Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Harkin steps up for Conlin

Harkin steps up for Conlin

With tonight's quarterly federal campaign finance reporting deadline, the inbox is jammed with fundraising pitches. But the one from Team Roxanne stands out because of whose name is on the From: line - Tom Harkin.

"I've known Roxanne Conlin for years," says the message in Harkin's name, "and there's no one I'd rather have serving in the U.S. Senate alongside me."

As, uh, opposed to the person currently serving alongside you, Tom?

"The big money interests are lining up to dump millions upon millions of dollars into Iowa to protect their friends in the Senate, who'll keep things the way they are."

Meaning Chuck Grassley, Tom?

You might not think it's odd for Harkin to make a pitch for a fellow Democrat, and normally it isn't. But in the historically collegial ways of the Senate, it's unusual for same-state senators of opposite parties to campaign against each other beyond just the necessary lip service of party loyalty. The idea is you need a good working relationship that transcends party, in order to cooperate on state matters.

Grassley's past several opponents, God bless 'em, have been seen as too weak to be worth much extra effort on Harkin's part. Likewise, Grassley didn't make much noise in 2008 on behalf of Harkin's hapless opponent Christopher Reed.

But in the tea party and filibuster era we're in now, and with Conlin making the first serious effort against Grassley in 30 years, those old traditions may be falling by the wayside. Is this just the usual nod to party loyalty, or (I hope I hope I hope) is Harkin going to take the gloves off?

In any event it's a nice present on Conlin's birthday.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Iowa GOP In-fight Going National

Iowa GOP In-fight Going National
I always though the Iowa Republican governor primary was going to have presidential implications. I just thought it was going to be before the primary itself, not after:
“It would be disrespectful to Mr. Vander Plaats and to many of Gov. Huckabee’s friends and supporters in Iowa if he were to endorse Gov. Branstad without Mr. Vander Plaat’s having already done so,” said (Huckabee spokesman) Gidley today when asked whether Huckabee had any plans to get behind the GOP gubernatorial nominee.
Hard to believe that Sarah freakin' Palin made the smarter move here (with her pre-primary Branstad endorsement), but she did. Also.

There's not an easy way out of this for anyone. Instead of giving Team BVP catharsis and closure, Saturday's convention vote seems to have made them even madder. What can Branstad now possibly say or do or give to BVP to get him on board? Nothing, because despite the rhetoric Bob is all about Bob, and he's toxic to swing voters.

Branstad is smart enough to get that and has taken a strong but risky position:
“Remember that the person who opposed [Reynolds] for the nomination has been running here for 10 years, has probably spoken to everyone in that room 10 times,” Branstad said. “We took the risk of going to the most conservative base of our party, and we won it fair and square, just like I won the primary fair and square.”

BVP and his people, meanwhile, remain unpersuadable:
...the old guard of the GOP fails to see that the political climate and this next election is not about who endorses who or a single candidate but instead about the issues and preserving our republic for our children, they will continue to drown in their own irrelevancy while most of us move on.
With Huckabee now drawn in, this thing is snowballing. This has got caucus implications. If Vander Plaats goes ahead and splits, or even withholds support, and the GOP loses what at one point looked like their best shot in the nation to knock off an incumbent Democratic governor, why would the national Republican Party reward Iowa with the attention and money money money of the straw poll and the first caucuses?

And if the Republicans get pushed back, what happens to the Democrats? We might be feeling gleeful schadenfreude about the GOP in-fight, but there's 49 states that want to topple King Caucus and the parties' fates are linked.

Somebody needs to sit Bob Vander Plaats down, and soon, and tell him: "You are never, ever going to be governor of Iowa. You aren't even nominate-able, let alone electable. If you want to keep your outsized influence in state and national politics you need to stop. this. now. Losers don't get to make demands. We need that picture of your smiling face shaking Terry Branstad's hand, and we need to hear the word 'endorse,' and we need it yesterday."

Question is: can anyone do that?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Right side of Iowa ballot getting crowded

Right side of Iowa ballot getting crowded

If Bob Vander Plaats decides to go rogue and run as an independent - I'm still betting he won't - he'll joing a right side of the Iowa ballot that's busier than usual. Steve Rathje fans, too, may see an option on the right.

The Constitution Party (which started life in the 1990s as the US Taxpayers Party) is making its first big non-presidential ballot effort in Iowa, and held its first state convention last month in Grinnell, apparently to little notice. "we are the only party which is completely Pro-Life, Pro-States’ Rights, Pro-Second Amendment, Pro-Constitutional, and Pro-Limited Government, reads the party web site. All qualities Bob Vander Plaats finds lacking in Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds.

Gubernatorial nominee Rick Phillips ran for state senate as a Republican in 1998 but finished a poor third out of three in the primary, in an earlier version of Dennis Black's central Iowa seat. Running mate Edward (Ted) Hee appears to be active in the militia movement and was one of the party's candidates for presidential elector in 2008.

The COnstitution Party also has a candidate in the 2nd Congressional District, where Jon Tack of Hiawatha is running what looks to be a tea-friendly campaign. With some former Steve Rathje supporters unhappy with the nomination of "RINO" (?!?) Miller-Meeks, Tack could be an escape hatch.

Tack's site has a four-way poll on "Which candidate will uphold our Constitution and Bill of Rights?" which he is handily winning. Feel free to particpate and choose him, MMM, Dave Loebsack, or... clumsy transition...

Libertarian Gary Sicard, who's been in the 2nd CD race for a few months. It's harder to typify the Libertarians as "right," but my personal theory has always been they draw two votes from I Hate Taxes conservatives for every one they get from Legalize Weed lefties.

The Libertarians have the "party organization" status they fought for in court, so now you can get your L on your voter card. But gubernatorial nominee Eric Cooper, who seems more serious than some of their past contenders, is targeting the 2 percent that would bump the Libertarians up to full party status. They're also running Jake Porter for secretary of state and, as noted Saturday, Dustin Krutsinger is running locally in House District 30 (leaving the GOP to do so).

And of course Jonathan Narcisse's odd mix of religious conservatism and economic populism is hard to classify on a left-right spectrum.

Finally, and even hardest to classify, is Jim Hennager, who guested on the Fallon show today to discuss his "Peace Party" bid for the US Senate. It's Hennager's third third party label. In 2002 he ran as a "One World" candidate for Congress, and in 1998 he led the Reform Party to less than one percent and loss of their party status as the candidate for governor.

Where things look empty, for now, is the left. The Greens seem unusually quiet, though you can usually count on the Socialist Workers to get someone on the ballot for something.

All these groups, together, usually score one or two percent of the vote. But with a disgruntled four-time loser raising havoc in the GOP, who knows?

Sue Dvorsky to Democratic Party Chair

No more acting: Sue Dvorsky to Democratic Party Chair

Last night, the Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee unanimously elected acting-Chair Sue Dvorsky as Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. She has been acting-Chair since June 10, 2010 after Michael Kiernan stepped down due to personal health reasons. Kiernan was unanimously elected 1st Vice Chair last night, as well.

"I'm honored to be accepting this position," Dvorsky said. "Michael Kiernan laid a fantastic groundwork for this election season. Along with the staff and our volunteers, I will carry out the charge: re-elect Governor Culver and our Democratic members of Congress, elect Roxanne Conlin, Bill Maske and Matt Campbell, and maintain our majorities in the State House and Senate."


Sue Dvorsky, 55, recently retired from teaching special education in Iowa City for 30 years. She was instrumental in Tom Vilsack's historic election in 1998 and has been a tireless advocate for Democrats her entire life. She lives in Coralville with her husband Senator Bob Dvorsky and their daughters Ann and Caroline.

The circumstances could be happier, of course, with Mike's health, but I couldn't be prouder of Sue. She was one of the very first people I met when I moved to Iowa 20 years back, and we've been on more campaigns together than I can count. More winners than losers, too (she went in early and big for Obama in caucus season `07). We're almost always on the same side, but a couple times we haven't been and all I can say about that is: look out, Republicans.

Sue knows how to win - both in the big picture strategic, message sense and in the nuts and bolts, get out the vote sense - and she's devoted to big-D Democratic principles. Plus she's a hilarious storyteller when my beret's not on (sorry, readers) and a damn good friend to have.

