Friday, August 31, 2007

Early States Ask Dem Candidates To Skip Leapfrog States

Early States Ask Dem Candidates To Skip Leapfrog States - Richardson and Dodd Sign Pledge

The Iowa Democratic Party today joined Democrats in the other three official early contest states -- New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina -- in asking Democratic presidential candidates not to campaign in states that have violated the Democratic National Committee's calendar and scheduled unauthorized early primaries.

UPDATE: Richardson signs pledge first, closely followed by Dodd. The AP reports that Biden has also signed.

The joint letter comes a day after two more developments on the caucus date leapfrog front:

  • A Florida activist sued the DNC and the Florida state party over the DNC's ruling last weekend that could cost Florida all its delegates.

  • The Michigan House of Representatives joined the state senate in approving a calendar-violating Jan. 15 primary.  The bill goes to Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who is expected to sign.

    In the joint letter from the Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina parties, candidates are asked to sign the folowing pledge:
    I (name), Democratic Candidate for President, pledge I shall not campaign or participate in any state which schedules a presidential election primary or caucus  before Feb. 5, 2008, except for the states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina, as "campaigning" is defined by rules and regulations of the DNC.

    The letter is signed by the four state's Democratic Party  chairs and also by  Sen. Tom Harkin, Gov. Chet Culver, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and Rep. James Clyburn, the top-ranking elected Democrat in South Carolina. None of the elected officials who signed has yet endorsed a candidate.

    Thursday Granholm, expecting the move by the official early states, wrote to candidates of both parties asking them not to make such a commitment.
    "I strongly urge you not to sign any pledge that would prevent you from campaigning in Michigan," the governor wrote, adding that addressing the manufacturing crisis and unfair trade policies is more important than the politics behind which states get to vote early.

    After lengthy negotiations, the DNC chose the four official early states in July 2006 as the only ones allowed to hold nominating contests before February 5, 2008.  In addition to Michigan, Florida has jumped ahead of this schedule, as have Republicans in South Carolina and Wyoming.
  • Former DNC Chairman Expects Strong Finish for Clinton in Iowa

    Former DNC Chairman Expects Strong Finish for Clinton in Iowa

    Former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, now heading up Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, said Thursday his candidate is the most electable Democrat and predicted a strong Iowa caucus finish - whenever the caucuses happen.

    McAuliffe delivered a high-energy talk to two-dozen supporters -- mostly students -- on campus Thursday afternoon. Clinton is ahead in polls in 33 of the first 36 primary and caucus states, he said.

    "The only states we're not up in, we're tied for the lead in North Carolina against Edwards, we are 3, 4 points behind Obama in Illinois and the same thing against Richardson in Michigan," said McAuliffe.  "Besides that, she's doing great."

    Still, he doubts Iowa polls that show Clinton in the lead. "We're probably in second place behind Edwards and moving." McAuliffe emphasized the amount of time Edwards has spent in Iowa since his 2004 presidential and vice-presidential campaigns.
    "Iowa and New Hampshire will stay first, no matter how they have to move it," McAuliffe told reporters after the speech.  "Nobody wants to go into `07.  It doesn't impact us as much as it impacts some of the other candidates who don't have as much resources.  They're trying to decide, `Do I go to Florida? Do I go to Michigan?  Where do I go? And when do I go?'"

    Noting that that very afternoon, the Michigan House of Representatives had joined the state's senate in moving to Jan. 15, he added,  "they need to get some finality to this calendar."

    Looking ahead to the next cycle, McAuliffe said wider reforms in the nomination process are needed.

    "Once this is done, whoever wins, hopefully it's us, we've got to get the Democrats and Republicans together in a room early and work this out jointly together.  I don't know if regional's the answer, a lot of people recommend that.  I do know that people don't want it to go too early.  People want broad representation in the process.  Next time around people have got to know ahead of time where those states are going to be.  The issue comes down to Iowa and New Hampshire.  And there are many people, everybody knows (Michigan Sen.) Carl Levin and he's got every right to say what he likes.  He just doesn't think, and he's very vocal; he doesn't think Iowa and New Hampshire should go first.  I believe Iowa and New Hampshire have a special place, I'm of the idea that you've got to do things like this (event); you've got to go to the living rooms.  They put you through the grinder with questions, which I think is a good process."

    Nonetheless, McAuliffe said, "We will deal with whatever calendar is given to us. We are competing everywhere."

    "It is over the evening of February 5," McAuliffe told the audience. "There are too many delegates at stake on the same day.  Could be 60 percent.  In five months this is over."  While he was not overconfident, McAuliffe seemed to draw a picture of inevitability as he rapidly cited 20- and 30-point Clinton leads in large states.

    With the nomination in hand, McAuliffe looked ahead to the general election and attacked the electability question that has hovered around the Clinton campaign. "Hillary today is the only candidate who wins the general election against every single Republican.  She's the only one who beats Rudy Giuliani in New York and California," he said.  "If we've got to compete in two of our blue states, like California and New York, that's trouble if we got to spend tens of millions of dollars defending what should be true blue states.  We've got to win Ohio.  Hillary today walks away with a double-digit lead in Ohio.  Today we win Florida against every single Republican.  We are ahead in Iowa today in the general.  We are now tied for the (general election) lead in the state of … Texas."

    McAuliffe has no doubts that the general election will be tough and expects the Republicans to attack.
    "These guys are not going to give up power easily.  You've got to be prepared.  She knows what she's up against.  They have thrown the kitchen sink at this woman.  She has had it all.  And guess what?  She's still winning.  Now she's out telling her story for the first time, and that's why her numbers keep going up, her negatives are going down.  Why during the re-elect did Hillary carry 58 of 62 counties?  She carried 37 counties that George Bush carried in New York, with over 60 percent of the vote.  'Cause they got to know her.  She knows what's coming and we're ready with all of this; we're winning the general election.  We're not going to let people define her."
    "The Republicans are smart, they're tough.  They go after our assets.  They went after John Kerry's assets.  He was in uniform and he'd served.  They took a positive and tried to turn it into a negative.  We're not going to let ANYBODY do that to Hillary Clinton.  We are going to defend her and her record.  We understand what's coming; some of the candidates have gotten a little … frisky already.  We're going to defend her, but we're going to stay positive, 'cause that's what the public wants."

    McAuliffe was reluctant to let anyone off the hook, pausing his talk every time someone left the room to push for a Clinton commitment.

    "All of our candidates are great.  I think probably collectively, the best field we've ever had," he said.  "But I think what stands out is when people watch Hillary in those debates, and you've got the seven guys and Hillary up there, she stands out and everybody says `tomorrow, the woman could be commander in chief of the United States of America.'"

    Despite the mention of gender, McAuliffe said, "I'm excited to elect the first woman president of the United States of America.  But you're not going to elect her because she's a woman, you're going to elect her because she's strong, she's tough, she's experienced.  But that is another benefit."

    A Labor Day Look at the Presidential Race

    A Labor Day Look at the Presidential Race

    Labor Day is traditionally seen as the start of campaign season, but in the 2008 presidential race, the campaign is well under way on both sides.  And caucus night approaches at double speed, as the days move forward on the calendar and as a yet-uncertain caucus date moves backward.

    As Iowa pauses for a three-day weekend to wrap up the summer, it seems like a good time for Iowa Independent to wrap up the campaign so far.

    Iowa Democrats are in an upbeat mood since their 2006 statewide wins and seem frustrated only by the high quality of the field.  The top-tier candidates - New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards -- are tightly bunched at the top of polls.

    After leaking and then denying a Screw Iowa strategy memo, the Hillary Clinton campaign has embraced the caucuses, recently launching its first TV ads.  While the candidate often says, "I'm not running to be the first woman president, I'm running because I feel I'm the best qualified," there's an undercurrent of identity politics in things like music choices and lists of 100 Women Leaders for Hillary.

    The Clinton campaign has also managed to link itself to the Clinton 42 legacy while at the same time asserting an identity for the possible Clinton 44.  Signs and logos all say "Hillary" (no Clinton and certainly no Rodham), yet any speech references to health care invariably include the phrase "I've got the scars to show" for her 1993-1994 role in health care reform.  And the highlight so far for the Hillary Clinton campaign was the Fourth of July week tour with her husband, the former president. The two are visiting the state again this weekend.

    The only other living former Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, had good words this week for John Edwards.  Edwards has evolved his "Two Americas" theme into an energetic, populist presence on the campaign trail. Along with Barack Obama, he has turned the word "lobbyist" into an epithet in Democratic circles, and this has served as a way to attack national front-runner Clinton obliquely rather than head-on.  Edwards has also raised the electability question that has held the Clinton campaign back somewhat.

    Edwards has an advantage that other campaigns (besides also-ran Dennis Kucinich of Ohio) don't: lists of Iowans who backed him in 2004.  Many have stayed with Edwards for 2008.  But because Iowa is his strongest state, Edwards is the candidate most affected by the ongoing battle between states over the caucus and primary schedule.

