# Martin O'Malley



Terry McAuliffe polling Iowans? Notes on a survey

I encourage activists to take notes on political surveys and share what they’ve heard. Bleeding Heartland user corncam did a great job. -promoted by Laura Belin

We can add one more name to the list of presidential candidates who may compete in the 2020 Iowa caucuses: former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. I completed a phone survey on January 14 that was ostensibly neutral, but I’m pretty sure it was sponsored by McAuliffe. I’ll tell you why below.

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Strange gatekeeping in first Des Moines Register/CNN Iowa caucus poll

A little more than a year before Iowa Democrats will start the process of selecting a challenger to face President Donald Trump, Selzer & Co has polled likely Democratic caucus-goers for the Des Moines Register, CNN, and Mediacom. Brianne Pfannenstiel wrote up the key findings from the survey of 455 Iowans “who say they will definitely or probably participate in the 2020 Democratic caucuses.”

The toplines were not surprising, but I was baffled by some of the choices on which candidates to include.

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Part 4: How to corrupt Iowa agriculture

Latest deep dive by Tyler Higgs on money in Iowa politics. -promoted by desmoinesdem

There’s nothing more Iowan than farming, and there’s nothing more dangerous than a corrupt politician. Those idyllic Grant Wood images of Iowa farms and hard-working Iowa farmers are being replaced by logos of the Big Ag monopolies that exploit the Iowa family farmer for financial gain. That is how you corrupt Iowa agriculture.

In this article, I will show the finances of both candidates for Iowa secretary of agriculture, Republican Mike Naig and Democrat Tim Gannon. You can decide who is fighting for the family farmer and who is in the pocket of big agribusiness companies.

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Martin O'Malley keeping the focus on other Democrats, for now

“Are you excited to have someone to rally around to send to Des Moines?” former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley asked a packed room in Clive at the February 12 kickoff for Kenan Judge‘s candidacy in Iowa House district 44. The past and probably future presidential candidate said nothing about his own record during his brief remarks. Later, he explained why he will devote much of 2018 to campaigning for other Democrats.

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Weekend open thread: Post-legislative funnel edition

It was a busy week in Iowa politics, as state lawmakers raced the clock before the first “funnel” deadline on Friday. With few exceptions, non-appropriations bills not yet approved by at least one Iowa House or Senate committee are no longer eligible for consideration during the 2017 legislative session. For roundups of which bills are alive and dead, see James Q. Lynch’s story for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register article by William Petroski and Brianne Pfannenstiel. Bleeding Heartland covered the demise of the “personhood” bill here.

Some bills that didn’t clear the funnel may be attached to appropriations bills later. Republican State Senator Brad Zaun hopes to revive a medical cannabis proposal that way, Tony Leys reported for the Des Moines Register.

I enclose below Iowa Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg’s post-funnel list of the “dirty dozen” bills that Democrats are most focused on blocking during the remainder of the legislative session.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. I’d especially appreciate tips on newsworthy comments from today’s legislative forums around the state. A Democrat in Muscatine asked State Representative Gary Carlson this morning whether he had any evidence of election fraud and whether he would acknowledge that the Republican voter ID proposal is a voter suppression bill. Carlson told her, “I just want the right people to vote.” Probably more honest than he meant to be. John Deeth explained the latest disenfranchising provisions House Republicans want to attach to Secretary of State Paul Pate’s bill, now named House File 516.

Final note: although it was sunny and unseasonably warm today in Des Moines, only about 100 people showed up for the “Spirit of America” rally by the Capitol building. A much larger crowd came to the Capitol on a very cold Thursday in February to march against President Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” and immigration executive orders. An estimated 26,000 turned out for the Iowa Women’s March at the same venue on a Saturday morning in January.

UPDATE: Added after the jump side by side photos of the Women’s March and today’s event. SECOND UPDATE: A reader sent me his photo (taken by a drone) of the crowd at the Capitol for the “Day Without Immigrants” rally on Thursday, February 16. Added below.

Zaun was the first speaker to the pro-Trump audience today, and he noted (accurately) that he was the first Iowa Republican elected official to endorse Trump for president. He didn’t mention that he had previously declared himself “110 percent behind” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whose campaign flamed out months before the Iowa caucuses. On caucus night, Trump finished third in the Senate district Zaun represents, behind Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

UPDATE: Past and future presidential candidate Martin O’Malley was back in central Iowa on March 4, attending a fundraiser for State Senator Nate Boulton, among other events. O’Malley’s 2016 presidential campaign had a strong organization on the east side of Des Moines, which is part of Boulton’s district. The former governor of Maryland has visited Iowa regularly since the election, including stops in Davenport to support the special election campaigns of Jim Lykam for the Iowa Senate and Monica Kurth for the Iowa House.

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Monica Kurth wins special election in Iowa House district 89

Democrat Monica Kurth easily won the January 31 special election to represent Iowa House district 89. The seat covering parts of Davenport (map enclosed below) became vacant after Jim Lykam won the recent special election to represent Iowa Senate disrict 45. Kurth defeated Republican Mike Gonzales by 2081 votes to 784 (72.4 percent to 27.3 percent). In effect, she won before polls opened yesterday. Absentee ballots broke 1,092 to 86 in her favor, Ed Tibbetts reported.

Kurth has been a community activist for many years and was a longtime instructor and counselor at Scott Community College. During the campaign, she promised to advocate for higher wages, good education, and retirement security, and to “keep focused on working families, not special interests.”

The total number of ballots cast in House district 89 was close to what special election guru David Beaudoin projected, based on his analysis of the district and Lykam’s results against Gonzales in December. However, Kurth’s winning margin exceeded Beaudoin’s prediction. Republicans put little effort into winning this district, which contains 7,403 active registered Democrats, 4,730 Republicans, and 8,416 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Gonzales raised less than $3,000, of which about $1,000 came from GOP county committees. He reported no in-kind expenditures by the Iowa GOP.

In contrast, Kurth raised about $24,000 for this race, of which $15,000 came from Democratic or labor organizations. The Iowa Democratic Party also spent nearly $30,000 on direct mail and advertising.

Former (and presumably future) presidential candidate Martin O’Malley came to Davenport last weekend to help Kurth’s campaign. He showed up for Lykam before the December Senate election as well.

Once Kurth has been sworn in, the Iowa House will have 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats. She will bring the number of women in the chamber to 28: nineteen Democrats and nine Republicans.

P.S.- Nine people went to the trouble of casting a ballot in this January election for a write-in candidate. I’m always fascinated by such behavior.

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Weekend open thread: Threats to national security edition

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

Only one week into Donald Trump’s presidency, the outrages are piling up. Philip Rucker and David Filipov report today for the Washington Post that Trump has restructured the National Security Council to give his political strategist Steve Bannon a permanent spot on the “principals committee” of senior officials. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence will no longer be regular members of that committee. President George W. Bush never allowed his hatchet man Karl Rove to attend National Security Council meetings.

Trump issued several executive orders this week related to immigration. The most controversial (and probably unconstitutional) one restricts entry from seven countries–but maybe not for Christians from those areas. Despite the trending hashtag #MuslimBan, the order is technically not a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.–though Rudy Giuliani says Trump asked advisers to help him accomplish that goal through legal means. The White House is portraying the order as an anti-terrorism measure, but knowledgeable people know otherwise.

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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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Iowa Senate district 45 special election: Jim Lykam vs. Mike Gonzales

Voters in some Davenport precincts will choose a new state senator today in a special election that Governor Terry Branstad set at the worst possible time.

Democratic State Representative Jim Lykam appears to be on track to succeed the late Senator Joe Seng, despite the governor’s efforts to engineer even lower turnout than for a typical election to fill an Iowa legislative vacancy.

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The Polk County Democratic convention fiasco

The most important business at yesterday’s Iowa Democratic and Republican county conventions was electing delegates to each party’s district conventions in April and state convention in June. Iowa Democratic rules do not bind county convention delegates to the candidates they supported at their precinct caucuses, and not all delegates chosen at precinct caucuses show up for the county conventions. Those factors helped Barack Obama make big gains in March 2008, from a lead of “16 state delegates to Clinton’s 15 on caucus night […] to a 25-14 lead after the county conventions.” John Deeth explained the 2008 county convention happenings at the time and on Friday provided a detailed look at what goes on behind the scenes to organize these events.

Yesterday’s conventions didn’t change Clinton’s expected lead over Bernie Sanders in state delegates. After the Iowa caucuses, the Iowa Democratic Party calculated Clinton had 700.47 state delegate equivalents, Sanders had 696.92 state delegate equivalents, and Martin O’Malley 7.63. The Iowa Democratic Party reported last night that the 99 county conventions elected 704 state delegates for Clinton, 700 for Sanders, one for O’Malley, and one uncommitted. Scroll to the end of this post to see the numbers for each candidate from all 99 counties. The projected national delegate count from Iowa remains 23 for Clinton and 21 for Sanders.

While most counties saw little change after yesterday’s conventions, the balance of power did shift slightly in some counties. For example, Johnson County elected 54 delegates for Sanders yesterday and 38 for Clinton. Those numbers represented a net gain of one delegate for Clinton compared to what was expected following the precinct caucuses.

Sanders improved his standing most in Polk County. He won only about 46 percent of the county delegates here on February 1 to 53 percent for Clinton. But at the end of a very long day in West Des Moines, the Polk County convention elected 115 delegates for Clinton and 113 for Sanders, a net gain of about six state delegates for Sanders.

That could have been big news, except for one problem. Hours before Polk County delegates ratified their slates, social media exploded as thousands of people, eventually including Sanders himself through his campaign Twitter account, alleged that Clinton allies had tried to “steal” the convention.

I wasn’t at Valley High School, but I followed postings yesterday by dozens of delegates for each candidate. Since the convention, I have spoken to or received direct messages from multiple delegates on both sides, including leaders of the Clinton and Sanders groups and members of the Polk County Credentials Committee. My best effort to piece together what happened is after the jump.

Short version: evidence points not to “stealing,” but to mismanagement by convention leaders, especially Rules Committee Chair Jeff Goetz. Unusual procedures implemented without transparency fueled suspicions among people who may have gone into the convention expecting dirty tricks from party establishment types supporting Clinton.

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After Iowa Democratic Party review, Hillary Clinton leads by smaller state delegate margin

After reviewing results in fourteen disputed precincts, the Iowa Democratic Party announced today that new calculations show Hillary Clinton received 700.47 state delegate equivalents (49.84 percent), Bernie Sanders received 696.92 state delegate equivalents (49.59 percent), and Martin O’Malley 7.63 state delegate equivalents (0.54 percent). I enclose below the full statement from the party, with details on the five precincts where county delegate totals had been misreported the night of February 1. In three of those precincts, the Iowa Democratic Party initially reported one too many county delegates for Clinton instead of Sanders. In one precinct, Sanders was allocated a county delegate that should have gone to Clinton. In the last precinct where results were corrected, Sanders was allocated a county delegate that should have gone to O’Malley.

Across 1,681 precincts assigning 11,065 county delegates, a few tabulation or reporting errors are to be expected. That’s why I supported a full review, to dispel any concerns about the accuracy of the results. Contrary to some conspiracy theories I have seen floating around social media, the Iowa Democratic Party could not systematically misreport county delegate totals to give Clinton the victory. Too many witnesses observe what happens in each precinct and would notice if the party got the numbers wrong.

In nine of the precincts the state party reviewed, reported results were found to be correct. The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs explained one supposed example of “fishy” math today. In an Ankeny precinct, 148 people caucused for Sanders and 128 for Clinton. The precinct’s eight county delegates split four to each candidate. Sanders supporter Tucker Melssen thought it was a mistake, and Sanders should have gotten more. Welcome to my world in 1988, Tucker. My candidate had a plurality of caucus-goers in the precinct, but our county delegates split evenly.

Party officials correctly applied the formula used to convert supporters to county delegates in Ankeny 12. Drew Miller’s caucus calculator reveals that if 276 people in a precinct allocating eight county delegates split 148 to 128, each candidate should indeed receive four delegates. Playing around with the calculator, you can see that if Ankeny 12 had allocated nine delegates, Sanders would have gotten five of them. Or, if you leave the delegate total at eight, Sanders would need 156 of the 276 caucus-goers to stand in his corner in order to get five of the precinct’s delegates.

Long before I knew there would be such a close result in an Iowa Democratic caucus, I objected to the sometimes distorting effects of caucus math. Since I published this post on Thursday, many naysayers have told me we can’t ever report raw supporter numbers for each candidate, the way Iowa Republicans caucus. In what other context do Democrats support a system where some voters have more influence over the results than others? Where your voice counts for less if you caucus in a high-turnout precinct or county? Where voters are not able to cast a secret ballot and are excluded from participating because of disability, work or family obligations?

Stop telling me what the Democratic National Committee and the New Hampshire secretary of state won’t “let” us do to improve the caucuses. Start thinking creatively about how we can make the system more representative and inclusive while preserving Iowa’s place in the nominating calendar. The first step is Iowa Democratic Party leaders being willing to fight for positive change, rather than digging in to defend a flawed status quo. I’m not the only one who sees the need for reform: Clinton supporter Brad Anderson and Sanders supporter Phil Roeder both have extensive Iowa Democratic campaign experience and called for change in recent days.