My memory only goes back to the mid-80s era when Dave Nagle and Bonnie Campbell were party chairs; does anyone know if there's ever before been a Democratic state chair from Johnson County?

Robert Byrd dies

Robert Byrd dies

A day after announcements he was "seriously ill," West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd has died. I'm woefully underqualified to eulogize the longest serving member of COngress in history, but I will say that few people have journeyes so far, from old-school Southern politics to fierce war opposition. And no one had more pride in and respect for the institution of the Senate.

I hate to trivialize Byrd's death with the pragmatics, but they're a political reality. Nate Silver has the details on West Virginia law and it seems we're very close to the deadline on whether a special election takes place this year or in the next general election in 2010, when Byrd's ninth term (!) runs out anyway. The governor, Joe Manchin, is a term-limited Democrat and fairly popular, but of course West Virginia is a counter-trend state: Dukakis in `88, McCain in `08.

Update: WV Sec of State says that since it's after the primary, no special till 2012. Manchin, who's known to have Senate thoughts, says he won't self-appoint so expect a placeholder. WV governor is on the presidential year cycle, so Manchin's second and limited term ends, conveniently, in `12. My prediction is the Ted Kaufman style play: a high level Byrd staffer who offers some sort of continuity, if not the 51 years of seniority.

More trivia: The Senate seniority list looks very different than it did just two years ago. In those 24 months, five of the six most senior senators have left: Byrd and Ted Kennedy to mortality, Ted Stevens defeated, Pete Domenici to semi-voluntary retirement, and Joe Biden to the vice presidency. Only Daniel Inouye of Hawaii remains.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rainy Smallest Farm Sunday

Rainy Smallest Farm Sunday

Yet another rotten day so all I can do with the garden is tell you about it.

It's far enough into the season that I can start to contemplate my mistakes, and too far in for me to fix them.

insufficient bean fence

Mistake one is that, despite being a vast improvement, the giant eight foot fence is insufficient for the pole beans. The only year I didn't run out of fence was a year I lived in a first floor apartment and they grew past the fence onto a second floor porch.

baby beans

That said, we're starting to see baby beans already. It won't be long till harvesting becomes a chore and we get beans with every meal.

wall of green

The beans and cukes are starting to form that wall of green.

bean flower

I'm not much of a flower gardener, but veggie flowers have a beauty all their own - both in their appearance and in the anticipation of the harvest they promise.

cuke flower

Here's a cucumber flower; I picked the first small cuke this week. I need to pick them faster this year for pickle purposes.

corn field

Nothing says Iowa like a corn field, and my little patch is starting to look like one. I had a little bad luck with weather and was unable to weed right around sprouting time, so I lost a few plants to being buried in weeds and a couple more to my own stupidity ("oops, that wasn't a weed.") But I still should have plenty.

While I note my failures, I'm having better luck with a couple things. My okra's been eaten the last couple years, but I have several intact plants. I also have two watermelon plants growing; the trick is not to plant them next to the faster growing pumpkins.

Speaking of which...

pumpkin patch

The patch is looking quite sincere. Not to mention aggressive. I need to angle it a couple inches each day so it doesn't invade the zone of peppers, eggplants and tomatoes.

The peppers are an incomplete success. They're planted outside the fencing and some of them are getting nibbled. But the funny thing is, one will be chewed and its neighbor is untouched. (The two litters of baby bunnies seem to have avoided becoming owl food.)

first eggplant

The first eggplant is close to eating size. I'm waiting till the first 8 ball zucchini (basically a regular flavor zook only round) is bigger too. It's growing at a bad angle for photography.

tomato and bee balm

There’s something magical about planting tiny tomato plants the second week in May, and they're taller than the cage in late June. In the background is the now-blooming bee balm. The reddish color also attracts hummingbirds. I didn't have the camera with me, and it would have been an uncooperative model anyway, but Thursday I got to watch a hummingbird for a couple minutes.

Roma tomatoes

The saucy Roma tomatoes are doing well. I don't even remember or know how many kinds of maters I have; the volunteers from past years will be a surprise.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Chuck Grassley Music Trivia

Chuck Grassley Music Trivia

Lost amidst the battle over lieutenant governor, a bit of musical-political trivia harmonic convergence. Since I wasn't on hand, O. Kay took care of my job of reporting on rally music:
At 10:17 a.m. Senator Chuck Grassley comes on stage, as the song "You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet' is played.
Ah, yes, a number one hit for Bachman-Turner Overdrive 36 long years ago, for the week ending November 9, 1974...

The very week Chuck Grassley got elected to Congress

I doubt that the Grassley campaign was hoping to emphasize his long tenure in office in an anti-incumbent year. They probably just looked at the list of six officially approved rally songs and picked the least original option. I invoke the Stairway To Heaven rule: it's not a great record's fault if it gets overplayed to the point of cliche.

Branstad, meanwhile, took the stage to "One of those songs from Glee." He's been using a Glee version of Van Halen's "Jump" which originated back in his first term. I'm still hoping he adopts the slogan "Branstad: I ain't the worst that you've seen."

While I'm at it: there hasn't been a note of new Van Halen music in two whole Grassley terms, and Mike Anthony got totally screwed on the reunion thing

Reynolds 749, Vander Plaats 579

Reynolds 749, Vander Plaats 579

No way in hell it should have been that close. Terry clearly hasn't made the losers happy - that's not too far from the primary margin.

(Anyone who wants to compare that to Barb Kalbach's futility at the Democratic convention: the stakes were much, much lower, the challenger much less significant, and the support exaggerated because no one but the platform and committee geeks was on hand.)

Prediction: BVP will pass the petitions and tease us right up to the filing deadline, then at the last second not file - because as soon as he says he's not running independent everyone stops paying attention to him, the same way Newt Gingrich tries to convince everyone he's running for president every time he has a new book to sell.

Then BVP and Danny Carroll sit on their hands, help scattered legislative candidates, and silently pray for a Culver win. Control of the RPI is more important to them than control of Terrace Hill.

The only winner here: Rod Roberts, who gets nominated, declines, repeats his endorsement of Branstad-Reynolds. The guy may be crazy conservative but by all accounts he's a class act, and we'll see him back in the ball game. BVP, that's how you do it.

Libertarian or Republican in House 30?

Libertarian in House 30 - or stealth Republican?

Fresh off his 88-12 Democratic primary win, Coralville state Rep. Dave Jacoby looks like he'll face another contest.

Dustin Krutsinger, a second-year med student (now there's a job that leaves lots of spare time for campaigning) launched a press release last night announcing his candidacy. The question is: which party?

Krutsinger's release says he's running as a Libertarian, and his campaign site includes a "why Libertarian?" page. However, as of last week he remains a registered Republican, and records show three donations (total $90) to the Johnson County Republican Central Committee - of which he remains a member.

Is the GOP brand so damaged in Johnson County that they're better off under a third party label?

Label notwithstanding, Krutsinger is identified as a Ron Paul backer by Shane Vander Hart of Caffeinated Thoughts, where Krutsinger guest-blogs.
Dustin considers himself to be a “Christian Libertarian.” He is unapologetically, and absolutely 100% pro-life. Dustin is a Ron Paul supporter, and credits his run for revitalizing Dustin’s interest in politics. He has recently been an activist for liberty in the Iowa City area with Campaign for Liberty.
None of Krutsinger's materials make any mention of Jacoby; as is common with third party (?) efforts it appears more to be a matter of where the guy happens to live.

Jacoby had a Democrat vs. Libertarian, no Republican race in 2004 and prevailed with 84% of the vote.

UPDATE: Krutsinger has responded via the comments; as follows:

Mr Deeth, I appreciate your article and you pose some valid questions. Here are some corrections/clarifications.

I'm now officially a 3rd year medical student.

