Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One of the C's is for Counterproductive

One of the C's is for Counterproductive

I'm what my friends on the left (the REAL left) would dismiss as an "electoralist." I believe the most effective means to making the most positive changes is through contesting and winning elections. And I believe that, with all due respect to organized labor and the civil rights movement, the most effective organization for progressive change in the past 80 years has been the Democratic Party.

But that election vs. "direct action" tension is out there, and I seem to have hit a nerve the last couple days with my thoughts on Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (a/k/a CCI).

CCI's MO is to show up at events and make "demands." (It's a drinking game in newsrooms across Iowa: every time a CCI press release uses the word "demand," do a shot.) Usually they make "demands" of Republicans with whom they 100% disagree, but often they do the same to Democrats with whom they 80% agree.

"Making demands" often means drowning out speakers, generally with the trite chant trifecta: "Hey hey, ho ho, somethingsomething's got to go," "What do we want? Somethingsomething! When do we want it? Now!" and "This is what democracy looks like."

It's in direct conflict with my own style. I go to Republican events, make it very clear I'm a lefty blogger (the beret is a bit of a giveaway), actually engage people in conversation, LISTEN to the speeches, and report what they said.

And that can be enough. The ultimate gotcha moment was then-Sen. George Allen's "macaca" comment. It wasn't prompted by a protester. It was an unforced error captured by a silent tracker from Allen's Democratic opponent, who simply recorded the event.

The CCI style is nails on a chalkboard to me, and I've been baiting them the last few weeks. The catalyst for the latest round was a recent Chuck Grassley town hall in Carroll. Douglas Burns, for my money the finest small market journalist in the state and one of the best in the state period, was at the event:
Not content to interrupt and hurl insults at the senator during the public forum, the mob that is Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) crowded Grassley, 77, in the hallway, blocking his entrance to a post-event media interview, and later, used physicality to prevent his clear passage from New Hope to a car.

It was shameful, hateful and, most of all, dangerous.

And CCI spent Monday night bragging about the disruptive behavior — the stuff of chaos not King — on the Internet in email blasts, claiming a “crash” of the Carroll town hall in which they made “demands” of the senator, a venerable public servant and exceedingly decent man.
The self-congratulatory tone is as much a part of the CCI style as the "demands."
“Grassley avoided directly answering our questions and when we confronted him after the meeting ended, he left as quickly as he could,” said Kenn Bowen, a CCI member from Winterset.

“He definitely heard our ‘put people first’ message loud and clear.”
So he HEARD you. Well goody for you. What did that change?

"Well, uh, ya know, I've been a staunch corporate conservative throughout my, uh, five decades in public office," said Grassley, "but after a dozen hippies yelled at me in, uh, Carroll, I've, um, seen the light and am now going to vote the way Bernie Sanders does."

As the great military leader Sherman T. Potter once said, mule muffins. You don't change Chuck Grassley's vote by making "demands." (Drink!) You change Chuck Grassley's vote by beating Chuck Grassley.

So... the phone banks were jam packed last fall with CCI members making calls for Roxanne Conlin, right? Right? (chirp... chirp... chirp...) Riiiiiight. Because you don't get on TV making GOTV calls. You get on TV by "making demands." (Drink!) They probably thought Roxanne was "too corporate" anyway because she has earned some personal wealth, even though she grew up dirt poor and even though she sued Bill Gates and won.

I've gotten some patronizing responses on this from CCI folks:
"I'd like to educate you on issue organizing vs. electoral/partisan organizing, and also organizational structures and what organizations are allowed to do based on their tax status. "
Seems I need educatin.' Gotta got to SCHOOL. No, I don't need no education. I get the difference and I'm not interested in the CCI brand of "issue organizing." I'm interested in winning elections.

"I'm sorry you feel alienated by holding our elected officials accountable." Hey, I've been holding Chuck Grassley accountable since you were in kindergarten. Do the names Jean Lloyd-Jones, Dave Osterberg and Art Small mean anything to you? You win some, you lose some, and THAT is what democracy looks like.

But CCI likes to draw a false equivalence between oppositional Republicans and imperfect Democrats, which ultimately hurts the progressive cause. Just the day after their big coup at the state fair, goading Mitt Romney into his "corporations are people" comment, they were right back "making demands" (drink!) of Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Now, I've got an issue or two with Debbie Wasserman Schultz: she was 100% down with her state, Florida, breaking the rules of the nomination process last cycle and getting away with it. But by and large she's a solid spokesperson for liberal causes with a good voting record. Should a progressive organization tar her with the same brush as Mitt Romney? No way. And should they be dealing with even their harshest opponents by shouting them down? Absolutely not. It stinks when the Tea Party does it, it stinks when you guys do it too.

Even the Iowa Democratic Party, allies on many issues, felt compelled to condemn the tactics:
The behavior of Iowa CCI is unproductive, embarrassing, and has no place in a serious debate. Yes, we should be working to protect Social Security, doing everything to keep our air and water clean, and ask our elected officials tough questions. Unfortunately, this group has become less focused on results and more focused on creating chaos that gets their name in the paper.

Iowa CCI is doing a disservice to the state, to true progressive values, and to their members who signed up to make a difference and change our state for the better. Instead of bragging about ‘crashing’ a town hall, designed to give citizens a forum to discuss their concerns, they could be educating Iowans about what’s really at stake and actually make a difference.
There's absolutely a place for vocal protest, even civil disobedience, in our political culture. But CCI, while presenting themselves as spiritual heirs to the 1960s, doesn't have the dignity of the civil rights movement or the genuine mass support of the anti-war movement. What do we want? To be on the news! When do we want it? Now!

So one of the C's in CCI is for "counterproductive." You can decide what the other C and the I are for, but remember that "idiot" is now unconstitutional in Iowa.

Grassley All In For Grandson

Grassley All In For Grandson

From a reader, this flyer is of great interest. Note location:

Thursday, September 1st
from 4:30PM–6:00PM
for a reception with special guest U.S. SENATOR CHUCK GRASSLEY

$1000 Host
$500 Sponsor
$250 Partner
$100 Supporter

Make Checks Payable to:
Citizens for Pat Grassley
30601 Deer Trail Drive
New Hartford, IA 50660

Republican Party of Iowa
621 East 9th Street
Des Moines, IA
Not so remarkable except, as anyone who reads this blog knows, Grassley the Younger is one of two GOP incumbents in House District 50, and both are staying and running.

One would think, or hope, that RPI might make the HQ available if Annette Sweeney's grandpa wants to host an event, but the key here is: Grandpa Grassley is all in for what should be the hottest legislative primary since Dave Mulder knocked off Ken Veenstra in 2004.

Cityview's Civic Skinny looked at this race last week and noted: "Chuck Grassley, who is worth somewhere between $2 million and $6 million, has never contributed anything to his grandson — or, for that matter, to any other candidate for state office in recent years."

But making things more interesting, it turns out Sweeney has friends in high places too: "(Bruce) Rastetter and Sweeney have known each other since they were young. He gave Sweeney $500 last September and another $500 when she ran two years earlier."

Sounds like an intense surrogate war, and Terry Branstad will have to be really crafty if he wants to stay out of it...

For all the fans of yesterday morning's post, here's a firsthand account of CCI's tantrum in Carroll.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Iowa City Set For A Primary

Iowa City Set For A Primary

For the tenth straight city election cycle, it looks like Iowa City is having a primary.

Long-announced at large candidate Josh Eklow filed his papers today, becoming the fifth official candidate in the at large race. Assuming no one drops out, that means a primary October 11 with the top four advancing to November 8.

The last city election year Iowa City avoided a primary was 1991, and there was an extra election that fall anyway (an Iowa City school district bond). More ancient history here.

The last two primaries, in 2007 and 2009, were low turnout affairs to eliminate one candidate, and 2005 was similar (six names on the ballot but one guy had dropped out after the dropout deadline). So the last city primary with a big field of candidates was 2003. That was also the only time an incumbent, Irv Pfab in the District C race, lost a primary.

If I was rewriting a city charter, this wouldn't be my number one change, but one advantage to a runoff over a primary is that in a field with a prohibitive favorite who could win an outright majority in round one, you could save the cost of the second election. But then again, Rick Dobyns ran first in the 2005 primary but lost in November, so maybe the primary does have its advantages.

Everyone seems to love my post from this morning but since I touched on about five issues I can't tell which part gets the love. Have to assume it's "da Bears still suck" part.

Burning more bridges

Burning more bridges

Ya know, some days I wake up and I'm not even sure I'm considered a "progressive" in this town any more.

Oh, sure,I still want me some Troops Home Now and some Socialized Medicine. But for me, "progressive" always meant a freedom-loving libertarian streak, and given a choice between 1) a self-appointed do-gooder doctor who knows what's best for people in spite of their own wishes, and who occasionally shows up at a Democratic party fundraiser, and 2) a cantankerous politically incorrect business owner, I'll go with the Captain:
Soboroff said Iowa City essentially has handed over its streets to the University of Iowa by relying on campus police to patrol downtown and Melrose Avenue on gamedays. Soboroff, a critic of the city's recent 21-only bar entry ordinance, said the council has created an unwelcoming atmosphere for students and visitors because of the increased UI police enforcement in the wake of the new law.
And when I see a couple of dudes getting busted for holding a quarter ounce, I think that local law enforcement has more than enough resources and it makes me all the more determined to vote NO next year to a "justice center." (What the hell is a "justice center"?!? A place for Superman and the Super Friends to hang out?) You want your new jail? Make the Iowa City cops and Campus Security Knock. It. Off. I don't CARE that "it's the law." It's a bad law.

And when Iowa CCI does another self-congratulatory press release for yelling at Chuck Grassley at a town hall, I feel like doing a shot every time they use the word "Demands":
“Grassley avoided directly answering our questions and when we confronted him after the meeting ended, he left as quickly as he could,” said Kenn Bowen, a CCI member from Winterset.

“He definitely heard our ‘put people first’ message loud and clear.”
So he HEARD you. Good for you. What did that change?

