Friday, July 29, 2011

Dallas GOP Chair Makes House Run

Dallas County GOP Chair Taylor Makes House Run

The first candidate emerges in brand spanking new Iowa House District 44, as Dallas County GOP chair Rob Taylor announces.

This GOP turf (reg edge of 2700) is one of those "Rural Republicans who got paired, this is where your district went" seats. The old Ralph Watts district which encompassed most of Dallas County literally doubled in population. Watts keeps the western part; this new, no incumbent seat is Waukee plus the Dallas County parts of Clive and West Des Moines.

A Rob Taylor win could expand the House Taylor caucus up to three. Cedar Rapids Democrat Todd looks solid, but Sioux City Republican Jeremy is in a pair-up with Democrat Chris Hall. But Rob may not have this all to himself; a seat this Republican and this high-growth has primary written all over it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Few Clues at County Fair

A Few Clues in County Fair Mock Vote

The Johnson County fair has wrapped up, and with it the annual auditor's office mock election (disclaimer: that's the day job). As always, it's unscientific. Kids and non-locals get to vote (which this year skews one specific result). But my guess is kids' votes generally align with parental leanings, and in the 12 year history of the event I haven't seen a result that deviated dramatically from the general lay of the land or the eventual result.

That said, let's check some numbers. The important number to note isn't Obama outpolling the entire GOP field. That's good for maybe a little bragging, thus I mention it, but this is after all Johnson County, which went 70% Obama in 2008.

The important numbers are within each party.

Barack Obama 234 92%
Uncommitted 20 8%

Or, in caucus results format: Obama, 100 percent of delegates. The uncommitted anti-Obama vote is below the Democrat's 15 percent viability threshold.

On the GOP side the numbers are scattered all over the place... which is probably a pretty accurate assessment. This is the extra-expanded, anyone who might conceivably run ballot. These numbers track fairly close to recent public polling, with one exception.

Michele Bachmann 32 22%
Mitt Romney 24 16%
Ron Paul 16 11%
Sarah Palin 11 7%
Uncommitted 11 7%
Herman Cain 10 7%
Rick Perry 9 6%
Rick Santorum 9 6% *
Newt Gingrich 7 5%
Tim Pawlenty 6 4%
Rudy Giuliani 4 3%
Gary Johnson 3 2%
Buddy Roemer 3 2%
Jon Huntsman 1 1%
Roy Moore 1 1%
Fred Karger 0 0%
Thaddeus McCotter 0 0%

About that asterisk: Rick Santorum was running at zero at 11:00 Thursday morning. (One of the traditions is posting preliminary results during the fair to make things interesting.).

Then about 6:00 that evening a whole bunch of people in matching Rick Santorum t-shirts showed up. Turned out to be Karen Santorum, the candidate's spouse, and all the Santorum kids, who are spending the three weeks before Ames campaigning across the state. (The candidate was at another event in Pella.) So that Santorum total largely represents the all-important immediate family vote.

So aside from that statistical anomaly, we see Bachmann in the lead, Romney winning his silver, Ron Paul with his rock-solid ten percent (well, 11 in this case), Palin ahead of the Platypus, Pawlenty seriously lagging, and Karger and McCotter tied with Kevin Phillips-Bong.

There were also a number of issue questions. The most local-electoral relevant was on the proposed jail, which "won" a narrow 51-49% plurality. "Won" because remember, a bond issue takes 60 percent. I discuss that more in a rant which I may or may not get the nerve to actually post.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

High Risk High Reward for Perry

High Risk High Reward for Perry

Sunday when I ranked the winners and losers in the Ames ballot listing, I gave Rick Perry his own "Uncertain" category:
Having made noise through his "draft" committee about wanting in, he now has to make a strategic decision: The easy route would be to downplay the whole thing. The high risk, high reward strategy: try to prove something with the write-ins. (He would have to get enough to beat Romney.)
Today it appears Team Platypus is taking the No Guts No Glory approach:
A political action committee led by a New York tea-party Republican is running radio advertisements encouraging Iowans to “give Rick Perry a chance.”

David Malpass, chairman of GrowPAC, said he’s asking Iowa voters to write in the Texas governor’s name on the ballots for the Aug.13 Iowa straw poll, “and we want to encourage the governor to run for president.”
I'm a firm believer that there's no such thing as a "draft committee." There's just a politician standing by an open window in front of a fan. But I reiterate my setting of the bar: A "win" for Perry is second ahead of Romney. And I repeat: Lots of write ins means a delay in results.

Debt Fight: Rejecting The Premise of America Itsel

Rejecting the Premise of America Itself

As a specialized state-level blogger I've been micro-focused of late, pouncing on hot legislative campaign announcements while not looking at the big picture economic train wreck we're fast approaching.

