# Democratic Party

Obama criticizes Edwards, Clinton health care plans

I think Barack Obama made a mistake earlier this year by proposing a health care plan that was less than universal. First Edwards and later Clinton outflanked him on that issue with proposals that would cover every American.

So speaking to voters in Council Bluffs, Obama made the case against mandatory health care insurance:


Health care insurance should not become a government mandate, Barack Obama said here today, referencing plans posed by John Edwards and Hillary Clinton.

Obama said such mandates for health care coverage is a wrong step. He told a crowd of about 350 people at Thomas Jefferson High School that his plan would lower costs on average by about $2,500 per family, making health care affordable for all without placing demands.

He compared Clinton and Edwards’ proposed mandates to car insurance, noting that some states with required auto insurance still have a pocket of 15 or more percent that still go without coverage even though it’s illegal.

“Their essential argument is the only way to get everybody covered is if the government forces you to buy health insurance. If you don’t buy it, then you’ll be penalized in some way,” Obama said. “What I have said repeatedly is that the reason people don’t have health insurance isn’t because they don’t want it, it’s because they can’t afford it.”

Of course many of the uninsured cannot afford coverage now, but many are currently uninsurable, which would change with better regulation of insurance companies and more options for the public (such as letting people buy into a public plan).

Also, the Edwards and Clinton plans include many things that would lower premium costs, making it easier for more people to afford coverage.

The experts on health care policy say you need mandates to get everyone covered. But even leaving that aside, Obama ignores the fact that the president has to set the bar very high in terms of what he asks Congress to pass.

Maybe a comprehensive universal health care plan would not pass during the first year of the next administration. But you don't take the compromise that you might need to settle for and make that your starting offer to Congress.


I have written about this before. My biggest concern about Obama as potential president is that in his desire to appear post-partisan and conciliatory, he would give half the game away before negotiations with the other side begin.

If Obama won't even submit a universal plan to Congress, then what he would get out of Congress would be even less than what he is advocating.

Now, the conservative New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper has praised Obama's health care plan as “a smaller pill to swallow” (hat tip to MyDD user “silver spring,” a Clinton supporter). Of course, conservatives would prefer not to do anything to expand health care coverage. If I'm running for president in the Democratic primary, I don't think I want Republicans praising my health care plan because it does less than other Democrats' plans.

UPDATE: Ezra Klein, one of the blogosphere's leading wonks on health care policy, weighs in on “Obama's excuse”.

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Hillary video: Caucusing is easy

I have to hand it to Hillary Clinton's campaign. This is a good video:

Exercising is hard. Dancing is hard. Singing is hard. Caucusing is easy.

It's important to let people know that they can show up at the precinct caucus. Just last night I ran into two people I know who are fairly politically informed. I asked them if they caucused in 2004. They didn't because they are registered independents, and they never got around to changing their registration. I told them they could change their registration right there at the caucus–they had no idea. If they had known, they might have come out in January 2004.

With the caucus set for January 3, I am not expecting a big turnout, but I give all the campaigns credit for trying to get new caucus-goers involved. That will strengthen the Iowa Democratic Party.

UPDATE: At Iowa Independent, John Deeth noticed something I missed in the video:


1:23 in: “Bring a friend, a family member or a neighbor.”  Sure, the more the merrier — as long as they live in your precinct.  Your across-the-street neighbor might caucus somewhere else, and your friend who lives across town almost certainly will.

He is right–Clinton’s campaign should not be encouraging people to possibly bring friends and family to the wrong precinct location.

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Register fixes 2004 county results page

Thanks again to Katerina for sending me the cached page with the 2004 Iowa caucus results by county. I contacted someone at the Des Moines Register, and they fixed the page so that those results can be seen again:


In case anyone wants to check how the candidates did in this or that county.

Keep in mind that in 2004 there were 3,000 state delegates up for grabs; this cycle there will only be 2,500. So the counties are assigning different numbers of state delegates than what appears on this page.

How the Iowa caucuses work, part 6

cross-posted at Daily Kos and MyDD

Field organizers for the presidential campaigns in Iowa have many jobs, and one of the most important is lining up precinct captains. Mike Lux laid out why Precinct Captains are the Key at Open Left this summer, emphasizing what these volunteers can do for their candidates on caucus night.

In this diary I will focus on how precinct captains can help their candidates during the weeks and months before the Iowa caucuses.

I covered some of this ground in a recent diary on my house party for John Edwards. I think it's worth going over a few points again for readers who don't click on diaries with “John Edwards” in the title.

Political junkies and hacks, join me after the jump.

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Former DMR editor discusses presidential endorsements


Richard Doak, a retired editor and columnist for the Des Moines Register, wrote an interesting piece on presidential endorsements in the Sunday paper. I encourage you to click the link and read it. He wrote the endorsement editorials for 20 years.

My only quibble is that I think Doak exaggerates the importance of the Register's endorsement of John Edwards four years ago. The Register published the endorsement eight days before the caucuses. I was working my precinct hard for John Kerry and started noticing a surge in support for Edwards more than a month before then. I distinctly remember calling my field organizer in mid-December to tell him that Edwards was gaining a lot of strength and would probably be viable. He said, “I know.” The field organizers were hearing the same thing from all of their captains.

The endorsement certainly gave Edwards good publicity, and probably convinced some leaners that he was a viable candidate, but it was by no means the spark that helped him finish a close second to Kerry. 

Doak describes the editorial board's endorsement process and notes that there are two endorsements he regrets: choosing Bill Bradley over Al Gore and George W. Bush over John McCain in 2000. I'm cutting the Register some slack on the first one, because I too made the mistake of supporting Bradley over Gore. I even sent him money.

But endorsing Bush over McCain? That was gutless. Doak admits that the editorial board almost endorsed McCain, but balked because they were charmed by Bush and anyway, McCain had written off Iowa.

The composition of the Register editorial board is different from four years ago. I wouldn't be too surprised to see them go with the establishment choice, Hillary Clinton, like they went for Bush as the establishment candidate in 2000.

Then again, maybe they will try to mix things up by picking a longshot, like they did in 2004. In that case my money would be on the Register backing Joe Biden, although Bill Richardson might also be a possibility.

What do you think? 

Is Camp Hillary worried or lowering expectations?

This article from the New York Times has made a splash in the liberal blogosphere:


Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has nearly doubled the size of her staff in Iowa and has substantially increased her advertising here as her campaign reinforces its effort to prevent Democrats from coalescing around a single alternative to her candidacy.

In the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Mrs. Clinton, whose campaign has been on the defensive lately because of her own missteps and increasingly aggressive attacks from her rivals, is moving to double or triple the amount of time she has spent here in recent months. Seldom will a day go by, aides said, when either she or former President Bill Clinton will not be on some patch of Iowa soil trying to solidify her support and win over an unusually high number of uncommitted voters.

“We’re going to begin using all the assets we have,” said Tom Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa who serves as co-chairman of the Clinton campaign. “We haven’t been bashful about asking for the moon here.”

If I were running Hillary's campaign, I would also use Bill as much as possible. His favorables have been higher than Hillary's for the last 15 years, and he generates a lot of excitement and free media coverage everywhere he goes.

That said, to my mind this is the key passage in the article:

More than 60 percent of those who have identified themselves as Clinton supporters, senior strategists say, have never participated in the Iowa caucuses. It is a far higher share than the campaign had been anticipating, which suggests that many of the reliable rank-and-file Democrats have chosen another candidate. So the Clinton campaign is working to expand its universe of supporters to women who have never participated.


If Hillary can turn out tens of thousands of Iowans who have never caucused before, more power to her. I will be impressed. I am also trying to turn out people who support Edwards but have never caucused before.

At the same time, I would be extremely nervous if more than half of my coded Edwards supporters in my precinct had not attended the 2000 or 2004 caucuses.


The New York Times article goes on to say that Hillary now has 34 field offices in Iowa,

arriving in many cities more than two months behind the local operatives for Mr. Obama or Mr. Edwards. Last week, the Clinton campaign’s national headquarters sent a top communications operative to Iowa and hired eight deputies charged solely with drumming up media coverage in smaller cities across the state.

The big question is, will Clinton's staff be able to get those first-time caucus-goers to show up on January 3?

I know Hillary has been doing lots of robocalls. I've received several myself. Presumably those are aimed at all Iowa Democrats, not just the universe of past caucus-goers. Hillary is talking about whatever issue, and then at the end she says, press 1 if you are ready to support me, press 2 if you want more information about my campaign.

It would take very little effort for a non-regular voter to listen to this call and press 1. I imagine that is how they are compiling a large list of supporters who have never caucused before.

If she can turn those people out, she deserves to win, and the Iowa Democratic Party will benefit from having more people engaged in the process.


A diary on the New York Times article generated a heated discussion last night on Daily Kos.

Jerome Armstrong posted an interesting commentary on the article at MyDD. He inferred that

The Clinton campaign must have polled and segmented and projected that, with the given caucus universe, they just can't win in Iowa– recall their internal memo earlier this spring that considered ditching the state. So instead, the focus moves to the technique of expanding the caucus universe.

This post by Nate Willems seems to support this analysis as well, especially his observation that

In making calls through a list of rural Democrats who are consistent primary voters, but who lack a history of attending a caucus, my anecdotal notes show that Clinton is significantly stronger than any other candidate.  Accordingly, it does seem that she would benefit from a larger turnout.  

Amongst rural Democrats with a record of attending their caucus, my notes show a very competitive race between Edwards and Clinton with Obama distinctly behind.

What do you think? Is the Clinton campaign truly concerned that recent Iowa polls showing her in the lead include too many people who are unlikely to caucus? Or are they mainly trying to lower expectations for their candidate in Iowa?

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Looking for the 2004 caucus results by county

The Des Moines Register revamped their website recently, and now this page, which used to show the 2004 caucus results by county, no longer has any information:


Does anybody else know an online reference for detailed county-level results? I am working on the next installment in my Iowa caucus diary series.

I am kicking myself for never printing out that chart. I figured, why waste the paper? I've got it bookmarked. 

Las Vegas debate open thread

As usual, I'll be taping the Democratic debate and watching it later (with very low expectations for the level of discussion, given Wolf Blitzer's role as moderator).

If you saw it, what did you think?

UPDATE: Added the Dodd clock. Wolf Blitzer is truly a horrendous moderator. Judy Woodruff should do all these.

SECOND UPDATE: CNN's post-debate coverage is atrocious. They've got Carville, who has been close to the Clintons for 15 years, talking about how well Hillary did, with no one mentioning that he is involved with Hillary's campaign.

They've got Gergen, who also worked for Bill Clinton, plus a Republican, JC Watts, who probably wants his party to be able to run against Hillary.

The professional journalists' questions were poor, and the inequitable allocation of time given to the candidates was inexcusable. 

My house party for John Edwards

I got so busy this week that I forgot to cross-post my front-page piece from MyDD. This ran on Tuesday and was written primarily for non-Iowans who are less familiar with the caucus system.
In my diary series on how the Iowa caucuses work, I've written a little about how precinct captains can help their candidates on caucus night and about how precinct captains can (modestly) increase turnout in their neighborhoods. But I haven't written yet about one of the most enjoyable tasks of a precinct captain: hosting a house party.

Last Thursday I held my first house party for undecided voters who are considering John Edwards. (In late 2003 I hosted several of these for John Kerry.) The experience was well worth the time I spent on the event.

Much more after the jump. 

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Iowa legislator endorsement tally

Over at Iowa Independent, Lynda Waddington has been keeping track of the presidential candidate endorsements by Democrats in the Iowa legislature.

So far Hillary Clinton has 16 endorsements from legislators, Barack Obama has 15, Joe Biden has 13, John Edwards has 10 (Lynda published his total as nine, but State Representative Bob Kressig of Cedar Falls endorsed Edwards today), and Chris Dodd has three.

More than two dozen Democrats in the legislature have yet to endorse, and it's unclear how many of them will publicly support a presidential candidate.

When you think about it, it's surprising that Hillary Clinton hasn't got a bigger lead in the endorsement race, with a former two-term president and a former two-term governor trying to win people over to her side. Her big lead in national polling would seem to make endorsing her the “safe” play as well. 

Why aren't more legislators supporting her presidential bid? 

I am also surprised that no one in the legislature has backed Bill Richardson. He's too conservative for me on economic issues, and I'm mad that he is going around telling people that Edwards would leave 100,000 troops in Iraq, which is demonstrably false.

But truly, he's a successful governor with legislative and diplomatic experience and good ideas in many areas (I am partial to his environmental and transportation policy plans). I am surprised that he's not getting more support from Democratic elected officials. Maybe most of the pro-gun Democrats lost their seats during the 1990s?

Open thread on push-polls and message testing

I got a fake “survey” phone call Tuesday morning testing various negative messages about Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. I diaried the call at MyDD:


Another Edwards supporter got the same call and put up a diary at the Edwards campaign blog blaming Barack Obama's campaign. I doubt Obama's campaign is behind the calls, though. My first thought was that an independent group supporting Obama might have ordered this survey, but the more I think about it, the more I think that it's a Republican hit job. 

For more info on the “Central Research” firm that placed the call, read the comments under my diary at MyDD or click on this story by Ben Smith at Politico:


One of the commenters at MyDD suggested that the survey may be targeting Hillary (the front-runner) and whomever the respondent names as a first choice. So perhaps if I had answered that I was planning to caucus for Obama, I would have then heard negative message-testing against Hillary and Obama, instead of against Hillary and Edwards.

Has anyone else gotten calls like these lately? Please share your experience in the comments. 

If you get one of these calls, try to make a note of the phone number where it originated. We don't have caller ID, so I was unable to do that. I did press the woman about who paid for the call, but she wouldn't say anything other than that Central Research is an independent firm.

UPDATE: Ben Smith has published follow-up posts at Politico:



Also, Mark Blumenthal of pollster.com says this is definitely push-polling, not message-testing. He finds it inconceivable that the Edwards campaign would be involved in this kind of poll:


Chase Martyn was on the Taylor Marsh radio show today discussing the issue. I didn't hear the show, but from what I read at MyDD, Chase thinks that the Edwards campaign paid for these calls to test the loyalty of their supporters.

Sorry, Chase, that makes no sense. Campaigns may test negative messages about themselves (usually in a real poll that also tests positive messages about themselves and negative messages about opponents). But this was not a real poll. Furthermore, the Edwards campaign has spent very little on polling of any kind. Are you telling me that they would decide to spend money reminding supporters that Elizabeth Edwards has cancer?

Not likely. The purpose of a poll like this is to decrease support for the target candidate. And the only people who would pay for such a call are people who do not want John Edwards to win the Iowa caucuses.

Click the link above to read Mark Blumenthal's expert commentary on the issue.  

As I said above, I do not believe the Obama campaign is behind the call. The perpetrators may have deliberately left Obama out of the call to point the finger at him, however.

Four days after voting for trade pact, Hillary wants "time out" from them

I've got to agree with David Sirota here: Hillary Clinton Thinks Iowans Are Stupid.

Four days after voting for a trade agreement with Peru, Hillary tells a United Auto Workers conference that “she'll call a 'time out' on trade agreements if she wins the White House to see if the deals are draining jobs from the U.S.”

She also campaigned today in Waterloo, a city that has lost a lot of good manufacturing jobs.

Will people fall for this? 

Mock Caucus, Nov. 13 in Des Moines

Sorry for the short notice. This looks like a fun event. I unfortunately have another commitment tomorrow, but if someone out there attends, please put up a diary afterwards!

Young Professional Groups Across Iowa Present

Mock Caucus
Tuesday, November 13
Iowa State Historical Building
When: Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Where: The State Historical Building at 600 East Locust Downtown
What time: 5:30-7:30pm
Why: To participate in a live (mock!) caucus and learn why caucusing is  important


On November 13th young professionals across the metro will get a front row seat to a “mock caucus” at the State Historical Building. This Young Professionals Connection (YPC) event allows young professionals to tour through Iowa’s life-sized caucus display, network, and participate in a live caucus of media celebrities.
Currently the main caucus-goers are over 50 years old,” says YPC Civic Member Nicole Hinton, “This event connects young people to the caucus process in a fun way.”
The Caucus & Coronas gatherings leading up to this pinnacle event have drawn more than 400 attendees. “Young people are interested in politics,” says YPC Board Member Seth Hall. “It is just a matter of finding ways to get them comfortable with participating.”
Secretary of State Michael Mauro will help MC the event and local media celebrities including Erin Kiernan of WHO TV 13 and Kevin Conney of KCCI Channel 8 will be the “candidates” for the mock caucus.
To RSVP, call Jessica Walters at 515.286.4950 or email her at
Young professional groups hosting the event include the Young Professionals Connection of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the Bull Moose Club, Drinking Liberally, YP Iowa, the 21st Century Forum, the 20/30 Society and Ankeny Young  Professionals.


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Political Arm of Iowans for Sensible Priorities backs Edwards

UPDATE: Corrected to note that the endorsement comes from Caucus4Priorities, the political arm of the 501 (c)3 Iowans for Sensible Priorities.

