Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year In Review 2010

2010: The Year In Review

Happy New Year to all my readers and happy blogiversary to me as the Deeth Blog today marks eight years on the air. As is my tradition, we close 2010 with a look back at the highlights and lowlights of the year.

January was dominated by the special supervisor election, as Janelle Rettig rolled to a 20 point win. Almost made up for the bad news out of Massachusetts that same day. Republican Lori Cardella swears she'll be back in November.

Down at Harvat Hall, Matt Hayek took over from Regenia Bailey as mayor of the "Third Gayest City In America."

My Bad Prediction of the month: "I still say Vander Plaats over Branstad and Culver over Vander Plaats."

"Game Change" dominates political gossip, with embarrassing Edwards anecdotes and Hillary's distaste for the caucuses. And I make fun of no-chance congressional candidate Joe Walsh getting sued by the Real Joe Walsh... oops.

At home, we add a new furry family member and I go straight from no glasses at all to TRIfocals.


Illinois sees the year's wackiest governor primary: a near dead heat on the Democratic side and the top five Republicans all bunched up within five points of each other.

In our own governor's race, Chris Rants bails as the one-time eight candidate Republican field shrinks to three. Ed Fallon says: "If Democrats are serious about holding the Governor’s office, we’ve got a month to find a candidate to beat Culver in the primary," and starts a Regenia Bailey rumor. Jonathan Narcisse swears to God he has enough signatures as I make My Bad Prediction of the month: "Culver toast? Ask Governor Lightfoot."

As the four-way 2nd CD GOP primary heats up, I start imagining that Roxanne Conlin is going viral. In Indiana, it's bye Bayh.

Who Dat thinking they can win dat Super Bowl? Even the football preferences split out on partisan lines, as half of the Who stink up the place at halftime.


Health care reform, a big f%$#in' deal, finally passes and President Obama takes a victory lap right here in Iowa City.

My obsessive compulsion with filing deadlines gives me my highest traffic month ever, as every candidate in the state Googles themselves and lands on my site. Local Republicans, including swears-she's-gonna-run-again Lori Cardella, take a pass on the courthouse offices. With Rettig winning so big in January, there's no Democratic primary challengers either. The cycle's WTF local race is the short-lived, labor-backed primary challenge to Dave Jacoby.

The year's big local political story gets rolling, as the Iowa City council passes the 21 bars ordinance, and the petition to overturn same makes the rounds.


Senate race fundraising: "Conlin raised $879,615 in the quarter ending March 31, more than even Chuck Grassley, even when you take away the quarter million she kicked in herself. That's 78 times what Fiegen raised and a whopping 455 times Krause's total." Grassley, meanwhile, earns a Worst... Person... In The Woooorld!.

The Prez comes to Iowa again for a swing across the southern tier of Dave Loebsack's turf, but bails on a private party in Des Moines after word leaks.

The Smallest Farm starts in earnest, but a soggy summer will lead to a crappy crop.


It's a BFD in Cedar Rapids as VP Joe comes to town for Chet Culver.

On the GOP side, BVP doesn't have the money for an brutal air war with Branstad, and nice guy Rod Roberts was depending on that. Branstad pivots to Culver before the primary even happens. Chet, for his part, steps on his own roll-out with a trooper chase and a lost briefing book.

It's hard to tell who's nastier in the primary fight: 2nd District Republicans or Democratic Senate candidate Tom Fiegen: "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."

In Utah, the very conservative Bob Bennett is not conservative enough and is Tea Partied out of renomination. And in Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter's party change fails in the primary.

As I do every five years, I obsess about the British election, which gets even more interesting after it's over: "The hung parliament appears to be a UK politics junkie's wet dream, just like old American political journalists still fantasize about brokered conventions."


The primary action is on the Republican side as Terry Branstad wins a closer than expected contest and MMM gets a solid win for the 2nd CD nomination. Some supporters of the defeated candidates grumble about Democrats crossing over, but the numbers don't bear it out.

Vander Plaats doesn't get that losers don't make demands, and makes a play on the GOP convention floor for the lieutenant governor nomination. He comes far closer than he should have, but falls short of Kim Reynolds, then goes home and pouts for a month or so.

On my side of the ballot, my endorsement is not the kiss of death as Roxanne romps to a 77% primary win. Big Plant Sale fails to win state auditor on a write-in, but Jon Murphy emerges soon after the primary.

The Short Lived Labor Primary Challenge to Dave Jacoby briefly returns from the dead, but Jacoby stomps with 88%. 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.

In Des Moines, Coralville's own Sue Dvorsky takes over the reins of the Iowa Democratic Party. And in DC, the Senate loses its longest serving member ever, West Virginia's Robert Byrd.


For a brief shining moment this races looks like it will show up on the national radar, as Research 2000 shows Conlin within eight points of Grassley and handicappers start moving the race from Safe R to Likely R. Republicans are nervous enough to start fixating on Conlin's figure. But by month's end, Research 2000's methodology is debunked and discredited, and it's all downhill from there.

Iowa City's neo-prohibitionists choose the very funny committee name 21 Makes Sense and sign up heavy hitters from all aides of the aisle.

Lori Cardella quietly closes her campaign committee.

After their divisive primary and convention, Republicans brag that their registration numbers are up: "That's like saying your store's business is up because so many people are coming through the front door, but half of them are lined up at the complaint counter."

Legislative triage season begins in earnest with financial reports and endorsements.

Linux Monday finally gets a practical application, as I load all my excess machines with Ubuntu and set them up down at Democratic HQ, which is open waaaay more hours than Republican HQ.


Bob Vander Plaats teases about the independent run then, in the end, decides to run the No on Gay campaign instead. Meanwhile in California, Proposition 8 gets overturned.

We see the launch of the "Iowa Party," but their two candidates don't get along.

Republicans win the battle of the dinner speakers, recruiting Mama Grizzly herself while Dems settle for... Ed Rendell?

Multiple forwards of the best Onion ever overflowed my in box:
Gore, who was prohibited from hearing music with graphic sex, violence, or drug references since Tipper founded the Parents Music Resource Center in 1985, confirmed yesterday that her crusade was "total bullcrap." In addition, Gore said that listening to the forbidden W.A.S.P. albums over and over again had not turned him into a satanic dope fiend as his wife and her associates had warned...
I harvest Linux powered sun dried tomatoes. But most of the rest of the Smallest Farm flops as the bean fence collapses and the critters get my corn.. I finally get photographic evidence of the elusive gopher, who turns out to be a woodchuck:


"Young people much less enthusiastic about voting in the midterm elections"? Not a problem in Iowa City! Satellite sites are stampeded by students ready to Fight For Their Right To Party. Over 1300 at Burge for an all time record. As for me, I vote on day one.

The Iowa Republican: "This Labor Day, Celebrate Iowa's Right to Work Law." Isn't that like honoring deadbeat dads on Father's Day?

Palin calls the Register's Tom Beaumont an idiot, but at least she doesn't call him limp and impotent.

Stalkergate hits the papers and knocks the wheels off the Brad Zaun campaign.

There's no school board election for the first time ever.


Endorsement and debate season; Clash wins most debates on hard hitting platform of Know Your Rights All Three Of Them.

The Rent Is Too Damn High.

Big time Democrats eschew the traditional Election Day photo op to set the example of voting early. But in Iowa City. the frantic pace of campus voting slows down in weeks three and four.

In a desperate search for hope, I make a whole bunch of brave faced predictions, capped off with the Ghostbusters: "There's definitely a very slim chance we'll survive."


Well that pretty much sucked. Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit deserve their own chapter in some future Profiles In Courage. And it is a goddamn tragedy that Mike Mauro lost. But Roxanne wins... Johnson County.

Iowa City to Students: Drop Dead.

By month's end we've moved on to Wikileaks.


I never know what to do with December in these year enders; the events haven't had tome to reveal their long term significance. One thing we know WILL have long term significance: We officially lose our fifth seat in Congress. Redistricting will be a big Deeth Blog story to look forward to in 2011.

Terry Branstad gives nearly every defeated Republican - and even one defeated Democrat - a job, with the very notable exception of Bob Vander Plaats. He also calls Mike Gronstal a dictator, and Gronstal has a perfect comeback.

I stick my neck out with a phrase will haunt me or confirm my brilliance: "Palin wins the nomination, Obama wins 45 2/3 states."

My year ends with the Deeth Blog's highest traffic yet. Measuring the biggest stories by number of readers: March, when I was obsessing over legislative filing, is my biggest month ever, topping the flood month of June 2008. Seems every candidate in the state googled themselves and found my site. The week of the general election is my busiest of the year, but my highest traffic day is January 19, date of Janelle Rettig's special election.

And as always, my New Year's resolution is to do a better job of spell checking before I post.