"Well, uh, I've been a staunch corporate conservative throughout my five decades in public office," said Grassley, "but after a dozen hippies yelled at me in Carroll, I've, um, seen the light and am now going to vote the way Bernie Sanders does."

As the great military leader Sherman T. Potter once said, mule muffins. You don't change Chuck Grassley's vote by making "demands." (Drink!) You change Chuck Grassley's vote by beating Chuck Grassley.

So the phone banks were jam packed last fall with CCI members making calls for Roxanne Conlin, right? Right? (chirp... chirp... chirp...) Riiiiiight. Because you don't get on TV making GOTV calls. You get on TV by chanting "Hey Hey, Ho Ho, and When Do We Want It, Now!" They probably thought Roxanne was "too corporate" anyway because she has earned some personal wealth, even though she grew up dirt poor and even though she sued Bill Gates and won.

So who else can I alienate? Oh, yeah. Da Bears still suck.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Locals Only Part 2

Locals Only Part 2

When we left off yesterday I was praying for someone, anyone,to run against Rick Dobyns, and Captain Steve Soboroff has answered my prayers. The KCJJ morning man's variation of the gonzo campaign may not be my version of the gonzo campaign, but it's better that the in loco parentis revisited of Doc Dobyns.

It's a second campaign for both Soboroff and Dobyns, who have both lost at large races. Soboroff got through the primary in 2003 and finished last in November, though he did have a pocket of strength on the southeast side. Dobyns was leading the field in the 2005 primary, but finished third for two seats in November, narrowly losing to Mike O'Donnell.

And as expected, Mark McCallum filed in the at large race. He wound up 172 votes short of Connie Champion in the `09 District B race.

So that's four at large; one more and it's a primary.

As for the school board, the P-C did follow up with candidate statements from the two candidates for the two year seat: my choice Karla Cook and Julie Van Dyke.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Locals Only

Locals only

No valleys:

This ten candidate five winner two different contests Iowa City school board race can be a bit overwhelming for the info-seeking voter. There is of course my piece with brief bios and party IDs.

Now this weekend, the Press-Citizen offers candidate statements for the eight at large candidates (but, oddly, not for two year contenders Karla Cook and Julie Van Dyke; those coming later?) Remember, you can vote for four but you don't have to vote for that many.

My picks so far:

  • Patti Fields
  • Marla Swesey
  • Jim Tate

    The rest of the field:

  • Jeff Alden
  • Phil Hemingway
  • Sally Hoelscher
  • Jeff McGinness
  • Bob Porter

    Read these soon; the P-C tends to archive their articles after a week.

    And the Gazette has the first and so far only piece on the Kirkwood bond issue.

    The Iowa City (and UHeights) filing deadline is next Thursday and Iowa City is keeping a candidate list.

    We're still in need of some candidates, particularly ones willing to run on my Gonzo Platform. Add the parking meter crackdown to the moped crackdown, the don't beg in front of my jewelry store crackdown, and of course The Big One, and Iowa City is getting pretty sanitized these days. No wonder the weekend MegaBus is adding more routes; people have to get out of town for something to do.

    But so far we have three in the at large race. Mayor Matt Hayek is the only one running for re-election; his folks asked me to help. I did in 2007 but told them no this time. We also have northsider Richard Finley, and backyard chicken advocate Jarrett Mitchell. Still left to check in: Mark McCallum, who came very close to knocking off Connie Champion in the `09 District B race, and Josh Eklow.

    In District C, I actually have someone I'm excited about voting for: Jim Throgmorton. A couple other names are being mentioned here but no one else has filed. In another screwy aspect of Iowa City's screwy district system, it's way harder to get on the ballot in a district seat this year than at large. That's because the signatures are a percentage of the last time the seat was up. The at large seats were up in record low turnout 2009 but the district seats were elected in record high turnout 2007. AND you have to get those district seat signatures IN the district.

    That said: PLEASE, lord, SOMEone else file in District A; I don't want to have to figure out who to write in against Rick Dobyns.
  • Saturday, August 27, 2011

    Loebsack, Willems at Dvorsky Birthday Party

    Loebsack, Willems at Dvorsky Birthday Party

    Bob Dvorsky's annual birthday party fundraiser marked its silver anniversary Friday night with announced guest Nate Willems and drop-in guest Dave Loebsack.

    "I hate to play a defensive game, and that's what I've been doing in Washington since January," said Loebsack of his first term in the House minority. "I'd rather be taking the initiative."

    Willems, a Lisbon state representative running in new Senate District 48, which on Map Day had a voter registration margin of plus one Democrat, noted Loebsack's recent move. "I know Dave and Terry moved to Iowa City, but I had a couple friends move back to Anamosa, so I'm still at plus one Democrat."

    Sue Dvorsky said Loebsack is doing what he needs to do in his new counties. "If you go to a Hy-Vee in Scott County, you can't turn around in the produce department without running into Congressman Loebsack.

    "This event is always special," Sue Dvorsky said of her dual role as Senate spouse and Iowa Democratic Party chair, "but now I'm lucky enough to do this in 99 counties."

    "The election of 2012 is the completion of what the election of 2008 was," said the ever-energetic chair.

    Redistricting keeps Bob Dvorsky with his Coralville and Solon base, but Senate District 37 adds new turf to the east in Cedar County plus the city of Wilton in Muscatine. He's next set to run in 2014.

    And of course it wouldn't be a Dvorsky birthday party without this gal. More pix at what turned into two Facebook albums.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    Bly Announces in House 76

    Bly Announces in House 76

    Democrats have another House recruit, this time in a must-win empty swing seat. Grinnell city council member Rachel Bly has announced in House 76.

    Bly won her first council term in 2009. She has a ward seat, so she's only been elected out of the southwest quarter of the city (campus is the northeast). But that's still some name ID in the district's biggest city.

    A complete Poweshiek County akes up 60% of the turf. Grinnell was the scene of epic legislative battles last decade. Democrat Eric Palmer and Republican Danny Carroll fought three straight contests; Carroll won the first in 2004, Palmer knocked him off in 2006 and thwarted the 2008 comeback. But in 2010 the wave swept out Palmer and replaced him with Guy Vander Linden.

    The old Carroll-Palmer-Vander Linden district was in a Poweshiek-Mahaska format. Both Palmer and Vander Linden are from Mahaska, and this announcement likely means Osky-based Palmer won't be moving. Vander Linden is staying put to the south and running; his pair-up problem was resolved when Pella's Jim Van Engelenhoeven retired. Carroll was Grinnell-based, but got his votes in Mahaska.

    About 40% of the seat is the bigger part of Iowa County: Williamsburg, North English, Victor, and most of the Amanas. Johnson County Dems take note: this one's literally an across the road neighbor. You can doorknock Williamsburg and shop at the outlet mall after. Swingy turf, but way friendlier for a Democrat than Oskaloosa.

    The Iowa County part was represented by Keokuk County based Betty De Boef, who's paired up with Jarad Klein and hasn't announced plans other than NOT primarying Klein.

    Overall the seat had a Map Day Democratic registration edge of 217, so right on the edge. Your move next, GOP.

    Pataki. Pataki?!?

    Pataki. Pataki?!?

    Why? Because as Flavor of the Week Rick Perry is already wearing thin?

    Speaking of flavor, it's been 18 years since Pataki knocked off Mario Cuomo. In 2000 he might have been a strong contender, or in Alternate Universe 2004 against President Gore. But in 2012 Pataki is sour milk.

    Nate Silver graphs it out in four dimensions -- you have to see it, the man is a genius -- and illustrates that while there is room for yet someone else in the field, the niche is not where Pataki is located. Indeed, his tiny circle of potential support falls entirely in the Mitt Zone. He's Mitt without Obamneycare and without the deal-breaker for the fundamentalists of the Mormon Church.

    And Newt already has the I Love The 90s niche locked up.

    No, Pataki is not the saviour the Bill Buckley crowd is praying for:
    The problem, in shorthand: To many conservative elites, Rick Perry is a dope, Michele Bachmann is a joke and Mitt Romney is a fraud.
    And Huntsman is unacceptable to the base; Kevin Hall at TheIowaRepublican rips the Former Obama Administration Ambassador several new ones in a must-read.

    As I see it, the GOP has two possible strategies forward:

    1964, where they turn the party over to the crazies for a cycle so they can say Told Ya So in four years.

    Or, and this is my bet, 1996. They punt on the presidency and throw everything into the down-ballot races.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    Democrat Bomgaars Running in House 2

    Democrat Bomgaars Running in House 2

    Iowa House Democrats seem to have recruited another solid candidate for a GOP-leaning district, as Spencer city council member Steve Bomgaars has announced in empty House District 2.

    But you have to look close to tell: Bomgaars seems to be playing down party ID in this district with 1152 more Republicans than Democrats. The original Spencer Daily Reporter piece that looks press-release based doesn't even include the D word.
    "After serving over seven years on the city council, I have seen what can be accomplished when leaders and the community come together," Bomgaars said. "We need a similar approach to state government -- moving forward by finding common ground and steering away from the divisive rhetoric so prevalent today."
    Party ID only surfaces in a second Daily Reporter piece from the local Democratic picnic. Both articles emphasize a no "special interest" money pledge so labor PACs, put away those checkbooks.

    Bomgaars comes from a background teaching American government, about as Mr. Smith Goes To Des Moines as you can get. Here's hoping Bomgaars gave out lots of A's to students who stuck around Spencer. One of his former students is a potential opponent, ex-Steve King intern and law student Megan Hess.

    This empty seat is all of Clay and Palo Alto, with the southern third of Dickinson thrown in. It's made out of pieces of Okoboji Republican Jeff Smith and Estherville Democrat John Wittneben's old seats. House 2 is a Republican seat, true. But it's a veritable People's Republic compared to other northwest Iowa seats. Jack Kibbie's base is in Palo Alto, and Marcy Frevert lasted a long time before she retired and handed off to Wittneben last year.

