Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Caucuses' Greatest Hits: 4th Edition Revised 2019

And a revised mission statement as well.

My dual role as press-activist, which was what led to the invention of the beret as the "blogging hat," back in 2007 when I unexpectedly found myself back in a professional journalism job for a year and a half, has been getting in the way of the activist role. (It's actually a TRIPLE role, but we'll leave my job out of the mix for the moment.)

Lately I found myself not able to have conversations that were critical to my activist role. I was getting left out of other things I wanted to do.  And I felt less and less like I really "belonged" on press row - including a few nasty looks the last time I sat there at the Hall Of Fame event in Cedar Rapids in June.

It's a lot harder to justify the travel and time at events when it's a hobby, not a second job. I haven't really written enough in a long time to justify a press pass - including no long form blog posts at all the entire month of July and nothing in August but a music post. Twitter has really been my main medium for a long time.

Another problem for me as "press" is that I really, really, really hate doing interviews. As I get more open about being on the autism spectrum I can confess that I always felt extremely uncomfortable and awkward asking the questions. But if YOU interview ME about MY favorite subjects I'll talk all day (again: the spectrum).

So the beret is going into semi-retirement. I'm not going to attend events as "press" anymore. This isn't "quitting" as much as it is an acknowledgement of what my reality has been for some time.

Irony: At the first event where I deliberately decided not to go as press, Elizabeth Warren's Thursday rally on campus. I walked out of the closed door, no-press pre-event and out to the main rally - and Team Warren was playing my song as pre-rally music.



Literally the only good thing about Prince's death is that now you can find his videos on the internet. He was extremely aggressive about blocking his content online.

I'm always happy to be a source for real working journalists. The actual beret may appear on special occasions. And I'll still write occasional long form posts when I feel like it,  when that medium works best, and when it's my specialty: number crunchers, caucus process, election law, and history.

Like this.

In a post I first wrote back in 2006 and have updated periodically. I've looked at and ranked all the caucus cycles back to 1976.  As for history and the caucuses themselves, a mixed bag.  Irrelevant nearly half the time, critical a little less often.

Not Worth The Airfare To Waterloo

19. 1984 and 2004 Republican. The Republican tradition was to hold no presidential vote at all in incumbent re-elect years.That tradition looks likely to end in 2020, not because of Trump's minor opponents but because state party leadership seems to think not having a vote in 2020 hurts the case for First in 2024. Ironically, this is happening as other state Republican parties are canceling their contests.

18. 1996 Democratic. The word went down from Des Moines to the Democratic county chairs: “The President would like a unanimous re-nomination and this WILL happen.” Self-starters in a couple lefty college precincts elected a very small handful of Nader and Uncommitted protest delegates, but those results got swept under the rug. Clinton came out and campaigned the final weekend, largely to step on the GOP story (Actually Being President trumps winning the caucus), but it was in basketball arenas, not chat n’ chews.

17. 2012 Democratic.  As close to an unopposed caucus as possible short of “The President would like a unanimous re-nomination and this WILL happen.” The state party went to bat for actually having an alignment, which Chicago didn't want. But without a live person as an Obama opponent (despite Bernie Sanders' suggestion), the dissenters were split between Uncommitted and crossing over for Ron Paul. In the end the Uncommitteds, mostly made up of folks allied with the simultaneous Occupy movement, made a lot of noise out of proportion to their 1.5% of the delegates. Rated up one notch because that 1.5% actually got honestly reported, not suppressed as in 1996.

16. 1992 Republican. The Pat Buchanan Brigade was looking like a serious threat to win New Hampshire - he ended up at 37.5% there - but the inside the Des Moines Beltway crowd stuck with the tradition of not having a vote in an incumbent year. That decision was a small win for George HW, so this gets the highest rank of the uncontested caucuses.

Ultimately Irrelevant

15. 1992 Democratic. Hometown boy Tom Harkin runs and wins big, though not as big as it looked because of some skilled realignment work at viability time. That 76% Harkin delegate count included a lot of stealth supporters of other candidates.

Paul Tsongas was already on the ground in Iowa when Harkin announced, but he quickly bailed. There were a couple feints from Bob Kerrey and Jerry Brown but nothing serious. Everyone showed up for the cycle's lone cattle call, the then-Jefferson Jackson dinner, but between low interest and a blizzard the hall was half empty.

In the end, Iowa kept first place after `92 only because Tom Harkin was the only Bill Clinton rival who enthusiastically jumped on the bandwagon. The other also-rans could barely hide their obvious contempt for Clinton. (Kerrey and Brown probably wrote themselves in that November.)

The long term importance of the 1992 caucuses may be that Bill, and by extension Hillary, Clinton did not have to retail campaign in Iowa, and that had a ripple effect into 2008 and 2016.

14. 2000 Both. On the Democratic side Al Gore easily beat Bill Bradley in what was merely the first moment in the overall national dynamic; Dollar Bill made his stand on friendlier turf in New Hampshire and fell just short there, and that pretty much ended it.

On the Republican side it was like one of those boycott-era Olympics: W won but the toughest competitor, McCain, was a no-show playing a Screw Iowa strategy. The truly significant GOP event was the straw poll that winnowed out more candidates (E. Dole, Quayle, and Buchanan bolting to Reform) than the actual caucus (Orrin Hatch, as if that wasn’t obvious).  Comic relief: People who took Gary Bauer seriously, Alan Keyes in Michael Moore’s mosh pit.

Secondary event in nomination contest

13. 2016 Republican. Whichever contest was first would have narrowed a field that peaked at 17 candidates. The biggest event of the cycle was actually a non-event - the Ames Straw Poll that had been the dominant pre-caucus event from 1987 to 2011 was first moved out of Ames, then canceled entirely when the leading candidates refused to show up.

The field was down to a mere 12 by caucus night. Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio, in that order, each took about a quarter of the vote, with the other nine splitting the remaining 25%. The immediate two past Iowa winners, Huckabee and Santorum, fizzled, and that effectively ended their campaigns.

Rand Paul failed to keep his father's coalition, because all of the "he's alternative, dude!" vote was caucusing for Bernie Sanders. The dudebro overlap between Ron/Rand Paul and Sanders supporters, which makes little ideological sense but is clearly a Thing, is a Ph.D. dissertation for someone.

Cruz's win turned out to be an anomaly and a relatively minor event. Cruz wasn't even Trump's final opposition - that turned out to be John Kasich, merely because he refused to quit.

12. 1980 Democratic. The incumbent won the first test of Kennedy-Carter, but that battle of giants was played out on a national, even global, stage and Iowa was a bit player.

11. 2008 Republican. Important to the dynamic of the contest, but not central to the result.

Mitt Romney was looking like the guy to beat in December 2007. Which Mike Huckabee did in January 2008, after first beating Sam Brownback at the straw poll to win the mantle of THE religious conservative candidate. Had Iowa Republicans gotten behind the Mitt, they may have headed off the chaos that was the GOP field in January. Instead, we proved that there was no there there for Fred Thompson, and that the Ron Paul Яэvoutionaries were noisy in disproportion to their actual numbers (but see 2012 below). But really, we just stirred the pot, and the decisive event was in Florida between two men with Screw Iowa Lite strategies, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.