Okamichan13 has a diary up on this at Daily Kos: 


Greg Sargent reported at TPM that Iowans for Sensible Priorities will endorse John Edwards on November 9:


The Edwards Evening News Roundup team at Daily Kos pointed me to this link from ABC News:



The decision to endorse Edwards over Illinois Sen. Barack Obama came down to “courage versus caution,” according to the group's executive director.


“There's a rhetoric gap with Obama,” executive director Peggy Huppert told ABC News. “He told me personally: 'Trust me. Ideologically, I'm with you.' But people have told him to be afraid of being pushed too far to the left. He doesn't bring up [cuts in Pentagon spending] on his own. He doesn't incorporate it into his speeches. He skirts around it. He talks around the edges. He never gets to the heart of it in strong, bold language.”


Chase Martyn says Bill Richardson worked hard to get this endorsement, while Hillary Clinton didn't even bother to return the group's questionnaire:


I should note that Peggy Huppert told Sargent that all of the candidates did return the questionnaire. It would surprise me if Hillary did not even bother to seek the endorsement of this group. They are everywhere on the campaign trail and at other events where progressives gather.

UPDATE: From the ABC piece, it is clear that Hillary did return the group's questionnaire. However, according to Huppert:

Although Clinton filled out the group's detailed policy questionnaire, she was not among the final two candidates under consideration for the endorsement.


She didn't answer any questions 'yes' or 'no,'” said Huppert. “She has a refusal to commit to anything.”


Iowans for Sensible Priorities is the group with that nifty pie chart graphic you see on car magnets and yard signs all over the place in Iowa. Here's a link to a photo I took of their spinning wheel on Labor Day:


And here's a link to a photo of the car they drive all over the state:  


I need to learn how to upload photos on this site!

Anyway, this is a good catch by the Edwards campaign. 

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Peace group endorses Richardson

I saw in the Register that STAR-PAC, a group created to oppose the arms race, has endorsed Bill Richardson for president:


STAR PAC, an acronym for Stop the Arms Race Political Action Committee, said Wednesday that its central committee voted to support Richardson for many reasons, particularly the Democrat's promise to pull all U.S. forces out of Iraq within six months to one year.

“His message is the same wherever he speaks – to a military audience in Georgetown, a New Hampshire town meeting, in a rural Iowa community or at STAR PAC's candidate forum with the governor in August,” said Harold Wells, Iowa's STAR PAC chair.

This is a great get for Richardson. It has to be considered a blow to Barack Obama, who is campaigning as the guy who was right about Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake for him to let other candidates get to his left on defunding the war and bringing our troops home quickly.

The Register notes that only Richardson, Edwards, Obama and Kucinich returned STAR-PAC's questionnaire. I'm not surprised that none of the Republican candidates gave this group the time of day, but I am surprised that Hillary blew them off. 

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Edwards mails Iowa Democrats about Iraq

Note: Many of you probably received this mailing, but in case you didn't, or are not from Iowa, I'm cross-posting this entry I wrote for the MyDD audience.

Last week I wrote about John Edwards' recent direct mail piece to Iowa caucus-goers. This past Friday, I received a second mailer from the Edwards campaign, a shorter piece focused on Iraq.
Here is a link to the mailer (pdf file) (thanks to NC Dem Amy for the link).

For those who do not want to download the pdf file, I'm reproducing the text after the jump.

UPDATE: In today's mail I received the latest piece from the Edwards campaign. This one was about health care, and I will reproduce the text when I have time. 

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Democratic candidates like picking fights with Rudy

As I've written a couple of posts below, I don't expect Rudy Giuliani to be the GOP nominee. However, I've noticed lately that several Democrats in the race have been going out of their way to take on Rudy.

Joe Biden scored at last week's debate with his joke that every sentence uttered by Rudy has a noun, a verb and 9/11, and his comment that Rudy is the most unqualified person to run for president since George W. Bush. His campaign has been milking these moments in fund-raising e-mails featuring highlights from the debate and outrageous comments made by Rudy. For instance:


As I wrote earlier, we expected another attack from Giuliani's campaign on Friday and they didn't disappoint. On a morning radio show, Rudy Giuliani made the unbelievable claim that Joe Biden has no foreign policy experience.



Make a contribution to help Joe keep Rudy on the run.


Host: You would say Senator Biden doesn't have foreign policy experience?


Giuliani: Has he ever been in the State Department? Has he ever been an executive? It's one thing…it's one thing to speak about what you want or even pass laws about it. It's another thing to actually do it. Foreign policy experience to me means being an ambassador, being in the state department. Being a law endorsement official. Dealing with foreign countries.

By now, we've come to expect this kind of blatant nonsense from Giuliani. But even we couldn't believe that just a few hours later, when asked about his comments, he would just outright deny saying it.


Giuliani: I didn't, I didn't mention foreign policy. I said Joe Biden fit into the category of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards. And they were all questioned about this at the debate, and he wasn't. Here's, here's here's the situation. They have–in a very strange way–they have never run a city, never run a state, never run a business. They've never run anything.


The radio station put out a press release of his first statement. There were video cameras present when he made the second statement. Yet that didn't keep him from just outright denying what he said. CNN captured the flip-flop on “The Situation Room” — you can watch the video here.


Barack Obama has also been mixing it up with Rudy, after Giuliani called Obama's strategy toward Iran naive and irresponsible. Over at Daily Kos, Adam B wrote a diary on the hard-hitting response from a spokesman for the Obama campaign:



While Rudy Giuliani may embrace Hillary Clinton's policy of not talking and saber rattling towards Iran, Barack Obama knows that policy is not working.  It's time for tough and direct diplomacy with Iran, not lectures from a Mayor who skipped out on the Iraq Study Group to give paid speeches, and who was naive and irresponsible enough to recommend someone with ties to convicted felons for Secretary of Homeland Security.


Kudos to the Obama campaign for calling attention to Rudy's failure to attend meetings of the Iraq Study Group. That issue alone should be enough to sink Giuliani's campaign.

Finally, I can't resist posting this statement Edwards campaign manager David Bonior made a few months back. It calls attention to Rudy's grotesque use of 9/11 imagery to promote himself, even though his administration could have done a lot more to prepare New York City's first responders for a possible attack:



John Edwards for President National Campaign Manager Congressman David Bonior released the following statement in response to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's comments that he was at ground zero in New York City “as often, if not more” than rescue workers. 


“Evidently, Rudy Giuliani has taken a break from reality. It is outrageous for Giuliani to suggest, in any way, shape or form, that he did more at ground zero or spent more time there than the brave first responders who worked tirelessly around the clock for many months during the rescue and recovery operation. It seems that Giuliani is determined to take every opportunity to exploit the memory of 9/11 for political gain, rather than honor the incredible sacrifices of our first responders. Enough is enough.


“Mayor Giuliani should start answering the serious questions of why firefighters and other first responders didn't have proper equipment and support. The 9/11 Commission and National Institute of Standards & Technology reports have documented the failures of the broken radio communications system, a splintered chain of command and an unprepared Office of Emergency Management under his watch as mayor. These are the questions he needs to answer.”


Is anyone seriously going to tell me that Rudy will be the Republican presidential nominee? This guy has way too much baggage.

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More double messaging from the Clinton campaign

Speaking in Oskaloosa today, Hillary Clinton wanted to make sure Iowans knew that she is “tough enough” to handle whatever people throw at her in the presidential campaign:


“With 60 days left until the caucus, things are going to get a little hotter, because obviously the campaign is going to get heated up and speeded up,” Clinton said.

“I remember very well what Harry Truman once said . . . ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.’ Well, I feel real comfortable in the kitchen, so the heat is going to get hotter and hotter.”

Meanwhile, Clinton's surrogates and supporters keep whining about the “politics of pile-on.” This is from a fundraising e-mail the campaign sent out shortly after last Tuesday's debate:

If you saw the debate Tuesday night, or if you've seen the  news coverage since, then you know that this campaign has entered a  new phase.

On that stage in Philadelphia, we saw six against  one. Candidates who had pledged the politics of hope practiced the  politics of pile on instead. Her opponents tried a whole host of  attacks on Hillary.

She is one strong woman. She came  through it well. But Hillary's going to need your help.

Her  opponents, trying to boost their falling poll numbers, started  attacking Hillary weeks ago on the stump. Now they're doing it in  the debates. And soon they'll begin a barrage of negative TV ads and  mailings in the early primary and caucus states.

But Hillary  knows that voters want real change — not more negative attacks. And  with just 60 days left before the Iowa caucuses, now is the time to  show her that you are right there with her.


Of course, the Clinton campaign, which has repeatedly promoted Hillary as tough enough to withstand the Republican attack machine, has been planning all alone to whine and complain as soon as opponents challenged her on the issues:


Clinton's advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss internal matters, said there is a clear and long-planned strategy to fend off attacks by accusing her male rivals of gathering against her.

The idea is to change the subject while making Clinton a sympathetic figure, especially among female voters who often feel outnumbered and bullied on the job.

As one adviser put it, Clinton is not the first presidential candidate to play the “woe-is-me card” but she's the first major female presidential candidate to do it.

The victim is a familiar role for Clinton.

Over at Salon, Tim Grieve has already called bullshit on the Clinton campaign's spin, noting that her campaign continually feeds negative material about other candidates to reporters, all the while pretending to be disappointed that the others are supposedly rejecting “the politics of hope.”


I also recommend Sirius's diary, “Note to Clinton: The Issues Are Fair Game”:


Kate Michelman, former head of the National Abortion Rights Action League, had a great take on this as well:


When unchallenged, in a comfortable, controlled situation, Senator Clinton embraces her political elevation into the “boys club.” She is quick to assure listeners she is plenty tough enough, that she's battled tested, ready to play be the same rules as the boys.

But when she's challenged, when legitimate questions are asked, questions she should be prepared to answer and discuss, she is just as quick to raise the white flag and look for a change in the rules. She then calls questioning, 'attacking;' she calls debate among her peers, 'piling on.'

It's a political strategy, no doubt focus grouped and poll tested: make it look unseemly that this group of men would question her and hold her accountable for her record.

It's trying to have it both ways; walk the fence, something Senator Clinton's good at. At one minute the strong woman ready to lead, the next, she's the woman under attack, disingenuously playing the victim card as a means of trying to avoid giving honest, direct answers to legitimate questions.

As a woman who's been in the public eye and experienced scrutiny, as a woman who knows how hard it can be for women to earn their seat at the leadership table, how hard women have to work just to get the same opportunities, this distresses me.

It is not presidential.

Any serious candidate for president should have to answer tough questions and defend their record.

If Hillary Clinton is tough enough to withstand the Republican attack machine, she should stop sending out her minions to whine about “piling on” and start giving direct answers to direct questions. 


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Edwards calls on Democrats to show a little backbone

The Edwards campaign went up on the air in Iowa yesterday with this ad: 

My favorite portion: “It is time for our party, the Democratic Party, to show a little backbone, to have a little guts, to stand up for working men and women. If we are not their voice, they will never have a voice.”

I couldn't agree more.

Also this week, Edwards sent out a 12-page mailer to Iowa Democrats. If you live in Iowa, you may have received it already. If not, you can find the jpegs here:


If you don't care about the photos and just want to read the text, I wrote that up here:


The mailer lays out Edwards' biography, but also talks more specifically about issues than the tv ad does. I assume that in the next four to six weeks, Edwards will release tv ads that talk briefly about his stands on the key issues. 

How John Edwards would help the middle class (part 1)

originally posted at Daily Kos

Reading articles about John Edwards, I have noticed the perception that his domestic policy ideas are mainly good for poor people, while other candidates are focusing more on middle-class issues.

David Mizner wrote an excellent diary last Tuesday: “What Edwards is About.” (If you missed it, click here or here–it sparked a lively discussion.) David points out that Edwards has done the most by far to call attention to growing social and economic inequality in the United States. I encourage everyone to check out his plans to reduce poverty in this country and globally.

While I agree that Edwards is the candidate who would accomplish the most for the least fortunate, I want to call your attention to his proposals that would benefit middle-class Americans. 

More after the jump. 

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Edwards first this year to visit all 99 counties

As you can read in sirius's diary on the right (the Edwards Evening News), John Edwards has now campaigned in all 99 counties in Iowa. Last cycle Howard Dean did that during the spring, summer and fall, but Edwards didn't get to his 99th county until December 2003.

In general, Democratic presidential candidates have spent far more time in Iowa this year than Republicans, as the Register pointed out several days ago in this interesting piece:


Some highlights from the piece:

John Edwards and Barack Obama each has more staff in Iowa than all of the Republican caucus campaigns combined, with Hillary Clinton close behind.

Even the Democratic field's lesser-known candidates have built caucus organizations several times the size of some of the best-known Republicans' operations, according to a review of several criteria by The Des Moines Register.

Since that article came out, I heard that Hillary plans to double her paid staff in Iowa, so that she will have more than 200 paid staff. The Register reported that Hillary has 117 paid staff in Iowa, Obama has 145 paid staff here, and Edwards has 130. 

As for days spent in Iowa, surprisingly Joe Biden has the most, followed by Obama and Edwards, with Dodd, Clinton and Richardson not far behind. 

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Who would benefit from caucuses on January 3?

Chase Martyn has the story:


The leadership of the Iowa Democratic Party will recommend scheduling the caucuses for January 3, the same night as the Republican caucuses.

On the one hand, this reduces the potential for mischief as Republicans will not be able to switch parties en masse in order to influence the outcome on our side.

On the other hand, logistically this will be a nightmare. It will be hard to do last-minute voter contacts, and parking will be in short supply at sites likely to be used by both parties on caucus night (such as schools). How many people want to walk several blocks on a cold, dark night to caucus?

Turnout is likely to be lower as the holiday season burns people out and makes GOTV difficult. 

Chase writes:

  • No colleges or universities will have ended their winter breaks by this date.  Conventional wisdom is that this will make Sen. Barack Obama's campaign to organize students difficult, but the payoffs of a good student organization will be larger if students are spread out across multiple cities rather than concentrated in a few big precincts.
  • This is only three days into the New Year.  Some Iowans will be out of town for the week, and many others will be just returning to town.
  • This date is less than two weeks after Christmas.  The final two weeks of the caucus season are often filled with wall-to-wall television ads, some of which are negative.  How Iowans will react to attack ads on Christmas is unknown.  Candidates also typically leave a few days around the holidays to stop bothering caucus-goers with phone calls and public appearances, but that may not be possible with this schedule.
  • Moving up the caucus date may benefit Sen. John Edwards, who will not have to stretch his money in Iowa for an additional two weeks.

I could make a case for any of the major contenders benefiting from this date. Hillary could benefit if more men than women stay home to watch the college football championship game on January 3.

I read today that Obama's people believe they will benefit from the fact that Iowa is a “net exporter” of college students. Many native Iowans who attend schools in other states will still be home with their parents on January 3 and will be able to help Obama reach the viability threshold in a larger number of precincts. That is an interesting theory.

I would think that Edwards would benefit from a date that would weed out all but the most politically engaged Iowans. If you are a general-election voter who normally skips primaries, I really think you're not going to caucus for the first time in your life on January 3. People just want to stay in after the holiday season.

Also, if Edwards wins Iowa, he will have a few more days of media attention and time to parlay that into gains in New Hampshire. 

The big question in my mind is this: given that phone-banking and door-knocking during the holiday season is likely to irritate people, will this early date neutralize the organizational advantages that the major campaigns have? All of those field offices and the army of volunteers will pretty much have their hands tied during the last ten days of December, with no time to contact many people after New Year's.

Will the candidates with stronger organizations benefit more from the GOTV they were able to do in November and early December? Or will they have less opportunity to use their organizations to turn out the leaners they need?

What do you think? 

Obama now has 33 field offices in Iowa

Barack Obama's campaign opened two more field offices, in Perry and Fairfield:


Here's a list of the cities and towns containing field offices for Obama:

Fairfield, Perry, Maquoketa, Knoxville, Independence, Oelwein, Decorah, Charles City, Carroll, Spencer, Clinton, Marshalltown, Fort Madison, Waverly, Algona, Elkader, Indianola, Newton, Waterloo, Ames, Sioux City, Cedar Falls, Ottumwa, Davenport, Burlington, Fort Dodge, Iowa City, Mason City, Council Bluffs, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Muscatine, Des Moines.


I am a little surprised that Fairfield didn't have an office before now. I would have thought that was fertile territory for Obama. Then again, Jefferson County will only assign 15 out of the 2,500 state delegates.

Like I've been saying, Obama will have a huge army of foot soldiers in this state. This is anybody's game. 

Yepsen is sick of women complaining about Hillary

David Yepsen's latest column in the Thursday Des Moines Register contains this passage:


For example, it's amazing to hear women complain about this or that with Clinton. She's too liberal, not liberal enough, should have left Bill or should or shouldn't wear pantsuits. The sniping, snarky comments about her from other women remind me of listening to my daughter and her friends back in middle school say catty things about one another. Don't forget it was a woman reporter for the Washington Post who treated us to a discussion of Clinton's cleavage.

Apparently men are allowed to have unfavorable opinions about candidates, but if women say something critical of Hillary, it's “sniping” and “snarky.”