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Two Candidates In The Time Machine

    Two Candidates In The Time Machine

    Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman can BOTH get elected this cycle... provided they can get the 1.21 jigawatts and the speedometer up to 88.

    For Huntsman, it's The Future:
    The Huntsman strategy here is obvious: position himself as the moderate and reasonable guy on the off chance Republicans decide to be moderate and reasonable. We must assume he is aware that his odds on this are rather long, so what he’s really hoping for is to be the consensus candidate of 2016. Maybe the party just has to go through this purge, this Reign of Terror; so just let it do that, and once it does and nominates an extremist who can’t beat a weak incumbent during a time of 9 percent unemployment rates, and the heads are piled high enough in the tumbrels and enough people finally have returned to their senses, he will ride the Thermidorian wave to victory after Obama leaves town.
    The I Told You So strategy. Nixon used it in `64 and it worked in `68. One catch in the theory: if Romney is nominated and loses, does religion get blamed and used against Huntsman in `16? It was 32 years between Al Smith and JFK. And if the GOP does win (shudder) Huntsman's screwed like all the Democrats who though HW couldn't lose and waited for 1996.

    For Bachmann, it's Back:
    In brief, my theory is this: Michele Bachmann is traveling backwards through time.

    Now, before you get all dismissive, I’ll ask you to examine the facts. It’s certainly true that as seen from the perspective of a person for whom the normal universe’s past is her future, the spectre of the Soviet Union looms large. In the coming decades they will confound the west by removing nuclear weapons faster than we do, extract warheads from Cuba despite our protests, pull out of Eastern Europe and unsuccessfully invade Afghanistan (that last one looks the same in both directions). They will shamelessly copy our pursuits in the space race – we put a man in orbit, they’ll put a man in orbit – and they will be at least 50% responsible for creating Nazi Germany by withdrawing from Central Europe. This menace will persist for the better part of a century, at which point a royal family will appear from nowhere and squelch this accursed Revolution of the People. I can’t blame Michele Bachmann for wanting to warn America about this looming threat which lies only a few short decades behind us.

    But if Bachmann does contact Doc Brown, she can use the DeLorean to get to her events on time.
    Three of her four public events in the past two days were outdoor rallies in mid-90s midday heat. She was at least half an hour late to each, and audience members invariably began drifting away in search of shade before she was finished speaking. In Mt. Pleasant (SC), at least one person in the audience passed out from the heat.
    Especially important in Iowa; remember Rudy Giuliani getting to events on New York Fashionably Late time?

    There may not be any flux capacitors involved but we finally found science Rick Perry believes in:
    Over the course of that year, the eggheads, as they were known within the campaign, ran experiments testing the effectiveness of all the things that political consultants do reflexively and we take for granted: candidate appearances, TV ads, robocalls, direct mail. These were basically the political world’s version of randomized drug trials, which had been used by academics but never from within a large-scale partisan campaign.

    The findings from those 2006 tests dramatically changed how Carney prioritized the candidate’s time and the campaign’s money when Perry sought reelection again in 2010 and will inform the way he runs for president now.
    But no science is gonna get Perry that Steve King Endorsement.

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    Great Scott! A Primary?

    Great Scott! A Primary?

    The QCTimes notes what I had a couple weeks back: Senator Jim Hahn, R-Muscatine, IS staying put and running in Senate 46. Most folks, including me, had this pegged as a Hahn retirement from about Map Day forward.

    The article says this means "setting up a likely Republican primary against his colleague, Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck," and is centered around this assumption. But it also notes "Hamerlinck left himself some wiggle room Friday, when he said he hadn’t guaranteed he’ll run in the district, but added, 'It’s my intention that I will.'"

    Stop, Hammer Time, or, Stop Hammer Time!

    Hamerlinck already goes home to a different home than he did when elected. He was on the Davenport city council when he knocked off Frank Wood in 2008. And some of his old turf is in Senate 49, the only empty odd-number seat in the state. (Odd seats normally vote on the gubernatorial cycle. But if he moved in, Hamerlinck would have to run for a two year term since the 2008 term expires.)

    One complication with that move: Andrew Naeve, who lost to Democrat Tod Bowman by just 71 votes last year, has already announced (and he didn't file for re-election to his school board seat). So Hamerlinck could get a primary either way.

    And this wave just keeps rippling upstream: Bowman, whose Maquoketa home is drawn out of Clinton-based Senate 49, is paired up with Dubuque County's Tom Hancock. But note this item: "State Rep. Chuck Isenhart, D-Dubuque, and state Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, will hold a public hearing Monday in Dubuque to get additional input in advance of the recommendations to transform Iowa’s education system."

    In Dubuque. Well north of Bowman's old lines. That's telling me Bowman stays and runs in the Jackson-rural Dubuque Senate 29, which wraps around the Dubuque city limits. That points to a Hancock retirement...

    I started this post out with two Republicans and ended up with two Democrats. So let's assume there IS a Hahn-Hamerlinck primary. It'd be the second confirmed two incumbent primary in the state, joining the sure to be epic Pat Grassley-Annette Sweeney House battle. And it's be on even terms: exactly half the district is Muscatine County, exactly half is Scott. That kind of contest usually comes down to friends and neighbors and which half has higher turnout. Things like an interesting primary for a courthouse job could make the difference.

    Also noted, and much less interesting, in Scott County: Rep. Linda Miller announces for re-election in Bettendorf's House 94. She knocked off incumbent Joe Hutter twice in 2006: first in the primary, then again when he ran independent in the general. Miller hasn't had an opponent since.

    And in Cedar Rapids, Renee Schulte takes time off the Romney campaign -- yes, Iowans, there IS a Romney campaign -- to announce for her own re-election in HD66. The Dem she knocked off in `08, Art Staed, has already announced; Bleeding Heartland has a good look.

    Here's some long reads that don't fit anywhere else:

  • Craig Robinson smacks down the pizza guy: "Herman Cain has a book due out in October. One has to wonder if his presidential bid is more about selling books than becoming the GOP nominee." Hey, when does Newt publish again?

  • As would-be GOP saviour the Platypus is turning out to be just Texas tea, the background on why the Bushes and Rick Perry are on the outs.

  • Let Obama Be Obama vs. Let Obama be Harry Truman.

  • And my favorite dream of the week: "If America truly is serious about dealing with its deficit problems, there's a fairly simple solution. But you're probably not going to like it: Enact a single-payer health care plan." Who said I wasn't going to like it?
  • Friday, August 19, 2011

    Phillips Considering House 77?

    Royce Phillips Considering House 77 run?

    Tiffin mayor Royce Phillips tells his Facebook friends he "is getting requests to run for the Iowa Statehouse in a new open district." That would be a GOP bid in House 77, where Democratic county supervisor Sally Stutsman has already announced.

    "Now I am getting calls from state representatives to do it," Phillips added.

    Phillips knocked off a long time incumbent in 2007 to win the non-partisan mayor's post. Before that, he had lost a school board bid. Stutsman has won five straight terms as a county-wide supervisor but lost a legislative bid on very different turf in 2000.

    The new turf, which mostly belonged to Democrats Dave Jacoby and Nate Willems and Republican Jarad Klein last map, wraps around the west end of Johnson County, from Shueyville to Lone Tree. Tiffin is the district's second largest city and doubled in population to just under 2000 last decade. High-growth North Liberty is about 40% of the district, which has a Democratic registration edge of 2500.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Ankeny Again

    Ankeny Again: Name Surfaces in House 37

    Yesterday I noted that state rep Kevin Koester (R-Ankeny) is running for re-election in House 38, the southern Ankeny district, and noted that vacant House 37, the north part of town, is a stronger GOP seat.

    A reader gets me up to speed and points me to the website of Stacey Rogers, a recent UI law grad last seen clerking for Senator Mark "Chickenman" Chelgren.

    Pour yourself a big hot cup of tea and peruse the site, which emphasizes "Supporting Voter ID at the Ames Straw Poll" (the candidate is wearing a Bachmann shirt), her work at "the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, one of the conservative/libertarian think tanks now suing to repeal Obamacare," and her endorsement from Tea Party Kommandant Ryan Rhodes. I'll give her this: Rogers is clear about where she's coming from.

    The This Is Where Your District Went district has a solid but not insurmountable GOP registration edge of about 2300 (compared to the slight Democratic tilt of Koester's District 38). With a good candidate and a good year, the right Democrat could pull it off. Does another Republican get in and play the electability card? Does that even matter in a Republican primary anymore?

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Koester stays put

    Koester stays put, announces in House 38

    The comforts of home seem to have outweighed the prospects of redder turf for two-term state rep Kevin Koester. The Ankeny Republican has announced for re-election in House District 38, where he currently lives.

    Koester is all alone in House 38, but there was a temptation next door: open House District 37, also known to my readers as the This Is Where Your District Went district.

    Ankeny grew from 27,000 in the 2000 census to 45,000 in 2010, and for the first time was split into two House seats. The north district, 37, is solidly Republican, but the south seat, 38, is a swing seat with a slight Democratic tilt.

    Koester tried for a move-up in January when the Ankeny based Senate seat opened up. But in a rare rebuke to a just re-elected legislator, he was one of the first candidates eliminated at a multi-candidate party nominating convention. (Jack Whitver won that and the election.) So there may be primary vulnerability, which an opportunistic move wouldn't help. Staying in the tougher district may thus have been the smarter choice. Or it may be as simple as not wanting to move.

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Perry Packs The Hamburg

    Perry Packs The Hamburg

    One thing's for sure: on Day Three of his campaign, Rick Perry is a big draw.

    Hamburg inn wait staff said people began showing up at 1:30 for an event that was first billed as 3:45 p.m., then 3:30, and by the time I arrived "sometime after 3." I didn't manage to get inside until after the Texas governor had departed on the Platybus, but Panther colorfully described indoor conditions as: "it's butt to butt in there."

