# President

Register poll has good news for Bachmann, bad news for Pawlenty

The Des Moines Register’s new poll of 400 likely Republican caucus-goers indicates that Representative Michele Bachmann is gaining ground. Selzer and Co surveyed Iowans between June 19 and 22, and the margin of error for the sample of likely caucus-goers is plus or minus 4.9 percent. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney leads the field with 23 percent support, but he has already indicated that he won’t invest heavily in Iowa this cycle. Bachmann nearly matched Romney in the Register’s poll with 22 percent. Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain placed a distant third with 10 percent, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Representative Ron Paul (7 percent each), former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (6 percent), former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (4 percent) and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman (2 percent).

Romney’s best numbers are among moderates, people with less than a college education, and those earning less than $50,000 per year. Bachmann did particularly well with respondents who are very conservative, well-educated and/or between the ages of 45 and 64. The encouraging poll numbers will give her more buzz just as she is scheduled to formally announce her candidacy (for the second or third time) in Waterloo on June 27.

The results are terrible for Pawlenty, who doesn’t seem to be getting any traction out of his large staff and many Iowa visits. Putting a less-bad spin on the numbers,

Republican pollster Randy Gutermuth pointed out that the Iowa Poll took place before Pawlenty’s television ads, direct mail and other paid voter outreach had time to penetrate.

“It’s way too early to be writing off Tim Pawlenty,” said Gutermuth, who is not affiliated with any presidential candidate. “I’m sure they’d rather be leading today, but I don’t think they’re jumping out of buildings either.”

Maybe not jumping out of buildings, but eager to change the subject as soon as this poll came out. On June 26, Pawlenty’s campaign announced the formation of an Iowa Legislative Steering Committee. Legislators serving on the committee cover all regions of the state: Iowa Senators Randy Feenstra (district 2), Rob Bacon (district 5) and Shawn Hamerlinck (district 42), and State Representatives Chip Baltimore (district 48), Joel Fry (district 95), Erik Helland (district 69), Chris Hagenow (district 59), Steve Lukan (district 32), Linda Miller (district 82) and Matt Windschitl (district 56). Unfortunately for Pawlenty, all the endorsements in the world won’t turn things around unless the candidate starts connecting with caucus-goers. Right now Bachmann leads him even as a second choice for Iowans who prefer Romney–and that’s without any of the candidates picking apart Pawlenty’s fiscal record and heavy state borrowing.

Speaking of the Register’s opinion polls and caucus coverage, the Sunday paper announced that Jennifer Jacobs will be the Register’s chief political writer. She replaces Thomas Beaumont, who took a job with the Associated Press this spring.

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

UPDATE: Douglas Burns tells us what a top British bookmaker says. Even before this poll was released, Ladbrokes gave Bachmann the best chance of winning the Iowa caucuses.

SECOND UPDATE: More detailed questions results from the new Iowa poll are here. I’ve highlighted some interesting results from the “issue” questions after the jump.

Continue Reading...

Ames straw poll bidding and other GOP presidential campaign news

Six candidates joined the bidding yesterday as the Republican Party of Iowa auctioned off space for the Ames straw poll event. Representative Ron Paul ponied up $31,000 for the best spot to pitch a tent outside the August 13 festivities. Four years ago, front-runner Mitt Romney used that spot, but the well-financed Romney is ditching this year’s straw poll.

The other candidates to pay at least $15,000 for guaranteed spots at the venue and on the straw poll ballot were Representative Michele Bachmann, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and (coming way out of right field) Representative Thad McCotter of Michigan. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was conspicuously absent from the bidding. Candidates who didn’t bid yesterday may secure a spot on the straw poll ballot later. Among the possibilities: Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Follow me after the jump for more on the Republican campaign trail in Iowa, including new endorsements and Pawlenty’s first television commercial.

Continue Reading...

Weekend open thread and GOP presidential campaign links

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty sent out his first direct mail to Iowa Republicans this week. The mailer is a biographical piece, describing Pawlenty’s childhood and family background as well as key achievements as governor. Two prominent Iowa Republicans are co-chairing Pawlenty’s campaign in this state: former gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong and Roger Underwood. Fong has carved out a niche as a promoter of conservatism among younger Iowa voters. Underwood has worked in the ag industry in Ames for the last three decades and was a policy adviser for Terry Branstad’s gubernatorial campaign. After the jump I’ve posted the Pawlenty campaign press release with more background on Fong and Underwood.

Black Hawk County Republicans still hope Representative Michele Bachmann will officially announce her candidacy in Waterloo this month, even though she already confirmed during Monday’s CNN Republican debate that she is running for president. In a web video released June 13, Bachmann said she had filed papers to run and promised, “With your common sense and with your energy, working together, we will take our country back in 2012.” Many presidential candidates become book authors, and Bachmann is shopping around a memoir, to be published this fall. State Senator Kent Sorenson is heading Bachmann’s campaign in Iowa; Iowa GOP State Central Committee member Wes Enos is a staffer for her political action committee. Enos was Mike Huckabee’s political director in Iowa before the 2008 caucuses.

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s presidential campaign looks finished before it officially began. A few days ago Danny Carroll resigned as Moore’s Iowa campaign chair, saying Moore was not “going to be able to raise the money necessary for a viable campaign.” Sioux City Pastor Cary Gordon, a Moore supporter and prominent figure in last year’s campaign against retaining Iowa Supreme Court justices, told Bret Hayworth that he has advised Moore to drop the presidential bid he’s been exploring. Moore wasn’t raising enough money to compete in the Iowa GOP’s August straw poll in Ames, Gordon explained.

Parenting magazine just named Des Moines number 5 on its list of 100 “best cities for families,” citing good education, health and amenities as well as a low unemployment rate. Moving his wife and children to Des Moines for several months didn’t boost then-Senator Chris Dodd’s campaign for the 2008 Democratic caucuses. But at least Dodd wasn’t charging a school district back home in Connecticut for his daughters’ education in Iowa. When Rick Santorum was in the U.S. Senate, a suburban Pittsburgh school district paid big bucks for his children to use its internet-based school from their home in Virginia.

Speaking of Santorum, has anyone heard his Iowa radio commercial? His campaign didn’t release the size of the ad buy.

This is an open thread.

Continue Reading...

Rick Santorum's first radio ad in Iowa (with transcript)

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum is back in Iowa today, meeting and greeting potential caucus-goers in Denison before attending a “Trunk & Tusk” reception at a farm near Holstein later in the afternoon. Tonight he headlines an event for the Ida County Republican Party, and tomorrow he will join the Iowa Tea Party bus tour in Spencer.

Starting this week, Santorum will reach Iowa Republicans though the radio as well. His first commercial went up yesterday on nationwide satellite radio and hits the airwaves in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina later this week. The campaign didn’t release the size of the ad buy.

You can listen to Santorum’s 60-second spot at his presidential campaign website. I’ve posted my transcript after the jump, along with some analysis of the message and what’s notably absent from the message.

Continue Reading...

New Hampshire Republican debate discussion thread

For those who plan to watch this evening’s CNN debate featuring seven Republican presidential candidates, here’s a new discussion thread on the race for the GOP nomination.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty tried to set the media narrative going into the debate. During a Sunday morning appearance on Fox News, Pawlenty noted, “President Obama said that he designed ‘Obamacare’ after ‘Romneycare’ and basically made it ‘Obamneycare.’” Romney’s campaign responded, “Republicans should keep the focus on President Obama’s failure to create jobs and control spending.” Easier said than done, given how unpopular the health insurance reform law is with the GOP primary electorate.

