Saturday, July 04, 2015

Parade Summary

Johnson County had no presidential candidates today,

I only made it to two of my usual three 4th of July parades this year. A scheduling change meant we had to split into two teams. I was on the Hills team and thus missed Oxford.

But the whole team was in Coralville, and a big team it was. I attempted a new form of journalism by live tweeting from within the parade itself, and at least a few parade goers got the joke and noted the beret.

I did take a couple breaks from livetweeting to break out the good camera and get video of the whole unit. By tradition (with 2007 the lone exception) all the presidential campaigns stay within the all-encompassing Johnson County Democrats unit. We had a small Loebsack buffer zone (the congressman was elsewhere) between Team Bernie and Team Hillary.

No Ashton Kutcher sightings like I had in 2013 (STILL, I regret to say, the highest traffic day in Deeth Blog history). But for some reason that I can't figure out, Nick Johnson riding his bike, which I thought only the locals would care about, seems to have gone over big in Bernie World.
Not quite viral, but at least a bad head cold.

The Bernie contingent was much smaller than the Hillarettes, who made up about half the total Democratic unit and almost all of the noise, what with Sue Dvorsky leading the cheers and all. But objectivity forces me to note that a lot of fellows, interns and staffers are based around here, and lead local Sanders supporter Rod Sullivan was focused today on his own re-election next year.

Speaking of Hillary and parades.

As an occasional journalist, who'll be wearing the beret to cover Clinton on Tuesday here in Iowa City, I can't endorse keeping the press in a mobile roped off area inside a parade.

But I completely understand it.

Pro tip: The public hates press even more than it hates politicians, and feels they have as much - no, MORE - claim on a candidate's time. And nothing Hillary does short of a  Claude Rains mea culpa exit scene (with the press casting itself as Jimmy Stewart) will ever make them happy anyway.

So from her point of view, why bother? If an in the parade rope line means that many more people get handshakes and selfies, that they spend all year bragging about to everyone they know, but some reporters who don't like her don't like her just a little more, it's a net win for her.

Especially when the reaction is this over the top.
Attn: Joni Ernst.

But back here in the People's Republic, which nevertheless has plenty of Republicans, I noticed no GOP presidential candidate presence except a couple Fiorina shirts with the county party's unit. And the live-tweeting from within the parade unit worked well, but I don't recommend it unless you have people with you that you trust for horse warnings.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

It's a Two Horse Race

Poor Martin O'Malley. No one I know has anything bad to say about Martin O'Malley. Everyone I know is really grateful to him for his grassroots campaigning here in 2014.

But no one seems to be getting behind him as a first choice, either. This morning's Quinnipiac poll is the strongest indication yet that the Iowa Democratic caucuses have become a two horse race, with Bernie Sanders close to locking in as the alternative to Hillary Clinton.

The top line of the poll shows Clinton at 52 to Sanders at 33. O'Malley isn't even in third place at 3%. He's fourth, with non-declared Joe Biden at 7 points. Jim Webb is at just 2, and Lincoln Chafee fails to register.

It's a drop of 8 points for Clinton, who led Sanders 60-15 in Quinnipiac's May poll of Iowa. And doing the math, it looks like much of Sander's gain has come directly from Clinton, with small chunks coming from undecided and Biden. (Quinnipiac stopped polling Elizabeth Warren, who was at 19 in February, by May, and most of that shifted to Sanders.)

My gut feeling is Sanders has, without directly attacking Clinton has peeled off a lot of the soft Hillary support.

The big question is, how much soft Hillary support is left? Because there were/are a lot of folks who are not Ready For Hillary as much as they're Resigned To Hillary support.  But there are also a lot of fierce solid Walk On Hot Coals For Hillary supporters. Does the Sanders spike represents a trend, or a plateau?

A lost opportunity: Sanders trails Clinton just 46-37 with men, but Hillary has a massive 56-29 lead with women. Elizabeth Warren could have run on the Sanders platform (more effectively, in my opinion) AND taken gender out of the equation. I think she'd be running even with Clinton had she run. Disclaimer: I am neutral because I'm working on caucus arrangements, but I would have endorsed Warren had she run.