    This is what democracy looks like: what the inside of the Hamburg Inn looked like from the outside

    The crowd was likely the biggest for an event at the north side diner and political landmark since a 2007 John Edwards event. Edwards never actually set foot inside, but instead spoke to the crowd from the campaign bus.

    Perry did not speak; before his arrival a staffer told me the vent was just a meet and greet. Still, that disappointed a few folks in the crowd: supporters, curious Republicans, lefty protesters, and all manner of local and national press. "I was kind of hoping he'd get up and say something," said Panther. Nevertheless, he was snapping pictures, introduced some of his staff to Perry, and just generally seemed proud of his establishment's tradition.

    Event organizers carefully lined up supporters at the doors for a nice TV backdrop for Perry, as protesters shouted questions. "Are you going to end Social Security? Are you going to end Social Security?" one older gentleman shouted repeatedly, waving a sign and literally shaking with rage. Across the street, another group managed to work in the Hey Hey Ho Ho chant and the This Is What Democracy Looks Like chant, but failed to complete the trifecta with When Do We Want It? Now!

    I didn't get close enough to try for a question - mine was going to be more inside basebally about reaching out to Pawlenty supporters - but I did get close enough to hear that Texas drawl (flashback?): "How y'all doin? Glad y'all could make it."

    The advance staff had the kind of faux Secret Service vibe that the 2007 Romney and Giuliani campaigns tried to project: earpieces, coded pins, sending a message of This Is A Very Important Man. At least one serious looking guy was Iowa State Patrol plainclothes. Perry campaign staff had been on the ground about five days before the event, and Panther said that was when he was contacted, about five days ago.

    Waiting outside, the "discussion" between late arriving Republicans who couldn't squeeze in and picketers (both traditional lefties and Ron Paul folks) got heated occasionally, but no trips to Fist City.

    All in all, probably a good media hit for Perry, and it looked like everyone who really wanted a handshake or autograph and was willing to work a little for it got one. But if he's back, I'm sure the local GOP and press corps would appreciate a little speech and a little Q and A.

    Bachmann Repeating Hillary's Mistakes

    Bachmann Repeating Hillary's Mistakes?

    While Iowa City waits for Rick Perry's Hamburg Inn appearance this afternoon, Politico offers a must-read on the face-off between the Platypus and Michele Bachmann yesterday in Waterloo, saying Perry emerged as a clear winner:
    Perry arrived early, as did former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The Texas governor let a media throng grow and dissolve before working his way across the room to sit at table after table, shake hand after hand, pose for photographs and listen politely to a windy Abraham Lincoln impersonator, paying respect to a state that expects candidates, no matter their fame, to be accessible.

    But Bachmann campaigned like a celebrity. And the event highlighted the brittle, presidential-style cocoon that has become her campaign’s signature: a routine of late entries, unexplained absences, quick exits, sharp-elbowed handlers with matching lapel pins, and pre-selected questioners.
    I wasn't there yesterday, but it's eerily familiar:
    The Clinton campaign, in contrast, ran a cautious general election campaign in the ultimate retail environment. But like 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 analogy isn't perfect, of course. Clinton was supremely qualified for the big job, and has served with distinction as secretary of state. But the same tone-deafness to the caucuses, right down to the planted questions, is there.

    Yes, we Iowans are spoiled. But if you are going to make a serious caucus run, you can't just show up and give the speech. You have to shake every hand, pose for every picture, and allow every question, even when the questioner is obviously a looney tune. (You have to have a staffer who can gently lead you away from such people.) You have to have a rebuttal ready for the disruptive protester. (And this is bipartisan, as some groups don't distinguish between a hostile Republican and an imperfect Democrat. I saw Bob Kerrey get chased out of the state back in 1991 by pointed questions from the left.)

    And you have to keep doing it, event after event. Bachmann has the skill set, I've seen it. But she can't abandon the one on one stuff just because she won one straw poll and switch into what Hillary Clinton called "general election mode." She has to shake the same hands a third and fourth time and fifth. Caucus-goers see it as a birthright. The old joke is that a national reporter asks a caucus veteran if they're voting for so and so and the Iowan replies: "I don't know. I've only met him three times." The punchline is: this isn't a joke.

    Whether or not he knows it, Rick Perry is taking a big risk coming to the People's Republic on Day Three of his campaign. But we'll see how he handles it. As for Bachmann, it's not too late for her to adapt... but she'll need to.

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    Pawlenty Quitting

    Pawlenty Quitting

    Just breaking that Tpaw will announce today that he's dropping out of the presidential race. Obviously yesterday's weak third in the straw poll, with Bachmann first and Ron Paul nearly tied, was not just disappointing, it was fatal.

    In the old days of brokered conventions, Tim Pawlenty might have won the big prize: acceptable to pretty much everyone in the party, offensive to few. He didn't hurt himself enough to knock himself out of the VP mix. And in a nomination system where Powers That Be still exerted significant influence, he may have had a chance.

    But in an atmosphere that values style over substance, and in a party that values gridlock over governing, he didn't have a prayer. The debate scraps between Pawlenty and Bachmann just three days ago are a microcosm of his entire fate. Bachmann pointed to all the "fights" she's fought -- no debt ceiling this, no light bulb mandates that. Pawlenty noted she hadn't actually WON any of these fights. The Republican Party responded with a collective "So what?"

    So who does this help? No one a whole lot, because I don't see an en masse move to one candidate. The question is more: Who does this NOT help?

    It doesn't help Romney. He and TPaw were competing for much of the same "grownup" niche, and I'm thinking anyone who was with a struggling TPaw instead of nominal national frontrunner Romney has already rejected Mitt for whatever reason: Obamneycare (that word may be TPaw's lasting contribution to this race) or, without saying so, his religion.

    It doesn't help Bachmann or Paul, who are running on explicitly different messages. I suspect TPaw's people share the ex-candidate's disdain for Bachmann. Paul's success depends entirely on maximizing turnout in his Peace and Gold niche. The straw poll, with its emphasis on intense commitment, may have already done that.

    Herman Cain is already dead, he just doesn't know it yet. Huntsman's not playing, and who knows what the hell Thad McCotter is doing. Maybe a handful of folks gravitate to Newt, but not many.

    So that leaves the Ricks. Santorum got just enough support at just the right time to stay alive. And as I consider it, the core case for him and Pawlenty has some similarities: experience, ability to win on tough turf, solid conservative record on social issues.

    Of course, Santorum emphasized those social issues more, and I think that accounted for much of his surprisingly strong 10% yesterday. (Bachmann, who got into politics on that cluster of issues in the first place, should have owned that vote.) As for electoral success, Santorum has the albatross of losing his senate seat by 20 points. He has an answer for that -- it was an annus horriblis for Republicans -- but Pawlenty managed to keep his job that year.

    And so did Rick Perry, though it was with just 39% in a bizarre four way race. Perry has been a polarizer within his party the last half decade: In 2006 Carole Keeton Strayhorn dropped a primary challenge to run independent and win 18%, and last year sitting Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison challenged him. (Both women. Interesting implication vis a vis Bachmann.)

    The Platypus enters the race with TPaw's 13% of the straw poll vote and a decent organization shaken loose from the moorings this Sunday morning. This list of 29 county chairs may be populated with Some Dudes, but at least 10 legislators were on board. Pawlenty's body may not be cold yet, but that's a good list of phone calls for the Ricks to be making ASAP.

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Notes from the Non-Credentialed 2

    Notes from the Non-Credentialed 2

    Voting's been done 45 minutes, still on standby.

    At 4:53 we hear 17,000 votes. So how long wil the write ins take? Chuck Todd tays there's "lots."

    Steve King again does the Yay Caucuses bit, and there's a hint he's none to pleased with the Platypus for stepping on the straw poll. Grassley talks, my big takeaway is he told Mitt he needs to get out here.

    Hearing a "soon" on results, though not an official Five Minute Warning, at 5:33.

    OK, show time at 5:41.4823/

    16,892, votes. Winner = Bachmann. And that's all we get. I thought they were counting down, So THAT's how they dealt with the write ins.

    5:47 we get the numbers. Paul damn near tied. TPaw distrant third.

    Bachmann 4823 28.7%
    Paul 4671 27.8
    Pawlenty 2293 13.7
    Santorum 1657 9.9
    Cain 1456 8.7
    Romney 567 3.3
    Gingrich 385 2.3
    Huntsman 69 0.4
    McCotter 35 0.2

    That leaves 936 total write ins

    Paul can claim de facto tie (and does)
    TPaw at poor third = trouble
    Santorum can survive 4th
    Cain is finished
    Write in total = even if all for Perry, not a big win
    Mitt and Huntsman = Iowa Republicans punish those who don't play.
    Newt and McCotter are on their own trips so won't quit. But McCotter joins Roemer and Gary Johnson as officially fringe. McCotter bails sometime close to Michigan filing deadline for re-election.

    Now they say Perry 718 write ins and that I had the total vote right the first time. Not gonna recalculate the percentages, they don't change much....

    That also means only about 200 other write ins. How did they count Parry?

    OK, here's the latest at 6:10

    1. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (4823, 28.55%)
    2. Congressman Ron Paul (4671, 27.65%)
    3. Governor Tim Pawlenty (2293, 13.57%)
    4. Senator Rick Santorum (1657, 9.81%)
    5. Herman Cain(1456, 8.62%)
    6. Governor Rick Perry (718, 3.62%) write-in
    7. Governor Mitt Romney (567, 3.36%)
    8. Speaker Newt Gingrich (385, 2.28%)
    9. Governor Jon Huntsman (69, 0.41%)
    10. Congressman Thad McCotter (35, 0.21%)
    Scattering (162, 0.96 %) Includes all those receiving votes at less than one-percent that were not on the ballot.

    So they're not releasing anything else? Palin under 1% at best...

    Chuck Todd with Santorum. Rick claiming third "of those who could win Iowa," continuing the debate feud with Ron Paul. Chuck asks him if he's getting into the PA Senate race.

    Funny to see Wasserman Schultz here in Iowa, considering how much of a caucus bashing, Florida leapfrog lover she was in 2008. And still is; Chuck says Dems need something like Ames and DWS makes sure to say it should be in Florida.

