Twelve quick takes on the third Democratic debate

First disclaimer: I don’t agree with the Democratic National Committee’s debate criteria and encourage Iowans to keep listening to all the presidential candidates.

Second disclaimer: I doubt anything that happens more than four months before anyone votes will significantly affect the battle for the Democratic nomination. As Dan Guild has shown, history tells us more than half of Iowa Democrats who participated in the 2004 and 2008 caucuses decided in the final month.

That said, here are my thoughts on last night’s three-hour debate at Texas Southern University in Houston.

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IA-04: Joni Ernst's neutrality hurts Randy Feenstra more than Steve King

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst made headlines in Iowa and national media this week when she told reporters on a conference call she “will not be endorsing anyone” for the Republican nomination in the fourth Congressional district.

Strictly speaking, her announcement wasn’t news. Within days of State Senator Randy Feenstra’s campaign launch in January, Ernst said she didn’t plan to endorse in the IA-04 primary, Bret Hayworth reported for the Sioux City Journal at the time.

Many commentators have viewed Ernst’s distancing as a political blow to King, whom she enthusiastically endorsed the first time he faced a GOP primary challenger. Similarly, Governor Kim Reynolds and Senator Chuck Grassley backed King in that 2016 race but have vowed to stay neutral before next June’s primary.

While King would surely welcome the backing of Republican heavyweights for what may be the toughest race of his career, Feenstra likely needs that boost more.

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Lights for Liberty

Megan Dake is a mother and teacher at East High School in Des Moines. -promoted by Laura Belin

As the daughter of an immigrant, I have always valued the American Dream. My father was less than three years old when he came to this country with his family. Like so many others, they wanted to chase that dream; they wanted a better life. America opened its arms. My father learned English, he went to college, he became a teacher. The American Dream was real. But somewhere along the way, this dream has become a nightmare.

Today, I am also teacher. East High in Des Moines is the largest high school in Iowa and the majority of our students are Latinx.

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We all come to look for America

Abshir Omar “made a decision — I would not stand idly by as the ladder was pulled up behind me and refugees across the world lost a chance at a better life.” -promoted by Laura Belin

There are many times in my life where I’ve stopped to take a moment and reflect on how far I’ve come from my war-torn neighborhood in Mogadishu, Somalia. Today, on World Refugee Day, I’m taking a moment to reflect on my journey of fleeing from a civil war to seeking asylum in America and now, accepting a job to be Bernie Sanders’ Iowa Political Coordinator.

On Bernie Sanders’ Iowa team, I’ll be working to not only win the caucus in February, but to complete a political revolution that started right here in Iowa back in 2016. This political revolution is close to my heart because it is about more than just winning an election, it is about transforming our political system into something more inclusive. Where young Muslims have national leaders who support them. Where refugees see America as a place of opportunity, not xenophobia and hatred. Where working families don’t fear that their children might go hungry or without a good education.

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IA-01: First thoughts on a possible Rod Blum-Abby Finkenauer rematch

Thomas Nelson of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier was first to report last week that former U.S. Representative Rod Blum’s campaign has spent $11,365 on polling this year. Blum’s quarterly filing with the Federal Election Commission showed two disbursements to the candidate’s longtime pollster in early January.

The payments exceeded the $4,119 Blum for Congress owed The Polling Company at the end of December, indicating that Blum commissioned new surveys in the first district and wasn’t merely settling debts left over from the 2018 campaign.

While I have not been able to find details about the questions asked, his campaign likely tested voters’ views on key issues as well as approval and favorability numbers for himself and Representative Abby Finkenauer. Blum hasn’t ruled out running for office again. Nelson noted that he appeared at a Jones County GOP event on April 11.

No Republican has confirmed plans to run against Finkenauer. I see Blum as a weaker challenger than State Representative Ashley Hinson, who has said she’s considering the race and will make her intentions known after the legislative session ends.

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Julian Castro offers an immigration policy with an international approach

John Webb is a writer in Des Moines. Please read these guidelines if you would like to contribute to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of the Iowa caucuses. -promoted by Laura Belin

Julian Castro has not yet caught fire in the mainstream media, and I think part of the reason is that he is not easily defined in neat and tidy terms. He is a product of public schools who went on to graduate from Harvard Law. He is the grandson of a woman who came to the U.S. at age 12 following the death of her parents. He is progressive and pragmatic in equal measure, yet he stresses bold policies to address big issues.

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