    Barack Obama is seeking to work his own plan.  He recently announced he has had enough of the cattle call/multi-candidate events and unsanctioned debates and forums from every interest group under the sun.  The rap on Obama is "inexperience," and he consistently responds that judgment is more important. Often he takes the opportunity to cite his from-the beginning opposition to the Iraq War, in contrast to votes by Clinton and Edwards authorizing the war.

    So barbs are beginning to fly among the top three.  But the Iowa caucuses became the IOWA CAUCUSES in large part because Iowans proved themselves willing to look past the front-runners and give the also-rans equal consideration. That's the big hope for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden.

    Richardson has moved up in the polls to a steady number four in Iowa after running the first, and by consensus, best TV ads.  He has played on the "job interview" theme of the ads in appearances throughout the state and this week publicly set the goal of finishing third or better in the caucuses.  Though he has been slowed by poor debate performances, the consensus is he's much stronger in solo settings.

    Joe Biden has trailed in polls but picked up several legislative endorsements.  He's tirelessly working the state and seems to allow the most time for question-and-answer sessions.  However, he tends to answer the same number of questions in the longer time frame, because his answers are much longer.  Biden is usually too deep and too detailed for sound bites, though he pulled off a classic in one early debate: Asked about his verbosity, he gave a one-word "yes" answer.

    Chris Dodd appeared to be the odd man out until this week.  With no major support visible, he often appeared at the below 1 percent asterisk level in polls.  But this week's surprise endorsement by the International Association of Firefighters may put Dodd on the map.  The firefighters' endorsement served as a big break for John Kerry in late 2003, when Kerry was struggling and Howard Dean was possibly contemplating running mates. But the IAFF endorsement was quickly trumped by the Hillary Clinton campaign, which rushed out an endorsement from the International Association of Machinists while Dodd was triumphantly touring Iowa with the firefighters.

    The campaigns of Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel have been mostly invisible in Iowa.  Kucinich has one field staffer in the state and occasionally registers residual support in polls from his 2004 run.  Kucinich's debate performances tend to rise and fall with the format.  If the moderators are inclusive and split time reasonably evenly, Dennis rises to the occasion. But when he's cut out of the conversation he sounds stressed and desperate.  Mike Gravel, whose last appearance on a ballot was a 1980 primary defeat in Alaska, has rarely seemed other than cantankerous.

    While the mood of Democrats seems to be "it's all good," Republicans seem to be asking, "is this the best we can do?"  The party's front-runners each have flaws which could prove fatal with some segment or another of the conservative coalition: former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's Mormon faith; Arizona Sen. John McCain's age; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's two divorces, strained relationship with his children and his moderate track record on social issues, and then there's former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson's reluctance to actually get into the race.

    Iowa Republicans have already seen one round of voting at the Aug. 11 Ames Straw Poll.  The buy-a-vote fundraiser, won by Romney, saw significantly lower turnout than the 1999 event and was haunted by three no-shows: Giuliani, McCain and Fred Thompson.

    The biggest story so far on the Republican side has been McCain's slide from the top tier to the also-rans.  Dogged by fierce criticism from the Republican base for his support of the Bush administration's immigration bill, and by frustration even among Republicans for his support of Iraq War policy, McCain has seen money and support vanish.  There's open speculation that he's only staying in the race to qualify for federal matching funds in January.  McCain has campaigned intermittently in Iowa, but avoided the pre-Ames candidate crunch.

    Undeclared candidate Fred Thompson has made one foray into Iowa, speaking at the state fair the week after Ames.  Many wags noted that rather than walking the grounds, he was ferried about in a golf cart. The former Tennessee senator is expected to make a long-delayed formal announcement next week.

    Giuliani visited Iowa before the straw poll and since then, and was running ads the week before Ames. He recently opened a second Iowa office, in Iowa City.  But internal campaign documents leaked this week to the Washington Post indicate that Giuliani, the front-runner in national polls, is more likely to focus on other states ("Florida is the firewall," proclaims a Giuliani campaign PowerPoint presentation), hoping that 9/11 name ID and the Feb. 5 national primary will propel him to the nomination.

    The straw poll voters punished all three candidates who skipped Ames.  Though the first-place winner at Ames was Romney, the consensus Big Winner was former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who upset Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback in the battle for second place and for the hearts and minds of Christian conservatives.  The Fair Tax organization, which backs a national sales tax to replace the income tax, claimed victory for Huckabee.

    Huckabee has crafted a compassionate conservative image and spun out an interesting personal story that includes a 100-pound weight loss a few years ago and an unexpected love for rock music.  In contrast Brownback, the other competitor for the religious right vote, stuck more strictly to the anti-choice template, running negative ads pre-Ames against rivals and making unsubtle campaign appearances with Terry Schiavo's brother and Norma "Jane Roe" McCorvey, the Roe v. Wade plaintiff who has since converted to the anti-choice cause.

    In contrast to Giuliani's national strategy, Iowa appears to play a big role in Mitt Romney's game plan.  He spent heavily to win the straw poll and seems to be the establishment choice, at least in Iowa, since McCain's collapse.  He still trails in national polls, which probably reflects lower name ID than Giuliani, McCain and TV star Fred Thompson.

    Texas Rep. Ron Paul seems to be fighting a completely different battle than the other Republicans.  Die-hard internet support for the anti-big government, anti-war, one-time Libertarian nominee led to money and pre-Ames radio and TV ads.  Paul was advertising on rock radio stations for a small turnout election, while most candidates only bother with news radio and other older demographics.  Before straw poll week, his one Iowa visit was a well-attended Des Moines rally next door to a candidate forum from which he'd been ham-handedly excluded.  Paul's backers range from the reasonable to the, well, quirky, but he's put himself on the map far more than anyone expected. It's hard to see this truly different candidate winning the nomination, but it's also hard to see his supporters backing anyone else.

    Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo was expected to make a bigger splash than he has with his anti-immigration message.  But perhaps he achieved his stated goal of promoting the issue.  In any case, he has kept a lower profile since the immigration bill died, and now seems more interested in attacking other Republican lawmakers whom he sees as weak on the issue.

    The straw poll drove Tommy Thompson, former governor of Wisconsin, completely out of the race. The former governor publicly said he'd get out if he didn't finish first or second; he came in sixth.  Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore didn't even make it as far as Ames, bailing after a couple debates.  His lone contribution to the dialogue was coining the name "Rudy McRomney" to dismiss the then-frontrunners.  That's more than California Rep. Duncan Hunter, whose invisible campaign continues, has managed, and there seems little rationale for his no-chance bid.  Low point: Hunter couldn't say why he voted against the farm bill.  At the Iowa State Fair.

    Lost in the Shuffle

    Lost in the Shuffle

    In the midst of the massive gay marriage news slam yesterday, a couple other items:

  • Michigan House joins Michigan Senate on the Jan. 15 primary; Guv Granholm expected to sign.

  • Dodd's Firefighters endorsement gets stepped on by Hillary. She picks up the Machinists. In an unusual move, IAM also makes a Republican endorsement: Huckabee. They say about 1/3 of members are GOP. Last time I recall anything like that was 1994, when Iowa AFSCME mads a joint anyone but Branstad endorsement of Gopher Grandy and Bonnie Campbell. Also, the Carpenters back Edwards. Will labor be all over the place?

  • Kos like the gay marriage ruling.
  • Disappointing Culver Comment

    Disappointing Culver Comment

    In a prepared statement, he said: "While some Iowans may disagree on this issue, I personally believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

    The Guv went on with some "rule of law and respect for the judicial process" lip service, but leading with the same frame, with the same wording, as Christopher Rants? What a letdown:

    I guarantee you, there's going to be a vote. One way or another, people are going to have to pick a side, you can't be on the fence," Rants said. "You either believe marriage is between a man and a woman or you don't and we'll find out."

    Update: While Mike Gronstal didn't exactly dance in the streets, he at least used a Democratic frame on the issue:
    "Today's civil-rights ruling by Judge Robert Hanson is another step in what is expected to be a lengthy legal process. The prudent approach would be for the Legislature to await an expected appeal and subsequent ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court before taking any steps in reaction to this decision."

    Thursday, August 30, 2007

    Painter Looks At Marriage Ruling Professionally, Personally

    Painter Looks At Marriage Ruling Professionally, Personally

    Kim Painter of Iowa City is on the front lines of today's gay marriage ruling both personally and professionally.  As Johnson County recorder, she issues the county's marriage licenses.  Yet before today's court ruling, Painter and her long-time partner were ineligible for a license themselves.  After winning competitive primary and general elections in 1998, Painter became the first open lesbian elected to county-wide office in Iowa.  She has long since settled into office, winning re-election twice with no opposition, and is this year's president of the Iowa State Association of Counties.

    Painter is planning to meet with Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness Friday to discuss the implications of today's ruling on her office.  "We're reviewing the wording to determine what it means outside Polk County and the judicial district," Painter said.  "(Friday's) hearing will determine, among other things, when the ruling will take effect."