There's a big difference between women complaining that Hillary is “too liberal” or “not liberal enough” and women talking about her cleavage or pantsuits.

I think Hillary would be a weak general-election candidate and not as good a president as several others in our field might be. I do not believe that she shares my domestic-policy priorities, I think she would be weak on environmental issues, I think she would be too slow to withdraw troops from Iraq, and I think she is too close to the corporate interests that try to frustrate progressive change in a number of areas.

Does that make me “catty” like his daughter in junior high school?

Does Yepsen really think that men don't make “sniping” remarks about candidates they do not support?

Some women on the Register editorial board might want to teach Yepsen the difference between substantive and superficial criticism of Hillary. Because the way his column reads, it sounds like women who don't shut up and get behind Hillary are just immature. 

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Biden releases health care plan in Des Moines

I'll be honest, I haven't had a chance to read the whole thing yet. But you can see the highlights here:


Skimming the plan, it appears that Biden would not make health insurance mandatory, so this is not quite a universal health care plan (as Edwards and Clinton have proposed).

Under Biden's plan, all children would be covered, and steps would be taken to improve adults' access to health insurance, including a Federal Employee Health Benefit Buy-In and a Medicare Buy-In for adults age 55 to 64.

This seems most similar to Obama's health care proposal, which also would put us on the road toward covering all children and more adults. 

I like that the consensus Democratic position has moved much further toward universal health care reform than we were a few years ago. 

Also, all of the Democratic candidates are supporting common-sense policies like letting Medicare negotiate for lower drug prices. 

What do you think? 

AFSCME to endorse Hillary--how much will it help?

Howard Fineman has a story up saying AFSCME will endorse Hillary Clinton next week:


I’m told by labor sources that the endorsement will come next Thursday after a series of AFSCME committee meetings. The union, whose members by definition are no strangers to politics, has 30,000 members in the crucial caucus state of Iowa, plus 90,000 in Michigan and 110,000 in Florida – two other “early” states in the nomination process. 

And so the Clinton Family Machine grinds on.  The president of AFSCME, Gerald McEntee, goes back a long way with the Clintons, to the early stages of the 1992 presidential campaign. McEntee took a flier on a then-obscure governor of Arkansas. The AFSCME endorsement provided Bill Clinton with an important early foothold in a labor movement that had doubts about him. Not surprisingly, McEntee became a White House favorite.

Fineman claims that Bill personally lobbied McEntee and had a lot to do with this endorsement.

Clearly any Democrat would love to get the AFSCME endorsement, and I'd be lying if I said I think it's irrelevant. Yet the largest union in Iowa's recent track record (Dean, Blouin) doesn't suggest that its foot soldiers can deliver the goods.

On Labor Day two women who are very involved in AFSCME in Iowa told me that there was strong support for Edwards and Obama as well as for Hillary within the union's ranks.

It will be interesting to see how much AFSCME is able to add to Hillary's ground game here.

Anyone out there know more about the inner workings of AFSCME in Iowa? How helpful do you think this endorsement will be?

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Gordon Fischer asks a good question

Over at his blog, Iowa True Blue, Gordon Fischer (who has endorsed Obama) raises an important point:



HRC's campaign is continually touting her national poll numbers. (Of course, we don't have a national primary, we have Iowa, New Hampshire, and so on.)  Anyway, HRC's staff routinely swoons and goes ga-ga over these national polls — which show her around, or even a bit above, 50%.

Here's the open question:  If HRC is at 50% in the national polls, as constantly hyped by her own campaign, shouldn't she get 50% in Iowa (or at least close!), where she has been campaigning for months and months and months? Presumably, Iowans have gotten to know her as well as anyone. Or better!  If she can't come close to matching her national poll numbers in Iowa — isn't that a loss for her?  If not, why not?

I think the Clinton campaign's answer is easy to predict, based on comments I see frequently from Clinton supporters at MyDD and Daily Kos.

Iowa is “lily-white” and “not representative” of the whole country. Also, Iowans are sexist (never having sent a woman to Congress).

Of course, Iowa Democrats, who will be attending the Democratic caucuses, are not sexist. We have nominated two women for governor and many other women to statewide positions or Congressional seats.

And while Iowa is largely white, it is socio-economically a fairly “average” state, and in that sense more representative than New Hampshire. 

But that won't stop the Clinton campaign spin if she does falter in the caucuses.

Anyone else want to take a stab at answering Gordon's question?


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John Edwards will help us with rural voters

Note: this post originally appeared at MyDD, where I write a front-page post in support of John Edwards every Tuesday. Parts of it are aimed at readers who are less familar with Iowa politics than the typical Bleeding Heartland reader.

Although the ten SEIU state chapter endorsements of John Edwards have understandably dominated the recent blogosphere chatter about Edwards, I want to call attention to a different aspect of his campaign. Edwards is on a two-day swing through western and central Iowa, where he is highlighting his policy agenda for small towns and rural areas. When Edwards wins the Iowa caucuses, I believe small-town and rural voters will play as important a role as union members.

Yesterday the Edwards campaign in Iowa announced the formation of a Statewide Rural Advisory Committee. From the campaign website:

The committee consists of a wide group of leaders including first responders, business leaders, elected officials and agricultural leaders. The committee will work with the campaign's 99 Rural County Chairs to advise Edwards on the issues facing rural Iowans and spread his detailed plans to strengthen rural towns and communities across America. Edwards was raised in a small rural town and has made rural revitalization a cornerstone of his campaign. In August, the campaign announced more than 1,000 rural supporters showing Edwards' broad support throughout rural Iowa.

The biggest name on this committee is Denise O'Brien, who endorsed Edwards over the summer and will help him tremendously with progressives as well as rural voters. Denise, an organic farmer and the founder of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, was the Democratic nominee for secretary of agriculture last year. She shocked Iowa politicos by winning the Democratic primary by a large margin, despite the fact that her opponent, Dusky Terry (a great guy by the way), had the strong backing of Tom Vilsack and virtually the whole Democratic establishment in Iowa.

Denise narrowly lost the general election for secretary of agriculture, but she has many passionate supporters in the Iowa environmentalist community. Environmentalists were a significant factor in John Kerry's caucus victory in Iowa.

But I digress. This post is about rural voters. Most of the people on the Edwards Statewide Rural Advisory Committee may be little-known outside their home counties, but when it comes to turning out caucus-goers, a respected figure from someone's home town is probably even more valuable than a statewide celebrity.

In addition to having a strong team working to turn out rural and small-town voters, Edwards has put forward a solid policy agenda for rural America. You can download his plans on the issues page of his campaign website. Edwards has a deep knowledge of the the issues affecting small-town America, and his current swing through Iowa is focusing on a different aspect of his rural recovery plan at each venue.

His first event yesterday was in Dunlap, Iowa, where he focused on agricultural issues including country-of-origin labeling. He discussed protecting family farms at his next event in Harlan. Later in the day, he held a town hall meeting at a high school in the small town of Exira, where he focused on his plan to strengthen rural schools. (As you probably know, Edwards was educated in rural public schools.)

Edwards' final two events on Tuesday were in Greenfield and Waukee (suburb of Des Moines), where he talked about economic development plans for rural areas, with a focus on main street development and incentives for small business creation. That issue is particularly close to my heart, as both of my grandfathers ran small businesses and I despise so-called economic development plans that are basically just corporate welfare.

Why should you care whether Edwards appeals to rural voters? I mean, besides the fact that his policy ideas are really good?

Well, if you are an Edwards supporter you will be pleased to know that caucus-goers in rural counties punch above their weight when the state delegates are tallied.

But even if Edwards is not your favorite candidate in the primary, you should be aware that a strong showing among rural voters will put many more states into play for our Democratic nominee. ManfromMiddletown made a strong case for this analysis in his diary on electability.

I also refer you to this report from the Center for Rural Strategies:

The rural vote is critical in presidential and congressional elections because large Republican majorities among rural voters have helped overcome Democratic advantages in urban areas. With the rural advantage eroding for the GOP, both parties may look more carefully at the rural vote in the coming elections.

“The rural vote determines presidential elections,” said Dee Davis, president of the nonpartisan Center for Rural Strategies, which sponsors the poll. “Democrats don't win unless they make rural competitive, and Republicans don't win without a large rural victory. So you'd think that would mean the candidates would have a spirited debate on the things that matter to rural Americans, but we haven't heard it yet.”

In the 2004 and especially the 2006 elections, Democrats began to make up ground against the GOP with rural voters. That was a big change from the 1990s, when rural voters swung significantly against the Democratic Party. I believe that John Edwards would be by far the best candidate in our field to continue this trend, which would hurt the GOP badly.

But maybe you don't care about rural voters and are buoyed by opinion polls showing that any of our top Democratic contenders could win a presidential election.

I urge you to consider this: the presidential election is more than 50 statewide elections. It also coincides with 435 House races and thousands of races for the state legislature.

As we know, gerrymandering has helped the GOP control more U.S. House seats than they deserve in states such as Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Too many Democrats in those states are packed into House districts that send Democrats to Congress with super-majorities. Consequently, many of the House seats we are trying to pick up contain significant numbers of rural and small-town voters.

What that means is that even if any of our candidates could win Ohio (or Pennsylvania, or Michigan, or Florida) in a presidential election, we have a better chance of winning more House seats if our candidate at the top of the ticket is appealing to the rural electorate. Holding down the GOP margin with these voters will bring big gains down-ticket.

The same goes for state legislative districts. If we want to improve our position in state legislatures going into the 2010 census and redistricting process, it will help to have a presidential candidate in 2008 and a president in 2010 who does not alienate rural voters.

All these factors reinforce my belief that John Edwards would be the best general-election candidate in our very strong Democratic field.

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Edwards to get Iowa SEIU endorsement on Monday

I read over at MyDD that the Iowa chapter of the SEIU is going to endorse John Edwards this Monday afternoon. The diarist also said the California SEIU will endorse Edwards, although that seems less clear from the link:


I don't know how many members SEIU has in Iowa. Clearly it's not the major player that AFSCME is. Still, the endorsement will be welcomed, especially if the NH and CA chapters follow through.

In the comments below the MyDD diary, people are debating whether the California chapter of SEIU would be able to send people to help the Edwards campaign in Iowa, even in the absence of a national SEIU endorsement.

In other news, Tracy Joan of the Edwards campaign put this link up at MyDD's Breaking Blue, in response to the claim that Edwards “lives” in Iowa:


If you click through, you will learn that surprisingly, Obama has spent almost as many days campaigning in Iowa this year as Edwards, and Clinton is not far behind.

Biden and Brownback planning joint campaign event

For those of you who can attend lunchtime events in central Iowa:

Join Us for an Unprecedented Bipartisan Summit in Pursuit of a New Way Forward

On Friday, October 12th, Republican presidential candidate Senator Sam Brownback and Democratic presidential candidate Senator Joe Biden will hold an unprecedented joint campaign event to discuss their bipartisan plan for Iraq. The event is hosted by the Greater Des Moines Committee on Foreign Relations.

WHEN: Friday, October 12
12:00 PM to 1:00 PM

WHAT: Biden, Brownback to Outline Iraq Plan

WHERE: Wakonda Country Club
1400 Park Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50315

This event is open to the public (lunch provided for $25.00).
For more information and reservations, contact the Greater Des Moines Committee on Foreign Relations at 515-282-8192.

I understand what Biden is trying to do here–as he has said in many debates, he has a plan for Iraq, and he has experience getting Republicans in Congress to support his agenda.

But this really annoys me. Aside from the fact that I think any partition plan is doomed to fail, Biden is throwing Senate Republicans a life raft. Now they can credibly say that they have voted for a solution to the Iraq problem.

The reality is that Republicans in Congress are still carrying water for the Bush administration on Iraq and everything else, and we need to call them on that. Biden is allowing them to make a show of voting to change course in Iraq, when we all know that this plan is going nowhere.


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We've got our work cut out for us

“We” being everyone who wants to derail the Hillary inevitability train.

Clinton supporters are crowing about the latest Des Moines Register poll showing her leading likely Democratic voters in Iowa with 29 percent to 23 percent for Edwards, 22 percent for Obama, 8 percent for Richardson and 5 percent for Biden.

Here is the link for the poll:


Hillary has to be happy not just about her overall lead, but also her lead among voters over 65 and her big lead among women.

It's not good news for the other candidates, but it would be a mistake to say Hillary is going to cruise in Iowa. I think she is going to lose delegates when people go to their second choices on caucus night.

Edwards has dropped since May, but he hasn't been up on the air, while all of the other major candidates have blanketed the airwaves for two months or more. Despite that, he still leads among men and middle-aged Iowa voters. He is building a strong organization to identify and turn out supporters. I totally disagree with those who say he has no room to grow his support in Iowa.

Obama is holding steady. If he were my first choice, I'd be worried about the fact that he trails badly among older voters and does best among groups that are relatively unlikely to caucus (under 45 or independent). Clearly Obama needs to turn out record numbers of independents and first-time caucus-goers if he is going to win Iowa. He will have plenty of boots on the ground, though, so it is too early to count him out. 

Richardson was at 8 percent in this poll, which is not a statistically significant change from the 10 percent he had in May. Clearly, though, he is stuck around the 10 percent mark in IA and NH and is not continuing to gain momentum. He needs to do something to change the dynamic of the race if he wants to break into the top tier in Iowa. He may be tempted to play it safe and try for a cabinet appointment in the event that Hillary wins, though.

All of the candidates need to try to reduce or eliminate Hillary's leads with women and older voters. Individual supporters and precinct captains need to make those voter contacts in their neighborhoods and make the case for alternatives to Hillary. 

What do the rest of you think about the poll? 

New Obama ad features retired general

Barack Obama's new tv ad features Retired Air Force General Merrill McPeak. It's a good ad. I couldn't figure out how to embed the video, but here is a link to it:


I do have to wonder, though, how many undecideds are going to swing to Obama after watching this ad. It's not news to anyone that Obama opposed the war in Iraq before it began. If someone already knew this and isn't supporting Obama now, why would hearing McPeak talk about Obama's superior judgment make a difference?

I think Obama needs to make the case for why he is the best candidate to get us out of Iraq, and that's going to be hard for him to do, since his voting record on Iraq in the Senate is the same as Clinton's, and Richardson, Dodd and Biden are all running as more experienced candidates who have the “right” plan for ending the war.

I hate to link to The New Republic, but Michael Crowley does make an interesting point about the ad's use of a black and white photo of Obama in front of the White House–presumably designed to make him look presidential:


Paul Waldman attacks the "Myth of the Rational Iowa Voter"

Paul Waldman has a rant in the American Prospect, complaining about Iowa's influence on the nominating process. Here is the link:


And here is the key excerpt:

No small group of Americans deserves this power, but if any does, it sure isn't the citizens of Iowa. 

As you read this, some of the most important and powerful people in America are crawling through the Hawkeye State on their knees, pretending to know more than they do about corn, pretending that the deep fried Twinkie they had back at the state fair was just dee-licious, pretending that ethanol is the key to our energy future, and pretending that every precinct captain and PTA chair they meet is the very heart and soul of our nation, whose opinions the candidate is just dying to hear. And the good people of Iowa? They couldn't give a rat's ass.

If this is a typical election, somewhere between 6 and 10 percent of voting-eligible Iowans will bother to show up to a caucus. Yes, you read that right. Those vaunted Iowa voters are so concerned about the issues, so involved in the political process, so serious about their solemn deliberative responsibilities as guardians of the first-in-the-nation contest, that nine out of ten can't manage to haul their butts down to the junior high on caucus night. One might protest that caucusing is hard — it requires hours of time and a complicated sequence of standing in corners, raising hands, and trading votes (here is an explanation of the ridiculousness). But so what? If ten presidential candidates personally came to your house to beg for your vote, wouldn't you set aside an evening when decision time finally came?

But only one in ten Iowans can be bothered. Not only that, despite all the attention, Iowans know barely more about the candidates than citizens of other states, and don't discuss politics any more than anyone else (unless something has changed since this research was conducted in 2000). Yet around 200,000 of them, possessed of no greater wisdom or insight than the rest of us, will determine who presides over this nation of 300 million for the next four years. The problem isn't that Iowans aren't like the rest of the country (95 percent white, for one). The problem is that despite the extraordinary privilege of having the next president grovel before them, they're just as indifferent and apathetic as any other group of Americans.

I am no fan of the caucus system, but I think Waldman is unduly harsh on Iowans. First, Iowa is fairly representative of the U.S. politically, as a state divided roughly evenly that usually goes for the winner of the presidential election.

Second, turnout for the caucuses may be low in Iowa, but I bet that it would be lower for caucuses in any other state that lacks the tradition we have in Iowa. In some ways it's remarkable that so many people do haul themselves out of their homes for more than an hour on a cold winter weeknight.

But the main thing I will say for Iowans is that they give all the candidates a fair hearing. They do not let a few thousand maxed-out donors decide who is worth their attention.

The truth is that the “money primary” has far more malign influence over national media coverage of presidential elections than Iowa does. The Iowa results will influence media coverage for a week or two, but the money primary determines who gets covered nationally for a year or more.

