Weekend open thread: Making history

I’m a third-generation Tigers fan–my mother saw Hank Greenberg play at the old Tiger Stadium in Detroit–but most of Iowa is Cubs country. Congratulations to everyone who “Flew the W” Saturday night, watching the Chicago Cubs win the National League pennant for the first time in seven decades. Seeing any long-suffering sports team win a championship makes me happy, so I am glad the next World Series champions will be either the Cubs or the Cleveland Indians. Any thoughts on the potential impact of a Cubs or Indians victory on the election results in Iowa or Ohio?

I shouldn’t tempt fate with November 8 two and a half weeks away, but FiveThirtyEight.com now gives Hillary Clinton an 86 percent chance of winning the presidency. The latest simulation by Reuters/Ipsos sees her winning in 95 percent of scenarios. Recent polls of Iowa voters show no clear favorite in the presidential race. I expect a close result here; the latest absentee ballot numbers give both Democrats and Republicans reason to be optimistic. No matter who wins Iowa’s six electoral votes, Clinton appears very likely to be the next president.

Until a few years ago, I didn’t think a woman would be elected president in my lifetime. Despite all the misogyny and Hillary hate this campaign has brought to the surface, my children’s generation will grow up without the baggage of thinking this country would never elect a woman, just like they would never think an African-American can’t become president. That’s inspiring and empowering.

Any thoughts on which Iowans might get high-profile jobs in a Clinton administration? What place will she find for Tom Vilsack? Politico came up with a short list of five possible candidates to replace Vilsack as secretary of agriculture. (None are from Iowa.)

I’ve reached out to many Iowa Republicans who have kept their distance from Donald Trump or are rumored not to be voting for him. Most have not responded to my queries. I get that it’s a tough political calculation to oppose your party’s nominee, especially when the whole Iowa GOP establishment enthusiastically supports him. But I am convinced many of these closeted #NeverTrumpers will regret lacking the courage to take a stand before November 8. Trump is not some less-than-ideal candidate. He is playing to the ugliest strains in American politics. His demagoguery and blood libel encouraged white nationalists to come out from under their rocks, some explicitly playing the race card for votes while others relentlessly harass Trump’s critics.

Five former heads of the Republican National Committee, dozens of current and former GOP members of Congress, and four former GOP presidential nominees have said they will not vote for Trump. Fifty former senior national security officials in Republican administrations and a former nuclear missile launch officer have said it would be dangerous to give him the nuclear codes. His narcissism is comical, until you remember this man with no impulse control could become president. Meanwhile, Senator Joni Ernst told the whole country Trump would keep us safer. Ernst pretends to care about sexual assault but will vote for a man who threatened to sue all the women who have accused him of assaulting them. This Iraq War veteran hosted Trump at her biggest fundraiser of the year soon after he insulted a Gold Star family.

In contrast to Ernst, Governor Terry Branstad, or state party chair Jeff Kaufmann, some Iowa Republicans have avoided Trump’s rallies or events where they might be seen with the nominee. To them I say: speak up now, or expect your complicity to be a permanent stain on your political career. These people better not claim after Trump’s landslide loss that they secretly didn’t like him and didn’t vote for him.

Hardin County Auditor Jessica Lara told the Wall Street Journal’s Reid Epstein this week that she’s voting for Hillary Clinton. To my knowledge, she is the only current elected Republican official in Iowa to come out publicly for Clinton. Bleeding Heartland was first to report in May that Lara was #NeverTrump.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. History buffs may appreciate Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s phenomenal interactive site showing pictures of street scenes in Budapest during the 1956 Hungarian uprising and in the present day.

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How many more Iowa GOP women will find their voice on Donald Trump?

Melissa Gesing reached her limit this week. Four days after a 2005 video showed Donald Trump telling a reporter he could “do anything” to women, two days after Trump insisted in the second presidential debate that those comments were merely “locker room talk,” Gesing stepped down as president of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women. In her October 11 resignation letter, she described her move as a “last resort,” saying she can’t “look at myself in the mirror each morning if I do not take a stand against the racism, sexism, and hate that Donald J. Trump continues to promote.” She explained her decision at greater length in a blog post called “Ending this bad and unhealthy relationship.”

So far, no other woman in the top echelon of Iowa Republican politics has jumped ship. The Iowa Federation of Republican Women named a new president today and restated its support for the Trump-Pence ticket.