    In 2003, during the weeks when San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom was issuing marriage licenses in his city, about 20 same sex couples attempted to get marriage licenses in Johnson County.  Painter had the duty of enforcing the law as it was then interpreted.  She turned the couples away, despite her personal opinion about the law.

    "I believe that equal protection applies to marriage," Painter told Iowa Independent.  "We tried to parse and negate equal protection for certain classes of people,and if we try to take that equal protection away from a certain class of people, then we destroy the constitutional fabric itself."

    Iowa City Gets A Primary

    Iowa City Gets A Primary

    It was looking like Iowa City was going to have its first odd October without a city primary since 1991. But late on filing deadline day, `01 and `03 candidate Brandon Ross became the fifth person in the at large field. He joins Matt Hayek, Mike Wright, Terry Smith and incumbent Dee Vanderhoef. See ya at the polls October 9.

    Congratulations to Ross Wilburn and Regenia Bailey who got no opponents in the district races.

    Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down In Polk County

    Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down In Polk County
    National Ripple Effect?

    Today's ruling in favor of gay marriage, in the largest county in the first (?) caucus state, could have a national ripple effect on the presidential campaign. Will the hot-button issue move to the national front burner again?

    On the Democratic side, only long shot candidate Dennis Kucinich supports gay marriage. The other contenders support civil unions. But the ruling may increase pressure on the front runners to support true equality, and complicate the balancing act of attracting progressives to win a nomination without alienating general election swing voters. It would be interesting to see how a stance of persuasive leadership, ahead of public opinion, would play coming from a top tier candidate.

    Larry Craig's sad, self-hateful story is the polar opposite of the committed, lifelong relationships of the six Iowa couples who were plaintiffs in this case. But the Republican Party's overnight abandonment of Craig illustrates the GOP's deep hostility to all things gay. The impact on the Republican nominating contest will be a race to condemn the ruling and outdo each other rhetorically. It may also re-focus attention on Rudy Giuliani's relatively moderate social views. Rudy's no gay marriage backer, but he's clearly more comfortable with gay issues and gay people than the rest of the field.

    Republican legislators are already saying the gay marriage issue needs immediate attention in January's session. Will the motivated and enraged conservative base demand action even sooner -- say, at a special session? They can't call one, as Democrats control the gears. But there's been some discussion of a possible special legislative session to amend Iowa's "eight days before any other nominating contest" law. Could this issue complicate that already difficult question?

    (Also: I kicked in on Chase's Iowa Independent story.)

    Chris Dodd: Live with Firefighters in Iowa City

    Chris Dodd: Live with Firefighters in Iowa City

    In the first major union endorsement of campaign 2008, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) yesterday announced its support of Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut.  Dodd is celebrating the announcement in appearances across Iowa today, beginning with a morning stop in Iowa City. 

    9:14 and live from Iowa City IAFF head Harold Schaitberger is introing Chris Dodd.  "We made our decision based on strength, leadership, trust, teamwork."  Cited at length the late 2003 IAFF Kerry endorsement and its significance.  "Any firefighter will tell you, you need strong leadership to do a tough job," dismisses poll.

    II's Adam Burke is here and has video:

    "Security is going to be central to the next election."  Cites the wisdom of Iowans and again dismissed polls.  Says endorsement was unanimous for Dodd.

    Firefighters are a deep part of community, and the relationship and trust they have will let their opinion have some influence.  "We're in this to WIN."  (applause)

    Firefighters are at their best "when they're told they can't get something done.  They know how to work and fight."

    9:20 and Dodd takes the stage grinning ear to ear, to campaign trail hit "I Won't Back Down."  Pays tribute to some Boston fighters killed on duty this week, as did Schaitberger.

    Dodd: this is more than an endorsement, or press conference, because firefighters are revered and remarkable.  These are the qualities I'll have as president: standing beside and fighting for our families, at home and worldwide.  Bullet-points the issues: global respect, health care, education, energy.

    I'm proud to have authored Fire Act, $64 million in Iowa for training.  "No truck ought to leave understaffed."  Proud of FMLA.  Look to my record, but look to the future too.

    America's best days are ahead, with the kind of leadership we need.

    Praised caucuses "on that night, I hope, in January (laughter) and I'm a firm believer that Iowa ought to be first (applause)

    Tells tale of his daughter's birth 48 hours after 9/11, which lets him look big picture at future -- and praise fire fighters.

    World wants to look to America for inspiration again.

    "Firefighters know how to fight.  And Chris Dodd knows how to fight -- and win!"

    He wraps and they play "Right Here Right Now" which I thought Hillary had copyrighted.  (They also dabbled in Obama's Jackie Wilson song "Higher and Higher.")

    9:38 and 100 or so are milling about waiting for the handshake.  2/3 or so are in black and gold IAFF for Dodd shirts, and the rest are a smattering of staffers, birddoggers, journalists, and a handful of Johnson County Democrats.

    The mood is up, up up... because this is the biggest thing yet for Team Dodd. 

    The local union rep got a word in about the need for another Iowa City station -- that's something that's a likely local election issue this fall.

    Taylor the Press Sec says the media avail is soon.

    Big music points for using Neil Young's "Rockin' In the Free World," which quotes both Jesse Jackson and George Bush the First.

    Schaitberger with Dodd at the press conference.

    10:17 and Dodd has hit the road for the next IAFF event in Des Moines.  Highlights of the press time:

  • Is this the biggest day of your campaign? "The biggest day of my campaign was when I convinced my wife I should do this," says Dodd, but then he acknowledges it's a Big Deal.

  • Repeated variations on this theme: "Poll numbers in August mean almost nothing."  Comparisons to the 2003 John Kerry endorsement: "People had written John off, but Harold Schaitberger and the Firefighters said 'we don't care.'  As late as December 2003, John Kerry was at 4 percent, behind Al Sharpton."

  • Also variations on the theme "It's not about who's winning, it's about who should win."

  • "People are tired of the bickering in politics, they want leadership.  They want answers to the questions they deal with every day."

  • Schaitberger says "Chris Dodd is ready to lead from Day One" and "our boots are on the ground till we get to the white house." 

  • He also, without naming any other Democrats, raises the question of electability: "Those that take the general election lightly are making a big mistake.  Who can win in a general election in what's going to be a very tough battle?"

  • Schaitberger comes back to the question I asked Dodd about this maybe leading to other labor endorsements: "We'll use our good standing in the labor community... stand by."

    On his way out, Dodd shakes a few more hands and spends some time with a woman with two young daughters, showing off a picture of his own young children.

    Oh, and Dodd liked the raspberry beret, though I didn't get the photo op.

  • Giuliani Opens Iowa City HQ

    Giuliani Opens Iowa City HQ

    Hillary to the left, Rudy on the right.

    Rudy Giuliani is the first Republican candidate with an office in Johnson County.

    The Democratic stronghold, indelibly dubbed "the People's Republic of Johnson County" by David Yepsen, may seem like an odd spot for Giuliani to open only his second office in the state. But the move actually reflects a subtle understanding of the caucus process. Unlike the Democratic caucuses, where delegates are apportioned to counties and precincts by a complex formula based on general election returns, the Republican caucuses simply count raw votes. Though Johnson County is the most Democratic county in the state by percentage, it's still number eight in the number of registered Republicans, one notch ahead of GOP rotten borough Sioux County.

    A Wednesday evening visit to Giuliani HQ found a half dozen or so staffers and volunteers in the front room, munching on Domino's pizza and grabbing phone lists for the evening. Outside, a woman who was clearly not a GOP supporter was attempting to debate one of the Giuliani folks, who was politely trying to escape. That's one hazard of opening a Republican office in downtown Iowa City.

    The Giuliani office is located in a building on East College Street just east of the public library, a site that's become the go-to campaign HQ location this cycle. Rudy's renting space next door to Hillary Clinton, and the Obama office is just around the corner. The Richardson and Edwards offices are also nearby. In the 2006 cycle, the same building housed offices for the Democratic Party, Chet Culver, and Dave Loebsack.

    Morning Must-Reads

    Morning Must-Reads

    I've been in lazy, cut and paste mode for a couple days; looking forward to getting out and doing some actual journalism today. Tune in later for Chris Dodd. But before I do, one more round of ctrl-c, ctrl-v.

  • CQ has a must read on the Wyoming GOP situation, which is very much more than met the eye at first glance. Bottom line: Wyoming leaders worked their butts off in 1999-2000 on a comprehensive GOP primary reform. It proposed a rolling national primary: small states first in March, big states last in June. It passed lower level committees. But Karl Rove spiked it because he didn't want a floor fight at W's coronation convention. Wyoming has been stewing for eight years and wants its plan back on the table.

  • McCain Death Watch: Not only is he trailing for re-election in 2010, he's barely ahead in the Arizona presidential race. He's at 24% among Arizona Republicans.

  • Ballot Access News reports Dennis Kucinich is targeting independents and third party members in his bid for the Democratic Party nomination.