State Notes

State Notes

Terry Branstad had hinted at it, but makes it official: Democrat Mike Mauro, the defeated Secretary of State who leaves office today, will be joining Team Terry as state labor commissioner.

desmoinesdem notes: "Branstad never did much to help Mauro's opponent Matt Schultz, in stark contrast to his longstanding and highly visible advocacy for attorney general candidate Brenna Findley" (who Branstad also hired as chief legal counsel).

Mauro was by far the best qualified Secretary of State we've had in my two decades in Iowa, and his defeat in its own way is almost as serious a loss as the defeat of the judges. We go from having a Secretary of State who wants to help people vote to one who wants to make it harder to vote. True, the nature of Mauro's new job will be different, but hopefully this appointment means Branstad isn't interested in Schultz's grandstanding agenda of cracking down on the imaginary problem of "voter fraud" in Iowa.

Chet Culver is doing a farewell lap next week; the Iowa City stop is the Hamburg Inn at 12:30 Thursday.

Republicans had a rousing nominating convention last night for the 1/18 Senate District 35 election and chose former Cyclone footballer Jack Whitver (last seen running a quixotic 2006 effort against Ako Abdul-Samad in central Des Moines; the new turf in northern Polk is waaaay friendlier.) Craig Robinson and Art Smith have good on the scene write-ups. Democrats meet Monday.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Caucus Bashing Starts

Caucus Bashing Starts

Kos is still mad that we Iowans chickened out and screwed Howard Dean on Caucus Night 2004 (everyone forgets that The Scream was AFTER the Muct More Important Third Place), and, as New Hampshire starts the quadrennial game of Date leapfrog, takes another shot at them and us.

Iowa Republicans are having a nasty nasty infight in advance of tonight's Senate 35 special convention. Five horses are in the race including one Ronpaulista, and the rage seems to be focused on four state central committee members who are backing the Ron Paul Some Dude. Democrats will nominate next Monday.

The Democrat's next infight may be in the central Iowa congressional district, however it gets mapped. Desmoinesdem has a good overview: Christie Vilsack is making her interest clear, but as usual Iowa Dems, up to the Tom Harkin level it seems, would rather lose to Tom Latham than hurt Leonard Boswell's feelings. I still haven't seen that resignation from the Blue Dogs, Leonard...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some Links For A Journalism Class

Feeling Retrospective: Back to Caucus Season

(NOTE: First published 12/29/10. Temporarily bumped back to the front page as I'm visiting Professor Perlmutter's class again tonight.)

I'm in a retrospective mood here at the Deeth Blog for a couple reasons. In anticipation of Friday's dual event, New Year's Eve and the eight year anniversary of this site - I'm working on my annual year in review.

But before that, I'm heading back to caucus time. Today I'm guest lecturing in David Perlmutter's journalism class, and for the benefit of the students I'm conveniently re-posting some of the past glories I'm planning to brag about, in handy dandy web friendly Top Ten format.

10. Just. Start. Writing.

9. Build your brand. (Hat optional.)

8. Find Your Niche.
  • The national press doesn't get caucus math: Rural Counties: Less Caucus Goers Per Delegate; Caucuses Are Representative Democracy, Not Undemocratic:
    Iowa City Precinct 18 is an activist hotbed, and 534 people attended the 2004 caucuses. North Liberty Precinct 1 is full of new voters, and only 171 attended. But based on voting behavior in 2000 and 2002, each had ten delegates. Those ten delegates represent the Democratic voters of the precinct -- ALL the Democratic voters, both the activists and the once every four years people. You could argue that in this sense, the caucus numbers are more representative than the raw vote count, because they are inclusive of the weak general election voters that the Democrats depend on in November...

    Of course, all this side steps the real reason the raw vote isn't reported: New Hampshire thinks that's too much like a primary, and the convoluted results are one of the prices we pay for being first.

    National folks also miss the difference between the parties:

  • Caucusing Is (Sort of) Easy For Democrats: "If you remember one word about the Iowa Democratic caucuses, remember the word viability."

  • Caucusing Is Easier (For Republicans): “The caucus result from the straw poll has no binding on the county convention or the state convention.”

  • Even the strongest candidates can miss the point. Clinton Understood Surface, Not Spirit, Of Caucuses: a singer with perfect pitch who misses the meaning of the song, Clinton kept errors to a minimum but failed to capture the spontaneous spirit of the caucuses. She started out doing one on one meetings with undecided local activists, but as her national lead held, Clinton moved toward a "general election strategy," as she said at a debate. By the time Obama was catching up in the fall, it was too late to go back and adapt.

    No one incident captures this perfectly, but little detail after little detail paints the picture.

    A staffer subtly steering me away from a friend of many years, directing her to the public seats and me to the roped off press area. Offering the press free pizza after the speech, rather than what we really wanted: time to ask the candidate a question. The relentless focus on sign war at cattle call events, bringing in loads of staffers and making it harder to ferret out the genuine levels of support. The careful release, then quick denial, of a strategy memo last spring arguing that Clinton should skip Iowa, underscoring her relative weakness in the state and inoculating her against expectations. Supporters leaving the Harkin Steak Fry after Clinton spoke without hearing the rest of the candidates, as if to send a scripted message of "I'm only here for Hillary."

  • Caucus night itself sucks:
    "The process has grown so big that it has outstripped the size of the biggest rooms and parking lots in the precincts, and the reality of the Magic Minute of alignment was stuffy and unpleasant. I was repeatedly contacted by residents of one Iowa City care center, begging for a “sub-caucus” site at their facility and arguing that the negotiations of realignment could be handled by cell phone. But the rules don’t allow that. At some point, Iowa is vulnerable to an ADA lawsuit."

    7. You never know when the big one will hit.

  • Covering John McCain in Davenport during the general election:
    The invocation is interesting, as I hear keyboards going all around me:

    "There are plenty of people around the world who are praying to their god, be they Hindu, Buddah, or Allah, that (McCain's) opponent wins. I pray that you step forward and honor your own name." Ends with "in Jesus' name."

    Wow. McCain does not appear to have been here yet to catch that, but wow. The preacher's name appears to be a Pastor Conrad of the Evangelical Free Church.

  • Rudy Giuliani: Asked About HIV, He Answers With 9/11:
    Asked about increasing federal support for HIV medications, Giuliani discussed what he considers appropriate federal responsibility in health care. “I don’t want to promise you the federal government will take over the role,” he said, drawing applause and shouts of “all right." Then, in some interesting twists, he turned the HIV question into a 9/11 answer:

    “My general experience has been that the federal government works best when it helps and assists and encourages and sets guidelines… on a state-by-state, locality-by-locality basis. It’s no different from the way I look at homeland security. Maybe having been mayor of the city, I know that your first defense against terrorist attack is that local police station, or that local firehouse.”

  • During that couple of weeks when it seemed like Sarah Palin had been a good idea, I got assigned to a low-key surrogate event:
    IOWA CITY -- Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius publicly considered the possibility that Sen. Barack Obama's race might be a factor in this year's presidential election during an appearance here Tuesday.

    "Have any of you noticed that Barack Obama is part African-American?" Sebelius asked in response to a question about why the election is so close. "That may be a factor. All the code language, all that doesn't show up in the polls. And that may be a factor for some people."

    The remark, delivered in the governor's low key, folksy, out-from-behind-the-podium style, raised a couple chuckles but few eyebrows in the downtown Iowa City crowd, but Republicans took offense and responded in short order...

    6. Don't be afraid to have a personality.
  • Let the music do the talking:
    Barack Obama hit the repeat button a few too many times -- sometimes the same five songs cycled three or four times while the crowd waited -- but he had a nice mix based around Motown and `60s soul: Jackie Wilson's "Higher And Higher," Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," Aretha Franklin and James Brown.

    Finally, John Cougar Edwards was the most on message. A "Rise Up" cadence in a late version of his stump speech ended with Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising" on the loudspeakers. The John Mellencamp alliance loses points for the "Our Country" truck ad tie-in, but gains points for the actual endorsement of the artist...

    5. Don't be afraid to have an opinion. Admit it, as your reputation may precede you, especially if you wear a red hat. "McCain: Not Dead, but Neither Was Terri Schiavo."

    4. But back it up.

    3. Don't be afraid to be wrong: "Sun Setting On The Straight Talk Express". Don't forget to laugh at yourself when you are. And you will be.

    2. Read what the other team is writing.

    1. Enjoy the ride: "Unless there's an unprecedented upset and Duncan Hunter and Mike Gravel win the Iowa caucuses tonight, I've seen the next president speak. And unless it's Rudy Giuliani, I've spoken to her or him in person, however briefly. I've been interviewed live on C-SPAN, Googled by campaigns, shown up on the front page of one of the home town papers, had my headwear praised by Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd, and had hundreds of people a day pay attention to my opinion on the whole thing. And even more incredibly, I've gotten paid to do it."

    And just for fun, some pictures.
  • Tuesday, December 28, 2010

    A Hot Winter in University Heights

    A Hot Winter in University Heights

    University Heights voters missed out on November's community polarizing Iowa City 21 bar vote, but they have a controversy of their own to vote about.