    Notes from the Non-Credentialed

    Notes from the Non-Credentialed

    No, I'm not there. Got turned down for press credentials. SCored a ticket but decided it wasn't worth the full day just to write in Barack Obama and see if they counted it.

    We're in media split screen mode at Rick Perry gives his announcement speech. Damn, he sounds exactly like W. I still have him pegged as the Fred Thompson of 2011. Does the post-speech analysis step on Santorum's speech?

    No, they cut back to Ames and we get Branstad, basching "Brock" Obama. Of course, the speeches aren't the story. The cattle call moment with all on stage... except where's TPaw? The moment is brief and MSNBC interviews Obradovich through whole thing.

    12:46. Santorum on stage but MSNBC still with Mitt story. Here's my bets:

    1 Bachmann
    2 Paul
    3 TPAW
    4 Santorum

    Rick has wife and 5 of the 7 kids on stage with him. The finally cut to him. Sounds like the stump speech I heard last week. "I will not back down on the sanctity of life or the integrity of the American family. America is a moral enterprise." Still hustling for that BVP endorsement. (Speaking of which, that mass email from Chuck Hurley was an annoying tease: "We endorse..." "the people of Iowa!"

    Santorum complains again about debate time and goes into the Little Engine That Could riff.

    "Obamacare is the single greatest threat..." uses again the Maggie Thatcher quote about never being able to reverse UK direction because of National Health. Soon after that MSNBC cuts away.

    I finally find CSPAN, all they way up on channel 97, and Santorum is citing his lengthy anti-choice bona fides and wraps at 1:00 straight up. Rally music is some country rock track I don't recognize, and Matt Strawn intros Kim Reynolds.

    Strawn has spun the GOP closing the party reg gap to the MSNBC dude, presumably not mentioning that most of that is from their divisive 2010 primary.

    Network cuts to Ron Paul already in progress, talking more about abortion than he usually does, for several minutes. He must figure he's got his people already, trying to reach some of the others. "You cannot be pro liberty without being pro-life, as I understand it." But he's working taxes = theft and "undeclared unwinnable wars" and the Patriot Act too. "We cannot defend liberty without by taking liberty away." Claque: Ron! Paul! Ron! Paul!

    MSNBC with a talking head, back to CSPAN. He's on to the Fed... will we hear the G word? YES! GOLD! EVERYBODY DRINK!

    "It's time. to bring. the troops. home." Loud shouts from the claque. Basically the standard Ron PAul Speech, but delivered well. Paul wraps, they show a Strong America Now vid, MSNBC goes back to discussing the Platypus.

    Back at CSPAN I find myself agreeing with... STEVE KING?!? He's praising Iowa First, so yeah, I can work with you on that Steve. But soom he's back to his usual stuff so I'm on the other side and all is right with the universe again.

    TPaw gets introduces with a fast cut video followed by musuc that sounds like a movie soundtrack. Leads with Ronnie Good, Obama Bad. Then into some numbered outline points. He's hitting all the right points, but making the mistake of calling Obama "Mr. President" which may be nails on chalkboard to this crowd. There's not much time left and we're at least 80% Obama-bash. OK, now on to his case: "I don't just talk about it, I get the job done." (Take that Bachmann) "No individual mandates (take that Mitt) "Results, not just talk, is what America needs now."

    "We need to not just preach to the choir... I got elected and re-elected in one of the most difficult states for a Republican." Comes out if favor of apple pie and gets some U-S-A! chants. More generic country rock for stage music. While Grassley speaks, the networks show Paul and Santorum highlights.

    Bachmann hits stage after a video hagiography and to some remixed Elvis. She leads with a lot of We Are Going To Do It Together And Take It Back! Sounds kind of shouty to me. ONE! TERM! PRESIDENT! DRINK! Playing the I'm An Iowan card again. "Everything I Needed To Konw I Learened In Iowa!" (Again: she left when she was 12.) Some social issues -- but then back to Iowa Iowa Iowa. At least the Sullivan Brothers actually were from Waterloo.

    This is definitely not a policy-specific speech. She's gonna march her folks over to the voting, to the tune of, yes, Elvis doing Chuck Berry's "Promised Land." (That's late, Vegas-era Elvis.) Seems like a sizable crew leaving the front of the stage before Tom Latham talks. Not much memorable there, and he looks dull compared to Bachmann...

    But he rocks like ELvis compared to our next guest. Yes, it's McCotter time! Several polite applause line, but nothing brings the house down. Speech pattern has improved a bit since last week. No one packed in front of stage; this may be Eat Time or Vote Time. Anyone who finishes below this guy is toast.

    Talking heads are Huntsman This and Romney that and Perry The Other as the Herman Cain intro video rolls. Unlike Thad, he has a claque of supporters down front. They're actually 15 minutes AHEAD of schedule; Herman wasn't due on till 3:15 and it's only 3. This IS a policy detail speech but the tl;dr version is Cut Taxes.

    Did he just say we got a "funky foreign policy"? Tear the rook off the sucka! A couple of the people up front are in TPaw shirts.

    Speeches wrap at 3:11, Strawn says voting done at 4. Back at MSNBC, pundits still talk Perry.

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Debate livetweets

    I inadvertently livetweeted the whole debate:

    Why is Mitt taking a shot at Ron Paul? What possible gain?

    Newt: I used to be someone important

    TPaw gets better of Mitt's lawn

    Who will try to top Santorum by actually proposing negative taxes?

    Bachmann seething with not liking TPaw, feeling seems mutual

    MB doubles down on TPaw=Obama

    That Herman Cain alliance oughta net Mitt 1 or 2%, but please go back to the all Bachmann-TPaw format

    Wallace: Your campaign sucks. Newt: You suck.

    Huntsman: Where am I? Idaho? Ohio?

    Wallace: Are you an idiot? Cain: In what respect, Charlie?

    Cain: I have learned more, and i should have this down in 8 years

    Huntsman proposes Great Border Wall of China

    Cain: My statements are a joke. Deeth: I'm with ya there.

    Cain: America as gated community?

    Newt, who calls Obama "food stamp president," bashes Obama for making attacks

    Ron Paul seems to have loudest claque

    Fox: You raised taxes. Mitt: I don't believe in raising taxes and didn't raise taxes, and it doesn't count because it's Massachusetts

    TPaw: It doesn't count because it's Minnesota

    Bachmann: It doesn't count because it's Minnesota

    Yay, another TPaw Bachmann fight! what if the fetuses were smoking untaxed cigarettes?

    TPaw looking defensive, gets all double negative. (Legislators can be "Pure" executive have to govern)

    Santorum: I'm still here

    All hands go up for Grover Norquist.

    Newt: I used to be important

    TPaw gets a do-over on Obamneycare. Mitt's face: why is this guy on my stage?

    The do-over is still too nice, Mitt makes a joke of it and goes Tenther. And it doesn't count because it's Massachusetts

    Ron Paul backed into a corner of free market vs state's rights, gets applause from claque anyway

    Santorum getting noticably desperate for time, says Jeezus trumps 10th

    No one on stage is as comic relief crazy as Mike Gravel. Or Am I just so numbed by the hard right drift that it doesn't SEEM as crazy?

    Most embarrassing potty break of Bachmann's life


    Huntsman: Yup, still here.

    And of course the Palin Question goes to Bachmann

    Newt: Rudy Giuliani used to be someone important

    Praising the troops gets TPaw an easy applause line

    Wonder what neo-Con(federate) Rick Parry will say about "wars of independence for another nation"? Yee-haw. perhaps?

    Newt thinks debate is against moderators

    Huntsman just itching for a DOS attack from Anonymous

    Where's Herman: off making a delivery? I said extra cheese!

    TPaw has this down: gets applause first for Troops Good, now for Israel Good. Soon to come out in favor of baseball

    Santorum vs. Ron Paul: that's an interesting fight... wish they had let it go on.

    Cain: what I really meant was

    Fox makes a Ron Paul drug joke. Should have invited Gary Johnson

    Did *Rick Santorum* just say "tramples the rights of gays"?!? Oh, just in Iran.

    Ron Paul is in the same party as these folks?!?

    Newt: Godwins Law Fail

    Cain: What I really meant was

    Bachmann should have prepped a better answer for "submissive" question. Could have homered, gets a single

    Mitt tries to talk about gay marriage without saying anything. Runs out of stuff to say and has to commit.

    Huntsman takes high road on civil unions, loses votes

    Santorum probably jumping up and down: Me next! Me Next!

    I haven't heard Ron Paul say GOLD all night

    Santorum really working for that BVP endorsement

    Mitt: If I say enough, it buries my answer

    Huntsman: 中國哲學書電子化計劃

    Morrie Taylor was much more entertaining than Herman Cain

    Newt tries to ride Paul's Sound Money train

    SANTORUM gets the gold question? Paul: Me next! Me Next!

    Santorum calls Paul "mostly wrong"

    in honor of debate I'm drinking tea

    Huntsman: Repeal No Child Left behind. Applause from 2007 Democrats

    Closing statements: Santorum namechecks Grassley, complains about time

    Paul: GOLD! Drink!

    Bachmann: ONE... TERM... PRESIDENT!

    All candidates come out in favor of I Love America. SO there's room on the other side of that issue

    Most candidates shake hands with crowd, Paul and Santorum continue debating each other

    Whose Fault are Mitt's Hecklers?

    Whose Fault are Mitt's Hecklers?

    Mitt Romney got goaded into saying "corporations are people" today, a line which could come in handy for Democrats if he manages to get nominated because it's his turn.

    But that wasn't the headline on the Kathie Obradovich piece. Instead, the focus was:
    Romney’s question-and-answer session after the speech was interrupted by crowd members who shouted questions about raising taxes on the wealthy for Social Security. The heckling was more sustained and organized than I’ve seen at the soapbox before.
    I'm not naming the group, though Obradovich does, because I don't want to give them the attention. But you know them: they're incapable of issuing a press release that doesn't include the word "DEMAND." Hey Hey, Ho Ho, somethingsomething's got to go. And When De We Want It? NOW!