To many caucus goers, especially here in the People's Republic, the caucus choice is about Direction Of The Party as much as it's about Who Should Be President. People who were loosely tied to Clinton on inevitability are now feeling free to Make A Statement.

But one of my bigger fears is eased a little bit. What happens to all the folks showing up for Sanders rallies who think he's actually going to BE president once Hillary Clinton is nominated? Quinnipiac's Would Not Support numbers are low for all six Democrats, especially compared to the Hell No percentages on the other side for Jeb Bush and Donald Trump. (Who, remarkably, seems to be staking out the Steve King-Tom Tancredo anti-immigrant niche.)

The Big Rally strategy is an old leftie tactic that dates back to at least Henry Wallace and includes Ralph Nader. Often these events had low dollar admission and were a big part of the fundraising.

But no less a source than:

Vermont makes the Dean-Sanders comparisons are too easy. There are a LOT of dynamic differences between 2004 and 2016.  Dean peaked about a month early but was still a frontrunner on January 19, albiet a very narrow one. One of the last pre-caucus polls showed a four way dead heat.

Old-time Deaniacs like me will remember a coordinated Screw Dean effort by the other campaigns to take him out in Iowa. Even Dennis Kucinich played along, with a bizarre caucus morning semi-endorsement of John Edwards as a second choice in the many, many precincts where he was non-viable. In my precinct, before we could even herd all our Dean cats, the just short of viable Dick Gephardt group marched en masse to Kerry. Same thing all over the state: Realignment strategies designed to help Anyone But Dean.

The Scream, which never gets old, was the least of Dean's caucus night problems. It was AFTER the Much More Important Third Place.

In a two way race, like Bradley-Gore in 2000, you don't get those kinds of strategic moves. It's a zero sum game. Every marginal, last delegate in the precinct is coming directly out of Clinton and going to Sanders or vice versa. And at these levels, even an O'Malley-Webb-Chafee-Not Sure coalition is short of an Uncommitted delegate.

(undecided ≠ "Uncommitted." Uncommitted is, paradoxically, a commitment. undecided, not capitalized, is a decision yet to be made, And Neutral ≠ Uncommitted. It is a commitment NOT to make a committment, at least not till the Magic Moment of Alignment.)

Our county's one Uncommitted in that 2000 caucus was a labor guy whose union was for Gore but he supported Bradley. He couldn't bring himself to go directly against his union, so he got an Uncommitted group together.

In that light, and in this bipolar dynamic, this may be the most important and most under-reported news of the cycle:
Whoa if true: Tells me that AFL-CIO intends to make TPP a litmus test of Labor Solidarity. If labor gets all the way behind Sanders, and that moves X% of caucus goers, in a well-organized high-turnout demographic.

But are they already included in that Sanders 33%? The ideology facet of the poll shows the left of the party pro-Sanders and the mainstream slash center pro-Clinton. This means a counter-intuitive take on turnout. In low turnout years, the ideological wings of both parties show up. The higher the turnout, the more moderates. So low turnout actually helps Sanders. But here I give Clinton, miles ahead of Sanders on organization and field staff, to have an edge.

The most interesting number to me in the whole Quinnipiac poll is that 7% for Joe Biden, despite any clear indication that he's serious about getting in. The Biden loyalists are really, REALLY loyal, and have only increased in number and loyalty during his vice presidency. He's also riding a public sympathy wave following his son's death.

I always say it: Joe Biden's only real fault is an excess of heart. Not a bad flaw to have. The man is brilliant and God forbid something happened to Barack Obama, Joe Biden cound step into the job immediately ready and up to it.

But at some point Joe Biden will reluctantly, because in his big, big heart he really does want to be president, make a definitive Not Running statement. And right now his 7 points makes the different between a narrow Clinton majority, or even plurality, win, and the 60%, near-Gore level bar that I've set for her (despite Team Hillary's efforts to sell 50% as the expectation).

Not sure what if anything Hillary Clinton can do to sell herself as more progressive than Bernie Sanders. My pet theory since Sanders got started has been that Clinton is coming up with the right policy ideas, but the lefty base wants blame. And Clinton's "system favors the rich" line is too mild for people who want blame and eat up Sanders'  "billionaire class," "top 1%," etc.