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Get your heads out of the sand, Iowa Democratic Party leaders

Since 2007, I have been trying to raise awareness about problems with the Iowa Democratic caucus system: barriers to participation for many who want to have a voice in choosing our president; the fact that not every Democrat’s “vote” counts the same toward the delegate numbers; the lack of secrecy and potential for intimidation in caucus rooms; and the distorting effects of caucus math, starting with but not limited to the 15 percent viability threshold.

Again and again and again, I have urged my fellow Democrats to make our caucuses more inclusive and the results more representative of each candidate’s actual supporter numbers. I might as well have been pounding on the walls of a sound-proofed chamber, for all the impact my blogging has had on the Iowa Democratic Party’s leadership.

The slimmest margin ever between the top two Democratic presidential candidates lends new urgency to the task of cleaning up the caucuses. Yet state party chair Dr. Andy McGuire and others are holding the line against even a full review of the calculations that put Hillary Clinton ahead of Bernie Sanders by 700.59 state delegate equivalents to 696.82. They insist that any minor glitches on Monday night were resolved by 2:30 am, when the party sent out its press release declaring Clinton the winner. The results are final. Nothing to see here, folks.

The longer party leaders drag their feet, the more they will stoke conspiracy theories about the caucuses being stolen for the establishment’s favorite.

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Iowa caucus results thread

I will update this post throughout the evening. As of 9 pm, 75 percent of Democratic precincts have reported, and Hillary Clinton narrowly leads Bernie Sanders by 50.4 percent to 48.9 percent of state delegate equivalents. Martin O’Malley won less than 1 percent of the state delegate equivalents and is reportedly dropping out of the race. UPDATE: with 81 percent of precincts reporting (but not including some Iowa City and Cedar Rapids precincts), Clinton is barely ahead by 50.2 percent to 49.1 percent. Turnout seems to be considerably higher than I expected, which explains how well Sanders is doing. He could pull ahead to Clinton if she doesn’t have good counties and precincts outstanding.

The Republican race is too close to call between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, with about 75 percent of the votes counted. Marco Rubio is in third place. I noticed that Bret Hayworth of the Sioux City Journal predicted a Cruz win, as did I. On the Republican side, only Cruz was running a traditional ground game. Supposedly the Trump campaign hired out its phone banking, and I never heard much about door-knocking on his behalf.

What happened in your precinct? Share your stories in the comments. I’ve posted what happened in Windsor Heights 2 below.

9:30 UPDATE: Television networks are calling the GOP race for Cruz. Mike Huckabee is dropping out of the race; he outperformed his polling numbers but is still way behind the leaders at around 7 percent.

9:45 UPDATE: With 88 percent of Democratic precincts reporting, Clinton is ahead by only 49.9 percent to 49.5 percent. Sanders could pull ahead.

10:30 UPDATE: Clinton is speaking now, which surprises me, because she’s only ahead by 50.1 percent to 49.4 percent with 93 percent of precincts reporting. For some reason, the Iowa Democratic Party’s website is showing my own precinct (Windsor Heights 2) as not yet reporting. We were done by around 8:30.

11:20 UPDATE: With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton’s lead is down to 49.8 percent to 49.6 percent. A bunch of Polk County precincts are still outstanding, including mine. At least six precincts around the state had one delegate awarded by a coin flip.

12:00 am UPDATE: Steve Kornacki and Rachel Maddow got the coin flip story badly wrong on MSNBC, claiming the coin flips (all won by Clinton in the various precincts) accounted for Clinton’s statewide lead over Sanders. No. The coin flips resolve who would get the last remaining county delegate from a precinct. Clinton is ahead by a handful of state delegate equivalents.

12:50 am UPDATE: With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton leads by 49.9 percent to 49.6 percent. Just twelve precincts have not reported.

2 am: Make that ten precincts outstanding. I want to hear from Democrats who caucused in Des Moines precinct 43 at Roosevelt High School. There seems to have been some confusion about the count, and Sanders supporters online are accusing the precinct chair and the Clinton precinct captain of “fraud,” based on this video. It’s not unusual for there to be some confusion or people missed during the count. We had to count our Clinton group twice last night.

2:30 am: The Iowa Democratic Party released a statement a few minutes ago, which I’ve enclosed below. According to the party, statewide turnout was 171,109, much higher than I expected but nearly 70,000 below the record turnout of 2008. The party says “Clinton has been awarded 699.57 state delegate equivalents, Bernie Sanders has been awarded 695.49 state delegate equivalents, Martin O’Malley has been awarded 7.68 state delegate equivalents and uncommitted has been awarded .46 state delegate equivalents. We still have outstanding results in one precinct (Des Moines—42), which is worth 2.28 state delegate equivalents.”

The outstanding precinct (Des Moines 42) is on the west side, bordering Windsor Heights. There is no clear trend in the six neighboring precincts, with Sanders and Clinton winning two each and the other two ending in a delegate tie.

With all the excitement on the Democratic side, I forgot to update the Republican results. They are after the jump. The GOP turnout of more than 180,000 was about 50 percent higher than their previous record turnout in 2012.

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How the Iowa caucuses work, part 5: A "pollster's nightmare"

Continuing a six-part series. Part 1 covered basic elements of the caucus system, part 2 explained why so many Iowans can’t or won’t attend their precinct caucus, part 3 discussed how Democratic caucus math can affect delegate counts, and part 4 described how precinct captains help campaigns.

Measuring the horse race ahead of the Iowa caucuses poses special challenges, particularly on the Democratic side. Those problems affect even the Des Moines Register’s longtime pollster Ann Selzer, whom FiveThirtyEight.com has given an A+ grade and called “the best pollster in politics.”

Follow me after the jump to see why polling expert Mark Blumenthal has described the caucuses as a “pollster’s nightmare.”

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Weekend open thread: Last Des Moines Register caucus poll and a shady Ted Cruz mailer

Photo of a Ted Cruz supporter’s car spotted in Davenport on January 30; shared with the photographer’s permission.

The final Iowa caucus poll by Selzer & Co. for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics shows a tight race on the Democratic side and Donald Trump retaking the lead from Ted Cruz among likely Republican caucus-goers. Key findings and excerpts from the Register’s write-ups on the poll are after the jump.

Ann Selzer is “the best pollster in politics,” Clare Malone wrote in a must-read profile for FiveThirtyEight.com this week, which explained Selzer’s methods and “old-school rigor.” One key part of her “A+” methodology is starting from a list of registered voters, rather than using random digit dialing to reach Iowans by phone. Nate Cohn pointed out that Iowa polls drawing respondents from a registered voter list have tended to produce better results for Hillary Clinton, while surveys using random digit dialing have produced the best numbers for Bernie Sanders. Selzer also uses a simpler likely voter/likely caucus-goer screen than many other pollsters.

Bleeding Heartland guest author fladem showed yesterday that the Iowa caucus results have sometimes been noticeably different from the last polls released. Front-runners have often seen their lead shrink, while fast-rising contenders have “come from nowhere.” I am standing by my prediction that the structure of the Iowa Democratic caucuses, where only delegate counts matter, favors Hillary Clinton and will allow her to outperform her poll numbers on Monday night. Speaking of which, there’s still time to enter Bleeding Heartland’s Iowa caucus prediction contest; post a comment with your guesses before 6 pm central time on February 1.

Last spring I was sure Cruz would peak in Iowa too soon and crash before the caucuses. Campaign news from October through December convinced me that I was wrong, and I still believe more in Cruz’s ground game than in Trump’s. However, the Cruz campaign is starting to look desperate, shifting its advertising to attack Marco Rubio instead of Trump, and sending out a deceptive mailer, which implied that Republicans guilty of a “voting violation” could improve their “score” by showing up at the caucuses. I enclose below several links on the controversy and a statement from Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate denouncing the mail piece, which “misrepresents the role of my office, and worse, misrepresents Iowa election law.”

Pate’s predecessor, Matt Schultz, is chairing Cruz’s Iowa campaign and defended the mailing as “common practice to increase voter turnout.” As Gavin Aronsen discussed at the new website Iowa Informer, it’s rich for onetime “voter fraud” crusader Schultz to be “actively defending a purposefully misleading mailer.” The hypocrisy confirms my view that Schultz and Cruz are a political match made in heaven.

Governor Terry Branstad will introduce Chris Christie at a campaign stop today but won’t officially endorse the New Jersey governor. Several people with close ties to Branstad are active supporters of Christie, who has been stuck at 3 percent in the Register’s polling for months.

Final note: I’m so happy for all the volunteers who are able to knock doors in near-perfect (for January) weather during these last few days of the campaign. Weather conditions leading up to the 2008 caucuses were terrible.

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How the Iowa caucuses work, part 3: Democratic caucus math

Continuing a six-part series. Part 1 covered basic elements of the caucus system, and part 2 explained why so many Iowans can’t or won’t attend their precinct caucus.

The Republican Party of Iowa will report how many GOP caucus-goers mark ballots for each presidential candidate on Monday night. But the Iowa Democratic Party will report the results only in terms of county delegates won and “state delegate equivalents.” This post is about caucus math and how “realignment” in Democratic precincts can affect how many county delegates go to each presidential candidate. In some cases, those delegate numbers may distort the preferences of voters at a precinct caucus.

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How the Iowa caucuses work, part 1: The basics

Expanded and revised from a series published at Bleeding Heartland during the 2008 election cycle

Even in Iowa, many people are confused about what will happen at 7 pm on February 1, when hundreds of thousands of people join their neighbors at a public gathering to express a preference for a presidential candidate. This post will cover the basics of the process and how the results will be reported, which is quite different for Iowa Republicans and Democrats. Over the next several days, this series will examine other elements of the caucus system:

Part 2 will explore barriers to participation in the caucuses and why it can be challenging to turn out even highly politically engaged Iowans.

Part 3 will focus on caucus math, which can create different ways to win an Iowa Democratic precinct.

Part 4 will discuss ways a good precinct captain or other volunteers can help a presidential candidate.

Part 5 will explain why the Iowa caucuses are, in Mark Blumenthal’s words, a “pollster’s nightmare.”

Part 6 will lay out the leading arguments for and against the Iowa caucus system, as opposed to a primary.

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It's O'Malley for Me

Iowans continue to share their reasons for choosing a presidential candidate. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I will be caucusing for Martin O’Malley next week. When I decided to write a post, I began by highlighting a laundry list of Gov. O’Malley’s accomplishments and his goals for the country. He has an outstanding progressive record in Maryland and he put forward a well-founded program for the country. But that’s not WHY I am supporting O’Malley.

I am supporting Martin O’Malley because I want America to move FORWARD.

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Enter Bleeding Heartland's 2016 Iowa caucuses prediction contest

With no clear leader in either party less than a week before the 2016 Iowa caucuses, this latest installment in Bleeding Heartland’s occasional series of prediction contests should be especially fun. Anyone can participate, regardless of whether you live in Iowa or have ever lived here.

To enter the contest, post your answers to the eight questions enclosed below as comments in this thread before 6 pm on February 1. Valid entries must be submitted as comments here. Predictions sent to me by e-mail or posted on social media will not be considered. It only takes a minute to register as a Bleeding Heartland user (a link is near the upper right corner of this screen). You don’t have to use your real name; feel free to choose a screen name that allows you to post anonymously. You’ll be e-mailed a password for logging in. Then you can comment here or on any other thread. To protect against spammers, your comment will be “pending” until I approve it.

It’s fine to change your mind after making your guesses, as long as you post your revised predictions as an additional comment in this thread before the deadline.

No money or prizes are at stake here, just bragging rights. This contest doesn’t work like “The Price is Right”; the winning answers will be closest to the final results, whether they were a little high or low. Even if you have no idea, please try to take a guess on every question.

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A Record of Leadership: Why I Support O’Malley

An Iowan too young to caucus explains why he is urging others to stand in Martin O’Malley’s corner. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I was just ten years old when the unthinkable occurred. A man brought four semiautomatic weapons to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and started firing. Shooting over 150 rounds in a few minutes, he killed sixteen six-year-olds, four seven-year-olds, and six adults. As horrifying as this massacre of first-graders and their teachers is, similar assaults have occurred throughout our country on an almost daily basis. The unthinkable has now become a regular event—a church in Charleston, a movie theater in Louisiana, a community college in Oregon, a center for the developmentally disabled in San Bernardino, and in so many other places all around the country. We need common sense gun reform to stop this extreme violence, and that’s one of many reasons why I’m supporting Governor Martin O’Malley for President.

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Two views of efforts to increase Latino participation in the Iowa caucuses

The National Journal’s Matt Vasilogambros had a productive visit to Iowa recently. His feature on how immigration raids in 2006 affected the Latino community in Marshalltown is a must-read. Do click through, but prepare to be disheartened by stories of families broken apart and impacts that went far beyond the undocumented immigrants who were swept up in the raids at the Swift & Co. meat­pack­ing plant.

Vasilogambros also followed up on his story from last summer on “Why Latinos Don’t Caucus in Iowa” with a new look at the relatively poor outreach by presidential campaigns to the growing number of potential Latino caucus-goers.

If Latino participation in the February 1 caucuses exceeds the record set in 2008, credit will be due primarily to the League of United Latin American Citizens chapter in Iowa. Adrian Carrasquillo reported for Buzzfeed earlier this month on LULAC’s campaign. Highlights from both articles are after the jump.

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My case for HRC to those of you still on the fence

Bleeding Heartland would welcome guest posts encouraging readers to caucus for Bernie Sanders or Martin O’Malley. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Since Sunday’s debate, I’ve felt little tremors of uncertainty among my friends who are genuinely conflicted over who to support in the caucuses. Now seems like a good time to make my personal case for supporting Hillary Clinton, to hopefully contribute to the kind of thoughtful reflection that these folks are going through.