Our next contest was very similar, but the tiebreaker is that the Iowa winner actually won the nomination:

10. 1996 Republican. What might have been: Pat Buchanan was within 3% of Bob Dole, but the social conservatives in Cedar Rapids backed Alan Keyes instead; Keyes thus won the second biggest county. One minister at one mega-church makes a different choice, and we’d have had a major upset.

Some all too obvious field winnowing (Dick Lugar???) happens. Phil Gramm gets out too, but his real stumble was in Louisiana’s jump-the-starting-gun contest a week earlier. 

Comic relief: Easily the funniest caucus! Dole, genuinely witty in his non-Satan mode, Steve Forbes the android, Alan Keyes… but they all pale next to Morrie Taylor, the tire magnate who literally tried to buy a win one vote at a time. Failed miserably but looked like he had more fun than the rest put together.

9. 1988 Democratic. Other than Tom Harkin's favorite son run, this is the only time in the post-Carter modern era of the caucuses that Iowa Democrats did not vote for the eventual nominee. The nomination contest came down to Dukakis vs. Jackson, neither of whose fortunes were affected by Iowa.

In `88 Al Gore, dirty Prince lyrics still ringing in his ears, was the first candidate to use the Screw Iowa strategy.  It's never worked (save for the Harkin year), but nevertheless Gore wound up outlasting the two Iowa leaders.

There's a story, long told by Paul Simon loyalists, that a county chair sat on his Simon-friendly results until the Register had printed its GEPHARDT WINS headline, which mattered in the pre-internet era. Rules got changed after that so that results are reported direct from the precinct to the state without going through a county chair, but this one proved the winner-take-all-news theory that was prevalent at the time (and which was supposed to be the anchor of my aborted masters' thesis).

Comic relief: Gary Hart’s last minute return to the race, campaigning with his wife.

8. 2012 Republican. The real importance of the 2012 Republican caucuses was not its relatively small role in designating the nominee. That was always going to come down to Mitt vs. Not Mitt.  Rick Santorum never really got the bump from the win, because of the dead heat, the botched result announcement, and the recount that delayed the final result. And also because Sheldon Adelson kept Newt Gingrich on life support far too long,

No, the real importance was what happened to the Republican Party of Iowa after the presidential vote. The Romney and Santorum people both said "yay, we won," went home, and both in turn were right. The Ron Paul people stuck around, elected themselves as all the delegates and committee people, and took over the state party structure.

The consequences had a huge ripple effect through state, and even national, internal Republican politics for the next two years, until Terry Branstad, Jeff Kaufmann and the rest of the grownups took party control back in 2014 (the most important OFF-year caucus). This one may move up the charts depending on the long-term fate of the caucuses, and so may the next:

7. 2016 Democratic.  Iowa was a big deal - in the same way that the first post in an epic flame war that eventually breaks Godwin's Law is a big deal.

Had Hillary Clinton solidly beaten Bernie Sanders in Iowa, 2016 would have been over as fast as you can say "Bill Bradley" and the whole Sanders phenomenon would never have happened. Oh, he might have stayed on some ballots and accumulated a few votes. But without the dead heat in Iowa, and the money and attention that followed, he would have been an asterisk, like Dennis Kucinich playing out the string in the late states in 2004 after John Kerry had clinched and everyone else had quit.

I have long said that half the Sanders vote was simply Not Hillary, and that alone would have gotten Martin O'Malley to 30 points in Iowa had Sanders not run. Indeed, that was probably O'Malley's whole strategy, to be the only person willing to run against Clinton.

The fact that Sanders was even allowed to run in 2016 without joining the Democratic Party was a decision by the DNC - ironically, headed at the time by the same Debbie Wasserman Schultz who supposedly "rigged" the nomination against Sanders. DWS's inability to take Sanders seriously as a threat to Clinton, and her under-estimation of Clinton's negatives, are just more signs of her ineptitude.

Sanders himself may have faded (from 49.9999% in Iowa on Caucus Night to 11% in last night's Register poll) but his campaign mainstreamed a progressive stance that other candidates without Sanders' negatives, most notably Warren, are now seeing success with. The long range ranking of 2016 may move up if this turns out to be a permanent change.

Significant event in nomination contest

6. 1988 Republican. Pat Robertson pushes George HW into third place. Robertson was insignificant thereafter, but the blow made Bush go on a fight of his life attack against Bob Dole in New Hampshire. Dole took the bait and was goaded into “stop lying about my record.” This convinces HW that hard negative was the way to go. That road went through the flag factory and Willie Horton, and ended at the White House. Comic relief: Al Haig.

5. 1984 Democratic. Gary Hart barely squeaked past his old boss, George McGovern. But second, no matter how distant, was enough to make him the Not Mondale and propel him up about 40 points in eight days for a New Hampshire win, a brief but genuine shot at the nomination, and (pre-Donna Rice) 1988 front-runner status. The Right Stuff sank like Gus Grissom’s capsule, and you're an old timer if you catch that reference.

Decisive event in nomination contest

4. 2004 Democratic.

Iowa was the whole ball game in 2004. Nothing that happened after Iowa mattered nearly as much as what happened in Iowa.  The guy who won got the nomination, and the guy in second got VP.  And the guy in third?



The Dean Scream goes down as the single most memorable caucus moment, but everyone forgets The Scream was after The Much More Important Disappointing Third Place. After Dean had been the front-runner for months, Iowans got scared at the last minute - mostly thanks to Dick Gephardt, who went on a suicide attack that took them both out and set Gephardt up for reward in the Kerry Administration.

Made History

3. 1976 Democratic. This one made both Jimmy Carter and the caucuses themselves. Carter didn’t actually win this, you know. He was second to Uncommitted. But I know folks who still brag “Jimmy Carter slept on my couch.”

I’m torn about ranking a caucus that directly produced a president below one that didn't. But read on.

2. 1980 Republican. In the first true Iowa Republican caucus, an obscure former ambassador, spy boss, and failed Senate candidate George Herbert Walker Bush shocked the ten foot tall colossus of the GOP, Ronald Reagan. This one win puts Poppy on the map and ultimately on the ticket (after the botched Ford “co-presidency” deal at the `80 convention).

So why rank this ahead of Jimmy Carter, especially since Bush Sr. lost that 1980 nomination? The ripple effect. No Iowa win = no Bush 41. And with no HW, do you REALLY think Bush 43 or 45 (please clap) would have made it on their own? 1976 made a president, but 1980 made a dynasty.

Number 1: 2008 Democratic. There's no question the 2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses created a president. Iowa was the honing ground for Barack Obama's message and appeal and ground game. We eliminated the entire second tier, and proved that voters in one of the whitest places in America would support a black candidate. Remember, a lot of African-American voters were sticking with Hillary Clinton before Iowa, because Obama "couldn't win." Iowa shattered that myth and the perception of Clinton's inevitability.

It's too soon to tell, and Trump's win blurred things, but the 2008 caucuses may have ushered in not just one president, but a whole era, a new alignment of states that ends the 1968 Nixon-Wallace southern-western coalition for good, at least at the presidential level.