I have been a member of the Republican Party since first registering to vote when I turned 18. I was somewhat apathetic about politics until 2007 when I started looking into presidential candidates and found that Ron Paul was different then the usual politician. Since that time I have spent a lot of time thinking of the issues and my positions fall into line more with the Libertarian party then any of the others. I remained in the GOP to vote for libertarian leaning Republicans in primaries and to try to advance liberty issues within the major party. You can read my experience with this here: The $90 donations: $65 was fees they call donations required to attend county and district convention as a delegate, which I attended to attempt to influence the platform. Don't remember what the other $25 was for, but likely something similar. You can read about that experience here:!/note.php?note_id=411671019253

I have decided that running for house as a Libertarian would be a more effective way promote and advance these types of issues. I have mailed in my voter card to change my party and have emails in to the Johnson County GOP leadership to resign my position on the central committee.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bar Issue on Iowa City Ballot

It's On Now: Bar Issue Petition Qualifies

After a false start from a petition that fell short (sic) on signatures, opponents of an Iowa City measure to raise the bar admission age to 21 achieved the 2,500 required signatures.

The issue has been a perennial hot button in Iowa City politics, dating back at least to a 2001 student voter drive led by fears of a move from 18 to 21. An abortive city council attempt to go to 21 in 2004 led instead to an incremental change to 19. In 2007, supporters of 21 put the issue on the ballot, but lost in a record turnout led by a near-presidential level of student voting.

p-prohibitionThis time, the council made the first move, passing a 21 ordinance in April, and the 19 side petitioned fot a reversal.

A first petition effort fell short as an artifact of a unique provision of the city's home rule charter: Iowa City requires signatures from "qualified" electors, rather than "eligible" electors. The city clerk has long interpreted "qualified" as strictly as possible: registered to vote at current address. But the 2008 law change allowing for election day voter registration could be interpreted to mean that any citizen of age with an Iowa City address and no felonies could qualify as an elector.

That point is moot now (though it would make an interesting legal fight), as petitioners were able to make up the difference in a two-week drive under poor circumstances (most students were out of town). What matters now is: The city council can either recognize the will of the people, as expressed through the petition AND through the 2007 vote that, in a record turnout city election, rejected the 21 bar ordinance, and reverse its position. Which wasn't very likely and we didn't expect it and the other thing was it can place the issue on the ballot.

1878ProhibitionPartyTicketSMNearly everyone assumes that means the November 2 general election ballot. That'll have a ripple effect throughout the state, as a turnout booster in the state's most Democratic county. Indeed, a few conspiracy minded conservatives have contended that the turnout boost is the driving factor behind the council's moves. They point to the Democratic affiliation of all seven council members.

But that theory doesn't hold water, or beer for that matter. Many Iowa City folks who are business conservative types on local issues stay registered as Democrats, including new council members Terry Dickens and Susan Mims. That turnover, plus increased pressure from the University, are more likely explanations.

The only council member currently active in party politics is Regenia Bailey, one of the county's Roxanne Conlin leaders -- and she was the lone council member to vote no on 21 this spring. Mayor Matt Hayek (who flip-flopped from a "let the voters decide" when both he and 21 bars were on the 2007 ballot to a 2010 position that's the opposite of what the voters actually decided) was active in earlier cycles, but his last major involvement was back on the Chris Dodd campaign.


No one is really sure how an extra surge of student voting will play in November. All other things being equal, more students voting in a 70% Obama county helps Democrats. On the other hand, many of the new voters in the 2007 election ignored the other offices on the ballot and voted only on the bar issue. On the other other hand, it's easier to ignore unopposed city council members than it is to skip governor and senator. Also worth noting: in 2007 organizers targeted the fraternity-sorority community, which leans a bit Republican compared to other young voters. (It's not undergrads that historically have made Iowa City overwhelmingly Democratic; it's grad students, faculty and staff.)

repealThe bar issue also cuts across traditional party and issue lines. It's a no win for a candidate: you'll either alienate young voters or the self-proclaimed "public health" advocates who pushed 21 hard in 2007. I unfortunately expect the Democratic party to try and dodge the issue. (Though not if I can help it.)

State officials invariably pass the buck, citing the `80s law (Elizabeth Dole's baby) that tied federal highway funding to a drinking age of 21. Yet the issue never percolates up to the federal official level; at least one elected official had privately expressed agreement with me but said, essentially, if I have five minutes of time with the feds I'm not wasting it on the drinking age.

To me it's simple. You're an adult at 18. Adults should have adult rights and responsibilities, and we can't effectively or credibly combat the very real problem of alcohol abuse (I'm 25 years sober myself) until we recognize young people's rights and wishes. So. The drinking age should be the same as the voting age, I oppose anything that moves in the wrong direction, and getting the issue onto the radar needs to be a priority. All that needs to be part of the electoral calculus for Democrats who rely heavily on student help and votes.

Cook moves Conlin up a notch

Cook moves Conlin up a notch

"I think clearly in all the punditry the race has moved from Sure Republican to Leaning Republican. And the next step is Toss Up and we'll get there pretty soon" - Roxanne Conlin, June 5th

What was that she was saying: Handicapper Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report today moved Iowa's Senate race from a deep red Solid R to the pinkish Likely R. Most of the content is behind a pay wall but Cook tends to release details a few days after the fact.

(hat tip: Gazette's James Lynch)


Best. Comment. Ever.

John Hedgecoth on the imminent pick of State Sen. Kim Reynolds to be Terry Branstad's running mate:
"Let's see, aging nominee picks attractive, conservative 2-year incumbent woman from lightly populated region ... wait, I've seen this movie!!! I like how it ends!!!"
So the GOP returns to the traditional gender-balance role of Lite Guv; since Iowa went to tickets in 1990, every major party pairing except Nussle-Vander Plaats in 2006 has been like Republicans want marriage: one man, one woman.

So does Terry think he needs shoring up in Reynolds' sprawling six county southern-border district? (Bloggers note: this is Jeff Angelo's old turf.) Safety hatch: Reynolds is mid-term so if they lose she keeps the seat.

We'll have to wait until tomorrow to see how Bob Vander Plaats handles it. Because, of course, the loser gets to tell the winner what to do. Personally, I was hoping Terry would pick Doug Gross to really rub their noses in it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Schmitz stops in Iowa City

Schmitz stops in Iowa City

State Sen. Becky Schmitz stopped by The Mill Tuesday night to say hi to the party faithful and raise a little cash. The first term Fairfield Democrat's district runs from the Iowa City limits to the Missouri border via Washington. Jefferson and Van Buren counties.

Schmitz, who narrowly knocked off Republican Dave Miller in 2006, is in a top targeted race with former legislator Sandra Greiner, attempting a comeback after a two year hiatus.

"They say it's an anti-incumbent year," said Schmitz, "but (Greiner) was there for 16 years, and I've only been there for four. So she's more of an incumbent than I am."

"We can always count on Becky's vote," siad Coralville Senator Bob Dvorsky, who co-sponsored the event with Iowa City's Joe Bolkcom. Similar praise was offered for another Fairfield Democrat, special election winner Curt Hanson, who represents the southern half of Schmitz's turf on the House side.

In other JC Dems news, party HQ is opening soon on Sturgis Corners; they're hosting an open house Saturday from 6 to 8.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Really, Terry, Really?

Really, Terry, Really?

Terry Branstad's channeling Seth and Amy, Seth, or Seth Amy and Tina with his new "Really?" ad:
SNL's Weekend Update segment had a long-running bit called, "Really!? With Seth & Amy." A spokesman for Branstad declined to say whether it provided the ad's inspiration.
The Branstad campaign is expected to follow up with "What Up With Chet?"

Actually, Team Branstad is missing an opportunity. If Terry resembles any SNL characters it's Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte's Branstad Term II era ESPN Classic women's sports announcers:

All he needs to do is fish around for a feminine hygiene sponsor. Speaking of fish, Summer's Eve! We'll be right back.

Party Changes Noticable, Not Decisive

Party Changes Noticable, Not Decisive

Most of Iowa's politicos are looking forward, so to speak, to Terry Branstad's running mate choice and a fall - or a summer and fall - full of negative ads. But it's worth one last look back at the June 8 primary to see how crossover voting impacted the outcome. The answer, from one county at least, is that the changes were noticable but not decisive.

Johnson County is well known as the most Democratic in the state, and primaries here are traditionally dominated by courthouse contests. But with all the countywide Democratic incumbents running unopposed, most Democratic voters saw a ballot with no contested races except the US Senate race, where Roxanne Conlin's landslide (77% statewide) was pretty much anticipated in advance.