At some point Clinton may need to have a closed door chat with her donor class and play the MLK vs. Malcolm X card. Or, more in keeping with her New Deal launch and Sanders' socialist persona, the FDR vs. Norman Thomas card. "Look, guys, I need to kick up the rhetoric a notch, because if I don't, you get the torches and pitchforks. Don't take it personal."

Thursday roundup

Thursday seems to have become my day for thoughts that are slightly longer than a tweet but not long enough to be a full post.

It was a long and frustrating Tuesday of clearing out the in box with assorted pleas for pennies on the last day of the fundraising quarter. It all started in 2003:
Several of those pitches were from Monica Vernon. Ravi Patel appears to have gotten the message that the deal is done, but Pat Murphy - remember him? - has not and is floating trial balloons in the 1st CD. Sources close to Sen. Palpatine (Jedi Sith-Naboo) are reported as saying, "Do not want."

We may need to write Pat another memo.

The Screw Iowa nomination strategy had been tried by President Al Gore (1988), President John McCain (2000), and President Joe Lieberman (2004). This year, the official Screw Iowa candidate may be... President Chris Christie.

Actually, it may help to think of the 16 GOP candidates as a Midwest Regional bracket and a Northeast Regional Bracket:
  • Iowa bracket: Scott Walker, Ben Carson and Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal
  • New Hampshire bracket: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, George Pataki, maybe Lindsey Graham
  • Crossovers: Rand Paul, Marco Rubio
And Quinnipiac has the latest Iowa seeds:
Walker has 18 percent of likely GOP caucus participants, compared to 25 percent in a February 25 poll by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University and 21 percent in a May 6 survey.

Jostling for second place are Donald Trump and Ben Carson, at 10 percent each, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 9 percent each, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida at 8 percent and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 7 percent. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has 5 percent. No other candidate is above 4 percent and 5 percent are undecided. 
Pataki is in the 16-seed play-in game against Vermin Supreme.

Trump I kinda sorta get because of the celebrity factor. But can someone please explain to me what exactly the deal is with Ben Carson polling high and bringing in bucks like he's an actual real candidate? Because I absolutely do not get it.

Carly Fiorina seems to be the O'Malley of the GOP field: everybody seems to like her, or at least the idea of her, but she's not anybody's actual first choice.

The snickering reaction Wednesday to various Hillary Clinton emails released Tuesday helps explain 1) why she wanted to keep them private & 2) why she hates the press.

Also Tuesday the Des Moines Register announced a "New Gannett focus on community." Wednesday:
Apparently this "Gannett focus on community" is more restaurant reviews and less hiring actual reporters at the Press-Citizen.

And dear everyone: No one is trying to make your church gay marry people. Your county clerk or recorder, however, is another matter.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Mandering: Redistricting Ruling "A Freakin' Disaster"

Redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering emerged from his secret mapping bunker Monday morning to talk about the big case. The normally reclusive Mandering refuses to give media interviews, except to the Deeth Blog.

So Jerry, what do you think of the big case? Marriage everywhere, huh.

I ain't been payin' attention. Let people do what they want.

Oh, you meant the Obamacare case.

Deeth, you got a messed up set of priorities. I'm talking' about the big case that's gonna put me outta business.

I see. You meant Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

That's the one. It's a freakin' disaster for guys like me.

Why don't you explain the issues.

So AridZone is one of those initiative and referendum state.  Back in 2000 the voters passed a thing that made them use an independent commission.

Like we have in Iowa.

Pretty much the same idea but not exactly. In Iowa the politicians still get the final say, even though it's just an up or down vote with no amendments. In AridZone it was totally up to the five members of the Commission.

You mean the heads of the Five Families?

Not that commission. Now them I could work with. I asked them "Who should I give this turf to?" and they tell me, "Not to our paisan. Give it to a Jew congressman in another district." Those were the days.

Anyway, out in AridZone the legislature sued, sayin' that under the Constitution’s Elections Clause, the legislature is the ones required to be be in charge of the redistricting process.

Which party was in charge?