But how long can that last, with more women coming forward every day to say Trump kissed or groped them without consent, and used his position of power to walk in on women or underage girls undressed?

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Ken Rizer becomes first Iowa House Republican to abandon Trump

Republican State Representative Ken Rizer announced on Facebook Saturday evening that he “can’t in good conscience” vote for Donald Trump and will write in Mike Pence for president. Rizer, who supported Jeb Bush before the Iowa caucuses, said he had “aggressively prosecuted Airmen who sexually assaulted women” and is aware of “groping” and “lewd conduct” his college-aged daughters face. He concluded that Trump’s comments in a recently-released 2005 video “reveal an arrogant lack of character unfitting for a college undergrad, for an Airman, and most certainly for our Commander in Chief.”

Rizer represents House district 68, a swing seat in the Cedar Rapids suburbs. He defeated Democrat Daniel Lundby in 2014, but Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney here in the last presidential election cycle by 54.45 percent to 44.08 percent. The latest voter registration numbers show the district contains 6,596 active registered Democrats, 6,103 Republicans, and 7,384 no-party voters. As of October 7, Democrats in Rizer’s district lead Republicans in absentee ballots requested by 1,698 to 844 and lead in early votes cast by 672 to 221.

I enclose below more comments from Rizer this evening, a map of House district 68, and background on the incumbent and his Democratic challenger Molly Donahue. She’s on the web here and on Facebook here.

The precincts in House district 68 also lie in Iowa Senate district 34, where Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis faces Rene Gadelha in a race both parties are targeting.

I will update this post as needed if other sitting Iowa Republican lawmakers announce that they won’t support Trump. On the morning of October 8, State Senator Jack Whitver posted on Twitter, “The comments and actions by Donald Trump are inexcusable and despicable. He should step down.” However, Whitver did not clarify whether he will vote for Trump, assuming he stays in the race.

Also on October 8, State Senator David Johnson issued a statement calling on Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to “condemn Trump publicly” now that “Trump’s true anti-women sickness has been revealed.” Johnson is the only Iowa legislator affiliated with neither party, having left the GOP in June to protest Trump’s impending nomination for president.

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Former Representative Jim Leach joins #NeverTrump camp

Jim Leach, who represented parts of southeast Iowa in the U.S. House for 30 years, is among 30 former Republican members of Congress who are publicly opposing Donald Trump for president, Nolan McCaskill reported today for Politico. In a joint statement, the Republicans described Trump as “manifestly unqualified” and a “man who makes a mockery of the principles and values we have cherished and which we sought to represent in Congress.”

“Given the enormous power of the office, every candidate for president must be judged rigorously in assessing whether he or she has the competence, intelligence, knowledge, understanding, empathy, judgment, and temperament necessary to keep America on a safe and steady course,” they wrote. […]

“Every day brings a fresh revelation that highlights the unacceptable danger in electing him to lead our nation,” they said. […]

“It is in that spirit that, as Donald Trump’s unfitness for public office has become ever more apparent, we urge our fellow Republicans not to vote for this man whose disgraceful candidacy is indefensible,” they said. “This is no longer about our party; it’s now about America. We may differ on how we will cast our ballots in November but none of us will vote for Donald Trump.”

Leach was a leading Republican endorser of Barack Obama in the 2008 general election. Most of the others to sign today’s statement have never publicly opposed a GOP presidential nominee.

In an embarrassing oversight on my part, Leach was not among the dozens of moderate Iowa Republicans I’ve contacted in recent months about Trump’s candidacy. Most of these current or former elected officials have not responded to my requests for comment. I am hopeful that in the final weeks of this campaign, as Trump continues to find new ways to disqualify himself, more prominent Iowans will follow Joy Corning’s example and make their opposition to Trump known. A few years from now, many Republicans will regret that they lacked the courage to speak out before this election.

On a related note, Michael Chertoff has revealed that he will vote for Hillary Clinton. He was the lead Republican counsel for the U.S. Senate’s Whitewater investigation during Bill Clinton’s presidency and a secretary of Homeland Security in George W. Bush’s administration. Meanwhile, the Atlantic Monthly has endorsed Clinton in an editorial headlined, “Against Donald Trump.” The magazine’s editors have taken a stand on the presidential election only twice before: for Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and Lyndon Johnson in 1964. I enclose below some of Chertoff’s comments and excerpts from the Atlantic editorial.

