Joni Ernst picks a strange fight with Theresa Greenfield

“You know, I haven’t heard Theresa Greenfield say one thing that Chuck Schumer hasn’t told her to say,” Senator Joni Ernst declared today on her Twitter feed. “And that’s not what Iowans expect in a leader.”

Several political reporters quickly noted the role reversal in Ernst’s call for six debates with her Democratic opponent. Usually challengers want more debates in order to raise their profiles before the general election. An incumbent making that demand is likely trailing, as the three most recent published polls on Iowa’s Senate race suggest.

Other endangered Republican senators have similarly called for frequent debates this fall, a sign of justified fear that President Donald Trump’s sinking approval will drag them down in November.

Another thing about Ernst’s taunt struck me as more strange, though. If she wants to make the election about who slavishly follows her party’s leader, Iowa’s junior senator is on exceptionally weak ground.

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Oy, the debate

Ira Lacher reflects on the February 19 six-candidate clash in Las Vegas, which drew the largest television audience yet for a Democratic debate this cycle. -promoted by Laura Belin

“Welcome to the NFL, kid.” — The sarcastic greeting veteran players give to highly touted rookies who are roughed up and even injured in their first pro football contests.

“Welcome to the party, man.” — The sarcastic greeting Joe Biden gave to Mike Bloomberg as they exited the stage after Wednesday’s debate.

Based on Wednesday’s pro wrestling show in Las Vegas, the former New York City mayor is being compared to Ishtar. The 1987 film cost a then-unheard of $40 million and was pilloried as one of the worst disasters in movie history.

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The road after Iowa and New Hampshire

“The moderate lane is winning the closing argument,” Dan Guild writes. But changes to the Super Tuesday electorate will benefit Bernie Sanders. -promoted by Laura Belin

If anyone was worried that Iowa would become less important because of the delay in results, the polling after Iowa in New Hampshire should put that to rest. 

Joe Biden’s poor performance in the caucuses hurt him so badly in New Hampshire that he left the state before voting had concluded. Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders both received bounces in New Hampshire close what one would have expected, given their Iowa finishes.

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With Iowa as unsettled as it has ever been, a critical debate

Make no mistake: Iowa debates matter, writes Dan Guild. What’s at stake as the candidates take the stage in Des Moines. -promoted by Laura Belin

If you are familiar with the history of the Iowa caucuses, you know just how unprecedented this cycle is:

  • A two-term VP of a popular president cannot break 25 percent in Iowa.
  • Incredibly, three Iowa polls have been taken since the start of the new year, and among the four candidates the highest any has received is 24 percent and the lowest is 15 percent. There has never been a race this close among four candidates.
  • With the caucuses a mere three weeks away, only about 40 percent of voters say they have made up their mind.
  • Is there any trend here? Bernie Sanders is up in all three most recent polls, and there are significant downward moves for Pete Buttigieg in two of them.  For the most part, though, this is a glorious mess.  Who is ahead? No one knows.

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    How to end a presidential campaign (and how not to)

    Montana Governor Steve Bullock became the latest Democrat to end his presidential campaign on December 2, acknowledging in a statement that he “won’t be able to break through to the top tier of this still-crowded field of candidates.”

    Like several others who have dropped out of the race, Bullock had a wealth of experience and was solid on many key issues for Democrats. He repeatedly vetoed abortion restrictions passed by the Republican-controlled legislature, yet somehow persuaded the majority party to expand Medicaid in Montana and take steps to limit the influence of dark money. He could have given President Donald Trump a hell of fight in a general election, having won re-election in 2016 even as Trump carried his state by 20 points.

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    Thirteen quick takes on the November Democratic debate

    With four presidential contenders packed closely together at the top of the field and a majority of Democratic voters not yet committed to a candidate, televised debates could make or break several campaigns between now and the February 3 Iowa caucuses. As Dan Guild discussed here, debates have fueled breakouts for some lower-polling candidates in past election cycles.

    If you missed the fifth Democratic debate on November 20, you can read the full transcript here. My thoughts on the evening in Atlanta:

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