In AridZone it was the Republicans. Democrats do it too sometimes, which you know bein' next to Illinois. But Republicans have been been more aggressive with it lately. Me, I'm a pragmatist. My idea of "nonpartisan" is I work for whichever side pays better.

So today the Court ruled in favor of the redistricting commission. What does that mean for you professionally?

I got a serious problem in referendum states, Ohio and Michigan especially. Ohio's a split even state but map gives them 12 Republican congressmen and just four Democrats.

It's a damn shame. Just look at this beautiful map.

See that long skinny thing along Lake Erie? District 9. Nothing holding it together in the middle but a freakin' bridge. My associates got rid of a guy off of that bridge.

I'm sure there's a lot of other bodies in Lake Erie.

Not that way, wise guy. We're not the muscle end of the family. We used that bridge to hook Toledo to Cleveland so we could get rid of Dennis Kucinich.He was in enough trouble just with Cleveland because he kept running all over running for president. But throw in Toledo and he was a goner. Did the guy a favor, really, now he can spend more time at home with the wife.

I love my wife very much but Dennis is a lucky man.

You ain't kiddin'.

So let's say Ohio voters pass a referendum for Iowa-style clean districts.

My job is a lot easier when those freakin' voters stay out of it.

Does that mean Ohio gets an 8-8 map?

Maybe but probably not. But you probably get 9-7, maybe 6-10. You sure do better than 12-4.

Why doesn't it match up with votes?

Republicans get more seats per vote no matter what youse do because birds of a feather flock together. In Ohio or Pennsylvania or anyplace with a pro sports size city, you got a bunch of urban minority districts that vote 90% Democrat. Even I can't do nothin' with that. So those votes get wasted. Then out in the country you got a lot of 65, 70% Republican places, but not a lot of 90% Republican places. Just a couple, and usually those have more square miles than people. So the most Democratic places are more Democratic than the most Republican places are Republican. Iowa's one of the only places where that ain't true.

So how big a difference does this ruling make?

If every state did what Iowa does it would be YOOGE. More elections get decided on map day or on the filing deadline than on Election Day. You got 435 House districts in the country and what, maybe 30 of those are competitive. And of those 30, three are in rinky-dink Iowa which has just four total to begin with.

Careful what you say about Iowa. We like nice here.

Yeah, yeah. Here's a quarter, go buy some corn.

We don't have corn for a little while yet.

But what youse do have is competitive districts. Look at your legislature. You got maybe a third a third a third. 30-odd state House seats safe for Democrats, 30-odd safe for Republicans. Even with the sharpest knives in the business I can't cut a decent turf outta Sioux County or Iowa City.

You're scary when you talk about knives.

Remember that half a body I was telling you about?

Is a third a third a third like that?

No, your last third is open turf. Either team can win it with the right candidate, the right amount of money and a good year. So if every state does it, all of a sudden you could go from 30 competitive seats in the country to maybe 150. That's even a bigger deal than Citizens United. You can throw all the money in the world at a custom-drawn Jerry Mandering district and it won't do any good. But with an Iowa Clean style district, every race is a fight.

So if that happens, how are your job prospects?

Well, I saw this one on the docket, so I been talkin' to the Iowa City school district. I hear they need a guy who can draw funny lines.

Funny how?

Even I'm sick of that one, Deeth.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Definitely was not enough cake

As if to underscore the fact that there had been too much news to fit into one little week, my normally trusty Samsung Mega fable t locked up right in the middle of Iowa City's celebration of today's Supreme Court ruling that made marriage equality the law in all 50 states.

So my live tweets are lost to history, not that they were a very big part of the 46 year march (OK, 45 years and 464 days) from the Stonewall rebellion to Obergefell v. Hodges.
County supervisor Janelle Rettig reviewed that history, timestamping the events with the number one hits on those dates, and making some of us feel a bit old in the process.
Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" and of COURSE the Village People's "YMCA" got the crowd dancing, but unfortunately those songs only hit number two in 1979. (Pro tip: Never play music trivia with a former DJ.)