    Early voting in the University Heights special election has already doubled the pace from the city's record turnout 2009 city election, with 139 votes already returned out of 872 registered voters.

    The voters that are left to vote, if any, will go to the polls two weeks from today, on the second best election date ever, 1/11/11. (The best: the Primary To Hell on 6/6/6.) And they'll be voting, ironically, at ground zero of the fight: the St. Andrew church on Melrose Avenue.

    The church, you see, is looking to move and redevelop the property next to a wooded ravine. Vacant lots of any sort are rare in this independent city that is completely surrounded by Iowa City and is usually best known for its enthusiastic enforcement of the speed limit.

    Developers have proposed One University Place, a six-story residential and commercial project. The development was the central issue of the 2009 election, which saw a ten-candidate field for five seats. (University Heights elects the whole council, and the mayor, every two years.) In near-gubernatorial 50 percent turnout, a super-majority of four supporters of the development were elected, along with one opponent.

    But council member Amy Moore, a project supporter, resigned her seat over the summer. The remaining four members appointed another supporter, Jim Lane. Opponents of the project petitioned for a special election.

    That's been delayed till now because University Heights allows for a primary election if enough candidates file. That's never happened, but it would have if one more candidate had run in 2009. The longer time frame caused schedule conflicts that prevented combining the vote with the November 2 general election, though project opponents argue that the council could have held a special meeting to meet deadlines and deliberately chose not to do so.

    In the meantime, the council voted on December 14 to rezone the church property. That's not a final step but it is a move ahead.

    The one hard and fast rule in petitioned special elections around here, municipal or county-wide, is that the side that petitions loses and that the person who was appointed in the first place runs and wins. Lane is hoping to extend that streak; project opponent Rosanne Hopson is hoping to end it.

    I'm agnostic in this one. What's the better environmental case: infill development over sprawl, or preservation of the ravine area? I have friends on both sides. But just as an observer, as a resident of the near west side I pass though our odd little geopolitical enclave often and the sign war is at presidential levels. General observation: the green and white Hopson signs increase with proximity to the church, the yellow and black Lane signs increase with distance from the church. The whole city is one precinct so there's no geographic breakout of the 2009 results to use as a benchmark.

    What I do know is this is, in proportion to size of electorate, the hottest special election we've seen around here in ages, even bigger than the legislative specials when the House caucus comes to doorknock the district. The record to shoot for is the 1999 Swisher election when voters decided whether the city should establish and operate a municipal waterworks utility. That's it. That's the whole ballot question. "Shall the City of Swisher, Johnson County, Iowa, establish and operate a municipal waterworks utility for the City?" No minor details like, oh, how much will it cost and how do we pay for it. 70 percent turnout (compare that to 79 percent in the 2008 presidential) and 72 percent no. I remember the mayor resigning soon after.

    Public Employees or Public Enemies

    Public Employees... or Public Enemy Number One?

    Dave Loebsack won't be on the Education and Labor committee in the next Congress. He's not losing his assignment under Republican control, the way Bruce Braley lost his seat on Energy and Commerce. Rather, the committee is changing names as they did in 1994:
    Republicans are planning the name change, and it isn’t the first. For years, the committee was called Education and Labor. But when Newt Gingrich and the Republicans took over the House in 1994, they wanted to show that there was a new sheriff in town—and he was not a pro-labor sheriff.

    “Education and the Workforce was the name selected by Republicans more than a decade ago to reflect the committee’s broad jurisdiction over polices that affect American students, workers, and retirees,” explained Alexa Marrero, a spokeswoman for committee Republicans.
    Banishing the L word is one of those petty, spite-motivated things Republicans like to do just to annoy us, like calling us the "Democrat Party" without the -ic.

    The more substantive change on the Not Labor Committee: California Democrat George Miller, one of Loebsack's mentors in the House, will turn over the gavel to a new chair, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), who has an AFL-CIO rating of zero.

    For politicians seeking a Sister Souljah moment, public employees are public enemy number one.

    And as we all know, the actual Public Enemy number one is still Chuck and Flav, boyee. So my rap reference is a bit 1990? Hey, I voted against Terry Branstad that year, too.

    Full disclosure here: I'm a proud union public employee, chair of my bargaining unit, member of our contract negotiation team, and son of two lifetime National Education Association members.

    Here in Iowa, organized labor and outgoing Governor Chet Culver may have had a stormy relationship, especially after Culver vetoed labor's must-pass agenda in a fit of pique over being kept out of the legislative loop. (And also, perhaps, because labor enthusiastically backed rival Mike Blouin in the 2006 Democratic primary.)

    But that was Solidarity Forever compared to labor's feuds with Terry Branstad, our back to the future governor. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ("AFF-skmee" in union speak) had to take Branstad to the Iowa Supreme Court in 1991 to get a ruling that binding arbitration is, in fact, binding. And no one voted them out or impeached them over it, either.

    So with a transition from a fair-weather friend to a sworn enemy looming on the horizon again, AFSCME overwhelmingly took the deal it could get from Culver, a relatively reasonable 3 percent a year over a two-year contract. Branstad is sputtering with rage and threatening layoffs.

    "AFSCME members have taken pay freezes," said AFSCME Iowa Council 61 president Danny Homan:
    "They voted to take 5 days of off without pay, and also lost part of their deferred compensation. AFSCME members who know how state government works on the front lines submitted many good ideas that were eventually included in the successful government reorganization that occurred last year. We also believed strongly in the early retirement program that was implemented, which resulted in around 2000 state workers leaving their employment with the state. We believe that these actions have helped Iowa to save millions, and we now have a budget surplus."
    But that level of responsibility is lost on Branstad. His priority is the politics, the reduction of AFSCME's influence, and that battle is way more important for him that demonizing The Gay. Branstad is looking to elevate "labor relations expert" Leon Shearer from a consultant on contract to a full-time administration official.

    Shearer has consulted in the past for the Master Builders of Iowa. That's the same group that requested a delay in bid openings for a $68 million prison renovation project at Mitchellville and for a separate project at the Iowa Veterans Home at Marshalltown until after Branstad takes office on January 14, in the hope--no, let's be real, in the certainty--that Branstad will revoke Culver's executive order signed by Culver that encourages the use of project labor agreements on state construction projects. But Culver, who seems to have become labor's best bud since losing the election, rejected the request.

    It's all part of the zeitgeist in D.C. and in Des Moines. Slate sees this as part of a national pattern:
    Republicans might even be able to pass legislation that would allow states to declare bankruptcy, which would move the pension debate from politics to court, zapping all of the unions' leverage. "From the Republican perspective," wrote Pethokoukis, "the fiscal crisis on the state level provides a golden opportunity to defund a key Democratic interest group."
    Defunding the left. I remember that phrase from back in the Reagan days, right around the time Ronnie fired all the unionized air traffic controllers. It took decades for public air safety to recover from that loss of experienced public employees. Republicans are more concerned with the politics of union-busting than with our overwhelmed human services workers and overcrowded classrooms.

    "They're getting a big assist by this economy," writes Joan McCarter at Daily Kos, "which makes too easy the job of drumming up resentment against anyone who might have a bit of job protection or--gasp--the promise of a pension to make the prospect of old age just a little less frightening."

    "We think that it’s important to have our roads cleared in the winter, so that citizens and business can continue to function," says Homan "We think it’s important to have our prisons properly staffed, so that our citizens are safe from violent offenders. We also believe that it’s important that the state is able to protect kids from abuse, make sure child support claims are investigated, and take care of people in mental health institutions and in our Veteran’s Home."

    But either you understand that or, like Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) you'll mock it:
    "There's one video I've seen where (New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie) is talking to a teacher. And the teacher's like, 'We work so hard.' " McHenry does his best imitation of the pathos in the teacher's voice. "Christie says, 'You know what? You don't have to do it.' "

    McHenry sits back, holding out his hands in a "can you believe this?" gesture. "You watch that, and you think—that's a governor. And that's a teacher. The teacher always wins, man!"
    Can it be just two years ago that the Employee Free Choice Act was a live issue? How long has it been since anyone uttered the words "card check" in public?

    Monday, December 27, 2010

    You May Be Having A Linux Monday Without Even Knowing It

    You May Be Having A Linux Monday Without Even Knowing It

    You may have gone Linux over the holidays and not even known it, if you got yourself a new Android phone.

    Android is in the mix of some big changes at the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. the goal of getting low cost ($100 per) laptops to kids in third world countries. It helped drive the then-new netbook market, and the low-end processors in OLPC and netbooks pushed Microsoft to keep XP alive juuuust a little longer, kill off the bloated Vista, and quickly launch Windows 7.

    These moves, and Microsoft's sheer economic clout and market dominance, were pushing OLPC away from its Linux roots. But an upcoming redesign changes that:

    "The new OLPC devices will take the lead from Apple's iPad but use Google's (GOOG) Android OS, at least initially. The keyboard will be virtual and be able to adapt to different languages.

