# IA-Sen 2016

If all Iowa candidates had to win under rules Republicans forced on unions

“There’s not one Republican in this state that could win an election under the rules they gave us,” asserted AFSCME Council 61 President Danny Homan after the first round of public union recertification elections ended this week.

He was only slightly exaggerating.

A review of the last two general election results shows that Iowa’s capitol would be mostly devoid of office-holders if candidates for statewide and legislative races needed a majority vote among all their constituents–rather than a plurality among those who cast ballots–to be declared winners.

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Number 4 of 99: Taylor County

Previous installments in this series can be found here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

This week I will review our fourth-smallest county in terms of population, Taylor County. The 2010 census found 6,317 people living in the entire 532 square miles (36th smallest) that are within Taylor County. Taylor County is south and west of Des Moines. It borders on two of the other sparsely populated counties we have already reviewed, Adams and Ringgold.

According to Google Maps, the county seat of Taylor County, Bedford, is 115 road miles from the Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines. Taylor County was founded in 1847 when it was separated from Page County and was named after General (and soon to be president) Zachary Taylor.

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A year's worth of guest posts, plus tips for guest authors

One of my blogging new year’s resolutions for 2016 was to publish more work by other authors, and I’m grateful to the many talented writers who helped me meet that goal. After the jump I’ve linked to all 140 guest posts published here last year.

I encourage readers to consider writing for this site in 2017. Guest authors can write about any political issue of local, state, or national importance. As you can see from the stories enclosed below, a wide range of topics and perspectives are welcome here.

Pieces can be short or long, funny or sad. You can write in a detached voice or let your emotions show.

Posts can analyze what happened or advocate for what should happen, either in terms of public policy or a political strategy for Democrats. Authors can share first-person accounts of campaign events or more personal reflections about public figures.

Guest authors do not need to e-mail a draft to me or ask permission to pursue a story idea. Just register for an account (using the “sign up” link near the upper right), log in, write a post, edit as needed, and hit “submit for review” when you are ready to publish. The piece will be “pending” until I approve it for publication, to prevent spammers from using the site to sell their wares. You can write under your own name or choose any pseudonym not already claimed by another Bleeding Heartland user. I do not reveal authors’ identity without their permission.

I also want to thank everyone who comments on posts here. If you’ve never participated that way, feel free to register for a user account and share your views. If you used to comment occasionally but have not done so lately, you may need to reset your password. Let me know if you have any problems registering for an account, logging in, or changing a password. My address is near the lower right-hand corner of this page.

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Our tour of the 99 counties of Iowa starts in Adams County

First in a planned 99-part series by guest author DMNATIVE. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I am starting our tour with our smallest county in terms of population, Adams County. The 2010 census found 4,029 people living in the entire 426 square miles that are within Adams County. Adams county is located south and west of Des Moines. According to Google Maps, the county seat of Adams County, Corning, is 94.7 road miles from the Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines. Adams county was founded in 1853 when it was split from Pottawattamie County, and was further reduced in size when Union and Montgomery County were established.

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Election results thread: Dark days ahead

Polls just closed in Iowa. Considered a heavy favorite to win the electoral college, Hillary Clinton is in serious danger of losing the presidency. Results from swing states to the east suggest that Donald Trump is outperforming Mitt Romney in heavily white working-class and rural areas. That doesn’t bode well for our state, even if early vote numbers suggested Clinton might have a chance.

Most of the battleground state House and Senate districts are overwhelmingly white. Republicans have been able to outspend Democrats in almost all of the targeted races. We could be looking at a GOP trifecta in Iowa for the first time since 1998.

I’ll be updating this post regularly as Iowa results come in. The Secretary of State will post results here.

No surprise: the U.S. Senate race was called for Chuck Grassley immediately. He led all the late opinion polls by comfortable double-digit margins.

The rest of the updates are after the jump.

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IA-Sen: New poll and latest tv ads for Grassley and Judge

Quinnipiac’s latest Iowa survey found U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley increased his lead over Democratic challenger Patty Judge over the past month. He’s now ahead by 56 percent to 38 percent, “compared to a 55 – 43 percent Grassley lead” in Quinnipiac’s September Iowa poll. More findings from the polling memo:

Judge leads 53 – 38 percent among Iowa likely voters who have cast ballots.

Men back Grassley 63 – 33 percent and women go Republican 50 – 43 percent. Grassley leads 95 – 4 percent among Republicans and 60 – 34 percent among independent voters. Judge takes Democrats 80 – 13 percent.

The same survey of 791 “likely Iowa voters” from October 20 through 26 showed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gaining ground against Donald Trump since September and leading by 61 percent to 27 percent among Iowns who had already voted. Scroll down to view the cross-tabs for the question about the Senate race.

Grassley’s ability to blanket every major Iowa media market with television commercials has presumably helped him among likely voters. Judge was on the air in late August and early September, but with a much smaller ad buy. Since then, her campaign has been dark. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee never committed any serious resources to this race. The Iowa Democratic Party paid for two new commercials supporting Judge, on the grounds that Grassley “has changed.” I enclose those below, along with the three most recent ads from Grassley’s campaign (two positive, one negative).

Not only has Judge been massively outspent on paid media, her opportunities for generating free media coverage were limited when Grassley ducked out of what would have been the only Senate debate broadcast on statewide television. The senator agreed to debate Judge on October 19, but that event was not broadcast statewide and was overshadowed by the third debate between Trump and Clinton later the same evening. Grassley and Judge have one more debate scheduled, hosted by WHO Radio and WHO-TV on November 4.

Any comments about the Senate race are welcome in this thread.

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A disappearing act?

I’m not sure what to think any more. Grassley and Judge had a debate last night. The night of the Presidential Debate. The most watched political event so far this century. They debate in Sioux City? At Morningside College.

For some reason, I missed the Sioux City throwdown (something about a presidential candidate threatening the entire voting process distracted me…,) but believe me, I would have loved to seen or heard Judge and Grassley today online somewhere. So far, I find nothing. Video, Transcripts or even a good newspaper story.

I know Grassley pulled out of IPTV debate but I had no idea that he could manage a ‘stealth debate’ so far off the radar. I would appreciate a link if someone has one.

IA-Sen: Grassley leads by 17 points in new Selzer poll

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is outperforming the top of the Republican ticket and leads former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge by 53 percent to 36 percent in the latest Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom. The Register’s William Petroski wrote up the key findings:

The Iowa Poll shows Grassley has broad support, leading Judge among all groups tested except for four: Democrats, Hillary Clinton supporters, former Bernie Sanders supporters and people who identify with no religion. Among political independents, Grassley leads Judge 54 percent to 30 percent. He leads among men and women and among all age, income and education groups.

Grassley’s job approval rating — with 56 approving and 30 percent disapproving among all adults, not just likely voters — is identical to where it stood in September 2010, before he cruised to victory that November, defeating Democrat Roxanne Conlin by 31 percentage points.

Among the same 642 “likely voter” respondents, Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by just 43 percent to 39 percent.

Selzer’s poll was in the field before the release of a 2005 videotape in which Trump bragged about assaulting women he finds attractive. Democrats have blasted Grassley for condemning Trump’s comments but urging Republicans to stick with the GOP ticket, because of the election’s likely impact on the U.S. Supreme Court. I doubt the Trump tape will affect Grassley’s re-election numbers, though.

Iowa Republicans have been spiking the football on this race for some time. Yesterday the Twitter accounts of Grassley’s campaign and campaign manager Bob Haus directed followers to the liberal Daily Kos website, where IA-Sen is now listed as safe Republican. Various other election forecasters see the race the same way.

Many Iowans who preferred State Senator Rob Hogg for U.S. Senate, as I did, have privately expressed frustration that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has spent almost no money here, after intervening in the Democratic primary to recruit and promote Judge. The DSCC’s tactical choice is understandable, because more than half a dozen other Senate seats are better pickup opportunities than Iowa’s. But I do wish they’d stayed out of the primary. Although Judge had higher name recognition, I never did see evidence that she was in a position to make this race more competitive than Hogg. She has held relatively few public events around the state since winning the nomination. Hogg would have been much a more active campaigner, which might have helped our down-ballot candidates.

Was Grassley ever truly vulnerable? Beating a six-term senator was always going to be hard in a state that generally re-elects its incumbents. Grassley has been able to spend millions more dollars on tv ads than any challenger could have managed. (I enclose below his latest positive spot.) His support took a hit from his handling of the Supreme Court vacancy, which inspired the DSCC to recruit Judge. I would guess that refusing to hold confirmation hearings for Judge Merrick Garland is the main reason Grassley’s leading by “only” 17 points now. Selzer’s polls for the Des Moines Register in September and October 2010 showed him 31 points ahead of Roxanne Conlin.

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IA-Sen: Grassley running second negative tv ad, backs out of Iowa Public TV debate

For the first time in his six re-election campaigns, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is on the air with a second commercial criticizing his Democratic challenger.

And in a move without precedent for a major-party candidate in Iowa, Grassley backed out of participating in a scheduled debate on Iowa Public Television, which would have been broadcast statewide.

Rescinding his acceptance of Iowa Public TV’s invitation looks like a risk-averse strategy. After several polls during the summer found Grassley 9 or 10 points ahead of former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, the last four public surveys showed double-digit leads for Grassley: 55 percent to 43 percent according to Quinnipiac, 56-39 according to Monmouth, 54-37 according to Loras College, and 50-37 according to RABA Research.

On the other hand, confident incumbents typically stay positive in their own tv ads, as Grassley has done in every previous re-election campaign.

Follow me after the the jump for the video and transcript of Grassley’s latest negative tv ad, along with statements from both campaigns and Iowa Public Television regarding the senator’s change of heart about the debate.

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Latest PPP survey shows Clinton up by 2, Grassley by 6

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton leads Republican Donald Trump by 45 percent to 43 percent in a two-way race, and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley leads Democratic challenger Patty Judge by 49 percent to 43 percent, according to a Public Policy Polling survey of 827 “likely voters” in Iowa on August 30 and 31. PPP conducted the poll on behalf of We Need Nine, which advocates for filling the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy as a project of the Constitutional Responsibility Project. (That advocacy group has spent $31,273 so far against Grassley.)

PPP did not include minor-party presidential candidates in its ballot test, and at this writing no cross-tabs are available to shed light on Clinton’s narrow lead over Trump. The main purpose of the survey was to gauge support for Grassley and Iowa voters’ opinions on the Supreme Court vacancy.