    Obradovich describes them as "known for confrontational politics." You know, stuff like challenging the lieutenant governor at a party convention for being, quoting here, "too corporate" rather than offering a challenge to a governor who could have legitemately been vulnerable to one.

    Hey, didn't I see you down at headquarters making get out the vote calls? Didn't think so. Because you don't get on TV - as I'm writing they just played the clip on "Hardball" - for making get out the vote calls.

    My parents, 70something retired teachers, are my barometer of pure independent voters. And they live in one of the two Wisconsin state senate districts that flipped from red to blue this week. Two nuggets of dad's wisdom are relevant here.

    Nugget 1: "I used to believe that trickle down stuff. But now I see they're not letting any of it trickle down." On the substance of the issues, hecklers, you're winning the independents. Republican extremism is turning people like my parents into solid blue votes.

    But your rhetorical style is putting them off. Nugget 2: "I don't like extremists on either side about anything." Chanting "Wall Street Greed" at Mitt Romney may feel good, and it's definitely accurate. But the 2, 4, 6, 8, Organize And Smash The State rhetorical flair -- and remember, I voted for Ralph Nader once -- is counterproductive. And Team Mitt was quick with a reply. From the inbox:
    Campaigns are defined by moments.

    Today, Mitt Romney had one of those defining moments while on the "Soapbox" at the Iowa State Fair when he was confronted by liberal hecklers.

    Mitt said, "I am not going to raise taxes. And if you want someone who's going to raise taxes, you can vote for Barack Obama."
    Thanks, guys. Glad you could help.

    I suggest taking the cues from this winter's Battle of Madison. There was enough protesting and building occupation to warm the heart of anyone who favors... let's see if I can channel my twentysomething self... direct action over electoralism. But the voices carrying the messages were Regular Joes and Regular Janes, using the language of work and family rather than faux-revolutionary sloganeering. The peer to peer communication changed more minds and almost flipped the Wisconsin Senate, one door at a time.

    Then again, the media needs to look in the mirror. If the hecklers hadn't gotten up in Mitt's face, would their viewpoint have gotten a mention?

    UPDATE: tons of media attention. Lesson learned: to get coverage, act like a jerk. I have no patience for it on either side.

    Thursday's Tab Clear-out

    Thursday's Tab Clear-out

    I'm Ames info-overloaded to the point that the browser is slowing down from the sheer number of open tabs. Here's the highlights:

    First Rick Parry steps on the straw poll, now we have Sarah Palin doing it too. At least the Platypus is actually doing something; Palin is just engaging in her usual self-indulgent pot-stirring. The real losers there are the second-tier contenders who just lost their TV cameras for their Friday event.

    Speaking of the second tier, I'd long been betting that Rick Santorum was the candidate most likely to vanish Sunday morning. I'm revising that; The Frothy Mix has an appeal to exactly to sort of social issue folks who'll walk on hot coals for an event like Ames. And pretty much no one else.

    My new bet: make that pizza to go, Herman. You may not be last, but Newt and McCotter are pretty much on their own trips and not likely to be deterred by a bad result. They're Duncan Hunters, not Tommy Thompsons, and Cain's Flavor Of The Month, May Edition raised the expectations bar a little too high. (Is Bachmann The Real Deal or Flavor Of The Month, July Edition?)

    It's debate night and here's a handy checklist. While you wait, the Ryan Lizza New Yorker Bachmann profile is a must-read. If you're in a hurry, the tl;dr version.

    And after this weekend, look for caucus date warfare to heat up...

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Ames Speaking Order Hurts Cain

    Ames Speaking Order Hurts Cain, Helps Traffic

    The Republican Party of Iowa has released the speaking schedule for Saturday's straw poll in Ames:
    Noon- Program Begins
    12:15- Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn
    12:20- Terry Branstad
    12:30- The big picture of all candidates on stage
    12:40- Rick Santorum
    1:00- Kim Reynolds
    1:15- Ron Paul
    1:40- Steve King
    1:50- Tim Pawlenty
    2:10- Chuck Grassley
    2:20- Michele Bachmann
    2:40- Tom Latham
    2:50- Thaddeus McCotter
    3:15- Herman Cain
    Question: Who does this help or hurt among the tiny handful of people who are going to invest an entire day without a rock solid commitment to a candidate?

    Answer 1: Hurts Herman Cain. The guy who's likely to give the best speech goes last, after a sizable number of folks have voted and after the deadly, hall clearing drone of Thaddeus McCotter. Plus, attendees have just a half hour to cast ballots after Cain's done.

    Answer 2: It helps traffic. The candidate who is likely to have the most die-hard, my guy or nobody else, not even interested in hearing the others supporters is Ron Paul. And he's done speaking 2 1/2 hours before voting closes. Expect a sizable exodus from the hall right around 1:30. (No, I don't think Steve King can hold them.) It's a dynamic I saw at the 2007 Harkin Steak Fry, where a good-sized I'm Only Here For Hillary contingent walked out during poor Chris Dodd's speech.

    (Speaking of the Steak Fry, Team Tom announced this AM that the speaker at the September 18 event is political strategist Paul Begala.)

    The other speakers who seem to have organizational structure and significant endorsements - Santorum, TPaw and Bachmann - are also front-loaded, so a fair share of the crowd may be headed home before the results are announced.

    And I can't say this enough - be prepared for delays in that announcement, especially with the Colbert Super-PAC pushing for a "Rick Parry" write-in. (You seriously think some candidate on the bubble won't challenge that and demand it's not added to the Texan's totals?)

    Rayhons running for re-election

    Rayhons running for re-election

    Here's one no one figured would happen on Map Day: the guy left standing in the state's only tripled-up legislative district is... Henry Rayhons?!?

    The 75 year old Republican legislator has announced for re-election in House District 8.

    That seems to complete the musical chairs in the district, which includes all of Hancock and Wright counties and part of Kossuth and has a comfortable GOP edge. House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer has announced her move to House District 54.

    The third Republican representative, Stew Iverson, has not announced his plans but is universally assumed to be running in open Senate District 4. Two other SD04 candidates have announced: Democrat Bob Jennings and tea partyish Republican Dennis Guth.

    Another legislative announcement: GOP freshman Josh Byrnes is running for a second term in House District 51, which changes a lot and has just a narrow GOP edge. Byrnes won an open seat when Democrat Mark Kuhn stepped down.

    Aside on Wisconsin: Taking two seats from the other party ain't a "loss."

    Monday, August 08, 2011

    The 2011 Caucuses

    The 2011 Caucuses

    The Republican National Committee has declined to slap any serious sanctions on the rulebreaking states that aren't honoring the calendar agreed to by both parties. The end result could be no Iowa caucuses in 2012.

    That's right, no Iowa Caucuses in 2012... because they'd be in 2011. Follow the bouncing elephant as I stroll through the calendar.

    Both parties have agreed on the same rules. Four states go in February: us, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina. No one else goes before "Super" Tuesday, March 6.

    That's turning out to be less super than it was last cycle, notes McKay Coppins at Daily Beast: "Assuming the current dates hold, next year’s Super Tuesday will include just nine primaries, down from 24 in 2008."

    Some of that is just budget cuts, as states that paid for a separate early presidential primary in 2008 are moving it back to the traditional state and local primary date. But some of it is political maneuvering in both parties.

    Last cycle the troublemakers were the Michigan Democrats and the Florida Republicans. Carl Levin and his claque of caucus haters, who don't care who's first as long as Iowa and New Hampshire aren't, have been quiet as President Obama goes uncontested for the nomination. (It's already too late to start a credible challenge.)

    But the Florida GOP is at it again, with the slogan "We Want To Be Fifth," after South Carolina but before not so Super Tuesday.

    They were looking at a non-traditional non-Tuesday date such as Saturday, March 3 or Tuesday, March 1. In March, after the four recognized early states... heck, I could even live with that minor bit of leapfrogging.

    But enter Arizona. The legislature has given Governor Jan Brewer, famous for the Papers Please SB1070 anti-immigrant law, sole authority to move the date. Arizona Republicans want more influence on the nomination than they did last cycle, when their senior senator was the nominee, presumably so we can argue more about just how high the border wall should be and whether it should be electrified, a mine field, or a moat with frickin' sharks with frickin' "laser" beams on their heads. Steve King, you're really missing an opportunity here.

    Brewer is fixated on January 31. That of course is a week before our Official We Really Mean It Date of February 6. But we're not even close to talking about US yet. In honor of Keith Olbermann, let's do a Top Five Countdown: "WHICH of these states will you be voting in tomorrow?"

    The only way Iowa stays in calendar 2012 is if Florida is still willing to go with a non-standard date and if South Carolina and Nevada are each satisfied with less than a week to themselves.

    Let's say Arizona goes on Tuesday 1/31 and Florida insists on We Want To Be Fifth. If they're still willing to do a non-standard date, that's either Saturday the 28th or maybe Thursday the 26th.

    THAT assumes South Carolina, the Official fourth state for both parties, is satisfied with just a two or four day lead over much larger Florida. For now assume they are, and pencil them in for January 24.

    Number three on the countdown is Nevada. There's much less tradition there than there is in the other three official early states. They were slotted in by the Democrats just last cycle because they wanted a western, Hispanic-influence state. Frankly, New Mexico had a better case, and they probably would have done a better job than Nevada. Two words describe the 2008 Nevada caucuses, and the first one is cluster.

    But New Mexico was off the list because Bill Richardson was running. Shoulda took that left toin at Alba-koi-kee, Bill. And Nevada won't mean much this time as it's assumed to be in the bag for Mitt. So Nevada should be satisfied with a three lead time over South Carolina. Saturday the 21st in Vegas, baby.

    But New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner isn't satisfied with a short lead time. He will insist on a full week before the next state, and last cycle he considered Nevada's caucus process, with its absentee "super-precincts" designed for casino shift workers, too much like an election.