2008 was a whole new map. As late as the first John Edwards campaign, people were sill seriously saying it was impossible to break the Republican "electoral college lock" without southern rural white male voters. Trump has since proven those voters are gone forever - maybe in the urban and exurban North as well.

But that old South has been replaced by the new South, driven by suburban voters who migrated from the North, women, and minorities. Virginia three times, Florida twice, North Carolina once, Georgia becoming an in-play mega-state, and even Texas on the horizon. Barack Obama fueled this alignment, which would not have been possible without that Iowa win.

The 1976 caucuses made one president, but his victory is a mere footnote to a Republican era, brought about by the intensity of Watergate and the Nixon pardon. The 1980 Republican caucuses made two presidents, but they followed the electoral footsteps of others.

How many presidents in an era? Obama wasn't able to transfer this alignment to a successor, because some anchors of the old coalition fell in 2016 (Trump essentially drew three cards to an inside straight with his narrow Wisconsin-Michigan-Pennsylvania wins). If the 2008 caucuses ushered in an Obama Realignment, like the FDR Relignment or the Nixon-Wallace Realignment, they could lead to four or five presidents.It's a weaker case than it was four years ago, but 2008 still deserves the number one spot.

Friday, September 06, 2019

No One Wants An Absentee Caucus

Virtual Caucus is dead.

That became official today when a Democratic National Committee rules and bylaws meeting confirmed what was loudly leaked last week: that the phone-in "Virtual Caucus" plan that the Iowa Democratic Party developed, with nods of approval from DNC every step of the way, was unacceptable because of security concerns.

The most likely outcome, hinted at already last week, was that DNC would be willing to grant a waiver to Iowa and fellow early caucus state Nevada from the new requirement that caucus states be required to provide an absentee voting process.

The uncomfortable truth is: No one really wants the Iowa Democratic caucuses to have an absentee process.

Iowa Democratic leadership - both in the official Iowa Democratic Party structure sense and in the elected official-donor-activist base sense -doesn't want it because they're scared about risking First.

The bully of Concord, inscrutable New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, doesn't want Iowa to have absentees either, because he thinks that's an election and HE insists on the first election.

The DNC doesn't really want Iowa absentees, despite lip service to the new absentee requirement, because they are really more concerned about the much older standing fight about preserving the early state calendar.

The DNC found out the hard way in 2007, when Florida and Michigan broke the rules and went too early, that a broken calendar is unenforceable against states that are unwilling to cooperate. In part that's because election law is mostly state law, and in part that's because the only possible penalties are so nuclear that they won't be used. There was no way the DNC was ever going to refuse to seat the delegations from two huge swing states at the 2008 national convention, and everyone knew it. It ends up making the party look weak and they want to avoid having to referee between Iowa and New Hampshire.

Iowa haters and caucus haters don't want the caucus to have absentees because they think this may finally be the way to kill us. (And they have cynically recruited the tech security community as allies.)

The presidential candidates, despite rhetoric from one or two campaigns, don't really want the Iowa caucus to have absentees. They have already made battle plans that actively discouraged Virtual Caucus because "it counts less."

The Des Moines Register in particular, and the rest of the Iowa media in general, are against absentees at the caucuses because they believe it risks First - and thus risks their polls, editorial boards, national TV appearances, and bottom line.

Iowa Republicans don't want Iowa Democrats to have an absentee process because they are worried about First and about double voting - people voting for the Democrats early and then attending the Republican event on caucus night (because they want to vote against Trump twice?). That's technically illegal - but can only be discovered after the fact and only with an unusual level of bipartisan cooperation.

Rural Iowa Democratic county activists who like to brag about how badly their county swung from Obama to Trump don't want absentees because they worry that without forced attendance in order to vote, no one will show up and they will not be able to organize their county committees.

No, no one really wants the Iowa Democratic caucuses to have an absentee process...
...except for two small groups. And no one seems to much care what we think.
The first is made up of actual normal Iowans who don't want to or can't spend three hours on a Monday night just to vote, and who care more about that than about the benefits (?) of First. These are not the people asking questions or getting selfies or even going to candidate events. They don't care how many candidates are at your county party event or how the platform is worded or who is on the county central committee. They just want to VOTE.

These are also the people who work second shift or get mandatory OT or are traveling or who have small children or can't drive at night or who have problems standing or who (like me) can't handle the stress of large and sometimes hostile crowds.

The other group that wants absentees is also like me - actually, I'm pretty sure I'm the loudest: Urban county Iowa Democratic activists who are concerned about literally not being able to fit into the biggest room that exists in the precinct. No one at IDP has ever given us any constructive suggestions as to what we should do about it. Even honest acknowledgement is rare. We just get the occasional "it won't be so bad" pep talk.

You cannot "organize" and "party build" when precinct attendance is approaching quadruple digits. You can't fix The Biggest Room Is Too Small with "better planning." You CAN fix it, you can ONLY fix it, with absentee ballots.

If you're with me in those last two groups, we have two weeks to convince Iowa Democratic leadership that we NEED an absentee process and that the apparent direction from both Iowa and DNC - a waiver from the absentee requirement - is the wrong way to go.

In today's conference call, DNC Rules and Bylaws chair James Roosevelt (yes, grandson of FDR and Eleanor) said:


If Nevada can have in person early voting for caucuses, Iowa can and must do the same.

It is time to stop caring about New Hampshire thinks. It is time to stand up to Big Bully Bill Gardner.

DNC approved a calendar with Iowa first and New Hampshire second. They also approved rules that said caucus states need absentees, and we should not let New Hampshire break the rules just because we are following the rules.
If New Hampshire moves in front of Iowa, let them - and then throw their delegation out of the national convention, the way Florida and Michigan should have been thrown out in 2008.

We also have one last chance to convince Iowa Democratic leadership that the 10% delegate cap, no matter what the attendance, on an absentee process is unfair. Absentees should be reported back to the individual precincts and counted equally, and should also be actively encouraged in order to address overcrowding.

We need real early ballots and we should not settle for anything less.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Why Taylor Swift Matters

One of the great rituals of my youth was the release of a major album by a major artist. Some of my fondest memories are the treks to the actual physical vinyl record store on release day to buy Synchronicity or Born In the USA or Purple Rain or, later, the midnight trip to the CD store for Use Your Illusion.

Such moments are rare in our fragmented era of infinite selection and the death of the monoculture. An Avengers movie opening was as close as we got, and before that a new Harry Potter book.

But yesterday something important happened. A major musician, probably the most important of our time, released an album.

Popular music is supposed to be, well, popular. Even Joe Strummer knew that. The ideology that commercial success was UnCool literally killed Kurt Cobain. But as Cobain re-proved but never understood, popularity does not preclude great art. The most popular rock group of all time is also universally acknowledged as the creatively greatest of all time.

Which brings us to the most popular artist of our time.

Taylor Swift transcended the narrow niche of the country market segment as long ago as 2012, with her brilliant singer-songwriter album Red and her first pop number one hit "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." She was bigger by that point than country music itself.

Some. me among them, would argue that she outgrew niche popularity as long ago as her breakthrough 2008 album Fearless - still very country in sound but with the massive crossover success of "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me."