For those wondering about priming effects–that is, whether the pollster “primed” respondents to evaluate Grassley on this issue in order to reduce his lead over Judge–PPP asked respondents about the Senate race before the series of questions about judicial confirmations. It’s worth noting that PPP did some internal polling for Judge’s campaign before the Democratic primary in June.

Buzzfeed’s Chris Geidner was first to report on this survey. I enclose below excerpts from PPP’s polling memo and other findings from the survey.

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Poll sampling landlines only shows Trump ahead by 4, Grassley by 11

The campaigns of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley were eager to spread the word on Friday about the new Emerson College Iowa poll. Trump led Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton by 44 percent to 39 percent among Iowans sampled on August 31 and September 1, with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson gaining 8 percent and the Green Party’s Jill Stein 1 percent. Grassley led Democratic challenger Patty Judge by 51 percent to 40 percent in the same poll.

Buried at the bottom of the polling memo and not mentioned in most of the related media coverage: Emerson sampled its 600 Iowa respondents on landlines only.

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IA-Sen: Grassley running a negative ad for the first time in decades

Only a few days after launching his general-election advertising blitz, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley started running a 30-second commercial attacking his Democratic challenger Patty Judge. I enclose the video and transcript below, along with the response from the Judge campaign.

Grassley did not run any negative commercials during his 2010 re-election bid. In fact, I am fairly certain you’d have to go back to the 1980s to find any attack ads paid for by Grassley’s campaign. UPDATE/CORRECTION: I’ve been told Grassley ran one negative spot against Democratic challenger David Osterberg in 1998, saying (among other things) that the former Iowa lawmaker had been educated in socialist Sweden. SECOND UPDATE: Osterberg confirmed Grassley ran negative advertising in his race, but he recalls that the commercial was on radio rather than television. Scroll to the end of this post for details.

Incumbents who are not worried about the election typically stick to positive messages in their paid media. The last four public polls of Iowa’s U.S. Senate race have found Grassley ahead of Judge by 45 percent to 38 percent (CBS/YouGov), 51 percent to 42 percent (Quinnipiac), and 52 percent to 42 percent (Suffolk and Marist). Those are smaller leads than the senator has had over previous Democratic challengers.

SEPTEMBER 2 UPDATE: The Washington Post’s James Hohmann called Grassley’s ad “another very telling sign of how scared Senate Republicans are running right now,” adding that the attack was “thin gruel.”

The commercial hits former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge for not voluntarily taking a pay cut when the Great Recession led to a state budget deficit. Grassley, of course, has accepted many pay increases when the federal deficit was much larger…

Grassley’s campaign manager Bob Haus told KCCI-TV that the ad “states just the facts pure and simple” and that Grassley will run more commercials focused on Judge’s record.

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IA-Sen: Chuck Grassley's back on tv, and he brought his lawnmowers

The “barrage” of television commercials promoting U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley’s re-election began a few days ago. The senator’s campaign stayed off television for most of the summer following short buys for two commercials in late May and early June.

In style and content, the new 60-second ad resembles the first commercials Grassley ran during the 2010 general election campaign. The focus is on the senator’s personal qualities and work ethic, not policy accomplishments. The viewer hears about Grassley’s past work in factories as well as on the farm, his near-perfect attendance for Senate floor votes, and his commitment to visiting all 99 counties every year. Finally, as Iowa politics watchers have come to expect, the ad includes footage of Grassley mowing his own lawn, using his “cheap” invention of two push mowers attached to the back of a riding mower.

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Weekend open thread: Trump at the Ernst "Roast and Ride" edition

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was back in Des Moines yesterday as the headliner for Senator Joni Ernst’s second annual “Roast and Ride” fundraiser. Approximately 400 people rode their motorcycles to the state fairgrounds, where politicians addressed a crowd of about 1,800. Radio Iowa posted the full audio of Trump’s remarks and highlights here. Shane Vander Hart live-blogged the event for Caffeinated Thoughts.

I got a kick out of the Ernst Twitter feed, featuring photos of the rock band The Nadas, various other special guests and crowd shots, but not a single picture of headliner Trump.

Why so shy, Senator?

Not to worry, lots of other people got pictures of Ernst standing next to Trump and recorded her urging Iowans to get out the vote for the whole GOP ticket.

Representative Steve King (IA-04) was up there with Trump and Ernst, despite telling Radio Iowa on Friday he was “uneasy” about the presidential nominee seeming to backpedal lately on his promise to deport undocumented immigrants. ABC’s Meghan Keneally recapped Trump’s mixed messages about immigration policy this past week. For more, see Nick Corasaniti’s latest report for the New York Times and this piece by Peter Beinart for The Atlantic. Trump attempted to clean up the mess in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday. His campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tried but failed to articulate a coherent position on CBS this morning.

At the Roast and Ride, Trump promised, “We’re gonna get rid of these people, day 1, before the wall [is built on the Mexican border], before anything.” The family of Sarah Root, the inspiration for Steve King’s “Sarah’s law,” joined Trump on stage. My heart goes out to them. Losing a loved one to a drunk driver would be devastating.

Senator Chuck Grassley and Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) all spoke to the Roast and Ride crowd but declined to stand on stage for the group photo with Trump. Who can blame them?

Speaking of Trump’s toxicity, Hillary Clinton delivered an excellent speech this week to connect the dots on how Trump has promoted racist and race-baiting ideas, giving hope and cover to white supremacists. The full transcript is here. Watching the white nationalist movement become emboldened by Trump’s campaign has been one of the most disturbing political developments of the last year.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. I skipped the Roast and Ride to go knock some doors on behalf of Jennifer Konfrst, the Democratic candidate in Iowa House district 43. Incumbents have a lot of advantages when running for re-election, especially a powerful legislator like Konfrst’s opponent, House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow. But a leadership role has drawbacks in a campaign too. For instance, when a no-party voter in this district tells me at the door she’s upset the legislature hasn’t done anything on bike safety, it’s nice to be able to mention that as majority leader, Hagenow has a huge say in what bills come out of committee and up for votes on the House floor. So if you want the House to act on bills that have already passed the state Senate (like the safe passing law that’s a high priority for the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, or real medical cannabis reform, or insurance coverage for autism services, or better oversight of privatized Medicaid), you need to change the House leadership.

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Patty Judge, in new tv ads: "Washington changed Chuck"

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Patty Judge took the fight to 36-year Senator Chuck Grassley in her campaign’s first two general election television commercials, launched on Tuesday. Both 30-second spots assert that Grassley has “changed” during his long tenure in Washington. One spot features Judge delivering the message alongside a cardboard cutout of the incumbent. A string of “ordinary Iowans” question the cardboard Grassley during the other ad. Scroll down for videos and transcripts.

Grassley hasn’t run any commercials since the two ads his campaign aired before the June primary, which Bleeding Heartland analyzed here and here. I’m surprised he didn’t prepare a spot to run during the Rio Olympics, after reporting more than $1.2 million in contributions during the second quarter and nearly $6 million cash on hand as of June 30. Judge’s campaign raised $347,707 during the second quarter and had only $228,292 cash on hand at the end of June.

Three of the four Iowa polls released this month showed Grassley’s support barely above 50 percent; Judge was running 9 or 10 points behind. The most recent survey, conducted by CBS/YouGov, found Grassley leading Judge by only 45 percent to 38 percent. An incumbent polling below 50 percent traditionally signals an opening for the challenger.

But contrary to KCRG’s misleading headline and write-up, a 45-38 lead is not a “statistical tie.” The margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent in CBS/YouGov’s poll means that assuming professional sampling methods, there’s a 95 percent chance that Grassley’s support is between 41 and 49 percent, and that Judge’s support is between 34 and 42 percent. In other words, Grassley is extremely likely to be ahead if CBS/YouGov’s respondents are representative of the likely voter universe. He’s just not dominating the race by the kind of margins he’s enjoyed over previous Democratic opponents.

Over the weekend, the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble reviewed data from earlier re-election campaigns pointing to Grassley’s strong performance among no-party voters, as well as his “crossover appeal” for thousands of Iowa Democrats.

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Ten presidential candidates qualify for the Iowa ballot

The filing deadline to run in Iowa’s general election ended at 5 pm today, and the Secretary of State’s Office has updated the list of candidates who submitted nominating papers and petitions with enough signatures. The following ten presidential tickets will appear on Iowa ballots:

2016 presidential candidates in Iowa
Names Party affiliation
Donald J. Trump/Michael R. Pence Republican
Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine Democratic
Darrell L. Castle/Scott N. Bradley Constitution Party
Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka Iowa Green Party
Dan R. Vacek/Mark G. Elworth Legal Marijuana Now
Gary Johnson/Bill Weld Libertarian
Lynn Kahn/Jay Stolba New Independent Party
Gloria La Riva/Dennis J. Banks Party for Socialism and Liberation
Rocky Roque De La Fuente/Michael Steinberg Nominated By Petition
Evan McMullin/Nathan Johnson Nominated By Petition

The last three public polls in Iowa put Johnson at 12 percent, 6 percent, and 12 percent in a four-way race against Clinton, Trump, and Stein. Although those surveys probably overstate Johnson’s support, the unusual unpopularity of this year’s major-party nominees gives the Libertarian a good chance to improve on all of his party’s previous showings in Iowa. Click here to view results for Libertarian presidential candidates going back to 1976. At a Polk County Democratic event last night, a number of activists were concerned that Johnson’s name was not yet on the Secretary of State’s candidate list, because Johnson is presumed to draw more support from traditionally Republican-leaning voters. Libertarian activists cut it close by submitting nominating papers today, but all’s well that ends well.

Others who filed on the last possible day included Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer who launched his presidential campaign only last week, and the candidates for the New Independent Party and Legal Marijuana Now, which seem like decent names for picking up protest votes.

Five candidates qualified to run for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat: Republican Charles E. Grassley, Democrat Patty Judge, Libertarian Charles Aldrich, Jim Hennager of the New Independent Party, and Michael Luick-Thrams, “Nominated By Petition.”

Only major-party candidates will appear on the ballot in three of Iowa’s four Congressional districts: Republican Rod Blum and Democrat Monica Vernon in IA-01, Republican Christopher Peters and Democrat Dave Loebsack in IA-02, Republican Steve King and Democrat Kim Weaver in IA-04.

