Sunday, December 31, 2006

U.S. Death Toll in Iraq Reaches 3,000

U.S. Death Toll in Iraq Reaches 3,000

Spc. Dustin R. Donica, 22, of Spring, Texas, was killed Thursday by small arms fire in Baghdad, the Defense Department said.

The grim milestone was crossed on the final day of 2006 and at the end of the deadliest month for the American military in Iraq in the past 12 months. At least 111 U.S. service members were reported to have died in December.

At least 820 U.S. military personnel died in Iraq in 2006...

Local vigil: TOMORROW, Monday, January 1, 2007, 6:00 p.m. at the corner of Clinton and Washington Streets in Iowa City.

2006 In Review

2006 In Review

New Year's Eve is also my blog-i-versary so I'm just feeling retrospective as all. A look back at the greatest hits of 2006.

(By coincidence, this contest is going on today)

  • January was caucus, caucus, caucus as we actually thought a four way governor's race might send the nomination to a convention (remember that Patty Judge started out running for governor?) But my heaviest traffic that month came not from Iowa but from Canada. I made a brief mention of their election and was bombarded by northerners trying to evade their national blackout of returns until the polls closed in the Yukon.

    In February, back when no one knew who the heck Dave Loebsack was, John Edwards came to town. Lonny Pulkrabek showed some nerve:

    Johnson County's top lawman urged state lawmakers Wednesday to decrease the criminal penalties for possessing a small amount of marijuana, a move that would essentially make penalties for such an offense comparable to getting a speeding ticket.

    Governor candidates start naming other governor candidates as running mates, and I get hit by a car on my bike.

  • March starts with the county conventions, which were being liveblogged all over the state. A bump in the road for Dave Loebsack on filing deadline day and lots of folks write him off... Rallies for peace and choice, the Touch Play battle rages, and I first discover the jet powered slug bug.

    April: Auntie Em! It's a twister! I first realize the impact the next morning when I bike past Happy Joe's - and there IS NO Happy Joe's. The GOP has a palace coup and Stew Iverson is deposed. Bush comes to Iowa for Nussle and Mike Blouin has soup in response. Neil Young rocks the planet with Living With War. Gas hits $3 a gallon and people actually stop driving for a moment. And Brett Favre says he'll play.

    May and primary politicking peaks on the Ped Mall. Sal Mohamed, however, prefers street corners. And the Republican candidates for Secretary of State look for ways to keep you from voting; neither of them make it to the fall.

    June and John Edwards comes back after the 666 primary to support Chet and unity. Locally the big winners are Larry Meyers and Janet Lyness. And there was that big upset by Denise O'Brien. The laptop crashed and with it six months of messages.

  • July: The DNC sets the 2008 calendar of Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina, New Hampshire. The foot doctor walks away, and Steve King likens immigrants to livestock. RAGBRAI rolls through. Lance Armstrong: big deal. John Kerry: no so much.

  • August: A local feather dustup over Jim Leach's campaign goodies. (I guess that problem is now moot.) The futile search for a GOP Secretary of State candidate finally ends with a reach to Washington DC for the Invisible Woman. Bill Northey starts getting nasty. The tenth anniversary of the murder of Eric Shaw passes. And whatever happened to Ned Lamont?

    September brings Obamamania Part 1 and record traffic thanks to link love at Obama's site. Loads of liveblogging with Loebsack at the Mill (my scoop of the year: Loebsack for single payer health care) Vilsack in Coralville, my one shot at Mark Warner, Chet in Iowa City on Labor Day and Chris Dodd at the Dems BBQ in North Liberty.

    September is when they start calling Bruce Braley a commie. The Hawkeyes peak early as the national sports spotlight lands on Iowa City for the Ohio State game. I do my Scarface imitation. And I write what I consider my best post of the year on the bullying bill.

  • October starts with Evan Bayh stressing at the last seconds of a Colts win. Bill Clinton keynotes the Jefferson-Jackson dinner and John Kerry comes to Iowa City for Chet.. All of a sudden, people start to notice this Loebsack guy. I looked back 10 years to the night I knew I was going to lose. The redundant registration Robot reminds us for four days. Spinach disappears and reappears, and Weird Al unleashes a masterpiece.

  • November and Steve King no quisiera que usted votara. Obamamania comes to the Ped Mall and the crowd chants "Dave! Dave! Dave!" We start to suspect something really big is happening...

  • Victory.

    Election Day sets another traffic record even though my work obligations keep me from writing till 3 AM Wednesday. Vilsack wastes no time declaring victory and getting in. Pundits mourn Jim Leach, and the UI president crisis hits the fan.

  • Dems remain giddy into December. I get all big picture with the caucuses' greatest hits and ranking the presidential contenders as Spinal Tap members. Vilsack gets all big brother with his logo and all ducky with John Stewart. Loebsack gets right to work.
  • Saturday, December 30, 2006


    So whö dä heÿ is a readin me in a Nørwåy?

    Aside: the literal meaning of "uff da" is "well, then." But as we Scandinavians know, it's actually Norwegian for "oy vey."

    I was trying to teach my daughter how we talk Up Nort over Christmas. The key is to work the phrases ice fishin and you betcha in as much as possible. It's also important to emphasize your O's, most definitively in the word MinnesOta. Make your final th's into t's, so you would call me John Deet. But be careful not to make the th to t drop sound Italian.

    Crime and Punishment

    Crime and Punishment

    Which is less likely to prevent further mayhem: the death of Saddam Hussein, or the arrest of a 96 year old mobster?

    Also: a reporter with the Google and the internets helps me re-fire one last shot in the Register.

    Thursday, December 28, 2006

    American Research Iowa Poll

    American Research Iowa Poll

    On Edwards Announcement Day here's numbers.

    Clinton 31%
    Edwards 20%
    Vilsack 17%
    Obama 10%
    Undecided 8%
    Kucinich 5%
    Biden 2%
    Dodd 2%
    Kerry 2%
    Clark 1%
    Gravel 1%
    Richardson 1%

    Big surprise here is an uptick for the governor and a downtick for Obama. Question wording? Fluke? Looking closer Vilsack wins among independents, which I think means less likely caucus goers.

    Kerry is below Kucinich. People were for him before they were against him.

    Wes Clark, one of the netroots darlings, is nowhere. Residual grudge for the Screw Iowa strategy? Or do people even care about that?

    On the GOP side, it's Giuliani 28%, McCain 26%, Gingrich 18%. The surprise here is Newt doing so well; looks like he has some residual support from Contract On America days. He may be one to watch. Romney is nowhere at 6%, way behind undecided.

    Numbers from other early states too. Vilsack the stalking horse is invisible in all the rest.



    Before the elected officials get sworn at, they get sworn in. A nice ceremony this AM at the Johnson County Courthouse attended by at least 100.

    Left to right: the newcomers, County Attorney Janey Lyness and Supervisor Larry Meyers. Then the holdovers, Recorder Kim Painter and Treasurer Tom Kriz. All Democrats - this is, after all, Johnson County.

    None of this is officially official till next week but what the hey.

    Also on the county front: the human rights ordinance has passed.
    The ordinance will protect residents from levels of discrimination not covered by the Iowa Civil Rights Act — marital status, sexual and gender orientation.

    Supervisor Sally Stutsman said the board will now consider writing a letter to push the Legislature to include those items in the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

    “So it doesn’t have to happen on a county-by-county basis,” she said.

    Let's use that trifecta to make it happen...

    The human rights ordinance is one more piece to a great progressive 2006 in Johnson County, says Karen Kubby.

    Wednesday, December 27, 2006

    What's More Complicated

    What's More Complicated

    Iowa caucus math or NFL playoff scenarios?

    As a result of the NFL utilizing its flexible scheduling plan to move Sunday games to prime time, the Packers will play the Bears at 7:15 p.m. on NBC. The league recognizes that this match-up might have playoff ramifications and, more important, could represent quarterback Brett Favre's last game.

