Lehman won't admit she's wrong about Obama's faith

Iowa’s Republican National Committeewoman Kim Lehman stood by her false assertion about President Barack Obama’s faith yesterday. As Bleeding Heartland discussed here, Lehman claimed last week that Obama “personally told the muslims that he IS a muslim. Read his lips.” Sam Stein of the Huffington Post asked Lehman to clarify and got this response:

“I was watching television when he was over there talking to the Muslim world and he made it, in my opinion, clear he was partially Muslim,” Lehman told the Huffington Post. “The way he was approaching that speech was, ‘Hey I’m one of you. I’m with you.’ He didn’t have to say that… but he did.” […]

“Again, going back to his speech… he would have said I’m a Christian and I’m from the Christian religion and we can work together. It didn’t appear to me he said Christianity was part of his religion.”

But oops! Stein looked up the transcript of Obama’s June 2009 speech in Cairo and found this:

Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I’m a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs also sought comment from Lehman yesterday:

This morning, Lehman said she was referring to an Obama speech in Cairo last summer in which he reached out to Muslims “to seek a new beginning.” In that speech, he makes no comment about being Muslim, a transcript shows.

Lehman said she objected to Obama’s speech because “it just had a sense of embracing or aligning with the Muslims. I don’t know. It was unnecessary the stuff he said. That’s the whole point.”

Lehman said she would never give anyone the impression that she is anything but a Christian.

“I don’t give myself an appearance to the Muslims that I am aligning myself with the Muslims. I am strictly a Christian. I believe that. I stand by that. I’ll die by that,” she said.

Jason Hancock noted at Iowa Independent that this isn’t the first time Lehman has used her twitter account to claim Obama is Muslim. According to Stein, though, she may be “the first [Republican] national committee member to fully endorse the Obama-is-a-Muslim view.”

Lehman told Politico to read Obama’s lips regarding his faith. She should take her own advice. She ignores the president’s numerous public statements about being a Christian because in her opinion, one speech “had a sense of embracing or aligning with the Muslims.” Republicans should be embarrassed to have one of their leaders pushing conspiracy theories, and it’s a sad comment on the Iowa GOP that no one stepped up to counter Lehman’s view.

Speaking of poor form, neither Stein nor Jacobs linked to this blog, which was the first to report on Lehman’s comments about the president’s faith.

UPDATE: The Iowa Democratic Party cited Lehman’s comments in a fundraising e-mail, which you can read here. Todd Dorman posted a funny take on this episode too.

Krusty Konservative feels Lehman is “not helping the Republican cause.”

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Iowa RNC member Kim Lehman believes Obama is Muslim

You come across the strangest things on Twitter sometimes:

Barack Obama,Kim Lehman,RNC

Yes, it’s delusional to believe Politico is in the game to “protect” Barack Obama, but for now I’m more interested in Republican National Committeewoman Kim Lehman’s claim that the president is Muslim. Presumably she was responding to Tim Grieve’s August 19 report for Politico on the latest Pew survey about the president’s religion. Pew found that about 18 percent of American adults say Obama is Muslim, while about 34 percent say Obama is Christian. About 34 percent of those who identified themselves as conservative Republicans told Pew Obama was Muslim. Grieve’s report referred to “a dramatic spike in false views about the president’s religious faith.” Politico’s Josh Gerstein also reported on the Pew finding, as well as a Time magazine survey which (using different wording) found even higher numbers of Republicans believe the president is Muslim.

Neither Lehman nor anyone else would claim Republican gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad’s not really a Christian because his mother was Jewish. Yet for some reason, it’s not enough for Lehman that Obama has been baptized, regularly attended Christian churches for many years and was sworn in on a Christian bible.

I wonder how many other prominent Iowa Republicans believe the urban legend about Obama being Muslim. Representative Steve King recently claimed Obama is a “Marxist” who “surely understands the Muslim culture.” What about Senator Chuck Grassley, Representative Tom Latham and Republican Congressional candidates Ben Lange, Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Brad Zaun?

State party chairman Matt Strawn and Steve Scheffler, head of the Iowa Christian Alliance, are Iowa’s other two representatives on the RNC. Do they and members of the Iowa GOP’s State Central Committee share Lehman’s view?