So some Democrats were tempted by the hot Republican primary. Iowans, of course, can change party at any time. Since the primary there's been a spirited discussion on the Coralville Courier site about the impact of crossover voting on the 2nd CD race, with some Steve Rathje supporters contending that Democrats crossed over to support primary winner Mariannette Miller-Meeks in the hopes that she'd be a weaker opponent for Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack.

Here's what the actual Johnson County crossover numbers indicate:
Democrat, stayed Democrat: 3900
Democrat, change to Republican: 477
Republican, change to Democrat: 27
Republican, stayed Republican: 3838
Green, change to Democrat: 3
Green, change to Republican (huh?): 1
Libertarian, change to Democrat: 0
Libertarian, change to Republican: 1
No Party, change to Democrat: 212
No Party, change to Republican: 526
The no party crossovers (71% of which crossed to R rather than D) were a bigger factor than crossover Democrats. And even if for the sake of argument you subtract 477 votes from MMM's Johnson County total and the total GOP vote, on the highly unlikely assumption that EVERY crossover Dem voted for her, that still leaves her with 49.6% of the vote, about 7% less than she really got. Apply that across the district - I'm really polling numbers out of an orifice here - and she's at 43% or so, well above the 35% convention threshold.

Also note that 247 more votes - about 5% of the total Republican primary vote - were cast for governor that for Congress in the Republican primary. My guess is those 247 blanks were disproportionately from the crossover voters.

That's just one county, of course, but the second biggest in the district. I'm not as comfortable extrapolating that across the whole state for the governor's race, or even sure which way to slice it. Pre-primary polls showed Branstad beating Culver handily while Vander Plaats and Culver were neck and neck. Crossover Dems may have voted for BVP as the perceived weaker opponent, or for Branstad as the more acceptable Republican.

In general, across years and across parties, I think most folks who cross over are motivated more to vote FOR someone as the best candidate (or against someone they loathe) rather than to draw a weak opponent for their own party's candidate in the fall. Anyone who's willing to vote that strategically is also likely to care about a low-profile Commissioner of Canines contest - or a predictable yet significant US Senate primary.

In specific, I heard a lot more talk among Democrats about the governor's race (rated by most national observers as leaning to R takeover) than about the congressional race that's still considered Safe D. The undervote for Congress backs that up. I think the governor's race pulled in the independents and leaners (even a diehard Roxanne fan like me must admit that our primary was, Tom Fiegen's outbursts aside, pretty dull). Branstad did well around here, and any MMM gain was just a side effect. There's a loose correlation at the precinct level between MMM and Branstad, but that's to be expected since they both won with clear majorities in multi-candidate fields. Both did better in Iowa City and on absentees than they did in the outlying areas.

Could crossovers swing a close race? Sure. But this year we didn't have any, least not around here.

I don't like crossovers myself, both on principle and because enough of my local candidates have been hurt by it. I don't want Republicans choosing my supervisor candidates any more than they want me choosing their nominee for governor. That's what November is for.

But all movement in primary voting is in the other direction. Witness the most important result of June 8 - not a candidate race but California's Proposition 14. Assuming it stands up in court, it creates a blanket ballot with the top two candidates, no one else, and no write ins - maybe two Democrats, maybe two Republicans, definitely no third parties - facing off in November.

Steve King Backs Barton

King: "Barton was spot-on"

Texas Congressman Joe Barton may have backed down from his forced retraction of an "apology" to the oil leakers at BP, but Iowa's Own Steve King is backing up the original remarks.

Speaking to conservative talk host Laura Ingraham (audio), King said: "I think Joe Barton was spot-on when he called it a shakedown... They want to swallow up as many Fortune 500 companies as they can."

King was already in the spotlight for recent remarks claiming that President Obama "favors black people." Barton's initial remarks, which were walked back under reportedly heavy pressure from House GOP leadership, drew even more attention. Whate House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said of Barton's apology: "That's not a political gaffe, those were prepared remarks. That is a philosophy."

The "shakedown" refers to BP's agreement in a meeting with Obama to set up a $20 billion fund for Gulf damages.

(Music added to out-obscure iowas newz liter, who hit us over the weekend with an Elton John album track)

Linux Monday: The Tablet Bandwagon

Linux Monday: The Tablet Bandwagon

Another week, another tablet computer to compete with the iPad: The ET10TA seems to be a more robust machine AND is available in both Win7 and Ubuntu.

What it doesn't have is the Mac closed universe, which is why this Slate writer is moving from Mac to Linux.

Google has joined the world of the command line.

And for the even geekier, some keyboard mapping tips.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Smallest Farm Sunday

Smallest Farm Sunday: Pollination Edition

Catnip and bee

I got really really lucky with the shutter timing and caught this bee doing its thing on the catnip blossoms. The bee balm is about to bloom so I'll bee seeing a lot more black and gold soon.


But mostly this week I've been seeing purple. We picked at least a gallon of mulberries. I used to have an unofficial rule: if the berries are too high to reach, God meant them for the birds. But the gardens have been so wet that getting in them has been problematic, so my theology had been amended to: if God meant me to spend less time picking mulberries He would have turned off the rain sooner.

We're freezing most of what we pick. The trick is to lay them out on something flat to freeze them, then bag them. (If you bag them unfrozen, you get Frozen Berry Blob Mush.)


Also in the purple food aisle we have eggplants in bloom...

purple bean

...and my favorite purple beans. Notice that the flowers and vines are purple. The beans ripen purple, but turn green when cooked. They're a lot easier to find in bush variety than in pole variety. (That is, of course, the top of the eight foot fence.)

bean blossom

The more conventional Kentucky Wonder beans are in bloom, too. The vines are starting to send out secondary stems and almost all of the individual plants have reached the top.

bean fence

Here's how the fence is looking so far. It'll be a wall of green (with a hint of purple) in a month.


Also in the south garden, the first tomatillo is growing in its husk.

north garden

Here's the big picture of the north garden. I managed to harvest the mulch (i.e. mow the lawn) Saturday so there's a nice blanket of grass clippings around the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. We also have the first teeny zucchinis.

The small critters seem tamer than usual this year and barely run away when I show up. As for our old friend the gopher...

Licensed to trap gophers

My neighbor has contacted Carl Spackler Pest Control Inc. to try to catch him. But he's an elusive varmint. They're like the Viet Cong. Varmint Cong.

Conlin Inching Onto National Radar

Conlin Inching Onto National Radar

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder decided to take Roxanne Conlin seriously enough to spend the time and space on an interview:
RC: We're the closest challenger in the nation.

MA: And there's no question that people are taking notice.

RC: I am a realist. And I recognize that there are lots of endangered incumbents, and there's Barbara Boxer -- her race costs 3, 4, 5 times what mine does. And now, Patty Murray ... I'm very much a realist about that. And I don't know the answer. What I do know is that the race has attracted sufficient attention, that 527's have already been in. They're on the air -- two of them are on the air right now. And I am a truly progressive candidate. And I'm expecting that kind of assistance because I might be one of the few true progressives in this cycle who's not afraid. Fearless.
The line that got some notice was a small verbal stumble which mixed two stump speech lines and dates. The correction actually helps underscore the case: Grassley was first elected to public office (as opposed to Congress) in 1958. That worked for Greg Ganske - sixteen years ago now... I tried to come up with a list of Stuff Since 1958 but got stuck at: Grassley's been in office since 1958 - before the president was born. In Hawaii. Which was a state. In 1959.

Other Roxanne news this week wasn't so good on the surface: a Rasmussen poll showing the race at Grassley 54 Conlin 37. The state's conservatives quickly trumpeted the number. But Rasmussen's got a consistently Republican lean compared to all other pollsters- the same survey had the governor's race at an implausible Branstad 57 Culver 31. So a 54-37 Rasmussen poll isn't that far off the 49-40 that other more reputable firms were reporting just before the primary.

Since this didn't fit anywhere else: Friday's writing went to the Register as I looked at bearing and sharing responsibility for the BP disaster.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Linux Thursday: Dell Walks it Back

Linux Thursday: Dell Walks it Back

Remember last week when Dell had a statement on their site saying "Ubuntu is safer than Microsoft® Windows®"?