I’ll say that I admire both Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, and that I will support whoever wins the Democratic nomination with the same energy and enthusiasm I’ve given Hillary during the caucus season. That said, here are some reasons why I believe that Hillary is the best choice for the Democratic nomination in 2016, and why I hope you (whoever you are) will support her. Sorry if this is a wall of text. Bear with me, I tried to keep it all in one place. A short summary of points I make below:

– Hillary will help my family and families like mine in the next 4-8 years.
– Hillary’s attention to local concerns and presidential responses.
– Hillary’s foreign policy expertise and international reputation.
– Hillary’s coalition building within the democratic party and related orgs.
– Hillary’s tenacity will bring about change–incremental change, but change–which is the proper job of the President.

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How Iowa political leaders could honor the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When Congress finally passed a bill establishing a federal holiday named after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1983, national public opinion was split down the middle on whether the civil rights leader should be honored in this way. The holiday is no longer controversial, and members of Congress who voted against it, such as Senator Chuck Grassley, are quick to explain that they admire King’s work. Bleeding Heartland has compiled links related to Dr. King’s legacy and the long slog to establish this national holiday here, here, here, here, here.

I’ve been predicting for months that this year’s legislative session would mostly be a giant waste of many people’s time. I hope Iowa lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad will prove me wrong by enacting not only the criminal justice reforms Branstad advocated in his Condition of the State speech last week, but also legislation to reduce mandatory minimum sentences, and improve police identification and interrogation procedures as well as police use of body cameras. The NAACP is pushing for a bill to ban racial profiling by law enforcement, which should not be controversial but probably will be a very heavy lift at the Capitol.

Branstad could act unilaterally to reduce one of Iowa’s massive racial disparities by revoking his 2011 executive order that has disenfranchised thousands of people, disproportionately racial minorities. (The procedure the governor established for regaining voting rights is “just about impossible” for felons to navigate.)

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. All three Democratic presidential candidates mentioned Dr. King during their opening statements during last night’s debate in South Carolina, and I’ve enclosed the videos and transcript below. I also included the part of the transcript containing Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’ remarks on criminal justice reform.

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High points for Clinton and Sanders in the South Carolina Democratic debate

Expanded from a short take for CNN

Hillary Clinton was solid and Bernie Sanders turned in his best debate performance yet in Charleston last night. Can anyone deny that Democratic National Committee leaders should have allowed more debates and scheduled them on nights when more voters would watch? The sometimes sharp exchanges between the front-runners probably didn’t change many Democratic minds, but Clinton and Sanders both delivered plenty of lines that should reinforce the inclinations of voters who are supporting them or leaning in that direction.

I suspect the following moments will particularly resonate with Iowa caucus-goers, based on my conversations with hundreds of Iowa Democrats and on how I’ve seen multiple crowds react to the candidates.

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Weekend open thread: New Hampshire Democratic debate edition

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

The foolishness of the Democratic National Committee’s policy on debates was on display again last night, as three knowledgeable, articulate presidential candidates met in a televised debate bound to draw relatively few viewers because of its timing. I decided to try something different and watch this debate without taking notes or live-tweeting, to experience the event more like a normal person would (to the extent that a person who spends a Saturday night during the holiday season watching a presidential debate could be described as normal). My impressions are after the jump, along with good links on the data breach that allowed Bernie Sanders staffers to access proprietary information about Hillary Clinton’s campaign from the voter file.

Although it didn’t get the biggest play online or on television, the most important political news of the week was arguably Congress approving legislation to fund the federal government through next September. Bleeding Heartland covered the Iowa voting and reaction here. Reading Representative Steve King’s lament about House leaders not including his nine “defunding” amendments in the omnibus budget bill reminded me of one of my all-time favorite King press releases. After House conservatives failed to get language into Homeland Security legislation on defunding President Barack Obama’s immigration-related executive orders, King’s official statement featured an image of interlocking fishing nets to illustrate his analysis: “The fish trap that Republicans have been swimming further and further into finally trapped them today. The White House is having a fish fry.”

The New York Times had to publish major corrections to another blockbuster scoop this week. Matt Apuzzo and Michael Schmidt, the two main authors of the inaccurate story about a San Bernardino shooter, also wrote the almost completely wrong New York Times front-pager from July about Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. The Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote a strong column about the latest screw-up, a “failure of sufficient skepticism at every level of the reporting and editing process.” Absurdly, the newspaper’s editors tried to blame the unnamed government sources for not understanding social media. Journalists need to confirm key facts before publication, because their anonymous sources may be leading them astray, either accidentally or by design.

One of the best long reads I’ve seen lately was this harrowing piece by Ken Armstrong and T. Christian Miller for The Marshall Project about a serial rapist and one of his victims, whom police wrongly charged with filing a false rape report.

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Feds say Iowa not ready, must delay Medicaid privatization until March 1

For months, Governor Terry Branstad has dismissed warnings from patients, advocates, doctors, hospitals, editorial boards, and lawmakers that the state’s rush to privatize Medicaid would disrupt health care for some 560,000 Iowans. Today the governor finally got the message in a form he can’t ignore. Director Vikki Wachino of the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wrote to Iowa Medicaid Director Mikki Stier,

Based on our review last week of Iowa’s progress, as well as the information you have provided, CMS expects that we will ultimately be able to approve Iowa’s managed care waivers. However, we do not believe that Iowa is ready to make this transition Jan. 1. CMS previously outlined the requirements to provide high quality, accessible care to Medicaid beneficiaries, and Iowa has not yet met those requirements, meaning that a transition on January 1 would risk serious disruptions in care for Medicaid beneficiaries. While you have made progress in some areas of readiness, our review also identified significant gaps that need to be addressed before CMS can authorize your waiver requests. For that reason, CMS will work with you toward approval of your request effective March 1, 2016, provided that the state demonstrates progress toward readiness consistent with the actions in the attachment to this letter.

Click through to read the full four-page letter and four-page attachment from Wachino to Stier, which the Des Moines Register posted online. CMS officials found that “significant areas of the state did not have many provider types within a reasonable distance,” and that “Relying too heavily on out-of-network providers is likely to create confusion among beneficiaries and providers, result in access issues for beneficiaries, and disrupt continuity of care for beneficiaries.” Many of the points raised echo concerns three Democratic state senators expressed during meetings with CMS officials in Washington last month.

The CMS readiness review also showed that nearly half of Medicaid recipients who tried to call the state’s call centers earlier this month could not get through. Many Iowans who did reach a staffer on the phone were not able to find out whether any of their current doctors had signed contracts with the four managed care providers approved to run Medicaid. The CMS findings are consistent with what I’ve been hearing from acquaintances: the enrollment packets sent to Medicaid recipients did not include basic details they would need to make an informed choice of managed care provider (such as where their family’s current doctors will be in-network).

I enclose below reaction to today’s news from Branstad, who struck an upbeat tone, and key Democratic lawmakers, who vowed to keep fighting to improve legislative oversight of the Medicaid privatization. The Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate approved such a bill during the 2015 session, but the Republican-controlled Iowa House declined to take it up. Oversight is the very least state lawmakers could do to prevent the transition to managed care from becoming a pretext for denying services to vulnerable Iowans.

David Pitt noted in his report for the Associated Press,

Two legal challenges continue including one from the Iowa Hospital Association, a trade group for the state’s hospitals. It sued the state claiming the privatization plan is illegal because it takes millions of dollars from a dedicated hospital trust fund and gives it to the four managed care companies.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I am grateful that so many Iowans took the time to contact federal officials about Branstad’s disastrous policy. Bleeding Heartland reader Rhonda Shouse has been one of the superstar organizers in that fight.

UPDATE: Added below reaction from Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02). I expect that during next year’s re-election campaign, Loebsack will highlight his efforts to shield constituents from the negative consequences of shifting Medicaid to managed care. His only declared Republican opponent is State Senator Mark Chelgren, who like his GOP colleagues in the upper chamber has done nothing to slow down the privatization or strengthen legislative oversight of the process.

SECOND UPDATE: Added more news and commentary related to this issue.

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New Selzer poll: Clinton 48 percent, Sanders 39 percent in Iowa

Hillary Clinton has a narrow but stable lead over Bernie Sanders among likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa, according to the new poll Selzer & Co conducted for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News. Clinton is the first choice of 48 percent of respondents, while 39 percent favor Sanders and 4 percent Martin O’Malley. Selzer’s previous survey in October showed Clinton ahead of Sanders by 48 to 41 percent with Joe Biden not in the race, and by a 42-37 margin when respondents had the option of choosing Biden. After the jump I enclose highlights from Tony Leys’ write-up on the latest survey in today’s Des Moines Register and from Margaret Talev’s report for Bloomberg News.

The question now is whose campaign will do a better job identifying supporters and turning them out on a cold night in February. Our household continues to receive regular phone calls from field organizers for Clinton and Sanders and occasional calls from O’Malley’s campaign. Clinton could outperform her poll numbers if her larger field staff in Iowa does its job well, or if Sanders’ support is more concentrated in certain areas. Candidates can win only so many delegates per precinct, whether 50 people or 500 people show up there on February 1, so the Iowa Democratic caucus system rewards candidates with support more evenly spread out across the state.

Sanders could outperform his poll numbers in Iowa on the strength of greater enthusiasm among his backers. He still consistently draws larger crowds to his Iowa events. Now that the campaign seems to be going more smoothly for Clinton, Democrats leaning toward her may not feel it’s important for them to show up for the caucuses.

A Bleeding Heartland post is in progress on why O’Malley can’t get any traction here, even though he has been doing everything right in terms of retail politics and organizing, and his stump speeches are consistently well-received among Iowa Democratic audiences.

O’Malley’s best hope for viability in most precincts will be gamesmanship by well-trained precinct captains for Clinton or Sanders. The Iowa Democratic Party sets a fixed number of county delegates for each precinct, and the math that determines delegate apportionment creates a zero-sum game. “Donating” a few of candidate A’s supporters to candidate B can cost candidate C a delegate. This kind of maneuver cost Paul Simon a delegate in my precinct at my very first caucus in 1988.

Let’s assume O’Malley’s supporters are below the 15 percent threshold in my precinct, and I’m a captain for one of the other candidates. When it’s time to realign, sending a few people from my group to make O’Malley viable may cost our main rival a delegate, compared to what would happen if the O’Malley crowd were forced to go to corners for their second-choice candidates. I heard many stories along these lines after the 2008 caucuses. For instance, in the Clive precinct next door to my neighborhood, Democrats backing Clinton and John Edwards helped make Bill Richardson viable, in order to prevent Barack Obama from winning a second delegate.

UPDATE: Quinnipiac released its latest Iowa poll on December 15: Clinton is at 51 percent, Sanders 40 percent, O’Malley 6 percent, and just 3 percent undecided. I’ve added below highlights from the polling memo; click through for full results with cross-tabs.

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Drake Democratic debate highlights and discussion thread

The second Democratic presidential debate kicks off in a few minutes at Drake University’s Sheslow Auditorium. Why Democratic National Committee leaders scheduled this event on a Saturday night is beyond me; but then, their whole approach to debates this year has been idiotic. I wonder how many politically-engaged Iowans who would normally tune in for a debate will watch the Iowa Hawkeyes football game against Minnesota tonight.

I’m not a fan of curtain-raisers such as lists of “things to watch for” or mistakes candidates might make. I will update this post later with thoughts on each contender’s performance.

Any comments about tonight’s debate or the Democratic presidential race generally are welcome in this thread. I enclose below the latest commercials Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been running in Iowa. The new 30-second Sanders spot mostly uses images and phrases pulled from his strong introductory commercial. Clinton’s ad-maker this year is putting out much better material than I remember from her 2007 Iowa caucus campaign. To my knowledge, Martin O’Malley has not aired any television commercials in Iowa yet, but the Generation Forward super-PAC has run at least one spot promoting his candidacy, which Bleeding Heartland posted here.

UPDATE: My first take on the debate is after the jump.

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12 examples of President Barack Obama being weak during his first term

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Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign is pushing a new line of attack against Senator Bernie Sanders: in 2011, Sanders said President Barack Obama was “weak” and perhaps should face a challenger in the 2012 Democratic primary. O’Malley’s communications staff have also pushed out reports suggesting Sanders himself was considering a primary challenge to Obama and failed to campaign vigorously for the president’s re-election later in 2012 (not that Vermont was ever in play for Mitt Romney).

Those talking points may fire up Democrats who already resent the fact that the self-proclaimed democratic socialist Sanders has always campaigned as an independent. But I doubt they are a promising line of attack for moving caucus-goers and primary voters away from Sanders and toward O’Malley. The inconvenient truth is that Obama’s record hasn’t always lined up with progressive principles or with his own campaign promises. I suspect those who “feel the Bern” are more likely to agree with than be offended by Sanders’ critique of the president.

I don’t know yet for whom I will caucus, the first time I’ve ever been undecided so late in the election cycle. But I count myself among those “millions of Americans” Sanders described as “deeply disappointed in the president” during the interview O’Malley’s campaign portrays as harmful. I caucused uncommitted in 2012 to send the message that the president “hasn’t stood up for core principles of the Democratic Party.” Moreover, O’Malley’s own stump speech hints at some valid reasons for Democrats to be disaffected by Obama’s rightward drift.