Other speakers included Jen and Dawn BarbouRoske, plaintiffs in the Varnum v. Brien case that made Iowa just the third state to recognize marriage equality waay back in 2009, and county recorder Kim Painter, who gets to hand out marriage licenses ans was the first out countywide elected official in the state waaaaaay back in 1998.
And, of course,this being the most Democratic place in the state, with the Ped Mall itself being the epicenter of blueness in Iowa, lots of elected officials on hand.
Lyness Nielsen (blocking) Sullivan Jacoby Bolkcom Dvorsky Lensing Painter Weipert Rettig. Taylor (Swisher) and Botchway spotted at other points in the evening.

Team Hillary was ready for the occasion, with a small army of staffers and interns working the crowd with rainbow H➔ stickers. Either for practical reasons or for effect they were wearing the rolls of stickers diagonally across the chest like pageant sashes.
There were occasional sobering reminders, for example people who can get legally married tomorrow can get legally fired Monday morning. And those struggles remain. But they were gentle reminders, not buzzkills, at least not for tonight.

So that's what I can remember off the top of my bald head about this day in history in this little corner of America.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Patel Out in 1st CD

The last time I talked to Ravi Patel, a couple months ago, he was very confident about his bid for Congress in the 1st CD. Fundraising was strong, meetings and events around the district were going well.

So I'm as surprised as anyone by his announcement this afternoon that he's leaving the race. It takes guts to step up and put yourself forward as a candidate. And it also takes guts to very publicly step back after you've stepped up.

Sure, there had been some bumps in the road: some faux outrage about the quality and content of a film Ravi had produced, some labor questions about wages at his hotels, and a poor interview last week. But none of these things were fatal, especially at so early a stage with so few voters tuned in.

I haven't written much about the 1st District race. OK, I've been actively avoiding it because I like all three, now two, of the candidates. I haven't met Gary Kroeger yet but I like his message.

Monica Vernon did great service for the party last year as Jack Hatch's running mate. She's been bashed as a new convert to the Democrats - I admit, I bashed too when I was supporting Anesa Kajtazovic in last year's primary - but she reaches out to detractors, and so she's a new Democrat? At least she's moving in the right direction.

But Ravi and I have been on the same side of a number of fights the last few years. And I like young candidates. I'm old enough now that the idea of bringing along a new generation of leaders is very appealing.

But not all Democrats agree, especially not in my county, which may have been part of why Ravi felt the need to move into the very inviting 1st CD.  So Ravi and Anesa were young people in a hurry. Since when was ambition a crime?

Republicans have known this for years. 25 years ago my brother went to Boys State in Wisconsin. He met a very ambitious young fellow there, who was in such a hurry that he basically became a professional Young Republican before he left college. He either dropped out or was kicked out, but he already had a legislative seat lined up.

You may have heard of him. Dude's name is Walker. The investments in young Republicans that were made two, three decades ago have now paid off with the likely presidential nominee.
But back to 2016 and back to the 1st Congressional District of Iowa. I'm just speculating here:

As I keep saying, Iowa Democrats are furious that after decades of effort and near misses, and years of comparisons with Mississippi - NOT a good thing during Flag Week - Republicans sent a woman to Washington first. And not just a woman - a woman with Joni Ernst's very special cultural persona.

Survey the 2016 landscape. Chuck Grassley is untouchable, Steve King's district is unwinnable and Dave Loebsack is the only Democratic incumbent. In the 3rd CD, Staci Appel is out and Janet Peterson looks like she's waiting till 2018 when the options are better and when she is in mid-term in her Senate seat. The other Democratic female all-star, Liz Mathis, is also mid-term in 2018, and is a Vernon supporter and ally anyway. And Swati Dandekar, who may yet rise from the dead with Patel out, is still persona non grata to the base. (Unlike Vernon, she switched the WRONG way.)

So if Democratic women have a chance in Iowa in 2016, it's Monica and Hillary.

Even before Ravi Patel announced - scratch that. Even before Pat Murphy lost, which they saw coming, DC Democrats were making it very clear that Monica Vernon was their choice in this district. In fact that was probably part of the plan when she ran for lieutenant governor. And to her credit, Vernon came away from losing two elections in the same year with increased stature, which is a pretty tough career move to pull off.

And I'm speculating that message may have been sent and received.