    (OLPC head John) Negroponte said the new tablets will not use Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows 7 because the software requires too much memory and computing power."

    My own Linux Holiday included some kernel tweaking, some backup, some playing around with a simplified Fluxbox desktop, and some trying to figure out how to convert all of y'all.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010

    The Rock of Sisyphus Part 3: The Good News

    The Rock of Sisyphus Part 3: The Good News

    2010 was a sucky year for Democrats. You can't spin a 63 seat loss in the US House. But as we saw in the first part of this series, a lot of those Republican gains -- 38 to be precise -- were simply the re-taking of seats the Democrats won in 2006 and 2008.

    Yesterday, we looked at the real trend: a Southern-dominated shift to the Republicans of 26 seats that were Democratic going into 2006 to the Republicans. But so I don't depress my Democratic readers too much before Christmas, today we look at the counter-trend: seats that switched to the Democrats in 2006 and 2008 and stayed there in 2010. (Unfortunately, this is the shortest installment. And thanks to reader hawkeye77 for a couple corrections.)

    We start right here in Eastern Iowa. This, of course, is what got me thinking about the whole thing. In 2006 Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack both won seats that had been Republican since the 1970s. The circumstances were very different: Braley was a well-funded open seat favorite while Loebsack was a “no-chance” challenger. But both have consolidated their wins and settled in, even though Braley had a scare this year and with Iowa losing a seat all bets are off.

    But the biggest success story is Connecticut, as the last of the New England moderate Republicans fell. Joe Courtney over Rob Simmons was one of the biggest upsets of 2006, and Chris Murphy knocked off Nancy Johnson. Chris Shays survived two more years before falling to Jim Himes in 2008, and Connecticut now has an all-Democratic House delegation. Almost makes up for Joe Lieberman. But not quite.

    Here are the other 2006 and 2008 wins that held in 2010:

    Arizona 8: Gabrielle Giffords took over from long-term moderate Republican Jim Kolbe in 2006 and, despite a tough 2010, is still standing.

    California 11: Democrat Jerry McNerny was one of 2006’s biggest upsets when he knocked off Richard Pombo. What’s most interesting is that California is so expertly gerrymandered that, even with three consecutive wave elections, this is the only one of the state’s 53 seats that has changed parties even once in the decade.

    Colorado 7: Democrat Ed Perlmutter took over in 2006 when Republican Bob Beauprez stepped down in an unsuccessful run for governor. Perlmutter survived a close one this year.

    Indiana 2: Joe Donnelly beat Chris “Count” Chocola (the nickname was inevitable) and is the only one of the three Indiana gains from 2006 to survive.

    Kentucky 3. One of the surprises here is that we're up one in Kentucky. John Yarmuth upset Anne Northup in the state's most urban seat, Louisville's 3rd, in 2006, won a rematch in 2008, and took a third term this year.

    Michigan 9: Democrat Gary Peters took over from Republican Joe Knollenberg in 2008.

    Minnesota 1: Tim Walz beat Class of 94 Republican Gil Gutknecht in this souther tier of the state seat in 2006 and has held on since.

    New Mexico 1. Martin Heinrich took the open seat in 2008 and survived this year.

    New York 23. The district that added “Scozzafava’d” to the political dictionary, as the Tea Party scuttled the official GOP nominee in a 2009 special. Democrat Bill Owens took advantage of the Republican split for the Democrat's first win since before there was a Republican Party. Seriously. The GOP won this from the Whigs and Know-Nothings in about 1856. With capital c Conservative Doug Hoffman meddling yet again this fall, Owens won a full term.

    North Carolina 8 and 11. Would you believe Democrats are actually UP a seat in North Carolina since 2006? Of course, when you’re talking about Blue Dogs Heath Shuler (elected 2006) and Larry Kissell (who won in `08 after a near miss in 2006) that’s not saying much.

    Virginia 11. Democrat Gerry Connolly took over when non-insane Republican Tom Davis retired in 2008; of our three Virgina gains that year only Connolly survived.

    So that's 17 Democratic gains since 2006 that have held. There was also one new Democratic gain this year and two recoveries from fluke Republican wins.

    Lost in the shuffle of Christine "I'm Not A Witch" O'Donnell's Senate primary upset of Delaware Rep. Mike Castle, and her subsequent general election loss, was Democrat John Carney's easy takeover of Castle's House seat.

    Hawaii has weird special election rules: It's first-past-the-post, no primary, and no runoff special. A Democratic split allowed Republican Charles Djou to win a partial term in May. The 1st district special became a de facto Democratic primary; Colleen Hanabusa, who finished second to Djou in May. won in November.

    But the best fluke of all was Republican Joseph Cao in New Orleans. How lucky can you get? Incumbent William Jefferson gets caught with 90 large in literally cold hard cash in his freezer. The Democrats line up around the block to primary him and splinter the vote, and Louisiana has an unusual runoff date, so your final round is without Barack Obama on the top of the ticket in your black majority district. You also have a Green Party candidate to pull votes from Democrats too disgusted to vote for Jefferson. That kind of alignment is about as rare as an eclipse on winter solstice day, and that kind of luck runs out fast. Democrat Cedric Richmond can settle in with nothing to worry about but primaries.

    So looking at the 12 Democratic gains by state since 2006:

    Up three seats in Connecticut and two here in Iowa.
    Up one each in Arizona, California, Delaware, and New York.
    Unbelievably up one seat each in Indiana, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

    That leaves the Democrats ten seats short of where we were going into 2006. In this recent cycle of wild swings and waves, that's not too far to push a rock in one election.

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    The Rock of Sisyphus Part 2: The Bad News

    The Rock of Sisyphus Part 2: The Bad News for Democrats

    Yesterday we looked at the 41 U.S. House seats that were Republican going into the 2006 election and coming out of the 2010 election, but were Democratic in between.

    Today we look at the bad news for the Democrats: the 28 seats that represent real gains Republicans made from 2006 to 2010. Some of these will be next year's one term wonders, some will settle in.

    This is a heavily Southern list. Factoid of the year: In a five state swath of Old Wallace Country – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina – there is only one white Democratic House member, John Barrow of Georgia, remaining. The state's other four House Democrats are black; the other four states have one black majority Democratic seat each and an otherwise all-Republican delegation.

    We start the list with a quirky one in Alabama 5. Long-time Blue Dog Bud Cramer retired in 2008 and Parker Griffith held the seat for the Dems. Then Griffith made one of the more botched party changes in recent memory and lost his Republican primary to Mo Brooks. Since Brooks was the first to win the seat as a Republican, I call this a gain not a hold.

    Arkansas 1 and 2: Dems Marion Berry and Vic Snyder both saw the writing on the wall and bailed in 2010; Republicans Rick Crawford and Tim Griffin took over to give the GOP an unprecedented 3-1 edge in the delegation.

    Colorado 3: Kind of a ringer, as John Salazar only took over the western slope seat in 2004, the same year brother Ken, now in the cabinet, won the Senate seat. Scott Tipton knocked John off last fall.

    Florida 2: Both Republicans and progressive Dems were gunning for panhandle Blue Dog Allen Boyd this year. The primary challenge fell short but Steve Southerland finished him off in November.

    Georgia 8: Started the decade as Georgia 3 before the state got the idea of a mid-decade re-map from Texas. The new turf was designed to finish off Democrat Jim Marshall, but with help from the waves of 2006 and 2008 he survived until Austin Scott knocked him off this year.

    Illinois 8: Another 2004 Dem gain as Melissa Bean was the upset of the year over 30 plus year Republican Phil Crane. (Old timers will remember that he ran for President in the 1980 primaries, to the right of Reagan.) Bean looked like she’d gotten lucky in 2010 when she drew tea partier Joe Walsh as an opponent.

    The Real Joe Walsh sued him for using Real Joe Walsh music, and the fake Joe Walsh ran an abysmal race, but this year was that bad.

    Illinois 17. One of the whaa? results of the year as Bobby Schilling came out of nowhere to upset Phil Hare in the old Lane Evans Quad Cities seat. This squashed spider gerrymander is likely to get torn up in redistricting.

    Kansas 3. Democrat Dennis Moore had a tenuous but tenacious hold on the seat till his surprise 2010 retirement. His wife tried to keep the seat in the family but Republican Kevin Yoder took all the lupines to make the Kansas delegation all-Republican.

    Louisiana 3: Democrat Charlie Melancon made a brave but failed effort in the Senate race against Diaper Dave Vitter. With the seat open Jeff Landry gained one for the GOP.

    Michigan 1: I won't miss Bart Stupak much, but he did manage to hold Da U.P. for 18 years for the Democrats. Republican Dan Benishek now takes over.

    Minnesota 8: My pick for Upset Of The Year: Chip Cravaack comes out of nowhere to beat 30 year DFL incumbent James Oberstar in a district that’s been Democratic since Bob Dylan was growing up in Hibbing.