Pawlenty has traded blows with Representative Michele Bachmann over the past few days:

During a Friday interview, Neil Cavuto of Fox showed Mr. Pawlenty a poll indicating he’s running at the back of the pack and he asked the former governor if he was annoyed that Ms. Bachmann seems to generate more buzz than he does. “Look,” he replied, “I’m not speaking about Michele Bachmann here but I’m not running for comedian-in-chief or entertainer-in-chief. You know, if people want to have that be the main consideration, they should go to a Broadway show.”

In a WSJ Opinion interview Saturday, Ms. Bachmann was asked whether Mr. Pawlenty as a good governor. “I really don’t want to comment,” she said.

Some Iowa Republicans believe Pawlenty is best positioned to capitalize on last week’s mass exodus of Newt Gingrich staffers and Romney’s decision not to contest the Ames straw poll.  I find it hard to see Pawlenty drawing a lot of enthusiastic support from the rank and file. If he seems to be on the rise, it won’t be hard for other candidates to bring up his terrible record of fiscal management.

Besides Pawlenty, Romney, Bachmann and Gingrich, the CNN debate will also include former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, Representative Ron Paul, and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. CNN excluded some candidates who have been campaigning in New Hampshire, such as former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and longtime campaign operative Fred Karger, probably the best-known Republican supporter of marriage equality.

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman decided against participating in this debate, but he is likely to announce his candidacy in the next two weeks. Appearing on CNN yesterday, Huntsman indicated that he would accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. His campaign will put foreign policy experience front and center, but Huntsman has also begun to criticize President Barack Obama’s economic record. If he did that on the debate stage, his rivals would surely point out that Huntsman supported the 2009 federal stimulus.

Pundits increasingly speculate that Texas Governor Rick Perry will run for president. He has reportedly been talking to major donors, and could hire a couple of the senior staffers who quit the Gingrich campaign. I don’t see Perry as a strong presidential candidate. Linda Feldman discussed some of his weaknesses in the Christian Science Monitor, but she left out one other glaring problem in his record. This year Texas had the second-largest projected state budget shortfall in the country (as a percentage of current-year state government spending), even larger than California’s.

UPDATE: I didn’t watch the debate, but Republican insiders seem to think it was a good night for Romney and Bachmann and a bad night for Pawlenty.

Continue Reading...

Gingrich implodes, Romney skips straw poll and other Iowa caucus news

Political junkies may not have Newt Gingrich to kick around much longer. His whole presidential campaign staff quit yesterday, frustrated by the candidate’s lack of a work ethic.

Iowa Republicans will have fewer chances to kick Mitt Romney around this summer. The former Massachusetts governor won’t compete in the Iowa GOP’s straw poll this August, his campaign confirmed yesterday.

After the jump I have more links on those stories and other Republican presidential candidate news. I’ve got nothing on the Iowa GOP Lincoln dinner fundraiser that was supposed to be held tonight, though, because the state party canceled that event after Donald Trump backed out.

Continue Reading...

Austerity politics not serving Obama well (updated)

President Barack Obama got a little bounce following Osama bin Laden’s killing, and the weak Republican field of challengers has helped give the president an advantage in recent swing-state polls. Public Policy Polling’s latest Iowa survey found Obama leading all the named Republican candidates by at least 9 points, for instance.

However, Obama’s position looks much more tenuous if the 2012 election is about “the economy, stupid.” According to the latest nationwide Washington Post/ABC News poll, disapproval for how Obama has managed the economy is at record-high levels, and the incumbent trails former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney among registered voters.

The “great recession” was not Obama’s fault, but no one can credibly claim his administration did the best it could to boost the job market and housing sector. By next November, the U.S. may be in a double-dip recession. Complicating matters for Obama, he has played into the eventual GOP nominee’s strongest arguments against his record on the economy. Follow me after the jump for details on the new national poll and the latest bad economic news.

Continue Reading...

Iowa Secretary of State not sounding too statesmanlike

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz gave Jon Huntsman a “lesson in Iowa politics” Monday, via a press release declaring the former Utah governor “not ready for the big dance.” Schultz ridiculed Huntsman’s excuse for skipping the Iowa caucuses before rifling off a few conservative talking points about Huntsman’s record. National and local media picked up Schultz’s comments.

Schultz’s opinion of Huntsman wouldn’t be particularly newsworthy, but I question the wisdom of using the official Secretary of State’s website to push a political statement written in “smackdown” tone. More thoughts on who is and isn’t “ready for the big dance” are below.

UPDATE: On June 9 the Iowa Democratic Party filed an ethics complaint against Schultz; details are at the end of this post.

Continue Reading...

New poll shows no Republican front-runner in Iowa

Public Policy Polling’s new Iowa survey indicates a wide-open race among Republican presidential candidates with Mike Huckabee out of the running. PPP surveyed 481 Iowa Republicans from May 27 through May 30. Given a choice between Representative Michele Bachmann, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Representative Ron Paul, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, 21 percent of respondents expressed a preference for Romney as the GOP presidential nominee. Cain and Palin tied for second with 15 percent, followed by Gingrich (12 percent), Bachmann (11 percent), Pawlenty (10 percent), Paul and “someone else/undecided” (8 percent), and Huntsman (0 percent).

Asked to choose a candidate if Palin did not run for president, respondents favored Romney (26 percent), Cain (16 percent), Gingrich (15 percent), Bachmann (14 percent), Paul (11 percent), Pawlenty (10 percent) and Huntsman (1 percent).

I don’t know why PPP didn’t include former Senator Rick Santorum on these lists, since Santorum has hired staff and made several Iowa visits during the past year. The full polling memo (pdf) includes favorability numbers for Santorum and a bunch of other Republicans who have been mentioned as possible presidential candidates.

I wouldn’t put too much stock in a poll taken seven or eight months before the Iowa caucuses, especially a survey over Memorial Day weekend, when many potential respondents would not be at home. Still, Cain has to be thrilled to be making inroads with Iowa Republicans. This poll will make it difficult for Romney to avoid participating in the Iowa GOP’s August straw poll fundraiser. The results must be disappointing for Pawlenty and Gingrich, who have spent time and energy in Iowa recently and have high-profile Republican endorsers here. Tom Jensen of PPP saw a silver lining for Pawlenty, though:

Romney’s leading in Iowa based on his strength with centrist and center right Republican voters. With moderates he’s at 34% to 16% for Palin, 13% for Paul, and 11% for Gingrich. With ‘somewhat conservative’ voters he’s at 24% to 15% for Pawlenty, 13% for Palin, and 12% for Gingrich and Cain. His strength with those two groups outweighs his continuing weakness with the furthest right group of voters in the state, which constitute the largest segment of the Republican electorate at 41%. With those ‘very conservative’ folks Romney can muster only a fourth place finish at 13%. Cain and Palin tie for the lead with that group of voters at 19% followed by Bachmann at 15%. […]

Pawlenty doesn’t poll the strongest head to head among Romney among ‘very conservative’ voters- he leads by 17 compared to a 21 point lead for Palin and a 24 point advantage for Bachmann with that group. But with center right voters- those calling themselves ‘somewhat conservative’- Romney leads Pawlenty by just a single point while he has a 19 point advantage over Palin and a 22 point lead over Bachmann with that group. What that says to me is that many Republicans are looking for someone more conservative than Romney but someone who isn’t bound to get creamed in the general election the way Palin, Bachmann, and Cain probably would. That’s very good news for Pawlenty if it ever plays itself out in real life.

Jensen also noted that non-candidates Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, or Paul Ryan posted better favorability numbers in this poll than any of the declared Republican presidential candidates.

Share any thoughts about the GOP presidential race in this thread.