Well, it didn't take long to remove that "safeR" reference, as Linux blogger (I'm not the only one) LXer catches; the new non-comparative language is "Ubuntu is secure -- According to industry reports, Ubuntu is unaffected by the vast majority of viruses and spyware."

(The original is preserved here.)

Is Microsoft restraining trade? I know a lawyer in Des Moines we can call...

Branstad, BVP Talks Go Badly

Branstad, BVP Talks Go Badly

Continuing last night's loser theme: the real Craig Robinson has this must-read at TheIowaRepublican:
Sources close to Vander Plaats tell the meeting with Branstad occurred on Monday in Sioux City, and it did not go well.
And what did Bob want? I called this one right:
Apparently, Vander Plaats’ plan to unite the party wasn’t based upon his executive order proposal, his stance on illegal immigration, or even his position on other social issues. Instead, sources close to Vander Plaats say it was based almost entirely on Branstad naming him as his running mate for the general election.
What was I saying about losers don't get to make demands? Bob, you did this deal four years ago; didn't you learn that the trick is to do it early and save the chosen one the primary?

So what's BVP's next move?
After Vander Plaats was told that there would not be a place for him on the ticket, he warned Branstad that he was considering an independent run, and indicated that IFPC and Deace were supportive of the effort.
It could happen - I get the idea that BVP is in big part ego-driven. But absolutely no way it helps him. Social consevatives have a choice: scuttle BVP and get on board as the junior partners on Team Terry. Or embrace the effort and risk a second Culver term over an internal ideology fight.

BVP doesn't want to be lieutenant governor of Iowa. He wants to be governor, and having lost, he sees LG as the best road. Does anyone really expect (assuming he wins) a 66 year old Terry Branstad to run for a SIXTH term? No, the Branstad Restoration was always a move to block: it's Anyone But BVP and it's Only One Who Can Beat Chet, and it sets up the upcoming LG pick as Next Governor. And, since it was Anyone But BVP to begin with, a Branstad-BVP ticket undercuts the whole rationale.

Now, I'd be as tickled as anyone at an independent BVP candidacy sucking away a few ten thousand Republican votes. But if you participate in the process, there's a tacit understanding that you accept the outcome. At least Jonathan Narcisse (remember him?) made that call early on like you're supposed to.

Here's how you do it, losers:
Third District Congressional candidate Brad Zaun received the support of his primary competitors yesterday. Jim Gibbons, Dave Funk, Pat Bertroche, Scott Batcher, and Jason Welch joined Zaun at the mid-day press conference. The seventh candidate, Mark Rees, was out of town and could not attend. Having all the candidates publically back Zaun is a great sign for Iowa Republicans.
cc: Tom Fiegen.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Losers Keep Chiming In

The Losers Keep Chiming In

The generally accepted, or at least polite, move after losing a primary election is to swallow hard and endorse the winner. But in Iowa's top ticket races, so far Democratic Senate candidate Bob Krause is the only one to do the right thing.

Tom Fiegen fired up the Twitter account after a dormant week only to tar winner Roxanne Conlin with the same brush as Republican Chuck Grassley: "Both major party candidates are clueless about economic recovery except proposing more tax credits for their friends, family & contributors." Even Fiegen's supporters, few that they were, have given up on him.

The Fiegen outbursts are neither surprising or significant. The Republican losers, however, are important, or at least their supporters are. Yesterday I noted that Vander Plaats sent off a mass email without using the magic e word. Now today, two more messages from "Iowa Republicans for BVP" (the address includes craigrobinsen, which if you look close is not Craig RobinsOn of TheIowaRepublican) urge Terry Branstad to name Rep. Kent "Chuck Grassley is too liberal" Sorensen as running mate, and a veiled threat to get the state party convention to force the issue.

Sorensen is presently occupied with a run against Senator Staci Appel. But the wisdom of the pushiness, and of that WTF effort to knock Patty Judge off the ticket at last weekend's Democratic convention, is lost on me. Losers don't get to make demands. Is it sometimes smart for the winner to extend a hand to a vanquished rival? Sure, that's how we got our Secretary of State. But losers don't get to make demands.

The people who are being smart is the supporters of Rod Roberts, who's definitely on the short list. Rod, too, sent out an email the other day without the e word, but the tome was much more conciliatory, and the supporters are trying to build a face of grassroots support, rather than making demands.

As for that announcement, Team Branstad says they'll announce via Twitter. Which Obama tried but failed; the Secret Service detail pulling up into the Biden driveway was a bit obvious. Lite Guv is lower profile, so they may pull it off.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Still no Vander Plaats endorsement

Still no Branstad endorsement from BVP

GOP primary runner-up Bob Vander Plaats fired up the email list this morning, but the magic word "endorse" does not appear. In a message titled "Thank You," the only reference to primary winner Terry Branstad is:
We were fighting an uphill battle against a four-term governor who was well-funded and had the backing of the Republican Establishment. The last public poll conducted by the Des Moines Register showed us trailing by twenty-eight percentage points heading into the final 48 hours of the campaign. Your efforts and investment allowed us to finish almost twenty points better than predicted.
Not exactly the message of reconciliation Branstad was hoping for.

Emphasizing that his fight on conservative issues was "Right!" BVP concludes by encouraging supporters to stay tuned to his Facebook page, "as I will keep sharing commentary and important information with you."

Monday, June 14, 2010

How a minority overrules a majority

How a minority overrules a majority

A timeless example of how a single-issue minority can trump a majority:
[Prohibition] was all they cared about. They didn't confuse their message or dilute their power by bringing in other issues in which other people within the organization could disagree with.

It enabled them to build this incredibly broad coalition from the KKK to a lot of members of Progressive Party because they only cared about this... They created majorities by taking their minority – that let’s say is 10 perfect of the electorate in a given district – and delivering that 10 percent to a candidate to give that candidate the majority.
Take lessons; apply to present. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Linux Monday: Big News from Dell

Linux Monday: Big News from Dell

The big news out of Linux Land is from major machine maker Dell, which, in a top ten list of Things You Should Know About Ubuntu, explicitly states: "Ubuntu is safer than Microsoft Windows. The vast majority of viruses and spyware written by hackers are not designed to target and attack Linux."

The VAR Guy writes:
It takes guts for a major PC maker to state — in black and white — that Canonical’s Ubuntu is safer than Windows. The move will surely ruffle some feathers in Redmond, and The VAR Guy wonders if Microsoft will come calling to pressure Dell to retract the assertion
Three or so years back Linux was the driving force in the then-new netbook market, and one even saw Linux netbooks at big box stores until Microsoft 1) pressured and 2) adapted: keeping XP alive and lowballing the price to machine makers to cut in on the Linux netbook marker, while at the same time quickly scuttling Vista and rolling out 7.

So this is a big, big development that could put Ubuntu on a lot more desktops.

In other bad news for Bill, the Google campus bans Windows and, of course, Roxanne Conlin wins the Iowa US Senate nomination.

For those lusting after iPads, Shogu is a Linux alternative.

And here's a sketch of four kinds of Linux users. I fall between the third and fourth kind.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Smallest Farm Sunday

Smallest Farm Sunday

The weather and the election schedule meant Farmer John got little accomplished this week, but the Smallest Farm seems to be doing most of the work itself.


Just today the first tomato has been sighted, and the main row of tomatoes is reaching the upper half of the cages. The volunteers in the north garden are getting plentiful, so I'm weeding most but caging a few if they happen to be in a perfect place.


Earlier in the week Ethan's sharp eyes caught the first baby "pickle" as well.


Most significantly, the pole beans have topped the top of the eight foot fence.

Conventional Thinking

Conventional Thinking

One of the things I always tell candidates is: Spend as much of your time as possible doing stuff that only you can do (this usually means talking to voters, the biggest share of the fundraising, the day job, and being a parent/spouse/etc.) The corollary, of course, is that anything that anyone else can do, let them.

Taking that wisdom to heart, I skipped out on the state convention. I had better things to do with my time than platform fights. (Unfortunately, those things were Smallest Farm things and the weather refused to cooperate. Between showers I was able to pick some mulberries and note that the pole beans have reached the top of the eight foot fence.)

And some someone elses did do things for me. O.Kay has a nice write up of events, and Kathie Obradovich notes that Roxanne went on offense. And Jon Murphy was duly nominated for state auditor. That should at least keep Vaudt a little busy with his own stuff rather than campaigning full-time for Branstad.