    The Packers - one of five 7-8 teams vying for the final playoff spot...

    Hold it right there. "Five 7-8 teams vying for the final playoff spot"?!? Shouldn't they just give the number three seed a bye week instead? Or let some 10-6 AFC team have the slot?

    The Packers - one of five 7-8 teams vying for the final playoff spot, along with the Giants, the St. Louis Rams, the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers - basically have three ways to reach the postseason:

  • If the Packers beat the Bears, the Redskins beat the Giants and the Vikings beat the Rams;
  • If the Packers beat the Bears, the Redskins beat or tie the Giants and either the Falcons beat Philadelphia or the Panthers beat New Orleans;
  • and if the Giants beat the Redskins, the Packers beat the Bears and the 'strength of victory' tiebreaker ends up in the Packers' favor over New York.

    The NFL said Tuesday the Packers will clinch that tiebreaker if all eight - yes, eight - of the following games go Green Bay's way:
    Detroit beats Dallas, Minnesota beats St. Louis, Miami beats Indianapolis, Arizona beats San Diego, San Francisco beats Denver, New Orleans beats Carolina, Seattle beats Tampa Bay and Cleveland beats Houston.

    Because the game has been moved to prime time, there is no way the Packers won't know if they control their own destiny. All of the other games will be completed and either the Packers will have been eliminated or they will be playing the Bears for the right to go to the playoffs.

  • This should make it easier to understand:

  • Each player gets six cards, except for the player on the dealer's right, who gets seven.
  • The second card is turned up, except on Tuesdays.
  • Two jacks are a "half-fizzbin". If you have a half-fizzbin:
  • a third jack is a "shralk" and results in disqualification;
  • one wants a king and a deuce, except at night, when one wants a queen and a four;
    if a king had been dealt, the player would get another card, except when it's dark, in which case he'd have to give it back.
  • Big Egos in Small Packages

    Big Egos in Small Packages

    The Washington Post looks at Dennis Kucinich and his GOP longshot counterpart Duncan Hunter:

    Some calculate...

    Uh, oh, the dreaded "some say"! An objective journaism code word for "This is something that is painfully obvious but not Objective, so I'm going to put it out there and get someone to say it for me."

    Some calculate that their efforts may yield a vice presidential nomination. But those such as Kucinich and Hunter may be driven by something -- ego? passion? something else? -- that leads them to believe they have a chance of winning the White House despite what the typical measures of political viability suggest.

    Fred I. Greenstein, a professor emeritus of politics at Princeton University and one of the major scholars of political psychology, says politicians -- including some accomplished ones -- have trouble knowing their limitations. He said candidates exhibit a tendency "where faith triumphs over reason and empirical reality-testing falls by the wayside, and a lot of what drives people is some combination of vanity and lack of self-perspective."

    That's as far as they dare go, but it hits the nail right on Kucinich's head. I've had the luck as an Iowa Key Activist (TM) I've had the luck to observe many major leaguers up close in small settings. The true giants are self-effacing and unassuming. Howard Dean's rallying cry was "YOU have the power." I get a feeling of that from Obama, from Edwards.

    Kucinich even scoffs at the notion that he is not one of the leading contenders in the Democratic contest. Told that Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) appear to be the front-runners, he asked, "Says who?" (The answer, for now, is political polling.)

    What I get from Kucinich, from this quote and from his whole persona, is "I'm Important." Which hurts his very good platform more than it helps.

    Dems Promise a Better-Run Congress

    Dems Promise a Better-Run Congress

    "After chafing for years under what they saw as flagrant Republican abuse of Congressional power and procedures, the incoming majority has promised to restore House and Senate practices to those more closely resembling the textbook version of how a bill becomes law..."

    And if you're about my age this is the textbook version you know:

    I always felt so worried for Bill: "Die?!? Yes, DIE! In committee!!"

    From that same era: Jerry Ford is gone.

    His presidency remained open and plain.

    Not imperial. Not reclusive. And, of greatest satisfaction to a nation numbed by Watergate, not dishonest.

    It's either not the lead or just barely the lead, reflecting some judgement that he was only kinda sorta a president. Too bad because he was a decent guy. Even his defining moment, the Nixon pardon, was done out of a sense of decency (however misguided). One more bell tolls for the moderate Republicans.

    Monday, December 25, 2006

    The World Is A Less Funky Place

    The World Is A Less Funky Place

    And the heavenly choir has way more soul for Christmas church today. Thanks, Godfather. You made us feeeeel goooood.

    Sunday, December 24, 2006

    Interesting Map

    Interesting Map

    Although 1947 boundaries would be an interesting amendment...

    Looking Ahead to Reapportionment

    Looking Ahead to Reapportionment

    Start drawing the maps in your head:

    According to a new Election Data Services prediction, if the 2010 reapportionment were held today, six states would gain one seat apiece in the House of Representatives -- Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Utah -- and Texas would gain two seats. Those seats would come from seven states losing one seat each -- Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

    Saturday, December 23, 2006

    Getting Representatives-Elect Re-Elected

    Getting Representatives-Elect Re-Elected

    On the importance of nurturing the newest, including as CQ reports one eastern Iowan:

    Loebsack has been applying campaign-like vigor to raising his profile and developing a stronger rapport with his new congressional constituents — keeping a busy schedule of town hall meetings and “listening posts” in cities and towns across the southeastern Iowa district.

    Local observers say Loebsack’s series of constituent events is a smart way to raise his profile during the “honeymoon” period between his election and the start of the 110th Congress...

    A nice read on how nationals are seeing Dave and the district, and the lenses through which they see Iowa (too many quotes from the Overrated One).

    Friday, December 22, 2006

    KCCI Poll A Three Way Tie

    KCCI Poll A Three Way Tie

    Oh, sure, I know it says
    Edwards 22
    Obama 22
    Vilsack 12
    Clinton 10
    Gore 7
    Kerry 5

    Here's what I see:
    Edwards 22
    Obama 22
    Clinton-Vilsack ticket 22

    More fuel for the therory of Vilsack as stalking horse (or duck) and Hillary bailing on Iowa.

    Here's what else I see:
  • Gore 7 without any overt effort. Yeah, right, selling movies.
  • The 2004 caucus winner and nominee at 5%? Kerry is toast and should announce early for his Massachusetts re-elect.

    The locals who actually did the poll headline with "Vilsack 3rd". MyDD analyzes as "Obama does appear to be coming on strong."

    UPDATE: Register reports Clark and Kookcinich each at 4.

    GOP numbers:
    McCain 27
    Giuliani 26
    Romney 9

    Romney had a tough day today:
    First we learn that back in 1994 Romney said that he hoped "moderates of both parties" would control the Senate, "not the Jesse Helmses."

    Now it's emerged that Romney voted for liberal Dem Paul Tsongas in 1992.

    Combine this with the fact that close to half the GOP primary electorate considers the Mormon Church a cult and would never vote for him, and that nine percent is looking like a high water mark, not a starting point. You have to say a lot of things running in Massachusetts against Ted Kennedy that come back to bute you in a GOP caucus.

    McCain is having a good day says Kos:
    Insiders are reporting Bush has passed the word for his network of "Rangers" to turn their vast machinery of fiscal support in McCain's direction. The same insiders indicate that the word has gone down to the White House staff that they should feel free to split their posts at lame duck central and sign on to the McCain All Talk Express.

    McCain: The guy whose Turn it is next.

    Three wins in 11 days, all because I didn't watch my Packers. Last time I tuned in was that disaster against the Jets. Now they're 7-8 and not mathematically eliminated. Next stop: New Years Eve, Da Bears.

    And other obsessions: the title of the last Harry Potter book is announced.
  • Thursday, December 21, 2006

    Why The Republican Caucus isn’t a caucus: Caucus 101 Part Two

    Why The Republican Caucus isn’t a caucus: Caucus 101 Part Two

    Part two of my caucus series. This stuff may be redundant for old hands, but my experience going into my fifth caucus cycle as an Iowan is that most of us don’t understand it either.