UPDATE: PPP replied to my question about not including Santorum in this survey. A maximum of eight candidates can be tested in this automated poll; adding Santorum would have meant removing Huntsman, about whom “there’s much more national interest.” Since Huntsman hasn’t been in Iowa while Santorum has spent time here and hired staff, I would have liked to see whether Santorum is gaining ground like Cain.

Continue Reading...

Gingrich campaign deathwatch discussion thread

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was poised to capitalize on Mike Huckabee’s decision not to run for president. Gingrich announced his Iowa leadership team last week. Chaired by House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, who endorsed Gingrich months ago, the high-powered crew includes activist and attorney Craig Schoenfeld as executive director, Iowa House Speaker Pro Tempore Jeff Kaufmann as senior policy advisor, Katie Koberg (former vice-president of Iowans for Tax Relief) as deputy director and Will Rogers as grassroots director.

Huckabee’s announcement sparked a wave of “Iowa is wide open” news coverage, just as Gingrich was set to kick off a five-day Iowa tour. In 2010 Gingrich quietly helped raise $200,000 for the campaign against retaining three Iowa Supreme Court judges, which might have helped him with the social conservatives who were Huckabee’s base supporters.

It all started to go wrong Sunday…

Continue Reading...

Another one bites the dust

I could never understand why anyone thought Donald Trump was serious about running for president. A notorious germaphobe is not going to give up a show on network television in order to work the Iowa Republican house party and county fair circuit. Even if he did, his donations to various Democrats and assorted socially liberal statements would sink him in a Republican primary.

Anyway, Trump confirmed today that his recent speeches and press conferences were just a massive publicity stunt he is not running for president in 2012. President Barack Obama’s team will be disappointed; Trump replaced former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as the candidate they would most like to run against.

Dave Weigel sees the Republican Party of Iowa as the second-biggest loser from Trump’s aborted presidential campaign. Trump is scheduled to headline the Iowa GOP’s Lincoln dinner on June 10. (Weigel says the Regnery publishing house is the biggest loser, because they have a Trump policy book scheduled to come out this summer.)

Iowa Republicans are desperate to get serious candidates out here campaigning. Presidential hopefuls and their PACs bring money to county Republican party committees and GOP statehouse candidates. Governor Terry Branstad’s big message at his weekly press conference this morning was that the race is wide open and everyone has a shot in Iowa, not just social conservatives. Branstad has said he won’t endorse a presidential candidate before the caucuses.

Any thoughts about the Republican race for the presidency are welcome in this thread. After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from a guest editorial in the Sunday Des Moines Register by the former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party. He claims Iowa Republicans “have marginalized themselves.”

P.S. I’ve never been a fan of Lawrence O’Donnell, but he was right to say that NBC executives should have revealed earlier this spring whether the network had renewed Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” for another season.

P.P.S. Seth Meyers got in some good Trump jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner last month.

Continue Reading...

Textbook case of burying the lede in an Iowa caucus story

It’s a perfect subject for local tv news: a crime story with an Iowa caucus angle.

A 15-year-old girl found a campaign worker from Alabama banging on her Ankeny family’s back door early Wednesday morning.

Chloe Steward told KCCI she heard her dog barking around 3 a.m. and went to investigate. She said she found a man trying to get into the back door. […]

Police said Benjamin Foster was arrested and charged with public intoxication and trespassing. He was taken to the Polk County Jail.

Iowa political strategist Eric Woolson is a consultant for the Pawlenty Exploratory Committee. He confirmed to KCCI that Foster is employed by the Pawlenty Exploratory Committee. […]

The Steward family said Foster was drunk and was trying to get home to a friend’s house in Johnston. They said he vomited in their backyard and scared their daughter.

Campaign veterans know that as a staffer, you never want the news to be about you, especially when the police get involved. KCCI posted a statement from the exploratory committee in which Foster apologized and took “full responsibility” for his actions, while Woolson said Foster was on a two-week unpaid suspension. I would guess he will soon be an ex-employee of the exploratory committee, or at least moved to a different state. In his next position, Foster should remember to arrange for a ride home when he plans to go out drinking.

Iowa politics junkie that I am, I was most interested in this part of the KCCI story: “Ankeny Police Chief Gary Mikulec said Foster told the officers he was staying at 6905 Jack London Dr., in Johnston.” The Polk County Assessor’s website indicates that property is owned by Erik and Michael Helland. That would be Iowa House Majority Whip Erik Helland, who represents House district 69, covering suburban and rural areas in northern Polk County. I don’t know for sure that it’s his primary residence, but it appears to be the only property he owns in Polk County.

Pawlenty did a fundraiser for Helland last year, and Helland has spoken favorably about Pawlenty’s prospects in the caucuses. I haven’t seen any formal endorsement, but if Helland is letting a Pawlenty staffer stay in his home, it sounds like he’s fully committed.

A detailed roundup of Iowa caucus news is in progress. Meanwhile, share any relevant thoughts in this thread. Anecdotes about boneheaded moves by campaign staffers are particularly welcome.

I find myself unable to resist the temptation to link to Helland’s recent close encounter with a live mic.

UPDATE: Both Tyler Kingkade and Bleeding Heartland user xjcsa noticed that Helland’s legislative web page lists 6905 Jack London Drive as his home address. Many other news accounts have noted that Helland was arrested last summer on a DWI.

Continue Reading...

Rest in peace, Geraldine Ferraro

Geraldine Ferraro died today at age 75, after battling multiple myeloma for 13 years, far longer than she was expected to survive when diagnosed. She became the first woman named to a major-party national ticket in the U.S. when Walter Mondale chose her as his running mate in 1984. Ferraro acknowledged that she would not have been Mondale’s choice for vice president had she been a man. The Democratic nominee was trailing President Ronald Reagan badly in the polls and needed something to shake up the campaign. Ferraro was supposed to turn the emerging “gender gap” in American politics to the Democrats’ favor.

I remember discounting the rumors that a woman might be nominated for vice president. The Reagan years had rapidly developed my cynicism. It was a big deal just to have a woman on the “short list,” so I figured that talking Ferraro was going to be the Mondale camp’s gesture toward women, and we’d have to wait another cycle or two to see a woman on a ticket. But after watching Ferraro’s speech at the national convention, this liberal teenage girl was so excited and inspired that I briefly forgot what I knew about Mondale having no chance to be elected.

Journalists covering the campaign picked Ferraro apart; you can read the gory details in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times obituaries. She wasn’t very experienced in terms of media relations, and she was a strong woman, so she was an easy target. One manufactured controversy after another dominated stories about her campaign, and I remember lots of speculation about her Italian-American husband’s possible mob ties. Meanwhile, media provided scant coverage when Reagan’s Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan was indicted in September 1984, six weeks before the presidential election. You’d think the first-ever indictment of a sitting cabinet secretary would be a bigger news story than some of the garbage being thrown at Ferraro, but you would be wrong. (Donovan was later acquitted.)

Bleeding Heartland readers too young to remember the 1984 campaign may know of Ferraro mainly because in March 2008, she asserted that Barack Obama’s race gave him an advantage in the presidential primaries against Hillary Clinton: “Sexism is a bigger problem [than racism in the United States] […] It’s OK to be sexist in some people’s minds. It’s not OK to be racist.” The ensuing furor prompted Ferraro to resign from Clinton’s presidential campaign fundraising committee, though she stood by her remarks. At the time, I felt many Obama supporters blew Ferraro’s comments way out of proportion. Her perspective was shaped by decades of personal experience with sexism, like law school professors who felt she had taken “a man’s rightful place.”