If the national media had had their way, dark horses never would be able to break through to challenge front-runners. But Iowans were willing to listen to Howard Dean, and he started making a move in the polls here in 2003 before his fundraising got the national media's attention. Iowans were willing to give Kerry and Edwards a chance after the national media had written them off.

This year, Iowans are giving their serious consideration to Biden, Dodd and Richardson as well as the front-runners. Even bloggers who follow politics extremely closely are often quick to dismiss longshot candidates as jokes. I appreciate that Iowans who do plan to caucus will often take the time to learn about and listen to all of the candidates in our field.

So Waldman is incorrect to say that Iowans “don't give a rat's ass” about this process. If anything, Iowa caucus-goers take the process more seriously than the average cynical reporter who covers politics for a living. 

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How the Iowa caucuses work, part 5

I put up the latest installment of this series at Daily Kos and MyDD. The diaries are geared toward people who are unfamiliar with the caucus system, but I would be interested in comments from Bleeding Heartland readers as well.

If you have read earlier installments of this series, you know that I am no fan of the caucus system. Too many people are excluded from participating because of the requirement that citizens show up in person at exactly 6:30 pm on a cold winter night, staying for an hour or more. People must express their preferences in public, creating an opportunity for intimidation by overbearing neighbors or family members. Determining the winner by state delegates can distort the results and put candidates with pockets of deep support at a disadvantage.

This post is about caucus math and how voters' second choices can affect the way raw voter numbers are translated into delegate counts.

If you make it to the end of this long diary, I hope to have convinced you that 1) caucus math can lead to strange outcomes, and 2) neither you nor I can be sure which candidate will benefit most from the way the math works.

More after the jump. 

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MSNBC debate open thread

I'll be watching later, after the kids are in bed.

Post your comments on who did well, who missed opportunities, or whatever you like.

My pre-debate prediction is that Richardson and Biden will go at it over who has the right plan to get us out of Iraq.

I will be curious to see if anyone goes after Hillary for voting for the Kyl/Lieberman “sense of the Senate” amendment on Iran today. Biden and Dodd voted against, and Obama was absent but said he would have voted against.

I liked this statement from Dodd:


“I cannot support the Kyl-Lieberman amendment on Iran. To do so could give this President a green light to act recklessly and endanger US national security. We learned in the run up to the Iraq war that seemingly nonbinding language passed by this Senate can have profound consequences. We need the president to use robust diplomacy to address concerns with Iran, not the language in this amendment that the president can point to if he decides to draw this country into another disastrous war of choice.”

He added:

“We shouldn’t repeat our mistakes and enable this President again.”


Welcome back to Reality

From The Courier:

From coast to coast, independent voters tilt tellingly toward Democrats in their opposition to the Iraq war, their displeasure with Bush and their feeling that the country is moving in the wrong direction, according to data from recent Associated Press-Ipsos polls.

National exit polls show that after leaning toward Republicans by 48 percent to 45 percent as recently as the 2002 elections, independents began shifting toward Democrats. The trickle became a wave by the 2006 congressional elections. Dissatisfaction with Bush and the Iraq war ran high, and independents favored Democratic candidates over Republicans by 57 percent to 39 percent. That was instrumental in the Democrats' capture of congressional control after a dozen years of GOP dominance – and a possible preview of what might emerge next year.

Independents are not a lock for Democrats. The two major parties are each viewed favorably by only about one-fifth of independents, according to a recent NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. The survey also found that 42 percent of them have an unfavorable view of the leading Democratic presidential contender, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. – the highest among each parties' major hopefuls.

Can you say you're surprised?

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AARP forum open thread

I didn't have a chance to watch the forum.

What did you think?

Iowa Independent's liveblog is here:


You can also find links to video from the forum at that site.

Noneed4thneed thought it was a great night for Biden and Edwards:


Reaction from MyDD readers is here:


I still think it was insane for Obama to skip this one, given that up to two-thirds of caucus-goers may be over 50.

UPDATE: I finally got around to watching the debate. I thought all five candidates did well. As an Edwards supporter, I was very happy with his performance and his ability to make connections: for instance, between strong unions and pensions, between the solvency of Social Security and the need to stop taxing wealth at a much lower rate than work is taxed.

But I imagine that supporters of the other candidates also found much to like in their performances.

The format was also much better than the previous debates (it helped having only five people on stage). Judy Woodruff did a good job of asking direct questions and following up when warranted. 

More like this debate, please! 

Why I support John Edwards' ambitious goals

Note: I am cross-posting to Bleeding Heartland my latest installment in MyDD's partisan candidate diary series.

I was planning to write this post about my impressions from Tom Harkin's steak fry on Sunday. However, my camera wasn't working for some reason, and there have already been other good diaries covering that event.

So my thoughts turned to words from a different time and place.

Last Thursday I attended my temple's services for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. As is my habit when the service starts to drag, I began leafing through the front section of the High Holidays prayer book, which contains quotations, legends and meditations on themes relevant to this time of year. You Jewish readers out there may also enjoy reflecting on those parts of the prayer book if you spend long hours at Yom Kippur services. [note: are there any other Jewish readers of Bleeding Heartland?]

One of the snippets that caught my attention contained a quotation attributed to the Baal Shem Tov, the 18th century rabbi who founded the Hasidic Jewish movement. I don't have a link, but I jotted down the relevant portion:

The first time an event occurs in nature it is a miracle; later it comes to seem natural and is taken for granted.

The quote reminded me of something I had recently read in The Atlantic Monthly. That magazine is 150 years old, and to celebrate that milestone editors have been publishing decades-old excerpts on a particular theme in each issue. In the October 2007 issue, the magazine reprints portions of articles about philanthropy, including a piece written by Alice Hamilton for the May 1930 issue:

I must … join with those who stand for state pensions for the aged poor rather than support given through private charity …

In thinking of old-age pensions we must take into consideration a great new class of needy people. These are not men who have lived all their lives on the edge of poverty; they are self-respecting artisans, skilled workers, men who have made good wages and held their heads high. At a moment when such a man still possesses all his old skill of eye and hand, and the gains of long experience, he finds himself no longer wanted, of less use in our American social system than his little feather-brained daughter with a year’s training in a business school …

It will be harder and harder for him to find any sort of job, even if he dyes his hair and makes pitiful efforts to hide the senility of fifty years … Personally, I am very loath to accept the verdict that a dependence on the benevolence of the uppermost class toward the lowest class is the only possible American way of solving the problem of the poor, or even that it makes for a healthy state and contentment at the bottom of society …

The American workman may earn high wages … but even if he does, he must live all his working life under the shadow of three Damoclean swords: sickness, loss of his job, and old age, and against these our country, the richest in the world, gives him no protection.

Think about that. In 1930 it was not a given that the elderly should receive any kind of state pension. Our country, “the richest in the world,” offered no protection for those who had worked hard their whole adult lives.

Probably there were plenty of naysayers who thought that efforts to adopt a state pension were a pipe dream which would never get through Congress.

Not long after that, Social Security became a reality, and now there are few programs that seem like a more “natural” obligation of our government than that one.

I am no expert on the history of the labor movement, but the activists who were advocating the right to collective bargaining in the late 19th century must have sometimes felt like it would be a miracle for them to ever succeed. It took decades before the right to join a union seemed “natural” even in the manufacturing sector, and we still haven't done enough to strengthen organized labor.

During this presidential campaign, John Edwards has set out very ambitious policy proposals, like his universal health care plan and his plan to end poverty in 30 years. Some journalists and even some progressives have dismissed these proposals as pandering or a waste of time, since Congress would (supposedly) never adopt them.

I think it is important for the Democratic Party's standard-bearer to set the bar high. Let's not become resigned to the idea that it would take a miracle to get a universal health care plan through Congress. Let's accept that our country, “the richest in the world,” has an obligation to provide universal access to health care, and let's debate the best way to get that done.

Let's talk about who has the best combination of ideas to end poverty or bring the United States closer to true energy independence.

Let's work to make the progressive achievements of the next presidency seem as natural decades from now as Social Security seems to us today.

By putting these goals front and center, John Edwards is not only running a strong campaign, he is inspiring his competitors to be better candidates as well. I hope that all Americans will benefit, no matter who ends up winning the Democratic primaries.

Final note: it's a few days late, but for all you Jewish MyDD readers, here is the Rosh Hashanah message released by John Edwards:

“Rosh Hashanah is an occasion for contemplating the past year and considering our future path.  What have we done to make the world a better place?  What can we do to improve ourselves as individuals?  Elizabeth and I will be asking these questions as we wish all those who observe the high holiday a Happy New Year and pray for a year of peace, prosperity and good health for our brothers and sisters.”

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LA Times/Bloomberg Iowa poll: Clinton, Edwards, Obama, Richardson

The Los Angeles Times released a new Iowa poll on Tuesday:

Clinton 28

Edwards 23

Obama 19

Richardson 10 

The results have been discussed at MyDD and Open Left:



Jonathan Singer made the key observation at MyDD:

I do just want to add that the “likely” voter screen for the LA Times and Bloomberg is a bit loose. Doing some back of the napkin math, the likely voter model used here would include more than 870,000 Democratic caucus participants — which is a bit more than the 122,000 or so that participated in the last Democratic caucus. While there may be more excitement this time around than there was in 2004, there isn't that much more excitement. So what does that mean? A lot of the folks the Times and Bloomberg are deeming “likely” voters or caucus goers are in fact unlikely to participate come January. Most in fact. As such, while these numbers might be good gauges of the general sentiments of these states, I'm not certain how good of gauges they are of the sentiments of those who are actually going to play a large role in selecting the next Democratic nominee.

The problem with almost every Iowa poll I've seen lately is that the universe of likely voters sampled suggests a ridiculous number of caucus-goers.

If turnout exceeds 150,000 at the Iowa caucuses on the Democratic side, I'll be surprised. If it exceeds 200,000, I'll be shocked.

My sense is that a lot of Hillary supporters and leaners have never caucused before and won't caucus this year either–especially if we have to go the week after New Year's. 


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John Edwards reminds us of unfinished business in New Orleans

I have been invited to write one front-page post each week at MyDD in support of John Edwards. It appears on Tuesdays as part of their “candidate blogger” series (two Clinton supporters post on Mondays, two Edwards supporters on Tuesdays, two Obama supporters on Wednesdays, and a Dodd, Biden and Richardson supporter on Thursdays).

I keep forgetting to cross-post these at Bleeding Heartland. I've put today's installment after the jump. It's about how Edwards is keeping New Orleans on our national media's radar screen, and why that is important.

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Get a free bumper sticker from the DSCC

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had a bumper sticker contest and just selected a winner from about 10,000 entries.

To see what slogan won, and order a free bumper sticker, go here:


Thanks to the Senate 2008 guru for alerting me to this in his excellent weekly roundup, which you can find here:


Or just check the Senate 2008 guru blog here:


Richardson speaks the truth on transportation policy

While bloggers were busy overreacting to Bill Richardson's jokes, the governor stated some obvious and important truths about our transportation policy during a campaign stop in Creston on Tuesday.

He makes a lot of good points in the write-up in today's Des Moines Register, so I encourage you to click through and read the whole thing:

The United States’ transportation system is “fixated on highways” and should include more emphasis on energy-efficient modes of travel with planning to ensure preservation of open spaces, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said here today.

Richardson told about 80 people at Creston’s historic railroad depot that he’s been struck by the massive traffic jams and congestion he’s encountered while visiting as many as three states per day while seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

The problem, he said, has been caused by poor planning by policy makers who have suffered from an inability to look forward to provide alternatives to driving automobiles.

“What I am seeing right now is all across the country … individuals in cities asking for a more active federal role in not just funding bills to create new highways, but also light rail transportation, commuter rail, and open spaces,” said Richardson, whose campaign talk was periodically interrupted by the rumble of freight trains and a Chicago-bound Amtrak passenger train that rolled past the restored depot.

It's long past time for us to shift some of our transportation dollars away from new road construction.

For more information about transit-oriented development, click here or  click here.

For great analysis of high-speed rail's potential in the U.S. and other aspects of transportation policy, check out some of the diaries posted by BruceMcF at Daily Kos.

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New Iowa polls show tight race

I only have time for a quick-hit–head over to Open Left for Chris Bowers' analysis of the state of the race, including new polls from ARG and Time magazine:


Chris has an easy-to-read chart. ARG, which has shown Clinton ahead in Iowa all year, has Clinton 28, Obama 23, Edwards 20, Richardson 13.

Time has Edwards 29, Clinton 24, Obama 22, Richardson 11. 

ARG seems to be polling a broader sample of Iowans, and I think they are polling too many people who have no chance in hell of showing up on caucus night.

That said, anyone would have to agree that it is very tight in Iowa now. If the polls stay like this up until January, no one will have any idea who is going to win. Too much depends on how candidates' support is spread around the state and who leads among second choices.

Why I support John Edwards

I put this up recently at MyDD and Daily Kos, but for some reason forgot to cross-post here.

I am writing one front-page post at MyDD every Tuesday in support of John Edwards as part of their “unofficial candidate blogger” series (two Clinton supporters post on Mondays, two Edwards supporters post on Tuesdays, two Obama supporters post on Wednesdays, and a Biden, Dodd and Richardson supporter each post on Thursdays).

This was my first piece in that series.  It's a bit of personal narrative about how I came to be supporting Edwards, and it includes links to a lot of other good diaries about the candidate and his policies.

It's long, so I put it after the jump. I welcome your feedback, and I encourage you to put up diaries telling us why you are supporting your favorite in the race, if you have already decided. 

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Barack Obama, please shake up your national staff

Back in June, I urged Barack Obama to fire the scheduler who put him at a west-coast fundraiser instead of at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids. It seemed crazy to me for Obama to pass up a chance to address 1,000 Democratic activists in Iowa, especially since he wasn't hurting in the fundraising department. 

I've long questioned the wisdom of David Axelrod's strategy to make the Obama campaign about Obama's inspiring personal story and his quest for consensus and post-partisanship.

Now I read in the Des Moines Register on Friday that Barack Obama will skip the September 20 American Association for Retired Persons forum in Davenport.

John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson will be there. But Obama will miss the chance to address more than 2,000 Iowa seniors, as well as the national public television audience who will watch the event.

Last week the Obama campaign announced plans to skip many of the remaining forums held by interest groups, and his national campaign manager explained the decision to the Register:

The number of events threatened to take Obama off his own game plan, his national campaign manager David Plouffe said.

“Otherwise, our schedule would be dictated by dozens and dozens of forums and debates, and we think the most important part of this process is individual interaction with voters,” Plouffe said. “We benefit greatly when we're out there meeting with voters at our own events.”


A lot of pundits and bloggers applauded Obama's decision, saying there are too many debates and forums. I see their point, but on the other hand, interest group forums raise questions that might not come up often on the campaign trail. I like the idea of the candidates being forced to address these issues.

Plus, I think it's risky to turn down an invitation when your rivals will all be there. 

But even if I agreed with Obama's general strategy to attend fewer of these forums, the last one I'd skip is the AARP forum in Iowa.

Think about it: Obama does well with the under-30 crowd, but many (most?) Iowa precincts have a very small proportion of voters under 30. The majority of caucus-goers are likely to be over 50. The Register notes:

That group also has carried disproportionate clout in recent caucuses, according to Iowa Democratic Party statistics.

In 2004, 64 percent of the people who participated in the Democratic presidential caucuses were 50 or older. In 2000, the figure was 63 percent.


If Obama is going to do well in Iowa, he'll have to improve his numbers with the over-50 set.

Iowa State University political science professor Dianne Bystrom said she would have thought Obama would have made an exception for the AARP forum.

“He may not think that's his political base,” said Bystrom, whose expertise includes debate strategy. “But it's the older voters that go to the caucuses, and I think he's really passing up an opportunity to speak to those voters.”


Obama has a great Iowa staff led by John Norris, who managed John Kerry's campaign here in 2003 and 2004 Paul Tewes. But his national campaign handlers need to have their heads examined.

You may wonder why I care, since I am supporting Edwards for president. But I don't want Obama to do poorly in Iowa. I want him to finish ahead of Clinton.

To do that, he'll need to do better with older voters.  I hope he'll turn up in Davenport on September 20 after all.

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Biden going up on the air in Iowa

Joe Biden's campaign has posted the candidate's new tv ad in Iowa, along with Biden's answers from this morning's debate, over at Daily Kos:


Click over and watch the ad, “Cathedral,” if you haven't seen it yet. I think it will get people talking and looking up that website.

Biden is positioning himself as the candidate with the solution to the Iraq problem. I don't happen to favor his partition proposal, but I think it's good that he is putting the plan out there. Let's debate who has the best plan for getting us out of Iraq quickly and safely.

ABC debate open thread

I taped the debate and will watch later.

If you were watching this morning, what did you think?

Matt Browner-Hamlin has posted the Dodd campaign's debate clock in the diaries section. As usual, Obama gets way more time than anyone else. This has been true in every debate. What's with these moderators?