    Most people expect a simple, show-up-and-vote primary. That’s not the caucuses. They’re run not by the election office but by the parties. And the parties are different. It'll take some `splainin', but bear with me and you'll see that Republican caucus results are really just a beauty contest.

    The nomination process, like America’s health care system, is the result of historical happenstance and accidents that has produced an unsatisfactory result that no one would build from scratch. Like health care, it has produced fiefdoms and special interests that are hard to battle, as any reform would gore someone’s ox. And my ox here in Iowa is the fattest of all.

    The birth and growth of Iowa was entirely a Democratic Party thing, an accident of McGovern-era reform. National rules and state statutes mandated certain amounts of time between each convention level. In order to meet the time frames and produce the paperwork on the ditto machines and mimeographs of the era, the caucuses were pushed back into February and accidentally landed before the New Hampshire primary. McGovern, having written the rules, figured this out and won Iowa in 1972, but the nationals didn’t notice. The first time the nationals noticed Iowa was Carter `76. After that, the Iowa Republicans decided they wanted in on the action, too, and by 1980 the IOWA CAUCUSES as we know them were in full swing.

    There’s delegates and then there’s delegates

    Way back when (does the name Adlai Stevenson ring a bell?), national conventions actually nominated candidates. I’m old enough to remember when the “delegate count” was the mainstream media’s main measure of candidate strength. (I’m old enough to remember when “mainstream media” was a new term.) Now that we have a rolling frontloaded pseudo-national primary or whatever it is, momentum is the self-fulfilling measure of support. The Iowa “delegates” matter because they’re the first concrete numbers. But we’re also actual people.

    One of the confusing things about caucus night is that “delegates” has multiple meanings. The delegates elected on caucus night aren’t going to Denver or New York or wherever. They’re going to the county seat. Iowa has a four tiered “caucus to convention” system.

  • Caucus Night, the big show, is at the precinct level.
  • Then there’s a county convention a few weeks later...
  • ...followed by a congressional district convention in April. No national delegates get elected until the congressional district level.
  • The state conventions follow in mid-June and the last delegates get elected there.

    But none of that matters much. What matters about Iowa is the numbers on Caucus Night.

    The Parties Are Different

    In order to understand why the Republican caucuses aren’t caucuses, you need to understand the Democratic caucuses. To grossly oversimplify:

  • You show up, sign in and declare your candidate preference. Real People hate this. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with having folks publicly state who they support. This is a meeting, not an election. But Real People – that is, folks who aren’t politicos- walk in thinking the caucuses are an election and expecting some sort of ballot secrecy.

  • At the magic minute – the schedule says 7:00 but in practice it’s whenever we get our act together – you split into groups. Hillary over here, Obama over there, Edwards over there.

  • You count off. The numbers at this point is what the press really wants, and IDP refuses to release it. Way back when, exit pollers - entrance pollsters, actually - tried to gather this data, but they gave up before my time. I think `88 was the last time they tried.

  • The duck drops down with the secret word. It starts with a V... No not "Vilsack." It's “viability”. Groups with 15% + are viable, groups below that aren’t.

  • Realignment time. The nonviable folks have to switch or merge or deal until you end up with everyone in a viable group.

  • You count off again and do the math to figure out how many county convention delegates each group gets.

  • You call Des Moines with numbers. Reporters want the numbers from the first count off: Clinton 106, Obama 95, Edwards 84, Vilsack 30, Kucinich 15, Uncommitted 10, Biden 4, Dodd 3, Mike Gravel 2, John Kerry 1, Kevin Phillips-Bong zero. They don't get it. Instead they get the delegate count: Clinton 3, Obama 3, Edwards 2, Vilsack 1. (I just made that up without bothering with predictions or the actual math.)

    Now here’s where I have the procedural problem. What would be the harm in reporting the actual numbers from the first alignment? The unspoken answer is that New Hampshire thinks that would make us too much like a primary, but what does that really matter with the reshuffled `08 calendar?

  • At this point all the Real People, having already stayed an hour longer than they wanted to, leave.

  • Each group – those diehards who stay, anyway – elects the actual human flesh delegates.

  • Everyone gets back together and the diehards of the diehards do the party administrivia.

    And then a step to the riiiight

    Meanwhile, while all this is happening in the cafeteria, the Republicans are down the hall in the library doing their thing. Needless to say I’ve never been to a Republican caucus but this is my understanding of the process:

  • You show up and sign in without any statement of who you support, unless you so choose to wear a big LAMAR! plaid shirt. Sorry, I flashed back to 1996 there.

  • At the magic minute you cast a secret vote for McCain or Romney or Brownback or whoever. Any Real People who have been to a Democratic caucus in the past are happy that there’s none of this preference grouping and viability counting stuff.

  • The Republicans, at some point in the night (perhaps a GOP reader could fill in these details) count these and report exactly what the press wants: Giuliani 106, McCain 95, Romney 84, Brownback 30, Gingrich 15, Uncommitted 10, Tommy Thompson 3, Tom Tancredo 2, Atilla The Hun 1. And Kevin Phillips-Bong, zero.

  • The Real People leave, at about the same time the Real People at the Democratic caucus are asking "now WHICH side of the room do the Edwards people go to?"

  • The entire caucus – those diehards who stay, anyway – elects the actual human flesh delegates and do the party administrivia. None of this proportionality stuff that the Democrats do.

  • The diehard Republicans go home, at about the time the Democrats are counting off for the second time.

    This is the important part:

    Notice that the election of the delegates has no connection whatsoever to the votes just cast by the Real People.

    Perhaps I exaggerate slightly, but my point stands. Is the Republican caucus count as reported interesting? Certainly. Does it measure real support for the candidates? Perhaps. Is it important? Insofar as we make it so. But does it have any direct connection with naming the people who will actually choose the Republican nominee? No, because the people voting on the delegates are a different universe of people, the self-selected diehards. If everyone leaves but, say, the Brownback people (see made-up numbers above) then the Brownback people elect all the delegates.

    To get a sense of who made concrete progress toward the nomination, the media would have to exit-poll the people elected as delegates. But why bother when you have a much more interesting number handed to you by the state party? No, the Iowa Republican caucus is nothing more than a glorified straw poll, a “beauty contest” primary. At least it’s not a buy-a-vote, one site in the state straw poll like the August event in Ames.

    Which is fine if you like it. But that bit of detail tends not to be emphasized very loudly.
  • Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    Loebsack in Burlington

    Loebsack in Burlington

    The underrated Burlington Hawkeye has a nice Loebsack piece:

    When Congress meets, Loebsack said he wants to sign onto bills that support a universal health care system, reform lobbying and ethics, cut student loan costs in half, increase the minimum wage by $2.10 an hour, reduce energy dependence and help workers.

    Loebsack already signed on to the Employee Free Choice Act which helps workers to form, join or assist labor organizations without repercussions.

    I need to get a little more diligent with checking the smaller Iowa papers. In the meantime Mike Carberry gets a hat tip.

    Playing offense: Democraticavenger at MyDD has a Top 50 list of GOP house seats to target in `08. The very winnable Iowa 4 is on a couple of his lists. Even Steve King makes the list of incumbents below 60%, but that doesn't account for the Roy Nielsen moderate protest vote.

    From the in box: A vigil is planned for the evening of the 3000th US military death in Iraq. Date to be announced but all too soon, time 6 PM. Clinton and Washington corner of the Pentacrest - that's across the street from Iowa Book.

    Tuesday, December 19, 2006

    Cat smarter than Bush

    Vilsack Not Total Dork On Daily Show

    Vilsack Not Total Dork On Daily Show

    The Guv didn't do half bad, and gets points for playing along with the duck joke. You can watch it here but you must endure an ad first. Would have been bigger points if they'd replaced the sound chip in the stuffed AFLAC duck so it actually said VILSACK! when Stewart squeezed it, but oh well. He played along with the Are You Qualified To Be President quiz too ("35 years old? Check. Haven't already been President for eight years?")