Which sets up part of the problem. Swift was introduced to us as a VERY young artist, with her first record at 16. She wrote of that stage of life in a style that was at once eloquent, realistic, and, well, girly. The imagery of that era, lyrically and in videos, was literally set in high school, cheerleaders and band uniforms and prom dresses and crying with your best friend over her first broken heart. "When you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you, you're gonna believe them," she wrote as a wise old woman of (checks notes) eighteen.

And it connected. Deeply. Which is what art is supposed to do. The emotions were universal, but they connected most deeply with Swift's peers, young women.

From there her popularity exploded into tabloid celebrity, with more attention to the identity of the inspirations of her songs than to the excellence of the work itself. "If I could talk to my 19-year-old self I'd just say, 'Hey, you're going to date just like a normal twenty-something should be allowed to, but you're going to be a national lightning rod for slut-shaming,'" she said in 2016, as people forgot that Swift was first and foremost a musician - and first and foremost within that a songwriter.

I’m so sick of running as fast as I can
Wondering if I'd get there quicker if I was a man

And I'm so sick of them coming at me again
 
'Cause if I was a man, then I'd be The Man
Taylor Swift, 2019

Genres and works of art made and enjoyed largely by female audiences and young audiences get taken less seriously. Double that if the artist is female. Square that if the artist is a young woman. Cube that if the artist in question is working in a field other than acting or modeling, and is tall, slim and blonde. And add yet another dimension if the artist comes from a background of family wealth and privilege that unlike, say, diplomat's son Joe Strummer, Swift readily acknowledges - because we ALL know that Real Art comes from the streets, right?

Taylor Swift is not a mere pop star. She is a serious artist using pop music as a medium. That's how I have approached her work since Red and that's how Lover should be evaluated.

Bigger that a genre? Taylor Swift now is phrases-entering-the-language big, bigger than the music industry itself - able to get Apple Music to back down and offer artists more money with little more than an Instagram post, and probably able to blow up a $300 million industry deal by simply talking about re-recording her old music (which I do NOT actually expect to happen - it's a negotiating tactic). And able to get bodies into stores to buy physical copies of music which is unheard of in 2019.

So it's impossible to listen to Lover the album without taking into account Taylor Swift The Persona. You can't pretend it's some indie record that's MUCH cooler than mine. (You also can't appreciate how smart and hilarious "Blank Space" is without knowing that persona.)

But set aside the notion that art made with mass popularity in mind is a least common denominator. Taylor Swift is an important artist, my children's generation's equivalent of the great singer-songwriters of my generation and the 60s generation.

I fell in love with Swift's music because it reminds me of being young. So I revived the old ritual for a release day trip to a store.



Just 36 hours and four or so listens in, I am still getting to know Lover the album. I know I prefer it to 2017's Reputation, and I see it rivaling 1989 and my personal favorite Red in quality. The title song, issued a week ahead, is one of the greatest odes to stable and serious love I have heard in a very, very long time. And near album's end, she offers continuity between her past tales of broken hearts and her current state of mind:



So along with enjoying the art, I feel personal happiness for an artist closer to my children's age than my own who has given so much of herself to her fans -  not just the music, but a personal touch that goes far above and beyond the call of duty. So far this cycle she has invited fans into her homes for private listening sessions, paid a fan's college tuition, sent her dad with dozens of pizzas to fans waiting in line, and showed up at a Target to greet fans checking out with CDs. That's just THIS MONTH.

And she's making six figure donations to gay and pro-choice groups.

While this summer's ubiquitous "You Need To Calm Down" was sometimes mocked for placing the straight cisgender Swift at the center of a pride narrative, it's inherently powerful for someone with such massive popularity to send a positive message. Far from a least common denominator, mainstreaming pride still matters in vast purple and red swaths of America. . So does the unspoken touch of casting a black man as a love interest in a video, and so do Swift's emerging political thoughts. An ally with more than 80 million followers is a good friend to have, and I hope and expect that Swift will use this powerful voice between now and next November.

Unity is rare in both our culture and our politics. So as Lover takes over the world, in this moment now, capture it, remember it. There are few moments like this anymore and this moment matters.

But I will forever believe that spelling is fun.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Biden's Brilliant (?) Bumble

Well, Joe Biden is in trouble for something he said again (evergreen tweet), this time for discussing his long-ago personal friendships with long-dead segregationist senators James Eastland and John Stennis.

Obviously this is a mistake - but maybe not quite in the way you think.

Biden has premised his candidacy and his prospective presidency on the idea that Trump is an anomaly and that with The Donald out of the way, the collegial folkways of the past can return to government.

Now, political Twitter knows that those days are gone forever, and have probably been gone since Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill shared their last Irish whiskey some 30 years ago.

But, hear me out, what if Biden knows that too?

What if Biden is not simply nostalgic for the past, in a sign of his age, but instead is positioning himself in a popular niche? The salient political question is not "can we bring the bourbon and branchwater era back." The important question is: How many rank and file primary voters either think or wish that era could come back?

Over and over we see polls and hear voters saying they want politicians to "cooperate" and "get along." Biden knows this too. Is he deluding himself thinking this era can come back - or, I think more likely,  is he just playing to that sentiment in a segment of the electorate?

Personally, I think it's a myth that there's all that much real support for Getting Along and The Sensible Center - because people are taught by the Objective Journalism paradigm that we are supposed to Vote The Person Not The Party, and because if you scratch the surface "compromise" usually means "compromise by YOU changing to MY position."

But at least it's an argument one could reasonably make with some data to point to, and I think it's a more plausible explanation for Biden's approach than "he's old and dumb."

If that's what he's doing, then his mistake was not arguing that personal friendships across the aisle can fix things. His error was in naming the wrong friends, men who while they may have been genial in person were committed to the wrong side of history and justice. Had Biden named colleagues like, say, Bob Dole or even Barry Goldwater, very conservative men yet men who were not primarily (despite Goldwater's vote against the Civil Rights Act) identified as segregationists, he would have made his point more effectively.

Joe Biden is a lot of things, and in many ways he is the last son of a bygone era. He may be far enough behind the times that he won't win the nomination. But Joe Biden is absolutely not dumb, and I think his longing for the past is more strategic than nostalgic.


Sunday, June 09, 2019

Random Thoughts On A Random Order Day

It used to be a presidential election had an "Invisible Primary" stage before the early states. Candidates tested the waters with low profile visits and events in the midterm cycle, gathered their families and core people, and made a decision. Many opted out, and only a few opted in.

It's not unusual for two dozen people to think about running for president and look into it.

But what is unusual, or perhaps is the unfortunate new reality, is that ALL of those people are opting in. In 2016 on the Republican side, and this cycle on the Democratic side, the Invisible Primary phase of the campaign seems to have vanished, and this backstage first phase of narrowing the field is playing out in public with declared candidates.

So today we had the spectacle of  NINETEEN candidates giving speeches at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame event in Cedar Rapids.

The mindset seems to be: Err on the side of inclusion. But it's just so much. Not sure how someone could decide or even narrow from this - or from two nights of 10-candidate debates - unless you start from the self-fulfilling prophecy of polls and limit yourself to candidates that are registering at least a smidgen of support. We got a handy checklist last night:



The problem is, by including EVERYone, you have less time to focus on the serious players. I would have liked half as many speeches but twice as long.