    That's why we don't have absentee voting at the caucuses. Officially because party rules don't allow "proxy voting," but really because Bill Gardner thinks that makes a caucus an election. And it would; the caucuses would be one big year-long absentee ballot drive.

    So, New Hampshire on Tuesday, January 10 then.

    Now, finally -- rather, initially -- is Iowa. State law, passed back in the Dave Nagle era when we and New Hampshire were still pals, says we go eight days before anyone else, and New Hampshire law says they're seven days before any other primary. (Dumb question: what if 48 other states pass the same law?) Of course, last cycle we broke that law to stay within the calendar year on Thursday, January 3.

    This year, if all these puzzle pieces fit together, we can juuuust make it eight days before New Hampshire.... on Monday, January 2.

    But if any one of these dominoes fall - if Jan Brewer gets January 24 into her addled brain or if Florida or South Carolina insists on a full week to themselves or if Bill Gardner issues Tuesday, January 3 as a preemptive strike... then we're not just into 2007, we're two weeks into 2007, because no one is going to schedule a caucus for the day after Christmas.

    Monday, December 19. How many churches and school gyms and community centers are already booked for holiday concerts and events that won't budge on short notice when the Pole Bean County Republican chair calls in a panic wanting to schedule the room? How many parents are having to choose between that concert and their candidate? How many college students are either cramming for finals or done with them and out of town? How many frazzled families are frantically finishing the shopping?

    The only person who could possibly be happy about any of this is Carl Levin.

    Merry Christmas? How about Happy Thanksgiving?

    Saturday, August 06, 2011

    That Left Turn at Albuquerque

    That Left Toin at Alba-koi-kee

    Talk about slow on the uptake: I just got a joke I first heard maybe 40 years ago. And it was old when I first heard it.

    One of my favorite non-political blogs is Twelve Mile Circle, a site devoted to geographic oddities. This week a post was devoted to locales mentioned in the Warner Brothers cartoons, leading off with one of Bugs Bunny's secondary catch phrases:

    The line was first used in the 1945 short "Herr Meets Hare" (in which we also see foreshadowing of Chuck Jones' masterpiece, "What's Opera Doc.") Bugs' directional failure in New Mexico lands him in Nazi Germany, where he of course gets the best of Hitler and Goering.

    Reading that post fired a cereal-encrusted synapse from my pre-adolescent brain which connected with repeated viewings of Cars and the renumbering of the Highway To Hell, US Route 666 and a cartoon light bulb went off over my head.

    Always the same direction, always the same city. The Left Toin at Alba-koi-kee must have had a basis in real life. It was probably rooted in the glory days when Route 66 was the main drag from the Midwest to the West Coast -- the same era when Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and Mel Blanc were working their genius.

    And so it was. I can't find a direct reference but there's powerful circumstantial evidence:

    "Route 66 is clearly shown following the course of Central Avenue. After passing downtown, the road angles slightly to the right, paralleling the river. Just after the Albuquerque Country Club (depicted rather prominently), it makes a left turn to approach the crossing of the Rio Grande."

    Central Avenue was US 66 and Rio Grande Boulevard was New Mexico 194. It's no longer the Mother Road; just like Radiator Springs it was bypassed by Interstate 40. But it's still a busy city corner.

    Westbound wabbits on 66 would have to take the left turn at Albuquerque to stay on course to California. A more instinctive right turn from the right lane would send you north on 194.

    Adding to the confusion was a major change in the route in 1937, not far from here. Before that year Route 66 entered Albuquerque from Santa Fe to the north along 4th Street, about a mile east of the Left Toin. After `37, Route 66 came into Albuquerque from the east. And here is the political connection: "According to legend the rerouting was done at the behest of Democratic Governor Arthur T. Hannett to punish the Republican Santa Fe Ring which had long dominated New Mexico out of Santa Fe."

    This junction must have been infamous among 1940s and 1950s era southern Californians. How many weary cross-country travelers, low on rationed wartime gas, came across that confusing Y shaped intersection, veered right onto Rio Grande, and wound up headed northeast toward Santa Fe? Were there any animators among them? Their love of inside jokes points to yes. And after that first time, it was a popular punch line, made all the funnier by Bugs' mispronunciation in his Brooklyn-Bronx voice.

    Aerial view of Old Town, 1960s
    The Left Toin as seen in the 1960s. Doesn't look too confusing from the air, but probably more difficult at street level.

    It seems obvious for a bunch of reasons, most of all the animator's loving depiction of the highways of the desert Southwest, as seen in the epic chases of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. It's a legacy recently revisited in the adventures of Lightning McQueen and Mater. (And, may they rust in piece, Doc Hudson and Fillmore.)

    Of course, since Bugs generally traveled by tunneling underground rather than surface routes, I may be wrong.

    Friday, August 05, 2011

    Legislative Updates from Tiffin

    Who Cares About Presidential Politics? I Need District Of The Day Updates!

    In addition to the four presidential candidates, several GOP legislators were on hand at the multi-county fundraiser in Tiffin. As Iowa's worst case of OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Districts - I discussed The Map with a few:

  • Rep. Jarad Klein of Keota says of his pair-up with Betty De Boef: "I think Betty's made it pretty clear she isn't interested in running for the House seat." That would leave Klein as the only incumbent in the House District 78 race.

    As for De Boef, Klein says, "Whatever else she does is up to her." The Rumor Mill says De Boef may be interested in taking on Democratic Senator Tom Rielly in Senate District 40. That would require a move on her part, but it would be a move back toward her original turf (she moved east from Mahaska to Keokuk County after getting paired in `01.) And it would be a move into very GOP friendly turf. Rielly is number two on the GOP Senate target list, right below Mike Gronstal.

  • Muscatine's Jim Hahn says he will be running for re-election in 2012 in Senate District 46, but hasn't discussed plans with his new district mate, Shawn Hamerlinck, since shortly after the map came out. Hahn did note that Hamerlinck's home is close to the line. (Is a move in the making? Will Hamerlinck "go home" to a new home?)

  • Senator Tim Kapucian of Keystone isn't paired up in Senate District 38, but noted that two-thirds of his turf is new. He believes his strong agricultural background will serve him well with his new voters.

  • Also on hand was Lee County Supervisor Larry Kruse, newly minted candidate in Senate District 42. Kruse may be the last to know whether or not longtime Democratic incumbent Gene Fraise, who turns 80 next year, is running again. But he says he hasn't heard rumors of any other Democratic names.
  • GOPalooza In Tiffin

    GOPalooza In Tiffin

    Santorum: "It'd be great to be in the top half" at Ames

    Four candidates who combine for maybe 10 percent in polls -- Thaddeus McCotter, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty -- blogged pseudo-live from a wifi-less Clear Creek Amana High in Tiffin, where a six-county group of Republicans are hosting a cattle call style fundraiser.

    5:00 and Longhorn Orange AMERICANS FOR RICK PERRY shirts are significantly mixed in the crowd.

    Just past the entrance Thaddeus McCotter, in a light blue Munsingwear shirt, is casually chatting with folks. I wait briefly for my turn and get introduced by Chris Rants, who says he got on Team Thad a month or so back. I noted that the the state party had seemed surpised when McCotter bid on straw poll space but rants corrected me. "The RPI wasn't surprised but the other candidates were."

    Jeff Kaufmann (on Team Newt), Thaddeus McCotter

    So, Thad, what's the soundbite Why Should You Be President? "I want to affirm American exceptionalism. We're a great nation and need to stay that way." He mentions polls so I bring up the elephant in the room (actually there are a lot of them in this room) of his asterisk status. "People will get behind the message, or not." Pretty casual. He's actually going back to New Hampshire this week before coming back for Ames. I ask about the debt ceiling vote, realizing with embarrassment as I do that I haven't even bothered to remember which way he voted. It was yes. "The possibility of default was just devastating. I think the president saw it that way too. It was an imperfect bill from everyone's perspective."

    A man hands me a card reading

    It's The Man himself. I politely chat; he's from De Pere Wisconsin and we discuss the Packers. The rest of the press corps tries to avoid.

    A few legislators spotted: Sandy Greiner, Jeff Kaufmann, and Jarad Klein. While I'm interviewing Klein, the hosts move the print blog and radio press corps to a table that's smaller and, um, cozier to make space for Republicans. We hastily gather up our excessive power bricks and audio recorders and shift positions.

    5:48 and Newt and Santorum are on site, visiting with the crowd and the TV folks.

    A Reagan poster decorates the podium. Press table consensus is 300 to 400 on hand.

    5:58 and I chat with Rick Santorum after re-introducing myself to two of the teenage kids who I met at the county fair mock election. He's got the 30 second sound bite down cold and delivers it personably: "I'm a candidate who's an authentic conservative, who's been there and stood tall when things are tough. None of the other candidates have beaten a Republican incumbent or won in a tough state." The expectation bar? "It'd be great to be in the top half. They say there's three tickets out of Iowa, and the top four or five in Ames can become the top three or four."

    Karen and Rick Santorum

    Patriotic rituals right on schedule: one woman near the back oversings the national anthem a bit. The prayer focuses on "national pride and civility" and restoring America to "a generation ago" (again, note Ronnie on the podium) It ends "in Jesus' name." Perhaps they are addressing religious diversity by serving beef (Johnson County Cattlemen) instead of pork.

    Tiffin Burgermeister Royce Phillips warms the crowd up, followed by Jeff Kaufmann of the House leadership. "There are hundreds of strong Republicans here in the middle of Johnson County (applause) That doesn't mean we aren't going to get along with our Democratic colleagues. It means We are going to stand up for our principles wherever we are in the state."

    Kaufmann introduces the other state dignitaries including Ag secretary Bill Northey, Senators Jim Hahn and Tim Kapucian, and recently announced Senate candidate Larry Kruse.

    6:17 and McCotter is on. TPaw not spotted yet. Audio is low. The orange Perry shirts outnumber a handful of blue Romney shirts that look like staffers.