  • Cafe Left tells lefties and war opponents to stop flirting with Ron Paul:
    Although Paul seems moderate and competent when compared to his Republican presidential rivals, his views on other issues are strictly mainstream conservative.

    Paul does not believe in a woman's right to choose. He also believes that "birthright citizenship" should be outlawed. He believes that government is too big. Does this mean that if Paul were empowered to do so, he would be likely to cut social services and programs that assist the poor and others who need assistance?

    Paul opposes a national health care system, he opposes gay marriage, he believes that environmental legislation should be left up to the states, he believes that "don't ask don't tell" is good policy, and true to his former Libertarian roots, he believes that citizens should in fact have as little to do with the federal government as possible.

  • Closer to home, John Putney joins fellow Iowa GOP senators Thurman Gaskill and Mary Lundby in announcing 2008 retirements; mark the Iowa Senate in the Safe Dem column. And it's filing deadline for cities with primaries, including Iowa City, so we'll know the fall lineup in a few hours.
  • Wednesday, August 29, 2007

    McCain: Craig Should Resign

    McCain: Craig Should Resign

    CNN: "I believe that he pled guilty and he had the option to plead innocent," McCain told CNN's John King. "So I think he should resign."

    Also, in Pella: "Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said Wednesday that embattled Idaho Sen. Larry Craig has, as 'the old saying goes… a lot of 'splainin to do.'"

    Those are just the tip of the rapidly melting iceberg...

    Wyoming GOP Moves Caucus to Jan. 5

    Wyoming GOP Moves Conventions to Jan. 5

    A new player in caucus date leapfrog, as the AP reports least-populated state Wyoming is moving its Republican county conventions to Saturday, Jan. 5.  And with a slap at Iowa's traditional phrase:

    "We're first in the nation," said Tom Sansonetti, the state party's 2008 county convention coordinator. "At least for the next couple, three weeks until New Hampshire and Iowa move, which I expect they will."

    The Republican National Committee has already moved to sanction Wyoming.  Will this stand?  If it does, that'll be the last straw that pushes Iowa into calendar 2007. 

    And, not to be paranoid, but you can't help but wonder if Wyoming's own Dick Cheney have anything to do with this.  You know, the guy who headed up George W's vice presidential search committee -- and picked himself?

    Other Than Larry Craig

    Other Than Larry Craig

    There's a lot of stories flying around below the Larry Craig radar (or below the toilet partition, if you will).

  • The big thing yesterday was the shocker firefighter endorsement of Chris Dodd. Looks like a sign that labor isn't going to limit itself to looking at the top three, and a huge break for a good guy who was getting next to no traction. I'm checking that out firsthand tomorrow morning as Dodd speaks at the southeast Iowa City fire station. (Of local interest: the robo-call on the event came from county supervisor Pat Harney, who was an early Edwards supporter in `03...)

  • Not to be outdone, Hillary Clinton got a couple endorsements yesterday: the United Transportation Union (technically out of the gate before the firefighters, but less of a Big Deal), and Fidel Castro, who also wants Obama as the running mate. That oughta really help in South Florida.

  • Aaah, Florida, my obsession. Today's: The GOP is now weighing in with plans to punish the leapfrogging states, in what the NY Times calls a "rare instance of the two parties moving in concert, in this case to regain control over a rapidly evolving primary calendar that has thrust the nominating system into deep uncertainty just months before it is to begin." At MyDD, Jonathan Singer argues, "the RNC's move, at least on its surface, seems to make it easier for the DNC to threaten sanctions, if only for the fact that it would not, then, be alone in doing so." He also throws in some polite but firm IA/NH bashing, but it's less intense than Carl Levin or Kos.

  • Who does early Florida help? The Washington Post says Rudy, Rudy, Rudy, and has his PowerPoint to prove it ("Florida is the firewall" proclaims the second slide of the presentation...) So, conversely, that would hurt the Mitt who's organized Iowa like he's running for governor here.

  • Chris Bowers looks at a Hillary vs. Rudy matchup and calls it Clinton 335-203 Giuliani. Against the Mitt, she wins 430-108 in what Bowers calls "a realignment." Maps and everything.

  • John McCain qualifies for matching funds. That used to be considered a good thing, a benchmark of viability, back before the turn of the century. But in the tens of millions of dollars era, it's seen as a sign of his weakness. The Politico:
    Participating in the public financing system would allow him in the coming months to get an infusion of loans by borrowing against the promise of taxpayer dollars.

    But the system is a trade-off, since it would also cap at about $50 million the amount of cash his campaign can spend during the primary — a limitation that would go into effect immediately.

  • Bill Richardson sets the expectation bar: top three in Iowa.

  • Finally, this is two years old but Reddit dug it up: how Dennis Kucinich hooked up with a hot redhead. Even includes Dharma and Greg references. And pictures.
  • Tuesday, August 28, 2007

    Caucus Date Leapfrog: Forida Gets All Tom Petty on DNC

    Caucus Date Leapfrog: Florida Gets All Tom Petty on DNC

    Anyone who's been to a campaign rally has heard "I Won't Back Down" by Florida native Tom Petty way too many times. Tangent And Florida, as expected, is taking this page from the Petty songbook and turning up the volume.

  • CQ has the Florida GOP chair playing semantics:
    Greer said that although a primary is scheduled for Jan. 29, caucuses will not begin selecting actual delegates until Feb. 6 and will continue to do so through May 1. On Jan. 29, the party says voters will only be choosing how many votes each contender has at the nominating convention.

    Oh, I see. The important thing isn't how many delegates each candidate gets, it's the names of the delegates. Iowa doesn't start electing actual human being national convention delegates till congressional district conventions in April, so this is different... how?

  • Also in CQ, Sen. Bill Nelson suggests not that Florida move, but that everyone else move: “The easy solution, which can be reached during the 30-day appeal period, is for states that can do so administratively to move their primaries up seven days.” The easy solution for Florida, perhaps, but how does special sessions of a dozen state legislatures sound?

    Former Sen. Bob Graham, who some Iowans may recall from his brief presidential bid in 2003 (he dropped out before any contests), concurs with Nelson, telling the Miami Herald:
    "Having 20 states vote on Feb. 5, which is legal under the party rules, is much more disruptive than having one state vote on Jan. 29,'' said Graham, who ran for president in 2004. "I think Florida has become a lightning rod for the larger problem."

    Also on the Dem side, the solution of a beauty contest primary followed by a delegate selecting caucus is shot down, says CQ:
    "Democratic spokesman Mark Bubriski said Monday that scheduling a caucus within the allowable timeframe is not an option the state party is considering."

  • GOP Gov. Charlie Crist is derisive about the whole thing, telling the St. Petersburg Times:
    And is the gov concerned about the prospect of Republicans losing half their convention delegates and Democrats all of their delegates? "Not at all. I think it's silly. It is. What matters is people. The people's vote, the people's will is what these candidates care about."

    The St. Petersburg Times also opines that Sen. Nelson hurt the state's cause by comments that one Florida DNC member called "over the top:
    The best strategy for Florida Democrats, and one they should have adopted long ago: Stop whining about "disenfranchised voters," stop threatening bogus lawsuits, and instead declare victory as a big state in the thick of the nominating contest. In the Florida fiasco, almost nobody looks good so far.

    Hey, baby, there ain't no easy way out indeed.


    "I Won't Back Down" is one of those six pre-approved, motivating yet inoffensive songs that's on the secret Rally Jams CD that all campaigns have, much like the Jock Jams disks that circulated in the late `90s. CDs are these round things that we used to play music on before we all had iPods.
  • Monday, August 27, 2007

    Today's GOP Follies

    Today's GOP Follies

    Gonzales gone -- does it really matter when the fish rots from the head? Team Bush will name someone equally prone to evil, and just enough Dems will cave to imaginary fears.

    Much more interesting is Idaho GOP Sen. Larry Craig getting busted in a cruise bathroom at the Minneapolis airport. It happened in June but the news came out (heh) today. Retirement rumors have been floating for a while, now we know why. There have also been deep-closet rumors for a long time -- Kos says the Idaho Statesman spiked an outing story (UPDATE: Now published in the wake of the arrest). The Dems have a first tier challenger in ex-Rep. Larry LaRocco, a Democrat who was actually able to win in Idaho. Craig will probably be pushed aside now for the sitting Lt. Gov. Jim Risch who was considering a primary challenge anyway.

    Speaking of sitting, Iowa Voters reports on a new ballot security system in New Hampshire: literally sitting on the ballots.

    Obama Lists Iowa Women Supporters

    Obama Lists Iowa Women Supporters

    Taking the battle of identity politics to rival Hillary Clinton's strongest turf, Barack Obama's campaign Thursday released a list of 82 Iowa women who are backing the Illinois Senator.

    Last month the Clinton campaign released a 100 name statewide "Women's Leadership Council" that included five legislators and at least three current members of city government

    Obama's list is not as full of elected officials as Clinton's. Elected officials backing Obama include Scott County auditor Karen Fitzsimmons, Amy Correia of the Iowa City council, and former Wapello County attorney Vicki Siegel.