The substantive battle of the day as Jason Hancock notes was the shot at Chet Culver wrapped in a rules debate over how the lieutenant governor is nominated. I'm actually surprised the vote was as close as it was - 173 to 128. The whole fight never made sense to me. If the left end of the party is unhappy with Chet, then they should have primaried him, rather than pulling a stunt that, if successful, could only have hurt the ticket for November. And as I note every chance I get, Barb Kalbach's incumbent Republican state senator and representative are unopposed this fall, offering more appropriate outlests for "grassroots democracy."

Best wishes for a speedy recovery for Mike Kiernan. In the meantime, Sue Dvorsky was one of the first people I met when I moved to Iowa 20 years ago and the ship is in great hands.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Democrat Emerges for State Auditor

Democrat Emerges for State Auditor

Democrats frustrated by that blank line next to state auditor in Tuesday's primary may yet see a name in that slot this fall.

Jon Murphy, who headed up implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in Iowa, mass-emailed Democratic state convention delegates to announce his candidacy. Delegates could make a nomination at Saturday's convention.

Murphy wasted no time going on offense against Republican incumbent David Vaudt:
Just recently, in response to frivolous accusations by the incumbent Auditor, Attorney General Tom Miller had to provide a civics lesson about how a state develops a budget. It seems a little ridiculous to do that for someone who serves on the State’s Executive Council. The incumbent Auditor’s political games wasted valuable state resources in both making the accusation and creating the need for a response. It’s time to stop the games and focus on protecting the people’s money.
The Des Moines resident's political pedigree also includes time on Leonard Boswell's staff. This, unlike those two write-in votes I got, looks like a legit effort.

Unity Party

Unity Party

I'm still recouping from Election Day and taking it all in, but I did take time last night to stop at a little "Unity Party" that the JCDems held down at the Mill. Very casual, no speeches, just getting together for food and chit-chat. As someone who always misses the victory results party, it was nice to be there and I hope we make it a tradition.

Several electeds on hand (Dvorsky, Mascher, Sullivan, Lyness, Painter, and a victorious Dave Jacoby). More important, it was good to see supporters of Bob Krause and especially some Tom Fiegen folks on hand.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Late Night Number Cruncher

The Late Night Number Cruncher

My big number of the night is 4,832 to 4,115 - that's Republicans vs. Democrats voting in Johnson County. First time ever that, with contested races in both parties, more R's than D's voted in a primary. Even in the 1994 Gopher primary, a supervisor race meant more Democratic ballots than Republican.

That 4832 is second highest GOP turnout, way ahead of 2002 (when the Dems had no contests at all) and trailing only `94. To generalze, Iowa City was slightly Democratic, Coralvilel slightly Republican and the rurals two to one Republican.

Of course, this may be because the Democratic contests were such blowouts. I was privately hoping for 2/3 or even 70 for Roxanne Conlin, but as I write she's at 77 percent statewide (here's the Register's numbers mothership and the Secretary of State's and local.), with 80% in Johnson.

In a blowout that big it's hard to find any patterns. Bob Krause finished with 13 percent and Tom Fiegen pulled 9; seems like the undecideds almost all broke to Roxanne. Fiegen carried his home base of Cedar County, and Krause pulled a third of the vote in his current Fairfield turf and his old Kossuth base, but other than that it was high 60s to 80s for Roxanne everywhere. Locally Conlin won every precinct except for one low turnout 3-3 tie.

At least Bob Krause came in ahead of the embittered Fiegen, who took one last parting shot:
Shortly after 11 p.m., Fiegen said he will not endorse Conlin.

But Krause, who finished in second place, threw his support behind her.

“She ran a dynamic campaign,” Krause said during his after-vote party, with about a dozen supporters, at Star Bar in Des Moines. “She is the nominee and I wish her well on pulling the plug on Charles Grassley.”

The only other Johnson County contested race was an even bigger blowout as Dave Jacoby scored an 88-12 win over the bizarre drop out than back in challenge from John Stellmach. Dave was one of several Democratic legislators to swat away weird challenges: Ako Abdul-Samad with 75% over a religious conservative (in a Dem primary?!?) who thinks the texting ban is racist; Mary Gaskill in Ottumwa with 82% in over a former county supervisor: Charlie Isenhart in Dubuque with 86% over a student who didn't seem to know better.

But the biggest winner of all was Anesa Kajtazovic in Waterloo, who has to have set some kind of all-time record for biggest margin over an incumbent with a 91% win over the dropped out, indicted, but still technically in office Kerry Burt.

The other legislative incumbent knocked off tonight was Republican Dave Hartsuch in Bettendorf's Senate District 41, whose controversial and never quiet tenure comes to an end: a narrow primary win over class act Maggie Tinsman, a squeaker general election in a safe GOP district, a severe congresional thumping at the hands of Bruce Braley, and now knocked off.

A few things surprised me: MMM winning a majority in the 2nd CD primary and Brad Zaun getting a 42% clean win in the 3rd. Everyone expected the seven-way 3rd CD race to go to convention, but it turns out that only three candidates were serious. One of the night's big losers: the NRCC crowd who got behind Jim Gibbons in the 3rd and Rob Gettemy in the 2nd (Gettemy actually finished DEAD LAST behind REED.) Coralville Courier (Rathje backers) is not happy with MMM using terms like RINO and "Setting themselves up for failure in the November election."

But an even bigger surprise is the GOP Secretary of State race. Can anyone explain how Bake Sale Chris Sanger, who's spent the better part of the decade hopping around legislative districts in Polk County hoping to win somewhere, anywhere, managed to get 26% of the vote and come in just a beard hair behind George Eichhorn? Eye Corn has now lost four contests in a row in just three cycles, and I don't see how anyone who lost to Chris Reed and damn near lost to Chris Sanger has any sort of future. And Matt Schultz: That 47% doesn't look too impressive. A majority of GOP voters picked the four time loser and the crazy baker?!?

Another numeric factoid: nearly a quarter of 1st CD Republicans voted for one of the two dropout candidates.

And oh, yes, the centerpiece of the night. In the governor's race the Money Republicans beat the Jesus Republicans. Perhaps the Vander Plaats ceiling is a little above 30%, and perhaps some of the Rod Roberts folks moved to him at end game once polls showed Roberts had no hope (except in Carroll County where home town pride got him 74%). But Branstad has emerged with his clear majority which was the conventional wisdom benchmark of success.

Vander Plaats get's one of the night's graceless awards for suggesting he needs to somehow "negotiate" his support of Branstad. Hey, Bob. You LOST. It looks like ego. The real question is whether Danny Carroll and company will do as promised and sit on their hands. My guess is no, the desire to knock off Chet is too great.

Speaking of which, looks like nearly 4% took the trouble to write someone in against him, vs. 1.9% write-ins against Chuck Grassley. At the moment Culver has barely more votes than Mike Mauro and fewer than Tom Miller and Mike Fitzgerald.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Election Day

Election Day

We played an Alice Cooper twofer yesterday: "School's Out" for the boys and "I Wanna Be Elected" to get ready for today. I won't have a lot to write till it's all over tonight, but feel free to help me out in the comments.

By the time we're done voting in Iowa, most of the other states will be closed.

A couple last second endorsements to note: former five term governor backs former four term governor and the Fallons support Roxanne.

I'm Big Plant Sale and I approve this message.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Early voting indicates a Republican day

Early voting indicates a Republican day

Usually early voting numbers give me some kind of a clue what sort of election day we'll see, but I'm having a harder time than usual this primary.

Here in the People's Republic, early voting ran close to the 2006 levels, with 1249 Democratic ballots and 846 Republican votes returned through the end of today. Voter registration in Johnson County is roughly 2.5 Democrats for every Republican, yet that absentee ratio is closer to 60-40.

The total of 2095 is close to the levels of 2006, which was the second highest turnout primary we've seen here. (The all time record, of course, was the last time we saw Terry Branstad on a primary ballot: the famous "Gopher Primary" of 1994.)