The field will be more crowded in IA-03, with Republican David Young, Democrat Jim Mowrer, Libertarian Bryan Jack Holder, and two candidates to be listed as “Nominated By Petition”: Claudia Addy and Joe Grandanette.

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Quinnipiac adds to remarkable polling consensus on IA-Sen race

Today Quinnipiac supplemented its latest poll on the presidential race in Iowa with findings about Senator Chuck Grassley’s campaign against Democratic challenger Patty Judge. Key graphs from the polling memo:

Quinnipiac IA-Sen photo Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 3.39.14 PM_zpsdvw0h0a4.png

The 51 percent to 42 percent lead for Grassley is remarkably close to the 52-42 gap in last week’s polls by Suffolk University and Marist for NBC and the Wall Street Journal.

I infer that polls from earlier this summer, showing Grassley below 50 percent and leading Judge by just 7 points, slightly understated his lead. One of those polls looked like a outlier in general. Two of the surveys were conducted by Public Policy Polling, which did some work for the Judge campaign before the Democratic primary.

That’s not to say that Judge can’t make this election more competitive–only that she can’t wait around for the race to fall into her lap. She’s losing men by a lot and isn’t making up for it among women voters. She hasn’t held many public events this summer and needs to campaign more aggressively over the next two and a half months. In addition to improving her name ID, Judge has to give Iowa voters a reason to fire Grassley after so many years of public service. The obvious issue, the one she has vowed to hammer home since the day she announced her campaign, is the Senate Judiciary Committee chair’s refusal to hold confirmation hearings for Judge Merrick Garland. Iowans don’t support Grassley’s stance on the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, but it will take more work to convince enough of them to send the senator into retirement for that reason.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put their thumb on the scale for Judge before the Democratic primary, but national strategists have quite a few more promising pickup opportunities than Iowa at present. The DSCC won’t come in with big money here unless the polling starts to show Grassley more vulnerable than he now appears.

Weekend open thread: More Iowa Republicans throwing in with Trump

While Republican insiders across the country despair about the presidential race, dozens urging the Republican National Committee to stop investing in Donald Trump, others wishing in vain that Trump would drop out, and some even quitting their political jobs, Iowa’s most influential Republicans continue to stand with the GOP nominee.

This week, Governor Terry Branstad confirmed plans to advise Trump on policy; his major influencer Bruce Rastetter will reportedly do the same. In addition, two other well-known GOP operatives took on formal roles in Trump’s Iowa campaign. Jamie Johnson will be coalitions director and Jake Ketzner a senior advisor. Johnson is a veteran of Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential bid. After a spell supporting Ted Cruz, he landed with Rick Perry’s short-lived campaign this cycle. An ordained minister, he will presumably focus on engaging evangelical Christians, a key constituency for Santorum in 2012 and for Cruz this year. Jake Ketzner managed Representative Steve King’s re-election campaign in 2012, the year he faced Christie Vilsack in a substantially redrawn district. Ketzner left Branstad’s staff for a lobbying job last summer and soon became a senior adviser to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s Iowa caucus campaign.

Why are more respectable Republicans joining what looks like a sinking ship? For one thing, the latest public polls show Trump running better in Iowa than in national polls or surveys in swing states with more diverse populations. So even if Trump gets blown out nationally, working on his campaign here might not be a liability, especially if he carries Iowa or loses by a relatively small margin. Also, hitching your wagon to a toxic nominee is less risky when your state’s governor, lieutenant governor, GOP U.S. senators and representatives are giving you cover. UPDATE: Forgot to mention that going all-in for Trump helped our state’s establishment secure a promise from the nominee that if he’s elected, the Iowa caucuses will remain first in the nominating calendar.

Neither Branstad nor any Republicans who represent Iowa in Congress have responded to my questions about worrying aspects of Trump’s candidacy. To my knowledge, only two GOP elected officials in Iowa have publicly ruled out voting for Trump: State Senator David Johnson and Hardin County Auditor Jessica Lara. Tips are welcome if readers know of other GOP officials willing to say #NeverTrump. I’ve sought comment from many whom I considered “likely suspects.”

Several experienced Iowa campaign operatives have said they won’t vote for the GOP nominee, including David Kochel, a former strategist for Mitt Romney and senior figure in Jeb Bush’s 2016 campaign. Justin Arnold, former state political director for Marco Rubio, explained in a March op-ed column for the Des Moines Register why he would not support Trump under any circumstances. He announced earlier this month that he has joined the direct mail and political consulting firm Majority Strategies. That company’s clients include U.S. Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) and at least one Iowa GOP state committee.

Joel Kurtinitis, a onetime staffer on Ron Paul’s presidential campaign and former Republican State Central Committee member, published a blistering commentary at The Blaze on Friday: Five Things You Can Never Say Again After Voting Trump. I enclose below excerpts from a piece that social conservatives might describe as “convicting.”

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s campaign continues to build a strong field operation in Iowa and other battleground states, while Trump’s ground game is remarkably weak and in some areas literally missing in action.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. The Iowa State Fair opened on Thursday and runs through Sunday, August 21. A summer cold moving systematically through our household has so far kept us from the fairgrounds, but we will get there once or twice this week. Bleeding Heartland has previously published my best advice for enjoying the fair, especially in the company of young children. The schedule of candidates speaking at the Des Moines Register’s “soapbox” near the administration building is here. Like Brad Anderson, I was surprised Senator Chuck Grassley passed on the opportunity. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, though. Grassley tends to avoid putting public events on his schedule in Polk and several other large-population counties.

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Trump up by 1, Grassley by 10 in new Suffolk Iowa poll

Suffolk University’s new poll of Iowa “likely voters” shows Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton by 41 percent to 40 percent in a two-way race and by 37 percent to 36 percent in a field including Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson (6 percent) and the Green Party’s Jill Stein (3 percent). Suffolk’s news release noted that 53 percent of respondents expect Clinton to win the election, while 31 percent think Trump will win, and 16 percent were unsure. A higher share of respondents thought Trump was “honest and trustworthy” (34 percent) than said the same of Clinton (29 percent). Johnson did best in Iowa’s southwest counties, while Stein had 9 percent support among respondents between the ages of 18 and 34, a group presumably including a lot of Bernie Sanders backers.

After the jump I’ve posted a few more numbers that caught my eye from Suffolk’s full results and cross-tabs, along with excerpts from Jason Noble’s reports for the Des Moines Register this week on the likely paths to victory for Trump and Clinton in Iowa.

Suffolk found U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley ahead of Democratic challenger Patty Judge by 52 percent to 42 percent–the same margin as in the Marist poll released Tuesday. However, the Marist survey indicated a slight lead for Clinton in the presidential race. Grassley’s favorability numbers in the Suffolk poll were good for an incumbent on the ballot: 54.4 percent favorable, 31 percent unfavorable. Judge was not nearly as well known, with 32.4 percent of respondents expressing a favorable opinion and 27.8 percent an unfavorable one.

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Clinton up by 4, Grassley by 10 in new Iowa poll (updated)

The first public poll of Iowa since the Republican and Democratic national conventions shows Hillary Clinton slightly ahead of Donald Trump by 41 percent to 37 percent. Marist surveyed 899 registered voters for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal between August 3 and 7, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent. In last month’s Marist poll of Iowans, Clinton led by 42 percent to 39 percent.

When the 2016 presidential race is expanded to four candidates – including Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein – Clinton and Trump are tied at 35 percent each in Iowa, with Johnson at 12 percent and Stein at 6 percent. (Last month in the state, Clinton and Trump were tied in the four-way horserace at 37 percent.)

Historically, third-party presidential candidates have received far fewer votes in November than their summer poll numbers would suggest. But even assuming Marist is greatly overstating support for Johnson and Stein, those candidates could set records for their respective parties in Iowa. No Libertarian presidential candidate has ever surpassed 1 percent of the vote in our state. The Green Party’s best showing in a presidential election here was roughly 2.2 percent, which Ralph Nader received in 2000.

Both major-party presidential candidates are underwater among Iowa voters on favorability. Some 36 percent of Marist’s respondents have a favorable view of Clinton, 58 percent unfavorable. Those would be terrible numbers if Trump weren’t in even worse shape at 31 percent favorable, 64 percent unfavorable in the same poll. Without seeing more detailed results, it’s hard to tell which candidate has more room to grow support. Some recent surveys have found that remaining undecided voters “lean toward being [Bernie] Sanders holdouts,” which could mean more potential growth for Clinton than for Trump. That said, I’m 100 times more confident that Clinton will win 270 electoral votes than I am of her carrying Iowa. She is generally polling better in states that are more diverse than Iowa, where more than 86 percent of residents are non-Hispanic whites.

UPDATE: Nate Cohn pointed out that Iowa is the state “where Democrats are most dependent on less [educated] white voters.” Non-college-educated whites were a big part of Barack Obama’s winning coalition here. According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 26.4 percent of Iowans who are at least 25 years old have a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education.

Marist found U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley leading Democratic challenger Patty Judge by 52 percent to 42 percent. That’s a smaller lead for Grassley than he has enjoyed in most of his re-election campaigns, but better than the single-digit leads other pollsters found for the senator earlier this summer. Iowa Republicans will be encouraged to see Grassley above the 50 percent mark. The senator confirmed to Radio Iowa today that he is still supporting Trump for president, citing scheduling conflicts to explain his absence from the GOP nominee’s rallies in Davenport and Cedar Rapids on July 28 and in Des Moines on August 5. In a statement I enclose below, Judge demanded that Grassley explain “exactly what Donald Trump meant” when he said today at a North Carolina rally, “If she [Hillary Clinton] gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know” (full comments here).

In related news, Senator Joni Ernst’s office has not yet responded to my request for comment on the extraordinary public letter released yesterday by 50 former high-ranking national security officials in Republican administrations, explaining why they will not vote for Trump. Ernst has repeatedly depicted Trump as the best candidate to keep America safe, but the former security officials warned Trump “would be a dangerous President,” lacking the requisite “character, values, experience,” or “temperament,” while displaying “little understanding of America’s vital national interests” and “alarming ignorance of basic facts of contemporary international politics.”

SECOND UPDATE: Added below some other findings from the Marist poll; click here for full results.

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Six questions Iowa Republicans should answer about Donald Trump

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump continued to disgrace himself over the past five days, feuding with the parents of fallen Captain Humayun Khan and revealing shocking ignorance about a foreign policy challenge the next president will face.

The response from prominent Iowa Republicans has been inadequate (in the case of Trump’s insulting comments about Khizr and Ghazala Khan) or nonexistent (in the case of his latest statements about Russia and Ukraine).