UPDATE: Nate Willems' take is here:


Iowa Independent has several commentaries on the debate (click the link on the blogroll to the right).



Richardson to announce health care plan Tuesday

Just heard about this from the Richardson campaign:

Governor Bill Richardson will announce his, new national healthcare plan in a speech at the Iowa Professional Firefighters-Local 15 Hall in Council Bluffs, Iowa tomorrow [Tuesday] at 1:30 PM.

WHEN: 1:30 PM (Central Time)
WHAT: Speech on Universal Healthcare Plan
WHERE: Iowa Professional Firefighters-Local 15, 1827 South 8th St, Council Bluffs, IA

I look forward to hearing more details about Richardson's health care plan and how he would pay for it, in light of his support for a balanced budget constitutional amendment and his promises not to raise taxes. 

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Michelle Obama: we need real change

I attended the Polk County Democrats' women's event tonight, featuring Michelle Obama. Unfortunately, I had to leave before she finished speaking so that my toddler would not disrupt the proceedings.

But wow, she did a great job. I don't have a transcript or notes. The gist of her speech was first, to talk about the tough balancing act women have, and put this in the context of problems we need to solve in this country. Then, she talked about how these issues affecting women motivated her and Barack Obama to pursue a political career instead of taking an easier path (like teaching).

She said she knew what we were all thinking–why should we support Obama when there is a talented woman candidate in the race? (Well, I wasn't thinking that, but there were plenty of Hillary supporters in the crowd.) She hit repeatedly on the “change” theme; I can't remember the exact words, but the main point was that we need to totally change the direction in Washington, not just replace this administration.

I think this is good rhetoric for Obama to use against Hillary; electing her would bring just superficial change–we need to turn the page.

I noticed that Edwards has started to hit on this theme as well. Today he condemned the merger of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and the Wall Street Journal. He also challenged Democratic presidential candidates not to take money from News Corp execs and to refund any contribution they've already received from them. 

Obviously, this refers to Hillary, the Democrat Rupert Murdoch's minions desperately want us to nominate. She's taken in more than $20,000 from News Corp execs.

Links are here:



The sad truth is that even if Hillary were electable, another Clinton administration would give too much influence to the Washington and corporate insiders who have too much influence today.

Democratic voters are hungry for change, and Hillary will not deliver the bold change we need. We'll be hearing much more on this theme from Obama and Edwards in the coming months.

Not only is it good political rhetoric, it has the advantage of being true. 

WaPo/ABC poll finds Obama, Clinton and Edwards leading

To my knowledge, this is the first Iowa caucus poll by Washington Post/ABC. They found:

Obama 27 percent

Clinton 26

Edwards 26

Richardson 11

Biden 2

Kucinich 2

Dodd 1

The link is here:


Not surprisingly, Obama does best among younger voters, but most caucus-goers are likely to be older:

Obama's hope for winning in Iowa appears to depend heavily on his ability to turn younger voters out on caucus night. Iowa's caucus process demands far more of voters than do presidential primaries. Participants must spend several hours at a caucus, and there are no secret ballots. All voting is done in public.

Among Iowa voters younger than 45, Obama has the advantage — 39 percent, compared with 24 percent for Clinton and 22 percent for Edwards. Among those age 45 and older, Clinton and Edwards were tied at 28 percent, with Obama trailing at 18 percent. Four years ago, these older-than-45 voters made up two-thirds of all caucus participants.

In this poll, 31 percent of likely caucus-goers said the upcoming caucuses will be their first. Half of those younger than 45 said this would be their first time out. Converting interest into commitment among younger voters is one big challenge facing Obama's team.

If Obama can mobilize tens of thousands of new voters to come out and caucus, more power to him. I'd love to see that. My hunch is that many precincts just don't have a lot of Democrats under age 45, though.

Recent Iowa polls have been all over the map, which confirms that it's tough to poll the caucuses. My advice to everyone is ignore the polls and work your heart out to GOTV for your favorite candidate.



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ARG Iowa poll: Clinton, Edwards, Obama, Richardson

ARG, which has shown Clinton leading in Iowa all year, released a new poll today with similar findings. Details and a spirited discussion of this poll can be found over at MyDD. Here are the key findings:

Clinton 30 (down from 32 in last ARG poll)

Edwards 21 (down from 29 in last ARG poll)

Obama 15 (up from 13 in last ARG poll)

Richardson 13 (up from 5 in last ARG poll)

These numbers just don't ring true to me. I don't believe Clinton leads Edwards in Iowa, and certainly not by that kind of a margin. All year ARG has had Clinton around 30 percent in Iowa, and I can't remember any other pollster finding her with support that high.

ARG's new numbers for Republicans in Iowa are also at odds with recent polling by other firms. ARG finds:

Giuliani 22

Romney 21

McCain 17

Undecided 15

Fred Thompson 13

Gingrich 4

all others 2 percent or less 

What do other people think about this poll?

I guess when other firms release their results we'll find out which is the outlier: ARG or the latest KCCI Iowa poll conducted by Research 2000.

Keeping track of endorsements

I was thinking that it would be helpful to have a box somewhere listing all of the Iowa politicians who have endorsed presidential candidates this year. I know Chris Woods has been keeping track of those, but I don't have a comprehensive list. Even if I did, I am not able to redesign the page.

What do people think? Is this a feature you'd like to see at Bleeding Heartland? Might be useful as a reference.

Speaking of which, has Patty Judge endorsed Edwards? Someone told me yesterday that she has, but I don't remember reading about it, and I couldn't find a link on the Des Moines Register website. 

KCCI/Research 2000 poll: Edwards, Clinton, Obama, Richardson

Judging from the low number of undecideds, they pushed leaners too hard, but for what it's worth, here is the latest KCCI Iowa poll conducted by Research 2000, conducted July 23-July 25:

Edwards 27

Clinton 22

Obama 16

Richardson 11

Biden 3

Kucinich 2

Dodd 2

Gravel 1 

Undecided 16

It's good news for Edwards that there was no “Bubba bump” for Hillary–on the contrary, she was down 6 points compared to the last Research 2000 Iowa poll in May. Not good news for Obama at all. But the movement is not far outside the 4 percent margin of error for this poll. I still believe that around half of Iowa Democrats are undecided.

On the Republican side:

Romney 25 

F. Thompson 14

Giuliani 13

McCain 10

Gingrich 6

Huckabee 2

T. Thompson 2

Tancredo 2

Brownback 2

Hunter 1

Paul 1

Undecided 22 

How depressed would you be if you were Tommy Thompson, Huckabee, Brownback or Tancredo? Clearly the GOP base is unhappy with the crop of frontrunners, yet these second-tier conservative candidates can't get any kind of traction, despite spending lots of time in Iowa.

I don't know what is going to happen on the GOP side. It looks like everyone is unelectable to me, but someone is going to emerge from the primaries. Please, let it be Gingrich! 

What did you think of the debate?

I wasn't able to watch because of the kids–will try to catch it later.

Who did well, who missed opportunities, who stole the show?

UPDATE: If you missed the debate, check out the great liveblog  over at Iowa Independent.

I haven't found all of the candidate-submitted videos in one place. I liked the Edwards “hair” video–the music and the visuals make it quite memorable.

Clinton and Obama in Des Moines Tuesday morning

I'm tied up this morning and can't go to either event, but Hillary Clinton will give a speech on Iraq at 10 am Tuesday at the Temple for Performing Arts in downtown Des Moines.

At the same time, Obama will hold a town hall meeting on the economy at DMACC's urban campus.



Who can build a bigger crowd on such short notice? Hillary's campaign announced the event on Saturday, Obama's campaign announced on Monday.

If you attend either of these events, post a comment below to tell us what you thought.

Does Gephardt's endorsement of Hillary matter?

On July 5 Dick Gephardt officially endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. I assume that he will be campaigning for her in Iowa, since he won the caucuses in 1988 and had a fair amount of support here even in his disappointing fourth-place finish last cycle.

My question to Bleeding Heartland readers is, how much does this help Hillary? Gephardt was not viable in my precinct in either 1988 or 2004, and I don't know a lot of people who backed him. I know that he had a lot of support from organized labor. Will they care that he is endorsing Hillary?

Speaking as someone who worked her butt off for Kerry before the last Iowa caucuses, if Kerry came out and endorsed one of the other presidential candidates, I wouldn't even consider rethinking my choice. Kerry's preference among the current Democratic field is totally irrelevant to me.

Will Gephardt's backing carry more weight with the people who supported him?

Which campaigns took part in parades near you?

So I inadvertently started a flamewar on Daily Kos and MyDD today by posting a diary about the Clinton campaign being missing in action from July 4 parades in the Des Moines suburbs. The Clintonistas were outraged that (to their mind) my headline implied that the Clinton campaign did not take part in any parades, when we all know that Bill and Hillary marched in the Clear Lake parade.

You can find the DKos version of the flamewar here here or the MyDD version here (the angry Clinton mob was a little less active at MyDD).

My point was that there was no Clinton campaign presence at the Windsor Heights parade I attended, and according to others I talked to, Clinton's campaign didn't have a vehicle in the Urbandale or West Des Moines parades either.

That surprised me, because Obama, Edwards and Richardson were well represented with campaign workers and/or volunteers. (The organizer of the Windsor Heights parade told me later that Biden's campaign was also in the parade, but I didn't notice them.) 

The Edwards people were able to get quite a few supporter cards signed during these parades. We were watching for people who waved or cheered as the Edwards truck rolled by, and three or four people ran up to those spectators and asked them if they would sign up as Edwards supporters. I didn't catch the number for the WDM parade, but I think they got about 65 cards signed during the Urbandale parade and another 15 to 20 in Windsor Heights.

The team also handed out a lot of Edwards stickers in WDM and Urbandale, but had run out early in the Windsor Heights parade.

Obama and Richardson people were handing out tons of stickers in Windsor Heights. My husband, who was with the kids on the side, was pretty sure he saw an Obama staffer with a clipboard as well, who was probably getting supporter cards signed. He wasn't sure whether anyone with the Richardson group was handing out cards. But yesterday evening at the big Windsor Heights celebration in Colby Park, I saw lots of people still sporting their Obama and Richardson stickers.

The point of my diary was that this was a missed opportunity for the Clinton campaign. Thousands of people watch these parades. I've got to believe there were Clinton supporters and leaners who would have signed up if there had been staffers out there spotting them and asking them. I know staff was probably preoccupied with the Clintons' Iowa tour, but the fact that Obama was in Iowa didn't prevent his campaign from having a strong presence in all of the parades.

A woman I know well in my neighborhood is a Clinton leaner (she says she needs more info about the other candidates before making up her mind). She's a general election voter who rarely votes in primaries. Despite many contacts from me last cycle, she and her husband did not attend our precinct caucus. So she is unlikely to turn up on a list of Ds to target in my precinct. I saw her along the parade route with her kids. If there had been a Clinton presence, I bet she would have taken a sticker or possibly signed up. They could have then targeted her closer to caucus time for GOTV efforts. But how will they find her now?

With Teresa Vilmain running the show and the Vilsacks on board, and plenty of money, I am surprised that the Clinton campaign didn't make sure they had a strong presence in all of the Des Moines-area parades.

What do you think, and which campaigns did you see in your towns? 

Incidentally, the only Republican campaign in the Windsor Heights parade was Brownback's; they were also in Urbandale and West Des Moines. I assume that some of the other Republican candidates were in those larger suburban parades. 

Happy 4th of July

I'm off to march in the Windsor Heights parade with the Edwards group. I don't think I'll be doing any blogging today, but noneedthneed is going to be very busy, so click over to Century of the Common Iowan (link is on the blogroll at the right) for his write-ups.

While you're at it, check out the other Iowa liberal blogs, including John Deeth and Iowa Independent, which have published lots of campaign coverage lately.

I must say, though, that I find it distracting to read those liveblog posts that go backward in time as you're reading from the top down.

Ruth Harkin for Hillary; no endorsement from Tom

Got an e-mail from Tom Harkin announcing that his wife Ruth is endorsing Hillary. Here's an excerpt:

She feels that women who are lucky enough to serve in public office had, and continue to have, a responsibility to opening doors and paving a new way for those seeking other leadership roles. And as Ruth looked closely at who is best suited to do the job of President and to inspire a new generation of leaders, Hillary topped the list.

Thanks a lot, Ruth. If Hillary loses the general to a Republican who puts two or three more Alitos on the Supreme Court, I hope you'll apologize to all women.

Of the many things that bother me about the Hillary Clinton candidacy, one of the biggest is this idea that women are supposed to back her as a pathbreaker (with the corollary that people who don't back her are sexist or can't handle strong women). Hillary would be a weak general election candidate, and I don't even think she would be the best president out of the current field.

The e-mail also mentions that Tom Harkin has no plans to endorse any of the presidential candidates. Smart move, senator. 

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Biden to get statehouse endorsements next Tuesday

Got an e-mail from the Biden campaign:

July 3rd: Enjoy a day at the State Capitol. Stop by the Yankee Doodle Pops and then come see Senator Biden's 2:30pm press conference on the steps. Several major State Legislators will be endorsing Biden and you can join in the festivities.

July 4th: March with Senator Biden in the Urbandale Parade. Line up is at 9:30am on 70th St between Palm Dr. and Roseland Dr. The parade starts at 10am. Wave to the crowds and share the excitement of Independence Day as you and Senator Biden< make your way through Urbandale. July 4th: Come to Senator Biden's backyard Barbecue hosted at the home of Nate and Meg Boulton. Guests are welcome at 1:30pm. This is a great chance to experience the Senator and Presidential Candidate one on one, ask questions, and enjoy a beautiful day. For details or to RSVP please contact Raena, Raena@JoeBiden.com or 515-440-2008.

Anyone know who's planning to endorse Biden?

Anyone keeping track of the statehouse endorsements so far? The only one I know of for sure is Staci Appel, who's on the Hillary bandwagon. 

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Democratic debate open thread

As usual, I'm taping the debate to watch later, after the kids are in bed.

If you watched, let us know what you thought. Who won? Who missed a great opportunity? Who had the best line? 

As I talk to voters in my precinct who caucused in 2004, I am finding that very few of them have watched the first two debates. I think people will tune in more in the fall. 

Tell us if you get push-polled or message-tested

There have been some claims that Hillary Clinton is “push-polling” against her main rivals, Barack Obama and John Edwards in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Her campaign appears to have commissioned some detailed message testing in both states. That is different from a sleazy push-poll (such as what Bush did to McCain in South Carolina in 2000, having people call up voters asking if it would change their opinion if they knew that McCain had an illegitimate black child).

Nevertheless, this kind of survey rubs some voters the wrong way. This Daily Kos diarist described it as “push-ish” polling.

I don't have a problem with message testing–I was a respondent on a lengthy message-testing survey commissioned by Chet Culver before last year's gubernatorial primary. I do think it's sleazy for Democrats to attack each other using right-wing talking points, but I don't blame campaigns for wanting to know which messages are going to be effective for and against them.

That said, I would really like to know which candidates are doing these surveys, and what kinds of messages they are testing. If you get a call like this, please try to remember the questions (taking notes if needed), and put up a diary afterwards. Or, if you prefer, you could share your info with me by e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com). I will not reveal your identity.

Richardson coming to central Iowa Friday, June 22

Here's the schedule I got by e-mail:

Friday, June 22

IowaPolitics.com “Cookies and Conversation” Presidential Forum
WHEN: 11:30 AM
WHERE: Room 101, Aliber Hall, Drake University, 2507 University Ave., Des Moines, IA 50311
RSVP for this event here.

Richardson for President Iowa Headquarters Grand Opening
WHEN: 5:00 PM
WHERE: Iowa for Richardson State Headquarters, 601 SW 9th St., Suite K, Des Moines, IA 50309
RSVP for this event here.

Polk County “Job Interview”
WHEN: 7:00 PM
WHERE: Neveln Center, 406 SW School St., Ankeny, IA 50223
RSVP for this event here. 

I'll be away, but if you see the governor in Iowa this weekend, put up a diary afterwards. 

Chris Dodd live chat on national service, Wed. 4 pm

Sorry for the short notice–this just arrived today in my in-box. Go here at 4 pm CDT today (Wednesday) to participate:


UPDATE: I got a robocall telling me that Senator Dodd will be speaking at the Des Moines Public Library downtown on Tuesday, June 26, at noon. The main topic will be his national service plan, although I imagine he'll take questions on other topics too.

Didn't see any other public events listed on the Dodd campaign website, but if you're interested, check again in a few days. I assume he'll hold more than one event on this Iowa trip. 

Mason-Dixon Iowa poll: undecided, Clinton, Edwards, Obama

A new Mason-Dixon Iowa poll was released today. Of 400 likely Democratic caucus-goers, 27 percent said they were undecided, followed by Clinton with 22 percent, Edwards with 21 percent, Obama with 18 percent, Richardson with 6 percent, and Biden with 4 percent.

The Clintonistas are triumphant over at MyDD, confident that Teresa Vilmain is already delivering the goods for Hillary, and that Bill Clinton's three-day campaign swing through Iowa in early July is going to seal the deal.