Representative Bruce Braley said in a statement today, “Geraldine Ferraro was a great leader and a remarkable woman. She not only made history, she inspired generations of women to do the same. She will be greatly missed, but her influence will live on.”  I will update this post with further Iowa reaction to Ferraro’s passing.

Share your own memories of Ferraro and her political career in this thread.

UPDATE: Senator Chuck Grassley posted to Twitter, “Geraldine Ferraro was an xtraordinary M of Cong. A person easy get along w. True abt my working w her”

Ferraro’s father died when she was eight years old. Here’s a reflection she wrote on how losing a parent so young affected her life.

LATE UPDATE: Joan Walsh’s reflection on Ferraro’s life and career is worth reading.

Pawlenty in Iowa and other GOP presidential campaign news (updated)

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty visited Iowa again over the weekend. He worked the room at a Christian bookstore in Ankeny before addressing a crowd of 200 at the Waukee Area Chamber of Commerce annual dinner in West Des Moines. Pawlenty claims he will decide whether to run for president in March or April, but it seems obvious that he’s running. Not only has he visited Iowa seven times in 15 months, his Iowa political action committee gave nearly $110,000 to Iowa GOP candidates and organizations supporting Republican causes in 2010.

After the jump I catch up on recent news about Pawlenty and other Republicans who may compete in the Iowa caucuses.

Continue Reading...

Another poll shows Huckabee's the one to beat in Iowa

A third poll this month finds former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee with an early lead among Iowans likely to participate in the 2012 Republican caucuses. James Q. Lynch brought the latest poll to my attention. Strategic National surveyed 410 Republican Iowa caucus-goers on January 18 about their preferences for the next presidential campaign. Huckabee led the field with 27.5 percent, followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney with 18.5 percent, 17.6 percent undecided, 12.4 percent for former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, 12.2 percent for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 4.4 percent for former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, 3.7 percent for Representative Michele Bachmann, 1.95 percent for Senator John Thune, just under 1 percent for former Senator Rick Santorum, and 0.24 percent for Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

Strategic National has worked for various Republican candidates, but I know nothing about the Michigan-based consulting firm as a pollster. I wonder whether “410 Republican Iowa caucus voting answers” means 410 people who said they will go to the GOP caucuses in 2012, or 410 people who have caucused in the past, or whether some other likely voter screen was used.

Earlier this month, Public Policy Polling and Neighborhood Research both found Huckabee leading Iowa Republican caucus-goers, with Romney in second place.

My hunch is that Huckabee won’t run for president in 2012, for reasons I discussed here. Also, his 2008 campaign manager Chip Saltsman just took a job on the Hill, although Saltsman says he would be available if Huckabee runs for president again.

If Huckabee decides to challenge Obama, he’ll probably get in the race late. Iowa caucus-goers aren’t known for rewarding late starters, but Huckabee already has high name recognition here. In addition, a large portion of GOP caucus-goers have a conservative evangelical orientation. Strategic National’s poll found that nearly 68 percent of respondents said the earth was created in six days, and 45 percent agreed that the earth is about 10,000 years old.

Poll finds Obama leading Republicans in Iowa

Public Policy Polling’s latest Iowa poll finds President Barack Obama ahead of four potential Republican opponents among 1,077 Iowa voters surveyed between January 7 and 9.

Yesterday’s release showed Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney as the leading Republicans in the early caucus race for 2012, and if the election were today, those two are the only ones who would give Obama a bigger run for his money than McCain did two years ago. Obama tops Huckabee by a slender 47-43 margin, and Romney by 47-41. But against Newt Gingrich, he would prevail, 51-38, and by 53-37 over Sarah Palin.

The difference comes with independents, who make up a full quarter of the electorate, with Democrats and Republicans splitting the rest evenly. Obama has a significant party- unity advantage against all four Republicans, taking 86-91% of his own party and holding each of them to 67-79% of the GOP. But while he leads with unaffiliated voters by a 49- 34 margin over Gingrich and 49-38 over Palin, he actually trails Huckabee, 41-42, and leads Romney only 40-38. Huckabee and Romney do also hold Obama’s crossover support down. While he takes 13% of Republicans to Gingrich’s 5% of Democrats and 17% of Republicans to Palin’s 6% of Democrats, the split against Huckabee is only 10-7, and 11-9 against Romney.

Click here for the summary and here for the full polling memo (pdf). The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent. PPP found 50 percent of Iowa respondents approved of Obama’s performance as president, while 43 percent disapprove. Tom Jensen commented, “When you combine Obama’s relative popularity in the state with the GOP field’s lack of appeal, it looks like things are going to have to get a lot worse for the President over the next 22 months to send Iowa back into the red column.”

I wouldn’t be too sure about that. If the unemployment rate stays roughly the same or inches up, and the Republicans nominate someone without high negatives like Gingrich or Palin, Obama will have to fight to hold Iowa. Huckabee has led several early polls of Iowa Republicans, but I think he would have trouble winning the nomination if he runs. If I were a GOP primary voter, I’d be looking for a bland senator or former governor who could essentially campaign as a generic Republican.

Incidentally, Iowa may become crucial to Obama’s path to victory in 2012. Reapportionment after the 2010 census took six electoral votes away from states Obama won, and several of the 2008 blue states are likely to go Republican next cycle. One path to exactly 270 votes would have the president winning all the states he carried in 2008 except for Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, and the second Congressional district in Nebraska.

UPDATE: The Cook Political Report lists Iowa as a tossup for the 2012 presidential race. The other states in that category are Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  

Continue Reading...

Tone-deaf president picks corporate man Daley to run staff

The Associated Press is reporting that President Barack Obama has selected William Daley as his next chief of staff. It appears that Howie Klein is right: Obama was able to pick an even worse top staffer than Rahm Emanuel. After running the White House staff for nearly two years, Emanuel recently resigned in order to run for mayor of Chicago.

Open Secrets posted a “Revolving Door” profile on Daley showing his employment history in government and as a lobbyist. More background on why Daley’s a terrible choice can be found after the jump.

Continue Reading...

The Forgotten Iowa

(Thanks to lovethebay for cross-posting a piece that first appeared in the Huffington Post. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

On the last night of my holiday trip to my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I asked my parents to take the long way to our dinner. I wanted to see first-hand those parts of the city still devastated by the historic flood of June 2008. In Washington, DC, where I now live, talk about Iowa revolves around the churning machinery for the GOP presidential nomination and the Iowa caucuses that kick off that national process. A list of 50 influential Iowa Republicans recently generated a fair amount of chatter; a Sarah Palin book tour stop on the Western side of the state generated another round of “will she run?” prognosticating; road-weary reporters and campaign operatives dissect new restaurants in the Des Moines area. That is the Iowa of the national political conversation. But it is not the Iowa I saw.

Continue Reading...

Fox News to help raise money for Iowa GOP

The Republican Party of Iowa and Fox News will co-sponsor a presidential debate on August 11, 2011, two days before the party’s “straw poll” in Ames. Journalists closely watch the straw poll as a test of Republican candidates’ organizational strength in Iowa.

Tying the party fundraiser in Ames with the debate on Fox, an influential outlet for conservatives, will give incentive to candidates campaigning for Iowa’s leadoff nominating caucuses to participate in the straw poll, state party Chairman Matt Strawn said.

“I think the opportunity to address not just Iowa caucusgoers and straw poll attendees but to address the nation in a debate from Ames would be something that would be very difficult for a candidate to pass up,” Strawn said.

I am trying to think of another example of a news organization scheduling a debate with the express goal of helping promote a political party’s fundraiser. But then, Fox isn’t your typical news organization. Its parent company donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association earlier this year. Why not have the Fox News subsidiary lend a helping hand to the Iowa GOP?