    McCotter: "You as Republicans are the heirs of Lincoln and Reagan. You are the heirs of the party that defeated stagflation and an evil empire." Speech is VERY low key: slow, soft spoken, pauses about every fourth word except for brief bursts of ten in a row. I'm still not sure what the pitch is.

    Finally he outlines a four point list of "challenges." "Big government. Must start to. Mirror and reflect. Thechallengeswefaceinourdaytodaylives."

    "We continue to see Lyndon Johnson's welfare state close in around us because the Democratic party refuses to let go of the past." Obama: "Jimmy Carter in a better suit." (Newt later corrects him: "Jimmy Carter had nice suits.") The pitch is: cutting big government down to size. So nothing unique. But "We must force the big Wall Street banks to restructure." Now he starts to show something a bit unusual (other than speaking style).

    Foreign policy: "Our dear ally Israel must never be pressured by the United States into indefensible borders." Now on to the "73.9 card carrying members of the Chinese Commuinist Party." So he's the anti-bankster anti-Commie guy. Still, I think he works better as a position paper. Or as a speechwriter for someone else. Still he gets scattered applause lines when he hits the right notes. Not enough. To interrupt. Theunusualspeakingpattern.

    "Now I know this is a heavy messages..." No kidding. He tries to end it upbeat: "The ultimate salvation is you the American people." But it seems tacked on. Clearly a smart guy... but I'm not sure how he ever got elected precinct delegate (as he started his speech as length discussing his past in party positions) let alone five terms in Congress.

    After brief applause we waste no time forging ahead into the Rick Santorum introduction. Louder applause; he has a few supporters in the house, and not just immediate family. "We're gonna hit 50 cities in 14 days, and this is the biggest crowd yet." More energy already in the entire McCotter speech. "We've been to 62 counties and done over 100 events with Iowans."

    "This is the most important election since 1860." (that's supposed to be Newt's line!) "It's up to you Iowans to find an antidote to the virus that Iowa Democrats gave the nation four years ago."

    "Barack Obama is feeding a subtle narcotic called dependency. We need to lift people up to believe in themselves again. We have to find someone who matches their record with their accomplishments. Some one who isn't just checking the boxes now but has taken a leadership role." Take that, Mitt. "And we need someone who can win the election."

    So that's his framework. "Let's look at my record vs. everyone else's." He touches on the soundbite he gave me: beating incumbents in a tough state. I forgot the history of his two House races before his Senate terms: He hnocked off a D incumbent in `90, got paired in `92 redistricting, beat another Dem, both on strong Democratic turf in bad years. He moved over to the Senate in a good year, 1994. "I've gone up against the best the Democrats have to offer, against Carville and Begala in a state that's tough to win." Shouts out to Newt: "In Carville's book I was the 3rd most hated Republican and Newt I think you were number 2."

    Acknowledging another elephant in the room: "Yes, I lost in 2006 but just about everyone else did. But there's one thing worse than losing an election and that's losing your principles."

    "One of the papers called me 'the super pledger.' In 16 years I've never broken a pledge. I sign them because I believe."

    After that we get some 1776 rah rah. Life, Liberty. Pursuit of Happiness. Without delving into abortion policy details, he says "We are going to honor all life." One person claps once. No one joins in. "They said pursue happiness, not guarantee happiness. True happiness is in pursuing what God has called you to do."

    As for American exceptionalism, a recurring theme of the night across candidates, he says: "If everyone is exceptional, Mr. President, nobody is." A father of seven has likely seen the Incredibles several times. "We are exceptional because we believe in you and you and you. This president does not."

    "For 100 years the left has tried to get this one thing done: government run health care. They knew if they could addict every single American to government health care, they could own you." Cites Says Thatcher saying she could never turn the UK around because of National Health. "A Conservative in Britain is to the left of a Democrat in America." I find myself strangely agreeing with this point.

    Says he was the only candidate to campaign against the judges last year (still looking for that BVP endorsement?)

    "In a week you're going to have the opportunity to narrow the field. Look at who the mainstream media is paying attention to. Who are they leaving out of the polls? And why? The mainstream media does not want to promote a candidate who can beat they candidate they favor. Obama." Also: All the other candidates have increased name ID except me. That's making a silk purse out of it. "Go to Ames and put it out there and fight for the principles and values we believe in. And win. And win." He is assertively continuing past his time limit. "Let them know what you think is right for America. And by the way vote for me." Solid applause (McCotter's was more mercy applause.)

    Straight into the Newt Intro as the Santorums head to the lobby. 6:54.

    "This can't be an election just about the presidency. We need a dozen senate seats and 30 or 40 House seats to have a second Contrac with America and spend the first 90 days restructuring America. We nead the whole team. Turning this country around will be an eight year job and we will need your help every day."

    "How many of you believe in the 10th Amendment?" Most hands go up. "10th amendment enforcement will be in the second Contract With America." Newt's signature song, remixed for the 21st century. Two supporters are incongrously standing in the back with a Georgia flag (the newer, non-Confederate version).

    Obama "combines radicalism with incompetence." Compares negotiating with Clinton, saying Clinton was someone he was able to work with. But "When Obama is radical he's competent. (health care.) When he's not radical he's not competent. When he's doing well he's doing the wrong thing and when he's doing poor he's doing the right thing." This goes over better than pretty much anything McCotter or Santorum said.

    "We're already in the Obama Depression, there's a danger we could get into a much deeper one. Having 9 or 10 precent unemployment in a Democratic society is dangerous." The solution is tax cuts and it's an applause line. As a professor he's more entertaining than McCotter.

    Replace the EPA with an "Environmental SOLUTIONS Agency" that takes the economy into account. Everyone likes this and likes repeal Dodd-Frank finance bill. "Repeal Dodd-Frank or next year we'll repeal them." Cracking down on the National Labor Relations Board draws very scattered but very enthusiastic exclamations.

    As for energy he's all in on ethanol as a choice of "South Dakota over Saudi Arabia" He also likes him some drill baby drill too. Alaska is "all locked up by liberals who are afraid all their arguments about scarcity will disappear."

    "The cost of class warfare is food stamps. Class warfare kills jobs." Tripling down on the Obama Is The Best Food Stamp President line. I may not need to mention this again. It got a lot of attention early, but now, just assume it's there.

    The 12 person debt supercommittee "should hold all its meetings in public. We owe it to the American people."

    Newt works the crowd

    Newt done at 7:13. Photogs are catching TPaw with Newt. And Pawlenty is on, that didn't take long. The Newt contingent exits noisily right in front of our press table while TPaw talks about a family trip to Wisconsin Dells. There's a punchline but the point is Pawlenty's a family guy.

    TPaw previews his structure: before we move forward we have to look back. He, too, blames the Iowa Democrats for Obama. (You're welcome.) "Before you put somebody in the White House, we ought to make sure he actually accomplished something." Plays the speeches card and the community organizer card and the "Obamacare must be repealed in its entirity" is a big applause line.

    So after five or so minutes of Obama bash he transitions. "We need to show Americans a better way forward" starting with the economy. "A 10 year old can explain this better than Obama." Cites actual 10 year old: "Keep the taxes low, then people will have more money to buy things. Then the businesses will be busier and hire more people. Then the people will have more money." It's a soimple plan. Not quite as simple as my "Tax The Rich End The War." Though his energy plan is half that length: "More American Energy."

    How is he different than the other candidates? "Did you do it? I don't want to hear any more speeches, I don't want any more empty rhetoric. Look at my record in Minnesota." Takes the approach of piling on the examples to make the case. "We need leaders who have the executive experience and results to be president." The Obama bashing got more reaction.

    Crowd has thinned noticably. That's not a slam on TPaw, as a big chunk of that was the move to the lobby by the Newt and Santorum contingents. As TPaw concludes, Santorum us still working the edges of the crowd.

    So TPaw is the Results guy, Newt is Newt 2.0, Santorum is the I Can Win guy and McCotter is... nope, still can't figure it out.

    TPaw wraps: "The main way we're going to goof this up is if we nominate the wrong candidate." An implied Bachmann bash. "What good will it do Iowa to be first if we pick a candidate who can't win?" So, an appeal to caucus vanity? Will that work?

    The exodus accelerates to an embarrassing degree as congressional candidate John Archer is introduced. "We need new leadership... no, we need LEADERSHIP... in the White House." His shorthand for the incumbent is Liberal Loebsack and he calls himself "a fiscal and socail conservative." Cites his international travel for John Deere with asides about German health care and an extended discussion of "China is playing to win."

    Archer's from Scott County, the biggest piece of new turf for Loebsack. "It is shameful to me how Obama and Loebsack have dealt with domestic and foreign policy." So he ties the two together; works for me in a 70% Obama County, but of course I'm just a crazy blogger in a hat. More than half the room now either gone or in the lobby waiting to meet Newt, Santorum and TPaw while Archer continues about cutting corporate taxes and eight pound piles of government paperwork.

    "Repeal Obama Care" gets automatic applause at a GOP event the way "repeal No Child Left Behind" did in Democratic crowds in 2007.

    Looking over the presidential speakers, other than Santorum there was barely a mention of social issues. 90 percent economy, 9 percent foreign policy, one percent social issues.

    Now we have Dan Dolan, another congressional candidate. (Archer is the main-chance guy; there's a tea partier in the mix too.) His big applause line is that his son just graduated from West Point. He continues on through the whole family. He has almost as many as Santorum. This all serves as a lengthy introduction to the debt. "I'm not a career politician but I'm willing to serve."

    Nevertheless, he's still a more engaging speaker than McCotter. Moving on to energy independence with just a third of the crowd left. Newt TPaw and Santorum still visiting with folks. McCotter may or may not still be here, and how could you tell if he was? I don't see him. The Rick Perry contingent is still on hand. I saw a Bachmann table, and some signs, but not a big presence. She's in Cedar Rapids tomorrow.

    As I make my exit I chat with some legislators. Can it be that my big story is a mayoral endorsement and a District of the Day update?