Wishful thinking, in my view. I have a question for Bleeding Heartland readers: how many undecided voters do you know who have NOT ruled out Hillary?

I know exactly two, out of scores and scores of undecided Iowa caucus-goers I have talked to over the last two months.

If 27 percent of Iowans really are undecided (and I wouldn't be surprised if the true proportion of undecideds is higher than that), then Hillary is going to fall behind once they make up their minds.

I wouldn't be surprised if Bill's visit gives Hillary a little bounce here, but ultimately, Iowans will understand that voting for Hillary is like voting for a Republican to appoint the next two or three Supreme Court justices. No thanks. 

Obama and Clinton say yes to liquid coal

I just got this press release on the Sierra Club Iowa topics e-mail list:


Contact: Josh Dorner, 202.675.2384

                    Senate Says Firm No to Liquid Coal
         Vote Puts the Public Interest Ahead of Special Interests

          Statement of Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director

“In spite of Herculean efforts by the coal industry and its friends in
Congress, the Senate today delivered a very important victory in the fight
against global warming by decisively voting against jumpstarting a new
massively expensive, massively polluting liquid coal industry–twice.
Senators showed that they understood that we need to leave behind the
failed policies of the past–and past Congresses.

“At a time when we need to get on the path to achieving an 80 percent
reduction in our global warming emissions by 2050–an achievable annual
reduction of 2 percent–the level scientists tell us is necessary to avoid
the most catastrophic effects of global warming, business as usual is no
longer acceptable.  Liquid coal produces nearly twice the global warming
pollution as conventional fuel and Senators were right to turn their backs
on it.

“Though Senators successfully blocked these damaging liquid coal
provisions, they now need to turn their attention to breaking a filibuster
led by Senator Domenici that is preventing a fair up or down vote on the
Bingaman Renewable Electricity Standard amendment.  Senators must also
block attempts by Senators Levin, Bond, and Pryor to further weaken the
CAFE compromise in the bill.

“We thank Senators for their leadership on this important vote and hope
they will continue to make the changes necessary to make this bill one that
we can truly be proud of.”


The person who posted the press release noted that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both voted FOR the coal to oil subsidy, which thankfully did not pass the Senate.

That is pathetic. I'm not surprised that Hillary voted yes, because the Clintons have never seemed to care much about the environment.

But for Obama to support this subsidy for the coal industry suggests to me that he is not serious about dealing with global warming. Dodd, Richardson, and Edwards all have put forward superior proposals on this issue. 

UPDATE: Here is a link to the Senate roll call vote on liquid coal:


Of the presidential candidates, Clinton and Obama voted yes, Biden voted no, Dodd, McCain and Brownback did not vote. (I'm sure Dodd would have voted no.) 

Harkin and Grassley both voted no. 

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An opening for Richardson--can he take advantage of it?

Six months ago, before Tom Vilsack dropped out of the race, I predicted that Hillary Clinton would finish fourth in the Iowa caucuses. When he quit, I thought Hillary might finish second or third instead (behind Edwards, who I still think will win Iowa).

But I'll tell you what–Bill Richardson spent his money wisely on those early tv ads. My unscientific conversations with caucus-going Democrats in Des Moines and the suburbs tell me that a lot of people are interested in Richardson and want to learn more.

Although I've not met many firm Richardson backers, very few undecided voters are telling me that they have ruled him out. That gives him tremendous potential to grow his support as people make their minds up late in the game.  

The question in my mind is, can Richardson assure Iowans that he has not only great experience, but also a strong policy agenda and campaign skills? He seemed uncomfortable with the format of the first two debates, but fortunately for him, hardly anyone I talk to seems to have watched those debates (even the people who caucused in 2004 and will surely do so again).

If Richardson can convince people that he has bold ideas and is a good enough campaigner to win a general election, I expect his numbers to go way up in Iowa. A lot of people are more comfortable supporting a governor anyway. 

The governor is coming to Iowa next weekend. If you see him in person, put up a diary afterwards to let us know how he is connecting with live audiences.

Obama coming to Iowa this weekend

Barack Obama will be in Webster City and Boone on Saturday, June 16.

He'll be in Newton and Ottumwa on Monday, June 18. 

Details about these events are after the jump, along with info about some other Obama campaign events which are taking place without the candidate (for instance, a Sioux City Women for Obama event on Thursday, June 14, an Iowa City fundraising barbecue for Obama on Saturday, June 16, and a Delaware County Women for Obama event on Friday, June 22).

If you attend any of these events, please share your impressions in a diary.

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John and Elizabeth Edwards in Iowa this weekend

According to a press release from the campaign, the focus will be on health care. 

Friday, John Edwards will hold public events in Marshalltown and Tama.

Saturday, John and Elizabeth Edwards will be in Grinnell, Coralville, Iowa City, West Branch, Tipton, and Clinton.

Sunday, John and Elizabeth Edwards will be in northwest Iowa: Sioux City, Le Mars, Cherokee, Storm Lake, Sac City and Carroll.

The details about these appearances are after the jump. If you can attend one of them, put up a diary afterwards to let us know your impressions of the speakers and the mood of the crowd.

Also, John Edwards will be on the Iowa Public TV show Iowa Press this weekend. I believe that airs on Friday evening and again on Sunday morning. Check local listings.

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Richardson to open Des Moines office, June 22

Got an e-mail from the Polk County Democrats. Bill Richardson will be in town for the grand opening of his downtown Des Moines headquarters. Details about this event on Friday, June 22, are after the jump.

UPDATE: Governor Richardson will hold an event in Ankeny right after this grand opening: Ankeny's Neveln Center, 406 SW School St on Friday, June 22 at 7:00 PM.  Refreshments will be provided.  Free and open to the Public.  

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Watch the new Chris Dodd ads

Check out Matt Browner-Hamlin's diary to the right, where you can watch the new ads Chris Dodd is airing in Iowa and NH.

They are basically biographical pieces. I especially liked the second one. I was not aware of Dodd's role in passing the Family and Medical Leave act. Although that act doesn't go far enough for many families, it was still an enormous step forward, and I know tons of young parents who appreciate it.

New Richardson ad up--it's another good one

Noneed4thneed is going to have to explain to me how to embed a YouTube video. Meanwhile, here is a web link to the latest edition in Bill Richardson's “job interview” ad series:


He focuses on what he did as governor of New Mexico regarding global warming and renewable fuels. 

Environmentalists are an important voting bloc in Democratic primaries. I know some environmentalists for Edwards and some for Obama, but most are undecided. I think many would consider Richardson as well, so he is smart to be emphasizing this aspect of his resume.

Elizabeth Edwards in Waterloo on Tuesday

UPDATE: The significant announcement was that the Edwards campaign has appointed county chairs as well as rural outreach chairs in all 99 counties in Iowa. 

Got this e-mail from the Edwards campaign. Anyone planning to be in Waterloo on Tuesday? I have no idea what the “significant announcement” is all about:





Will Also Make Significant Organizational Announcement


Waterloo, Iowa – Elizabeth Edwards will visit Iowa on Tuesday, June 12th to talk to caucus goers about Senator Edwards’ detailed plans and vision for America .  Mrs. Edwards will officially open the John Edwards for President campaign office in Waterloo and will make a significant new announcement about the campaign’s statewide grassroots organization.

6:00 PM
Elizabeth Edwards will to attend John Edwards for President Campaign office opening
425 Franklin Street
Suite B
Waterloo, Iowa



Rural voters drifting away from GOP

At Political Wire, Taegan Goddard called my attention to this poll by the Center for Rural Strategies.

Although rural voters are more conservative than the average American, this poll found that rural voters prefer a generic Democratic candidate for president by 46 percent to 43 percent. Bush crushed Kerry among rural voters in the 2004 election, winning that demographic by 19 points.

This isn't my main reason for supporting John Edwards for president, but I think Edwards is the candidate best able to connect with the rural and small-town electorate, bringing more of them back to the Democratic Party. I know quite a few people in the sustainable agriculture community, and many told me during the last election cycle that Edwards was by far the favorite candidate in their localities.

Needless to say, I suspect that Hillary Clinton would be the worst candidate we could nominate from this perspective–the 1990s were the decade in which rural voters abandoned the Democratic Party in droves.

The Center for Rural Strategies also found that rural voters prefer a named Democrat for Congress as well by 46 percent to 44 percent.

This finding about Iraq also caught my eye:

While a narrow majority opposes the war, nearly 60 percent are close to someone serving or who has served in the fighting.


That is a massive percentage. In the Des Moines area, I know of quite a few people who have family members in Iraq, but it's nowhere near 60 percent of the people I know.

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Democratic campaign events this weekend

Sorry, I meant to put up a post yesterday about this weekend's campaign events. This is from Saturday's Register:



Indianola:  4 p.m., fundraiser for state Sen. Staci Appel, Warren County Fairgrounds, Lester Building.

Ames: 6:30 p.m., Story County Democrats fundraiser, Prairie Moon Winery, 3801 W. 190th St.


Dubuque: Noon; canvass kickoff for “Walk for Change” event at Lincoln Elementary School, 555 Nevada St.


Des Moines: 1 p.m., house party, home of Drake law professor Dan Power, 3816 John Lynde Road.
Ames: 7 p.m., Story County Democrats fundraiser, Prairie Moon Winery, 3801 W. 190th St.


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New Edwards fundraising video

Up at BlueSunbelt.com, sometime Bleeding Heartland commenter Rob called my attention to a new video released by the Edwards campaign, which features Joe Trippi and Jonathan Prince trying to bake a pecan pie, followed by Elizabeth Edwards making a fundraising pitch.

The video is on the Edwards campaign site here. The idea is that if you donate at least $6.10 between now and June 10, which is John Edwards' birthday, you can get a copy of his mother Bobbie Edwards' famous pecan pie recipe. 

The Edwards campaign sent out an e-mail several days ago regarding this birthday/pie recipe fundraiser, and according to the campaign site, more than 4,000 people have donated.

I watched the video, which was amusing. I'm not sure how many people who You Tube are old enough to recognize the “Odd Couple” music in the background, but the video is unusual enough to stand out among the usual candidate bio material.

Frankly, I have no idea if this is going to work, but Joe Trippi is certainly showing some of that creativity he's famous for.

Hillary hires heavy-hitter Teresa Vilmain

The Des Moines Register reports that Teresa Vilmain, perhaps the top political operative in Iowa, is replacing JoDee Winterhof as Iowa state director for Hillary Clinton. Vilmain had been working for Tom Vilsack's presidential campaign before he dropped out. Winterhof will now be a senior strategist for the Clinton campaign in Iowa. She commented:

“The significance of the change is bringing on someone at Teresa's level, with her level of experience and history in the state and history with the caucuses,” Winterhof said in an interview. “That is one more piece of evidence of how serious Senator Clinton is taking this campaign, how serious our effort here in Iowa is.”

Nate Willems comments at MyDD that Vilmain is in the same league as John Norris, who ran John Kerry's campaign in Iowa last cycle. Willems adds,

the idea is that Hillary Clinton has made the one big hire that has the potential to turn her campaign around in Iowa.  I don't know if Vilmain can do for Clinton what Norris did for Kerry, but if I were working for either Obama or Edwards in Iowa today, my paranoia level would have just gone through the roof.

Clinton has been lining up the support of some big Vilsack donors as well, including Bill Knapp and most recently Jerry Crawford.

Why these smart Democrats can't see that Hillary would be a disaster for us in down-ticket races (not just in Iowa, but in much of the country) I don't know, but I am not feeling paranoid at all.

In fact, I am glad that expectations for the Clinton campaign will now rise.

What is her excuse going to be if she comes in a distant third on caucus night now?

(Probably that Iowans are sexist, but I hope the MSM won't buy that line. Iowa Democrats are not sexist. We have nominated two women for governor and at least five for U.S. representative.) 

I urge all Iowa supporters of the other presidential candidates to redouble your efforts to GOTV for the candidate of your choice. We have the opportunity to derail the Clinton inevitability train. Let's not waste it.

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Public Policy Polling shows Edwards and Romney leading

Chris Bowers has the numbers on the Democratic side at MyDD:

Iowa, May 30, 1,238 likely caucus goers, MoE 2.7%. No trendlines
Edwards: 31
Clinton: 17
Obama: 17
Richardson: 10
Biden: 4
Kucinich: 2
Dodd: 1
Gravel: 0
Undecided: 10
Six poll Iowa average: Edwards 27.7%, Clinton 22.8%, Obama 19.8%, Richardson 8.3%

He notes that this polling firm uses automated phone calls.

Political Wire notes:

On the Republican side, Romney is at the front with 31% support, while Fred Thompson comes in second with 15%, followed by Newt Gingrich with 10%, John McCain with 9% and Rudy Giuliani with 8%

I don't know whether Clinton and Obama are really that far back in Iowa, but I think it's fair to say that the recent ARG poll showing Clinton 31, Edwards 26 and Obama 11 was an outlier. 

ARG's likely voter screen for Iowa must be very screwed up. Their results have been very different from most of the other polling here all year.

Meanwhile, go read John Deeth's latest post to see why it's so hard to identify likely caucus-goers. Also, it's getting harder to get random samples in polls because increasing numbers of people either refuse to respond to pollsters or have only cell phones.

I imagine that Obama does quite well among the “only have a cell phone” crowd, so polls may be understating his support.

But if I were Obama, I would fire the scheduler who put him at a west-coast fundraiser instead of in Cedar Rapids on Saturday night. That was a crazy decision. He's rolling in money and is probably going to outraise Clinton in the second quarter. He's trailing in the Iowa polls and should have taken that opportunity to make the sale with party activists.

Ordinary voters won't care a bit about who came to the Hall of Fame dinner. But every one of the 1,000 people who attended can probably influence at least a dozen friends and neighbors. 

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New Hampshire debate open thread

 I'm taping the debate and will watch it later, after kids are in bed.

Meanwhile, tell us what you think–who won?

Who surprised you?

Whose supporters will be cringing?

UPDATE: Deeth's liveblog is here: http://jdeeth.blogsp…

SECOND UPDATE: I watched the rerun on CNN. By the way, in case you missed it,  you can find the transcript on the CNN site here:


Several candidates did well, and I don't think anyone made any big mistakes.

The format was much better than the first debate on MSNBC, and most of the questions were not bad, although Wolf did toss out some really stupid ones, like the hypothetical trying to trick them into saying they would or wouldn't bomb Osama bin Laden if innocent people would die in the attack.

Quick reaction, taking the candidates in alphabetical order:

Joe Biden helped himself. He's got a lot of experience on the Sunday talk shows, and he knows how to answer a question in 60 seconds. Also, on a superficial level, if you are not listening closely to the content of his answers, he sounds confident and forceful. He comes across as a strong candidate, not a guy hovering between the second and third tiers. The substance of his answers was pretty good too. My favorite moment was when he took the question about earmarks and tied it to public financing of elections–big money in politics is obviously behind most of those middle-of-the-night earmarks that could not withstand scrutiny.

Hillary Clinton did ok, but to me she sounded more defensive than she did during the first debate. I thought she handled the trick question about don't ask, don't tell well. I sense that she is playing these debates not to lose, and is mainly focused on avoiding big mistakes. She looked mad when Edwards emphasized that he was wrong to vote for the war, and that Obama was right. Edwards was pointing toward Obama, saying he was right, but from the perspective of the cameras, it looked like he was pointing at Clinton, who was standing in between Edwards and Obama. 

Chris Dodd had substantive answers to the questions, but he is less animated as a speaker than some of the others. He didn't get as much time to answer questions, which was a bit unfair. I liked how he said the first thing he would do as president would be to restore some of our constitutional freedoms, and he would do that on the first day. At some point, I think Dodd is going to have to take a bigger risk in a debate to try to get some media coverage, because right now they don't seem to give him the time of day.

John Edwards helped himself. Like Biden, he came across as a strong and confident speaker. He went out of his way to draw distinctions between himself and the others, and Clinton in particular. He answered the questions well, and on a few occasions got the discussion back on track after it had meandered away from the original question. I liked the line about how the job of the president is to lead, not to legislate. I liked how he pointed out that Clinton and Obama didn't announce in advance whether they would vote for or against the recent Iraq war supplemental funding bill. 

Mike Gravel stuck to form as the angry old man, calling out everyone serving in Congress, and saying Americans need to “grow up” and get used to paying more for gasoline. Although he is not running a real campaign outside of these debates, I am glad he is up there showing everyone what a real liberal looks like (hint to wingnuts: Hillary Clinton is not a real liberal).

Dennis Kucinich has a coherent message and is playing a similar role to Gravel in this campaign. He is going to get a negligible number of votes, even fewer than in 2004, but he is up there showing what the left of the Democratic Party  looks like. His best moment was when he advocated for a single-payer health care system rather than a for-profit system. Unfortunately, there is no chance in hell that single payer could ever pass the Congress.