    Mississippi 4: How the hell did conservaDem Gene Taylor survive this long on the Gulf Coast? This seat was one of the first in the South to flip Republican waaaay way back in 1972 when Trent Lott took over from his boss, old-time segregationist Democrat William Colmer. When Lott went to the Senate in 1988, Larkin Smith beat Taylor, but died in a plane crash months later. Taylor won the special and voted with the Republicans more than the Democrats for 21 years. Even in the ballot box – in a last ditch effort for survival, he said he had voted for John McCain in 2008. Not good enough as Steve Palazzo takes this seat from the Democrats. This one's gone forever.

    Missouri 4. One of the year’s bellwethers as House Armed Services chair Ike Skelton, first elected some time before God, loses to Vicky Hartzler down by Branson.

    North Carolina 2. Renee Elmers was one of the year’s narrower and wackier Republican winners, knocking off Bob Etheridge.

    North Dakota. Going into this fall North Dakota was an anomaly: solidly Republican at the state level, it elected an all-Democratic D.C. delegation. But Byron Dorgan left the Senate and Rick Berg beat Earl Pomeroy to win the House seat for the GOP for the first time since 1980.

    Ohio 6. Democrat Charlie Wilson – not the flamboyant Texan of “Charlie Wilson’s War” fame – lost to Bill Johnson this year in suburban Cincinnati.

    Pennsylvania 11. Republicans won Pennsylvania big but most of that was taking back the Democratic gains of the last two cycles. This was the only new win as Lou Barletta knocked off 26 year Democrat Paul Kanjorski, who'd been around since 1984.

    South Carolina 5. One of the last senior southern white Democrats, John Spratt, lost to Mick Mulvaney here.

    South Dakota. Stephanie Herseth (later Herseth-Sandlin after she married former colleague Max Sandlin, one of the Texas victims of Tom DeLay's mid-decade gerrymander) won this in a June 2004 special and seemed to be reasonably well established until losing to Kristi Noem this year.

    Tennessee 4, 6 and 8. Two open seats and the defeat of Lincoln Davis moves Tennessee from 5-4 Democratic to 7-2 Republican. In relation to size, this may be the biggest Republican gain of the time frame.

    Texas 17. Chet Edwards, who represented the Crawford Ranch through the Bush 43 years, was the only one of the intended Democratic victims of the mid-decade Republican gerrymander to survive. Bill Flores finally caught him this year.

    Texas 27. Republican Blake Farenthold may be fluke of the year, as low turnout helped him beat 28 year Democrat Solomon Ortiz. With Texas gaing a whopping four seats, are there enough Republicans in Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande valley to draw him a district?

    Virginia 9: Update; I missed the loss of Rick Boucher, first elected 1982, the first go-round.

    Washington 3. Washington State was one of the anchors of the 1994 Republican takeover, as the GOP claimed five seats and dethroned the sitting Speaker. But it's been remarkably stable through the three wave elections of the 2000s. The only seat change was here this year, as Republican Jaime Herrera took over for retiring Democrat Brian Baird. That's also the only GOP gain on the entire West Coast, for a net change of zero in the five Pacific states.

    West Virginia 1. An odd one, as 14 term Democrat Alan Mollohan lost his primary and Republican David McKinley takes the seat.

    Wisconsin 7. Outgoing Appropriations chair David Obey held this seat for 21 terms and in six different decades, but stepped down this spring as things looked rough. Ashland DA and Real World alum Sean Duffy won this seat for the GOP, turning the whole northern half of the state red when combined with Steve Kagan's loss in the 8th CD.

    So looking at this by states, here's the Democratic losses from October 2006 to today.

    Down three seats in Tennessee.

    Down two seats in Texas (but down six since 2004 thanks to the mid-decade redistricting) and Arkansas.

    One each in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

    Depressed yet, Dems? Tomorrow is counter-trend day: the gains Democrats have made and consolidated.

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    Iowa Officially Loses Seat in House


    That's America's official April 1, 2010 Census population. As expected Iowa officially drops from five U.S. House seats to four. WashPo sums up well:
    Texas, as expected, gained the most seats, moving from 32 to 36 seats thanks to big gains in population -- primarily in the Hispanic community.

    Florida was the only other state to gain multiple seats, adding two and bringing it to 27 seats.

    Six other states gained a single seat: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.

    The biggest losers were New York and Ohio, which each lost two seats. Eight other states lost a single seat: Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

    Five of the eight states that are gaining seats were won by McCain in the 2008 presidential race. Eight of the 10 that are losing seats went to Obama.

    Minnesota just made the cut for the last seat (No. 435), and will keep all eight of its districts, while North Carolina fell about 15,000 people short of gaining a 14th seat.
    Iowa's official census population is 3,053,787. That means congressional districts of 763,447, state Senate seats averaging 61,076, and Iowa House seats of 30,538.

    The Rock of Sisyphus Rolls Part of the Way Downhill

    The Rock of Sisyphus Rolls Part of the Way Downhill

    The first rule of John Deeth's New School of Sober Gonzo Journalism is: if you can't find the story you want to read, write it yourself.

    The story I've wanted to read, and can't find, is how the Democratic losses of 2010 match up against the gains of 2006 and 2008. Or, as someone once said, are we better off now than we were four years ago.

    Some of the measures are easy. Here's the Democratic raw numbers, going into 2006 and going out of 2010.

    October 2006
    Presidents: zero
    Senate: 44 (with Lieberman still officially a full Democrat) plus Jim Jeffords vs. 55 Republicans
    House: 203 to 232 GOP

    January 2011
    Presidents: 1
    Senate: 51 plus Bernie Sanders kinda plus Lieberman, 47 Republicans
    House: 193-242

    So we're down ten House members and up six or eight senators (depending how you count) and an Obama. It's not a perfect comparison, especially since the 2006 senators haven't been up yet. But despite the inevitable disappointment of falling so far after we climbed so high, we're better off than we were going in. The rock of Sisyphus has rolled back down the hill, but not all the way back down.

    The House comparison is most interesting because, as eastern Iowans know well, the seats we've gained and lost don't exactly correspond. Of course, a lot of them do. New Hampshire, for example, is a wash: +2 Democrats in 2006, -2 in 2010.

    The only way to figure this out is the Deeth Way: A long list full of tangents and trivia. This one has turned into a three parter. Tomorrow we'll see the bad news for Democrats, and Thursday will look at the counter-trend of the Democratic gains.

    Today we start with the longest chapter: the temporary gains. These are seats that went into 2006 in Republican hands, and came out of 2010 in Republican hands, but were held by a Democrat along the way. Think of them as opportunities. Qualify everything, of course, with the wild card of redistricting.

    There's 41 seats on the list. 38 of those are possible and necessary opportunities for taking back the House in 2012.

    The Class of 2006-2010

    These are the 15 seats Democrats gained in 2006 but lost last month. 12 of these members were beaten, while three made failed Senate bids and saw their open seats go back to the Republicans.

    Arizona 5: Harry Mitchell upset gasbag J.D. Hayworth (last seen failing in a primary challenge to John McCain) in 2006, but lost in 2010 to David Schweikert.

    Florida 22: Ron Klein knocked off long-time Republican Clay Shaw in 2006, then got tea partied by Allen West this year, Given West’s wackiness this is one that could flip back.

    Indiana 8: Brad Ellsworth knocked off Republican John Hostettler in 2006, then gave up the seat this year for a last minute long-shot Senate bid after Even Bayh bailed on re-election at the filing deadline. Republican Larry Buchson easily won the open seat in an afterthought.

    Indiana 9: Kind of an asterisk. Mike Sodrel interrupted Democrat Baron Hill’s tenure for two years (2004-06). The rivalry was epic as the two faced off four straight elections. This year, Republicans picked Todd Young over Sodrel in the primary and Young beat Hill in the fall.

    New Hampshire 1 and 2: Does anyone remember when we thought Paul Hodes might actually gain Judd Gregg's Senate seat for the Democrats this year? He lost by about 20 points, and the guy Hodes beat in `06, Charlie Bass, makes a comeback. Carol Shea-Porter surprised everyone in 2006, but fell victim to Frank Giunta this year. (Despite winning and losing the whole House delegation, we're still up a Senate seat here with Jeanne Shaheen.)

    New York 19, 20 and 24: These upstate seats were the anchors to the Democrat’s brief 27-2 lead in the New York delegation.

    John Hall is not Still The One as the ex-Orleans frontman lost to Nan Hayworth in the 19th this year. In the 24th, Mike Arcuri took over for retiring Republican moderate Sherwood Boehlert in 2006 but lost last fall to Richard Hanna.

    The 20th has a more complicated history, as one of only two seats in the country with four winners in four cycles (see Idaho 1 below). Kirsten Gillibrand took the ancestrally Republican seat for the Dems in 2006, then got appointed to the Senate right after her 2008 re-election. Dem Scott Murphy won a special election upset to replace her, but Chris Gibson took it back for the Republicans this year.