Patel's dropout sets up a 1st CD primary between Vernon and Kroeger that's got a weird parallel to the Democratic presidential race. In this corner, a second time candidate who may be a little moderate for the base but is adjusting fast, can raise good money, and oh yeah First Woman. In that corner, an outsider with a little bit different background who's betting on a feisty progressive message.

As for Ravi Patel. It's not every day that a young, charismatic, and wealthy businessman walks in the front door of the Democratic party. So his first run for office didn't go as well as he had hoped. So what. We need to not eat our young here, like we more or less did with Kajtazovic. We need to nurture and bring him along as a future leader, the way we are with Jim Mowrer.

Ravi Patel is an asset to the Democratic Party, and to the whole state of Iowa. One campaign that didn't work out does not change the fact that he is a remarkable success at a young age. Ravi has a bright future ahead in the Democratic Party if he chooses that, and is a name I hope to be still hearing long after I hang up the beret.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

It's not about a flag

It's taken me a few days to process Charleston, in part because I was still processing Coral Ridge Mall. And during the three days since Wednesday's mass murder, a goal and rallying point has emerged.

Somehow, the issue that has come out of a white supremacist targeting a historic, politically active black church and murdering nine people has become a Confederate flag debate.

In part this is because of the scene of the murder,South Carolina, where the Confederate flag, and its display on state grounds, has been at the middle of public debate for a few decades. Fewer decades than you would think, because as the symbols of segregation were less important while actual, old school, colored fountain legal segregation was the law of the land in South Carolina.

Symbolism is powerful. Symbolism is important. Symbolism matters. It should be a no brainer to remove the Confederate flag from its remaining places of official display. Tear it down and light it on fire with a bottle of Jack Daniel's. And defining it and stigmatizing it s a racist symbol will be a step forward in defining and stigmatizing racism. Maybe down the road a couple decades, combines with a lot of other steps, it'll keep some other child from growing into this kind of a monster.

But it won't eliminate racism, either the casually accepted type or the violent Stormfront variety displayed by the murderer. Hauling the Confederate flag down from the South Carolina state capitol would be a good thing, a great thing in fact. But it would not have saved those nine lives.

Sensible gun control laws might have.

The post-Charleston discussion has turned to the flag in part because the killer chose flags for their symbolic power. But I can't help but feel like part of the reason the flag fight has become a symbol of victory here is because people feel a desperate need to do something, but have given up on trying to take on the gun issue.

There's an acceptance of the unacceptable. Yes, we know that every couple months in America some angry white boy will shoot up a place and kill a bunch of people, but that's just how it is and we'll never be able to change it. No, easier to take on a symbolic fight rather than a substantive fight.

After last week's shooting in my community, I broke the taboo and said in public for the first time what I've believed for years. It's time to repeal the Second Amendment and eliminate the archaic notion and Constitutional misinterpretation that owning a weapon is an absolute right. No other country on the planet has anything like the Second Amendment and our gun culture, and no other country on the planet has anything like our mass murder rate.

And then we need to enact strict gun control laws like the rest of the world had. Maybe in order to stop these shootings, it really does need to be harder to get a deer rifle. Maybe that's the only way we can do it. One thing's for sure, we've never actually tried.

Maybe we'll never eliminate monstrous hate like what we saw Wednesday. Maybe it will take more generations that I will see, and maybe we need to take some symbolic steps along the way. But in the meantime, we need to do our best to limit the means of destruction.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Weekend In Hillaryland

Three Hillary Clinton tweetathons this weekend. You may have followed them in real time, but here's some overall impressions.

"Four Fights" is a good theme from the launch speech, if Clinton stays with it, which I think she will. There don't appear to be signs of multiple reboots ala 2007. Usually bullet points are limited to three, but four works with the alliteration, the throwback to FDR's Four Freedoms, and because it sounds like Foo Fighters. Which is probably more important than the FDR thing because, despite its evergreen appeal to the base, the youngest FDR voter is 92.

I know I've pledged neutrality, but I will endorse if she picks Dave Grohl as a running mate. Breaks his leg and finishes show is almost as good as Teddy Roosevelt getting shot and finishing the speech.