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Will 2016 be a record-setting year for Libertarians in Iowa?

The two most recent national polls of the presidential race showed unusually high levels of support for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. In the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey conducted between June 19 and 23, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was backed by 39 percent of respondents, to 38 percent for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, 10 percent for Johnson and 6 percent for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. An ABC/Washington Post poll in the field between June 20 and 23 found 47 percent of respondents for Clinton, 37 percent for Trump, 7 percent for Johnson, and 3 percent for Stein.

Even taking into account the reality that support for third-party candidates “usually diminishes over the course of the [U.S. presidential] campaign,” and third-party candidates have often received less than half as much support on election day as they did in nationwide surveys from June, Johnson has potential to shatter previous records for Libertarians. A former Republican governor of New Mexico, Johnson received 1,275,821 popular votes as the Libertarian presidential nominee in 2012, just under 1 percent of the nationwide vote. The best showing for a Libertarian ticket in terms of vote share was 1.06 percent (921,128 votes) in 1980 for Ed Clark and his running mate David Koch, better known as one half of the Koch brothers.

I haven’t seen any Iowa polls yet that gave respondents the option of choosing Stein or Johnson as alternatives to Clinton and Trump, but now seems like a good time to examine Libertarian presidential performance in Iowa over the last four decades and Johnson’s chances to improve on his 2012 results.

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Weekend open thread: Brexit is not Trump edition

Like many political junkies, I’ve been fascinated the past few days by news about the June 23 “Brexit” referendum, in which roughly 52 percent of UK voters opted to Leave the European Union, while just 48 percent voted to Remain. The regional breakdown of the vote is fascinating, and the Financial Times published an excellent series of charts on “the demographics that drove Brexit” in this post by John Burn-Murdoch.

Leaving the European Union would hurt the UK economy in several ways, but that outcome isn’t a foregone conclusion. David Allen Green is the leading voice speculating that the UK government could disregard a vote for Brexit, because unlike a 2011 vote on electoral reform, the June 23 referendum “is advisory rather than mandatory.” On June 24, Green argued noted that Prime Minister David Cameron did not file the formal Article 50 notification that sets in motion a process for leaving the European Union. British Law Professor Mark Elliott speculated along similar lines here. Cameron had vowed to respect the results of Thursday’s referendum, but he will resign soon, and his successor will not be bound by his promises.

In this country, most of the commentary about Brexit has focused on whether a result that shocked UK elites means Donald Trump is more likely to win the November election. Panicky Democrats, please know that an unexpected result across the pond does not change the underlying dynamic of the U.S. presidential race.

The UK result was within the margin of error of pre-referendum polls that showed a close race. In contrast, Hillary Clinton has led Trump in every head to head national poll for more than a month now. Several polls, most recently ABC/Washington Post and NBC/Wall Street Journal, have shown her lead growing over the last few weeks. The U.S. electorate has a lower proportion of non-Hispanic white voters than the UK does.

The electoral college also favors Clinton. I don’t believe she will win as many electoral votes as in some recent projections, but remember: Trump needs to flip some states President Barack Obama carried twice. At this writing, he is not well-positioned to win any states Obama carried twice. But even if you give the Republican North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, and Virginia, which Larry Sabato sees leaning Democratic now, Clinton would still have more than 270 electoral votes. By the way, the president’s approval rating in the national polling average has moved above 50 percent for the first time in more than three years, Paul Brandus observed today. Obama will not be a drag on Clinton’s campaign the way President George W. Bush was for John McCain in 2008.

I’ve seen no evidence that Trump can draw a Democratic crossover vote large enough to compensate for the lifelong Republicans who are rejecting him. The Des Moines Register recently carried an op-ed by Des Moines native Doug Elmets, a former adviser to Ronald Reagan who will cast his first-ever vote for a Democratic president this year. Trump’s poor fundraising so far suggests that he won’t be able to fund as much GOTV in the swing states as Clinton will.

I enclose below excerpts from this piece by Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray on why “Brexit Is Not The Same Thing As Trump.”

This post is an open thread: all topics welcome. UPDATE: Added below a new television commercial Clinton’s campaign will run on national cable networks to contrast “the reality of the Brexit vote with Trump’s response on his Scotland trip,” which focused on his own golf course.

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