    Ohio 18: Zack Space was in the right place at the right time in 2006 as Republican Bob Ney imploded in scandal, resigned, and went to jail. But southeast Ohio is part of right-trending Appalachia and Bob Gibbs has moved into Zack’s space.

    Pennsylvania 7, 8, and 10: We lost three of the best Democratic advocates for veterans here: Iraq vet Pat Murphy, Senate primary winner Joe Sestak, (who came close but fell short in the general), and the late Jack Murtha. Also MIA in PA is Chris Carney.

    The 2010 landslide, and the cultural lean of the region, makes Democrat Mark Critz’s special election win in Murtha’s 12th district (the only one in the nation to flip from Kerry in 2004 to McCain in 2008) and his November survival all the more impressive.

    Texas 23: Democrat Ciro Rodriguez got paired with fellow Democrat Henry Cuellar in the 2004 mid-decade, Tom DeLay driven gerrymander and lost the primary. He came back two years later in the neighboring 23rd and beat Republican Henry Bonilla, but fell to the GOP's Quico Canseco this year.

    Wisconsin 8: Doctor Steve Kagen won an open seat upset in 2006 when GOP incumbent ran for governor and lost, but Packerland returned to its Republican ways in 2010 with Reid Ribble.

    The Class of 2008-2010

    The wave crested even higher in record turnout, Yes We Can 2008, but 19 of those members couldn't survive this year, and one more didn't even make it to Election Day.

    Alabama 2: This started out as Republican Terry Everett’s seat. Bobby Bright took it in 2008 for one term; Martha Roby regained it for the GOP this year.

    Arizona 1: Republican Rick Renzi stepped down amid scandal in 2008 and Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick took over for one term before losing to Paul Gosar.

    Colorado 4: Betsy Markey beat the homophobic Marilyn Musgrave in 2008, but lost to the less abrasive Cory Gardner this year.

    Florida 8: Alan Grayson was one of the progressive heroes of the last two years, and WILL be back, one way or another. But maybe not in this district, where 2008 may have been a unique alignment of the stars.

    Florida 24: Suzanne Kosmas beat Republican Tom Feeney in 2008’s wave and was swept out by Sandy Adams in 2010.

    Idaho 1: The other seat with four winners in four elections. Hard Right Republican Bill Sali took over in 2006 when Butch Otter -- sounds like a cartoon character -- was elected governor. Sali was too far right even for this district, which is really saying something for the turf that was home to the Ruby Ridge shootout. ConservaDem Walt Minnick won what was probably a fluke and voted with the Republicans on virtually anything of significance, but it wasn’t enough for him to beat Republican Raul Labrador this fall.

    Illinois 13: Debbie Halvorson won it for the Dems in 2008, but lost to Adam Kinzinger this year.

    Maryland 1: A near fluke here. Right-winger Andy Harris knocked off 18 year moderate incumbent Wayne Gilchrest in the 2008 Republican primary, but in the Yes We Can climate of 2008 lost the Eastern Shore seat to Democrat Frank Kratovil (who won with Gilchrest’s endorsement). In the No We Can’t climate of 2010 Harris won a rematch.

    Michigan 7: A wild revolving door: Republican Tim Walberg beat one-term moderate Joe Schwarz in a Club For Growth backed 2006 primary, lost the seat to Democrat Mark Schauer in 2008, then came back in 2010.

    Nevada 3: Democrat Dina Titus won the seat, the more suburban of the two Vegas districts, in 2008 but lost to Joe Heck in 2010. With Nevada going to four seats Titus may well be back.

    New Jersey 3: Jon Runyan returns this seat to GOP hands this year after John Adler’s one term.

    New Mexico 2: Kind of an asterisk: Republican Steve Pearce stepped down in 2008 for a failed Senate run, then came back to beat one-term Dem Harry Teague.

    New York 13: Vito Fossella hit the scandal trifecta in 2008: busted for drunk driving… while on the way to his girlfriend who is not his wife’s house… to pick up their baby. Staten Island Republicans finally talked him into quitting… and then their replacement candidate died. In the turmoil, Democrat Mike McMahon snuck in for one term, only to lose to Mike Grimm this year. I left this off the fluke list (see end of post) because I can conceive of a Democrat winning the seat in a good year without wacky circumstances.

    New York 25: Ann Marie Buerkle took this ancestrally Republican seat back from one-term Dem Dan Maffei in 2010.

    New York 29: Two consecutive short term incumbents were touched by personal scandal. Republican Randy Kuehl (2004-2008) managed to get beat in relative obscurity, but Democrat Eric Massa’s meltdown and resignation was all over cable for a week. The seat sat vacant for months until Republican Tom Reed won quietly and easily in November.

    Ohio 1, 15 and 16: Ohio’s 2008 gains were the most ephemeral. Three first term Democrats – Steve Driehaus, Mary Jo Kilroy and John Boccieri -- lost in 2010.

    Pennsylvania 3: Kathy Dahlkemper took this swing seat from Republican Phil English in 2008 but lost to Mike Kelly this year.

    Virginia 2 and 5: The Virginia wave crested high in 2008 with Obama winning the state and Dems gaining three House seats and Senator Mark Warner. But two of our happiest 2008 gains, and saddest 2010 losses, were Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello.

    The Richard Vander Veen Club

    Special election wins we couldn't keep. Named for the Michigan Democrat who, in the late days of Watergate, won a April 1974 special election shocker in the House seat vacated by the former Republican House leader, new Vice President Gerald Ford. Vander Veen held on in the fall but lost in 1976.

    Third place: Democrat Don Cazayoux (great Cajun name there) held Louisiana 6 just eight months, winning a May 2008 special but losing the general to Bill Cassidy.

    Runner up: Democrat Travis Childers won a shocker in a May 2008 Mississippi 1 special to replace appointed senator Roger Wicker, then survived in the fall to briefly make the Mississippi (Missi-freakin-sippi!) delegation 3-1 Democratic. With Alan Nunnallee knocking Childers off this year, it’s now 3-1 GOP and likely to stay that way as the Democrats are packed into Bennie Thompson’s black majority 1st district.

    Our winner by losing: In an uncanny parallel to the Vander Veen election, Democrat Bill Foster won an early 2008 special to replace former Speaker Dennis Hastert in Illinois 14. Foster, with an assist from the homestate presidential nominee, held on in 2008 but lost it in 2010 to Randy Hultgren.


    These are the three seats that went Democratic in 2006 but, against the trend, fell back to the Republicans in 2008. Two of them had bizarre circumstances unlikely to be duplicated in this universe.

    Texas 22. No one even pretended this was anything but a two-year gain. The indicted Tom DeLay botched the timing of his resignation so badly that the Republicans were stuck with no name on the ballot. Nick Lampson, ironically one of the victims of DeLay's 2004 mid-decade redistricting, made a brief comeback by defeating the write-in line.

    Florida 16: In 2006, Replacement Republican candidate Joe Negron was in the horrible spot of having to ask voters to mark their ballots for Mark Foley of page scandal infamy. (He bravely tried the slogan "Punch Mark for Joe.") That was the environment in which Tim Mahoney won. Re-election was always going to be tough -- then, believe it or not, Mahoney got caught in a sex scandal of his own! Pittburgh Steelers scion Tom Rooney returned the seat to its GOP ways in 2008.

    Kansas 2. No scandal here, but Nancy Boyda was the only other Dem to win in 2006 yet lose in 2008. One of the contenders for Upset Of The Year in 2006 (along with Carol Shea-Porter and Our Own Dave Loebsack) when she beat ex-Olympic miler Jim Ryun, Republican Lynn Jenkins took the seat back in 2008 (after out-running - heh - Ryun in the primary).

    So those are the hottest battlegrounds of the last four years, with two shifts of party. Tomorrow: The bad news for the Democrats.

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Caucus Date Watch Continues

    Politico's Wish

    Politico's wish: "As 2012 nears, the political class is united with one holiday wish: Please don’t make us spend New Year’s Eve in Iowa like we did in 2008."

    But you will be spending August 13 here and the scientific community is united in that fact. Mark the date for the Republican straw poll, this time paired with a debate cosponsored with Fox News (the official network of the GOP).

    If the nomination contest is an NCAA bracket, the straw poll is that #65 play-in game: the center of the universe for one day, it eliminates the very weakest contender (East Jesus State or Tommy Thompson). The big deal in 2007 was Mike Huckabee coming in ahead of Sam Brownback, thus consolidating the fundamentalist vote (with an assist from Fair Tax) and paving the path to the caucus win.

    The question in the air is: will you have to do the straw poll to debate? There were some prominent no-shows in 2007; I'm convinced Fred Thompson deliberately stalled his formal announcement to skip the event. And it didn;t help our state that the eventual nominee came in fourth in the caucuses after running with a Screw Iowa strategy. (Of course, McCain wasn't nominated so much as everyone else was eliminated.)