The beret has been semi-retired for a while, but I figured this show was too big to pass up. So I dutifully drove north for what I expected would be a brutally long day and night.

I arrived to witness, as expected, Sign War.

I do not love Sign War. Staffers and volunteers love Sign War. We had two solid blocks of Sign War. But with pretty good collegiality between most campaigns (except the one that does its own thing), it wasn't much of a "war." At one point the Klobuchar, Harris and Gillibrand campaigns were all chanting "we need a woman in the White House" together. (Warren was based a block away and Gabbard's contingent was about six people.)

So Gabbard was the clear sign war loser; the whole experience was too overwhelming to name a winner.

Chris Dodd had a blimp, too.

Sanders only dabbled in the main drag of sign war; his alternative was a Fight For $15 pre-rally at a nearby McDonalds. On message, and a good cause - but also on brand for Bernie being the one who does His Own Separate Thing. Their march over from Mickey D's almost collided with Corey Booker's arrival. Buttigeig also did a pre-rally rather than Sign War.

As for Team Biden, they clearly decided that with no candidate, they were just going to bypass the event entirely and not even attempt visibility. Not a bad decision, because with no candidate you have no draw and any effort looks weak. All in or all out.

The speeches began, 14 minutes late. I had turned down dinner tickets from Teams Beto and Booker since I had gotten a press pass, but I thought I might regret that decision by suppertime.

Most candidates stuck close to the podium and the teleprompter, trying to stick to their tightly scripted five minutes that needed to compress the Greatest Hits into one five minute medley, touch as many issue bullet points as possible while at the same time hitting the Overall Campaign Theme and some biography. Each speech flashed by about as fast as a total eclipse.

To the delight of most of the room, the sound crew was ruthless. At exactly five minutes, they turned up the music to play the candidates off. And in a solstice miracle, it worked.
  • Beat the clock: Beto, Bullock, Warren, Gillibrand, Booker
  • Did not beat the clock: Klobuchar (barely), Pete (barely), Williamson, Delaney, Swalwell, Sanders, Gabbard
  • Total clock management failure: de Blasio, Bennet
  • Did not notice: Hickenlooper, Yang, Harris, Ryan, Inslee

Best Speeches: The two who moved away from the podium, and who gave the strongest speeches, were Warren and Harris. (Yang also walked, but seemed rushed.) Booker, Beto, and Pete were also good, as were Klobuchar and Gillibrand - the two trailing candidates who I can still imagine making a breakthrough.

Honorable mention:

Special Category: This event was not a good setting for Bernie Sanders. I'm not especially objective about him - but I have seen him enough at enough different kinds of events to know that his strength is at a rally of his own faithful, and that he's not great at multi-candidate events like this. The audience today was party regulars and elected official types, which is definitely not a Bernie-friendly crowd. His applause was only scattered other than at the Sanders tables, even when the words themselves were acceptable to the whole room.

Biggest gap between audience enthusiasm and position in Register poll: Klobuchar. 

Missed opportunity: Jay Inslee was really good on climate change. It could have been a breakout moment (no one had one of those today). But that was only a minute or so of his five. He should have junked the rest of the speech and done five solid minutes on climate - that's where his heart is. But: his ask for a debate focused only on climate change, which is becoming a litmus test for parts of the activist base, seemed to only get cheers from his table.

Weakest speech (serious person category): Most of the small fry were undistinguished, but Michael Bennet failed to even manage a graceful exit when the music played him off. He just kept talking, they had to turn it up and the audience had to applaud to get him off stage. Not good when you speak 18th of 19.

Weakest speech (special category): Marianne Williamson is a joke and we need to find a way to not have to invite her to things like this.

Death Valley: Speaking order was random drawn and we had a brutal mid-show three in a row of Tim Ryan, Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson.

Best self-deprecating line: "I have 8.6 million highly opinionated constituents" - Bill de Blasio

Best stage music: Was hard to hear most of the time but I did note that Beto O'Rourke took the stage to the Clash. They are obviously trying to get a commit card out of me.


Cheapest shot: Ideological elbows are fair, but Andrew Yang was the one person who criticized Joe Biden for not attending. Now, maybe Biden IS trying to limit attendance at multi-candidate events, but he had a grand-daughter with a graduation which 1) is totally on brand for Biden and 2) most Iowans would count as an excused absence.

Had to look it up:  Other than Biden, candidates missing were Seth Moulton, Some Dude Mayor Wayne Messam, and... had to look it up... Julian Castro.


Other notes from small fry: Gabbard led with Aloha and talked about peace; Delaney talked Big Tent Party and rural, Tim Ryan was all White Working Class and bringing the Rust Belt back. Bullock played his one Iowa card: the inexplicable endorsement by Attorney General Tom Miller.

Special gold medal: to Troy Price and IDP staff for the miracle of getting the whole show done in 2 hours 57 minutes. Extra special thanks to the sound crew for being ruthless with the play-off music.

More random notes on the Deeth Twitter Feed.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Kinney NOT running in 2nd CD

I would have been proud to have been represented by Kevin Kinney in Congress, and I'm also glad to keep him where he is. In 2014, a horrible year for Dems, Kevin GAINED a seat from the GOP, and that one seat held the majority for two more years. The excesses of 2017 would have happened in 2015 if not for Kevin Kinney.

Kevin doesn't look like or carry himself like an Iowa City liberal. He's a big quiet cop and farmer. But when he speaks it means something. Kevin has seen crimes worse than most of us can imagine - and he spoke eloquently this session against the death penalty. He's the kind of candidate who can win a district like he has - half is a non-Peoples Republic part of Johnson County, the other half is two rural counties. There's a lot of turf like that in the 2nd CD.

Plus, knowing Kevin, he's a great guy and a great dad.

Some other good people are still looking at this seat and I look forward to a good primary.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

DeBlasio Phoning Into Iowa

We may not yet be done with candidate announcements: Just sat through a nearly half hour survey call that was very clearly message testing for Bill DeBlasio.

Started with likelyhood of caucusing (do you KNOW who you are talking to?) and Iowa right/wrong track (WRONG!)

Was then asked fav/unfav on some candidates, DeBlasio listed first, Harris, Warren, Sanders, Buttigeig, Biden. Then did who would you support, choices were those names plus Beto, Booker, Gillibrand. (Names may have rotated?)

I had to coach the caller on how to pronounce "DeBlasio," this was before I figured out the call was actually for DeBlasio! He stayed with correct pronunciation for rest of call. You're welcome. Caller had touble with some other names, too; Gillibrand was "Christy Anne" and Beto was "O-ROAR-a-key."

Was then asked a series of characteristics; still had not figured out who call was for. Progressive policies, experience, bring country together not divide, "real results that matter to families," cares about people like you, can beat Trump... will support workers and the middle class, shares your values, inspirational, honest and trustworthy. Still had not figured out who call was for.

Was then asked a series of two statements, which I liked better. gets things done vs. ideas and polices Best to beat Trump. vs. views same as my own Progressive vs. pragmatism. Last one gave it away: Mayor of NYC out of touch vs. mayor of NYC an experienced executive.