Branstad’s own interfaith family background makes him an ideal person to speak publicly about religion as a matter of faith and an individual’s spiritual journey, as opposed to a genetic inheritance. But I’m not holding my breath for Branstad to dispel false rumors about Obama. He generally avoids taking any position that would anger conservatives–when he’s not kowtowing to far-right sentiment, that is.

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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.

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Iowa Republicans make big voter registration gains

Competitive primaries helped Iowa Republicans make “significant” voter registration gains between June 1 and July 1 of this year, Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro announced at a press conference today. Voter registration totals as of June 1 (pdf file) were 710,017 Democrats, 607,567 Republicans and 772,725 no-party voters. As of July 1, registered Democrats were down to 699,972, Republicans were up to 644,838, and no-party voters were down to 749,441. A press release from the Secretary of State’s office noted that “these totals include both active and inactive voters.”

Iowa law allows voters to change their registration on the day of a primary or general election, and there were many more competitive races on the Republican side this year. It appears that approximately 10,000 Democrats and 23,000 independents became Republicans in order to vote in the GOP primary on June 8. Mauro remarked that Republicans gained in voter registration in 2002, when three men sought the nomination for governor and two sought the nomination for U.S. Senate. By the same token, the number of registered Democrats increased substantially in 2006, when Chet Culver was running against Mike Blouin and Ed Fallon while Jim Nussle was unopposed for governor on the GOP side. But Mauro “couldn’t deny that the momentum is on the GOP side.”

Not every party-switcher is a guaranteed Republican vote in November. Some Democrats may have voted for the perceived weaker Republican candidate for governor, and I’ve known independents who vote in whatever primary is competitive, no matter whom they plan to support in the general. Nevertheless, it’s not good for the Iowa Democratic Party’s voter registration advantage to shrink by such a large amount, particularly since it will be challenging to turn out many of 2008’s new voters, who were mobilized by Barack Obama’s campaign. Approximately 1.5 million Iowans voted in November 2008, but only about 1.05 million voted in November 2006. I will be surprised if turnout this November exceeds 1.1 million.

Click here for updated voter registration numbers by county and by Congressional, state house and state senate districts. After the jump I’ve posted links to pdf files showing voter registration changes following the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Iowa primaries.

Iowa Democrats’ ability to execute their early voter program will be critical again this year. Strong early voting has saved several Iowa House and Senate seats the last few cycles. But voter mobilization can only do so much if there is a large enthusiasm gap between the parties. I also hope that Culver’s campaign has a game plan for bringing the dissatisfied Democrats home in November.

UPDATE: John Deeth doesn’t think the registration gains are anything to brag about, because they grew out of a divisive, still-unresolved primary.

SECOND UPDATE: Bret Hayworth notes the registration numbers for active Iowa voters: 661,115 Democrats, 615,011 Republicans and 683,817 independents.  

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Iowa Democrats and Republicans holding district conventions tomorrow

This weekend, activists across Iowa have a chance to hear from their party’s candidates for Congress, the Iowa legislature, and statewide offices. The Iowa Democratic Party is holding conventions in all five Congressional districts on Saturday, April 24. These events are open to the public as well as the media. In other words, you do not have to be a convention delegate or alternate to attend. Here’s a list of Democratic convention locations and some scheduled speakers:

WHAT: 1st District Convention WHEN: 10:00AM WHERE: Northeast Iowa Community College 10250 Sundown Rd. Peosta, IA SPEAKERS: Senate Candidate Roxanne Conlin, Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture Francis Thicke, Congressman Bruce Braley

WHAT: 2nd District Convention WHEN:11:00 AM WHERE: Fairfield Arts and Convention Center 200 North Main St. Fairfield, IA SPEAKERS: Senate Candidate Roxanne Conlin, Governor Chet Culver, Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture Francis Thicke, Congressman Dave Loebsack, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan

WHAT: 3rd District Convention WHEN: 9:00 AM WHERE: Adventureland Inn 3200 Adventureland Dr. Altoona, IA SPEAKERS: Senator Tom Harkin, Senate Candidate Roxanne Conlin, Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture Francis Thicke, Congressman Leonard Boswell

