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

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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Fong announces ten campus coordinators

Republican gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong responded to a weekend of renewed speculation surrounding Terry Branstad by announcing that his campaign has recruited campus coordinators at all of Iowa’s leading universities and several colleges. Radio Iowa posted the Fong campaign’s press release, which listed the ten college coordinators and provided this none-too-subtle analysis:

Marlys Popma, Fong campaign manager, added, “Considering we are several weeks away from classes starting on campuses across Iowa to already have College Chairs in place is a testament to Christian.  His ability to inspire Iowa’s youth should not be lost on Iowa Republicans as we look to restore the Republican Party.  We’ll continue to work until we have a presence at every university, college and community college in Iowa.”  

The message to Republican bigwigs is clear. Fong is serious about this campaign and is building a strong organization in the GOP’s weakest area: the youth vote. Since colleges will be on summer break by the time next June’s primary rolls around, Fong’s campaign will have to implement an aggressive absentee ballot strategy. Early voting happens to be another area where Iowa Republicans have been getting mauled in recent years.

Perhaps some major donors will give Fong more consideration before leaping to the conclusion that Branstad is their only hope for keeping the nomination away from Bob Vander Plaats. If Branstad stays out, some of the people currently recruiting him might move toward Fong.

Alternatively, if Branstad jumps in, Fong is making himself attractive as a running mate.

When school is back in session, I would welcome diaries, comments or e-mails from Bleeding Heartland readers about how the Republican campaign looks on your campus. Will Vander Plaats have a strong presence at the regents universities and community colleges as well as at some small Christian institutions?

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Christian Fong dusts off Obama's playbook

Given Barack Obama’s Iowa caucus breakthrough and convincing general-election victory here, it was only a matter of time before someone else built an Iowa campaign around his strategy. I didn’t count on a Republican being the first person to try, though.

Enter Christian Fong, who made the Republican race for governor a lot more interesting last week.

Some early impressions of Fong’s personal narrative, political rhetoric and electoral prospects are after the jump.  

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The young generation may be a lost cause for Republicans

Looking at this graph of party identification by age in the U.S., I was not surprised to find 40-year-olds like me in the best cohort for Republicans. My peers vaguely remember the oil shocks and high inflation of the 1970s, and then came of age during Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America.” In those days, many young people proudly identified with the Republican Party. As they grew older, lots of them continued to vote that way.

Americans who were growing up during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are much more likely to call themselves Democrats or independents than Republicans. They also voted Democratic by large margins in the 2006 and 2008 general elections. If Republicans can’t figure out a way to compete with this group of voters, Democrats will have a built-in advantage for decades.

Fixing this problem won’t be easy for the GOP and may even be impossible, for reasons I discuss after the jump.

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