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Latest polls show larger Clinton leads in Iowa, but who are the likely caucus-goers?

Hillary Clinton has gained ground in polls of Iowa Democrats since the first debate on October 13 and her marathon questioning by a hostile U.S. House select committee on October 22. The four most recent surveys here, all released in the last two weeks, put her ahead of Bernie Sanders by disparate margins. I enclose below highlights from polls released by Loras College, Monmouth College, Monmouth University, and Public Policy Polling, which has the newest Iowa poll out.

The big question is which pollster, if any, has a handle on distinguishing likely caucus-goers from others who will pick up the phone for an unknown number and agree to take a survey. Clinton leads by 14 points in Monmouth College/KBUR/Douglas Fulmer & Associates but by 32 points in Public Policy Polling and by a very-hard-to-believe 41 points in Monmouth University. One or more of those polls has to be off by much more than the mathematical margin of error, which assumes a respondent pool that perfectly represents the target population.

How many Iowans will come to their Democratic precinct caucuses on February 1 is anyone’s guess. No one seems to expect turnout close to the record-shattering level of nearly 240,000 in January 2008. If it’s much lower than that, who benefits: Clinton, by virtue of a superior campaign organization, or Sanders, whose supporters appear to be much more excited about their candidate? Former Senator Tom Harkin, who is backing Clinton, told the New York Times after the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner, “This is not a slam dunk for her,” citing the tremendous enthusiasm for Sanders. With just a fraction of the mainstream media coverage Obama was receiving at similar stages of the campaign in 2007, Sanders has been drawing huge crowds in Iowa. His campaign is just starting to draw explicit contrasts with Clinton and only began running television commercials this week.

On a related note, Shane Goldmacher reports for Politico today on speculation about turnout for the 2016 Republican caucuses. Some Iowa GOP insiders predict 150,000 caucus-goers or more, while others think turnout will be only slightly higher than the record of 121,501, set in 2012. Bleeding Heartland will cover the latest Republican polling in Iowa in a future post; Ben Carson has led in most surveys conducted during the past month.

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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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Lincoln Chafee exits Democratic race

Former Governor and Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island ended his presidential campaign today, saying to a conference of the Women’s Leadership Forum that “the Republican agenda sets back women’s rights and I pledge all my energy towards a big 2016 victory for Democrats across the country.” Chafee was getting no traction in national or Iowa polls of Democrats, nor did he perform well in last week’s televised debate.

With Vice President Joe Biden ruling out a third presidential bid and Jim Webb ending his quest for the Democratic nomination this week, the primaries are shaping up to be a straightforward choice between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Martin O’Malley won’t have to fight with other second-tier candidates for attention anymore, but he has a lot of work to do to present himself as a viable alternative to the front-runners.

Chafee had been scheduled to speak last at tomorrow night’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Des Moines, and I was dreading the prospect of hundreds of people leaving the hall during his remarks. Way too many Iowa Democrats did that during Chafee’s speech to the “Wing Ding” in August and during Webb’s speech to the IDP’s Hall of Fame dinner in July. Such poor form not to hear out all the candidates, even marginal ones.

New Des Moines Register poll: Clinton 48, Sanders 41

Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders as the first choice of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers by 48 percent to 41 percent, with all other candidates far behind, according to a new poll by Selzer & Co. for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics. Jennifer Jacobs reported the main findings in today’s Des Moines Register. Since the poll was in the field before Vice President Joe Biden ruled out running for president again, the Register reallocated Biden’s supporters to their named second-choice candidate. Selzer’s previous Iowa poll showed Clinton ahead of Sanders by 37 percent to 30 percent with Biden in the field and by 43 percent to 35 percent without Biden as an option.

After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from Jacobs’ report, focusing on weak points for Clinton and Sanders.

Just 2 percent of respondents named Martin O’Malley as their first choice in the Register’s latest poll, behind “not sure” at 4 percent and “uncommitted” at 3 percent. Bleeding Heartland has a post in progress with my hypothesis on why O’Malley is getting no traction in Iowa, despite doing all the right things in terms of organizing and retail politics. Every time I’ve seen the former Maryland governor campaign here this year, audiences have responded favorably to his stump speech. I usually hear good feedback from other Democrats who have attended his events too, but it’s not translating into enough people signing supporter cards. Unfortunately for O’Malley, both Clinton and Sanders performed very well in last week’s debate, which drew record viewership for a debate featuring Democratic presidential candidates.

Jim Webb made the right choice to drop out of the race; the Register’s new poll showed him tied with Lincoln Chafee at 1 percent. Yesterday, Webb tweeted that it’s time for this country to “fix” the criminal justice system. I hope he will become heavily engaged in criminal justice reform efforts at the federal and state levels, instead of pouring his energy into an independent presidential bid.

The most shocking finding in the the Register’s latest poll: Iowa Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement is “good for Iowa.” Among likely Democratic caucus-goers, 39 percent said the TPP deal is good for Iowa, 27 percent said bad for Iowa, and 34 percent were unsure. Among likely Republican caucus-goers, just 27 percent said TPP was good for Iowa, 30 percent said bad for Iowa, and 42 percent were unsure. For decades, the Iowa business community and in particular representatives of Big Ag have spun “free trade” agreements as good for this state, so I would have expected much stronger support for TPP among Republicans.

UPDATE: Quinnipiac released a new Iowa poll on October 23 showing Clinton leading Sanders by 51 percent to 40 percent, with O’Malley at 4 percent. I enclosed below excerpts from the polling memo. Last month’s Quinnipiac poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers showed Sanders at 41 percent and Clinton at 40 percent.

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Joe Biden not running for president

Official portrait of Vice President Joe Biden in his West Wing Office at the White House, Jan. 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Official portrait of Vice President Joe Biden in his West Wing Office at the White House, Jan. 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Vice President Joe Biden announced earlier today that he will not run for president in 2016, because while his family has “worked through the grieving process” for his son Beau Biden, the window for “mounting a realistic campaign […] has closed.” Click through to watch Biden’s full statement from the White House Rose Garden. He vowed to stay involved in political discourse: “But while I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent. I intend to speak out clearly and forcefully, to influence as much as I can where we stand as a party, and where we need to go as a nation.”

Biden also urged other Democratic candidates not to run away from President Barack Obama as they seek office in 2016: “I believe that President Obama has led this nation from crisis to recovery, and we’re now on the cusp of resurgence, and I’m proud to have played a part in that. This party–our nation–will be making a tragic mistake if we walk away or attempt to undo the Obama legacy. […] Democrats should not only defend this record, and protect this record, they should run on the record.”

Any comments about the vice president’s announcement or the Democratic presidential race generally are welcome in this thread. I think Biden made the right choice. I don’t see the current Democratic field lacking the vision or the experience he would have brought to the table. Conventional wisdom suggests that Hillary Clinton will benefit more than Bernie Sanders from Biden staying out of the race. Martin O’Malley could gain ground too, because Democrats who were hoping the vice president would run again clearly were not satisfied with the current front-runners.

UPDATE: I enclose below reaction to Biden’s decision.

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Poll testing pro-Sanders, anti-Clinton messages with Iowa Democrats

Bernie Buttons

A new poll is in the field testing numerous statements designed to convince Iowa Democrats to caucus for Bernie Sanders rather than for Hillary Clinton. I received the call last night and enclose my notes below. If you were a respondent for the same survey and can provide additional details, please post a comment in this thread or contact me via e-mail (the address is near the lower right corner of this page).

My best guess is that an outside group wanting to boost Sanders commissioned the poll. The questionnaire did not include any negative statements about the senator from Vermont. If the Sanders campaign were designing a poll like this, I think they would have tested a few arguments against supporting the candidate, to identify his possible weak points. An outside group planning to produce direct mail or paid advertising to influence Iowa Democrats wouldn’t need that information. They would only be interested in the best way to discourage people from caucusing for Clinton and/or encourage them to caucus for Sanders.

Although Sanders doesn’t have a super-PAC promoting his campaign, progressive advocacy groups that want him to become president may make independent expenditures supporting him. Note that the survey asked respondents whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the environmental group Friends of the Earth; no other non-profit organizations were mentioned in the questionnaire. Friends of the Earth endorsed Sanders this summer and would presumably be interested in knowing how well they are known/liked among early state Democrats.

It’s also possible that a conservative organization would commission a poll like this, hoping to hurt Clinton in the early nominating states.

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First Democratic presidential debate discussion thread

In a few moments, five Democratic presidential candidates will take the stage in Las Vegas for their first televised debate. I wish the Democratic National Committee hadn’t stood in the way of scheduling more debates, starting this summer. Listening to DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz try to defend her stance in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer today, all I could think was, thank heaven for the “Big Blue Wall.” We aren’t going to win elections on Wasserman-Schultz’s strategic skills, that’s for sure.

All of the candidates are under pressure tonight. Hillary Clinton wants to change the dominant media narrative, which has been relentlessly negative about her candidacy for months. Bernie Sanders has his first substantial block of tv time to talk about his policies. In recent months, network news coverage has devoted far more air time to Joe Biden’s possible presidential bid than to Sanders’ actual campaign, which is drawing record crowds.

As the loudest voice for more debates, who has received relatively little media attention so far, Martin O’Malley needs a strong showing tonight, especially since the other debates scheduled before the Iowa caucuses are all happening on weekends, when viewership will likely be low. Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee will also want to break through to a national audience, but they are not building real campaign organizations the way O’Malley has done. Twitter user dcg1114, who posted this guest piece at Bleeding Heartland last month, noted today that the first debate of the 1984 election cycle gave Gary Hart his “first real sign of life.” In particular, that debate helped Hart improve his standing for the Iowa caucuses.

Incidentally, former Iowan and Democratic activist Tommi Makila wrote a blistering commentary contrasting O’Malley’s criticism of the DNC’s “rigged” process with the “rigged” Democratic primaries Makila has observed since moving to Maryland years ago.

Please share any relevant comments in this thread. I’ll update this post later with first thoughts on the debate. UPDATE: My impressions are below.

After the jump I’ve posted videos of the latest commercials Clinton has been running, as well as the debut tv ad the Generation Forward PAC put on the air in Iowa supporting O’Malley.  

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Iowa Democratic caucus links and latest polls

It’s been a while since Bleeding Heartland had a discussion thread about the Democratic caucus campaign. After the jump I’ve posted highlights from the latest opinion polls of Iowa Democrats and other links on campaign infrastructure and strategies. Whether Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is building a stronger Iowa organization so far is an open question.

Any comments about the caucuses are welcome in this thread.

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Quinnipiac is first pollster to show Sanders leading Clinton in Iowa

Quinnipiac is out with a new poll showing 41 percent of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers favor Bernie Sanders, to 40 percent for Hillary Clinton, 12 percent for Joe Biden, 3 percent each for Martin O’Malley and undecided, 1 percent for Jim Webb, and less than 1 percent for Lincoln Chafee. Although several polling firms have shown Sanders ahead in New Hampshire, no previous survey has found him closer than 7 points behind Clinton in Iowa.

Quinnipiac’s poll surveyed 832 “likely Iowa Democratic Caucus participants” between August 27 and September 8, producing a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percent. Other Iowa polls in the field either during that window or a few days before it found Clinton leads ranging from 7 points (Selzer & Co’s survey for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics) to 11 points (NBC/Marist) to 25 points (Loras College) to 28 points (a Gravis Marketing survey that inexplicably included Elizabeth Warren).

Click here for the Quinnipiac polling memo and full results with questionnaire. The survey found “a wide gender gap among Democrats today as Sanders leads Clinton 49 – 28 percent among men, with 16 percent for Biden, while Clinton leads Sanders 49 – 35 percent among women, with 9 percent for Biden.” Clinton’s favorability rating of 76 percent is comparable to Sanders’ 78 percent and Biden’s 79 percent, but her unfavorable rating of 20 percent is much higher than that of Sanders or Biden (6 percent and 9 percent, respectively). Respondents rated Clinton higher for leadership qualities and “the right kind of temperament and personality to handle an international crisis as president.”

The Quinnipiac Poll’s assistant director Peter A. Brown compared Sanders to 1968 anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy, because he is “the candidate of the Democratic left, against his own party’s bosses and their prized presidential candidate […] Sanders has seized the momentum by offering a message more in line with disproportionately liberal primary and caucus voters.”

DNC still can't justify its limits on presidential candidate debates (updated)

Four Iowa Democratic county chairs made cogent arguments today for expanding the number of presidential debates before caucuses and primaries begin. In an accompanying statement, 27 local Democratic leaders in Iowa joined the call for more debates, starting sooner this year.

As usual, the Democratic National Committee failed to offer a compelling defense for their unprecedented and ridiculous policy limiting candidates to six officially sanctioned debates, starting in mid-October.  

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Labor Day weekend open thread, with new Iowa caucus polls

Happy Labor Day weekend to the Bleeding Heartland community! This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Click here for a brief history of the holiday.

For those wanting to enjoy the outdoors during the unofficial last weekend of summer, you may find some inspiration in the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ list of fourteen “incredible hikes in our state parks and forests,” here and here. I’m embarrassed by how few of those parks I have visited, but I can highly recommend the walking trails at the Ledges and Dolliver Memorial State Parks.