Every Republican candidate or office-holder in this state, aside from #NeverTrump State Senator David Johnson, should answer the following questions.

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Another Iowa poll shows tight presidential race, single-digit lead for Chuck Grassley over Patty Judge

In more support for forecasters who view Iowa as a toss-up state, Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by a statistically insignificant 40 percent to 39 percent in a new CBS News Battleground Tracker Iowa poll conducted by YouGov. About 3 percent of the 998 “likely voters” surveyed between July 13 and 15 back Libertarian Gary Johnson, 2 percent Green Party candidate Jill Stein, 7 percent “someone else” and 8 percent are “not sure.”

Among respondents supporting Clinton, 50 percent said it is mainly because they like her, 37 percent said mainly to oppose Trump, and 13 percent said mainly because she will be their party’s nominee. The opposite was true for respondents planning to vote for Trump: 53 percent said they will do so mainly to oppose Clinton, 36 percent said mainly to support Trump, and 11 percent said because Trump will be their party’s nominee.

In Iowa’s U.S. Senate race, the CBS/YouGov poll found Senator Chuck Grassley ahead of Democratic challenger Patty Judge by 45 percent to 37 percent, with 16 percent not sure and 2 percent favoring “someone else.” In his previous re-election bids, Grassley has never been below 50 percent and less than 10 points ahead of his challenger in any public survey by a reputable pollster. YouGov now becomes the third firm (after Public Policy Polling and Loras College) to find a single-digit lead for the incumbent.

The full questionnaire for the CBS/YouGov poll is available here, along with cross-tabs. Assuming random sampling techniques produced a representative respondent pool, the margin of error for this survey would be plus or minus 4.8 percent. One possible problem with the sample: 41 percent of respondents said they are currently registered Republicans, 42 percent registered Democrats, and just 14 percent “not affiliated with either party.” More than 31 percent of Iowans who cast ballots in the 2012 general election were no-party voters. It’s possible that many of the registered Republicans or Democrats sampled by YouGov think of themselves as “independents” but changed their registration in order to participate in the February 1 Iowa caucuses or June 7 primaries.

YouGov polls are conducted over the internet; the firm received a “B” grade in FiveThirtyEight’s pollster ratings.

Monmouth poll: Trump leads Clinton by 2 in Iowa, Grassley leads Judge by 10

Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 44 percent to 42 percent, and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley leads Democratic challenger Patty Judge by 52 percent to 42 percent, according to a Monmouth University poll released today.

Only 6 percent of Iowa respondents surveyed between July 8 and 11 were undecided on the presidential race. Monmouth also found 6 percent support for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, 1 percent for the Green Party’s Jill Stein, and 2 percent saying they will vote for some other candidate. No Libertarian presidential candidate has ever received more than 1 percent of the vote in Iowa. Historically, minor-party presidential candidates have performed far less well in November elections than their summer poll numbers would suggest.

Iowa is a toss-up state in many election forecasts, and I’ve always expected a close race here, so I am not surprised to see Trump slightly ahead in a poll. That said, these Monmouth data are difficult to believe:

One unusual finding in the poll is that Trump leads among voters under 50 years old in Iowa. In Monmouth polls conducted nationally and in other states, Clinton has held an advantage with younger voters. Specifically, 51% of Iowa voters under age 50 currently support Trump, compared to 32% for Clinton, 7% for Johnson, and 3% for Stein or another candidate. Among voters age 50 and older, Clinton has the edge with 50% support, compared to 38% for Trump, 4% for Johnson and 1% for Stein or another candidate.

Monmouth’s numbers indicate that Grassley is in for his most competitive re-election bid. The last two public polls of Iowa’s U.S. Senate race were by Public Policy Polling, which does a lot of work for Democratic clients, including Judge’s campaign during the primary. So it was easy for Republicans to dismiss PPP’s findings showing Grassley below 50 percent and only 7 points ahead. In Monmouth’s survey, Grassley leads by just 10 points, which for him is a very small margin. He enjoyed larger leads in 2010 polls, other than those by Research 2000, a firm later discredited for apparently fabricating data.

You can’t say Monmouth’s sample is skewed to Democrats, because Trump is leading Clinton. The best news for Grassley is his job approval rating: 56 percent, with only 33 percent disapproving of his work in the Senate. However, only 25 percent of Monmouth’s respondents approve of the Judiciary Committee chair’s decision not to hold hearings on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

Grassley’s favorables are in net positive territory, according to Monmouth: 46 have a favorable opinion of him, 31 percent unfavorable. Judge has more room to grow: 30 percent favorable, 14 percent unfavorable, and 56 percent of respondents not knowing enough about her to have an opinion. Grassley’s campaign has been trying to define the Democratic challenger in a negative way, most recently claiming in a press release today that she is harder to find around Iowa than a Pokemon.

Any comments about the presidential or Senate race are welcome in this thread. Monmouth surveyed 401 “Iowa residents likely to vote in the November election” between July 8 and 11, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent. Monmouth’s polling memo did not mention the likely voter screen used.

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Five reasons to doubt the new Loras College Iowa poll

A new Loras College poll shows Hillary Clinton enjoying a double-digit lead over Donald Trump: 48.2 percent to 33.8 percent with no other candidates named, and 44.0 percent to 30.7 percent in a field including Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson (6.0 percent) and Green Party nominee Jill Stein (2.2 percent).

The same poll of 600 Iowa registered voters finds Senator Chuck Grassley barely ahead of Democratic challenger Patty Judge, 45.8 percent to 44.5 percent.

Unfortunately for optimistic Democrats, this poll appears to be an outlier.

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PPP poll finds Grassley leading Judge by 7, Clinton ahead of Trump by 2

Today Public Policy Polling released results from six news polls of battleground states, conducted on behalf of Americans United for Change and the Constitutional Responsibility Project. The full results from the Iowa survey are here (pdf). Key findings: only 43 percent of respondents approve of Senator Chuck Grassley’s job performance, while 40 percent disapprove and the rest are unsure. If Iowa’s U.S. Senate election were held today, 46 percent of respondents would vote for Grassley, 39 percent for Democrat Patty Judge, and 14 percent would be undecided. In the presidential race, 41 percent of respondents support Hillary Clinton, 39 percent Donald Trump. After the jump I’ve enclosed highlights from Tom Jensen’s polling memo.

Another PPP poll taken earlier this month also found Grassley below 50 percent and only seven points ahead of Judge. No public poll released in 2010 ever found the senator so narrowly leading his Democratic challenger Roxanne Conlin. Republicans are likely to discount today’s survey, because it was commissioned by progressive advocacy groups. I am reserving judgment until I see other pollsters test these Iowa races. That said, the PPP questionnaire showed no sign of “priming” voters to evaluate Grassley or Trump on any particular issue. Respondents were asked about job approval and candidate preferences before answering questions related to the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy. By the way, 64 percent of respondents support Senate hearings for Judge Merrick Garland, and only 35 percent trust Donald Trump to pick a Supreme Court justice.

PPP surveyed 897 registered Iowa voters on June 22 and 23, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.

UPDATE: Added below Judge’s letter to Grassley, asking for four televised debates and one radio debate.

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Iowa reaction to landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion

In what has been called the most important abortion rights case for many years, the U.S. Supreme Court today struck down a 2013 Texas law that had forced more than 20 abortion clinics to close. Writing for the 5-3 majority in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, Justice Stephen Breyer determined, “Both the admitting-privileges and the surgical-center requirements place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, constitute an undue burden on abortion access, and thus violate the Constitution.”

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Breyer’s opinion. A succinct concurrence by Ginsburg noted, “Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory-surgical-center or hospital admitting-privileges requirements. […] Given those realities, it is beyond rational belief that [Texas law] H.B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law “would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.”

As Alexa Ura explained at Texas Tribune, today’s decision will not automatically reopen the shuttered Texas clinics. But it could lead to similar laws being struck down in 23 other states, shown on maps in this post by Sarah Kliff and Sarah Frostenson.

Iowa law does not place such restrictions on abortion providers, nor have they been the focus of recent legislative efforts by anti-abortion state lawmakers. But today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision reminded me of the unanimous Iowa Supreme Court ruling from June 2015, which used the same reasoning to reject a state ban on the use of telemedicine for abortion. Just as Iowa Supreme Court justices found no evidence suggesting that women’s health or safety would benefit from being in the same room as a doctor when taking a medication, Breyer’s opinion found nothing in the record supported the claim that the Texas regulations advanced the state’s “legitimate interest in protecting women’s health”; on the contrary, “neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes.”

I sought comment today from Governor Terry Branstad and all members of Iowa’s Congressional delegation, as well as the challengers who had not already released statements on the ruling. I will continue to update this post as needed.

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How Grassley and Ernst voted and explained their stance on failed gun control measures

In a classic example of the kabuki theater that passes for legislating these days, U.S. senators rejected four gun control measures today. Moved to act by the June 11 massacre at a gay club in Orlando, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut led a talking filibuster for more than fourteen hours last week to force a vote on a Democratic proposal to ban gun sales to people on terrorist watch list. He also introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that would expand background checks for firearms purchases, eliminating the gun show loophole. Similar proposals failed to pass the Senate last December, shortly after the mass shooting in San Bernadino.

With the blessing of the National Rifle Association, Republicans drafted their own amendments this week, ostensibly to accomplish the same goals as the Democratic legislation.

Follow me after the jump for details on the four proposals and today’s votes, as well as comments from Senator Chuck Grassley, Senator Joni Ernst, Grassley’s challenger Patty Judge, and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

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IA-Sen: EMILY's List backing Patty Judge despite imperfect pro-choice record

Former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge got a boost this morning, with a poll showing her only seven points behind U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley. Yesterday her campaign received good news on the fundraising front: an endorsement from EMILY’s List, a political action committee focused on electing pro-choice Democratic women. Since endorsing Monica Vernon last year in Iowa’s first Congressional district, EMILY’s List has helped raise more than $60,000 for Vernon’s campaign. In addition, Women Vote!, a super-PAC affiliated with EMILY’s List, spent $149,000 on advertising promoting Vernon before the Democratic primary.

Though Judge is pro-choice, I didn’t see any mention of her reproductive rights record in the EMILY’s List press release announcing yesterday’s endorsement (enclosed below) or on the page promoting Judge on the PAC’s website. Instead, the group described other aspects of Judge’s political career, touting her as “a champion for Iowa women and working families” in a “high-stakes race against an out-of-touch GOP incumbent.”