Understandably, Iowa Republicans worry that some presidential candidates might take the John McCain/Rudy Giuliani strategy: skip the straw poll and generally avoid campaigning in Iowa. That hurts the state party organization, which relies on the straw poll as a major fundraiser, and Republican legislators, who often receive campaign contributions from presidential candidates’ PACs.

Bob Vander Plaats, the Iowa chair of Mike Huckabee’s last presidential campaign, recently said he would advise Huckabee to wait until after the straw poll to decide whether to run for president. Huckabee’s strong second-place finish in the 2007 straw poll demonstrated that he was a force to be reckoned with in Iowa. Before that event, Mitt Romney was the heavy favorite to win the caucuses. But the straw poll success cost Huckabee’s campaign and Americans for Fair Taxation approximately $150,000 each. That’s a lot of money to spend to win a news cycle.

Speaking to the Des Moines Register’s Thomas Beaumont, Giuliani’s former campaign manager Mike Duhaime predicted that some candidates would participate in the Fox News debate but not the straw poll, because of how costly it is to compete seriously in the straw poll. Strawn said Fox News and the Iowa GOP haven’t determined yet whether candidates would be barred from the debate if they didn’t plan to participate in the straw poll.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

Continue Reading...

Lost decade, here we come

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report on U.S. employment in November 2009 was much worse than expected: the unemployment rate went up from 9.6 percent to 9.8 percent as total nonfarm payroll employment increased by only 39,000. The Calculated Risk blog posted ugly graphs here and here. The U.S. economy needs to add about 140,000 jobs per month just to keep up with population growth. The unemployment rate won’t start dropping until the economy is adding close to 200,000 jobs per month, and it’s hard to see how that will happen.

Interest rates are already extremely low, and “quantitative easing” by the Federal Reserve probably won’t stimulate huge new demand.

Spending from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is winding down, and Congress won’t approve any significant new money for infrastructure. Members of Congress can call employer tax breaks “stimulus,” but businesses won’t start hiring until they expect or experience more demands for the goods or services they sell.

The number of long-term unemployed remains at the highest level in decades. Republicans are holding an extension of unemployment benefits hostage to continuing all the Bush tax cuts, which won’t create jobs. Even if benefits are extended for some of the long-term unemployed, it won’t help the “99ers,” who have received the maximum 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.

A payroll tax holiday could permanently weaken the Social Security system.

It all adds up to high unemployment for the forseeable future.  

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

P.S.- Some people are way too confident that Barack Obama will be re-elected. Ronald Reagan presided over a higher spike in unemployment in 1982, but by 1984 the economy was booming. That is unlikely to be the case by 2012. A 10 percent unemployment rate nationally means even higher jobless rates in many states Obama would need to win (Nevada, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Florida). Even if Republicans nominate a bad candidate, like Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin, Obama would not coast.

DNC confirms Iowa caucuses will be first in 2012

The Democratic National Committee voted today to keep the Iowa caucuses the first presidential nominating contest in 2012, according to Iowa Democratic Party Executive Director Norm Sterzenbach, who’s attending the DNC meeting.

I’ll update this post with more details as they become available. In July, the DNC Rules Committee approved the following calendar: Iowa caucuses on February 6, 2012; New Hampshire primary on February 14; Nevada caucuses on February 18; and South Carolina primary on February 28. All other Democratic nominating contests would occur in March or later. The Republican National Committee has adopted a calendar keeping Iowa first as well.

Any thoughts about the 2012 caucuses are welcome in this thread.

Weekend open thread: 2012 Iowa caucuses edition

What’s on your mind this weekend? We’re already looking forward to the Iowa State Fair, which runs from August 12-22. We may catch the state fair parade on August 11 if it’s not too hot.

Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status is secure under the presidential nominating calendar Republican National Committee members approved yesterday.

The vote passed by a two-thirds majority, a requirement for the measure drafters included to lend to its acceptance from RNC members. The measure received 104 votes of the 144 members voting.

The caucuses would likely be held Feb. 6, under the schedule, followed in February by the New Hampshire primary, caucuses in Nevada and the South Carolina primary.

All other states would be allowed to hold their primaries and caucuses in March or April. States going in March would be required to apportion their nominating delegates proportional to the vote a candidate received in that state. April states could award their delegates on a winner-take-all basis, an incentive for states hoping to be seen as delivering the nomination.

Any state that violates the proposed calendar would lose half its RNC delegates. What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? Is that a big enough penalty to deter a large state from trying to jump ahead of Iowa?

I hope the calendar sticks so staffers and volunteers aren’t forced to do canvassing and phone-banking between Christmas and New Year’s Day, like we did before the January 3, 2008 caucuses.

At least two potential Republican presidential candidates are coming to Iowa in the next couple of weeks. Former Senator Rick Santorum is headlining a fundraiser for attorney general candidate Brenna Findley in Sioux Center on August 17, and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is coming to the Iowa State Fair. I can’t believe Santorum would think about running for president after losing re-election in a purple state by double digits. I’m still shaking my head over the warm reception Iowa Republicans give Pawlenty despite his record on fiscal issues and state borrowing. Several of Pawlenty’s other ideas strike me as proposals only the hard-core GOP base could love, like cutting entitlement spending to pay for extending George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

This is an open thread.

UPDATE: I forgot that Newt Gingrich is coming to Des Moines next weekend to raise money for a Republican women’s group. Continuing his habit of being wrong about everything, Newt recently condemned Shirley Sherrod as a racist and a week later denounced the Obama administration for rushing to judgment about Sherrod. He also offered an “egregious and purposeful misreading of medieval history” as an argument against allowing a mosque to be built at the “Ground Zero” site in New York City.

Continue Reading...

Republican hypocrisy watch: Pawlenty and Culver edition (updated)

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty toured eastern Iowa over the weekend to raise money for several Iowa House Republican leaders and state Senate candidate Bill Dix. It was his fourth Iowa trip during the past year. Since Pawlenty is laying the groundwork for a future presidential bid, journalists covering his latest visit focused on what he is doing for Iowa Republicans, as well as his views on foreign policy, government spending and the economy.

I’m more interested in the way Iowa Republicans embraced Pawlenty. Naturally, they liked his message about retaking the state legislature, and GOP House leaders can really use the campaign cash. But it’s surreal to watch Republicans promise their serious consideration for Pawlenty as a presidential candidate when you compare his record with the case conservatives make against Iowa Governor Chet Culver.

Continue Reading...

Iowa Democrats, mark your calendars for February 6, 2012

The Democratic National Committee’s Rules Committee has recommended Monday, February 6, 2012 as the date for the next Iowa caucuses, according to Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach, who attended the meeting. The same body recommended February 14 for the New Hampshire primary, February 18 for the Nevada caucuses and February 28 for the South Carolina primary. All other Democratic nominating contests would occur in March or later.

Although we are unlikely to have real competition on the Democratic side in 2012, it’s good precedent to start the presidential nominating process in February rather than January. Having to knock on doors and phonebank between Christmas 2007 and New Year’s Day 2008 was insane.

The big question is how many states will try to jump ahead of the early states. The DNC rules committee recommends that states violating the proposed calendar would lose half of their delegates. The Republican Party adopted similar sanctions before the 2008 campaign, which didn’t deter Florida and Michigan from holding their primaries “too early.”

The 2010 Iowa caucuses were held on a Saturday afternoon, but off-year caucuses always have light attendance. A Saturday afternoon caucus in a presidential year was never likely, because observant Jews would be unable to participate.