    Saturday, August 25, 2007

    Latest Leapfrog Round: DNC Follows Through on Florida

    Latest Leapfrog Round: DNC Follows Through on Florida

    Saturday the Democratic National Committee's rules committee gave Florida 30 days to move it -- the primary -- or lose it -- all their delegates. The New York Times has the most comprehensive write-up; here's the nut:
    Again and again, (Florida) party officials presented themselves as victims rather than protagonists, and asked the party to grant them relief because of that.

    “We’re asking you for mercy, not judgment,” Jon Ausman, a Democratic leader, told the committee.

    But James Roosevelt Jr., the rules committee’s co-chairman, said he was not convinced that Florida Democrats had done all they could do. He said it was “clear that the Republicans were the moving force behind the selection of a date that violated both the Republican and the Democratic rules, but that the efforts to oppose that were form over substance.”

    Or, the DNC rules committee saw that the Florida Democrats' "efforts" to get the GOP legislature to move back to a later date were just so much please don't throw us in the briar patch.

    Florida fought hard, says the Miami Herald:
    Party leaders and members of Congress dispatched indignant e-mails to voters, staged conference calls with reporters and even threatened to take (NDC chair Howard) Dean to court.

    They blamed the Republicans who control the Florida Legislature and invoked the biggest bogeyman of all: the 2000 presidential recount.

    The Republicans, who run Florida, tend to let states do what they want in the nomination process, and they're unlikely to move from Jan. 29. So the Florida Democrats can capitulate -- hold the Jan. 29 primary but make it a beauty contest, then have a caucus or party-run primary on Feb. 5 or later for delegate selection. Or they can choose defiance and fight, either in court over voting rights issues (playing that 2000 card again) or at the convention.

    Kos, who is in the running with Michigan Sen. Carl Levin for the title of Biggest Iowa Caucus Hater, urges defiance:
    Does anyone really think that Democrats will disenfranchise the delegates of a large swing state, whether it's Florida or Michigan?

    The DNC is powerless. All it has is bluster. And as soon as we have a nominee, the first thing that person will do is rescind any such decision.

    This isn't even close to done yet. The main thing we've learned from Saturday is that the DNC is going to stand up for its calendar. So the standoff continues.

    Back home, The Register notes: "Iowa legislative leaders said Friday they have discussed with Gov. Chet Culver convening the Legislature for a special session to change state law concerning Iowa's presidential caucuses." That eight days before everyone else law is a bit of a problem now that New Hampshire looks likely for Jan. 8. Didn't anyone see this was coming during the session? Or even think "you know, better safe than sorry?" New Hampshire's legislature did, and they updated their legislation to give their secretary of state even wider authority to move their election date.

    A couple other interesting angles:

  • If the caucuses push back into calendar year 2007, it's possible that candidates could go back to their maxed-out donors for more money. That's one interpretation of campaign finance law, reports the AP: "A strict reading of the law means the contribution limits apply only to primaries and caucuses held in 2008. If a state moves its primary or caucus to 2007, it could mean a whole new cycle."

    Who would that help? Candidates who have relied most heavily on high-dollar donors -- Hillary Clinton for the Democrats, Mitt Romney on the GOP side.

  • Todd Beeton at MyDD asks, "Are Michigan Republicans Trying To Win Clinton The Nomination?" True, some of the key backers of an early Michigan contest are Democrats -- Levin, Gov. Jennifer Granholm. But just because they share the same goal doesn't mean the GOP shares their motives. The idea is that an early event in a big state helps the national front runner, and hurts John Edwards whose strongest state is Iowa. Much like the argument that Karl Rove's recent attacks on Hillary are designed to gets Democrats to rally around her, instead of around Obama, Edwards, or another candidate that Rove really thinks is more of a danger to the GOP.

  • Speaking of Edwards, he's issued new statements about how much he loves corn and pigs: "My campaign will – as all presidential campaigns should -- respect Iowa's special place as the nation's first caucus." And Dave Nagle, who ripped Edwards a new one on Thursday, is now somewhat happier.
  • Friday, August 24, 2007

    McCain Collapse: Worst Presidential Repudiation Since Cross of Gold

    McCain Collapse: Worst Presidential Repudiation Since Cross of Gold

    John McCain's presidential candidacy has now collapsed so completely that, in a recent poll back home in Arizona, he is trailing for re-election to his own Senate seat in 2010 to popular, term-limited Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano.  Another poll, this one from Strategic Vision, shows 51% of likely Republican -- Republican -- caucus goers support withdrawal from Iraq in the next six months.

    Much of McCain's collapse is due to his repositioning, from the straight talk maverick of 2000 to the insider's choice of 2006.  This may have seemed like a smart move early in the campaign because of the Republican tradition of nominating the person whose turn it is next.

    Several months ago, I argued that "the principle of the Turn" made McCain a lock for the Republican nomination, because the Republican Party had not rejected the anointed successor since the 1940's.  With only one interregnum, the line is unbroken, with no Jimmy Carter type outsider.  Dewey to Ike to Nixon to Ford to Reagan to Bush 41 to Dole to Bush 43.  The sole exception is the Goldwater forfeit in 1964.  Goldwater himself said LBJ could not be beaten less than a year after JFK's assassination, and the establishment decided to let the right wing take over and lose.

    I'm not serving myself a big plate of crow, because the collapse of McCain's candidacy doesn't discredit the Turn theory.  Rather, it shows the exceptional weakness and disarray of the Republican Party during the extended death-rattle of the Bush administration.

    The increasingly isolated president has virtually no influence over the nomination.  Despite the veto pen and the finger-on-the-button power still at his command, Bush's only political usefulness to his party is raising money from the 25% or so that still blindly back him.  Closed door, no media, protesters at a Secret Service enforced distance, $1000 a plate, Air Force One back to the ranch.

    No other Republican candidate is stepping forward to claim the mantle of heir that cursed McCain, because no one wants to be associated with Bush.  Not that they're rejecting the policies.  Not in the context of a GOP nomination contest dominated by the few and the faithful, the 25%, many of whom back the war because they have family members fighting and they can't bear the cognitive dissonance that their loved ones are at risk for a failed policy.

    But the contenders are keeping an eye on the general election, and avoiding praise of Bush that could sound-bite them in the butt next October.  Bush's name is rarely invoked in Republican debates or on the stump -- unless it's negatively by Ron Paul.  Otherwise, it's all the troops, the troops, the troops, with nary a mention of the Commander in Chief.

    It's hard to overstate just how big a deal this repudiation is.  Even the thoroughly discredited Richard Nixon, driven from office by (ahem) the threat of impeachment (ahem), managed to name a successor.  And Gerald Ford, with his (unfair) stumblebum image and with the albatross of the Nixon pardon around his neck, became the only person ever -- ever -- to defeat The Great Communicator.  Why?  Because Ronald Reagan cut in line in 1976 and the Republicans decided it was Ford's turn for his own term.  And Nixon's anointed -- literally, appointed -- successor became the ultimate proof of the Turn theory.

    But George W. Bush's tacit deal with McCain -- back me on the war and immigration and I'll get my big fundraisers on your side -- has blown up in McCain's face.  Indeed, this level of repudiation within a president's own party may be unmatched since 1896, when William Jennings Bryan and free silver took over the Democratic Party from Grover Cleveland and the gold bugs.  That was a realigning repudiation.  It set the stage for the whole Progressive Era and the 1920's pre-New Deal normalcy backlash.

    The 1896 repudiation of Cleveland was based on policy.  But, again with the lone exception of Ron Paul, the ongoing Republican battle isn't a policy fight.  This is a repudiation based on Bush's incompetent execution of an incomplete policy.  The crop of Republican candidates offer changes in style, or at most degrees of emphasis, but do not represent change on substance.  Yet the Next Turn line looks ready to break.  The Bush establishment cannot openly get behind another contender without causing him irreparable damage.  Unless the machinations are subtle, the Republicans will hit the reset button in 2008.

    There's a huge opening for an anti-war Republican like Paul or Chuck Hagel (whose Hamlet-like indecision makes him the Republican Mario Cuomo).  A 51% opening in Iowa, says that poll.  If the Republicans would go so far as to actually nominate an anti-war candidate, that would have to rank as the biggest slap in the face from a president's own party since 1884 -- when accidental incumbent Chester Arthur was actually denied nomination for a term of his own.

    1992 Flashback

    1992 Flashback

    A blast from the past from Lincoln, Nebraska. I suppose everyone gets a second time around.

    In California, Jerry Brown, who has rode his state's term limits laws from governor to state party chair to presidential candidate to Oakland mayor to attorney general, is looking at... governor again.

    In Massachusetts, Niki Tsongas, widow of 1992 candidate Paul Tsongas, is the frontrunner in a US House special election. I hear another spouse of one of the 1992 candidates is running for something too.

