Jim Leach joins new GOP reform effort

Jim Leach is among 27 former Republican members of the U.S. House who spoke out this week for changing the GOP in the face of “rising political extremism.” Four former governors, along with several former ambassadors, cabinet secretaries, or Republican Party leaders are also among the 152 people who signed the “Call for American Renewal” published on May 13.

The document cites “the patriotic duty of citizens to act collectively in defense of liberty and justice” when “forces of conspiracy, division, and despotism arise.” The signers “declare our intent to catalyze an American renewal, and to either reimagine a party dedicated to our founding ideals or else hasten the creation of such an alternative.”

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We are not polarized

Jim Chrisinger: “Polarized” sounds like both sides becoming more extreme. That’s not what’s happening. One party is jeopardizing America’s 245-year grand experiment in self-government. -promoted by Laura Belin

We continually hear that our country is polarized. That implies symmetry; it gives the impression that Americans are moving farther apart on a left-right axis. The left and right each become more extreme while the middle thins.  We keep hearing politicians, pundits, and journalists claim “both sides” are responsible for this polarization.  

That’s not what’s happening, people!      

Yes, each party has extremists; that’s nothing new. What’s new is that one party, the Republican party, has veered off the political continuum. They’ve sailed off a cliff.  

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Iowan Gentry Collins exits race to head RNC

Longtime Iowa political operative Gentry Collins has ended his bid to become chairman of the Republican National Committee, he told RNC members in a January 2 letter. Collins made the news in November by resigning as RNC political director and sending RNC members a devastating critique of current chairman Michael Steele’s leadership. Dropping out of the race to succeed Steele, Collins wrote that

part of his mission in campaigning for chairman was to shed light on the party’s financial condition, which he said, “has been a game-changer for Chairman Steele’s re-election prospects.” […]

“I entered this race to make sure there was a credible alternative to Michael Steele and have said from day one I will not get in the way of electing new leadership at the RNC,” Collins wrote.

Collins continued: “It is after much consideration and thought that I announce my withdrawal from the race for Chairman of the RNC. I believe that there are several qualified candidates in the race for Chairman, each of whom would do a fine job leading the committee through the 2012 Election cycle.”

I figured Collins was a long-shot to take his former boss’s job for various reasons. It didn’t look good for him to establish a committee to support his bid for RNC chairman while he was still working at the committee. Craig Robinson’s critique of Collins’ “ego,” “vengeful style” and “heavy-handed” tactics may have put off some Republican insiders too.

Various “whip counts” published by Washington-based journalists showed Collins with only three firm commitments from voting RNC members, far behind the front-runner, Wisconsin Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus. (That’s pronounced “ryns pree-buhs.”) Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn had publicly backed Collins, but committeeman Steve Scheffler was an early Priebus endorser. Iowa’s committeewoman Kim Lehman is supporting Priebus too; she and Scheffler backed the main alternative to Steele in 2009.

Four previous leaders of the national GOP have been from Iowa. The most recent was pro-choice moderate Mary Louise Smith in the mid-1970s. Smith is still the only woman to have headed the RNC. Two women have entered the race to replace Steele, but a rule requiring the party chair and co-chair to be different genders puts them at a disadvantage.

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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.

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Branstad sticking with Doug Gross playbook

Terry Branstad made it official this morning, picking State Senator Kim Reynolds to be the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. Reynolds is a former Clarke County treasurer and past president of the Iowa county treasurer’s association who was elected in 2008 to represent Senate district 48 in southern Iowa. The Des Moines Register’s Tom Beaumont published more background on Reynolds here. His piece depicts her as “solid on core GOP issues” and “focused on economic development.”

Looks like Branstad has picked precisely the kind of candidate his former chief of staff Doug Gross would want on the Republican ticket.

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