But it's hard to use that as an indicator because because the turnout patterns between 2006 and 2010 are so different. In Johnson County, 2006 was dominated by two courthouse races: the open seat county attorney primary won by Janet Lyness and the Don't Tread On Me supervisor race where Larry Meyers (we miss ya, buddy) knocked off Mike Lehman. And oh, yeah, there was a Governor's race too (statewide 39% winner Chet Culver ran third here). Those Republicans who stayed in their party in `06 had the excitement of a Secretary of State race, won by a guy who dropped out a month later, and a Secretary of Ag primary.

This year the action's on the right, with the high-profile governor's race and an increasingly nasty 2nd CD race. And though it didn't effect early voting because it broke today, there's also that last second effort to write in 2002 Senate candidate Bill Salier (NOT "Big Plant Sale") over too-liberal Chuck Grassley.

Branstad in particular ran a vote by mail drive the likes of which we hadn't seen from a Republican in a while. Back in the general elections of the, well, Branstad era, mass request mailings used to go out to every Republican with an URGENT! OFFICIAL VOTING MATERIALS! TIME SENSITIVE DO NOT DELAY!! DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER!!! style to them. But in the post-Florida era, Republicans moved toward pushing voters to Election Day and cast doubt on the legitimacy of absentee voting, in large part because Democrats got really, really good at it. It's even in Matt Schultz' web ad: "Vote early, vote often might be the Chicago way, but it's not the Iowa way."

Terry Branstad, who has never lost an election, knows better. Schultz looks at absentee voting ans says: if you can't beat `em, ban `em. Branstad says, if you can't beat `em, you haven't been trying as hard.

The statistic that may be most predictive of Tuesday is the way no-party voters are moving.

It's a rule of thumb that, despite their reluctance to designate a party, "independent" voters in a community end up splitting pretty similarly to those who register with a party. Obama's 70-28 Johnson County win over McCain? Exactly 2.5 to one; despite all the independents, exactly the same as the Dem to Republican ratio.

So, all other things being equal, you should see no party voters in Johnson County picking a party at something like that 2.5 to 1 ratio. But in a primary, all things are almost never equal. A typical year would see local I Pick The Person Not The Party types flocking into a Democratic supervisor race.

But this election, the ratio is close to even. 107 early voting independents joined the Democrats, and a nearly even 90 have gone to the Republicans.

Also look at the vote at the auditor's office: nearly dead even with 350 Republicans and 365 Dems. That's the closest kind of early voting to election day: a special trip to one place. So maybe that's the best indicator for tomorrow.

Monday clips

Monday clips

Bleeding Heartland is the Iowa prediction mothership. I'll go out on a limb and pick Chris Sanger for third place in the Secretary of State Race. Here's an example of his special rhetorical style.

Hidden number of the night tomorrow: Compare total Democratic turnout to Culver's vote total. Compare Culver's vote total to, say, Mike Mauro's or Tom Miller's.

I also offered my thoughts on the Iowa Poll (Branstad 57, BVP 29) at the Register. But other than that, I'm wimping out of predictions, in deference to my superstitious friend Dave Jacoby.

Team Jacoby and Team Roxanne are having a "results watch party" (carefully avoiding the V word) at Gus' Food & Spirits, 2421 Coral Ct., Coralville: "We'll be in the game room; come in and head to the left." All other campaigns of either party are welcome to comment with their party details.

Just in case you missed it, Tom Fiegen's Fridays Twit says "(Bob K) & RC can sleep w/PIGS." Fiegen's nastiness is backfiring, angering and motivating Conlin's supporters. The funny thing is, Fiegen isn't even the most self-destructive candidate in this race. That award goes to the Republican incumbent.

Daily Kos has a guide to the rest of Tuesday's battles across the country. The national centerpiece is the Arkansas Senate runoff, where Bill Halter is a narrow favorite to knock off conservaDem Blanche Lincoln.

Fivethirtyeight checks out the early voting rules in Tuesday's states, from regressive Alabama to 100% vote by mail Oregon.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Smallest Farm Sunday, Primary Edition

Smallest Farm Sunday, Primary Edition

Vote Like My YardI always tell people to vote like my yard, which should mean that in a stunning result, Big Plant Sale is the Democratic nominee for state auditor on write-ins. Despite the crunch of election season, I did get some Smallest Farm time this week.

We had guests on the Smallest Farm Tuesday but they were gone the next day.


The boys came out to see them and did a wonderful job of quietly watching from a distance.


Ethan took this picture of one member of the first batch of baby wabbits.

Teh cute

This is the second batch of bunnies late this morning. By late afternoon they'd left the nest for good to seek their fortune amongst my pole beans. Cute only goes so far.

Five Footer

Those pole beans are reaching the five foot mark, and there is as you see an actual five foot mark.


It's been very wet. No morels but plenty of these fun guys.


Climbing cucumbers are climbing.


Mulberry picking spiked in a big way this week.

Farmer John

Ethan got this shot of Farmer John. Note the mosquito biting between my eyebrows.

A Conversation with Conlin

A Conversation with Conlin

Following last night's event in Iowa City, I had a short one on one interview with Roxanne Conlin. Full disclosure: I'm a solid Conlin supporter and yesterday posted a formal endorsement. She was well aware of this and quite happy about it.

So this is a fairly casual meta-chat about the state of the campaign as of primary eve.

What's the biggest difference campaigning 28 years apart? What's changed the most since `82?

Well, I think that one of the things that's changed dramatically is the number of women in public life doing extraordinary jobs, starting of course with Hillary, Supreme Court justices and other high level women who are very visible and who make it less bizarre for women to seek public office.

You were kind of cutting edge in 1982.

Oh, yeah. The only women who'd been governor at the time I ran were women who'd succeeded their husbands, except for Dixy Lee Ray in Washington and Ella Grasso (CT).

How about the mechanics of campaigning? We've been talking social media, blogs, this that. How's that made things different than it was when you on a daily newspaper news cycle?

The existence of the new media is very important to progressives because it's so democratizing. It's free. You can reach out to people when ever you want through the new media, through Facebook and Twitter and blogging and the like. And I think that's going to be our salvation in this effort, because we're going to be outspent. The attacks are going to be coming, and we're going to be able to counteract them quickly and decisively through the social media. We have 61,000 people signed up on our web site. Sixty one thousand.

You were saying - I love the line - that you've 'probably sued every one of the fortune 500' - and with the Citizens United ruling how is that going to flow into this race?

Well, nobody knows for sure and Congress is trying to put whatever kind of control would be possible under the ruling of the Supreme Court with transparency. But with the kind of money we're talking about, the Chamber of Commerce is saying they're going to spend $127 million. And they don't like me.

So transparency's not the answer, public finance is?

That's what I think. In it could alreadly be paid for by stopping excess profits like the pharmaceuticals.

So how do we get around the constitutional issues with public finance?

I don't know. First of all, I think the decision is horribly wrong on a constitutional basis.

So does the President.

It's almost unbelievable what they did. So I think with the potential at least of changing the Court might result in a change in the decision. I just don't think that you can have freedom of speech if you don't have a mouth. And the potential for absolutely distorting our democracy is frightening.

Speaking of changes on the court, your likely opponent is going to be dealing with a Supreme Court nomination over the next few months. How do you see the Kagan nomination playing into this Senate race?

I don't know whether it will or not. I don't know what he's going to do, he hasn't announced it.

You're eight points down, you say you've been moving the needle... how do you move it the last eight notches?

Well, we've been on TV, on Tuesday it'll be two weeks. And he came up right after us.

Earlier than I've seen him up in a long time.

I think maybe ever. In any event, we're just going to keep doing what we've been doing only more. It's worked so well for us. You've got your blog, regular people have their contact list on their email, if they send out an email about my efforts, the people they have can send out an email to their list, it's been really effective.

Any sense you're getting onto the national radar screen yet?

Well, we've not been anxious to do that because of our hope that perhaps we wouldn't draw out the long knives so soon. We wanted to keep working at our grassroots organization. But I think clearly in all the punditry the race has moved from Sure Republican to Leaning Republican. And the next step is Toss Up and we'll get there pretty soon.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Conlin tours state before primary

Conlin stops in Iowa City on pre-primary tour


Roxanne Conlin may have a big lead over her Democratic rivals going into Tuesday's primary, but she told Iowa City supporters to "take nothing for granted" Saturday night at David's Place in Downtown Iowa City.