    So that covers the whole 1992 field except Doug Wilder -- who never made it as far as an actual contest and is now mayor of Richmond, VA -- and our own Tom Harkin.

    And a humor flashback to roughly the same era that simply could not be passed up:

    Dave! The Loebster! Davemeister! Makin' copies! The House of Copysentatives!

    (Rob Schneider's copy guy officially jumped the shark when Sting made copies.)

    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    Rising Tempers on the Leapfrog Front

    Rising Tempers on the Leapfrog Front

    Today's caucus date leapfrog activity is reflecting rising tempers on the pro- and anti-Iowa fronts.

    The Miami Herald reports that two days before the Democratic National Committee meets to consider Florida's too-early date, Sen. Bill Nelson and four U.S. House members sent a letter to DNC chair Howard Dean threatening a voting rights lawsuit if the DNC follows through with its own rules and strips Florida of delegates.

    Meanwhile, closer to home, former congressman Dave Nagle published a must-read post on his Des Moines Register blog titled "The Edwards Betrayal" that takes the candidate to task for his statement yesterday: "My job is not to make the rules, my job is to run."  Nagle, who chaired the Iowa Democratic Party in the 1980s, also criticized former governor Tom Vilsack and fellow former IDP chairs Roxanne Conlin and Rob Tully for not defending the caucuses fiercely enough.

    And Kos cheers on Michigan.  His lede:

    "The Michigan Senate passed yesterday a bill moving up its primaries to Jan. 15, getting one step closer to really screwing Iowa."

    A Day Without Candidates

    A Day Without Candidates

    Rod Boshart at the Gazette makes the catch: yesterday was the first day in nearly two months without a candidate appearance in Iowa. They were probably all en route to Michigan.

    Nay, nay, reports my Iowa Indy colleague Lynda Waddington. Biden, Dodd and Richardson all luuuuuuv Iowa. So does Edwards... kinda. He also says it's not his job to make the rules, it's his job to campaign.

    CQ reports on Michigan J. Leapfrog. There's also an AP story. It seems that for Michigan Democrats, the issue is not the date -- they're perfectly happy to move up to Jan. 15 and press the entire calendar issue. What the Michigan Dems care about is primary vs. caucus, because back when the GOP had full control of Michigan before 2002, they passed a photo ID to vote law. That echoes what David Bonior was telling me Saturday night; he veered away from dates and toward ID issues.

    Closer to home, another stop 21 group has formed to fight the neo-prohibitionists: Bloc21. Headed up by Leah Cohen of BoJames and of that 2001 near-victory for the council seat. Bloc21 appears to be the "grown up" group, joining the campus-based group with the great acronym, Student Health Initiative Taskforce.

    Wednesday, August 22, 2007

    Michigan J. Leapfrog

    Michigan J. Leapfrog

    Update: Michigan Senate votes for Jan. 15 on party lines -- GOP for, Democrats against. The bill moves to the Democratic-controlled House, where amendments are likely.

    No story involving the words "Michigan" and "leapfrog" would be complete without a gratuitous reference to Warner Bros. mascot Michigan J Frog. I'm starting to bear a remarkable resemblance to the scheming construction worker. Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal indeed.

    More substantively, as Michigan looks to make its move as soon as today to a Jan. 15 or Jan. 8 primary, here's a roundup of the leapfrog related news.

    On Saturday, Iowa Senate Majority leader Mike Gronstal told Iowa Independent, "There's a remote possibility we may have to have a special session" to address Iowa's law that required the caucuses to be eight days before any other nominating contest.  Gronstal also said Iowa officials are working to discourage candidates from campaigning in unauthorized early states, and that the Iowa parties won't hold caucuses on different dates.

    Former Iowa Congressman Dave Nagle, who chaired the Iowa Democratic Party in the 1980s, told Iowa Independent Saturday that a December caucus was still a possibility. 
    The Concord (NH) Monitor has an extended article on Nagle, emphasizing his words "New Hampshire is still mad at us, as they should be."  The Monitor also mines the archives for a series of anti-New Hampshire quotes from and about Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, the number one foe of Iowa and New Hampshire's special status.

    Just a reminder: The event that started the chain reaction of leapfrogging primary and caucus dates was the Republican-led Florida legislature's move to  a Jan. 29 primary date,  in violation of the Democratic National Committee's calendar.  Florida Democrats, powerless to change the date even if they wanted to (which they may not want to anyway), have asked the DNC for an exemption from the calendar.  The DNC rules committee meets Saturday to consider the Florida request.

    The Politico reports on the Saturday DNC meeting and quotes an anonymous committee member: "You are going to see big signs on the floor of the Democratic Convention that say `Florida' and `Michigan' and you are going to see rows of empty seats beneath them."  But the article also states, "a secret 9 a.m. 'off the record' breakfast will precede the open meeting and the 30 sometimes contentious members of the rules commitee will try to achieve some kind of consensus."

    In the New York Times, Cook Report Editor Charles E. Cook Jr. recommends a Dec. 17 Iowa caucus: "Whoever wins Iowa would be in a very strong position for a few weeks because they would freeze the ball over the holidays. Who's going to interrupt Jimmy Stewart and `It's a Wonderful Life' with a negative ad?"  The Times also has a handy chart of dates.

    Jerome Armstrong at MyDD joins Kos in the Screw Iowa contingent:

    "Michigan and Florida have courageously decided to send more than a message to New Hampshire and Iowa, that they don't own the primary calendar... The DNC rules committee, and whatever they fancy their power to be, is irrelevant and will not be able to do anything, other than agree that they created this situation with their timidity and lack of providing a substantive solution to the calendar problem."

    Popular Vote Back On The Radar

    Popular Vote Back On The Radar

    As California Republicans look at Proposition Steal 20 Electoral Votes, a plan that would split the state's electoral votes by gerrymandered congressional district, a new Rasmussen poll Californians prefer the direct approach:
    54% of voters would like to get rid of the Electoral College and have the winner of the popular vote become President.

    I've been railing against the Electoral College for 30 years. There's only two offices where you can get less votes and win: soil and water commissioner and President of the United States. And I always figured that once the unthinkable happened, and the wrong person got in the White House, people wouldn't stand for it. I mean, leave Florida out of the equation: Al Gore got the most votes.

    But look at this:
    Democrats strongly support this approach while Republicans are evenly divided.

    Because any Republican who supports the abolition of the Electoral College has to at least tacitly acknowledge the illegitimacy of the 2000 election. And that's a lot of cognitive dissonance to handle. But with the person of Bush fading from the scene, and with the brazenness of the California GOP grab, perhaps now is the time.

    In Counterpunch, George Bisharat
    proposes the unspeakable: boycott Israel.

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    When Edwards and Biden Come to Town, It Changes the Nature of the Diner

    When Edwards and Biden Come to Town, It Changes the Nature of the Diner

    In science, the Heisenberg effect, or "observer effect," describes a phenomenon in which the observation or measurement of an event changes the very nature of the event.  For example, attaching a meter to an electrical circuit to measure the current inherently changes that current.

    Or, in presidential politics, a candidate visiting a diner changes the nature of the diner.

    Twin candidate appearances at Iowa City's Hamburg Inn bookended debate weekend as Democrats John Edwards and Joe Biden made the pilgrimage to the retro diner famed for its food and its high-profile campaign visits.  The two events tested, and exceeded, the limits of one-on-one caucus campaigning.

    The Hamburg was heavily Heisenberg effected on Friday.  Technically speaking, John Edwards did not even set foot in the Hamburg Inn on Friday night, though Elizabeth Edwards did get in the door for breakfast Saturday morning.  When I arrived 45 minutes before the announced 8:30 p.m. event, several dozen people were already outside the Hamburg, and a glance inside the window showed every seat was full.

    "It was such a big crowd, we decided to go outside," said Hamburg Inn owner Dave Panther.  A campaign staffer called for attention and asked the owners of the cars in the prime parking spots just in front of the Hamburg to move.  The feat was accomplished before the Edwards campaign bus arrived.

    Elizabeth Edwards had just finished a book reading on the University of Iowa campus and was signing books after the reading.  The crowd outside continued to grow as arrival time approached, with many late arrivals clutching Elizabeth Edwards' books.  Edwards supporter Ed Fallon chatted with members of the waiting crowd.  His Edwards endorsement had made statewide news during the week, but the former gubernatorial candidate had declared his support for Edwards months earlier.  (He accompanied John and Elizabeth Edwards at an Iowa City stop in January.)  Fallon said it had been the campaign's decision to (in campaign parlance) "roll out" the endorsement that week.

    The Edwards bus arrived playing the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up."  Fading the track well before its closing line, "you make a dead man come," an announcer skipped the niceties and cut to the chase with a quick "ladies and gentlemen, the next president of the United States, JOHN EDWARDS!!" intro.  Edwards emerged, climbed up a metal stepladder and spoke using a portable PA system connected to his bus.  The speech was a brief, intense, honed version of the Edwards stump speech.  Recent additions include the theme "I can't do this alone, I need your help," and an increased use of the word "lobbyist" since the issue emerged on the national radar screen in recent weeks.  It's hard not to sound populist when you're standing on a stepladder.