    We Iowans, myself included, ARE total dorks for treating this like actual news here and here and here, but Stewart is a good hit in an era when fake news is a better truth teller than real news.

    Which will we see first: Iraqi democracy or Chinese Democracy? Axl's over the shark, skiing past the Richie Gets Drafted season and headed straight for Joanie Loves Chachi.

    Spinal Tap commits heresy and sells out for a commercial, compromising the innocent sentiments of their timeless first hit "Gimme Some Money" for an American Express ad. Their drummers must be rolling in their graves. Future Spinal Tap ad opportunities:

  • "Cups And Cakes" for Donutland
  • "Listen To The Flower People" for FTD
  • "Big Bottom" for any number of weight loss centers
  • Monday, December 18, 2006

    Iowa Bigger Than Ever?

    Iowa Bigger Than Ever?

    LA Times thinks so, but more importantly they give the quote love to one of the JC Dems' own:

    The courtship of key activists has been underway for months. Sarah Swisher, a nurse and labor leader in Iowa City, has spoken with more than half a dozen prospective Democratic candidates soliciting her views on healthcare and angling for support.

    "It's been intense," Swisher said.

    "Key activists" always sounded so mysterious before I got into the ball game. Now after 16 years in Iowa, activists is pretty much everyone I know, and my own keys have a flash drive attached.

    Felt uninspired to write over the weekend as I was satidfied with my instant take on the Bayh witdrawal and the near-simultaneous Announcement announcement from Edwards. That's a pet peeve of mine: the announcement of the Announcement. The ACTUAL newsworthy announcement is the pre-announcement, the Announcement itself is a staged op that should by ignored. Edwards' New Orleans photo op might help some folks down there, but the political story is redundant; he's in.

    My least favorite ever was on one of Nussle's house re-elects when he had an Announcement after the papers for re-election were filed. "I'm running for re-election!" Gee, we figured that, what with your name on the ballot and all.

    But back to Bayh and Edwards. Bayh gets credit for figuring out there's no room for a nobody, and that proves he's smart enough to be a somebody later. Same with Mark Warner (though he's reportedly reconsidering). My guess is Richardson also bails soon,. Kerry, Biden and Dodd will slog it out because age leaves them no other option - though Biden and Kerry each have Senate re-elects in `08. Kucinich will plays the issues martyr and protest not being mentioned in every single story. But I got the intangible sense last time that this is less about issues and more about Dennis Puchinich and Dennis Kucinich's ego.

    No, no room on this stage for anything but giants and rock stars.

    That leaves the Man From Mt. Pleasant. And the more I look, the more he feels like a stalking horse, allowing Hillary to take a pass on our distasteful backslapping and potluck suppers and skip straight to Nevada and New Hampshire.

    Here's a couple semi-random things:

  • A Kos thread on Senate appointments; Grim Reaper political geeks like me had to do something with all the Tim Johnson research.
  • Junk crawling goes all green and trendy. Gee, and I though I was just a cheap scrounge who lived like a college student (you mean the silverware is supposed to match?)
  • The second D in ADD: disorder, or difference? Hence the semi-random.
  • No mood for holiday music: Warren Zevon instead.
  • Saturday, December 16, 2006

    Bye Bye Bayh

    Bye Bye Bayh

    Due to circumstances beyond our control the odds were longer than I felt I could responsibly pursue...

    Sorry about the headline. I'm a bit surprised after his investment in an entire staff in Iowa this year, but glad for his sake that he preserves his dignity.

    Evan Bayh is only 50. He can wait till 2016 or 2020. John Kerry can't and neither can the asterisk candidates (Biden and Dodd come to mind).

    2008 is looking like a year of giants: Clinton, Edwards, perhaps (gulp) Gore... and of course Obama. Could Bayh have some knowledge about Obama's decision? Maybe not, but he was smart enough to see that he couldn't break through the noise, and that there's no gap for a DLC candidate with HRC and a stubborn Vilsack in the race.

    Friday, December 15, 2006

    New Dems Win Cheap, Loebsack Wins Cheapest

    New Dems Win Cheap, Loebsack Wins Cheapest

    MyDD has a nice handy list:

    Tallies of candidate and independent expenditures in the 30 seats captured by House Democrats reveal something unusual. In 21 of those races, Republicans outspent Democrats. In most, they enjoyed the benefits of incumbency as well (name recognition, office mailings, services to constituents). To put this in perspective, in 2004, winning candidates were outspent in a grand total of three House races.

    One of the biggest wastes of GOP money was Mike Whalen; they burned through $4.9 million, outspending Bruce Braley by $2 million with all those Communist Trial Lawyer ads.

    But here's the truly amazing factoid: Not only did Dave Loebsack spend less than any other successful House challenger, he spent less than a third of what the next lowest new winner spent (Nancy Boyda of Kansas, and she outspent incumbent Jim Ryun thanks to late help from the DCCC).

    Granted, Jim Leach was also by far the lowest spender among the defeated Republicans. But he still outspent Loebsack by $100,000, and Dave had to overcome 30 years of incumbency and name ID.

    Give them credit; on both sides this race was a model for voluntary restraint. Put it this way: they each spent less running for Congress than Mid-American spent last year to crush public power - on a city ballot issue.

    The DI was at the Hamburg Inn with Loebsack for one of his first town meetings. Wonder if he sat at the Clinton table or the Reagan table?

    Thursday, December 14, 2006

    Loebsack Says Thanks At Supporter Get-Together

    Loebsack Says Thanks At Supporter Get-Together

    Overflow crowd of at least 100 tonight at the Loebsack congressional office for a thank-you party for supporters.

    Ellen Ballas and (not pictured) Mike Carberry presented Dave with a framed copy of the Press-Citizen from Victory Morning.  Dave struck a nice Dewey Defeats Truman pose but I was at the wrong angle.

    Loebsack shared a few stories from his trips to Washington including his unexpected visit to the White House.  Conversation:
  • Cheney: You know, Jim Leach is a good friend of mine.
  • Loebsack: Well, Mr. Vice President, I'm sorry I beat him.

  • More seriously, Dave shared his concerns for Terri's son and daughter-in-law in the service Over There with Bush.

    The first colleague Dave sought out on Capitol Hill was George Miller of California, chair of the Education and Workforce committee.  It was Dave's first and only choice and he got it.

    The logistics of starting the job are underway.  Dave wants to get back to the district nearly every weekend and announced definite plans for district offices in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.  Sites in the southern end of the district to be determined soon.  The exact Iowa City location is close to set (stay tuned).  He introduced district director Rob Sueppel and (in absentia) DC chief Eric Witte; both have worked for Leonard Boswell in the past and Rob is an Iowa City native.

    As a professor, Dave told the folks at Cornell that it's a little odd to leave a tenured job for a non-tenure track position, but he asked us all for help on the next job review.

    The usual fun snacking and schmoozing followed.  In addition to lingering giddiness over the host's win, talk turned to the caucuses and the sales tax election.

    The Principle of the Turn: Why McCain Is Already The Nominee

    The Principle of the Turn: Why McCain Is Already The Nominee

    In the postwar era, the Democrats have had some truly wide-open nominating contests. But the Republican Party has no Jimmy Carter coming out of nowhere in the last 60 years, no McGovern insurgency taking over the party in one fell swoop. They don’t even have the kind of Seven Dwarves nomination by attrition that gave us Michael Dukakis.

    Instead, Republican nominations are completely predictable. They always, always, always nominate…

    the guy whose Turn it is next.

    I touched on this a couple years back but trot it out again now that events have moved on and my audience has jumped.

    This principle of the Turn – a term I shall Capitalize to emphasize its Significance - both transcends and flows with the ideological shift of the GOP from northeastern moderates to the neo-Dixie theocrats who run the party today. The Turn line stretches back, with one arguable gap, to Tom Dewey.