The omission made me wonder whether Judge was a consistent pro-choice vote in the Iowa Senate.

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IA-Sen: PPP shows Grassley under 50 percent approval, leading Judge 48-41

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley has only a 48 approval rating among Iowa voters and leads Democratic challenger Patty Judge by only 48 percent to 41 percent, according to a new survey by Public Policy Polling. The firm robo-polled 630 Iowa voters on June 9 and 10, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

By way of comparison, a PPP survey taken in early June 2010 showed Grassley leading Democratic candidate Roxanne Conlin by 57 percent to 31 percent. In fact, the only 2010 poll that showed Grassley below 50 percent against Conlin was by Research 2000, a firm later discredited after analysts found “extreme anomalies” in its survey results.

Democrats will be encouraged by other findings from today’s PPP polling memo:

-Grassley leads Democratic challenger Patty Judge just 48-41. The candidates are knotted with independents at 40%, and Judge has a 48/44 advantage with women.
-After years of approval ratings over 50%, Grassley continues to find himself with less than half of voters giving him good marks in the wake of voter unhappiness about his handling of the Supreme Court vacancy. Only 48% of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 41% who disapprove, including an upside down 42/50 spread with independents. His personal favorability rating is below 50% as well, at 49/42.
-Patty Judge has more room to grow. 12% of Democrats are undecided, compared to only 2% of Republicans. And while Grassley has near universal name recognition already, Judge is currently known to only 66% of voters in the state. Judge actually leads Grassley 49/45 among voters who are familiar with her.

I eagerly await the next poll of the U.S. Senate race by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register. In February, Selzer measured Grassley’s approval rating at 57 percent, amid widepsread media coverage of Senate Republicans vowing not to consider any successor to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia this year. Grassley’s approval rating has not dropped below 54 percent in any Selzer poll taken in the past ten years.

Today’s PPP poll was commissioned by the Constitutional Responsibility Project, which supports filling the Supreme Court vacancy. In early March, a PPP survey conducted on behalf of Americans United for Change found Grassley at 47 percent approval/44 percent disapproval–considerably lower numbers than Selzer’s poll had found less than two weeks before. PPP had previously measured Grassley’s approval rating at 52 percent in August 2015, 50 percent last November, and 53 percent last December.

An April survey by Hart Research Associates found Grassley’s favorability rating at only 42 percent among Iowa voters. But that poll appeared to have “primed” respondents to evaluate the senator by his stand on the Supreme Court controversy. The latest PPP survey asked about Grassley, Judge, and the IA-Sen race without any issue-based questions.

UPDATE: Added below the Republican Party of Iowa’s response to this poll. I should have mentioned that Public Policy Polling conducted some internal polling for Judge’s campaign before the primary. This Federal Election Commission report lists a $2,500 disbursement to PPP on April 16.

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Bleeding Heartland 2016 primary election prediction contest results

In contrast to 2012 and 2014, no recounts or special nominating conventions delayed the tabulation of results from Bleeding Heartland’s latest election contest.

Follow me after the jump to see which predictions in this comment thread most closely corresponded to unofficial results from the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.

Spoiler alert: yet again, I failed to win. One of these years…

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IA-Sen: Grassley touts perfect "report card" as senator continues to fumble Trump response

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley has received substantial unflattering attention this week, thanks to his weak response to Donald Trump’s racist case against a federal judge. While a steady stream of Republicans condemned Trump’s sentiments, Grassley downplayed the significance of the issue on Tuesday, inspiring this Des Moines Register editorial‘s brilliant kicker: “when it comes to Donald Trump, there are invertebrates that have shown more spine than Sen. Charles Grassley.”

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Grassley likened Trump’s opinion to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s past statements about a “wise Latina.” But he felt compelled to walk back that comparison only hours later amid a wave of criticism on national media websites and blogs.

The latest Trump scandal knocked Grassley’s campaign off the message it has been trying to relay to Iowans over the past week. A new television commercial and multiple social media postings depict Grassley as a senator with a perfect “report card” for attendance, participation, and physical fitness. Like the campaign’s first tv ad this year, this spot offers a rebuttal to “Do Your Job” taunts directed at Grassley over the Senate Judiciary Committee’s refusal to give Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing. It also employs the “Grassley Works” tag line, which has been long been a hallmark of the senator’s case for re-election. I enclose below the video and transcript.

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Low primary turnout is warning sign for Iowa Democrats

The U.S. Senate primary outcome was frustrating for supporters of Rob Hogg. Despite outperforming his numbers in the Selzer poll for the Des Moines Register, Hogg finished about 8.5 percent behind front-runner Patty Judge. Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause each took about 6.7 percent of the primary votes, which arguably kept Hogg from overcoming Judge’s higher name recognition and better-funded campaign. Many activists are upset that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee encouraged Judge to bigfoot Hogg in the first place.

Let’s set aside the blame game for now.

The low turnout in yesterday’s primary should alarm all Iowa Democrats, regardless of preference in the Senate race.

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Iowa primary election results thread

Polls closed at 9 pm across Iowa. Any comments about today’s primary elections are welcome in this thread. Anecdotally, I heard reports of low turnout from various parts of the state all day long. I will be updating this post throughout the evening. For statewide results, check the Iowa Secretary of State’s results page. The Polk County Elections Office is posting results here.

Follow me after the jump for updates. The Des Moines Register posted the video of Patty Judge’s victory speech, because our local CBS affiliate cut away from it, and the NBC and ABC affiliates had ended their election coverage before then.

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IA-Sen: Patty Judge played not to lose, and it looks like she's not losing

Since launching her U.S. Senate campaign in March, former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge has held relatively few public events. She hasn’t put out attention-getting policy proposals. Her campaign has announced high-profile endorsements through news releases, not at press conferences where tv cameras would be rolling. She didn’t come to the two televised debates ready to drop headline-grabbing talking points.

Both Iowa and national Republicans have mocked Judge’s sparse public schedule, asking, “Where’s Patty?” Even some Democrats have been puzzled by the experienced candidate’s low-profile approach to a race she entered very late.

Judge’s strategy had a certain logic, though. If her internal polling showed her well ahead of the other three Democrats seeking the nomination–expected given her higher visibility as a former statewide office-holder–packing her schedule with rallies and town-halls would have little upside. Republican video trackers, like the ones who have been following State Senator Rob Hogg around since last summer, would catch any slip and blow it out of all proportion.

Two public polls released in recent days lend support to persistent rumors in Democratic circles that surveys conducted for the Judge campaign put her 10 or 15 points ahead of her nearest rival.

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Enter Bleeding Heartland's 2016 Iowa primary election prediction contest

It’s that time of year. For your chance at bragging rights in the Bleeding Heartland community, post a comment in this thread with your answers to the following fifteen questions sometime before 7 am central time on Tuesday, June 7.

Anyone can enter, whether you now live or have ever lived in Iowa. It’s fine to change your mind about some or all of your answers, as long as you post a comment with your new predictions before the deadline.

Only comments posted in this thread will be valid contest entries. Predictions submitted by e-mail or posted on Facebook or Twitter will not be considered. Please try to answer every question, even if it’s just a wild guess. We’re all guessing anyway, since no public polls have been published for most of these races.

Bleeding Heartland user ModerateIADem won this blog’s primary election prediction contests in 2010 and 2012. There was no clear winner two years ago.

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IA-Sen: Grassley's debut tv ad stresses bipartisan Judiciary Committee work

A few days after former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge became the first U.S. Senate candidate in Iowa to run television commercials this year, six-term Senator Chuck Grassley’s campaign placed a small buy for ads in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. Despite facing no competition for the Republican nomination, Grassley has run tv ads in May during previous re-election races, most recently in 2010.

The senator’s debut spot this year carries over the “Grassley Works” slogan from past campaigns. But whereas the opening pitch from 2010 emphasized the incumbent’s personal qualities and commitment to visiting every Iowa county every year, the new spot appears designed to rebut criticism over Grassley’s refusal to hold hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

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Two reasons Patty Judge is smart to highlight flood response role

Former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge launched her first television commercial as a U.S. Senate candidate on May 24, two weeks before primary voters will determine which of four Democrats will take on six-term Senator Chuck Grassley.

The 30-second spot, which is running in the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids markets, highlights Judge’s work as the Culver administration’s Homeland Security Advisor, which gave her a leadership role as state government responded to devastating 2008 floods in eastern Iowa.

It’s a smart strategy.

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Three hopes for the Des Moines Register's new chief politics reporter Jason Noble

Congratulations are in order for Jason Noble, whom the Des Moines Register hired as chief political reporter after conducting a national search. Noble joined the Register in 2011, having previously covered the Missouri statehouse for the Kansas City Star. He wrote most of the Register’s articles about Michele Bachmann before the 2012 Iowa caucuses and reported on Jeb Bush’s Iowa campaign last year. Since March 2015, Noble has been on the “Reality Check” beat, checking the accuracy of political or policy statements for the Register and occasionally for Politifact. He also produced the 10-part Three Tickets podcast series about the history of the Iowa caucuses.

I’m excited to see how Noble approaches what he called “the best job in journalism.” The Register has a massive agenda-setting role, not just for other Iowa media. The paper’s reporting on this year’s U.S. Senate race will be watched closely by the national press corps. As Noble puts his stamp on his new position, I hope he will:

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Iowa's Democracy Spring

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts advocating for candidates in competitive Democratic primaries. Please read these guidelines before writing. -promoted by desmoinesdem

In the 2016 Iowa Democratic Senate primary, if we are not careful, we are going to get corporate ag anti-environment, anti-labor Patty Judge jammed down our throats. The two progressives in the race are Tom Fiegen and Rob Hogg. The purpose of this letter is to compare the two on the issues that are important to us as progressives:clean water, CAFOs, blocking the Prestage slaughter plant in Mason City, the Bakken pipeline, $15 minimum wage, family farming, economic fairness and immigrant rights.

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IA-Sen: Poll shows Grassley's favorability below 50 percent

Only 42 percent of Iowa voters have a favorable view of Senator Chuck Grassley and a majority disagree with the Senate Judiciary Committee chair’s refusal to give U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland hearings and a confirmation vote, according to a new poll Seung Min Kim reported exclusively for Politico today. Hart Research Associates surveyed 400 Iowa voters and conducted “101 additional interviews with registered independents in the state” between April 22 and 24 on behalf of the Constitutional Responsibility Project and the League of Conservation Voters. Geoff Garin’s two-page polling memo is available here.