    The Heisenberg effect may even have extended to the normally friendly, folksy neighborhood mood of the `Burg.  A staffer from a bird-dogging organization reported that some of the wait staff had quietly grumbled about getting stiffed on tips, or even on the whole tab, from patrons who occupied tables for a long time waiting for Edwards.  Edwards did meet briefly with Panther and the wait staff at the door to the bus just before departing, concluding a round of handshakes that reached the front few rows of the crowd of 250 to 300 people.

    The handshakes continued as the bus rolled away, with Edwards leaning and reaching out the window.

    Other top-tier contenders have gotten inside the Hamburg Inn this cycle.  John McCain (when his prospects looked brighter) made an unannounced stop in May.  Barack Obama visited in April, but he'd be hard-pressed to do a chit-chat session when he drew (he says) 10,000 people to a campus rally that day.

    In contrast, Monday morning was classic Hamburg Inn -- though even a crowd half again as big would have changed the mood.  Every seat was full, and a few people were standing, but movement was reasonably easy and comfortable.

    I strolled in 15 minutes before the scheduled 7:30 a.m. start and grabbed a seat next to Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek and county Democratic chair Brian Flaherty.  Not just any seat -- a seat at the Bill Clinton table, where the former president dined in 2003 and the most wanted seat in the house if you're a Democrat.  (Republicans like the Ronald Reagan table, where the Gipper ate in 1992.)

    "I called 100 people," said Biden supporter Mae Schatteman, a small energetic woman in her 80s.  "They better be here."  The crowd, at about 75, came close to matching her goal.

    The senator arrived close to on time to solid applause.  Panther started to introduce the senator with some biography, but Biden pshawed the plaudits: "I'm Joe Biden."

    In an illustration of just how intimate the Iowa caucuses can be, Biden began speaking literally next to me.  I reached around him and placed my audio recorder on the lunch counter in front of him.  Biden reached down and carefully positioned my recorder about 2 inches away from where I'd set it.

    Biden strolled back and forth behind the counter, at arms length from diners, occasionally using the restaurant accoutrements as props.  "If you're moving two trillion dollars of the economy from here to here," he said of health care, "there's going to be winners and losers."  Biden illustrated the shifting trillions by picking up a sugar shaker and moving it from his right to his left.  He emphasized one statement by tapping a salt shaker like a gavel.

    The speech was short, the questions were many, and the answers extended.  Biden took roughly a half dozen questions and expounded in depth on each, for as long as ten minutes a question.  That's well over the seven minutes and seven seconds of speaking time Biden had in Sunday's debate.

    At one point, Biden noticed a small knot of three or four people waiting outside the front door and interrupted his remarks to urge them to come on in.  A person near the inner door opened it, and the folks outside opened the outer door and entered.  The crowd near the door shifted, but not much, to accommodate the new arrivals.  It was the kind of moment that makes every other state except New Hampshire jealous.

    Monday, August 20, 2007

    Biden Says Cheney's Changes Are About Oil, Bases

    Biden Says Cheney's Changes Are About Oil, Bases

    Presidential candidate Joe Biden said he's concluded that changes in Vice President Dick Cheney's opinion on invading Iraq since Cheney served as defense secretary in the Bush 41 administration are about oil revenue and permanent bases.

    Answering questions from a crowd of 75 people at Iowa City's Hamburg Inn, the Delaware  senator emphasized that his plan for postwar Iraq was for a multipart federal state and not three separate nation-states.  Then, saying he had not said so before in public, he added:

    "I am not a big conspiratorial guy, because really good conspiracies require really smart people.  (Laughter.)  But.  Working with for over 30 years with Vice President Cheney, working with and knowing Secretary Rumsfeld, knowing a lot of people in this administration, you're gonna get mad at me when I say this.  They are really smart guys…. They're dead wrong but very bright.  So I ask myself why is it that Dick Cheney knowingly, knowing what he knew with Bush I, arguing as he did with Bush I that we should not go into Baghdad… what would make them change their mind?  What would make people like Brent Scowcroft and Secretary Baker and other just puzzle about what happened to Cheney, a former ally?  The conclusion I have reached that is intuitive -- I can't prove it -- is that the desire to have a guaranteed piece of the oil and a guaranteed physical presence in the region with permanent bases must have been part of the strategic doctrine that I didn't believe was initially part of it."

    Asked if Bush, Cheney, and others in the administration should be prosecuted for war crimes, Biden said there might not be time for impeachment before Bush's term expires, but "they can be prosecuted after they've left office if there's evidence they've committed a crime.  It would be a serious mistake if we let the record evaporate."

    Questioners also grilled Biden about his support for the 2005 bankruptcy bill.  Kurt Friese, owner of Devotay restaurant, identified himself as a longtime Biden supporter but said he was concerned about Biden's vote. "It goes against everything else you've said here," said Friese.  "I gotta say, referring back to the special interests you talked about before… You're from Delaware.  And that's where the credit companies are."

    Earlier in the question-and-answer session, Biden had called for public campaign finance. "I don't care how pristine you are," he said, "among those hundreds of millions of dollars there are a lot of people who have a lot of


    "Middle class people are carrying an exceptionally higher burden in the cost of everything they do," Biden said in explaining his bankruptcy vote, "because so many people were declaring bankruptcy that in fact did not need to declare bankruptcy, including doctors and lawyers who were walking away from their student loans."

    Biden said contrary to "urban legend" no one could lose their primary home under the bankruptcy bill.  "You ought to talk to John Edwards about people who are foreclosed on, when you talk about whether or not these hedge funds are going in with these sub-prime loans.  That's real.  This is not real."  Biden does regret not being able to place a cap on home value that could be protected in bankruptcy, citing movie stars who protected their assets in multi-million dollar homes.

    Reveling in the format that allowed for extended answers, Biden discussed details of the bill and turned the question to health care.

    "Here's what people are mad about that has nothing to do with the bankruptcy bill, but gets laid on the bankruptcy bill.  It's this.  There are people out there who have medical bills that run up.  The largest reason for people declaring bankruptcy is medical bills.  And you probably won't agree with me… If you run up, like I did, medical bills of hundreds of thousands of dollars, I should not be able to turn and declare bankruptcy and make sure the doctor never gets paid.  The doctor isn't the reason why I, in fact, should be able to declare bankruptcy.  What it says is, we need a national health care policy so no one has to do it.  But for us to shift the burden of health care to people who are good decent people who provide the health care to us, and say `you provide it, but we're not going to pay you, we're going to allow everyone who has a bill over 50 grand to declare bankruptcy so you don't get paid,' I think would collapse the medical health care system… I want to make sure that everybody who has a major health-care bill never has to pay it.  Why?  Because I will have provided catastrophic health insurance for every American.  Every American takes responsibility for that person who can't pay, not just a handful of providers who have spent millions of their dollars to pay.  Should that ICU nurse who kept you alive, should she not get paid?"

    In a short stump speech before the questions, Biden emphasized his experience and his detailed approach to the Iraq war.  The senator was accompanied by his son Hunter, who received some gentle paternal ribbing when the cost of student loans was discussed.

    Richardson Fights Feds on NM Marijuana Law

    Richardson Fights Feds on NM Marijuana Law

    Bill Richardson is taking on the federal government and backing his state's medical marijuana law, in perhaps the strongest stance yet by a major presidential candidate on the issue.

    In a letter to President Bush, the New Mexico governor writes:

    At a time when the scourge of meth is coming across the border, and cocaine and heroin use continues to ravage our communities, the federal government should be cracking down on real criminals---not people who are trying to help those in pain.

    The letter is posted on Richardson's presidential campaign website.
    Richardson signed the bill into law earlier this year, saying "So what if it's risky? It's the right thing to do.  What we're talking about is 160 people in deep pain. It only affects them."  He is directing New Mexico officials to continue to work toward finding a way to implement the law.

    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    Cedar Rapids Labor Forum Live

    Cedar Rapids Labor Forum Live

    An unexpected bonus wifi signal, a couple credit card numbers and an unwanted browser switch (some folks just don't get it with Firefox) and Iowa Independent is live from Cedar Rapids at the Hawkeye Labor Council's candidate forum.  Seven count 'em seven six candidates on stage tonight.

    It's 4:39 PM and the doors are just opening.  Staffers are starting their table staffing; others are engaged in some healthy sign war outside. 

    Team Clinton gets the prize, for the audacity (sorry Obama) of bringing a live donkey. 

    A camerawoman from the Netherlands has just parked next to me on the press platform, so clearly this event is drawing interest from a lot of places.

    Dutch TV is a spouse team.  They'll be at the debate tomorrow too.  Mr. Dutch TV asks why the debate is so early: "it's uncivilized!"  I say "This is Iowa, we have to get up early to milk the pigs."  He realizes I'm joking and laughs.  That was always my test for my brother's friends from Chicago: if they took me seriously on "milk the pigs" I knew they were clueless.