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    Some Weekend Reads

    Some Weekend Reads

  • It got hidden behind a paywall before I could share it, but the Grand Forks Herald notes that Sen. Byron Dorgan's retirement marks the last vestige of North Dakota's century-old Non-Partisan League. The NPL was part of the upper midwest Scandinavian lefty tradition that included the LaFollette Progressives in Wisconsin and Minnesota's Farmer-Labor Party, so as a lefty with Scandinavian roots I take note.

  • Iowa's doomed to lose its fifth House seat but Cook takes a look at the ten states that are "on the bubble," complete with speculative maps.

  • An "intellectually substantial" look at Julian Assange's rationale for leaking the Wikileaks.

  • And speaking of intellectually substantial, it's been nearly 20 years and I'm still looking to justify dropping out of grad school. So I'll always link to a good "the Ph. D. isn't worth it" article. At least I was in grad school long enough to appreciate the humor.
  • Friday, December 17, 2010

    Another Special, Another Opportunity

    Another Special, Another Opportunity?

    This time Terry Branstad gives a Republican who WON an election a job, tapping just-re-elected Senator Larry Noble ( a retired state trooper) to head the Department of Public Safety. That sets up another special election, this one right in metro Des Moines.

    The easy way to visualize the map is: most of Polk County north of I-80. Not exact (Bondurant is the main exception) but damn close. Ankeny has about half the population, the rest is mostly in Johnston, Grimes, and Saylorville.

    This was Jeff Lamberti's turf until he gave it up to take his shot at Leonard Boswell. Democrat Merle Johnson made a serious effort in 2006, but with an ideal candidate and a great environment, the Dems fell just short of Noble.

    Despite that close `06 race, this is one of the ones the Democrats let go this year as Noble and the two Republican reps from the district, Erik Helland and Kevin Koester, went uncontested.

    Every special election is an opportunity, a chance to test your ground game and throw all your resources into one place. But if Terry Branstad thought it was at risk, would Noble have gotten the job?

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Losing a seat

    Next Week's Bad News

    Iowa gets bad news next week. It'll be no surprise; we've been expecting it at least 10 years.

    Tuesday is the day the Census Bureau releases its biggest piece of data, its constitutional reason for existence: the population totals by state and its partner, the congressional apportionment by state. And absolutely every indication is that Iowa loses a seat in Congress, dropping from five House members to four.

    Jeff Morrison, at a site mostly devoted to the state highway system, has done the great public service of putting together a one-stop page of all Iowa's district maps back to statehood. What's remarkable to me as an Eastern Iowan is how rarely Johnson and Linn counties have been in the same district. We were separated from 1862 to 1992.

    This was Iowa's map for 45 years back in the glory days, 1886 to 1931. In the Gay 90s we elected eleven congressmen, all Republicans, led by Dubuque's David Henderson, Iowa's only Speaker of the House. He was a low-key figure sandwiched between two of the most powerful speakers ever, Thomas "Czar" Reed and Joe Cannon.

    Some of those districts were a little goofy looking. The one county wide, eight county long purple one was Henderson's. And that 11 county green one along the southern border looks a lot like Kim Reynolds' old Senate district, where we'll be seeing that January 4 special election.

    (That long skinny Henderson district is nothing compared to the spiders, barbells, headphones and earthworms they draw next door in Illinois.)

    Since then we've lost an average of a seat every couple decades, usually to someplace like Arizona, as the American population moves south and west. There's even a personal symbol of our loss of congressional clout: Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, of recent stop START fame, is the son of an Iowa congressman. One could argue -- I did -- that in a small way the younger Kyl, by moving to Arizona, cost his father his seat in 1972.

    So we'll know what the big bad news will be next week. But there's 154 more pieces of good, bad, or meh news to be delivered next spring, when the super-secret Legislative Service Bureau releases The Map.

    Redistricting is the ultimate in inside baseball. The average voter has little clue what legislative district they're in, but it's life and death to the elected officials and candidates. The Map is more important to the final outcome than the campaign, the candidates, the economy, anything.

    Iowa's process is often cited as a national model: The LSB draws The Map in secret, and supposedly they have no idea where any incumbent lives or the partisan lean of any place. It's hard for me to imagine that combination: the skill set to balance population and geography, combined with the complete ignorance of the underlying politics. In my experience, anyone smart enough to grasp The Map is also political enough to understand The Implications. Maybe that's just the crowd I run with.

    Once The Map is released, legislators get just an up or down vote and the governor signs or vetoes. Not until three plans have been rejected -- which hasn't happened in the three cycles we've done it this way -- do the politicians get to directly tweak the map.

    Yet there's no way to completely remove politics from a process so inherently political. The state legislative map is a zero sum game. There are individual winners and losers, but we come out with the same 100 House seats and 50 Senate seats.

    The congressional map, this time, is another matter. We lose one of our musical chairs, and one of our five congressmen (all men, still, just us and Mississippi...) will try to sit down and land on his rump.

    My experience, from watching two of these districting cycles, is that things don't break out along the usual lines. It's not a simple donkey vs. elephant fight. It's an urban vs. rural fight and a What's In It For Me fight.

    The public and press are focused on the congressional map, in part because the districts are big and easy to comprehend. But the public and the press and the congressmen aren't the ones who decide. The legislators are. And they aren't focused on the congressional map -- they're looking at their own seats. (In this case, "seats" meaning both the district kind and the backside kind.) The maps are a package, so they can't approve a congressional map while rejecting a legislative map.

    It's almost pointless to speculate on what The Map will look like. No one envisioned the 1990s Des Moines to Council Bluffs turf that eventually cost Neal Smith his job, or the suburban hook and eastern panhandle that put Warren and Allamakee counties together in Tom Latham's current territory.

    But obsessives will obsess anyway, so here's my Top Ten list of things to consider.
    1) Nothing can be done about Steve King. There's that many Republicans in that end of the state, and Republican primary voters like what Steve sells. He's also too far away from the others to get paired.

    2) Sixteen years after he left the state senate for Congress, how many of Leonard Boswell's old friends are still under the dome in Des Moines?

    3) Latham and Boswell live in adjacent counties, Story and Polk. Of course, both have moved there since getting elected.

    4) People don't care when politicians move. Neither Boswell or Jim Leach paid any price for it in 2002, and no one associates the Vilsacks with Henry County anymore.

    5) But people do care about quitters, and Mariannette Miller-Meeks just took a high profile state job. (So has every other defeated Republican candidate in the state, with the singular and very notable exception of Bob Vander Plaats.)

    6) Scott plus Johnson plus Linn plus Dubuque plus Black Hawk equals too many people.

    7) Black Hawk and Story have not been together since we went from two districts to six in 1862.

    8) Neither have Black Hawk and Linn. But there's a first time for everything.

    9) The only way Mike Gronstal accepts a Loebsack-Braley pair is if that bad congressional map is attached to a solid gold state senate map.

    10) If so, Mt. Vernon is two miles outside of Johnson County and we like professors here.
    All other things being equal, my guess is a "fair fight" pairing of one Republican and one Democrat, like we saw with Dave Nagle and Jim Nussle in 1991. I'm predicting Tom Latham and Leonard Boswell, with retirement in the mix.

    The placement of fast-growing, Republican leaning Dallas County, now in Latham's turf, could be decisive. If Dallas goes west it just pads Steve King's margin, but if it goes east it spells trouble for Boswell.

    Photoshop Shaving

    Photoshop Shaving

    In which I lose my mustache and IDP chair Sue Dvorsky steals it.

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    Everybody Gets A Job But Bob

    Everybody Gets A Job But Bob

    What did I say last week, huh, huh? "Rod Roberts, Dave Jamison, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Debi Durham -- every Republican in the state who's lost an election gets a Branstad administration job -- except BVP."

    Add one more to Branstad's list of losers: Republican Brenna Findley, who lost a bid this fall for state attorney general, will serve as legal counsel in the administration of Gov.-elect Terry Branstad.

    Suggesting relations between the Branstad Administration Mark V and the Tom Miller Administration Mark VIII won't be rosy.

    Further suggesting that relations between Team Terry and Team Vander Plaats are even worse. I mean, Brenna Findley cut her teeth on the hard right, as a Steve King staffer. Judging from the rhetoric and the cash flow, Findley was the downballot statewide challenger the conservatives really wanted. (They got Matt Schultz instead.) So in some ways this appointment shows Branstad will throw a few bones to the right.

    But as the movie says, What About Bob?

    Oh sure, Bob's got a job, running what's it called, whatever this year's version of the out of state funded Gay Hate Machine is called. He knows how to run a campaign successfully, as long as he himself is not the choice on the ballot.

    But what Vander Plaats truly lusts after is the credibility, the legitimacy of governance, some "experience" to put on the resume in 2014. (desmoinesdem has the theory that Branstad will run again in `14 to break the all-time NATIONAL record for longest tenure as governor. I'm not convinced, but I'm intrigued enough to mention it.)