While Grassley’s favorable/unfavorable ratings were 42/30 in the new poll, a Hart survey two years ago showed 60 percent of Iowa respondents responded positively to Grassley and just 19 percent negatively.

A couple of caveats:

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Weekend open thread: Iowa Democratic district conventions edition

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

The Iowa Democratic Party’s conventions in the four Congressional districts yesterday elected 29 delegates and four alternates for the Democratic National Convention as well as members of various party committees.

Unlike 2008, when Barack Obama gained significant ground at Iowa’s county and district conventions, this weekend’s allocation of delegates for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders was the same as what would have been predicted based on the February 1 precinct caucus results. The Iowa Democratic Party released this table on April 30:

IDP district convention delegates photo IDPdistrictconventions_zps5ibx8ljl.png

I’ll update this post later when the full lists of delegates and State Central Committee members become available. Some notable results are after the jump.

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IA-Sen: Two big labor endorsements for Rob Hogg

Two of Iowa’s largest labor organizations are backing State Senator Rob Hogg in the four-way Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. Speaking to delegates at the Iowa Democratic Party’s second Congressional district convention this morning, Hogg announced that the Iowa Federation of Labor has endorsed him, Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble reported. A couple of hours later at the first district convention, Hogg announced the support of AFSCME Council 61, which represents tens of thousands of public employees.

During his speech at a campaign event in Urbandale on April 25, Hogg mentioned his strong pro-labor voting record during four years of service in the Iowa House and ten in the Iowa Senate. Also relevant: Hogg’s main primary rival is Patty Judge, who was not known as a champion on labor issues in the Iowa legislature and was lieutenant governor when Governor Chet Culver vetoed a collective bargaining bill in 2008. I do not recall Judge speaking publicly about that bill at the time, but the veto caused lingering bad blood between Culver and the organized labor community.

Labor support doesn’t always carry the day in Iowa Democratic politics. Mike Blouin fell a bit short against Culver in the 2006 gubernatorial primary despite having more labor endorsements, including from AFSCME. Still, financial and/or organizational help from AFSCME and the IFL will be a boost for Hogg as he competes against Judge, Bob Krause, and Tom Fiegen to get out the vote before June 7. Judge spoke this morning to delegates at the third and fourth district conventions and is scheduled to appear at the other conventions in the afternoon. Krause and Fiegen were planning to appear at all the conventions today as well.

Any comments about the Senate race are welcome in this thread. At this writing, statements about the latest endorsements for Hogg have not appeared on either labor organization’s website or on Hogg’s Senate campaign website. I will update as needed.

UPDATE: Speaking by phone on April 30, Hogg said he was “really excited about the labor endorsements. I think it will really magnify the grassroots support that I already have. I think it’s because we share a view that we need to create an economy that works for all Americans. And I have that voting record in the Iowa legislature–I’ve got a 99 percent lifetime Iowa Federation of Labor voting record. I didn’t set out to have that, but that’s how they’ve scored me, and I’m very, very proud of that and very excited about the endorsement.”

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Two ways to vote early in Iowa's June 7 primary

Early voting for Iowa’s Democratic and Republican primaries began today, 40 days before the June 7 election. Several candidates held events to mark the occasion. Jim Mowrer’s campaign had a presence in the morning at the Polk County Elections Office, while his third Congressional district Democratic rival Mike Sherzan was first in line to cast an early ballot in Dallas County. Iowans have two options for voting early in the primary.

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IA-Sen: DSCC makes the obvious official, Judge doesn't talk about it

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee recruited former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge to run against Senator Chuck Grassley, praised her as a “formidable challenger” the day she launched her campaign, and invited her to lunch with Democratic senators in Washington a few days later. So it was no surprise when the DSCC made its support for Judge official on April 20.

Judge’s campaign has touted endorsements from influential Iowa Democrats but didn’t spread the word about the DSCC’s announcement this week–probably because backing from Washington insiders feeds into talking points Republicans and Democratic rivals have already been using.

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IA-Sen: Judge playing down, Hogg playing up differences on water quality

Photo of Iowa stream courtesy of InIowaWater.org, a project of the Environmental Law & Policy Center

By entering the U.S. Senate race, former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge ensured that environmental issues would become salient for many Iowa Democrats trying to choose among the four candidates running against Senator Chuck Grassley.

During the past two weeks, Judge has sought to minimize the daylight between herself and State Senator Rob Hogg on the need to address water pollution. But Hogg, widely considered Judge’s leading rival for the nomination, has made environmental concerns a big part of his pitch to Democrats.

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IA-Sen: Patty Judge highlights support from women in first batch of endorsements

Claiming to have “a broad, statewide network that can work together to defeat Chuck Grassley,” former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge today released a list of nearly 60 prominent Iowa Democrats supporting her candidacy for U.S. Senate. I enclose below the full campaign statement, which highlighted endorsements from:

• “every living Democratic woman to hold a statewide office in Iowa,” namely former Attorney General Bonnie Campbell, former Secretary of State Elaine Baxter, and former Lieutenant Governors Sally Pederson and Jo Ann Zimmerman. Gender will be a factor for many Iowa Democrats weighing their choices in the four-way IA-Sen primary.

• “activists and community leaders,” such as LGBTQ advocates Nate Monson, Cecilia Martinez, and Bobbi Fogle; Jill June, the longtime leader of Iowa’s largest Planned Parenthood chapter; Joe Henry, national vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens; and former Secretary of State nominee Brad Anderson.

• “current and former elected officials,” including former U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell, Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald, former Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, and former Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran.

• former Iowa Democratic Party chairs Rob Tully and Michael Kiernan (and Bonnie Campbell), along with current and former county party chairs.

Also worth noting:

• While Judge’s list is heavy on Iowans who backed Hillary Clinton for president, it includes some well-known Bernie Sanders endorsers like Gluba and Henry.

• Judge has not peeled away any of the 61 Democratic state lawmakers (including 25 women) who endorsed State Senator Rob Hogg for IA-Sen earlier this year, before the former lieutenant governor and Iowa secretary of agriculture was known to be considering this race.

Any comments about the Senate campaign are welcome in this thread. With all respect to Judge and the women and men named below, someone who aligned herself with the Iowa Farm Bureau against efforts to clean up waterways will never get my vote in a Democratic primary.

P.S.- I got a kick out of seeing both Joe Henry and Des Moines activist Sean Bagniewski on Judge’s supporter list. Less than two weeks ago, they were key players on opposite sides in the epic drama also known as the Polk County Democratic Convention.

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IA-03: Poll is testing negative messages about Jim Mowrer and Mike Sherzan (updated)

UPDATE: I got this call myself on March 22 and recorded the questions, so was able to fill in gaps below.

A poll is in the field testing negative messages about two of the three Democratic candidates running in Iowa’s third Congressional district. I haven’t received the call, but I discussed it with two respondents, one of whom shared notes on the poll with me. I encourage all activists to take notes on political surveys, whether they are legitimate message-testing polls, like this one, or push-polls. Campaigns use message-testing to collect and analyze data about candidates’ strengths and weaknesses and which talking points resonate with voters. In contrast, as Kathy Frankovic explained here a push-poll is “political telemarketing masquerading as a poll,” designed solely to disseminate negative information.

Three Democrats are seeking the nomination in IA-03: Desmund Adams, Jim Mowrer, and Mike Sherzan. The respondents who told me about this poll heard negative messages about Mowrer and Sherzan only. Both had said on the first ballot test that they were supporting Mowrer. If any Bleeding Heartland readers receive the same call, please say you plan to vote for Adams and then let me know whether the caller presents a list of unflattering statements about him. (UPDATE: Another respondent reports that he indicated strong support for Adams but was not given negative information about him.)

It’s possible that whoever paid for this call–my hunch is Sherzan’s campaign–is more concerned about Mowrer than Adams, because Mowrer has a lot of support from Democratic insiders and more funds to raise his name recognition across the district before June 7.

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IA-04: GOP State Senator Rick Bertrand will challenge Steve King

Bret Hayworth had the scoop this morning for the Sioux City Journal, and State Senator Rick Bertrand told the rest of the world at a press conference this afternoon:

“I’m Rick Bertrand, I’m real, and I’m running!” Bertrand said in announcing his candidacy [in the fourth Congressional district]. He added, “I am a viable and credible candidate, and will pose the greatest challenge Mr. King has faced in 14 years.”

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First thoughts on Obama nominating Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court

President Barack Obama decided to nominate Judge Merrick Garland of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals for the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy. Of the six judges most often named as possible nominees, Garland was my least favorite. He’s a 60-something white guy with a lot of conservative fans whose record shows a slant toward law enforcement and against criminal defendants. We can do better.

I’ve heard speculation that the president didn’t want to “waste” a good nominee this year, knowing the Republican-controlled Senate will likely not confirm his choice. This way, all of the more appealing choices will be fresh faces for Hillary Clinton to choose from next year, if she is elected president.

My immediate concern is that GOP senators will wake up in the fall and realize that 1) Donald Trump cannot win the presidency, and 2) weakness at the top of the ticket may take down their Senate majority, so 3) they better hurry up and confirm Garland before Clinton has a chance to pick a more liberal judge.

Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley was one of the 23 Republicans who voted against confirming Garland in 1997, not because of Garland’s qualifications, but because in his view, “the evidence does not support filling the [appeals court] vacancy at a cost to taxpayers of $1 million a year.”

I will update this post with more reaction after Obama’s announcement. UPDATE: Further news is after the jump.

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IA-Sen: Robert Rees ends GOP primary challenge to Chuck Grassley

Conservative Republican Robert Rees announced this afternoon that he is ending the U.S. Senate campaign he launched in January. He explained in a statement posted on his campaign’s website,

Due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the subsequent entrance in to the race by former Lt. Governor Patty Judge, the dynamics of the U.S. Senate race in Iowa have changed.

While we are on pace to get on the ballot, I have decided to not run for U.S. Senate at this time.

Rees had been struggling to collect enough signatures to qualify for the GOP primary ballot. Nominating papers must be submitted to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office by the close of business this Friday, March 18. At this writing, Grassley and two of his four declared Democratic challengers (tate Senator Rob Hogg and former State Senator Tom Fiegen) have qualified to run in the June 7 primary. Former State Representative Bob Krause and Judge have not yet submitted their petitions.