    The change in the nomination process, from the functional, brokered convention to the sequential state by state primary race, has been driven by the Democratics. The Republicans have been dragged along by changes in state law that were made, by and large, to facilitate the big-D Democratic process.

    Yet there's still an insider dynamic to Republican nominations. Perhaps this is because Republican voters are conservative in manner as well as ideology, believers in order and tradition and succession and continuity. Mass psychoanalysis is risky, but cycle by cycle, administration by administration, the principle of the Turn wins out.

    Earning the Turn

    How do you earn the Turn? By positioning yourself as the obvious heir apparent.

    The easiest way to do this is through the Vice presidency; you need only to meet minimal standards of ept-itude to earn the Turn. Not hard, but not automatic. Nixon and Bush Sr. weren’t exceptional but weren’t in question either. Agnew was well on his way to a Turn - there were “The Spiro of `76” signs at the 1972 convention – but he crashed and burned even before Nixon.  Dan Quayle, a punchline from day one, fell short.

    (Why is “inept” a word and “ept” not?)

    Top party leadership or genetic connections can also earn you a turn, but the only other way is to self-start and claim a place in line. To stake a claim, you challenge the holder of the Turn in the primaries. You’re not contesting THIS nomination, you’re shooting for the one four to eight years ahead.

    The History of the Turn 1944-2004

    This abbreviated, simplified history looks only at the giants. No Al Haig comic relief here.

    The Turn starts with the handoff from Tom Dewey to Ike. Dewey’s wartime loss to FDR was not held against him, and he kept significant party influence despite the Dewey Defeats Truman election.

    There was a spirited battle in `52 between Eisenhower, who had the backing of the northeast Dewey wing, and Bob Taft (son of the fat president, grandfather of his namesake the disgraced governor), the candidate of the mossback Midwesterners on his second or third try. There WERE no Southern Republicans yet. The northeasterners won out because it was Ike’s Turn after winning a war and all, and with the assist from the northeast. (Taft died the next year and never got a Turn.)

    After Eisenhower the eight year vice president, occasionally controversial but competent, had his Turn. The Nixon Turn is a little complicated. Goldwater, the only break in the line, got his 1964 chance only because Nixon – still holder of the Turn after his narrow loss – took a pass. The country wasn’t going to elect a new president less than a year after the Kennedy assassination; even Goldwater believed that. LBJ got a bye. Think of it as a brief interregnum, like Oliver Cromwell, and see the 1968 Nixon nomination and win as the restoration.

    The absolute proof of my theory

    Who was the only person ever to beat Ronald Reagan?

    That’s right, I’m Gerald Ford and you’re not. How could an unpopular, unelected president beat the ten foot tall colossus of the GOP? Because he was PRESIDENT and therefore it was his Turn. The conservative movement had gathered steam through the long Nixon-Ford era, but for matters of the presidential succession the Turn principle was more important than ideology.

    Only after Ford had run on his own, and almost held on despite all odds, was it Reagan’s Turn. Again, proof positive that the shift in ideology and geography is less important than the
    Turn principle.

    After Reagan, Bob Dole tried to make the case that Senate leader trumped an eight year vice president for the Turn. But since Bush the Elder had met the vice presidential standard of minimum ept-ness, he got it instead. Dole only got his Turn AFTER Bush 41 had used it up, and became the only post-Dewey Republican to earn the Turn but not the presidency (Goldwater got the mere nomination, but not the critical Turn.)

    The line seemed broken at last, but the GOP Powers That Be quickly settled on Junior, the Legacy Candidate, as the one whose Turn was next. John McCain challenged but fell short.  Did that

    The Future of the Turn

    It would have been interesting, albeit scary, to see what impact Cheney would have had on the 2008 race. I think the Turn principle would have triumphed and he’d have won the nomination.  Even likely electoral disaster (Ford `76, Dole `96) does not deter the Turn.

    The importance of 2000 was not the Bush 43 nomination but the Claim on the Next Turn. Like Reagan in `76, and Dole in `88, McCain lost but he ran well and positioned himself in the intervening years. He earned the Next Turn.

    Thus the 2008 primaries are NOT about who will be the nominee. They’re about who will come in second and claim the Next Turn for `12 or `16. The nominee is determined: John McCain.

    Edwards leads poll, but does it mean anything?

    Edwards leads poll, but does it mean anything?

    Jane Norman at the Register has a story on the Environmental Defense poll released yesterday.
    Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina and the winner of the 2004 caucuses (sic), was picked as the early preference of 36 percent of likely caucusgoers in the survey.

    Uh, note to Jane to double check her caucus returns. Here's the numbers for the poll:

  • Edwards 36
  • Clinton 16
  • Obama 13
  • Vilsack 9
  • Kerry 6
  • Biden 5
  • Clark 3
  • Richardson 2
  • Bayh, Dodd asterisks

    Interesting, but it was conducted October 12-19, two whole months ago before the Vilsack announcement and more significantly before the present round of Obamamania. Why was it held so long? And I'm sure the Kookcinich supporters will say he was deliberately blacked out by the media conspiracy. Anyone think Vilsack will get the clue soon?

    Real People alert: Obama's Monday Night Football bit was number one on the viral video sites yesterday, ahead of all the Star Wars outtakes and nipple slips. When a politician outranks boobies, something big is happening.

    All good wishes to Senator Tim Johnson. It's sad that so many thoughts turn so fast to the political implications rather than the human element, but that's how this business works. Johnson has devoted his life to political public service and I'm sure his loved ones, in addition to their purely personal pain, share the same political concerns.

    No link love for all the Pat White hagiography in today's papers. Instead you can look back at how he dropped the ball on the Eric Shaw case.
  • Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    Know a District: Loebsack Meets Colbert

    Know a District: Loebsack Meets Colbert

    Dave Loebsack, among many others, is Better Known by Colbert. Blink or you'll miss him at 2:01 and 2:53.

    King For Senate Still Possible?

    King For Senate Still Possible?

    Capitol Hill rag The Hill thinks so, including Krazy Steve's name in a list of House members who may be Senate kandidates. (I stole Krusty's dictionary this morning.)

    King has been laying the fundraising and organizational groundwork for a Senate run for four years but said he is not yet in a position to make a decision on whether to run in 2008 against Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

    King said he wanted to be sensitive to others who might be interested and declined to offer a timetable for his decision. “You know as much about it as my wife,” he said.

    Bring it on, Stevie...

    After that writing marathon yesterday (working on more), a few quick links.

    Committee assignments:

    Rep.-elect Dave Loebsack, a Mount Vernon Democrat, was recommended for the Committee on Education and the Workforce, which oversees education and labor issues. Loebsack had said during his campaign that he would seek a seat on the committee.

    "This appointment will allow me to work to expand college access, support our public schools, and protect American workers," Loebsack said.

    Braley to Transportation as Boswell moves over to Energy and Commerce (the John Dingell empire once again).

    Hillary has folks over for dinner
    , the Underrated One hears.

    A loss last night in Iowa House 52 but the Dems never expected that one. A big win in Texas as Ciro Rodriguez wins the last US House seat in a runoff.

    And just for fun, a talk with Mick Jones of the Clash.

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    Two caucus nights?

    Two caucus nights?

    Nothing on the Iowa GOP site, but Connecticut Bob and Kos are disseminating someone's Wikipedia'd calendar that shows the Republican caucuses on January 21 - a week AFTER the January 14 Dem date.

    This can't be right. Someone - I know I have Republican readers - someone please help nail the facts down. Is this just some idiotic Wikipedia typo? Or are we actually going to have TWO caucus nights?

    Since `80 the Iowa Dems and GOP have coordinated caucus dates. It's in Iowa's interest - and in each party's interest. I think bipartisanship is overrated, but I think we can work together on this.