Three more polling firms have released new Iowa caucus surveys since last weekend’s Selzer poll for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg news. Highlights are after the jump. All recent polls put Donald Trump and Ben Carson well ahead of the rest of the Republican field in Iowa. Bernie Sanders has clearly gained some ground on Hillary Clinton, but other polls have found a larger lead for the Democratic front-runner here than Selzer did.

Eric Boehlert was quick to criticize the media for giving Selzer’s poll of Iowa Democrats such big play last weekend, even though it looks like an “outlier” in his view. I take his point, but the last time I said a Selzer poll appeared to be an outlier, I had to eat my words.

Before I get to the polls below, here’s one for the “campaigns don’t matter” crowd, who believe economic conditions largely decide presidential elections. The Moody’s Analytics model “now predicts a Democratic electoral landslide in the 2016 presidential vote,” with 326 electoral votes for the Democratic nominee and 212 to the Republican. Click through for more information on the Moody’s methodology.

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DNC has no good answer to Martin O'Malley's case for more debates

Three days have passed since presidential candidate Martin O’Malley blasted the Democratic National Committee’s “cynical move to delay and limit our own Party debates” during a speech to members and leaders at the DNC’s summer meeting. I enclose below the full text of O’Malley’s remarks, as prepared. The first section presses his case against the “unprecedented,” “rigged process” for allowing only six presidential candidate debates. O’Malley noted that just four debates are scheduled before the early caucuses and primaries, and “the New Hampshire debate is cynically wedged into the high point of the holiday shopping season so as few people watch it as possible.” For those who haven’t had a chance to see O’Malley campaign yet, the other sections of his remarks are adapted from his standard stump speech.

I have yet to hear any good argument for limiting presidential debates. You won’t find any response to O’Malley on the DNC’s official website. While the governor’s comments about debates were the big news from the summer meeting, dominating most media coverage of the event, the DNC’s Twitter feed picked this bland quote to highlight: “‘Whether or not we make the American Dream true again for all American families is up to us.’ -@MartinOMalley #dems15”

At the Iowa State Fair, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz couldn’t be distracted from her laundry list of talking points to respond to hecklers demanding more debates. Nor could she be bothered to engage with O’Malley’s substantive case last Friday. CNN reported that Wasserman Schultz “spent most of the speech looking down at a table just feet from the governor,” rarely clapping. Asked about O’Malley’s claim that it might be illegal for the national party to prohibit candidates from debating in non-sanctioned forums, the DNC leader told CNN, “I am quite confident that the process we have established is directly compliant with our rules and completely legal, whatever that means.” But why is she so set on those rules?

Conventional wisdom says the DNC intervened in the process to put a thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton. Although long-shot candidates arguably have more to gain from debates than the front-runner, I reject the premise that the DNC’s asinine policy helps Clinton. She and all Democrats would benefit from a large national audience watching five (or perhaps six) candidates intelligently discuss issues that matter to people’s lives. More important, Democratic voters should have more than a handful of chances to see our candidates side by side.

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Big gains for Bernie Sanders in new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll

Hillary Clinton has a real fight on her hands in Iowa, according to the latest poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News. Among 404 likely Democratic caucus-goers surveyed between August 23 and 26, Clinton is the first choice of 37 percent, followed by Bernie Sanders (30 percent), Joe Biden (14 percent), “not sure” (8 percent), “uncommitted” (6 percent), Martin O’Malley (3 percent), Jim Webb (2 percent), and Lincoln Chafee (1 percent. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

When respondents did not have the option of selecting Biden, Clinton was the first choice of 43 percent of respondents, while 35 percent picked Sanders.

The Selzer poll will worry the front-runner’s campaign, especially since two surveys of New Hampshire Democrats have now shown Sanders leading Clinton in the first primary state. Notably, Selzer found Sanders way ahead among caucus-goers under age 45 (50 percent to 27 percent), among first-time caucus-goers (43 percent to 31 percent), and among independents likely to participate in the Democratic caucuses (a 21-point lead, but I don’t see the numbers in the write-up by Jennifer Jacobs). Caucus-goers who are “feeling the Bern” are not driven by “anyone but Hillary” sentiment. Some 96 percent of respondents backing Sanders are doing so “mostly because [they] support him and his ideas”; just 2 percent said Sanders is their first choice mostly because they do not support Clinton.

The poll is horrendous news for O’Malley, who has worked his heart out campaigning in Iowa. Since 2013, he has visited the state fifteen times, spending all or part of 29 days here. Every time I’ve seen O’Malley in person, his stump speech has been well-received, but Sanders seized the progressive/liberal niche early. I don’t see a path for O’Malley to become viable in most of the state’s precincts. While he has been filling small and medium-sized venues, Sanders has been drawing ridiculously large crowds all over the state, most recently at the Des Moines Register’s Iowa State Fair soapbox. At events where there is no externally-imposed time limit, Sanders keeps the crowd’s attention for over an hour, not counting time he spends answering questions.

I will update this post as the Register publishes more data from the new survey. A separate post will cover the latest Selzer poll findings on Republican presidential candidates in Iowa.

Weekend open thread: Iowa State Fair heckling edition

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

Saturday was the final day for politicians to speak at the Des Moines Register’s Iowa State Fair “soapbox.” You can view all of this year’s videos here. Heckling was the running theme from yesterday’s appearances. O.Kay Henderson summarized the incidents at Radio Iowa.

I have zero sympathy for Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, whom protesters repeatedly interrupted to demand more Democratic presidential debates. Wasserman-Schultz had nothing new to say on the soapbox–certainly nothing as newsworthy as the DNC’s asinine policy limiting the presidential candidates to only six sanctioned debates, with the threat of exclusion if they participate in any unsanctioned ones. The DNC’s position serves no public interest whatsoever. It only creates the appearance of the party establishment putting a thumb on the scale for current front-runner Hillary Clinton. All Democrats, including Clinton, could benefit from starting the debates before October. In sharp contrast to the Donald Trump freak show dominating the other side’s discourse, Democrats have five (perhaps soon to be six) candidates who can talk intelligently about policy.

A group of protesters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals provided some drama by storming the soapbox while New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was taking questions. Tactics like those make PETA one of the most ineffective advocacy organizations I’ve seen. Christie deserves criticism for vetoing a New Jersey ban on gestation crates for sows, which passed with massive bipartisan support. But PETA only managed to generate sympathy for the governor. He came up with a great line after law enforcement pulled the animal rights activists off-stage:

“I have to tell you the truth when something like that happens and I’m here in Iowa, man, I feel right at home. It feels like I’m back in Jersey for a couple of minutes, so thank you, Iowa, for doing that,” Christie said to cheers from the crowd.

On the other hand, a little heckling that doesn’t go over the top can throw a candidate off his or her game. The best example was the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member who got Mitt Romney to say, “Corporations are people, my friend,” at the 2011 Iowa State Fair. Democrats across the country eagerly made use of Romney’s gaffe. Within a matter of weeks, though, Iowa CCI members’ heckling of Senator Chuck Grassley at a town-hall in Carroll drew criticism from Iowa Democratic Party leaders for going too far.

Politically engaged people tend to have strong feelings about what kinds of protests are appropriate. Pat Rynard used unusually harsh language to condemn the activists who disrupted Wasserman-Schultz’s speech. John Deeth has long expressed contempt for Iowa CCI’s “counterproductive” tactics. Though I’ve never heckled a politician at a public event, my take on what I viewed as the Iowa Democratic Party’s “hippie-punching” of Iowa CCI generated one of the most heated comment threads in Bleeding Heartland’s eight-year history.

When, if ever, do you think heckling is a justified and/or effective political tactic?

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Joe Biden presidential run speculation thread

Since late July, Vice President Joe Biden and his advisers have been touching base with Democrats about a possible presidential run. While on vacation this week, Biden has reportedly been “calling old friends and potential allies to discuss the possibilities and problems of jumping into the Democratic presidential race.” A recent Gallup poll of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic found that 45 percent want Biden to run for president, while 47 percent do not. Even as a non-candidate, Biden is averaging about 11 percent in national polls of Democrats.

Writing in USA Today, Susan Page explained why Biden could be a fallback for establishment Democrats “who are uneasy about Hillary Clinton” because of continuing controversy over her use of e-mail as secretary of state. Strategist Joe Trippi told Page that a Biden campaign “would completely alter the Democratic primary fight,” splitting the establishment vote and giving Bernie Sanders a big boost.

It’s hard for me to imagine Biden beating Clinton in the primaries. Nor do I see the e-mail scandals causing her candidacy to “implode,” as Chris Matthews suggested yesterday on MSNBC’s Hardball. That doesn’t mean Biden won’t roll the dice on getting his name on the ballot, just in case. A presidential campaign can be exhausting even under the best of circumstances, and I can’t imagine keeping up that kind of schedule while coping with a devastating bereavement. But Biden loves public speaking and working a room, so he might find some solace in running for president again. Iowa Democrats are generally fond of Biden and would welcome his presence here, even if they were sticking with other candidates.

Former Senator Tom Harkin endorsed Clinton late last week and spent much of Saturday with her at the Iowa State Fair. Many observers suggested the patriarch of Iowa Democrats weighed in at this time to send Biden a signal. Yesterday Harkin told MSNBC that Clinton is “doing everything right,” meeting voters in person and running a great campaign organization. Harkin also asserted that as he gets around Iowa, “people here are not talking about those e-mails. I don’t get where this is coming from.” Harkin added, “What this calls for right now is Hillary Clinton, it’s time for a woman – it’s past time, as a matter of fact – for a woman president.” Asked specifically whether Biden will run for president, Harkin suggested the Democratic presidential field is “set.” Click here to watch the whole interview.

This thread is for any scenario spinning about Biden’s plans or the Democratic presidential campaigns. After the jump I’ve enclosed excerpts from Harkin’s op-ed for the Des Moines Register explaining why he supports Clinton.

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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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Five shocking findings from Public Policy Polling's latest Iowa survey

Public Policy Polling released its latest Iowa caucus numbers yesterday. As other recent surveys of Iowa Democrats have shown, Hillary Clinton still leads by a considerable margin, but her lead has shrunk since the spring, as Iowans have learned more about other contenders. PPP now has Clinton at 52 percent support among “usual Democratic primary voters,” while Bernie Sanders has 25 percent, Martin O’Malley 7 percent, Jim Webb 3 percent, and Lincoln Chafee 1 percent.

On the GOP side, Donald Trump leads among “usual Republican primary voters” with 19 percent, followed by Ben Carson and Scott Walker (12 percent each), Jeb Bush (11 percent), Carly Fiorina (10 percent), Ted Cruz (9 percent), Mike Huckabee and Marco Rubio (6 percent each), John Kasich and Rand Paul (3 percent each), Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum (2 percent each), Chris Christie (1 percent), and Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki (less than 1 percent).

Dropping to 3 percent earned Paul the “biggest loser” title from Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen and was the only topline result that shocked me. Things got way more interesting in the cross-tabs. I enclose below the five findings that struck me most.

As a bonus, I added at the end of this post completely unsurprising numbers from PPP’s survey of registered Iowa voters: Governor Terry Branstad is underwater with 42 percent approval and 47 percent disapproval. Last month’s high-profile line-item vetoes are even less popular.

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Weekend open thread: ADA anniversary and Iowa caucus polls edition

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

The Americans With Disabilities Act took effect 25 years ago this week. How many laws have changed the country for the better as much as Senator Tom Harkin’s greatest achievement? The ADA helped millions of people who might have been housebound–like my friend who was able to run errands or take her son to the park, even though she was confined to a wheelchair. Judy Schmidt, who chairs the Iowa Democratic Party’s Disability Caucus, shared how the ADA has affected her in a guest column for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. I’ve enclosed excerpts after the jump. Bleeding Heartland posted more background and links about the law to mark its 20th anniversary. For the record, Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley also voted for the final version of the ADA, as did most of his fellow Republicans. UPDATE: Added below excerpts from Harkin’s guest editorial in the Sunday Des Moines Register.

Donald Trump has led the last five national polls of Republican voters and is rising in stature in Iowa, if you believe the latest surveys of likely GOP caucus-goers. Follow me after the jump for details.

I brought my kids to Bernie Sanders’ town-hall in West Des Moines on Friday night. My reflections on that event are at the end of this post.

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New poll of Iowa Democrats testing messages about Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

This evening I was a respondent for a lengthy poll testing messages about Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. I assume the Clinton campaign commissioned this survey. If not her campaign, then some allied group. Most of the questions seemed geared toward determining what is driving Iowa Democrats toward or away from the front-runner and the senator from Vermont, who has claimed the progressive alternative niche in the presidential race. Several of the questions drew from rhetoric Clinton uses in her stump speech.

The caller identified herself as representing “National Data Collection.” She was calling from 586-200-0157, the same number used for a different message-testing phone poll I received in early March.

I almost feel sorry for these pollsters having to repeat so many questions when they call my house. My notes are after the jump. I’ve been a respondent for many polls over the years, but this one included a device that was new to me.

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Weekend open thread: Hall of Fame and Family Leadership Summit edition

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

All five Democratic presidential candidates appeared at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids on Friday night. I’ve posted below my impressions from the speeches; you can watch the videos on C-SPAN. It’s a shame the venue couldn’t accommodate more people, because lots of interested Iowa Democrats were unable to get tickets for the event.

