Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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Saving the electoral college will not keep Iowa relevant

Both Governor Chet Culver and Secretary of State Mike Mauro have now come out against a bill that would award Iowa’s electoral votes to the winner of the nationwide popular vote. Their opposition in effect kills any chance of the bill advancing. Although it has been voted out of committee in the Iowa Senate, it may never come to a floor vote there or a committee vote in the Iowa House.

I don’t know what so many people have against one person, one vote for president, just like we have for every other elected office. I also take issue with this part of Culver’s statement:

As the last three elections have shown, Iowa is now a battleground state, and, as such, the issues of Iowans are heard by the candidates of both parties. If we require our electoral college votes to be cast to the winner of the national popular vote, we lose our status as a battleground state and the opportunity to ensure that the ideas that are important on Iowa’s Main Streets remain important on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

If the governor wants to buy into Republican propaganda about this bill, fine. But let’s not pretend Iowa is bound to be a swing state forever. Oregon was a battleground state for a few cycles, but John McCain didn’t seriously compete for it this year. West Virginia was a battleground state in 2000, but hopeless territory for Democrats in 2004 and 2008.

Democratic gains in voter registration could make this purple state blue if Culver and the statehouse Democrats give us a solid record of achievements to run on in 2010. If that happens, don’t count on Iowa’s six electoral votes being up for grabs during the 2012 general election.

I am also unconvinced that the electoral college ensures presidential candidates pay attention to small states. When was the last time a presidential candidate spent time in uncompetitive small states like the Dakotas, Montana, or Vermont?

John Deeth is right:

# The person with the most votes should win.

# It would be better if the Constitution actually said so.

# But National Popular Vote is a nice stopgap.

# If big states want National Popular Vote, it will pass without Iowa.

# The caucuses, not the electoral votes, are what makes Iowa important.

And about those caucuses: we won’t have competitive caucuses on the Democratic side in 2012, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some major Republican presidential candidates skip Iowa. It didn’t stop McCain from winning the nomination last year.

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