Barack Obama seemed subdued. He comes across as calm and confident, and he answered the questions well, but I am not sure that he made up any ground on Clinton. It's going to be a little tough for him, because he is running as a different kind of politician who can unite us, and that image would take a beating if he started attacking his rivals. But at some point he may need to come across a little more forcefully (a la Biden) if he wants to dent Hillary's inevitability campaign in New Hampshire. My favorite moment was when he rejected the premise of the question about English as an official language. It played to the image he is trying to cultivate as a uniter, but more important, it was a step toward holding journalists accountable for the framing of their questions.

Bill Richardson's performance was an improvement on the first debate, but he still seemed a little uncomfortable cramming his answers into 60 seconds or less. I liked that he mentioned solar and other forms of renewable energy, not just ethanol. I don't think he made the sale with many people tonight, but I don't think he said anything to inspire undecideds to cross him off their list either. I don't think he's convincing when he says you can get universal health care without any tax increases. A little more straight talk is in order here.

How much policy detail do we need from candidates?

Responding to my post on the Obama health care proposal, Obama supporter RF wrote this:


I think we definitely need to know what ideas the candidates have on the major issues, have an idea where each candidate would like to take us.  But political reality is that the president will need to work with Congress on all legislation.  No president will ever get exactly what s/he wants in any piece of legislation.  It’s like obsessing about grammar and style in a rough first draft or an outline of an article, knowing that it will be completely rewritten.


Obviously any president will need to work with Congress. But it is very important to know what the president's starting point for negotiations will be.

I am a lousy negotiator, because I try to figure out what a fair compromise is, and that's my first offer. I have made that mistake several times in my life.

Look at Bush's record of legislative success. He puts in every bad idea on the Republican wish list, and he ends up getting almost everything he asks for. He doesn't say, Congress would never pass that extreme an energy bill. He just keeps asking for everything, even highly controversial things like drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. In the end, ANWR was excluded from the bill, but Bush got all the other bad stuff he wanted.

Similar story on taxes. Bush has asked for all manner of ridiculous, unaffordable tax cuts. He kept asking, even if Congress didn't immediately pass what he asked for. At this point, the only thing he couldn't get through was the permanent repeal of the estate tax. But he aimed high and got almost everything else he wanted.

Hillary Clinton's starting point on health care will be a few nibbles here and there, trying to get health insurance for some portion of the enormous uninsured population. Even if Congress gave her everything she asked for (which wouldn't happen), we would be far from universal access to health care.

Barack Obama's plan seems much better than Hillary's, and more detailed, but from what I have read, it is also less than a universal plan, and it lacks some of the elements I like in Edwards' plan.

I am under no illusion that Congress would rubber-stamp what Edwards asks for, but I feel quite confident that he will drive a hard bargain and get us the best possible deal for health care. I feel that Clinton and Obama will not push Congress as hard on this issue. 

On energy policy, so far Dodd, Richardson and Edwards have offered the most ambitious proposals to combat global warming. No doubt these would not get through Congress intact, but it is very important to aim high (e.g. policies that would achieve an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050).

So bring on the details, I say, and tell us what your legislative priorities would be. 

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Obama health care plan thread

Yesterday Barack Obama released his health care plan. I didn't have time to blog about it, let alone read it, so I can't give you my impressions yet. I am glad he released a plan, because a robust debate over who has the best plan to improve our health care system can only be good for the country and for the Democratic Party.

The Des Moines Register's story on the plan is here.

The Financial Times covers the plan here.

Obama supporter “Democratic Luntz” makes the case on Daily Kos for why this is a great plan.

Ezra Klein, one of the blogosphere's leading wonks on health care policy, doesn't seem too impressed. At his blog and at the American Prospect, he notes that the plan would not achieve universal health care coverage and doesn't provide a public health insurance option that would be available to all Americans.  

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) was quoted by the Financial Times as saying,

“The Obama plan relies heavily on the current employer-based system, which leaves workers at risk of losing their healthcare if they lose or change their jobs,” said Ron Wyden, a Democratic senator for Oregon. “It also puts US companies and workers at a disadvantage in the long term when they have to compete in a global economy against overseas companies whose workers get their healthcare paid by their government.”

California nurses' advocate Shum Preston slammed Obama's plan in a diary posted at MyDD:

This is the worst of all worlds.  On the one hand, we will continue to see patients abused by insurance industry execs–the very same abuse SiCKO documents.  On the other hand, insurance companies continue to run their plans–meaning we will continue to see astronomical medical inflation, bankruptcy, heartache, and repeated denials of care–BUT the federal government will find themselves on the hook for the sickest and most expensive patients.

I know some Obama fans read this blog. What do you think of the plan? Were you disappointed that it is not universal, or do you think Obama's critics are being too harsh?

I believe that the next president is going to have to make health care a priority, and should start with a universal plan. Perhaps it couldn't all get through Congress in one go, and you'd have to do some reforms piecemeal.

But I worry about Obama's decision to propose a plan that's less than universal. Your starting point for negotiations shouldn't be the reasonable compromise you think Congress might pass. 

This taps into my biggest concern about Obama, my sense that in his devotion to “consensus,” he would give half the game away before negotiations with Congress even begin. The president needs to aim high.

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Are you commenting on newspaper or local tv websites?

Yesterday I put up a diary on MyDD and Daily Kos called Hey, bloggers! Get active on newspaper sites, about the need to participate in online forums created by traditional media.

We cannot cede this ground to the Republicans, because many active voters will never venture into the political blogosphere. They may log on to their local newspaper's website to read up on the news, however.

I urge all active Democrats to register and comment occasionally on at least one or two local media websites.

After the jump I am posting web links for the major newspapers in Iowa. Local tv should not be ignored either. 

Remember to be respectful; some rants that might amuse regular blog readers would just be offensive to others. 

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Which is it, Bill Richardson, Red Sox or Yankees?

It's been years since I watched Meet the Press. Partly this is because we have a no-tv rule in our house when children are awake, but it even predates that rule, because I cannot stand Tim Russert. His whole M.O. is so dishonest. One “gotcha” question after another when he's interviewing a Democrat, while Republicans lie with impunity, knowing that he will never ask a decent follow-up.

The least surprising tidbit to emerge from the Scooter Libby trial was that the VP's office would send Cheney to Meet the Press whenever they had a particularly good talking point they needed to get out in the public discourse. Russert is the last journalist in Washington who would ever speak truth to power.

So I didn't catch Bill Richardson on Meet the Press yesterday. I heard from my brother that he had a rough ride. It was the usual Russert game of trying to catch a Democrat in contradictions, and it sounds like Richardson wasn't that well prepared for the ordeal.

I don't care enough to watch the replay on MSNBC's website, but if you care to, here is the link.

One thing caught my attention, though. My brother e-mailed me this:

It was also funny to hear Richardson say that he was a life-long Boston Red Sox fan, yet Russert then pulled out Richardson's book and read a passage in which Richardson said that his favorite team was the New York Yankees.

I haven't watched a Major League Baseball game on television in a couple of seasons. To humor my brother, my husband let our pre-schooler watch about a half-hour of the World Series last fall. 

Which is to say, I am not a big sports fan.

But even I know that you can't say the Yankees are your favorite team if you are a lifelong Red Sox fan. Maybe you grew up in New England and now live in a new city, and you're a fan of your town's team in addition to the Red Sox. I can see that. But it's unlikely that another team could ever become your favorite if you are a lifelong Red Sox fan, and especially not the Yankees.

Even if a lifelong Packers fan settles down in the Twin Cities, I'll bet he will never say that the Vikings are his favorite team.

What I really want to know is, why would Richardson write in a book that the Yankees are his favorite team if he's really a Red Sox fan? And if he's not really a Red Sox fan, why would he claim to be, knowing that a journalist could open his book and read a reference to the Yankees?

My husband's theory is that the book was ghost-written, and Richardson either didn't know or forgot that there was a reference to the Yankees in there.

Political Wire linked to this Boston Globe story on Richardson's dual loyalties, quoting him as saying, 

“I've always been a Red Sox fan. But I said if I weren't running for president, I would like to be No. 7 — Mickey Mantle — playing center field for the New York Yankees.”My favorite team has always been the Red Sox,” he said, then added, “I'm also a Yankees fan. . . . This is the thing about me. I can bring people together.”

On one level, this baseball team business is trivia. But anyone who wants to be the Democratic nominee better be able to handle a tough television interview from Russert or anyone else.

Fortunately for Richardson, I don't think many Iowans were watching yesterday, and if they were, they probably didn't care. (Dean also “bombed” in his first Meet the Press appearance, which didn't stop him from catapulting to the front-runner spot in the summer of 2003). 

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Tom Vilsack's disappointing campaign

Tom Vilsack has long perplexed me. He's a talented politician who pulled off a couple of impressive election victories–especially 2002, when he had a moderate opponent in a terrible year for Democrats nationwide. What's more, he's an incredibly smart, hard-working guy. But I never could figure out his priorities as governor.

Why did he go to the mat for the “Values Fund,” corporate welfare masquerading as an economic development plan? Why did he not do more for the environment? And in particular, why was he always pushing biotech and “pharma-crops” that could contaminate food grown in Iowa and destroy the markets that Iowa farmers depend on? Why was he nowhere on any of the policies sustainable agriculture advocates have been calling for, which would be great for local economies and family farmers, as well as easier on the land?

I just didn't get it.

Then he started running for president. I took his candidacy at face value–like many senators and governors, he thought he could do a good job as president and figured, why not try, even if it is a long shot? I even defended him on some of the blogs when people would accuse him of being nothing more than a stalking horse for Hillary Clinton (trying to take Iowa out of play or at least weaken Edwards here).

Vilsack talked a good game when he was running for president. I liked what he said about a lot of issues, including Iraq. The joke in my circle of friends was that Vilsack was sounding a lot better as a presidential candidate than he had as governor. I settled on Edwards as a candidate, but a few progressives I know, including my husband, were considering Vilsack.

When Vilsack dropped out early, I thought he did the honorable thing by giving his staff opportunities to get good jobs with the other campaigns. And I agreed with what he said about the role of money in politics, even though I thought he came pretty late to that party. I don't recall ever hearing him talk about public financing or clean elections reforms as governor.

Cynics immediately assumed that Vilsack would endorse Clinton–a done deal. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. But boy was I disappointed. For someone who staked his campaign on getting us out of Iraq immediately, he found it amazingly easy to endorse the Democrat with the worst positioning on the Iraq issue. If Hillary Clinton has said or done anything to help us start withdrawing troops before March 2009, I don't know what that is.

And if Vilsack really cares about the influence of money in politics, why did he turn around and endorse the favorite candidate of corporate lobbyists and low-lifes such as Rupert Murdoch?

Reading reports of his campaign appearances with Clinton, I felt disappointed and just tired of his song and dance.

The Des Moines Register ran a big story talking up Vilsack's role in the Clinton campaign. But guess what? He didn't have coat tails when we repeatedly failed to retake the Iowa House and Senate during his governorship. And Clinton hasn't been gaining in the Iowa polls following Vilsack's departure from the race.

My hunch is that Iowans are going to prove one more time that endorsements don't win the caucuses.  

But here's the part of the article that bugged me the most:

Their personal connection through Christie Vilsack's late brother, Tom Bell, and Vilsack's loyalty to Clinton for campaigning with him at a key point in his 1998 long-shot bid for governor, were key to a decision aides described as automatic.

If his friendship with the Clintons and ambition for the VP slot or a cabinet post are that important, then he shouldn't have wasted other people's time and money on his presidential bid. Everyone has known for a long time that Hillary was running for president. Vilsack just wasn't serious about taking her on, and it makes all of his presidential campaign rhetoric–especially on Iraq–look empty.

Reminds me of why I voted for Mark McCormick in the 1998 gubernatorial primary. 

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Next Democratic debate: June 3

Note to the campaigns: if you want to publicize any debate-watching parties you have planned, feel free to put up a diary, or e-mail me:

desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com

Closer to the time, I will post information on the debate-watching parties going on in Iowa.

Anyone out there planning to attend the Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids on June 2? I won't be able to make it, and it would be great to hear some first-hand impressions after the fact.

Clinton says she'll compete in Iowa

I forgot to post event details in advance of Hillary Clinton's visit to north-central and northwest Iowa this weekend. According to the Des Moines Register, she didn't sound like a candidate planning to skip the caucuses:

“I'm going to spend so much time in Iowa, I'm going to be able to caucus for myself,” she said.

The comment sparked chuckles from audiences in Mason City, Charles City and Algona. But it was as close as she came to acknowledging the dust-up last week over campaign strategy.

Clinton is in a bind. She is unlikely to win Iowa and may come in third or worse, if Richardson were to make a move and Obama continues to gain strength.

But announcing that she is going to skip Iowa makes her look weak and reinforces the idea that she would not run well in the swing states. What state carried by Bush in 2004 would she win, if she is afraid to compete among Iowa Democrats?

So the best strategy for her would be to publicly make a play for Iowa while quietly trying to reduce Iowa's influence. And the obvious way to do that was suggested by her deputy campaign manager, Mike Henry, in the memo that advocated skipping Iowa. As summarized by TPM Cafe's Sunday election roundup, the salient fact is that

before Iowa and New Hampshire even vote, potentially millions of absentee ballots will already have been sent out in the larger states voting on February 5. “Iowans will not be the first to vote … We must fund an expensive paid communications and a vote by mail/early vote program in these mega-states,” Henry wrote.

This is in my mind the biggest current problem for Edwards and Obama as they try to derail the Hillary inevitability train. They have to hope that she drops in the national polls well before the end of the year. Otherwise she could rack up a big lead in early voting in places like Florida, Calilfornia, and New York, helping her compensate for potentially poor performances in Iowa and New Hampshire. 

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Upcoming Edwards events in eastern Iowa

John and Elizabeth Edwards will be in eastern Iowa this weekend. Here's the scoop, along with a web link and a phone number for those who want to RSVP for the events.

If you catch one of these, please consider putting up a diary to let us know what you thought.

UPDATE: John Deeth liveblogged Edwards' appearance in Washington county today–read all about it here.

UPDATE 2: Nate Willems describes Edwards' event in Buchanan county here

UPDATE 3: Noneed4thneed caught Edwards in Marengo; click here for the write-up.

And Essential Estrogen posted this account of Edwards' stop in Vinton.  

All the details are below. To learn more or to let us know if you plan to attend, click here:  www.johnedwards.com/iowa/events

FRIDAY, MAY 25TH, 2007

 8:15 AM
 John Edwards to hold a community meeting
 Comfort Inn
 6169 Reve Court
Fort Madison, Iowa

 10:30 AM
 John Edwards to hold a community meeting
 Hotel Manning
100 Van Buren Street
 Keosauqua, Iowa

 12:15 PM
 John and Elizabeth Edwards to hold a community meeting
 Fairfield Public Library
104 W Adams Ave
 Fairfield, Iowa

 2:00 PM
 John and Elizabeth Edwards to hold a community meeting
 Midwest Old Threshers Museum
 405 E Threshers Road
Mount Pleasant, Iowa

 5:45 PM
 John and Elizabeth Edwards to hold a community meeting
 Washington County Fair Building
2223 250th Street
 Washington, Iowa


 9:15 AM
 John and Elizabeth Edwards to hold a community meeting
 Marengo Public Library
1020 Marengo Avenue
 Marengo, Iowa

 11:45 AM
 John and Elizabeth Edwards to hold a community meeting
 Vinton Public Library
510 2nd Avenue
 Vinton, Iowa

 1:45 PM
 John and Elizabeth Edwards to hold a community meeting
 Independence Middle School
1301 1st St West
 Independence, Iowa

 5:15 PM
 John and Elizabeth Edwards to hold a community meeting
 Wartburg College Saemann Student Center
 100 Wartburg Blvd
Waverly, Iowa

SUNDAY, MAY 27TH, 2007

 11:00 AM
 John and Elizabeth Edwards to hold a community meeting
New Hampton Community Center
112 E Spring Street
 New Hampton, Iowa

 1:00 PM
 John and Elizabeth Edwards to hold a community meeting
 Hotel Winneshiek – Steyer Opera House
104 Water Street
 Decorah, Iowa

 3:30 PM
 John and Elizabeth Edwards to hold a community meeting
 The Dancing Lion
110 S. Frederick Avenue
 Oelwein, Iowa

 5:15 PM
 John and Elizabeth Edwards to hold a community meeting
 Delaware County Fairgrounds Community Center
200 E. Acers Street
 Manchester, Iowa

 These events are free and open to the public. Please let us know if you plan to attend by clicking here:


 For more information visit www.johnedwards.com/iowa/events or email iowa@johnedwards.com or call 515-288-0766.


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Upcoming Biden events in Iowa

Joe Biden's got a lot of Iowa events scheduled during the coming week. He is covering a lot of ground, so there may well be an event near you. If you catch one, put up a diary and let us all know what you thought.

They are definitely trying to get a big crowd for his Tuesday lunch address in Des Moines. I got an invitation in the mail and a personal phone call. Unfortunately, with my two young kids it doesn't work out for me to head downtown for an hour on Tuesday at lunchtime. 