It's not that I have no thoughts. Its just that the only thing I learned in four dead end years of grad school was: make an original contribution to the discipline or keep your mouth shut. And in eight plus years of blogging I've learned that my original contributions are my local contributions. I can't compete with the major leaguers, but then again they can't compete with District Of The Day.

That all said, last night on Hardball I heard the most accurate and thought provoking discussion yet of the debt ceiling crisis between Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, and David Corn of Mother Jones. Fineman even joked he should have written it as a column before going on air. The key exchange, slightly edited for clarity:
MATTHEWS: Is it possible what the Republicans are up to here—because I hear this from people around me who are on the progressive side. And you hear it, probably. You‘re on the progressive side. Is it possible that despite all this “We‘re all in this together” talk we like to engage in, and I believe in, that some people on the right are quite willing to see this country get burned in the butt, to really hit by the world market, to really start seeing spiking interest rates, to really see a drop in our bond rating, hellacious stuff, so that they can make their point? They‘re not at all willing to avoid that at the cost of their own ideology.

CORN: I think some people fear that or suspect that. I think the reality is that there are people who don‘t believe in reality and they don‘t want to listen to people in the government or people on Wall Street. "We know better. We tighten our belts when things go bad. The government has to do the same." But I do think there are some—I think Ron Paul said this just today, the past few days—we should default. Default would be good for America. It would put us back on the gold standard, and whatever he believes. So there are people who do believe you‘ve got to burn the village to save the village.

MATTHEWS: I think it‘s part of this flat earth society that doesn‘t believe in science, doesn‘t believe in human history, doesn‘t believe in global climate change—nothing!

FINEMAN: What‘s going on here, as I see it, is a kind of slow-motion secession. This is an ending of the social compact. This is two generations, three generations worth of agreement about Social Security, about Medicare, about the role of the federal government.

The Tea Party people are saying, We want to secede from that society. And the way to do it is to draw the line on spending and taxes, to starve the federal government so that it loses power, so that we aren‘t part of the social compact anymore. And that‘s the real argument that‘s going on.

And the Congress as an institution is incapable of dealing with that kind of fundamental argument, which—given in the entitlement age and the welfare state age, which is why you have the super-committees and super-duper-committees and the smaller and smaller ring of people attempting to decide something.

MATTHEWS: You know what this sounds like? When I spent two years in southern Africa. It sounds like what the whites talked about doing, eventually going into some sort of little circle, like Custer‘s last stand against the United States.

FINEMAN: Well, I wouldn‘t put—I wouldn‘t put a racial tone on it, but I would say that the Congress is not dealing with the fundamental question here. They refuse to do it. And they‘re not dealing with it now because both plans, both the Boehner plan and the Reid plan, don‘t deal with either entitlements or taxes.

MATTHEWS: Who‘s the guy emerging at the top, Republican name year hearing all these days? Rick Perry, who actually does talk about secession, withdrawing from not just the social compact but from the unity of the country and going back into the area where, I‘ll keep my money in the bank. I want lower tax rates. I don‘t want any government...

FINEMAN: Tea Party people would say, and I‘ve, you know, been to their rallies and spoken to a lot of them in Congress and out, that they‘re being driven to this by the overweening role of the government, by the fact the total tax burden, counting state, local and federal, is so high, et cetera, et cetera, that I think it‘s a desire to withdraw from a deal that they think has gotten out of hand, that they can‘t control, even though generations of Republicansas well as Democrats, have benefited from the results of the welfare state.

MATTHEWS: It‘s like withdrawing money from the bank, but it‘s more like withdrawing money from America, saying, I‘m pulling out my investment in America. It‘s home schooling. It‘s all those things people are doing right now to get away.

CORN: We‘re talking about competing visions of society.
I'm not as reminded of late-era apartheid as I am of late period Weimar Germany. The Nazis and the Communists, two parties who did not believe in electoral democracy, controlled more than half of the Reichstag. Since neither could not be absorbed into any pro-democracy coalition, it made government mathematically impossible.

This analogy is NOT meant to cast any of the present players as Hitler, but we all know the story doesn't end well.

A wise friend of mine was once discussing a state election and discussing the young Republican mindset: "You're 22 years old and your whole world view is 'I got mine, screw you'?!? How sad is that?"

In the speech that propelled him to national fame, State Senator Barack Obama said:
Alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga.

A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief — I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper — that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one.
This fight is about nothing less than the rejection of that premise.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dems Have Senate 4 Candidate

Democrat Bob Jennings announces in Open Senate District 4

Democrats have recruited a candidate with strong community ties in empty Senate District 4.