Although Rees was never positioned to defeat Grassley, I regret his exit from the race, because his performance on June 7 would have signaled how many highly engaged Iowa Republicans are dissatisfied with the party’s most popular establishment figure. Little-known Tom Hoefling won just under 17 percent of the vote in his 2014 GOP primary challenge to Governor Terry Branstad.

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Grassley's Republican challenger: "GOP Leadership Doesn't Want Me On The Ballot"

Six-term U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley qualified for the Republican primary ballot today after submitting more than 20,000 signatures to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office on Friday. But Grassley’s would-be GOP challenger Robert Rees is struggling to meet the March 18 deadline to submit at least 3,331 valid signatures from at least ten Iowa counties. In an e-mail blast on Saturday, Rees asserted, “part of the reason we’ve had a tough time getting the signatures required is because the establishment doesn’t want me on the ballot.”

Record-breaking attendance at this year’s Republican caucuses created good opportunities for GOP candidates to put their nominating papers in front of activists around the state. However, Rees asserted in the e-mail (enclosed in full below) that only eight of the 99 GOP county chairs helped his campaign collect signatures on caucus night. His campaign sent petition forms to the 30 largest counties ahead of this weekend’s county conventions, but “Early on in the day on March 12th, we were being told that some counties were dissuading people from signing them and some didn’t put them out at all!” Rees then described and refuted “some new arguments” being used to justify denying him ballot access. Rees has been working hard in recent weeks to collect signatures–reaching out to voters at the girls state high school basketball tournament, for instance. But as of yesterday, his campaign still needed well over a thousand signatures to reach its goal. (Candidates typically submit far more than the minimum number, in case some signatures turn out to be invalid.)

If Rees ends up on the ballot for the June primary, I doubt he would receive even the 16.8 percent of the vote Tom Hoefling got in his bid for the 2014 gubernatorial nomination against Terry Branstad. It’s interesting that GOP leaders are actively working against his efforts to qualify for the primary, though. I guess they don’t want someone traveling the state for the next two and a half months telling voters that Grassley has been in office too long.

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Tom Fiegen, candidate for U.S. Senate Iowa, receives endorsement from Reverend Dr. Frantz Whitfield, respected Iowa Social Justice and Civil Rights leader.

Clarence Iowa – Today, Tom Fiegen’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate, Iowa, received the endorsement of Reverend Dr. Frantz Whitfield, respected Social Justice and Civil Rights leader and the pastor of Mt Carmel Baptist Church in Waterloo, Iowa.

Tom said, “I am humbled and honored by Rev. Dr. Frantz Whitfield’s endorsement. It is far more important than the endorsement of Washington, D.C. insiders and big-money establishment politicians. Dr. Whitfield is a respected Social Justice and Civil Rights leader in Iowa. He is a powerful and eloquent voice for working and oppressed Iowans. He speaks to the same economic and social issues that our campaign is all about.”

Rev. Whitfield’s endorsement eloquently says, “Robert F. Kennedy once stated “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not? Tom is the “Why Not” candidate – a candidate who is concerned about the ailments of the American people, he projects the voices of the unheard, and they are found in my friend Tom Fiegen. He is the only person qualified to add to the Political Revolution that is about to sweep this nation. Make the right choice, and elect Tom Fiegen for U.S. Senate.”

The influential Waterloo minister is the pastor of the Mt Carmel Baptist church in Waterloo, Iowa. Reverend Whitfield recounted the first time he saw Tom Fiegen, while sitting at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Des Moines last fall, at the table with Senator Bernie Sanders. He saw Tom Fiegen hold up a Bernie Sanders sign to the roar of thousands of JJ Dinner attendees. He said he was impressed at Tom’s courage and convictions.

Fiegen said, “Our campaign is honored to have the support of Rev. Dr. Whitfield. We are about representing working people and all Iowans, especially those who have gone unheard the last 35 years. Our campaign is about taking back our economy and our government from the grip of the special interests who bribe and own our elected leaders. Like Rev. Dr. Frantz, we are about returning to a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

learn more: http://fiegenforussenate.com/

Patty Judge enters the US Senate race in Iowa. It's about Citizens United.

A fourth Iowa Democrat joins the race to un-seat republican US Senator Chuck Grassley. Her name is Patty Judge. US Senate candidate Tom Fiegen — a Sanders Democrat — issued a warning to progressive Iowa democrats this week about the Big Money influence pulling the strings of this latest candidate to enter the race.

“I welcome Lt. Governor Judge to the race because of the contrast between us. Her political base is big money industrial agriculture interests where poisoning Iowa’s waters is part of the deal. The majority of Iowans want clean drinking water and small family farmers growing more fresh healthy local food. A majority of Iowans want Citizens United overturned. Make no mistake, this election is a choice between status-quo politics where everything is for sale to the high bidder and the politics of putting the needs of working people ahead of Super PACs.”

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Two bizarre takes on the IA-Sen Democratic primary

Patty Judge’s decision to run for U.S. Senate was Iowa’s biggest political news last week. Taking their cue from Washington-based pols who recruited the former lieutenant governor, many national reporters who covered the story took for granted that Judge will be the Democratic challenger to six-term Senator Chuck Grassley, glossing over the fact that she will face serious competition in the June primary.

On the flip side, the Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich and Howie Klein of the Down With Tyranny! blog recently made some odd assessments in their reviews of the Democratic race for Senate.

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IA-Sen: Des Moines Register poll shows strong approval for Grassley

Iowans who approve of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley’s work greatly outnumber those who disapprove, according to the latest poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom. Selzer conducted the survey between February 21 and 24, when Grassley’s stance against filling the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy was a prominent news topic. Among the 804 Iowa respondents, 57 percent said they approved of the way Grassley is handling his job and 28 percent disapproved.

That approval is down 7 percentage points from a year ago, but it remains well within his normal range over the last several years, Register pollster J. Ann Selzer said. Over the past decade, Grassley has rated as high as 75 percent, in January 2009, and as low as 54 percent, in February 2010.

Public Policy Polling’s last several Iowa surveys have all measured Grassley’s approval at 50 percent or higher, well above his disapproval rating, and showed the senator leading any of his declared Democratic challengers by more than 20 points. PPP surveys in the field last week indicated that GOP senators up for re-election in Ohio and Pennsylvania could be hurt by the refusal even to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. However, those senators don’t have Grassley’s 36 years of constituent service and traveling the state every year to fall back on.

Whether Grassley’s general election opponent turns out to be Patty Judge or Rob Hogg, Democrats have a long way to go to make this race competitive.

Incidentally, the Selzer poll showed that about a year into Senator Joni Ernst’s tenure, 43 percent of respondents approve of her work, while 31 percent disapprove and 25 percent are not sure. PPP has found similar approval numbers for Ernst in recent months, with disapproval numbers also in the low 40s.

UPDATE: Public Policy Polling released a new Iowa poll on March 4. Grassley’s approval and disapproval numbers were 47 percent and 44 percent, “down considerably from what we usually find for him as he loses crossover support from Democrats because of his intransigence on the Supreme Court issue.” Some 56 percent of all Iowa respondents and 58 percent of independents in the sample “want the Supreme Court vacancy to be filled this year.” In addition, by a 66 percent to 26 percent margin, Iowa respondents “say that the Senate should at least wait and see who’s put forward before deciding whether to confirm or deny that person.” Among independents in the sample, just 24 percent say they would be more likely to vote for Grassley if he refuses to confirm the president’s Supreme Court nominee, 48 percent say they would be less likely to vote for him, and 28 percent say it would make no difference.

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IA-Sen: Three fault lines in a Democratic primary between Patty Judge and Rob Hogg

Former Lieutenant Governor and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge will seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, Jason Noble reported today for the Des Moines Register, citing multiple unnamed sources. She will make her candidacy official tomorrow. Two weeks should be plenty of time for her supporters to collect the 2,104 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

Three Democrats are already competing for the chance to run against six-term incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley, but once Judge enters the race, the main contest will be between her and State Senator Rob Hogg. Intending no disrespect to Tom Fiegen or Bob Krause, their performance in the 2010 IA-Sen primary suggests they will not be major factors on June 7.

I see three main factors influencing Iowa Democrats as they decide between Judge and Hogg.

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IA-Sen: Patty Judge thinking about challenging Chuck Grassley

The Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble snagged a surprising scoop yesterday: former Lieutenant Governor and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge is considering running for the U.S. Senate this year. Referring to Grassley’s approach to the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, Judge told Noble,

“Iowans have always been straight shooters, and up until the recent time I would have said the same thing about Chuck,” Judge said. […]

“I don’t like this double-speak,” Judge said. “I don’t like this deliberate obstruction of the process. I think Chuck Grassley owes us better. He’s been with us a long time. Maybe he’s been with us too long.”

To qualify for the Democratic primary ballot, Judge would need to submit nominating papers with the Secretary of State’s Office by March 18, three weeks from today. That doesn’t leave much time to collect at least 2,104 signatures, including minimum amounts in at least ten Iowa counties. But Judge could pull together a campaign quickly, having won three statewide elections–for secretary of agriculture in 1998 and 2002 and on the ticket with Chet Culver in 2006.

Three other Democrats are seeking the nomination to run against Grassley: State Senator Rob Hogg, former State Senator Tom Fiegen, and former State Representative Bob Krause. Former State Representative Ray Zirkelbach launched a U.S. Senate campaign in November but ended his campaign last month, Zirkelbach confirmed by phone this morning.

Dozens of Democratic state lawmakers endorsed Hogg in January. I enclose the full list below. Any comments about the Senate race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Rebecca Tuetken notes, “Patty Judge does meet one apparent Iowa requirement: she told @SenatorHarkin ’08 steak fry that she can castrate a calf.” Truly a classic moment for Judge, when Joni Ernst was still the little-known Montgomery County auditor.

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Thoughts on the political fallout from Grassley's obstruction of a Supreme Court nominee

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has put a spotlight on Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. After wavering last week on whether he would be willing to hold hearings on President Barack Obama’s choice to replace Scalia, on Tuesday Grassley joined all other Republicans on the committee to vow that no Supreme Court nominee will get any consideration this year. Not only that, Senate Republican leaders will refuse to meet with the nominee. Grassley is open to discussing the Supreme Court vacancy with the president, but only as an “opportunity to explain the position of the majority to allow the American people to decide.”