Before the Hall of Fame dinner, I spent some time with an old friend who’s a huge Hillary Clinton supporter. Huge, as in, she didn’t take down her Hillary yard sign until the grass was long enough to need mowing in the spring of 2008. She mentioned to me that she’s relieved to see Clinton working hard this year instead of “ignoring” Iowa like last time. When I told my friend that Hillary visited Iowa more than 30 times in 2007, spending all or part of 70 days in the state, she was surprised. I’m amazed by how many Iowans have bought into the media-constructed narrative that Clinton “bombed” in the caucuses because she took the state for granted.

Ten Republican presidential candidates came to Ames on Saturday for the Family Leadership Summit organized by Bob Vander Plaats’ FAMiLY Leader organization. C-SPAN posted all of those speeches here. As usual, Donald Trump sucked up most of the oxygen in the room by questioning whether Senator John McCain had been a hero during the Vietnam War. O.Kay Henderson posted the audio at Radio Iowa. Rival presidential candidates with the exception of Ted Cruz rushed to condemn Trump’s remarks. Some of the Family Leadership Summit attendees may have been more upset by Trump’s comments about his three marriages and his admission that when he’s done something wrong, “I don’t bring God into that picture.”

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Big gains for Bernie Sanders in latest Q-poll of Iowa Democrats

Quinnipiac’s latest survey of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers shows Senator Bernie Sanders cutting into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s lead. The front-runner is ahead by 52 percent to 33 percent, compared to 60 percent for Clinton and 15 percent for Sanders in the previous Iowa Q-poll, released in May. The memo, results, and questionnaire for the latest survey are here. Vice President Joe Biden, who is very unlikely to run for president again, placed third with 7 percent support. Rounding out the declared Democratic field, former Governor Martin O’Malley registered 3 percent, former Senator Jim Webb 1 percent, and former Senator Lincoln Chaffee did not even reach the 1 percent mark among Quinnipiac’s respondents. Click here for more details on the sample and methodology. Live interviewers polled 761 likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers between June 20 and 29, producing a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

The person who should be most worried about this poll is O’Malley. Sanders has firmly occupied the niche of progressive alternative to Clinton–not just in New Hampshire, where he is better-known as a neighboring state’s senator, but across the country. I’ve seen speculation that O’Malley could position himself as a more electable alternative to Clinton than Sanders. But any Democrat concerned primarily about electability will probably vote or caucus for Clinton. Quinnipiac’s Iowa Democratic respondents still view her positively: 85 percent favorable, 10 percent unfavorable. So Sanders isn’t riding an anti-Hillary wave; rather, he has stronger appeal among liberals.

Any comments about the Democratic presidential race are welcome in this thread. Last weekend, I saw a fun example of the Iowa caucus-goer mentality when a local acquaintance on vacation in New England posted to Facebook photos from a Sanders rally she attended in New Hampshire.

Democratic presidential candidates converging on Cedar Rapids, July 17

The Iowa Democratic Party’s annual Hall of Fame dinner will draw a larger-than-usual crowd this year, thanks to confirmed appearances by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders, former Governor Martin O’Malley, and former Senator Jim Webb. (I assume former Senator Lincoln Chaffee, who is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, will join the list of speakers as well.) Tickets for the event at the Cedar Rapids Convention Complex on Friday, July 17 are available here.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the seven Iowa Democrats who will be honored at the Hall of Fame event. No one deserves the “outstanding elected official” award more than Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum. Following Iowa statehouse politics closely can be a discouraging pastime, especially this year, but the highest-ranking Democratic woman to serve in the Iowa Senate always makes progressives feel well-represented. I can’t think of a better candidate for governor in 2018.

Former State Representative and Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran will receive the Iowa Democratic Party’s “outstanding supporter” award. Outside her home town, she is best known for having served as mayor during the devastating 2008 floods.

The “outstanding activist” award is going to Tri-County Democrats chair Kurt Meyer. He was the runner-up candidate to lead the Iowa Democratic Party in January. As I wrote at that time, Meyer has done tremendous organizing work in northern Iowa. His efforts contributed to Mitchell County being the whitest county in the U.S. to vote for Barack Obama (and Howard County the fifth-whitest to favor Obama over Mitt Romney), as well as to State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm’s narrow victory over Republican Senator Merlin “Build my fence” Bartz in 2012. Without Wilhelm, there’s no Iowa Senate majority.  

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Weekend open thread: latest Des Moines Register Iowa caucus poll edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome. After the jump I’ve enclosed highlights from Selzer & Co’s latest Iowa poll for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics. I had planned to focus on that poll last weekend, until I heard the devastating news about Beau Biden.

Speaking of the Selzer poll, I’m waiting for the self-styled “Dr. Politics” (Iowa State University professor Steffen Schmidt) to square his assertion that Iowa Democrats “truly hate [Hillary] Clinton’s ‘listening tour’ campaign” with Selzer’s findings that 86 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers view Clinton favorably, and 57 percent say she is their first choice for president. Yes, Bernie Sanders got great turnout for his Iowa events last weekend. But where is the evidence that Iowans “hate” the Clinton campaign?

The Des Moines Register ran lots of articles featuring poll results this past week. I got a kick out of the “Captain Obvious” headline for this piece: “Moderates, very conservative in GOP not always in sync.” You don’t say. I guess that’s why moderate and very conservative Republicans have gravitated toward different presidential candidates every four years for the last several decades.

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It's about time: MoveOn and Democracy for America suspend Run Warren Run campaign

Democracy for America and MoveOn.org announced today that effective June 8, they will suspend the effort to convince Senator Elizabeth Warren to run for president. Organizers say the Run Warren Run campaign collected more 365,000 signatures on petitions since December and generated substantial support in other ways, described in detail in the press release enclosed below. From where I’m sitting, there are better ways to spend $1.25 million on progressive advocacy efforts. Warren will receive a copy of the petition, and MoveOn and DFA will presumably retain contact information for everyone who signed.

Today’s announcement says nothing about whether MoveOn.org or Democracy for America will endorse one of the two Democrats running for president as progressive alternatives to Hillary Clinton: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont or former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. The Iowa Democrats I know who were excited about Warren seem to be either supporting Sanders already or leaning in that direction. Run Warren Run ceased to have any real purpose the day Sanders announced his candidacy, but this past month, organizers have continued to ask Iowans to sign petitions, claiming there was a real chance Warren would change her mind.

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Martin O'Malley's immediate problem: Bernie Sanders

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley launched his presidential campaign in Baltimore yesterday before holding events in the Quad Cities and Des Moines later in the day. He was well-received at both venues and in New Hampshire today. I challenge any Democrat to find much to disagree with in O’Malley’s message.

O’Malley’s pitch to Democrats draws several indirect contrasts to front-runner Hillary Clinton, starting with the “new leadership” tag line on his campaign materials. His stump speech includes riffs on declining real wages, trade policy and the banking industry that put him to Clinton’s left. But from what we saw in Iowa this weekend, O’Malley has a lot of work to do to.

O’Malley’s immediate problem isn’t the large lead for Clinton in name recognition and opinion polls. It’s that Senator Bernie Sanders has already claimed the “progressive alternative to Hillary” niche.  

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While Iowa GOP levels playing field for underdogs, DNC gives them extra burden

Democrats in Iowa and nationally have been worried all year that a more competitive GOP presidential campaign will boost Republican organizing and enthusiasm going into the 2016 general election.

Yet this week, while the Iowa GOP announced plans to help long-shot presidential candidates be heard on equal footing, the Democratic National Committee sharply limited opportunities for voters to compare the whole presidential field side by side.  

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Still not convinced Martin O'Malley is running for president

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has been laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign for quite a while. These past few days, he continued to walk and talk just like a presidential candidate would in Iowa. On Thursday, he spoke at Simpson College and headlined a fundraiser for State Representative Scott Ourth before speaking to a good crowd in a heavily Democratic Des Moines neighborhood. The next day, he taped an episode of “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television (video and full transcript here; excerpts after the jump). O’Malley wrapped up Friday with a well-received speech at the Polk County Democrats’ spring event (click through for video or audio). The stump speech blended a summary of his accomplishments as Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor with a vision for the future. For laughs and applause, he threw in some good jabs at tea party Republicans. Before and after the speech, O’Malley worked the room of activists. His staff had put down placemats and postcards for people to take home.

Yet I still can’t shake the feeling that O’Malley will not follow through with running for president.  

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Weekend open thread: Neal Smith memories edition

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

The Polk County Democrats’ spring awards dinner on Friday night exceeded all expectations. Hordes of journalists showed up to cover speeches by former U.S. Senator Jim Webb and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. I enjoyed both speeches and have posts in progress on their messages. C-SPAN put up video of both speeches here.

You had to be there to experience the evening’s other high points. Beautiful videos honored the memories of veterans who died overseas and three legendary local Democratic supporters who passed away during the past year (including Paulee Lipsman). Tireless Urbandale volunteer and letter-to-the-editor writer Rick Smith was recognized for his activism. Before Webb and O’Malley spoke, Iowa Democrats honored Representative Neal Smith, who represented Polk County in Congress from 1959 to 1985. Unfortunately, Smith couldn’t be present, having suffered a minor injury last week. He sent a letter to be read on his behalf, while former Senator Tom Harkin shared memories by videotape and Representative Leonard Boswell told the crowd a few of his favorite stories about Smith. After the jump I’ve listed six new things I learned on Friday about the longest-serving member of the U.S. House in Iowa history.

In 2012, Smith sat down with Polk County Democratic Party Chair Tom Henderson to reflect on his life and long political career. Those videos are well worth your time: part 1 and part 2.  

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New Iowa poll testing negative messages about Hillary Clinton (updated)

Someone is paying to test a series of negative messages about Hillary Clinton among Iowa Democrats. Our household received a call from a Michigan-based polling firm last night. The interviewer asked for my husband by name, indicating that the pollster was working from a list of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers or reliable voters. After typical likely voter screening questions, a ballot test among Democratic candidates, and a few statements about President Barack Obama, most of the the poll focused on unflattering messages about Hillary Clinton. My notes are after the jump. Some messages appear multiple times, because there was quite a bit of repetition in the survey.

I haven’t been able to identify who paid for this poll, but I’m confident it didn’t come from Clinton’s inner circle or any group supporting her presidential ambitions. Unlike two other recent polls of Iowa Democrats, which Bleeding Heartland covered here and Iowa Starting Line covered here, this survey tested almost no positive statements about Clinton or her record. Then again, Pat Rynard suspects the Clinton campaign did commission this poll, citing similarities to the call he received last month.

In theory, a group favoring a different Democratic candidate for president would want to test lines of attack against Hillary. But to my ear, this poll sounded like the work of a Republican or conservative advocacy group. The questionnaire didn’t include any positive messages about any other potential Democratic candidates. Near the beginning of the survey, my husband was asked about his first and second choice if the Iowa caucuses were held today. But after the laundry list of negative statements about Clinton, the poll didn’t repeat the ballot test to see whether respondents now would be inclined to caucus for Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or Martin O’Malley over Clinton. (I don’t think Jim Webb was included.)

I don’t know how long this poll has been in the field, but the questionnaire must have been finalized before this week, because there were no questions about Clinton using her personal e-mail account for work during her tenure as secretary of state.

UPDATE: Maybe this poll originated within the Clinton circle after all. Patrick Ruffini pointed out that the call my household received came from the same phone number as polling calls backing the Democratic candidate in a New York Congressional race last year. If the survey firm mainly works for Democrats, then Clinton’s team or a group supporting her aspirations must be behind the poll. No rival Democratic candidate would have paid for a lengthy questionnaire including zero positive messages about alternatives to Clinton.

MARCH 10 UPDATE: According to the latest edition of HuffPollster, “many reports of calls from 586-200-0157 from recipients nationwide who were told they had been called by Mountain West Research, a call center used as subcontractor by campaign pollsters.” Several past Democratic candidates have used the firm.

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New Iowa Democratic caucus discussion thread

February has been a busy month for possible Democratic presidential candidates in Iowa. This thread is for any comments related to next year’s Iowa caucuses. Here are a few links to get the conversation started.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign (or some group close to Clinton) appears to be message-testing Iowa Democrats. Pat Rynard was a respondent in the latest survey, and the questions had a lot in common with the poll Bleeding Heartland wrote up here. One noticeable difference: the new poll hints at a strong focus on paid family and sick leave if Clinton runs for president.

NBC/Marist released the latest poll of Iowa Democrats, showing Clinton way ahead with 68 percent support. Vice President Joe Biden was a distant second place with 12 percent, though that poll did not ask respondents about Senator Elizabeth Warren. In hypothetical general election match-ups, Clinton leads former Florida Governor Jeb Bush by 48 percent to 40 percent in Iowa, and leads Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker by 49 percent to 38 percent.

The vice president stopped in central Iowa earlier this month. After meeting briefly with Governor Terry Branstad, Biden visited the Des Moines Area Community College, where he touted free community college tuition. Speaking at Drake University, Biden encouraged Democratic candidates to run on the Obama administration’s record in 2016. Playing for laughs, the Des Moines Register’s coverage focused on “great Joe Biden-isms.”. (For what it’s worth, where Jason Noble heard Biden calling former Representative Neal Smith his “old butt buddy,” to my ear it sounded more like a mini-stutter: “an old bud- buddy.”) Pat Rynard’s write-up was more substantive, and I tend to agree with his conclusion: Biden didn’t sound like a future presidential candidate at Drake.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders just finished a three-day swing through Iowa. He spoke to supporters at Iowa City’s Prairie Lights book store, talked to students at Drake and the University of Iowa, headlined the Iowa Citizen Action Network’s annual dinner in Johnston, spoke in Cedar Rapids and Tipton, and finally was the start guest at the Story County Democrats’ soup dinner in Ames. Sanders continues to highlight his key issues of economic inequality and money in politics. At several of his Iowa stops he also called on Republicans not to tie Department of Homeland Security funding to rolling back President Barack Obama’s immigration policies. He has yet to indicate whether he might run for president as a Democrat or as an independent.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley hasn’t been to Iowa this month, but he’ll headline events for the Scott County Democrats in March and the Polk County Democrats in April.