But grunge would be too explicit a throwback to Clinton 42, so musically Hillary sticks to verbal references to "Yesterday" and rally music from this list. Tom Petty is banished, in part because the line "God it's so painful when something that's so close is still so far out of reach" hits too close to home from 2008, and is replaced by Katy Perry who in a rarity for a rally playlist is an actual enthusiastic supporter.

"Roar" almost could have been written for a Hillary Clinton rally and ties into that "fighter" theme we'll keep hearing (Clinton-Grohl 2016. Think about it.) Other things we'll hear a lot: "I've been coloring my hair for years" (drink) and "youngest woman president" (drink).

The speech was much the same in Des Moines on Sunday to a crowd of - exact body count - 713, at the State Fairgrounds in front of a Patton size flag on Flag Day. Counters in the national press noted Bernie Sanders' slightly larger crowd on Friday night, and surprisingly there was some spare room in back.

Most of the crowd got lunch - Hy-Vee catered, very Iowan - and sat at picnic tables. Once the tables were full, late diners grabbed seats on the floor. In a great egalitarian touch, Senate finance chair Bob Dvorsky was one of the folks eating at a groundling seat while Sue Dvorsky - ex-party chair who is now Hillary Enthusiast Number One - worked the press area.

Things were a bit looser on press row than they were in late caucus season 2007; we were herded but not aggressively herded, and there were lots of friendly over the fence chats between press and Regular Iowans, which was discouraged last time.

There was also plenty of rope line time after the speech, 24 minutes by my clock. The people who were most dedicated and patient mostly managed to get their moment, and from my distance it looked like Hillary was spending Quality Time.

Other than her presence, Clinton made news twice in Iowa. In the biggest distinction between Saturday's speech and Sunday's, she discussed the Trans Pacific Partnership  at length. The tl;dr version: we need to see the details and by the way I'm a tough negotiator. Not quite a Bernie Sanders Hell No, but the more important question is whether it's enough to calm jangled nerves in union halls.

The other news she made was, well, news - doing sit-downs with two of the state's leading journalists, Radio Iowa's O.Kay Henderson and the Register's Jennifer Jacobs.

Brilliant move.  Not a shocking move, but strategically perfect. No one can complain that she's NOT doing interviews, can they? Yet doing interviews with state journalists means the priorities were different than the Beltway press corps' obsessions. No horse race, email, no Clinton Foundation donors, no Benghazi.  Now all the nationals can do as say "but you didn't talk to US."

Instead, Henderson and Jacobs focused on topics more interesting to an Iowa audience, and coincidentally (or not) more in line with Clinton's message. Jacobs focused on the trade proposal and the "eagerness" (Clinton's word) for a female president. Henderson also started with trade but in a 21 minute chat also touched on Iraq, universal pre-K, and what Clinton 42's role would be in a Clinton 45 administration (TBD).

And, in a move dear to my heart, Henderson asked a version of what I call The Existential Question:
Henderson: In 2008, members of the Clinton team, including Bill Clinton, had some concerns about the Caucus process…Are you comfortable with the process…and how does this feel different than it did eight years ago?

Clinton: I am very committed to competing in the Caucus system and I do think that the Democratic Party in Iowa has made some changes that will provide some greater opportunity for people who wish to express themselves in the Caucuses to be heard.
"Competing in the Caucus system" this time ≠ KEEPING the caucus system NEXT time. Notably, in the voting rights section of the speech, Clinton made references to second shift workers in troops in New York, but dropped them in Iowa.  Those references had been made in connection to criticism of the caucuses, both just before Iowa 2008 and after. So one one level, she's recognizing that concern, but on another level she's not saying I ♡ REALIGNMENT TIME either. Still hoping to follow up on this one.

In the Henderson interview, Clinton quickly moved from caucus process stuff to praising the organizers and their organizing, which was on display Saturday morning and evening in house parties across the state.

Iowa City had two - a speech watch at the library (I overslept and blogged the speech in my PJs in the basement, which is what we bloggers are supposed to do) and an evening event at the home of precinct captain Robin Chambers, which me and about 30 folks attended.