Bob Jennings of Algona sports a good profile for a sprawling small town and rural north Iowa district with five whole counties (Emmett, Kossuth, Winnebago, Hancock and Wright):
Jennings, 50, is information director for Algona Municipal Utilities and is a former news director for KLGA radio in Algona.

He is on the Iowa Lakes Community College board of trustees and is a former president of the Algona Chamber of Commerce.
Is that enough to overcome a GOP registration edge of 2700? Well, some of this turf was Jack Kibbie's for a very long time. The rest of it belonged to Republicans Merlin Bartz and Rob Bacon last map. All three of them got paired up in other directions, with Kibbie retiring and the other two not yet announced.

The Republicans have one announced candidate, Tea partier Dennis Guth, who should being a lot of comic relief to the race. But the likely, not yet announced, Republican candidate is Stewart Iverson, who was part of the triple-up in the House District 8 half of this district (now just a double-up with Linda Upmeyer moving out). WRONG!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Winners and Losers in Ames Ballot

Winners and Losers in Ames Ballot Decision

Once again, the Republican Party of Iowa shows off its internal divisions in public, with yesterday's vote on who's on, who's off the ballot for the August 13 Ames straw poll. Several 5-5 tie votes broken by chair Matt Strawn. with another five members already committed to candidates and abstaining. (That in itself is an issue in GOP circles.)

But the decision nevertheless is made, so let's look at the winners and losers.


Michele Bachmann: The decision excluded exactly the people who would have hurt her (Palin and Perry) while including the people who make no difference to her support but will take votes from others (Huntsman, Romney, Gingrich).

Mitt Romney: Last cycle he wasted tons of money on a "win" that turned out to be worthless, since the big story was Mike Huckabee's second place. This way, Mitt gets to do nothing, and any votes he gets are just gravy. Watch carefully for a subtle stealth effort at the last minute, as he tries for an "out of nowhere" (ha!) second, or as he is so fond of saying, silver. But be warned, Mitt: straw poll voters have a history of punishing candidates who don't play.

Sarah Palin: Doesn't have to prove anything, which plays perfectly into her keep them guessing strategy, whether she's runnin' in 2012 or gonna be the white Oprah.

Ron Paul: Has rock-solid support and rabid intensity on his side. Dividing the non-Paul electorate between eight other candidates rather than five moves him up a notch or two in the finishing order. He also gains five or six votes (total) from the exclusion of Gary Johnson.


Jon Huntsman: So he finishes ninth. That hurts him... how? And he doesn't have enough support in Iowa that including him takes votes away from anyone else. Listing Huntsman is a Screw You back at the Screw Iowa candidate.

Newt Gingrich: Let's face it, Newt didn't bid on a space because he's broke. (He prefers spending his money on chartered jets.) At this point he's just running so he can get invited to debates and plug his books. He gets a seat at the table based on his former stature as speaker.


Rick Perry: Having made noise through his "draft" committee about wanting in, he now has to make a strategic decision: The easy route would be to downplay the whole thing. The high risk, high reward strategy: try to prove something with the write-ins. (He would have to get enough to beat Romney.)


Short version: All Paying Customers Other Than Bachmann and Paul. Details:

Herman Cain: He's staked a lot on Ames, in part because he can give the best speech of the six Paying Customers, and he made the loudest noise about wanting to exclude the others. So he's already lost something even before votes are cast.

Tim Pawlenty: Needs a win or a strong second to Bachmann, and the inclusion of fellow "grown-ups" Romney and to a much lesser extent Huntsman costs him votes.

Any Paying Customers Who Finish Behind Newt Gingrich or Write-In: Thaddeus McCotter gets the Duncan Hunter prize for who?!? this cycle. Rick Santorum, despite a handful of endorsements, can't overcome the shame of losing his Senate seat by 20 points, and has seen his niche in the field eclipsed by Bachmann. He's the odds on favorite for the Tommy Thompson Trophy: most likely to quit the morning after.

Gary Johnson, Fred Karger, Roy Moore, Buddy Roemer: Officially declared fringe candidates. Of these Johnson is hurt the most, as a former governor of relatively recent standing. (As opposed to Buddy "Lost A Primary To David Duke" Roemer.) This probably costs Johnson some debate invites. Fred Karger will make a fuss.

The people counting the ballots: Someone will have to tabulate those write-ins. Expect this to delay the results.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Same Candidate, Different Opponent

Same Candidate, Different Opponent

Here's one way redistricting reshuffles the deck: A 2010 Democratic challenger is running again, but this time against a different Republican incumbent.

Mark Seidl, last seen challenging Renee Schulte in 2010, is redrawn into new House District 67 and will challenge House Speaker Kraig Paulsen.
“I am disappointed in the leadership Kraig Paulsen provided during the last session of the Legislature,” said Seidl. “After promising to focus on creating jobs and improving the Iowa economy, Paulsen led House Republicans in pursuit of extreme policies that neither represent the view of most Iowans nor help to move our state forward.”