Grassley’s hypocrisy is evident when you compare his recent statements with what he said in 2008 about the Senate’s role in confirming judicial nominees, even in the final year of a president’s term. His refusal to do one of the key tasks of the Judiciary Committee may also undercut what has been the central slogan of the senator’s re-election campaigns: “Grassley works for us.”

UPDATE: Former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge is thinking about jumping in to the U.S. Senate race, because of Grassley’s “double-speak” and “deliberate obstruction of the process.” My first thoughts on a possible Judge candidacy are here. I’ve also enclosed Grassley’s response to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid at the end of this post.

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IA-Sen: Robert Rees challenging Chuck Grassley in GOP primary

Catching up on news from the busy final weeks before the Iowa caucuses, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley has a rival for the GOP nomination. Robert Rees launched his campaign on January 18, pledging to support term limits for members of Congress and the 10th Amendment, which reserves for the states powers not delegated to the federal government. Rees most recently worked as a conservative talk radio host but fell victim to a format change in October, when 98.3 FM in Des Moines switched to classic hip hop. Rees has a campaign website and is on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. He frequently uploads “campaign diaries” and other videos to his YouTube channel.

After the jump I’ve posted background on Rees, some of his answers to frequently asked questions about his challenge to Grassley, and his introductory video, in which he notes that Grassley has been in Washington, DC since a year before Rees was born. I’ve also enclosed excerpts from two articles linked on the Rees campaign website. Among other things, those pieces criticize Grassley for approving too many judges nominated by President Barack Obama–which is comical, since during Grassley’s first year as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate confirmed only eleven federal judges, “the fewest in a single year since 1960.”

I can’t conceive of any scenario in which Grassley loses a Republican primary, but assuming Rees qualifies for the ballot, it will be interesting to see how many conservatives cast protest votes for him. For reference, Tom Hoefling got just under 17 percent of the vote in his 2014 GOP primary challenge to Governor Terry Branstad. Turnout is likely to be very low on June 7, since no other statewide offices are elected this year, and only one of Iowa’s four Congressional districts appears likely to have a competitive GOP primary (Representative David Young is expected to face at least one conservative challenger in IA-03).

Rees had nominating petitions out at some Republican precinct caucuses on February 1. To qualify for the primary ballot, he will need to submit to the Secretary of State’s office by March 18 at least 3,331 signatures (0.5% of the votes cast for Governor Terry Branstad in Iowa’s 2014 general election). In addition, those signatures must be collected in at least ten counties, and for each of those counties, the number of signatures on nominating petitions must equal at least 1 percent of the votes cast for Branstad in the 2014 general election.

A few conservatives made noise about a primary challenge to Grassley in 2009, when it appeared he might support some version of health care reform, but they never followed through. Iowa’s senior senator defused some anger on his right flank by warning that end-of-life counseling provisions in the proposed bill could let people “pull the plug on grandma,” though he had voted for a previous law including such counseling. He later voted against the Affordable Care Act in committee and on the Senate floor, while seeking credit for some of its provisions.

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Branstad joins rush to slam door on Syrian refugees

Yesterday Governor Terry Branstad joined the club of 24 governors (23 Republicans and a Democrat) who have said their states will not accept refugees from Syria. They don’t have the power to block resettlement of refugees within their state borders, any more than pandering presidential candidates would be able to adopt unconstitutional religion-based criteria for deciding which people to allow into this country.

Still, Branstad’s knee-jerk reaction to Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris is a disappointing retreat from the more reasonable stance he took earlier this fall on refugees from Syria coming to Iowa.

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Ray Zirkelbach becomes fourth Democrat to run for U.S. Senate--but why?


Former State Representative Ray Zirkelbach is officially exploring a candidacy for U.S. Senate in 2016, James Q. Lynch reported for the Cedar Rapids Gazette on November 7.

Although the field is getting crowded — former legislators Bob Krause of Fairfield and Tom Fiegen of Clarence, and State Sen. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids have all entered the race — Zirkelbach, 37, believes he’ll be the Democratic Party’s best candidate to defeat [Senator Chuck] Grassley. His ideas will set him apart from the others, Zirkelbach said. […]

“It’s about progress,” he said.

First elected to the Iowa House in 2004, Zirkelbach served three terms before losing his 2010 re-election bid. He missed the 2006 and 2007 legislative sessions, because his Iowa Army National Guard unit had been called up to serve in Iraq.

I have not seen a website or Facebook page for Zirkelbach’s U.S. Senate exploratory committee yet, but will update this post as needed. In lieu of an up to date official bio, I have posted the “member profile” that appeared on the Iowa House Democrats website during Zirkelbach’s third term. Zirkelbach’s Twitter account hasn’t been active since 2009; his personal Facebook feed is here.

I struggle to understand why Zirkelbach would run for Senate when we already have three progressive Democrats in the field, including one (Hogg) with a much stronger background of legislative accomplishments.

Meanwhile, to my knowledge, Democrats have no declared candidate against GOP State Representative Lee Hein in Iowa House district 96, where Zirkelbach lives (a map is at the end of this post). Hein defeated Zirkelbach in the 2010 wave election, and Democrats didn’t field a challenger against him in 2012 or 2014. Taking on the incoming House Agriculture Committee chair would be a long-shot race; House district 96 leans to the GOP with 4,386 active registered Democrats, 5,761 Republicans, and 8,483 no-party voters according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. But Zirkelbach would be much better positioned to defeat Hein than Grassley.

UPDATE: Pat Rynard spoke to Zirkelbach about his Senate bid. Added excerpts to that post below.

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Warning to Marco Rubio: Iowa Republicans primed to care about missing work in Congress

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is treading on dangerous ground by continuing to avoid the Capitol when he already has missed more votes than most of his colleagues. Last week, he cast his first vote in nearly a month, then skipped several more roll calls to go back on the presidential campaign trail. Rubio apparently feels he can frame his poor attendance as a virtue. “Frustrated” by the ineffective Senate, he prioritizes running for president “so that the votes they take in the Senate are actually meaningful again.”

I doubt that argument will convince many politically engaged people, judging by comments I’ve seen in news accounts and on social media. It’s particularly ill-suited for Iowans, who have been primed to value a good attendance record and to view missed work in Congress as a major character flaw.

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Thoughts on the Iowa Democratic Party's final Jefferson-Jackson dinner

The Iowa Democratic Party held its final Jefferson-Jackson dinner Saturday night, drawing some 6,000 activists to hear three presidential candidates speak in Des Moines. Last night’s spectacle won’t loom as large over the Iowa caucus campaign as the JJ did in 2007, when it took place in November and the caucuses were scheduled for early January, rather than February. But some new tactics emerged during the speeches by presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, and Hillary Clinton. My thoughts on the evening’s highlights are after the jump.

I am a sucker for hand-made political signs, so I also enclose below my favorite pictures from the crowds in the bleachers. I put “Feel the Bern” in lights up top because I’ve never seen electrified signs at the JJ before.

While I see the value in supporters waving signs (or glow sticks, as many did last night) at a big rally, the “sign wars” some campaigns stage before multi-candidate events have always struck me as pointless. How does it demonstrate “organizational strength” to send a few staffers to put up printed materials in windows or along a road? Why would anyone want their volunteers to stand around yelling for hours before the dinner, rather than saving their energy and voices to show that enthusiasm inside the hall? For those who disagree with me and love the show, Pat Rynard chronicled the morning and afternoon activities by all three campaigns at Iowa Starting Line.

As for why I called it the “final” JJ, the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual fall fundraiser will continue under a to-be-determined name honoring icons considered more inclusive. You can send your suggestion to the state party using this form through February 15, 2016.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa Wing Ding edition

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

More than twenty Iowa Democratic county committees put on a great “Wing Ding” in Clear Lake Friday night. The Surf Ballroom was packed to capacity, thanks to appearances by four of the five Democratic presidential hopefuls. Despite a fairly long list of speakers including candidates for U.S. House and Senate and State Senator Amanda Ragan, who was receiving an award, the Wing Ding amazingly finished ahead of schedule. I enclose below my take on all the speeches.

For those following the saga of three former Ron Paul campaign operatives, recently indicted for their role in making illegal payments to then State Senator Kent Sorenson: Russ Choma covered the prosecutors’ latest court filing for Mother Jones. Prosecutors allege the operatives “were prepared to leak documents to harm Sorenson in 2012 if they couldn’t obtain his endorsement for Ron Paul.” An attorney for Jesse Benton acknowledged that in late 2011, his client “threatened to expose Mr. Sorenson, believing that Mr. Sorenson was trying to blackmail the 2012 RP Campaign, if Mr. Sorenson did not make up his mind on whether to commit to the Ron Paul Campaign.” But the lawyer said Benton did not follow through on what he described as “a knee-jerk, emotional reaction.” Of course, there would have been no reason to carry out the threat after Sorenson agreed to take the money in exchange for switching his allegiance to Paul.

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IA-Sen: Rob Hogg exploring challenge to Chuck Grassley

Democratic State Senator Rob Hogg announced today,

I have formed an exploratory committee to consider becoming a candidate for the United States Senate in 2016.  Like many Iowans, I believe we need Congress to work better for all of our citizens and our country’s future.  If we had a Congress that worked better, we could:

> Build a vibrant, full-employment economy that works for all Americans.

> Improve public health and public safety through prevention, prevention, and more prevention.

> Strengthen Social Security and Medicare and fulfill our commitments to seniors, veterans, and people living with disabilities.

> Confront the challenge of our century – climate change – through solutions that work for our economy, our health, and our environment.

Hogg didn’t set a timetable for deciding on a U.S. Senate bid but said he will travel around Iowa in the coming weeks. His full press release and official bio are after the jump. His exploratory committee is on the web here. He’s on Twitter @SenatorRobHogg and on Facebook here.

Hogg was just re-elected to his third four-year term in the Iowa Senate last November, so he would not have to give up his legislative seat in order to run for U.S. Senate in 2016. Most recently, he has chaired the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee; before that, he chaired the Judiciary Committee. He is among the most outspoken Iowa lawmakers on climate change and other environmental issues.

Two Democrats have already announced plans to run against Grassley: former State Representative Bob Krause and former State Senator Tom Fiegen. They recently discussed their key issues with Mike Glover of the Iowa Daily Democrat. Krause and Fiegen also competed in the 2010 Democratic primary, which Roxanne Conlin won with about 77 percent of the vote.

UPDATE: Added below further comments from Hogg, via Iowa Starting Line.

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