There were legislative endorsement rollouts at a lot of these - Bob Dvorsky is now Official and Vicki Lensing was also on hand - and a brief video hookup to the Sioux City party that Clinton attended. And there was pizza and of course a Sue Dvorsky pep talk. But more importantly there were lots and lots of clipboards and commit cards.

It may seem ironic, but at the field level, Hillary Clinton seems to be running the Barack Obama campaign. And why not - it worked. (Of course, the Barack Obama campaign was really just a fine tuned and improved Howard Dean campaign.)  

What's clear is that Team Hillary won't be making the top-heavy, top-down mistakes of 2007. And with the milestone of open to all now done, and the body count and media scrum proving managable, maybe those mid-size Q and A events will be possible.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Weekend Non-Hillary Edition

All of the weekend Hillary stuff - the announcement speech, the house party I attended, and the Des Moines rally which I'll be attending - will be summed up in a late Sunday post. Before I do that I'm going to clear the deck of some other items.

The first sort of IS a Hillary item. In the announcement speech, the former Secretary of State included about 45 seconds of foreign policy discussion, and in that made sure to include a reference to "our ally Israel" with no mention of the state's human rights abuses or acknowledgement of anything called "Palestine."

Between that, and Bernie Sanders' relatively tepid answer to an Israel question the other week in Iowa City, it seems like we STILL aren't going to get a serious discussion of the Palestine-Israel conflict in this primary. Democratic leaders are lagging behind the Democratic base on this. I'd like to steer the discussion more in the direction of THIS article titled "Accelerating the Decolonization of Palestine." #SorryNotSorry

And while I'm saying stuff I used to be afraid to say: I'm more shook up by Friday's Coral Ridge Mall murder of Andrea Farrington than I thought I'd be. The murderer - I'm not saying "the accused" because he's confessed - clearly had a gun and militaria fetish.

It is simply too easy to get a gun in this country, there are simply too many of them, and their use is too easily rationalized as a "right." It's time for America to get rid of the primitive notion that weapons are an absolute right, as sacred as speech and religion and democracy.

I've long thought if there were one thing I could change in the Constitution, it would be the Second Amendment. Now I'm saying it. It should be repealed, and strict and sensible gun laws like other civilized countries have should be enacted. #SorryNotSorry
The Ames Straw Poll - since Boone 2015 never happened I'm reverting to the traditional usage - died in 2011. It died with Michele Bachmann's ultimately meaningless win. It died when Rick Perry's announcement stepped on the day.

But most of all, it died when Tim Pawlenty bet everything he had on Ames, fell short, and immediately washed out of the race. Nobody wanted to be the Tim Pawlenty of 2015. Friday's announcement was just burying the corpse.

I regret never getting to see the show. In 2007 Ames conflicted with my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, and they called dibs. In 2011 I was turned down for press credentials, though I did ask a little late.

The funeral for the straw poll brought out the Iowa haters on social media.

That attitude might explain why Greenfield was so rude to me when I tried to talk to him at the 2007 Harkin Steak Fry.

I was a pro at that time, the glory months of the late great all-star team at Iowa Independent, and was working on a piece that, ironically, Greenfield would have had a strong opinion about. Eventually it was headlined "Iowa's Neighbors Envious of Caucuses, But Not Hostile," but during its looooong gestation we referred to it on editorial conference calls as "Spoiled Iowa."

I was juggled a half dozen stories at a time and saved a lot of string that day. And I recognized Greenfield from various cable shows, and thought he could add a good quote for Spoiled Iowa.

But he brushed me off very brusquely, too important, or self-important, to talk to a mere blogger from Iowa. In contrast, Obama campaign chief David Axelrod was more than happy to share a few minutes.

As for Greenfield's question Why Iowa? I'll note that it's just not possible to transplant a political culture that has taken decades to develop into just any semi-random small state. Look at the troubles Nevada had in 2008 as a case in point.
Some folks are looking at this week's trade vote as a sign that Barack Obama's lame duck period had begun. I'm not convinced of that, but it does illustrate an interesting dynamic.

Free trade is an elite issue. Non-elites, Democrats AND Republicans, are instinctively protectionist, less worried about exporting goods than they are about exporting jobs. And it seems that House Democrats are closely in tune with that dynamic.