WHAT: 4th District Convention WHEN: 10:00 AM WHERE: North Iowa Fairgrounds, Olson Building 3700 4th St. SW Mason City, IA SPEAKERS: Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, Candidate for Congress Bill Maske

WHAT: 5th District Convention WHEN: 9:00 AM WHERE: Atlantic Middle School 1100 Linn St. Atlantic, IA SPEAKERS: Senator Tom Harkin, Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, Candidate for Congress Matt Campbell, Candidate for Congress Mike Denklau, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan

The Republican Party of Iowa is holding conventions in the second, third and fifth districts this Saturday, and in the first and fourth districts on Saturday, May 1. (Click here for event details.) GOP conventions are open to the media but not the public.

The second and third district conventions will be well-attended because of the competitive GOP Congressional primaries. If no candidate wins at least 35 percent of the vote in the June 8 primary, district conventions will have to reconvene in June to select the nominee. Seven Republicans are running against Representative Leonard Boswell in the third district, and at least four of them are campaigning actively.

According to Republican blogger David Chung, there is “unprecedented” interest in the second district convention because of the four Republicans running against Representative Dave Loebsack. Chung writes, “For the first time in my memory, Linn County has filled [its] delegation. We have never actually had as many paid delegates as we were allotted.” Chung considers it “likely” that a second district convention will need to reconvene to select Loebsack’s opponent. Some other people following that race closely expect the contest to be decided on June 8, with only two candidates as serious contenders: Rob Gettemy and Mariannette Miller-Meeks. Gettemmy has the most cash on hand and the support of many influential Linn County Republicans as well as the National Republican Congressional Committee. The 2008 GOP nominee, Miller-Meeks, has spent the most time campaigning around the district. She has more cash on hand than either Steve Rathje or Chris Reed and is likely to do particularly well outside Linn County, where her three Republican rivals are based.

The district conventions will also elect members of the parties’ State Central Committees. Former Republican SCC member Chung is seeking that position again and expects a “massive shakeup” on the committee, because “several current members have decided not to run” again.

UPDATE: I’ve been told that Thicke will be at the fourth district convention as well, and Senate candidate Bob Krause will be at some of these conventions too, but I don’t have details.

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Iowa GOP keeps state convention in Des Moines

The State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Iowa voted yesterday to hold the state GOP convention in Des Moines yet again this June. Bret Hayworth reports:

Sioux City area Republicans pushed hard to land the convention after several consecutive years of the event being held in Des Moines. [..]

It was news that made Bill Anderson of tiny Pierson, a member of the Iowa GOP state central committee, quite disappointed. Anderson, who happens to be running for Iowa Senate District 27, voted for Sioux City, but he was one of only two to do so. He said the vote broke down as 10 for DM, three for Cedar Rapids and two for Sioux City, while two members didn’t take part.

“I am surprised that it was so lopsided,” Anderson said.

In the last two decades, the convention has been held outside of Des Moines, although the couple of times it happened, Cedar Rapids was the only other site. So coming to Sioux City in far western Iowa would have been a break from tradition.

Anderson said with a Sioux City siting, the delegates would have found plenty of hospitable folks eager to show them a good time while the convention played out in venues like the picturesque Orpheum Theatre.

Don’t take it personally, Mr. Anderson. Sioux City will probably host a state convention someday, but choosing that location this year would have been too risky. With four Republicans running for Congress in Iowa’s second district and seven running in Iowa’s third district, there is a good chance that no candidate will win 35 percent of the vote in the June 8 primary. In that case, the Republican nominees in IA-02 and/or IA-03 would be selected by a district convention, which would probably convene during the GOP state convention in late June. Republican commentators had already expressed concern that turnout from central and eastern Iowa would suffer if delegates were asked to drive four to seven hours each way to the convention location.

Getting to Des Moines will be much easier for delegates in the second and especially the third districts. The main logistical problem for Republicans coming to the state convention this summer will be finding hotel rooms here during the same weekend as the Des Moines Arts Festival.

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