“I am running because we have to put an end to the ideology and bickering that have made it impossible for government to get its job done. While our schools, which used to be the best in the nation, are suffering funding cuts and our universities are increasingly out of financial reach for the children of working Iowans, our State is sitting on a billion dollars in surplus funds. This money should be invested in our children, who are our future. The men most responsible for the government's failure to make that investment are Terry Branstad and Kraig Paulsen. To make this a government of, by, and for the people again, we need to start by replacing the Speaker of the House, who is responsible for this failure to invest in our children, and that's Kraig Paulsen."
Seidl was a highly touted House challenger in 2010. It was one of the few districts where Democrats looked like they were going to play offense, after Schulte knocked off first-term Dem Art Staed by just 13 votes in 2008. (Last week Staed announced he will challenge Schulte again next year.) But there was too much defense to play any offense, and Seidl fell about 1100 votes short.

The new district has some convoluted lines, but all of them follow city limits; the northern part of the Cedar Rapids metro area was the scene of an annexation war this past decade. The district includes all or part of four cities: Hiawatha, Robins, north Cedar Rapids, and northwest Marion.

Paulsen's old district was a swing seat, with a slim Democratic edge, and he had relatively close races his first three terms. This new seat gives him an 1100 edge in Republican registration. He avoided opposition in 2010.

Seidl's announcement makes him the third Linn County Democratic challenger already announced at this early date. In addition to Staed, Daniel Lundby has announced against GOP incumbent Nick Wagner in Marion-based House 68.

Recycled Milk Cartons : The Law of 14 in 2012

Recycled Milk Cartons : The Law of 14 in 2012

When I was growing up in the era of three TV stations, summer was rerun season. And political cycles have a season-like symmetry. So I'll dust off one of my pet pieces from four years ago and give it an update.

In 2003, writing in Reason, Jonathan Rausch proposed the "Law of 14":
With only one exception since the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, no one has been elected president who took more than 14 years to climb from his first major elective office to election as either president or vice president.

Rausch defines "major office" as a Congressional seat, governor, or big city mayor. "The rule is a maximum, not a minimum. Generals and other famous personages can go straight to the top. But if a politician first runs for some other major office, the 14-year clock starts ticking."

Foreign service officers and the higher ranks of the military have "up or out" rules: you either get promoted in a certain time frame or you're done. Maybe that's an unwritten political rule as well. Four years ago, Joe Biden was touting his "ears of experience," but they turned out to be cartons of milk that had long since expired.

The Rule of 14 doesn't keep you from getting nominated, it just keeps you from getting elected. Look first at the elected presidents (each milk carton is two years):

PresidentFirst Major OfficeYearShelf life
Bush 43Governor19946
Bush 41House196614 (to VP)
NixonHouse19466 (to VP)
JohnsonHouse193723 (to VP)
TrumanSenator193410 (to VP)
CoolidgeGovernor19182 (to VP)
T. RooseveltGovernor18982 (to VP)

(In a variation on Rausch's rule, I included cabinet posts for Taft and Hoover. Their first elected office was the Presidency. Either way they're under 14.)

Even the one exception reinforces the rule. LBJ lost the 1960 nomination to fresher face JFK, then got the vice presidency as a consolation prize because they needed to win Texas really, really bad.

Where's Gerald Ford on our roll call? The Rule of 14 is about getting elected president, not about becoming president. So Ford's on the list of losers.

LoserFirst Major OfficeYearShelf life
MondaleSenate196412 (to VP)
FordHouse194827 (to VP)
HumphreySenate194816 (to VP)
Mayor194519 (to VP)

How does this play out for the 2012 GOP field, announced and potential? We've got two never-electeds, Herman Cain and Fred Karger.  Rausch would probably exclude Alabama Supreme Court as a "major" office, but if you want to count it, Roy Moore won that election in 2000. Most of the leading contenders are in the 6 to 12 year range (though Thaddeus McCotter is kind of a ringer in that group.)

CandidateFirst Major OfficeYearShelf life
PalinGovernor20066½ ½ ½

Despite his relatively young age (53), Rick Santorum has been around forever, winning his first of two house terms in 1990 before moving to the Senate in 1994. Buddy Roemer hasn't won an election since 1987, when he was a Democrat. And for all the anti-government rhetoric, Ron Paul has been on the political scene longer than any of them. His three non-consecutive stints in the House date back to a 1976 special election win.

The question of how to count Rick Perry is a test of the theory. He was first elected governor in 2002, but he became governor in late 2000 when he took over for Bush 43. If you date his freshness from when he became governor, this is his last shot and he's stale by 2016.