I got these events from the public calendar on Biden's campaign website:

Saturday May 26, 2007
                                    National Guard Armory
                                    2415 East Kanesville Boulevard
                                    Council Bluffs, IA
                                    Sam’s Sodas and Sandwiches
                                    127 W 5th St
                                    Carroll, IA
                                    Boone County Historical Center
                                    602 Story Street
                                    Boone, IA  
Sunday May 27, 2007
                                    Iowa State University
                                    Campanile Room
                                    Ames, IA
                                    Upper City Park, Shelter 2
                                    1 E. Park Road
                                    Iowa City, IA
                                    Lion Train Depot
                                    #56 25th Avenue North
                                    Clinton, IA
Monday May 28, 2007

                                  FAMILIES AT AMVETS POST 49
                                    Amvets Post 49 Hall
                                    20 Irving Street
                                    Cedar Falls, IA

                                    *Parade Start Location:
                                    Commercial Street (Between West Fifth And Sixth Streets)
                                    Waterloo, IA
                                    *Memorial Ceremony:
                                    Veterans Memorial Hall
                                    West Fifth Street
                                    Waterloo, IA
                                  A HOUSE PARTY AT THEIR HOME
                                    Home of Former Rep. and Mrs. Bob Osterhaus
                                    216 Austin Ave.
                                    Maquoketa, IA

                                    Home of Ms. Ann Heinz
                                    3150 Asbury Road
                                    Dubuque, IA
                                    Home of Rep. Mark Davitt
                                    611 West Ashland
                                    Indianola, IA
Tuesday May 29, 2007
                                    The Temple for Performing Arts
                                    912 Walnut Street
                                    Des Moines, IA
                                    Home of Sen. and Mrs. Jack Kibbie
                                    112 Oakwood Place
                                    Emmetsburg, IA
Wednesday May 30, 2007
                                    Marvin Gardens
                                    809 Central Ave.
                                    Fort Dodge, IA
                                  PARTY EVENT
                                    Olsen’s Boat House
                                    Center Street (north of the river)
                                    Cedar Falls, IA

Thursday May 31, 2007
                                    Kirkwood Community College
                                    111 W. 3rd Street
                                    Vinton, IA
Saturday June 2, 2007

                                    Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel
                                    350 1st Avenue
                                    Cedar Rapids, IA

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Obama and Edwards targeting women

Conventional wisdom says that women voters are naturally drawn to Hillary Clinton, but Barack Obama and John Edwards are in no way ceding this ground to Hillary.

Both campaigns have established “Women for Obama” and “Women for Edwards” groups, and both Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Edwards are helping their husbands target women voters. On May 15 John Edwards held an Iowa women's town hall in Des Moines, the same day that the campaign released a list of 1,500 Iowa women who have pledged to caucus for Edwards.

Tuesday's Des Moines Register included a story about Michelle Obama's event the previous day at a coffee shop in the suburb of Waukee.

This passage caught my eye:

Nancy Bobo, a Des Moines Human Rights Commission member, attended the Waukee event. She said Barack Obama has her caucus vote.

“I don't think there's any other candidate that on Inauguration Day can get up and speak to the world and immediately the world knows it's a new day in America,” Bobo said. “We're electing a president, not just for Americans, but for the world. … We need someone that will really bring people together.”

I remember Nancy Bobo from the last caucus campaign. She was one of the key organizers of Women for Kerry, which held regular breakfasts for professional women and other events. After the 2004 campaign, Bobo and other organizers continued to hold these events, renaming the group Women for a Stronger America.

Among Iowa Democrats, Nancy Bobo is not as well-known as Clinton supporter Bonnie Campbell or Edwards supporter Roxanne Conlin, but this is still a big catch for the Obama campaign, in my view. A lot of professional women in Des Moines and the suburbs know and respect Nancy Bobo. Her backing may well persuade others to give Obama their serious consideration, or to give him another look if they had been leaning toward a different candidate.

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Richardson running a gutsy campaign

Ever since Tom Vilsack dropped out of the presidential race, I have thought there was a big opening in Iowa for Bill Richardson, the only governor and the only candidate with extensive legislative, executive and diplomatic experience. What I didn't know was whether he would make a serious play for this state.

The last few weeks have settled that question. First Richardson went up on the air with some well-received tv spots. Then he started visiting the state more frequently, holding small events that gave voters an opportunity to see him up close. He's been moving up in the Iowa polls, reaching 10 percent in the latest Iowa poll commissioned by the Des Moines Register.

Over at Iowa Independent, Douglas Burns covered Richardson's recent trip to southwest Iowa. Part of his piece reminded me of something I find intriguing about Richardson's strategy:

In Red Oak and Denison, Richardson highlighted his international experience.

Diplomacy shouldn’t be viewed as a “reward” for good behavior, he said.
“Even bad guys need something,” Richardson said. “You can hold a carrot in one hand and a big stick in the other.”

Richardson said he has the resume and track record to stare down America’s enemies, to reach accords that prevent the nation from sending troops to combat except as a last resort.

“I stood toe-to-toe with the world’s bad guys, Saddam Hussein, North Korea, the Sudan, Fidel Castro, (Omar) al-Bashir (Sudan),” Richardson said in Denison. “President Clinton used to say, ‘We have problems in our foreign policy. There are bad dictators. Bad people like Richardson so we’ll send him there.’”

Playing up his diplomatic background is not surprising, but I find it interesting that Richardson is not afraid to highlight the fact that he has negotiated with dictators.

His first tv ad, the biographical one, included a still photo of himself with Saddam Hussein. His ad about Iraq, in which he stands in front of a wall, alludes to the tough diplomatic work that will begin once we get our troops out of Iraq. In his “job interview” ad, the interviewer mentions Richardson's experience negotiating with dictators.

The Republican Party has tried for decades to make Democrats look weak on national defense, to the point that some Democrats feel continually compelled to prove they are tough enough to support war, even pre-emptive war.

Conventional wisdom has called for Democrats to show that they would not hesitate to use the armed forces to defend America. John Kerry was mocked for stating the simple fact that fighting the “war on terror” requires law enforcement and not just military force.

Yet here is Bill Richardson, not afraid to say that it's often in our national interest to negotiate with dictators, not afraid to mention that he stood “toe to toe” with Saddam Hussein.

I like it. Time to treat the voters like grown-ups who can understand that our foreign policy needs to be about more than dropping bombs and talking about an “axis of evil.”

Richardson is too conservative for me when it comes to domestic policies, and I don't see enough substance behind some of his campaign promises (e.g. providing universal health care).

But I am impressed that he is making a case for diplomacy as a foreign policy tool. Too many Democrats (Joe Lieberman is the most egregious example) play into right-wing frames that imply negotiating makes us weak.

Richardson's next trip to Iowa will be in early June, when he will speak at the Democratic Party's June 2 Hall of Fame Dinner in Cedar Rapids. I usually try to make it to that event, but this year I can't. If you are able to attend, please put up a diary afterwards with your impressions of the candidates and the feeling in the crowd. 

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DM Register Iowa poll: Edwards, Obama, Clinton, Richardson

The Sunday Register has a new Iowa poll.

The big news on the Republican side is that Romney leads. On the Democratic side, things look like this:

Edwards 29 percent

Obama 23 percent

Clinton 21 percent

Richardson 10 percent

Biden 3 percent

Kucinich 2 percent

Gravel 1 percent

Dodd less than 1 percent

not sure 11 percent

As with every poll, I think this understates the percentage of undecideds. My best guess is that 30 to 40 percent of the caucus-going Democrats I talk to are undecided.

I am not at all surprised to see Obama in second place, even if his lead on Clinton is within the margin of error. I have long argued that Edwards and Obama would finish ahead of Clinton in Iowa. 

Looks like spending money on tv ads was a smart move for Richardson. It helped that they were unusual and memorable tv ads. They've certainly got a lot of people talking. 

The poll claims a 4.9 percent margin of error. If you want to know more about the methodology, including the wording of the questions asked, click here.

KCCI/Research 2000 poll: Clinton, Edwards, Obama, Richardson

The latest Iowa poll conducted by Research 2000 for KCCI-TV (the CBS affiliate in Des Moines) shows Clinton leading with 28 percent, Edwards within the margin of error at 26 percent, Obama with 22 percent, and Richardson with 7 percent.

It's a big change from the last Research 2000/KCCI poll, which was in December and showed Edwards and Obama tied at 22 percent, with Tom Vilsack in third place with 12 percent.

Click the link if you want to read the details.

If this poll is accurate, there has been a massive surge in support for Hillary Clinton over the past six months. I don't get that sense, but what are you hearing?

It looks like Richardson's early tv ads have raised his profile in Iowa quite a bit. He only had 1 percent support in the December poll.

In this poll, Obama does slightly better in head-to-head matchups with the Republican front-runners than Edwards, while Edwards does slightly better than Clinton.

I wonder what the likely voter screen is on this poll. In talking to Iowa Democrats who actually participated in the 2004 caucuses (as opposed to people who didn't but claim that they plan to participate in the upcoming caucuses), I have trouble finding Clinton supporters. I really do. I was just talking to a Clinton leaner yesterday, but even she said, without prompting from me, that Clinton has a lot of baggage, and she's just not sure if she could win.

I found the Bush approval numbers from this poll interesting. Approve/disapprove numbers for all respondents are 30/68.

The numbers for Democrats are 8/90.

The numbers for independents are 29/70.

Even among Republicans sampled, Bush's approval was only measured at 56 percent; disapproval was 42 percent. Those are shockingly poor numbers. 

Richardson coming to SW Iowa for "job interviews"

Update (Thurs., May 17): The Mills County event has been canceled and will be rescheduled at a later date. – Chris

Over at Iowa Independent, Chris Woods posted details about Bill Richardson's planned visit to Iowa this weekend. In keeping with his new “job interview” television ad, which calls attention to his impressive resume, Richardson is calling his campaign appearances “job interviews” instead of town-hall meetings: 


Friday, May 18th

 Keynote Address to Young Democrats of America Spring 2007 National Conference 7 P.M. @ Marriott Hotel 10220 Regency Circle, Omaha, Nebraska

Saturday, May 19th

 Montgomery County Presidential Job Interview 10:15 A.M. @ Kate & Lainie?s Coffee House 322 E. Coolbaugh, Red Oak, Iowa

 Fremont & Page Counties Presidential Job Interview 12:00 P.M. @ Depot Deli and Lounge 101 North Railroad Ave., Shenandoah, Iowa

 Mills County Presidential Job Interview 2:15 P.M. @ Log Cabin BBQ 204 Sharp Street, Glenwood, Iowa

 Pottawattamie County Presidential Job Interview 4:15 P.M. @ Residence of Kevin Burr 540 Coronado Circle, Carter Lake, Iowa


If you can attend one of these events, put up a diary afterwards. I haven't had a chance to see Richardson yet in person, and I'm interested to know how he does with a live audience.

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Checking on money and time spent in Iowa

I've been meaning to link to this page on Iowa Politics, which goes through the candidates' 1Q reports filed with the FEC and pulls out a lot of information on money being spent in Iowa. I encourage you to click the link, because there is a lot to learn there.

A couple of things jumped out at me. First, Obama has spent a huge amount of money here (over $630,000), far more than any other contender. True, some of this money seems to be for consulting related to events held in other states, but Obama also has the largest staff in Iowa so far ($152,966 in payroll for 52 Iowa staffers).

A while back I heard that Obama was planning to open 12 field offices in Iowa, which would be costly, but then again, it looks like he's not going to have to worry about penny-pinching.

Not surprisingly, Edwards spent the second-largest amount in Iowa during the first quarter, with  more than $188,000 total, including $87,850 in salary for 20 staffers.

Clinton spent over $123,000 in Iowa during the first quarter, including $68,550 in salary to 15 staffers.

The page at Iowa Politics also includes info on GOP candidate expenditures in Iowa. Click through if you're interested–Romney spent the most, followed by McCain and Tommy Thompson.

Another way to measure how hard the candidates are campaigning here is to look at the time they spend in Iowa. Jerome Armstrong put up this post at MyDD yesterday, tracking the number of events each Democratic presidential candidate held in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina during 2007 so far, as well as the number of days each candidate has spent in those states this year.

I recommend clicking the link to look at the table Jerome put together.

Some interesting tidbits: Obama's 13 events in Iowa were geographically dispersed, and he spent 10 days in the state. I think this is smart for him–he knows he can't win the caucuses by racking up huge numbers in a few counties.

Edwards has held 15 events in Iowa, spending 8 days here, mostly in central Iowa. I was a little surprised by this, because Edwards was quite strong in central Iowa in 2004. I expect him to spend more time in the medium-sized cities of eastern and western Iowa later in the year.

Clinton has held 18 events in Iowa, more than anyone else. Most of these have been in the eastern and southeastern parts of the state, which makes sense, because that's where so many votes and delegates are. Dodd has also spent a lot of time in eastern Iowa, while Biden has focused primarily on central Iowa up to now. 

To refresh everyone's memory, here are the eleven largest counties in Iowa in terms of delegates to the Democratic Party state convention. These eleven counties will account for more than half (1,336) of the 2,500 “votes” (state delegates) in Iowa next January. The population center of each county is in parentheses:

County – Delegates
Polk (Des Moines) – 357
Linn (Cedar Rapids) – 202
Scott (Davenport and Bettendorf, the Iowa side of the Quad Cities) – 142
Johnson (Iowa City, University of Iowa) – 137
Black Hawk (Waterloo) – 117
Dubuque (Dubuque) – 90
Story (Ames, Iowa State University) – 76
Woodbury (Sioux City) – 68
Pottawattamie (Council Bluffs, across the river from Omaha, Nebraska) – 55
Clinton (Clinton) – 46
Cerro Gordo (Mason City) – 46

Dodd coming to Des Moines this Friday

Polk County Democrats passed along this e-mail from the Dodd campaign:

Please join Senator Chris Dodd as he brings his campaign for president back to Iowa to hold a statewide discussion on How to End the War in Iraq and Foreign Policy.  
Senator Dodd will exhibit the proven, bold leadership that he would bring to the White House as he lays out the only real and responsible way to end the war to a statewide audience.
There is only one way to end the war and that's for Congress to fulfill its constitutional obligation and utilize the “power of the purse.”  We can no longer give the President a blank check and expect him to bring the troops home.
This week in Washington , D.C. , Senator Dodd is planning to join Senator Feingold in cosponsoring an amendment on the floor of the Senate to end the war by immediately beginning to redeploy troops and bring an end to the war by March 31st, 2008.  Senator Dodd’s plan is the only plan by a Democratic candidate for president that sets a concrete deadline for total troop withdraw and redeploys the troops in a safe and responsible manner.
The hour-long forum will take place at Pomerantz Stage on the first floor of the Olmsted Center at Drake University at 12:00 PM this Friday, May 18th.  Groups gathered around the state will also participate in the forum by listening in via conference call or a live internet feed.  Polk Democratic County Chair Tom Henderson will moderate the event in Des Moines will ask Senator Dodd questions submitted by the audiences in Des Moines and across the state.
This is a unique opportunity to take part in a statewide event and directly ask a presidential candidate how he would actually end the war.

I checked the Dodd campaign's website and couldn't find any other events listed for this Iowa trip, but I will update if I learn of others he is planning to hold in the state.

Also, don't forget to check out Dodd's new tv ad running in Iowa and New Hampshire. You can find it in Matt Browner-Hamlin's diary on the right side of this page.

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And then there were 53

Representative Dawn Pettengill has made it official. She stood next to House Minority Leader Chris Rants today and announced that she is joining the Republican Party.

In a really classy move, she told the press before she told her former colleagues in the Democratic caucus.

Cue gloating from Republicans and hand-wringing from some commentators that the Democrats are allegedly outside the mainstream.

Pettengill said she wants to better represent her district in the House, which is fine by me. If she thinks her political future is safer by hitching her wagon to the Republican Party, we are better off without her.

The Des Moines Register adds,

Even worse for Democrats, Pettengill said there have been talks among some of the half-dozen or so other conservative Democrats of switching parties. She would not give names.

I consider this unlikely to happen with Democrats in control of the Iowa Senate and Terrace Hill, but just to be on the safe side, we’ll all have to work a little harder in 2008 to elect more progressive Democrats to the Iowa legislature.

John Deeth asks some important questions, including will she give back the money she got from Democrats (I doubt it) and how long has she been planning this.

House Speaker Pat Murphy and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy are saying that Pettengill’s move is unlikely to affect their ability to get things done, since

Rep. Ray Zirkelbach, a Monticello Democrat, is expected to return from serving in Iraq next year. That means their majority lead will remain about the same. In addition, they noted that Pettengill frequently voted against the Democratic majority anyway.

“This is more of a shift on paper then something significant that will affect our ability to govern,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy also told reporters today that the Democratic Party spent $250,000 helping Pettengill defeat a Republican incumbent in that House seat in 2004.

Murphy added some fighting words as well:

“The bottom line is, we feel we can win that seat back,” Murphy said. That is a Democratic seat and we expect to win it back. We’re going to go after it very aggressively.”

I’d rather try to win that seat with a real Democrat than be continually trying to placate someone like Pettengill, who clearly does not share the core beliefs of most Iowa Democrats.

Let the recruiting begin! Anyone have any ideas about who would be a good candidate for that district?

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