Finally, Iowa Starting Line has kicked off a series of posts on how Democratic presidential candidates can win key counties in Iowa. Author Rynard has worked on various campaigns in different parts of the state. The first two installments focused on Clinton County and Woodbury County.  

Democrats should skip Bruce Rastetter's Iowa Agriculture Forum

Seven potential Republican presidential candidates have accepted Bruce Rastetter’s invitation to attend an “Iowa Agricultural Forum” in Des Moines next month, Erin Murphy reported yesterday. The seven are Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and national laughingstock sorry, entrepreneur Donald Trump. No doubt more Republicans will show up to be heard as well.

Rastetter also invited U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack as well as a half-dozen Democrats who may run for president this cycle or in the future: Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, and former U.S. Senator Jim Webb. So far no Democrats have accepted the invitation.

I hope they all steer clear of this event.

It’s a bit late for Rastetter to reinvent himself as some kind of non-partisan elder statesman. He provided the seed money for the 501(c)4 group American Future Fund, which quickly grew into one of the biggest-spending and most deceptive dark money groups on the right. After leading an effort to bring Terry Branstad out of political retirement, Rastetter became the top individual donor to Branstad’s 2010 campaign, landing a prestigious appointment to the influential Board of Regents. As a Regent, he has thrown his weight around more than most of his predecessors. In what many viewed as a conflict of interest, Rastetter continued to pursue a business project involving his biofuels company and Iowa State University in an extensive land acquisition in Tanzania. Later, he tried to get the University of Iowa’s president to arrange a meeting where biofuels industry representatives could educate a prominent professor whom Rastetter considered “uninformed” about ethanol. Rastetter was also involved in the fiasco that eventually led to Senator Tom Harkin pulling his papers from Iowa State University.

Early in the 2012 election cycle, Rastetter led a group of Iowa businessmen who tried to recruit New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to run for president. Although he is now cultivating an image as a corporate leader who is above the political fray, he will always be seen as a Republican power-broker in Iowa. I don’t see much upside to any Democrat showing up to kiss Rastetter’s ring. At best, the national and local reporters covering the Agriculture Forum will write about the “frosty reception” Democratic speakers got from a conservative audience. Or more likely, disruption by hecklers will overshadow any Democratic message on agricultural policy.

Democrats who may run for president will have lots of opportunities this year to address Iowans who might actually listen to them.  

Is the latest Hillary Clinton message-testing poll for men only? (updated)

A new poll is in the field testing messages about Hillary Clinton with Iowa Democrats. The live-interviewer survey is coming from a Michigan-based phone number (586-200-0081). The caller will not say who paid for the survey, only that he or she represents “the National Data Collection Firm.” The caller asks respondents for their views on several prospective Democratic presidential candidates and various public-policy issues, then tests the respondent’s agreement with numerous statements about Clinton’s record and asks whether certain statements would make you more or less likely to vote for Clinton.

John Deeth took the call and posted his account here. My notes on the same survey are after the jump. Some New Hampshire residents are getting similar calls, but from a different phone number.

Although I don’t know who paid for this survey, the questionnaire suggests to me that it came from a group supporting Clinton’s presidential aspirations, not from a rival Democratic camp. There appears to be a special interest in gauging support for Senator Elizabeth Warren and her views on the system being rigged in favor of big banks and wealthy interests.

I also have a hunch, as yet unconfirmed, that the contact universe for this survey may consist only of men who are registered Democrats and have participated in past Iowa Democratic caucuses. I have not yet been able to find a woman who received the call, despite asking quite a few likely suspects (including some who took part in the previous message-testing poll about Clinton in Iowa). The caller asks for a specific voter by name, and so far I have only heard of men being targeted. When I picked up our landline, the caller asked to speak to Mr. desmoinesdem about “important issues in Iowa.” I said he was not available but that I would be happy to answer the questions. The caller insisted that they are supposed to talk with certain people and again asked for my husband. I said, “Are you sure I’m not on your list too?” and gave my name–I’ll bet that’s a new one for that poll-taker! He politely said he would call later for Mr. desmoinesdem. True to his word, he called back in a few hours, and my husband put the phone on speaker so I could take notes. The survey takes about 15-20 minutes.

UPDATE: Thanks to crowd-sourcing, I can confirm that women as well as men are in the respondent pool for this survey.

Toward the end of the survey, the caller asks whether the respondent supported John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama in the 2008 caucuses (no other options given). This question was not preceded by any question about whether the individual caucused that year, suggesting to me that the pollster drew up the sample from a list of Iowa Democrats who did caucus in 2008.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I would particularly like to hear from Bleeding Heartland readers (male or female) who received the same call.

UPDATE: Bleeding Heartland user DCCyclone notes in the comments, “It’s definitely a high-priced survey for a campaign, party, or superpac or similarly campaign-focused interest group.  That the caller asked for a voter by name proves that, because only high-priced internal surveys sample that way.” I tend to agree that Ready for Hillary is the most likely suspect.

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Weekend open thread: Des Moines Register Iowa caucus poll edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Bonus points if someone can suggest a good reason for Senator Joni Ernst voting against renewable energy tax credits this week. Her staff should have informed her that those tax credits are important for Iowa’s wind turbine manufacturers. Then she could have followed Senator Chuck Grassley’s lead. Or maybe that information wouldn’t have mattered, since Ernst owes a lot to the Koch brothers, who strongly oppose federal incentives for renewable energy.

The Des Moines Register just published the latest Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa poll, which was in the field a few days after Representative Steve King’s Iowa Freedom Summit generated substantial political news coverage. Selzer & Co. surveyed 402 “likely Republican caucus-goers” between January 26 and 29, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent. No candidate has a statistically significant lead; the “top tier” are Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, 2012 nominee Mitt Romney (who hadn’t announced yet that he wasn’t running), former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (who won the 2008 Iowa GOP caucuses), Dr. Ben Carson, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. You can read the highlights on the Register’s website; after the jump I’ve embedded the polling memo. For my money, this is the most interesting part of Jennifer Jacobs’ story:

Sixty percent say it’s more important to vote for the person who aligns with their values, even if that candidate isn’t electable, compared with 36 percent who say winning the White House for Republicans is more important.

A majority – 51 percent of likely GOP caucusgoers – would prefer an anti-establishment candidate without a lot of ties to Washington or Wall Street who would change the way things are done and challenge conventional thinking. That compares to 43 percent who think the better leader would be a mainstream establishment candidate with executive experience who understands business and how to execute ideas, the new poll shows.

For respondents who say they want an establishment candidate, Romney is their first choice. With Romney out of the picture, Walker leads. Huckabee is next, then Bush.

Among those who want an anti-establishment candidate, Paul is the favorite, followed by Walker and Carson.

The 401 “Democratic likely caucus-goers” surveyed by Selzer & Co. overwhelmingly lean toward former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She’s the first choice of 56 percent and the second choice of 15 percent of respondents. Senator Elizabeth Warren polled 16 percent as a first choice and 23 percent as a second choice. Vice President Joe Biden polled 9 percent as a first choice and 26 percent as a second choice. All other potential candidates were in single digits.

FEBRUARY 1 UPDATE: Ben Schreckinger is out with a Politico story headlined, “Iowa Dems high and dry as Hillary decides.” I’ve added excerpts after the jump. The story is full of angtsy quotes about how there’s not as much activity on the Democratic side as there was before the 2004 and 2008 caucuses, and how Republicans will benefit from more organizing by presidential hopefuls. It’s true, Iowa Republicans have had way more candidate visits, including events to raise money for county parties or down-ballot candidates. Guess what? It’s going to stay that way for all of 2015. Our party has a prohibitive front-runner, and she is well-liked by the vast majority of likely Democratic caucus-goers. We’re not going to have multiple presidential candidates spending millions of dollars on dozens of field offices around the state. So stop whining about it to national reporters and start figuring out how to build a grassroots network without an Iowa caucus as competitive as 2004 or 2008.

I also added below a statement from the Iowa GOP, contrasting the “vibrant” and “diverse” Republican presidential field with the Democratic landscape ahead of the 2016 caucuses.

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Iowa caucus discussion thread: Romney reality check edition

Speaking in “his best precinct, the top-level donor conference call,” Mitt Romney announced this morning that he will not run for president a third time. Though the odds against a successful bid for the presidency would seem obvious to any casual politics watcher, Romney appears to have genuinely believed that he could win in 2016 with a sharper message. But many of his top donors, bundlers, and early-state volunteers were reluctant to board the Romney train one more time. In what may have been the last straw, yesterday news broke that David Kochel will soon move to Miami to work as “senior strategist” for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s new political action committee. Kochel was Romney’s top Iowa consultant during the 2008 and 2012 election cycles but is expected to become Bush’s national campaign manager once Jeb makes his presidential race official.

Kochel told Jonathan Martin of the New York Times that a lot of Iowans “will be interested in signing up” with Jeb Bush, adding that “You compete everywhere because that’s how you win delegates.” Some people had speculated that Bush might bypass the Iowa caucuses, seen to favor socially conservative candidates. He skipped Representative Steve King’s cattle call “Iowa Freedom Summit” last weekend in Des Moines, where several of the speakers took shots at him.

In general, Bush has spent the last month on major donor contacts and strategizing rather than public appearances. Bank on him to raise far more money than anyone else in the large presidential field during the first half of this year. He could raise as much as the rest of the field combined.

With Romney out, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie looks like the only person who can compete with Jeb for the “establishment Republican” niche. He reminded the audience at the Iowa Freedom Summit that he’s visited this state eleven times since 2010. You can listen to that speech at Radio Iowa.

Iowa Republican power-broker Bruce Rastetter spearheaded a “draft Christie” before the 2012 Iowa caucuses. So far this cycle, he is staking out a more neutral position. Last week Rastetter’s public relations team announced plans to hold an Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines on March 7. About two dozen possible presidential candidates from both parties have been invited to participate; the full list is in a press release I’ve enclosed after the jump. Governor Terry Branstad told Radio Iowa this week that Jeb Bush is “very interested” in attending the forum.  

While most of the speakers at King’s overly long Freedom Summit came to town solely for that occasion, 2012 Iowa caucuses winner Rick Santorum toured the state for several days afterward. He is still pushing a message I think Republicans should hear about how the GOP could better connect with working-class Americans. Radio Iowa posted the full audio here. According to Iowa Starting Line, Santorum didn’t draw a lot of applause at the Freedom Summit but was well-received at his small events this past week. Nevertheless, I expect most of his 2012 supporters to flow to other candidates this year, especially Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, or Ted Cruz.

I still like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s chances to win the Iowa caucuses. By all accounts he made a good impression on the Freedom Summit crowd. So did Ben Carson, but I don’t see Carson putting together a professional campaign operation. Radio Iowa posted the full audio and highlights from the Walker speech here. Click here to listen to Ted Cruz, another crowd favorite.

In contrast, former half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin bombed at the Freedom Summit, done in by a malfunctioning teleprompter. With her public speaking experience, she should have been able to wing it. I had to laugh when I saw Sam Clovis bash her to the Sioux City Journal’s reading audience. He’s probably still bitter that Palin endorsed Joni Ernst for Senate last spring when Clovis was campaigning as the true conservative in the GOP field.

The Republican Party of Iowa is accepting straw poll venue bids until Thursday, February 12. A recent press release said “Venue proposals should be able to accommodate large crowds and have ample parking.” The major fundraiser coming this August has traditionally been held in Ames, but I’m hearing there will be a strong push for Farm Progress Show in Boone. The State Fairgrounds in Des Moines are another leading contender for the event.

In news from the Democratic side, Mike Allen reported for Politico that former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “strongly considering delaying the formal launch of her presidential campaign until July.” A lot of Iowa Democrats are upset that Clinton has in effect frozen the field of play. They won’t be happy if she leaves everyone hanging until mid-summer. By this point in 2007, several Democratic presidential candidates already were opening field offices in key Iowa cities.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley made his first Iowa hire recently. Jake Oeth, who served as political director for Bruce Braley’s U.S. Senate campaign, is now doing outreach for O’Malley as a consultant to the O’Say Can You See PAC. According to Pat Rynard at Iowa Starting Line, O’Malley had been recruiting Oeth for some time. The former Maryland governor has Iowa connections going all the way back to Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential campaign and paid his dues last year with several Iowa visits, including the keynote speech for the state Democratic Party convention and fundraisers for Democratic candidates. Although some consider the former Maryland governor a possible rival to Clinton, I see him more as a back-up candidate if some unexpected development prevents Clinton from running.

MoveOn.org Political Action opened a Des Moines office for the Run Warren Run effort two weeks ago. I’ve posted the announcement after the jump; it mentions the first Iowa staff hires. As Bleeding Heartland discussed here, I think the “draft Warren” effort is mostly a waste of progressive energy and resources. Not that I’m against house parties for liberals, but they could be organizing around a more practical political cause. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to recruit Warren won’t change the fact that she is not running for president. Pat Rynard attended the Run Warren Run office kickoff party on January 29 and posted his thoughts on the campaign’s “murky mission.”