I would like to see more reforms to the Iowa Democratic caucus process, including an absentee ballot option for shift workers who can’t get the night off or voters who are housebound. In Maine, Democrats can participate in the caucuses by absentee ballot.

Gingrich to train Republican candidates next week in Des Moines

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is bringing a candidate training workshop to Des Moines on Monday, July 12, Kathie Obradovich reported on her Des Moines Register blog today. Gingrich’s organization American Solutions is running the workshop, and that group’s CEO Joe Gaylord will accompany Gingrich on the trip. According to a press release, Gaylord has written a campaign manual geared toward “candidates at all levels, from local to Congressional, and for everyone in the campaign, from the candidate to the press secretary.  Each chapter of Campaign Solutions starts with how-to advice, and ends with what-not-to-do warnings and how-did-you-do scorecards.” Gingrich and Gaylord are also “distributing a weekly podcast to candidates similar to the GOPAC education tapes that helped prepare a generation of GOP candidates for the campaign trail.”

I’m guessing Gingrich and Gaylord won’t advise candidates to spend 15 percent of the money they raise on chartered private air travel, as American Solutions did in recent years.

Gingrich came to Iowa in late May to raise money for several Republican organizations. Teaching candidates how to run professional campaigns will generate more goodwill among Iowa politicians who could be helpful to Gingrich if he runs for president in 2012. Even if Gingrich doesn’t seek the presidency, his influence over Iowa Republicans’ policy agenda may increase. American Solutions runs an “online information portal” that “breaks down policy problems and presents solutions lawmakers can utilize to create jobs, improve education and expand American energy.” Tax cuts that benefit corporations and wealthy individuals are the centerpiece of Gingrich’s action plan.

I wonder if any reporters will ask Gingrich about the unethical practices American Solutions employs to raise money from the conservative grassroots. Mark Blumenthal of Pollster.com characterized a phone pitch I received last year as “a clear cut example of fundraising under the guise of a survey (‘FRUGGing’)”. The Marketing Research Association considers FRUGGing unethical because

The use of a poll to conduct fund raising has raised the distrust of the public to a point where they refuse to cooperate with researchers trying to obtain the opinions of any number of issues, including political campaign, and government: federal, state and local research. In a country inundated with telemarketing and direct mail fund raising it is more and more difficult for marketing and opinion researchers to get accurate data.

Continue Reading...

New thread on the 2012 Iowa Republican caucuses

It’s time for another look at the Republican presidential contenders’ prospects in Iowa. The 2012 cycle may seem like a long way off, but the serious candidates will probably start hiring staff in Iowa before the end of this year. Since the last time Bleeding Heartland covered this ground, several Republicans with presidential ambitions have spoken out on our GOP gubernatorial contest, visited Iowa or scheduled trips here during this fall’s campaign.  

Lots of links and speculation are after the jump.

Continue Reading...

Links on Newt Gingrich in Iowa

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich made three stops in Iowa yesterday. First, he headlined a fundraiser in Cedar Rapids for the Republican House Majority fund, then he was a featured speaker in the American Future Fund’s lecture series in Davenport, and finally he gave the keynote at a Polk County GOP dinner in Des Moines. The Republican crowds loved him.

IowaPolitics.com covered Gingrich in Davenport and in Cedar Rapids. Lynda Waddington focused on Gingrich’s remarks about immigration, which weren’t part of his prepared speech. The Des Moines Register has more on what Gingrich told reporters in Des Moines.

I see Gingrich was railing against President Obama’s handling of the ongoing disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I’m not happy about Obama’s policy on offshore drilling, but Gingrich has zero credibility to be posturing as an environmentalist. What did Gingrich or his fellow House Republicans ever do to limit offshore drilling or its potential consequences for oceanic and coastal ecosystems?

Although Gingrich pleased Republican crowds with harsh criticism of the current administration, he assured journalists yesterday that Republicans are not the “party of no”:

Gingrich said his book, “To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular Socialist Machine,” is two-thirds solutions. “If you look at what Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is doing to design a contract this fall, it’s all positive. If you look at Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) work on entitlement reform, it’s probably the most comprehensive reform done in modern times.”

Republicans should pray that American voters never seriously examine Ryan’s work on entitlement reform.

Getting back to Gingrich, I can’t take anyone seriously who calls the corporate-friendly Obama a “socialist.” As for Gingrich’s positive agenda, it’s notable that he “declined to specify federal programs he would cut” to pay for the big tax cuts he advocates. And let’s take a look at his five major tax cut proposals:

* A one-year, 50 percent reduction in Social Security and Medicare taxes both for employee and employer

* A 100 percent write-off of new equipment

* Abolishing the capital gains tax like China

* Matching the Irish tax rate for corporations at 12.5 percent. He said today U.S. corporations pay the highest taxes in the world with state and federal taxes combained, which he compared to a “backpack with 60 pounds of weight in it.”

* Abolishing the death tax permanently

The first point would exacerbate solvency problems facing the Social Security and Medicare funds, which would bolster the case of conservatives who want to dismantle the programs.

Eliminating the capital gains and estate taxes would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest Americans while adding significantly to our long-term deficits.

Gingrich’s claims about corporate taxes are misleading. Thanks to several common deductions, extensions and loopholes, the effective corporate tax burden in the U.S. is lower than in most other developed economies. In fact, corporations have been paying a declining share of total state taxes in Iowa and across the country for decades.

Gingrich didn’t rule out a 2012 presidential bid yesterday, saying he will announce his intentions in February or March 2011. If he does run for president, he will not bypass Iowa. His wife (a Luther College graduate) enjoys spending time here, Gingrich noted. I don’t see Gingrich as a strong potential candidate and will be surprised if he runs. If he has presidential ambitions, though, he must run in 2012. By 2016 he will be 73 years old.

I see Gingrich tried to hint that Governor Chet Culver has ethical problems. Gingrich isn’t on high moral ground when his American Solutions organization routinely uses fake polls to raise money from the conservative grassroots. Polling expert Mark Blumenthal called the sales pitch from Gingrich’s group “a clear cut example of fundraising under the guise of a survey,” also known as FRUGGing. The Marketing Research Association considers FRUGGing unethical.

I will say this for Gingrich: at least the guy on his third marriage didn’t try to lecture Iowans about family values.

I noticed that Gingrich didn’t endorse anyone in the Republican gubernatorial primary. He was also silent about Bob Vander Plaats’ plan for the Iowa governor to halt same-sex marriage by executive order. Last year Vander Plaats claimed Gingrich was among those who backed his plan.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

Continue Reading...

Iowa likely to go first again in 2012 presidential race

The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee met yesterday in Washington and approved a proposed calendar for the 2012 presidential nominating process. The DemRulz blog noted that the calendar “tracks the DNC Change Commission recommendations,” which state that all primaries and caucuses must be held in March 2012 or later, except for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, which may schedule their nominating contests in February 2012. In a statement released to the media, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Michael Kiernan hailed the vote as “another important step” that “will help us ensure that Iowa is First-in-the-Nation once again.”

The Republican National Committee has moved toward a similar calendar in 2012, with the same four states allowed to schedule primaries or caucuses in February, and all other states allowed to go beginning March 1. The final calendar may not reflect the RNC’s wishes, though; some states may try to jump ahead the way Florida and Michigan did in 2008.

I suspect Iowa’s representatives will have to fight hard to maintain our early position for the 2016 campaign. Democrats in several larger states resent the outsized influence of Iowa and New Hampshire, which are small and predominantly white. The calendar doesn’t matter much on the Democratic side for 2012, because it’s unlikely anyone will challenge Barack Obama for the nomination, but the next cycle will certainly be competitive, whether or not Obama wins a second term.