Was then read a series of statements about DeBlasio and asked how I liked them. They were loooong. Health care, family (including specific mention of multiracial family), "compassion not hate," "experience standing up to Trump," "always on the side of the people."

I was also re-asked at the end about presidential preference. Names again rotated; Gillibrand was in the mix this time and the dude had more trouble with that than he had with "DeBlasio"

Closed with demographics: party, liberal/moderate/conservative, education level, employment, income, union membership, black or Hispanic. Not asked about age, they asked for me by name so I assume they had my voter record.



Sunday, April 07, 2019

Settling for 10%

Disappointed that Iowa Democratic Party state central committee did not increase the delegate allocation of virtual caucus participants from the pre-set 10%. That said, Virtual Caucus is much more a Good Thing than a Bad Thing.

I have no doubt that far more than 10% of caucus participants will choose the virtual option – meaning those votes will be under-represented in the delegate count. Bu how much does the delegate count matter?

The importance of Iowa and First is not the relatively small national delegate count. It’s the year before caucus night when we get to see everyone, and it’s the news bounce that happens on caucus night.

This cycle for the first time IDP will give the national media what it has always wanted: a raw vote count. The complicated state delegate equivalents, while technically more important to the nomination, will be ignored.

If all you care about is “my vote getting counted,” Virtual Caucus is going to do you just as well as attending. Virtual caucusers can also sign up to be county alternates and can do platform stuff.

If we are going to make this process work in the large urban counties with overcrowding problems, we need to encourage people to choose the virtual caucus process and encourage emphasizing the raw vote in order to sell people on virtual caucus.

Johnson County’s votes are under-counted anyway – we had 11% of statewide turnout in 2016 but only got 6% of state delegates. And we are already organized within an inch of our lives so “party building” is less critical. You’ll be doing us a favor if you call your vote in.

I may choose virtual caucus myself. In 2016 I needed to chair my own caucus in a student precinct with no experienced chairs. The precinct we moved into in 2017 has other experienced people, so I can phone it in and then be on standby to help fix any problems that come up in other precincts.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Review of Roby Smith's Amendments: ½ ☆ out of ★★★★★

Reviewing the Roby Smith amendments to election bill and pointing out what I see as significant. This was originally meant to be a tweet storm, but when it grew to over 60 tweets I decided it should be in good old fashioned blog format instead. Welcome back to 2007, excuse me while I adjust the beret.

Organizing this in the order the bill is printed may not be the Classic Inverted Pyramid way to write this, but it's good as a reader's guide. The full text is here (thanks to Laura Belin for making it more linkable and legible than the legislature's site).

Page 1-2 is covering Paul Pate's ass on the legal publication of constitutional amendments . A failure to publish is keeping the NRA amendment off the 2020 ballot. (Chet Culver made the same mistake in 2006 with the famous "idiot amendment," so we waited two more years to remove offensive archaic language from the Constitution.)

My overall opinion on legal publication is that it's archaic in the Internet era and is a subsidy to the dying print newspaper industry. Is anyone really going to first learn about a constitutional amendment by reading the classifieds? This isn't something that's going to substantively hurt anyone or make it harder to vote - but anything that's basically designed to legitimize and excuse a prior mistake is kind of petty.

Page 2-3: Requires bond issue ballots to include a bunch of language about current and proposed tax rates and taxpayer impact - but does not require language about any benefits of the proposal. Basically this is designed to encourage No votes.

Our ballots are already crowded and confusing, especially with more items on combined city-school election ballots and with fewer special election dates allowed. We don't need more language on ballots. In some elections, physically making everything fit is a challenge.

Page 3: "Self-promotion with taxpayer funds." Basically this is a slap at Mike Fitzgerald's Great Iowa Treasure Hunt and at Rob Sand.

Pages 3-5 deal with hospital trustee elections. Doesn't seem like a big deal, but my county does not have this office. Maybe someone from Polk County has more thoughts.

Pages 5-13 are mostly drawn from the original Secretary of State technical bill that was filed pre-session. Some of these items address past issues that have come up.

The requirement that nomination papers include contact info for the petitioner is about the Theresa Greenfield situation where her campaign manager filed false signatures.

The requirement that petition signatures include street address, rather than PO Box, is about Joe Seng's sloppy papers from his 2012 primary challenge to Dave Loebsack. He was allowed on ballot despite the PO Box signatures he collected at the Fibbin' Fisherman. In a contradictory decision, the review board ruled that Seng should be allowed on the ballot (he eventually lost 80-20%) but that in the future such signatures should not count and that a ruling to that effect should be issued. So this is an item seven years overdue.

Language about crossed-out signatures is about Ron Corbett's paperwork from the 2018 governor primary. Corbett was thrown off the ballot after a challenge. In a last-ditch effort to get enough signatures to qualify, Corbett argued that crossed-out signatures should count.


Another practice that's codified: If the first day to mail ballots 29 days before an election falls on a Monday postal holiday, the ballots can't get mailed till Tuesday. This happens with Columbus Day 3 out of 7 November election years.


And dese here guys is not happy about it. Youse gotta problem wid dat?

I would rather have gone the opposite direction and mailed out the previous Friday. Actually, I would rather go back to the 40 days. A shorter time window for dealing with mail means more problems for voters.

The pre-registration deadline for on-line voter registrations is extended from 5 PM on deadline day to 11:59 PM. This has been practice anyway, since the data auditors get daily through the state voter system only includes a date, not a time.

Not sure why abbreviating party names is a thing, but it's a thing, and I don't think it's an important thing.

Now back to substantive changes: Pages 14-17 raise signature requirements to get on the ballot. I don't see much reason for this - Iowa ballots have not been overly cluttered (other than the current Democratic presidential race which is a caucus not an election anyway).

Never trust a dude in a funny hat.
I suspect the push to make getting on the ballot harder is because Cindy Axne beat David Young with under 50% in a 6 way contest. But I don't think any force in the universe will be enough to keep Libertarian Bryan Jack Holder off a ballot.

There seems to be an inverse relationship between goofyness of candidate and ability to get signatures on nomination papers. People sign just to get away.

Page 17 adjusts the allowed special election dates, to account for the combination of city and school elections.

Page 18 addresses the issue of people holding more than one office at once. However, checking the cross reference, it only deals with holding more than one office at the same level of government.

If you were, for example, a sheriff, and later got elected supervisor, that's the same level of government. The proposal specifies that you would vacate the FIRST office you were elected to, rather than both.

This would NOT address what we had in Johnson County where school board member Phil Hemingway ran for supervisor and said he would also stay on the school board. Lost supervisor elections so issue did not come up. School and county are considered different levels of government.

Page 18 moves some county filing deadlines back a couple days, which helps auditors a little with ballot prep and printing.  The Legislature made filing deadlines later in 2017, with the reasoning that absentee ballots were being sent later so auditors had more time. During the debate, they did not seem to understand that federal law requires ballots to be ready for overseas voters by 45 days out.

Pages 19 and 25 prohibit auditors from mass-mailing sample ballots - which Linn County did in 2018. The concern was that voters might think the sample ballot was their real ballot.