I haven’t heard much lately about U.S. Senator Jim Webb, who formed an exploratory committee late last year to consider a presidential bid. I never bought into him as a serious rival to Clinton, and he didn’t respond adeptly to the first real scrutiny of his PAC’s activities. I’m keeping an open mind about the Democratic race until the field is set, but if Webb turns out to be the only alternative candidate, I will be caucusing for Hillary.

Any comments about the Iowa caucuses are welcome in this thread.

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Someone is message-testing for Hillary Clinton in Iowa

I haven’t received the call myself, but multiple acquaintances who are registered Iowa Democrats have been respondents for a lengthy message-testing poll about Hillary Clinton in recent days. The survey takes approximately 30 minutes and includes lots of questions about whether X, Y, or Z would be a reason you would or would not support Hillary Clinton in the next Iowa caucuses.

The survey also asks Iowans about several other possible Democratic candidates, including Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar, and former U.S. Senator Jim Webb, who recently formed an exploratory committee for a presidential bid. UPDATE: Other Iowa Democrats confirm the call asked about Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley as well.

From what I’ve heard, this poll did not ask about Republican presidential candidates, with one exception: a question about whether a Hillary Clinton/Jeb Bush match up of American political dynasties would be a good or bad thing.

I hope other Bleeding Heartland readers can provide more details about this poll, including not only questions asked but also what research firm is being used (which should be mentioned at the end of the call). My acquaintances do not recall hearing any organization’s name mentioned, such as the Ready for Hillary super PAC.  Feel free to post comments in this thread or send a confidential e-mail message.

Speaking of Clinton’s presidential prospects, Amie Parnes reported for The Hill this week that only four Republicans worry “Clinton World”: former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. (Parnes didn’t name all of the Clinton associates she interviewed for the story.) Of those four candidates, Walker strikes me as best-positioned to make it through the GOP primaries, if he can raise enough money for a credible campaign. Christie and Bush will be competing for the same donors and the same niche in the various primaries. I think both have taken too many positions that will be deal-breakers for the right wing.

UPDATE: In retrospect, I should not have said in the headline that someone is message-testing “for” Hillary Clinton, because a poll like this could just have easily been commissioned by a group looking for the best arguments to use against Clinton with the Iowa Democrats.

New Big 10 Rivalry? Iowa can compete with Maryland on clean water

(Thanks to State Representative Chuck Isenhart for the guest commentary. He is ranking member on the Iowa House Environmental Protection Committee and liaison to the state Watershed Planning Advisory Council. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Iowans want clean water, but that has not motivated Iowa policymakers to tackle water pollution.

Rather, the driving fear is stronger regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of the “dead zone.” That 5,000-square-mile area in the Gulf of Mexico has become toxic to life because of nitrogen and phosphorus, mostly from farm runoff. Iowa and Illinois are the top culprits.

The state’s “nutrient reduction strategy” is a narrow approach designed not to clean up Iowa’s water in our lifetimes, but to forestall specific federal limits on polluted water. The plan is focused on how to manage fertilizer. That piece is good as far as it goes, but does not go far enough. Iowa needs a broader strategy.

The Gulf of Mexico is not the only water body with a “dead zone.” For example, Maryland depends on  the Chesapeake Bay as a $1 trillion economic driver, including tourism, recreation, seafood and other industries. Maryland has been fouling its own nest for decades.

Imagine the Gulf of Mexico in Iowa. No doubt dealing with our 489 impaired lakes and streams suffering death by a thousand drips would become more urgent, undeserving of the 80 percent budget cut inflicted by Governor Branstad this year.

As both perpetrators and victims, Maryland citizens made clean water a top public priority. In leaner economic times, a 2012 poll showed that 91 percent of Maryland residents said cleaner water was important and nearly two-thirds supported increasing a statewide household tax to do it. Eighty percent wanted the state to be active in managing growth.

I spent a day on a recent trip to Maryland learning about the Chesapeake Bay. Governor Martin O’Malley put his staff at my disposal after I met him on his summer visit to Iowa. What lessons can be learned from the Chesapeake initiative that might be helpful to us?

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Iowa caucus hopefuls eager to serve as campaign surrogates

With the 2016 caucuses only a bit more than a year away, many potential presidential candidates have been paying their dues in Iowa this fall. On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is headlining events for Bruce Braley in Cedar Rapids and Davenport on Wednesday, while her husband, President Bill Clinton, will campaign with Braley in Des Moines and Waterloo this Saturday. Vice President Joe Biden was in Davenport today with Braley and Representative Dave Loebsack.

Others who might run for president (if Hillary Clinton opts out) have been here lately too. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts got large crowds of Democrats going in Iowa City and Des Moines last weekend. This past Saturday, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota gave the keynote speech at the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recently visited Iowa for the fourth time since June, headlining events for Braley, Loebsack, gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch, and Steve Siegel, the Democratic candidate in Iowa Senate district 41.

On the Republican side, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did an event for Representative Steve King before headlining Governor Terry Branstad’s “birthday” bash in Des Moines on Saturday. (King helped Christie out of a jam once.) The New Jersey governor will be back later this week to campaign with Branstad, Senate nominee Joni Ernst, and IA-02 nominee Mariannette Miller-Meeks in Burlington. Last week, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky came to Cedar Falls for an event with IA-01 GOP nominee Rod Blum, and Texas Governor Rick Perry made stops in Des Moines and the Cedar Rapids area for attorney general nominee Adam Gregg, Blum, and Ernst. Former Senator Rick Santorum did an event for King last week too, and Donald Trump did earlier in October. Senator Marco Rubio is coming back to eastern Iowa tomorrow to raise money for the Scott County Republicans and for Blum.

I’ve heard that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee have recorded radio ads for Sam Clovis, the social conservative favorite who is running for state treasurer. However, I haven’t heard those spots on the radio yet. Speaking of social conservative heroes, Dr. Ben Carson (possibly the new “flavor of the month” for Iowa Republicans) is slated to keynote the FAMiLY Leader’s fall fundraiser on November 22.

Any comments about the next presidential race in Iowa are welcome in this thread. P.S. Imagine if any Democratic candidate or elected official followed Branstad’s lead and moved his “birthday party” up from November 17 to October 25 for political reasons. There would be a chorus of outrage from pundits: Phony! Not acting like a real Iowan!  

DMR Iowa caucus poll: Same old story for Democrats but a few GOP surprises

It’s been a few weeks since we had a thread on the 2016 Iowa caucuses. Today’s Des Moines Register featured results from the latest statewide poll by Selzer & Co for the Register and Bloomberg News. Selzer surveyed 425 registered voters “who say they definitely or probably will attend” the 2016 Iowa Republican caucuses, and 426 registered voters who plan to attend the Democratic caucuses.

On the Democratic side, it’s the same old story: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads the field with 53 percent of respondents naming her as a first choice. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren drew 10 percent support, Vice President Joe Biden 9 percent, Secretary of State and 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry got 7 percent, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders 3 percent, and several others 1 percent or less (the last group included Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who has visited Iowa several times in the last couple of years). Hillary Clinton also registered the highest favorability rating among Democratic respondents (76 percent), shattering the myth that she has a serious “Iowa problem,” at least where the caucuses are concerned.

The Register’s headline screamed, “2016 EARLY TAKE: CLINTON, ROMNEY,” but from where I’m sitting, this poll would not entice the 2012 presidential nominee to try again. Mitt Romney was the first choice of 17 percent of Republican respondents and the second choice of 8 percent. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement of the man who has much higher name recognition than most of the other candidates.

The Selzer poll showed no clear favorites among potential GOP presidential candidates. Ben Carson may be the new “flavor of the month” with 11 percent picking him as a first choice, second to Romney. Perhaps Iowa Republicans are looking for a fresh face after two cycles in a row of nominating men who had run for president before. Nine candidates pulled between 3 percent and 10 percent as a first choice in the Selzer poll, suggesting that the race will be wide open next year. (I’ve posted the full list after the jump.) The findings will be discouraging to former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. Despite winning the 2012 caucuses by a handful of votes, he is now the first choice of only 3 percent of respondents, and the second choice of only 5 percent. Marco Rubio’s immigration reform misadventure may have ruined his image among Iowa Republicans, because he is way down the list in this poll.

Any comments about the next presidential race in Iowa are welcome in this thread.

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Weekend open thread: Final Harkin Steak Fry edition

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

The weather is perfect in Indianola this afternoon for the roughly 5,000 people expected to attend Senator Tom Harkin’s final “Steak Fry” event. At least 200 journalists will be on hand, mostly to see Hillary Clinton’s first appearance in Iowa since the 2008 caucuses. If you see a lot of “Hillary doesn’t appear to have much of an Iowa problem” stories tonight and tomorrow, remember that you heard it here first, and repeatedly.

I stand by my prediction that Hillary Clinton will face only token Democratic opposition in Iowa and elsewhere if she runs for president again. But in case she doesn’t run, 2012 Harkin Steak Fry headliner Martin O’Malley is building up a lot of goodwill among Iowa Democrats. In addition to raising money for key Iowa Senate candidates this summer, the Maryland governor’s political action committee is funding staffers for the Iowa Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign, gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch, and secretary of state candidate Brad Anderson. I still don’t see O’Malley running against Clinton in any scenario.

President Bill Clinton will speak today as well. That’s got to be a tough act to follow. No one can get a crowd of Democrats going like he can. I’ll update this post later with highlights from the event and news coverage. I hope other Bleeding Heartland readers will share their impressions. C-SPAN will carry the main speeches, starting at 2:00 pm. That will be on channel 95 in the Des Moines area.

Martin O'Malley: Presidential candidate? Maybe. Clinton rival? No way.

It makes perfect sense for potential Democratic presidential candidates to visit Iowa, meeting activists and keeping their options open. That doesn’t mean any of them would run against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Case in point: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. Having keynoted the Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention last month, he’s coming here again this weekend, headlining events for State Senator Rita Hart and state Senate candidate Kevin Kinney on Saturday, then Council Bluffs and Sioux City events for gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch on Sunday. Politico’s Maggie Halberman notes that O’Malley “has said he’s exploring a 2016 presidential run.” A Des Moines Register headline writer termed him a “possible rival” to Clinton. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post speculated, “O’Malley is term limited out as governor at the end of this year and undoubtedly thinks a credible run for president might bolster his chances of a spot in a Clinton Administration.”

I just don’t see it. Laying the groundwork for a potential campaign is not the same thing as preparing to embark on a suicide mission. O’Malley doesn’t come across as a guy like Senator Bernie Sanders, who knows he will never be president but might run to shine a light on issues important to him. O’Malley goes way back with Bill and Hillary Clinton. He stuck with Hillary for president even after Barack Obama dominated the 2008 Maryland primary. From where I’m sitting, CNN’s Dan Merica had it exactly right when he described O’Malley as an “understudy,” “angling to be the person who could step in” if Clinton does not run for president for whatever reason. Maryland’s term limits for governors make 2016 an ideal time for O’Malley to run for president, but he’s only 51 years old–young enough to wait until 2020 or 2024 if necessary.

Meanwhile, I hope all of this weekend’s events are successful, because Hatch, Hart, and Kinney are very worth supporting.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

P.S. – Hart’s re-election bid in Senate district 49 is a must-hold for Democrats. Kinney’s running in the open Senate district 39, and if he wins, it would virtually guarantee a Democratic majority in the state legislature’s upper chamber for the next two years.

Weekend open thread: Iowa Democratic Party convention edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? The Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention got overshadowed by the circus-like spectacle Republicans put on in Urbandale yesterday. We’re talking about David Young’s surprising nomination in IA-03 here. This is an open thread for all other topics.

After the jump I’ve posted several links about the Democratic convention and the full text (as prepared) of Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s speech. He seems to have made a good impression, as he did at the Harkin Steak Fry in 2012. O’Malley won’t challenge Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination; he was loyal Clinton surrogate during the 2008 primaries, even after Barack Obama crushed her in his state. If Clinton decides against running for president again, O’Malley could have a lot of upside potential in Iowa. He’s much more familiar with this state than your average east-coast governor, having worked as a field organizer for Gary Hart’s 1984 Iowa caucus campaign. John Deeth wrote up O’Malley’s appearance for gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch and running mate Monica Vernon in Iowa City.

UPDATE: Added below a short version of what would be the progressive case against O’Malley if he competes in the Iowa caucuses.

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Weekend open thread: Harkin Steak Fry/Martin O'Malley edition

Although the Harkin Steak Fry took place last weekend, the Jewish new year interfered with my plans to write a post immediately after the event, and the rest of the week flew by. I’ve posted some notes from the steak fry after the jump, along with other links about the featured speaker, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. That won’t be his last speech in front of a crowd of Iowa Democratic activists.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Democratic National Convention news and discussion thread

The Democratic National Convention opens tonight in Charlotte, North Carolina, with a tightly-packed schedule of speakers. Broadcast television networks will show only the last hour of prime-time speeches: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Congressional candidate Joaquin Castro of Texas, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, Elaine Brye (a “military mother with four children serving in different branches of the armed forces”), and First Lady Michelle Obama.

O’Malley and several other possible future Democratic candidates for president are meeting with Iowa’s delegation in Charlotte this week. Details and other convention-related news are after the jump.

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