    The Caucuses' Greatest Hits: The 1976-2004 Boxed Set

    The Caucuses' Greatest Hits: The 1976-2004 Boxed Set

    I’ve followed presidential nomination politics closely since 1980, extremely closely since 1984 (motivation: I was doing a humorous speech on the primaries in intercollegiate speech competition and needed to keep my jokes up to date), and from a front row seat as an Iowa party activist since 1990. Apply salt in grains or blocks as needed.

    This is my first attempt at an ongoing series about the Iowa caucuses. The idea is mostly to focus on the kind of stuff the locals know but the national folks miss. This first time, though, my in-state perspective is just in the anecdotes.

    First question: Do the caucuses REALLY matter? How important are they in terms of overall impact on the nominating contest, the presidency, and history? Here’s a look back, categorized and countdown formatted (with apologies to Casey Kasem). In the process of writing, I surprised myself and changed my own number one.

    Not Worth The Airfare To Waterloo

    13. 1984 and 2004 Republican. The Republican tradition is to hold no presidential vote at all in incumbent re-elect years. Or in years when Republicans otherwise reside in the White House.

    12. 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 delayed till past the newspaper deadline and thus went down the Memory Hole. 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. Only time I've ever caucused for the eventual nominee.

    11. 1992 Republican. Ranked up a little because the inside the Des Moines Beltway (yes, non-Iowans, Des Moines has a beltway) decision NOT to hold a vote while the Buchanan Brigade was tearing up New Hampshire was a strategic win for Bush Sr.

    Ultimately Irrelevant

    10. 1992 Democratic. Hometown boy Tom Harkin runs and wins big, though not as big as it looks (that’ll be a later discussion). Paul Tsongas, already on the ground in Iowa, bails. A couple feints from Bob Kerrey and Jerry Brown but nothing serious. In the end, Iowa kept first place after `92 only because Harkin jumped on the winner’s bandwagon while the other rivals couldn’t hide their obvious contempt for Clinton. (Jerry Brown probably wrote himself in that November.) The long term importance of 1992 may be that Hillary Clinton didn’t have to shake hands and eat hotdish in towns like Courthouse Center and East Pole Bean.  Comic relief: An Iowa City dorm precinct elected a Jimmy Carter delegate.

    9. 2000 Both. On the Democratic side Al Gore 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. The truly significant GOP event was the summer 1999 buy-a-vote 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). This one was like one of those boycott-era Olympics: Bush Jr. won but the toughest competitor, McCain, was a no-show. Comic relief: People who took Gary Bauer seriously, Alan Keyes in Michael Moore’s mosh pit.

    Secondary event in nomination contest

    8. 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.

    7. 1996 Republican. Frontrunner Dole wins, 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. What might have been: Pat Buchanan was within 3% of Dole, but the fundamentalists 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. Comic relief: Easily the funniest caucus! Bob 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.

    6. 1988 Democratic. Gephardt narrowly wins. Some Paul Simon loyalists still point to a couple late reporting counties and say otherwise (real-time rules on reporting results have been enacted since then), but this one proved the winner-take-all-news theory. Al Gore is the first to use the Screw Iowa strategy.  It's never worked (save for the Tom Harkin year), but nevertheless Gore wound up outlasting the two Iowa leaders. But the contest came down to Dukakis vs. Jackson, neither of whose fortunes were affected by Iowa.  Comic relief : Gary Hart’s last minute return to the race, campaigning with his wife.

    Significant event in nomination contest

    5. 1988 Republican. Pat Robertson pushes Bush Sr. 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 Bush Sr. 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.

    4. 1984 Democratic. Gary Hart barely squeaked past his old boss, George McGovern. But second, no matter how distant, was enough to make him the anti-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

    3. 2004 Democratic. Nothing that happened after Iowa mattered nearly as much as what happened in Iowa.  The guy who won got the nomination, the guy in second gets VP.  And the guy who came in third yelled. The Dean Scream goes down as the most memorable caucus moment, but everyone forgets The Scream was after The Much More Important Disappointing Third Place.  Iowa was the whole ball game in 2004.

    Made History

    2. 1976 Democratic. This one made both Jimmy Carter and the reputation of 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 the only caucus that directly produced a president merely SECOND. But read on.

    1. 1980 Republican. In the first true Iowa Republican caucus (more on the two party history and the very significant differences later), an obscure former ambassador, spy boss, and failed Senate candidate George Herbert Walker Bush shocks 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 Bush 41, do you REALLY think Bush 43 would have made it on his own? History needs a major rewrite without that 1980 caucus.

    As for history and the caucuses themselves, a mixed bag.  Irrelevant nearly half the time, critical a little less often.

    Monday, December 11, 2006

    Loebsack Listens

    Loebsack Listens

    The Congressman-elect holds his first listening posts. Four today: two each in Ottumwa and Fairfield. The rest of the week's schedule:

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    Meeting: Iowa Department of Transportation

    Event: Ribbon Cutting, Iowa Student Loan's Cedar Rapids College Planning Center Grand Opening
    Location: 100 Blairs Ferry Road NE, Cedar Rapids
    Time: 3:00-4:00 PM

    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    Meeting: University of Iowa Government Relations

    Thursday, December 14, 2006

    Event: Iowa City Listening Post
    Location: Hy-Vee - 1720 Waterfront Drive
    Time: 8:30-9:30 AM

    Event: Iowa City Listening Post
    Location: Hamburg Inn 2 - 214 N. Linn St.
    Time: 10:00-11:00 AM

    Friday, December 15, 2006

    Event: Lisbon Listening Post
    Location: Gwen's - 119 W. Main Street
    Time: 8:00-9:00 AM

    Meeting: Healthcare Leadership Council

    Event: Cedar Rapids Listening Post
    Location: Blue Strawberry - 118 2nd St. SE
    Time: 12:00-1:00 PM

    Dave's also having a get-together for supporters Thursday at the old HQ. Think I'll stop by that one...

    Trifecta Makes A Difference

    Trifecta Makes A Difference

    Cases in point:

    1. Bolkcom, others push for car loan rules:

    Legislative Democrats including Iowa City Sen. Joe Bolkcom joined with Attorney General Tom Miller Monday in pledging to enact new restrictions on car title loans, which they claim are ``fundamentally unfair'' to consumers.

    The Senate has three times approved the restrictions, but they were bottled up in the House, which had been under Republican control.

    Bolkcom said he would push the restrictions as part of a larger package dealing with predatory lending practices, such as payday loans.

    ``For the last decade, Iowa's working families have been targeted by an increasing number of predatory lending schemes,'' said Bolkcom.

    The proposal offered by lawmakers and Miller would cap car title loan interest rates at 21 percent...

    2. Bye Bye 2000 Foot Law:

    Anticipating a more welcoming political climate at the Legislature in a non-election year, opponents of Iowa’s controversial 2,000-foot rule for sex offenders on today rolled out an alternative proposal that they say would better keep children safe.

    But as more registered sex offenders quit notifying authorities of their whereabouts, the measure and similar restrictions subsequently passed by local governments last year were roundly criticized as being neither effective nor enforceable.

    “There is absolutely no correlation between someone’s residency and reoffending,” said Corwin Ritchie, executive director of the Iowa County Attorneys Association, which supports the measure.

    Other groups that helped draft the alternative proposal are the Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association, Prevent Child Abuse Iowa and The Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

    If we repeal it, and correct me if I'm wrong, we'd be the first in the nation to do so...

    You knew this was coming:

    Rep. Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2004, said Monday he is planning to run again...


    "I am not planning to run for president again," Gore said last week, arguing that his focus is raising public awareness about global warming and its dire effects. Then, he added: "I haven't completely ruled it out."

    Linn County Auditor goes straight to the voters:

    Linn County voters will be voting on who will be county auditor on Feb. 13, the same day they decide the fate of a 1 percent local option sales tax for schools.

    Democrat Joel Miller, the mayor of Robins, is the only announced candidate for the auditor's job. He has been endorsed by the Linn County Democratic Party, of which he is the former chairman.