Pages 19 and later references take the auditor's signature off ballots and replaces it with a county seal. Petty, but not something that'll really hurt anyone.

Page 19-20 raises signature requirements for third party candidates, & page 20-21 moves their filing deadline (other than president) from August to the date of the June primary. If I read right, full status parties would still be able to nominate candidates at a convention till August.

Page 23 "The (auditor) shall not participate in an absentee ballot drive or collection effort in cooperation with a candidate, candidate’s committee, or (party)." This is vague and leaves a lot of room for unfair interpretation. An auditor is an elected official and has the right to have their own campaign. Could a challenger collect requests but not an incumbent? And how do we define "participate"?  State law already prohibits candidates from handling voted ballots so an auditor can't ballot chase in a presidential year anyway.

Pg 23-24 moves the general election voter pre-registration deadline from 10 days before an election (Saturday) to 11 (Friday). One less day is not good, but could be a lot worse - some states have 30 day deadlines and no election day registration. (Amazed that there has been no effort to repeal election day registration - it must be popular with GOP voters as well, and it required ID even before the voter ID law.) The proposed change makes the deadline consistent for all Iowa elections.

Page 24 requires the presidential ballot to explain that votes are for electors rather than candidates. More unnecessary words and more space taken up on an already crowded ballot. (If you want to do something with the electoral college - get rid of it. Trivia: Until 1920, Iowans voted for individual electors, leading to minor variations in vote totals. Also until 1920, only men voted for those electors.)
We could all use a drink after the polls close.

Page 26 is a big one: it changes the close of primary and general election polls from 9 PM to 8. One less hour to vote, makes all Iowa elections the same. Don't like this, but I think this is a done deal.

My experience is that the 8 to 9 PM hour is a little slower than average but not dead. Busier in town than in rural areas.  Not good but the loss of 11 days of early voting (in the 2017 ID law) is a bigger deal than losing one hour of Election Day

Page 28 would require a runoff for a tied election for partisan office (county, state, or federal). Possible, but rare. Ties for city, school and township would still be name out of a hat. (I have offered my beret for this purpose but my boss has never taken me up on it.) We have ties nearly every general election for township offices - this happens when no one runs and multiple people get one or two write-in votes.

Pg 29-30: "A commissioner shall not use the voter registration system to obtain" missing ID info on absentee requests. Instead I need to call or, worse, snail mail people to get ID numbers that we are already looking at. That's how the voter ID law was worded in 2017 - and that section of the law was and for now still is blocked by court injunction.

There was lots of voter confusion about this while it was in force during the 2018 primary. People calling about "where on my voter card is my PIN number?" (If you have an Iowa license, you don't have a PIN). People putting down Social Security numbers, or non-PIN voter system ID numbers, or even ancient ID numbers from 15 year old voter cards from our old in-county voter registration system that we shut down in 2006 when we went to the statewide system. (If you are going to require an ID number, make it the one that the most people remember: the Social Security number. Even so, I ran into many young voters who don't remember their SSN.)

With the vote by mail window already shortened from 40 days to 29, anything that slows down the mailing process makes it more likely the vote won't count.

Page 31 is aimed right at the People's Republic - it prohibits auditors from establishing satellite sites without petitions, except in special elections. We have a long and popular tradition of several regular sites, especially the public libraries and University Hospitals. Less places to vote means more people pushed down to the auditor's office or to Election Day, longer lines, less parking.

Page 32 is actually a small improvement: It gives voters who failed to sign their absentee affidavit envelopes a few days post-election to come in and sign. Still an issue, though: Auditors can't notify voters of these mistakes after 5 PM the Saturday before a general election (Friday for all others). So a voter who makes a mistake Sunday or Monday is SOL. (This isn't a change, just an un-fixed problem.)

Pages 32-34 appear to deal with signature verification - which I expect a court to shoot down.
Signature verification is a Big Deal for Pate. At a training a couple years back, a staffer let slip: the mythology is that staff at group homes are mass-voting the clients. Not something I've seen any sign of happening.

Page 37 is a gem: The earlier proposal to outright ban satellite voting in state buildings is dropped - but is replaced by some draconian reporting requirements that will be a burden to both auditors and state staff. Auditors would have to report on "each state-owned building in the county that may be petitioned for a satellite absentee voting location." I don't know exactly how many buildings are on the UI campus, but it's into triple digits.

Here's the poison pill. Report would need to include "The impact of electioneering laws on first amendment rights of the Constitution of the United States in state-owned buildings." (This same "logic" is not applied to Election Day voting. Why should satellites be treated differently?)

I have many many times had to get campaigns of all parties and types to get out of range of campus satellite sites. I guess to Roby Smith, the right to campaign is more important than the right to actually vote.

Page 38 remains from the earlier version: it singles out graduating college students for a special letter encouraging/telling them to cancel their voter registration. Can't imagine this surviving in court. (Targeting graduates for cancellation also treats them differently from grad-school dropouts like me.)

Page 39: adding polling place hours to a voter card isn't a bad thing (though losing that 8 to 9 PM hour in primary and general elections is a bad thing)

Page 40 requires counties to participate in the annual NCOA update. Almost all do, and I believe all 99 did this year. Current law allows the option of a county wide mailing to all voters instead, which we did in 2016 with great success in cleaning up the rolls.

Things start to get worse on page 41. Voters would be placed on inactive status for not voting in a presidential election OR for not returning a mailing. Current procedure is you only get inactivated if the post office returns mailing as undeliverable.

This inactivation (and eventual cancellation) simply for not sending a card back had been a major voter suppression problem/tool in some other states.

Our county has a very small population that skips presidential elections but does vote in local school funding elections.  Without digging deeper, I suspect they are from non-mainstream religious communities that discourage voting.

Pages 44-47 deal with ballot rotation. We get that Roby Smith is petty and doesn't want to let auditors decide who goes first, and that's not a hill worth dying on, but this could have been done much more concisely. Put 50 Ds and 50 Rs in one hat, 99 county names in the other, and draw.

Pages 47 to 52 are some minor cleanup items dealing with the combination of city and school elections that will mostly affect auditors, minimally affect school boards and city councils, and will barely effect voters at all.
The postal bar code provisions start on page 53. Again - this is an issue of some significance, but it is a much much smaller issue than most of the other items above. It's only getting attention because of one close race.

And to add more confusion: The postal bar code goes away in 2023. After that, mailed absentees must arrive by a drop dead deadline of when the polls close. (This is called, in Orwellian fashion, "Sure Count.")  I can at least understand the reasons for some of the other provisions, even if those reasons are partisan and petty. But I don't get this. Make auditors buy equipment and implement a system for two cycles, only to take it away? Either go with the bar codes or go with the deadline, but do one thing and stay with it.

On that low note, after 57 pages, the amendment ends.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The State of Mismatched Names

As the 29 Democratic presidential candidates fan out across our state, operatives and journalists are taking note of one of our notable quirks: our bad habit of mismatching city names and county names.