New thread on the 2012 Iowa Republican caucuses

The decision won’t be final until the Republican National Committee’s summer meeting in August, but it appears likely that the Iowa caucuses will remain the first presidential nominating contest in 2012. This week the RNC’s Temporary Delegate Selection Committee recommended adopting a rule that would allow only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to hold primaries or caucuses before March 6, 2012. Click here to read the rule, which would also require all states that hold nominating contests before April 2010 to award their delegates proportionally, rather than through a winner-take-all system that is typical for the Republican Party.

So, Iowa will continue to be a frequent travel stop for Republicans considering a presidential bid. It’s been six months since I last discussed the prospects of likely challengers to President Obama in Iowa. New speculation is after the jump.

Continue Reading...

We don't need budget advice from Tim Pawlenty

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was in Iowa this weekend to headline an event organized by Iowans for Tax Relief. The crowd cheered the future presidential candidate after Pawlenty blasted the Obama administration and proposed one bad idea after another.

Pawlenty’s “economic bill of rights” includes requiring Congress to balance the budget every year. Freezing or reducing federal spending every time revenue drops is great if you like turning recessions into depressions, but basic economic facts won’t stop Pawlenty from pandering to the “Party of Hoover” set. I wonder whether Pawlenty’s proposed balanced budget amendment still includes “exceptions for war, natural disasters and other emergencies.”

Pawlenty also wants line-item veto powers for the president. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that unconstitutional at the federal level, and it’s unlikely Congress would ever approve a constitutional amendment on this matter.

In addition, Pawlenty favors extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Those tax cuts didn’t prevent the most severe economic recession since World War II, but they did manage to massively increase our national debt and deficit while delivering most of the benefits to the top few percent of the population.

But wait, there’s more to Pawlenty’s wish list: “He also called for requiring a supermajority of Congress to raise taxes or the debt ceiling.” Unfortunately, that would exacerbate our budget problems. When the Pew Center on the States examined state fiscal problems last year, a common feature of the states deemed “most like California” was a supermajority requirement for tax increases or budget decisions.

By the way, Iowa received higher overall marks than Minnesota in that Pew Center on the States report, which looked at six indicators to determine each state’s fiscal health.

Speaking to the Iowans for Tax Relief crowd, Pawlenty bragged about getting Minnesota out of the top 10 states for taxes but glossed over other aspects of his record as governor. Iowa Republicans have hammered Democrats for supposedly “overspending,” even though our state leaders have kept our budget balanced without depleting our state’s reserve accounts. What would they say if they knew about Pawlenty’s record?

During Pawlenty’s first year as governor, the state drew down its reserves and relied too heavily on one-time revenue to address its budget problem.  As a result, the state lost its Aaa bond rating from Moody’s Investors Service; the state has yet to regain its Aaa rating from Moody’s.

The 2009 report of the bi-partisan Minnesota Budget Trends Study Commission has recommended that the state build up its budget reserves and cash flow account in response to an increasingly unstable revenue outlook.  All members of the Commission, including the five appointed by Governor Pawlenty, endorsed this recommendation.

Pawlenty and state legislators couldn’t agree on an approach to balance the Minnesota budget. As a result, last year “Minnesota’s [projected] budget gap was the largest in the nation on a per capita basis.” Pawlenty can bash President Obama, but his state desperately needed the roughly $2.6 billion it received through the federal stimulus bill to help cover the shortfall. Even with the stimulus money, Minnesota was still billions of dollars short. So, in addition to some spending cuts, Pawlenty proposed “a bond issue that would be paid for by existing and forecast revenues from the tobacco settlement-a one-time fix disliked by some because it aimed to use long-term borrowing to pay for current state operations.”

To be clear: Pawlenty wanted the state of Minnesota to borrow money to pay its bills. In contrast, Iowa’s state borrowing program (I-JOBS) is funding capital investments in infrastructure. Last summer, Iowans for Tax Relief in effect ran the Republican campaign for a special election in Iowa House district 90. During that campaign, the Republican candidate made false and misleading claims about Iowa’s state budget and borrowing. How ironic that the Iowans for Tax Relief crowd gave a standing ovation to a panderer with a much worse record of fiscal management.

Not only did Pawlenty want Minnesota to borrow money to pay its bills, he also decided that underfunding local governments and forcing them to draw down their own reserves was a good way to control spending for the 2010-2011 budget period. Yes, Pawlenty decided in 2009 that cutting aid to local governments by hundreds of millions of dollars was a good way to balance the state budget:

“Many [cities], if not all, have reserve funds, or rainy day funds, and they should use them,” Pawlenty said.

He also talked of the option cities have of raising property taxes to make up for any LGA [local government aid] cuts.

One of the Republican talking points against Iowa Governor Chet Culver is that his midyear budget cuts supposedly forced local governments to raise property taxes. Yet Pawlenty gets a free pass from his Iowa Republican friends. Culver’s across-the-board budget cut last October wasn’t popular, but it did keep state government from overspending. In contrast, late last year Minnesota’s cash flow was so poor that state officials considered short-term borrowing to meet budget obligations.

“It’s a bad sign,” said former state Finance Commissioner Peggy Ingison, now chief financial officer with Minneapolis public schools. “It signals you didn’t have good fiscal discipline.”

Minnesota has muddled through without borrowing money to pay bills so far, but prospects for later this year are dicey:

State budget officials updated lawmakers [April 12] on Minnesota’s precarious cash-flow situation. They all but ruled out short-term borrowing for the 2010 budget year that ends June 30.

Budget director Jim Schowalter says “deep cash problems” loom for the 2011 fiscal year. Barring law changes, spending cuts and upticks in revenue, he says the state might have to take out short-term loans to meet its obligations.

The Minnesota Budget Bites blog takes a more detailed look at the state’s “troublesome” picture for fiscal year 2011. BulliedPulpit posted a good rebuttal of “TPawnomics” at MN Progressive Project.

The last thing our country needs is budget advice from Tim Pawlenty.  

Continue Reading...

Pawlenty appealing to "Party of Hoover" set

Not content to push for a balanced-budget constitutional amendment in his own state, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has endorsed the idea of a federal constitutional amendment to require Congress to pass balanced budgets every year. The Wall Street Journal’s Amy Merrick observes,

Previous efforts to pass a national balanced-budget amendment have foundered in Congress. Many lawmakers believe deficit spending can help boost the U.S. economy during downturns, and calls to balance the budget sometimes fade as other priorities surface.

It would be insane to restrict the federal government’s ability to run deficits during a recession. That’s not just something many members of Congress “believe,” it’s a consensus view among economists. But don’t worry, Pawlenty isn’t entirely rigid on the subject of deficit spending:

Mr. Pawlenty’s proposal for a federal amendment would include exceptions for war, natural disasters and other emergencies. The U.S. has been at war for most of the past decade.

No self-respecting Republican ever let spending worries stand in the way of a blank check for war.

Although it’s tempting to laugh at Pawlenty’s proposal, I think highlighting the budget amendment could boost his standing in the 2012 presidential race. His idea isn’t outside the GOP mainstream; leading Republicans proposed a federal spending freeze instead of the stimulus bill Congress passed in February. Republican politicians in Iowa have also embraced Hoovernomics.

The idea could prove popular with the GOP rank and file too. Mike Huckabee gained a lot of traction in Iowa during the summer of 2007 by being the only Republican to endorse the so-called “fair tax.” That idea is even wackier than a federal spending freeze during a recession, but many caucus-goers embraced it.

Any comments about Pawlenty’s prospects or the Republican presidential field are welcome in this thread.

Continue Reading...