    Ripple effect: Dems do get out the vote for a partisan office on sales tax day; how does that play? Money for The Kids, or Regressivity?

    Aside: In addition to its other annoying habits, the Gazette has what seems to be a policy of ending every election article with a one sentence paragraph listing the salary of the job, as if the paycheck is the only reason people are running. I hate it almost as much as the mandatory mention - must be on the midterm in Journalism 101 now - of whether or not crash victims were wearing seat belts: "The Volkswagen was crushed to the thickness of a stale tortilla after being run over by a semi, and then burst into flames. (tone of warning) The driver of the VW was not wearing a seat belt."

    Obama Makes His First Misstep

    Obama Makes His First Misstep

    From my perspective anyway. USA Today Sports:

    Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat doing nothing to discourage speculation he'll take on Senate colleague Hillary Clinton for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, will appear in ESPN's Monday Night Football opening to talk about 'a contest between two very different philosophies' that is also 'a contest about the future.' And — hint, hint — acknowledges questions about 'whether the new guy has enough experience.'

    Then, he says, he'll 'put all the doubts to rest. After a lot of thought and a good deal of soul-searching, I'd like to announce to all of America that I'm ready … for the Chicago Bears to go all the way!'

    Well, you can't really fault the guy for pulling for his team, but there are a lot of Rams fans in downstate Illinois...

    Hidden Gems This AM

    Hidden Gems This AM

    A few neat lines are buried in a mostly too-cutesy story about the Terrace Hill transition:

    Many applications have already been received for the Iowa Board of Regents, which oversees the state universities. The terms of Regents Teresa Wahlert, Amir Arbisser and Mary Ellen Becker end in April.

    A number of the applicants are from the Iowa City area.

    Not, uh, shocking. The damage is done here, to Vilsack and to the University; blatantly obvious that the whole thing is caught up in the politics of health care profits. Hopefully Culver can insulate himself.

    But this is just funny:

    "It's very daunting," said Bonnie Campbell, the former Iowa attorney general and the transition committee's chairwoman.

    Like Bonnie Campbell would know much about being a governor-elect?

    Also noted: Drew Miller sets the expectation bar for Vilsack in Iowa at 50%. Do we bloggers get to do that?

  • Pack wins ugly. I missed the game. Coincidence? My streak continues.
  • The only way anything purple from Minnesota will get there: Prince at Super Bowl halftime. Suggested playlist: "Darling Nikki," "Erotic City," "Sexy MF" and a medley of the entire "Dirty Mind" album. Suggested wardrobe: the buttless pants from the 1991 Video Music Awards. And maybe he could play the Purple Rain era ejaculo-guitar too.
  • Kate Winslet decries super skinny super models and looks waaay good while doing it.
  • Saturday, December 09, 2006

    My nose for news is fading

    My Nose For News Is Fading

    Rejection of Regents Recommended in Resolution.

    I get scooped by the local papers and I was LIVEBLOGGING at the meeting:

    The Johnson County Democrats voted 24-4 Thursday to send a resolution to Gov. Tom Vilsack that he "demands" Regent President Michael Gartner and Regent President Pro-tem Teresa Wahlert resign.

    Rod Sullivan, who is a non-voting member of the group and also a member of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, said he supports the resolution.

    "You are talking about half the people in this county are directly affected by the UI. (The UI president) is the most important position in this county. The whole situation that has occurred is not just unfortunate for the university, but for the whole county," Sullivan said.

    Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said it is common for state department heads and agency heads to offer resignations when a new governor steps in and suggested all the regents do the same.

    "I think it would be appropriate if regents did that as well, and Culver could appoint who he wants," Dvorsky said. "That is a good way of doing it so you are not singling people out.

    Guess I didn't think it was such a big deal, "fire Gartner" is an even more popular rallying cry in Iowa City than "fire Alford."

    The dissent, such as it was, seemed centered around the potential reaction of the husband of Regent Ruth Harkin, but that wound up not swaying folks.

    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    In politics, good looks can help

    In politics, good looks can help

    Good looks really do matter when it comes to politics, Australian researchers have found, and can add an extra 1.5 percent to 2 percent to a candidate's vote...

    No wonder I lost... did I mention Stephanie Herseth was re-elected in a landslide?

    Here's what's up at the Central Committee:

    JC Dems Chair Jen Hemmingsen stepping down in March; no dirt, no fight, just wants more normal time for family stuff.

    House 89 challenger Mark Nolte says he "will be on the ballot again". Interesting note: he raised about $13,000 and won 44%; House 79 challenger Clara Oleson raised nearly three times as much yet won only 38% - even worse than I did (my district overlapped parts of these two).

    Chris plays the thermometer meme.

    Iowans on Iraq Report

    Iowans on Iraq Report

    Iowa Delegation responds. Most stories just have the senators, Boswell, and Krazy King, but Dave Loebsack makes the morning Register:

    "It's a good start for the conversation. It doesn't go far enough ... I remain adamant about beginning immediately to disengage. I hope we can all work together to take up a real solution to this."

    In Linn County, Robins mayor/former Dem Chair Joel Miller throws his hat in the ring for auditor.

    School district announces sales tax forums:

    The Iowa City School District will hold the first of three public forums on the proposed 1-cent sales tax for school buildings at 7 p.m. Monday at Northwest Junior High, 1507 Eighth St. in Coralville.

    Superintendent Lane Plugge will present information on the proposed school infrastructure local option sales tax vote, which is scheduled for Feb. 13.

    Two other public forums on the tax are planned for Jan. 8 at North Central Junior High and Jan. 11 at South East Junior High.

    Johnson County Dems regroup tonight in post-election mode. Maybe I'll have some news. In the meantime I can't tell if this is a hoax or not:

  • War on Drugs Expands to Catnip

    The Furry Four are quite concerned.
  • Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    Fire, Ice, Lukewarm Water

    Fire, Ice, Lukewarm Water

    The meme of the night in the Iowa Dem blogosphere is the candidate thermometer. OK. I'll play. Here's how I'm feeling 13 months out.

    Fire (these go to eleven)
  • John Edwards
  • Russ Feingold
  • Barack Obama
  • Bill Richardson
  • Lukewarm Water (Are we gonna play "Stonehenge" tonight?)
  • Evan Bayh
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Chris Dodd
  • Tom Vilsack
  • Mark Warner
  • Ice (I'm sure I'd be feeling much worser if I wasn't under such heavy sedation)
  • Joe Biden
  • Wesley Clark
  • Tom Daschle
  • John Kerry
  • Dennis Kucinich
  • Even Global Warming Can't Thaw This (maybe if they did it in Dubbly)
  • Al Gore

  • Drummers indicate non-candidates who have spontaneously combusted.

    Yes just when you though it was safe, the last guy to get the clue in 2004 is back:

    "There is much speculation and rumors about my plans for 2008. Shortly, I will make my intentions known, " said Kucinich. In the meantime, I am going to continue to challenge the Administration and Congress to cut off the funds for the war, bring all our troops home and end the grave misadventure in Iraq."

    So when is "shortly," anyway?

    "Shortly is shortly," says Kucinich spokesman Doug Gordon.

    If I were working for Dennis Kucinich I'd be really careful about the word "short."

    I'm probably going to make some people mad, but Dennis Kucinich just always really irritated me. Some of it was superficial: the Natural Law Party logo, the second worst toupee in Ohio politics... (It was really really bad hair, but Dennis has the bad luck of coming from the same state as the all time bad hair champ James Traficant.) And there were little things like campaigning for a win in Hawaii after Kerry had the nomination mathematically clinched. Getting the message out - or stroking the ego? True, anyone running for office has to have a little more ego than average, but Dennis always seemed like he went back for seconds in that department.

    For some offices a perfect platform, or having the loudest version of the perfect platform, is enough. But the presidency is different. It's about the message AND the messenger. You need to inspire. Obama and Edwards inspire me. Howard Dean inspired me. Even Bill Clinton, in the heady days of `92, inspired me. My dream is inspiration AND the perfect platform. But Paul Wellstone died. And Dennis Kucinich's position papers and demanding style were no substitute. There's a difference between righteousness and self-righteousness.

