenna Findley knows Congress well, having worked in Representative Steve King’s office for years. But despite rumors circulating in central Iowa, I see Findley as more likely to run for attorney general again than for Congress.  

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New IA-03 Republican candidate discussion thread

Still no new word from State Senator Brad Zaun and Secretary of State Matt Schultz, but the Republican field in Iowa’s open third Congressional district is expanding. Joe Grandanette and David Young are already running, and Robert Cramer told the Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs today that he is “90 percent there” and “just putting together a plan” for a campaign.

Cramer served on the Johnston school board for nine years and is currently the chairman of the board of the Family Leader, an Iowa organization that pushes for evangelical Christian conservative policies. He’s co-president of Cramer & Associates, Inc., a Grimes-based bridge construction company that does work around the Midwest.

Last year Governor Terry Branstad appointed Cramer to serve on the Iowa Board of Regents, but most Iowa Senate Democrats blocked his confirmation.

Meanwhile, State Senator Charles Schneider told the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble yesterday that he will not run for Congress. He was just elected to the Iowa Senate for the first time in 2012.

Any comments about the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread. Jake Porter, the Libertarian candidate for Iowa Secretary of State, released a statement on Matt Schultz’s likely Congressional campaign. I’ve posted that after the jump. Speaking of secretary of state candidates, the 2006 GOP nominee for that office, Mary Ann Hanusa, expects to decide whether to run in IA-03 before the off-year Iowa caucuses on January 21. Hanusa is a two-term state representative from Council Bluffs. She would be favored to win re-election if she stays put in Iowa House district 16.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention David Oman, a former staffer to Governor Branstad during his first stint as governor. He is wealthy enough to self-fund a Congressional campaign and is thinking about this race. Oman unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for governor in 1998. I think he is perceived as way too moderate to win a primary now.

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New IA-03 Republican candidate speculation thread

Representative Tom Latham’s surprise retirement announcement last Tuesday was an early Christmas present to some ambitious Republicans (who now have an opportunity to move up) as well as to Democrats (who now have a prayer of winning IA-03).

Here’s a new thread on potential GOP contenders for the vacant seat next year. My thoughts on many possible candidates are after the jump. Appearing on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program, Latham said he does not expect to endorse a candidate in the GOP primary to represent IA-03. He added that he might become a lobbyist or work for a charity after leaving Congress.

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Republican field for governor becomes more crowded (updated)

Today State Representative Rod Roberts of Carroll formally announced the creation of an exploratory committee for a possible gubernatorial campaign. The Des Moines Register’s political columnist Kathie Obradovich covered the press conference on Twitter. (May I suggest the hashtag #iagov instead of #iaguv?)

It seems Roberts plans to run as a likeable version of fellow State Representative Chris Rants of Sioux City: Iowa needs a change, he’s for “rights of unborn” and “traditional marriage,” he’ll be “careful with your money,” he wants to amend constitution to ban gay marriage, and he thinks the Bob Vander Plaats approach of ending gay marriage by executive order won’t resolve the problem.

Douglas Burns knows Roberts and made the case for him as a strong candidate here. I have a hard time seeing his path to the Republican nomination. As an ordained minister, Roberts must have better people skills than Rants. As a veteran of the Iowa legislature, he has more political experience than Christian Fong. His stance on gay marriage shows that he is more pragmatic than Vander Plaats. Still, I don’t see how he distinguishes himself from the Republican pack on any issues. Maybe someone will ask him about this at tomorrow’s Iowa Politics forum for gubernatorial candidates. Does he have an answer other than saying that being relatively unknown is his advantage?

According to Obradovich, the Roberts committee includes Steve Siemens (who I assume is this motivational speaker), State Representative Jeff Kaufmann, and former Lieutenant Governor Art Neu. Frank Severino, an experienced lobbyist at the Iowa statehouse, will manage the Roberts campaign.

Other prominent Iowa Republicans attended Roberts’ press conference: onetime gubernatorial candidate David Oman (who worked for Governors Robert Ray and Terry Branstad), former RNC committeeman Steve Roberts, RNC committeewoman Kim Lehman, and Iowa Family Policy Center head Chuck Hurley. It’s not yet clear whether any of those people were endorsing Rod Roberts.

Steve Roberts is one of the “moderates, old-money and business Republicans” thought to be shopping around for an alternative to Vander Plaats and Rants. Unless Rod Roberts has lined up some major backers in central and eastern Iowa, I can’t see how he can raise enough money to be competitive in the Republican primary.

In related news, Paul McKinley told Mike Glover of the Associated Press that he will step down as Iowa Senate minority leader if he decides to run for governor. McKinley formed an exploratory committee a few weeks ago and is constructing a campaign narrative based on his experience as a 1980s small business owner. My prediction: McKinley won’t raise the money for a serious gubernatorial campaign and will decide to stay where he is in the Iowa Senate.

UPDATE: Fong’s campaign manager Marlys Popma stepped on Roberts’ big day by announcing that Fong has raised $100,000 in the past three weeks (checks in hand, not pledges). It appears that GOP donors are buying the non-threatening conservative package Fong is selling, with its strong echoes of Obama-like post-partisan, empowering rhetoric.

SECOND UPDATE: This piece at Iowa Independent reminded me that Rants has suggested Roberts should stay out of the governor’s race to deprive Democrats of a chance at winning his Iowa House seat (district 51). Democrats have not fielded a candidate against Roberts for several election cycles, even though they are competitive with the GOP in terms of party registration in House district 51.

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