Lots of links for a snowy day

Many Iowans will be leaving work or school early today, or perhaps not going in at all, as the season’s first big winter blast rolls in. Here’s plenty of reading to keep you busy if you are stuck at home.

Global news first: The United National Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen opened yesterday. To follow news from the proceedings, I’m reading the team of Mother Jones bloggers in Copenhagen. The Open Left blog will also post regular updates from Natasha Chart and Friends of the Earth staff who are on the ground. If you prefer a mainstream media perspective, check out The Climate Pool on Facebook, which is a collaboration among major news organizations.

Also on Monday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson signed off on two findings that will pave the way to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. This action follows from a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA. More background and details can be found on the EPA’s site. Environment Iowa explains the significance of the EPA’s action here. An expert panel surveyed by Grist disagreed on whether the EPA’s “endangerment finding” would affect the Copenhagen talks.

The most important reason I oppose the current draft bills on climate change kicking around Congress is that they would revoke the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide. Chris Bowers explains why that would be disastrous here.

Uganda is considering a horrific law that would subject homosexuals to long prison terms or even the death penalty. One Iowa is collecting signatures on a petition to Senator Chuck Grassley, asking him to speak out against this law. Grassley’s never going to be a gay rights advocate, but he should agree that criminalizing homosexuality is wrong. Grassley is involved with “The Family,” which is connected to the proposed bill in Uganda.

On the economic front, President Obama is expected to announce plans to use about $200 billion allocated for the Wall Street bailout to fund a jobs bill Congress will consider soon.. The Hill previewed some of the measures that may end up in that bill.

Some economists who met with Governor Chet Culver yesterday think Iowa has already reached the bottom of this recession. I hope they are right, but either way, policy-makers should listen to their ideas for reforming Iowa’s budget process. I’ll write a separate post on this important development soon. Here is the short take:

The state could base its spending on a multi-year average, such as the previous three years, or five years or seven years, said Jon Muller, president of Muller Consulting Inc., a public policy and business development consulting firm based in Des Moines.

“The way it’s always worked, when times are really good, we increase spending and we cut taxes,” Muller said. “And when times are bad, there’s pressure to increase taxes and decrease spending. And that all happens when the demand for government is at its highest,” Muller said.

The multi-year idea would flip, he said.

“In good times you would be squirreling money at way a little at a time. And in bad times, you could continue to increase spending to service the growing demands of a recession.”

It would require state lawmakers to not touch the reserves, even in times of plenty. But it would also reduce the need to tap into reserves just to get by during rainy days, the advisers said.

Regarding budget cuts, the Newton Independent reports here on a “plan to reorganize the Iowa Department of Human Services operations under two deputy directors, six rather than nine divisions, five rather than eight service areas, more part-time offices and the elimination of 78 currently vacant positions” (hat tip to Iowa Independent). Click this link for more details about the proposed restructuring.

On the political front, John Deeth analyzes possible changes the Democratic National Committee is considering for the presidential nomination process. Jerome Armstrong had a good idea the DNC won’t implement: ban caucuses everywhere but Iowa. No other state derives the party-building benefits of caucuses, but just about every state that uses caucuses for presidential selection has lower voter participation than would occur in a primary.

I haven’t written much on health care reform lately, because recent developments are so depressing. Our best hope was using the budget reconciliation process to pass a strong bill in the Senate with 51 votes (or 50 plus Joe Biden). Now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has taken reconciliation off the table, we’re left with a variety of bad compromises to get to 60 votes in the Senate. I am not convinced the final product will be any improvement over the status quo. It will certainly be worse for millions of Americans required to buy overpriced private health insurance. If there’s a quicker way to neutralize the Democrats’ advantage with young voters, I don’t know what it is.

Speaking of health care reform, Steve Benen wrote a good piece about Grassley’s latest grandstanding on the issue.

Speaking of things that are depressing, John Lennon was shot dead 29 years ago today.  Daily Kos user noweasels remembers him and that night. Although Paul’s always been my favorite Beatle, I love a lot of John’s work too. Here’s one of his all-time best:

Share any relevant thoughts or your own favorite Lennon songs in the comments.

Continue Reading...

Branstad underwhelms and other highlights from the GOP fundraiser

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty headlined the Republican Party of Iowa’s fall fundraising dinner on Saturday night, but I was more interested in the remarks by Republican candidates for governor. O.Kay Henderson and Craig Robinson live-blogged the proceedings, and the video is available at C-SPAN’s site.

Former Governor Terry Branstad wasn’t at the top of his game, stumbling at times, reading from notes and messing up his applause lines. Kathie Obradovich observed,

The audience of about 500 at the Republican Party of Iowa’s “Leadership for Iowa” dinner was polite. But there was no sense of excitement for the candidate who many believe is the favorite for the nomination.

Follow me after the jump for highlights from the candidates’ pitches, along with a little commentary and fact-checking.

UPDATE: Also read John Deeth’s take:

Terry Branstad’s first appearance as an all but official candidate fell flat on Saturday night, and illustrates one of the dilemmas he’ll face going forward. He’s now competing with all the other gubertatorial candidates on the same level, instead of as an above the fray Dream Candidate.

Sometimes, dream candidates turn out to be All That, as Barack Obama illustrated. But more often, the dream turns into an awkward and embarrassing morning after, as the one-time next best thing takes the walk of shame off the political stage. […]

Branstad has the worst of all worlds: he’s a dream candidate with a long record.

Continue Reading...

Political journalists, don't feed into Steve King's games

Come on, Dave Price and Bret Hayworth, you know Steve King isn’t running for president in 2012. When journalists ask him whether he might seek the presidency, King is happy to play the game of not saying no directly, because not ruling out a presidential bid generates buzz and boosts his national profile. But he won’t give up a safe seat in Congress, which happens to provide his son with a full-time job as well, in pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination.

Hayworth observed today,

Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, who King has noted is essentially his twin, ran for president in 2008. Why shouldn’t Steve King?

Tancredo’s presidential bid didn’t even last until the Iowa caucuses. He saw the writing on the wall and dropped out in December 2007. He then endorsed one of the leading candidates, Mitt Romney, while King went with the laughable Fred Thompson (after flirting with Romney).

A short-lived presidential campaign by King wouldn’t merely be a waste of time like Tancredo’s was. It would give other contenders another reason to skip Iowa, the way Democratic candidates bypassed the 1992 caucuses because Tom Harkin ran for president.

King’s not going to deprive Iowa Republicans of a major role in selecting the 2012 nominee. Presidential campaigns bring lots of money to Iowa cities, and so do media organizations in the runup to the caucuses. Presidential candidates also give money to the Republican Party of Iowa and its statehouse candidates. King will enjoy having several candidates compete for his endorsement.

There are plenty of other good questions journalists could ask King. For instance, why does he keep claiming the House health care reform bill would fund abortions? The fact is, the House bill already contains language similar to the Hyde amendment (banning public funds for abortions) and will probably reduce private insurance coverage for abortions as well.

Continue Reading...

Yes, we can mock Sarah Palin without sexist insults

So, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin won’t headline the Iowa Family Policy Center’s fundraiser on November 21, but she will headline an event for the group some other time. Contrary to what you may have read in this shoddy piece by Jonathan Martin, Palin apparently didn’t demand her usual speaking fee from the Iowa Family Policy Center and won’t charge the group for her future appearance. Consider this another lesson on the need to take Politico reporting with a grain of salt.

In any event, Palin will come back to Iowa sometime. I’ve always believed that having her in the spotlight would be good for Democrats, and quitting her job has further lowered her favorability ratings.

All the same, I have one request for her Iowa detractors: please avoid sexist nicknames for Palin.  

Continue Reading...
Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 13