    I'm so not a Branstad fan that I'm considering shaving off the mustache on inauguration day in protest. But I'll give him this much: he's smart enough not to let Vander Plaats anywhere near actual governing.

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Gravel to challenge Obama?

    Those Wacky Alaskans

    Hey, lefties, I got your Obama primary challenger right here:

    Former Alaska Senator and 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel told The Daily Caller in an exclusive interview that he is mulling a primary challenge to President Barack Obama in 2012.

    Apparently running on a 9/11 Truther platform.

    In other news about wacky Alaskans, Public Policy Polling confirms what we already know:
    Republicans may hate Barack Obama but there look to be a pretty meaningful percentage of them who don't hate him enough to vote to put Sarah Palin in the White House. When you combine that with her complete lack of appeal to Democrats and independents she looks virtually unelectable for 2012.

    Like I said yesterday, Branstad was the only Republican who could beat Bob Vander Plaats, and Vander Plaats was the only Republican who would have lost to Chet Culver. So national Republicans need their own Branstad to beat their own Vander Plaats. But who could that be?

    If national Republicans would use their braaaains, they could go back to the 80s just like the Iowa GOP did!

    Thursday, December 09, 2010

    MMM to DPH

    MMM to DPH

    So Mariannette Miller-Meeks will be heading up Terry Branstad's Department of Public Health. Is that a place to keep her till she runs in 2012, or is that instead of running in 2012?

    My bet is instead of. I think MMM would have liked to have seen the new map and thought about it. But with her medical practice closed, a big chunk of personal cash loaned to her campaign, and her husband hitting a bump in the employment road, she could use a paying gig. Miller-Meeks wouldn't be the first politician who had to juggle ambition with the day job. And since Branstad is gonna name some Republican doctor anyway, may as well be MMM.

    The problem for 2012 is timing. The map comes out sometime in the spring -- probably April if the first plan gets accepted, June if it goes to plan 2. That's only four to six months into Miller-Meeks' new job. The filing deadline is in March of `12, barely a year in. It's a little unseemly to take a high-profile administration gig and then bail that fast. Even Sarah Palin kept her job longer.

    So scratch 2012, which will probably be the backlash to the 2010 backlash anyway: Obama beats Palin in 45 2/3 states. That'll make 2014 the backlash to the backlash to the backlash. The Dreaded Sixth Year Election is almost always hell for any administration of any party. 1958, 1966, 1974, 1986, 2006... only 1998, when Gingrich was overreaching with impeachment, breaks the string.

    Does anyone seriously think that Terry Branstad, at age 68, will run for a sixth term in 2014? Terry's already done his job: Branstad was the only Republican who could beat Bob Vander Plaats, and Vander Plaats was the only Republican who would have lost to Chet Culver.

    (Rod Roberts, Dave Jamison, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Debi Durham -- every Republican in the state who's lost an election gets a Branstad administration job -- except BVP.)

    And does anyone seriously think half-term senator Kim Reynolds can waltz into a gubernatorial nomination without a fight?

    2014 is also a Tom Harkin year. He'll be younger than the just-re-elected Grassley is now, so I say Harkin goes for one more. But the Democrat Iowa Republicans love to hate is not going to get another de facto bye like he did in 2008, not in a Dreaded Sixth Year Election.

    What I'm saying here is that there will be a serious reshuffling of the Iowa GOP deck in 2014 as various players pursue various ambitions. Year three of a one-term administration is a reasonable time frame for a politically ambitious department head to step down and pursue those ambitions. Whether that ambition points the diminutive doctor from Ottumwa toward DC or Des Moines depends on how the next three years goes, but expect to see those three M's on a ballot again in four years. But not in two.

    Wednesday, December 08, 2010

    Party Loyalty Watch

    Party Loyalty Watch

    On the Right, Minnesota Republicans are mad:
    Delegates at the Republican Party State Central Committee on Saturday approved a two-year party ban on 18 high-profile Republicans who supported Independence Party candidate Tom Horner for governor in the November 2010 election.

    The list includes former GOP governors Al Quie and Arne Carlson and former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger, and GOP donor George Pillsbury.
    Donor. Pillsbury. Too easy:

    On the left, Ed Fallon plans big announcements for tomorrow's radio show:
    What I’m about to say would have meant political suicide had I said it while serving as an elected Democrat:

    Thursday, I lay out the twelve-point agenda I expect my political party to champion. Norm, Sue, Jerry, Michael: If you’re reading this e-mail (you always do, and I thank you for that), I’m fed-up with lip service. I want action. And not just a few symbolic gestures, not ridiculously small baby steps. I WANT THE 'CHANGE-WE-CAN-BELIEVE-IN' THING. I WANT IT FOR REAL, AND I’M HARDLY ALONE!

    So, stop whispering sweet nothings in my ear as I stand in the voting booth, one hand holding my pen, the other holding my nose. If the party you’re in charge of doesn’t intend to deliver, just level with me so I can get about the business of finding a new one.
    Insert a Johnson County "Tax! The! Rich!" chant here.

    One guess is that Ed's platform will include the VOICE public campaign finance bill, which even in the post-Citizens United era is still ahead of its time. It's DOA until we can find a soundbite that convinces skeptics that public finance is not " a taxpayer subsidy for politicians." The one campaign finance reform the public would support at present is a ban on spot ads and a strict spending limit, both of which have First Amendment issues.

    True, there's significant support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and presumably address the whole balance of free speech and money in a campaign context. But before we can amend the Constitution, an issue needs a consensus-level critical mass of support, almost impossible in today's hyperpartisanship. As long as the new status quo disproportionately benefits one party, that level of support becomes impossible.

    Tuesday, December 07, 2010

    Profiles in Courage - and Not

    Profiles in Courage - and Not

    I have a vivid memory from a decade or so back when Tom Vilsack was speaking to a bunch of us People's Republic of Johnson County. He said something about raising taxes, implying it would be a Very Bad Thing. But at the words "raises taxes," applause broke out, followed by a spontaneous chant of "Tax-The-Rich! Tax-The-Rich!"

    That's my reality, and we're rather disappointed in our man Obama at the moment. Maybe accepting the Billionaires for Bush (remember them from the 2003-04 cycle?) tax cuts is Part Of The Deal, but if he's making that deal he should be asking for a hell of a lot more than extended unemployment, START and the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell. We should be talking about public option, a stimulus big enough to stimulate, and repeal of not just DADT but DOMA.

    So my President, God bless him, is hardly a contender for a chapter in a hypothetical 21st Century Profile in Courage here.

    The guy who does deserve that chapter is Mike Gronstal. Called a "dictator" by once and future governor Branstad for blocking the marriage inequality amendment, he offered the perfect one line response:

    “Dictators are people that make efforts to take away other people’s rights. I’m not going down that road.”

    Don't get me wrong; I'm just as proud of my Johnson County senators, Bob Dvorsky and Joe Bolkcom, for standing up to Branstad's over the top attack. But they're from the People's Republic. Mike Gronstal's from Council Bluffs, where both House districts in his Senate district just went Republican. He's the only Democratic Senator in Steve King's entire Congressional district.
    Speaking of which, Bleeding Heartland posts this four district congressional map that actually makes sense. Sets up a Boswell-Latham fight (which I think Latham wins), protects Braley and Loebsack, and cedes the west to King. I'd vote for this map, but would Leonard's legislative friends scuttle it? Dirty little secret of Iowa redistricting: Legislators don't decide based on the congressional map that everyone outside the dome is looking at. They look at their own districts, and there's maybe seven people in the state who can comprehend the big picture of the House and Senate map.
    End of tangent. So Gronstal is taking far more risk than Bolkcom or Dvorsky, which makes his leadership on marriage equality all the more significant.

    Monday, December 06, 2010

    Candidates Clash at caucus

    Candidates Clash at caucus

    Regular readers know I like to pick up on references, intended or not, to my favorite band. For example, Friday's DI sports page banner headlined the Iowa-Iowa State wrestling match as CLASH AT CARVER. Would have loved to have seen that, though it's difficult to work around the issue of Joe Strummer being dead and all.

    Today Kathie Obradovich at the Register is at it, too. In a roundup of the State Of The Caucuses, she suggests a theme song for Mitt Romney:

    Who'd have figured the Mitt as a closet Clash fan. Huckabee, maybe, and only if he ignored lyrics. ("Should I Stay Or Should I Go," of course, was one of the Clash's most apolitical songs, and thus non-coincidentally one of their only American hits.)

    Giuliani, of course, actually used the Clash as stage music briefly:

    Apparently Giuliani's energy policy was hooking a generator up to Strummer's body spinning in its grave. Unfortunately Joe was cremated, and Rudy did in fact fail.

    Back to the Register, how many egos are brimming over this morning with the Register's Top 50 list of Republicans to court at caucus time? Who got left off? And what would a Democratic version of this list look like?