It starts at the top. Our capital, Des Moines, is in mid-state, while Des Moines County is on the Mississippi River. The city of Keokuk is also on the Mississippi, but Keokuk County is about three counties northwest. Cedar Rapids is not in Cedar County, Iowa City is not in Iowa County, the list seems endless.

There are so many mismatches that I wondered if it was possible to draw a RAGBRAI route that successfully avoided all places that have mismatched names.

After wasting a bunch of time I determined: Yes, it is, just barely and with a couple asterisks.


In the map above, "Match" means a city in the county with the same name, with no other mismatches. Washington is in Washington County.

A mismatch is when a city is in a county with a different name. This disqualifies BOTH counties. Des Moines is not in Des Moines County, which makes both Polk County and Des Moines county a mismatch.

Borderline cases involve name variations or unincorporated, little known places. And there are some counties with no matches at all.

To successfully draw a RAGBRAI route without cities and counties with mismatched names you need to start in Missouri Valley and swing northeast. You have to ignore two borderline cases: Lake Mills is in Winnebago, not Mills, County, and Mitchellville is not in Mitchell county (though the smaller Mitchell IS in Mitchell County.)

Once you get through that one county corridor along the Minnesota border, you have several options in northeast Iowa. For a slightly shorter route, stay along the northern border all the way to Allamakee County and finish in Lansing or New Albin.

If you want to finish in Dubuque, just make sure you pass your bike tires through a quadripoint where Fayette and Delaware counties meet (or, if you lean slightly to the right into Buchanan, you can opt to ignore the unincorporated town of that name in Cedar County).

If you've made it this far, you probably want to see my work. Someone else is welcome to do the pronunciation guide.


Adair - Adair is in Adair County. (Part of city crosses the line into Guthrie County.)

Adams - no city with this name

Allamakee - no city with this name

Appanoose - no city with this name

Audubon - Audubon is in Audubon County

Benton - city of Benton is in Ringgold County

Black Hawk - Borderline. Cedar Falls not in Cedar County

Boone - Boone is in Boone County

Bremer- no city with this name

Buchanan - Borderline. Unincorporated town of Buchanan in Cedar County.

Buena Vista - Borderline. Unincorporated town of Buena Vista in Clinton County

Butler- no city with this name

Calhoun - no city with this name

Carroll - Carroll is in Carroll County

Cass - no city with this name

Cedar - Cedar Rapids is in bordering Linn County. Almost a borderline name-variation case but Cedar Rapids is both big enough and close enough for confusion.

Cerro Gordo - Plymouth not in Plymouth County

Cherokee - Cherokee is in Cherokee County.

Chickasaw - no city with this name

Clarke - Osceola is not in Osceola County

Clay - no city with this name. Ignoring Clay/Clayton county confusion.

Clayton - the city of Clayton is in Clayton County, but they fail because the city of Monona is not in Monona County. There's also unincorporated Hardin here and not in Hardin County.

Clinton - Borderline and a tough call. The city of Clinton is here of course, but so are the unincorporated towns of Buena Vista and Lyons.

Crawford - no city with this name

Dallas - Melcher-Dallas (formerly two cities, Melcher and Dallas) is in Marion County.

Davis - Davis City in Decatur County

Decatur- Davis City in Decatur County

Delaware - Delaware is in Delaware County

Des Moines - City of Des Moines is in Polk County.

Dickinson - Borderline. Unincorporated Montgomery is in Dickinson County.

Dubuque - Dubuque is in Dubuque County

Emmet - Emmetsburg is seat of neighboring Palo Alto County,

Fayette - Fayette is in Fayette County.

Floyd - Floyd is in Floyd County

Franklin - City of Franklin is in Lee County

Fremont - city of Fremont in Mahaska County

Greene - Jefferson not in Jefferson County

Grundy - Grundy Center is in Grundy County

Guthrie - Guthrie Center is in Guthrie County

Hamilton - city of Hamilton is in Marion County; Webster City not in Webster County

Hancock - city of Hancock is in Pottawattamie County.

Hardin - City of Union not in Union County. Iowa Falls not in Iowa County. Unincorporated town of Hardin is in Clayton County.

Harrison - no city with this name.

Henry- no city with this name

Howard- no city with this name

Humboldt - Humboldt is in Humboldt County.

Ida - Ida Grove is in Ida County

Iowa - Iowa City is in next door Johnson County

Jackson - no city with this name. (Ignoring Jackson Junction in Winneshiek County.)

Jasper - Even if you ignore the Mitchell/Mitchellville issue, the city of Monroe is here and not in Monroe County.

Jefferson - city of Jefferson is in Greene County

Johnson - Iowa City not in Iowa County

Jones - no city with this name

Keokuk - city of Keokuk is in Lee County

Kossuth- no city with this name

Lee - Keokuk not in Keokuk County; Franklin not in Franklin County

Linn - Cedar Rapids not in Cedar County; Marion not in Marion County

Louisa - Wapello not in Wapello County.

Lucas - city of Lucas is in Lucas County.

Lyon - Borderline. Unincorporated Lyons is in Clinton County.

Madison - Fort Madison is in Lee County

Mahaska - Fremont not in Fremont County

Marion - city of Marion is in Linn County; Melcher-Dallas not in Dallas County.

Marshall - Marshalltown is in Marshall County.

Mills - Borderline. Lake Mills is in Winnebago County.

Mitchell - Borderline. Mitchell is in Mitchell County but Mitchellville is in Jasper County. I'm inclined to give them a break here, especially since they are key to the RAGBRAI route.

Monona - city of Monona in Clayton County.

Monroe - city of Monroe in Jasper County.

Montgomery- Borderline. Unincorporated Montgomery is in Dickinson County.

Muscatine - Muscatine is in Muscatine County

O'Brien - no city with this name

Osceola - city of Osceola is in Clarke County

Page - no city with this name

Palo Alto - Emmetsburg not in Emmet County.

Plymouth - city of Plymouth is in Cerro Gordo County.

Pocahontas - Pocahontas is in Pocahontas County.

Polk - Des Moines not in Des Moines County

Pottawattamie - Hancock not in Hancock County

Poweshiek - no city with this name.

Ringgold - Benton not in Benton County

Sac - Sac City is in Sac County

Scott - The biggest county with no mismatch. Iowa has no city named Scott or any variation of Scott or Scot, they don't have so much as a township sharing a name with another county, and I'm not penalizing them for unincorporated Scotch Grove in Jones County.

Shelby - City of Shelby is in both Shelby and Pottawattamie Counties. Unincorporated Jacksonville not in Jackson County.

Sioux - Sioux City is in Woodbury County, though Sioux Center IS in Sioux County.

Story - Story City is in Story County.

Tama - Tama is in Tama County

Taylor- no city with this name

Union - city of Union is in Hardin County.

Van Buren - no city with this name

Wapello - city of Wapello is in Louisa County.

Warren - no city with this name

Washington - city of "Warshington" is in Washington County

Wayne - no city with this name

Webster - Webster City is in Hamilton County

Winnebago - Borderline. Lake Mills not in Mills County.

Winneshiek - no city with this name (Ignoring Jackson Junction.)

Woodbury - Sioux City not in Sioux County

Worth- no city with this name

Wright - Borderline. Unincorporated town of Wright in Mahaska County.