    Caption Contest

    Caption Contest

    Sorry, Chet; I couldn't pass it up.

    The New Guv was talking tax yesterday:

    Culver set a target date of Jan. 30 for submitting his budget proposal to the 82nd General Assembly and said "very likely" will include a cigarette tax increase that could generate $80 million to $150 million to reduce smoking among teenagers and to help fund health-care initiatives. Currently, Iowans pay 36 cents per pack in state tax and Culver has indicated he favors boosting that by as much as a dollar per pack.

    "We're the lowest in the region right now except for Missouri," said Mike Gronstal, the Senate Democratic leader. "I think it's pretty likely that the cigarette tax will go up."

    Culver said he would not include a proposal to raise the state's tax on a gallon of gasoline, but he expected the Legislature would consider ways to cover an anticipated shortfall in road-use tax revenues to finance needed transportation projects.

    Too bad; as we found out this year the one thing that actually makes people change thir habits is $3 gas.

    John Edwards makes an interesting hire:

    Ex-Rep. David Bonior (D-MI) has come aboard as a senior adviser for policy and politics. But Bonior's role on a presidential effort will be far greater than simply "adviser." According to a source close to Edwards, Bonior (a former House Min. Whip under Dick Gephardt) will likely assume the role of "campaign manager" should Edwards decide to run in '08.

    Bonior -- currently the chair of American Rights at Work -- served in Congress for 26 years and was Whip for 11 years. In '02, Bonior left Congress to run for MI GOV; he finished second in a 3-way Dem primary. Bonior graduated from the University of Iowa (a convenient alma mater for WH '08)...

    Dave Bonior was part of the giant Watergate class of `74, winning tough turf in suburban Oakland County, Michigan for a quarter century until he got gerrymadered out of office. Hence the odd run for governor; his heart never really seemed to be in it. (Kind of like Nussle running for governor because he was term-limited out of his chairmanship?) One of two tragedies of Michigan in `02, the other was the loss of progressive Lynn Rivers in a primary battle with old-school John Dingell. Anyway Bonior's exit created a vacancy on the leadership ladder that was filled by Nancy Pelosi in that great battle with Steney Hoyer that no one outside DC really heard about until last month.

    Bonior made it out here to his alma mater once in my years here but fore some reason I missed it. By the way, I find the literal meaning of "alma mater" as either "nurturing mother" or, oddly, "foster mother."

    Apparantly I'm not the first to think of the phrase "Brownback Mountain." Googling it I found some great descriptions:
    Probably the only senator who is more "George Allen" than George Allen and more "Rick Santorum" than Rick Santorum... he's very good at combining bigotry, ignorance and incompetence.

    Anyway here's yesterday's local coverage of the guy who wants to be the evil anti-Dean of the GOP. I sooooo want this guy to get nominated; Fifty. State. Dem. Landslide.

    Tuesday, December 05, 2006

    An Interesting Recommendation

    An Interesting Recommendation

    50 US Reps sign Leach for UN letter, with one very interesting sidebar:

    Among members of the Iowa delegation in the House, only Rep. Leonard Boswell, a Des Moines Democrat, and incoming Rep. Dave Loebsack, a Mount Vernon Democrat, have signed on to the letter. Loebsack defeated Leach. In the letter, members of Congress say that Leach’s nomination would be “a strong demonstration of a renewed bipartisan foreign policy and show a real commitment to the best tradition of United States diplomacy."

    Bayh Not Scared Off, But Not Winning Lefty Love Either

    Bayh Not Scared Off, But Not Winning Lefty Love Either

    At this point at least it looks like the Vilsack run isn't keeping anyone away, with Evan Bayh passing through yesterday. The Underrated One writes:

    White House hopeful Sen. Evan Bayh warned on Monday that Democrats could lose their newfound grip on Congress if the party pursues an ideological course.

    The Indiana senator, who announced Sunday he was taking the first step in a presidential bid, has cultivated a centrist image as one of his party's moderates, a Democrat who can win in a Republican-leaning state.

    At a stop in the early voting state of Iowa, Bayh told business leaders that Democrats' hold on power, secured with Election Day wins last month, could be brief if the party isn't careful.

    Kos is not, not, not pleased with Bayh's tone:

    "Ideological"? You mean, like governing based on core Democratic principles?

    I know Bayh doesn't have any of those. But perhaps he could wait until Democrats propose something "extreme" before he says idiotic shit like this?

    Bayh refused to send some of his big warchest to the DSCC when we pushed the "Use it or lose it" strategy, denying the national party money when locked in its fierce battle for control of the Senate. Now, after betraying the party pre-election, he wants to lecture it post-election?

    Although Bayh had staffers on the ground in a lot of places including here in Iowa, and I'm sure we'll be seeing those familiar faces again soon. Anyway, it's clear that the Bayh strategy is summed up in that Indiana map: all the counties that were red for Bush and blue for Bayh in 2004.

    Hillary Clinton dips a toe in the water; the big story seems to be that she called Bonnie Campbell.

    Add to this list the other people who've stopped by even after it was clear Vilsack was in, and it's not looking like 1992. But stay tuned. In 1991, there were early forays into the state by Paul Tsongas, Jerry Brown and Bob Kerrey, and they all bailed before caucus night once it became clear Harkin had the thing nailed down.

    1992 was a wild and wooly ride all around. A year out the Democrqatic nomination looked like a no-prize for the right to lose 47 states to Bush Sr.; Bob Kerrey impulsively got in late after the botched Soviet coup - there was a country called the Soviet Union back then - and six months out it looked like our next president was Ross Perot. The cutting edge technology was Jerry Brown's 1-800 number and Paul Tsongas' paperback book, and only ubergeeks had email.

    Local legislative clout

    A pair of Iowa City-area Democrats will lead two of the Senate’s most powerful committees when the 2007 session of the Iowa Legislature gets under way next month.

    Sen. Bob Dvorsky of Coralville will head the Appropriations Committee, which oversees spending by state agencies. Sen. Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City will lead the Ways and Means Committee, which works on tax policy legislation.

    The tax and spend liberals indeed. Heh heh heh.

    Big shakeup in Linn County:

    Longtime Linn County Auditor Linda Langenberg is resigning to become Iowa's deputy secretary of state in charge of elections.

    She was chosen for the appointive post by incoming Secretary of State Michael Mauro...

    And, since there were so many it was hard to keep track, CQ Politics has a handy-dandy rundown of defeated House Republicans. The actual headline is "Defeated House Incumbents" but oh, yeah, there were no defeated Democrats.

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    National: Brownback In, Bolton Out

    National: Brownback In, Bolton Out

    Now that Frist is out someone had to get in to work the scary wing of the GOP:

    Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, a favorite of the religious right, said Monday he is taking the first step toward launching a bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

    A vigorous abortion opponent, the Kansas senator pledged to make "issues of life," fiscal restraint and tax reform key components of his effort to woo supporters.

    He also announced 20 members of his exploratory advisory committee, an eclectic mix ranging from anti-abortion activists to business executives, including: Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, former Major League Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, and the Rev. Frank Pavone, head of the advocacy group Priests for Life.

    Does anyone know if the Domino's Pizza boycott is still on? I remember the pro choicers boycotting Domino's in the late `80s because of all the $$$ Monaghan was giving the anti-choicers, but I can't find any info anywhere on whether it's still going. Besides, their pizza tastes like the cardboard box, and if I'm going to buy pizza from a Republican, I'm going to go local and buy a really GOOD pizza from Armond Pagliai.

    Anyway, Brownback is starting out in Cedar Rapids Tuesday. And it'll be fun making "Brownback Mountain" jokes to see how mad he gets at the implication (insert the Seinfeld Disclaimer).

    Bolton out at the UN. So we should hear more about the Leach job search soon.