Underscoring the point, local Conlin chairs Sue Dvorsky and Regenia Bailey were at the ready with sign up sheets for phone banking. "In Johnson County it's not a tough call to say 'vote for Roxanne Conlin,'" said Sue Dvorsky.

Conlin didn't mention primary rivals Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen by name in her stump speech, focusing instead on the fall and Chuck Grassley.

"We were able to move the needle 17 points without spending a dime, said Conlin, referencing recent polls that showed her just eight points behind Grassley, far closer than the five term incumbent's past opponents.

Roxanne and Jean

One of those past Grassley opponents was on hand: 1992 candidate Jean Lloyd-Jones, who got a shout-out from the candidate. Also briefly on hand were Dave and Terri Loebsack. The congressman is officially neutral in the primary, but stopped by to say hi on their way to downtown Arts Fest events.

"We make history in Johnson County," bragged Sue Dvorsky. "We made it in 2006 with Dave Loebsack, we did it in 2008 with Barack Obama, and we're going to do it in 2010 with Roxanne."

"We don't have to match (Grassley) dollar for dollar," said Conlin. "He doesn't have all of you, I do, so I'm going to win."

But money is still a concern for Conlin, in the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that has opened the door for unlimited corporate campaign spending. "I have probably sued all 500 of the Fortune 500," said Conlin, "They do not like me. Microsoft could buy all of the TV stations in Iowa."

Conlin says the solution is public finance. Citing prescription drug costs, she sais "we could finance every campaign from dog catcher to president of the united states with the excess profits drug companies are making."

But this week's headlines have focused less on campaign finance and more on the personal finances of Conlin and her husband James. The candidate spent some time on the details of tax credits she and her husband have received for building low income housing. It's easier to cram a dollar amount into a headline than to understand the process, and Conlin noted that both of Iowa's senators, including Grassley, supported the tax credit program when it passed in 1986.

"No banks would finance law income housing without these credits," said Conlin. "We usually own, like, point zero one of the partnership."

"I could not be prouder of what my husband has done for moderate and low income families," said Conlin. "It has been his heartfelt mission that families have decent and safe housing."

Post-event I had a short one on one interview with Conlin; check back tomorrow for that as part of a new All Roxanne All The Time format.

The senate primary is the only major contest on the Democratic side Tuesday, save for a contest in the 5th congressional district and scattered legislative and local fights.

Class Act, Pal

One side note:

I'm all for freedom of speech in the public right of way, and when Arts Fest falls the weekend before the primary, visibility is important. But I hate the petty, in your face game of sign war. The owner of David's Place said the driver of this Steve Rathje truck had waited "a long time" until the parking space in front of the Conlin event opened up, and you can't tell me the deliberate wait was just because of the shortage of downtown parking.

So congrats, Steve, you got in Roxanne's face and got in the picture, though whoever thought up this dick move of the day hadn't considered the placement of the word "Nemesis."

Endorsement: Roxanne Conlin

The Deeth Blog Endorsement: Roxanne Conlin

By now folks have figured out who I like in the Senate race. But I want to take an extra step and call it an endorsement. I've voted for Roxanne Conlin to be our Democratic candidate for US Senate. Readers, I ask you to join me.

I've survived three Chuck Grassley election cycles as an Iowan. I personally knew and liked all three of the challengers years before they ran. Jean Lloyd-Jones, Dave Osterberg and Art Small all made noble efforts.

Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen, with their low name ID and three digit bank accounts, offered us that kind of a race again. I've known Tom Fiegen nearly 10 years, and as this cycle started I really liked him. I welcomed him to the Johnson County Democrats when redistricting brought him into our county (and not everyone was so welcoming to an anti-choice Democrat who'd beaten a pro-choice Republican). I even door-knocked side by side with him. There are places for someone like Tom who was able to win a deep red district (Fiegen's state rep, Jeff Kaufmann, still has no opponent). But I couldn't see the US Senate as one of those places.

I understand some of Fiegen and Krause's frustration. They step up, then get stepped on. But while Krause has handled it with some grace, Fiegen has become embittered, lashing out in ways that can only hurt Democrats in the fall. His actions have saddened and disappointed me.

Jean Lloyd-Jones, Dave Osterberg and Art Small all said and did the right things and took on a difficult effort against all odds. I was proud to vote for all three, they held their heads high... and they all got clobbered 70-30.

I don't want that again. I want to win. Despite some nuances of emphasis, the three contenders aren't too far apart on issues save for Fiegen's anti-choice record. The decisive issue is which candidate can beat Chuck Grassley, and only Roxanne Conlin can.

I didn't know Roxanne well before this cycle. I'd only met her briefly at caucus-season events. I'd heard the tales of `82, of course, but that was long before I became an Iowan. I knew a little of the barrier-breaking nature of her early career. (Gender alone is not enough for this choice, but it would be really, really nice to no longer be mentioned in the same breath as Mississippi as one of the two states to never elect a woman to high office.)

So I knew Roxanne Conlin had already broken more than her share of glass ceilings. But before this campaign had no idea of how far she'd climbed or how self-made she is. (Conlin now says she downplayed her childhood poverty in her governor campaign in deference to her then-living parents).

Yes, she's been well rewarded financially, and been attacked by opponents for a rags to riches success that's supposed to be one version of the American dream. Yet much of that money has been given to causes and candidates up and down the ballot and on and off the radar. $60 million from the Microsoft antitrust suit went to Iowa's schools. (And as a Linux geek I have to adore anyone who sues Bill Gates and wins.) Fairly or not, Roxanne's success has given her access to resources the other two candidates don't have.

But that's not why I'm supporting Conlin. That just makes her the best candidate. I've gotten to know someone who is smart enough and hard working and energetic enough to be the best senator. She's taken on literally armies of opposing attorneys representing the richest corporations in the world. "Microsoft had 200 lawyers," she says, pausing, then adding with a look of triumph: "not enough." She is ready to take the fight for the regular folks to the next level: DC. Roxanne Conlin has an air of "nothing can stop me" about her and that's the attitude we need in a Senate crippled by do-nothing minority intransigence.

Iowans need a senator who will work alongside Tom Harkin, not cancel him out. We need Roxanne Conlin. Please join me in supporting her.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Dropout Stellmach Drops Back In

Dropout Stellmach Drops Back In

What was I saying just this morning about my "Pet peeve with all media: treating races with candidates who drop out but stay on the ballot as 'uncontested.'" Iowa Indy has the details as dropout House District 30 Democratic primary challenger John Stellmach pulls a rare simultaneous Ross Perot-Joe Lieberman combo: dropping back in, while also threatening to run as an independent if he loses to incumbent Dave Jacoby Tuesday.

Something always seemed fishy about Stellmach's "dropout"; the withdrawal came just before candidate forums, the yard signs never came down, and Stellmach never stepped up to offer an endorsement. But then, the initial premise of the campaign - a labor challenge to a legislator with a 94% pro-labor record - was also weird to begin with, a by-product of labor's frustration with a "six pack" of conservaDems who blocked labor legislation. (Ironically, Stellmach "moved" from Washington County, home of Six Packer Larry Marek, to challenge Jacoby.)

If labor's goal is to make an example of Jacoby, this is yet another bizarre move. Before the dropout, as I noted from campaign finance reports:
(Stellmach) reported raising a leadership-level $36,170.19 and, in a phenomenal burn rate, spending $33,326.29. Virtually all of the money was from labor: $30,000 from AFSCME and $4,000 from other unions. Who knows how deep that well would have been had he stayed in the race, but only two donations, totaling $600, were from within the district.

Stellmach's spending was also unusual, with more paid staffing that a typical legislative primary campaign. Staffer Dan Tallon was paid $7,000 for two month's work, and a James Stellmach was paid $1500 for canvassing. The candidate reported $563 in mileage (the Register reported that Stellmach moved into the district from Washington County just before filing), and loads of office equipment and GPS systems. Oddly, for a labor campaign, $941 of that stuff was bought at Wal-Mart. Oops.
For its part, the Jacoby campaign didn't let down its guard, and went ahead with mailings and calls. So, when will Iowa get a sore loser law that keeps people defeated in primaries from getting a general election do-over?