    Candidate videos are rotating on large screens. Not many people are inside to watch yet.  Hillary's starts with the "Invisible" ad, followed by a longer talking head piece on the same theme.

    5:09 and folks are chowing down.  The food line is moving with ruthless efficiency.  Looking for a veggie alternative would definitely slow things down: a scoop of beans, meat on a bun, a bag of chips.

    The stage announcer just said SIX candidates so I inquire.  "Richardson's not coming," says the man on the mike.  "He committed three months ago, then the other day said he wasn't coming.  He's shunned labor as far as I'm concerned."

    The Kucinich table is staffed by a volunteer who just moved to the state.  He's a bit frustrated: "You tell people what Dennis is for and they go yeah, yeah.  Then they vote for someone else."  "You get that everywhere," says a young man in a Dodd shirt.

    But in line to get into the building, Al Achtner and Dennis Ryan of Iowa City are sporting Kucinich stickers.  "He holds up a picture of perfection for everyone else to aspire to," says Achtner.  Dennis for Dennis adds: "He's the only one who's not lying about his health care plan."

    Iowa City nurse Pauline Taylor is backing Obama.  She committed to him at the Earth Day rally at the University of Iowa: "I told (a staffer) if he can invigorate people like that, he's my man."

    5:51 and... when are the caucuses?  "It may have to be December," former congressman Dave Nagle tells me.  We grumble a bit about Michigan -- sotto voce, because former Michigan congressman David Bonior, John Edwards' national chair, is right behind us.  "I was fighting with (Michigan Sen.) Carl Levin over dates back in 1982," says Nagle, who was Iowa Democratic chair at the time.

    I turn to Bonior and seek his thoughts.  His opinions may be mixed: as Iowa is Edwards' strongest state, anything that diminishes the caucuses can't help Edwards.  "I hope Michigan stays with the caucus" rather than a primary, he tells me.  The state's former Republican governor established photo ID requirements "that disenfranchise 300,000 to 600,000 people."  As for the date?  "It'll have to play itself out, it's very much up in the air."  Bonior was working on State Senator Rob Hogg -- who steadfastly stayed uncommitted.

    Also uncommitted is Norm Sterzenbach Sr. of Cedar Rapids.  "All of the six major candidates are impressive," he says, but notes he was a little disappointed in Richardson's performance at the State Federation of Labor on Wednesday.

    State Rep. Art Staed of Cedar Rapids said he's heard no news on a special session to loosen the eight days before anyone else law.

    A little civics duty as I explain the significance of Bonior to Mr. Dutch TV.

    6:34 and illustrious arrivals are beginning.  Hillary Clinton is in the building.  One nameless wag suggested I plop the raspberry beret on her head as she passed by; I replied that being wrestled to the ground by the Secret Service sounded like loads of fun.  Congressman Dave Loebsack and Terri Loebsack are here as well.

    An Obama-Edwards sign war is raging near the gate.  I'm deliberately not reporting a winner.  Someone should do a cost a cost-benefit analysis of the amount of energy placed into sign war vs. the number of votes swayed.

    Several other legislators say no special session word.  Opinions vary on caucus date, no consensus.

    6:38 and formal festivities are beginning.

    The speaking order is front-loaded.  Hillary first, Obama and Edwards follow, Kuci

    Interrupted for the patriotic stuff. 

    Kucinich last.  A journalist less hard working than myself could, in theory, file early and ignore some of the lower-polling contenders.  But I myself would never do that, we're Iowa Independent!

    6:48.  While the labor thank-yous continue, I corner Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal on the caucus date.  Summary: we're working with candidates to get them to boycott states that jump the calendar.  "There's a remote possibility we may have to have a special session."  What if the parties go with different dates, I ask.  "Won't happen."

    6:57 and the legislators and local officials get a stroll across stage.  Mostly Johnson and Linn except Gronstal and Elesha Gayman.

    6:58 -- Loebsack.  Bruce Braley and Leonard Boswell and I are trying to put US back on track.  Thanks and praises the earliest supporters: "My labor friends were the backbone of this campaign."  Notes that his committee was named "Education and the Workforce" under GOP.  "Our first act was to restore the rightful name of that committee to Education and LABOR."

    We've seen the power of labor decline since Reagan era.  I'm proud to say that we passed Employee Free Choice Act for better organization and bargaining.  (This crowd loves it.)  Mental health parity, SCHIP.  "If George Bush wants to fight us over children's health, that's one fight I want to have."

    7:06.  Bruce Braley. Lookin' casual in short sleeves and no tie.  Draws a "House-cleaning" line into White House cleaning and the crowd loves it.  Tells story of 26 year old work boots from his days on the Poweshiek County road crew: "I promised I would wear my work boots on the House floor when we passed the Employee Free Choice act."  Shows a picture of just that.

    7:11.  Ten minute speeches, folks.  Showtime...

    Hillary Clinton enters and actually uses the Celine Dion song.

    There is nothing American can't do if we make up our minds to do it.  We've been so poorly served last 6.5 years (big applause)  Middle class made America great, hard working people.  Key to a middle class was labor movement.  What's happening now is middle class is under assault.  I sense the fear insecurity and confusion about what's happening.  Productivity is up, but average income down.  We know we can do better.  I'm running because I want to set big goals again.  Affordable health care foe every American (appl.)  I've got scars from last time (where have I heard her use that line before?  Oh, yeah, every speech.)  "Universal health care when I'm president within the first years."  (That's what I heard.)

    7:20 Strategic energy fund "Take the tax subsidies away from the oil companies" gets biggest appl. yet.  5 million new "Green collar jobs."  Now education: pre-K.  Name checks the Vilsacks.  "We sure do need to fix No Child Left behind which is an unfunded mandate" and affordable college.

    "Unions are an essential part of how we moved to shared prosperity."  "We'll appoint people who are actually pro-labor to the Dept. of Labor."  "Republicans believe in a society that's You're On Your Own... we believe in solidarity, in a society where we're all in this together."

    Trade agreements that emphasize labor and environment -- and no more toys from China (gets huge applause.)  "Get back to being in charge of our own fiscal house."

    The sentence that starts "bringing our troops home and ending the war" gets drowned out in applause.

    "When I'm president, every American's going to be visible."

    She wraps and we get Jesus Jones with "Right Here Right Now."  Making history, if you know what I mean and I think you do.  I didn't see a departure, she seems to have disapparated.  Maybe the Secret Service has such powers.  There's a music glitch and the same 90 seconds of "Right Here Right Now" keeps repeating.  We get the point.

    With local supporter Rep. Ro Foege, John Edwards waits to take the stage.

    7:34 and I try to get a picture of the John Edwards entrance.  I get a little too close and get accidentally sucked into a stream of people chanting "Go John Go."  Edwards takes the stage to Springsteen's "Promised Land" and with local legislators Staed and Foege and a bunch of sign-holding chanters.  They stay on stage with him for the speech unlike Hillary who stood alone.

    Edwards on stage with supporters -- a touch no one else repeated.

    Edwards begins with "Elizabeth's fine" if you're playing at home.  "We need a president who will stand up and fight these people.  I fought these people for 20 years in courtrooms, and I beat `em and I beat `em and I beat `em again and I'll beat `em as your president."

    Plays the lobbyist card "Their money is no good to us any more."  "I am the president who will walk out onto the White House Lawn and proudly say the word union."

    "If you can join the Republican party by signing a card, any worker in America ought to be able to join a union by signing a card."  "Nobody, including no SCAB, should be able to cross that picket line..." drowned out by immense applause beginning with the word scab.

    "I was against NAFTA, it was a huge mistake."  "The first question in an Edwards Administration is will this trade agreement be good for working Americans."  He's doing a lot of visioning himself as President, talking about leadership rather than bill numbers.  China: "When are we gonna have safe trade?"  Country of origin labeling gets big reaction.

    "I was the first candidate to come out with a specific, truly universal health care plan."  "Everybody in America is entitled to health care coverage, it is a right..." again getting drowned out.  "Ask candidates, are you taking money from dug company lobbyists, health insurance lobbyists?  I don't want to be their president, I want to be YOUR president."

    "Minimum wage out to be at least $9.50, it ought to be indexed."

    "I've been blessed in my life" (mill worker reference) "These are the people who made America great, and every minute I'm in the Oval Office I'll fight for those people.  I will never forget where I came from or who I'm fighting for."

    Leaves stage to U2, "Where The Streets Have No Name," which has like a two minute instrumental intro.  Great Edge Guitar, but delays the Bono message.  At least it's not "Beautiful Day."  Maybe Dennis Kucinich will use the "outside it's America" part of "Bullet The Blue Sky."

    Looks like a scrum in the corner of the room so it appears Edwards is exiting through the crowd.  Nope, the scrum was the side door.

    That winning (he hopes) smile: Obama works his way to the stage.

    7:51 and time to Barack the house.  Obama enters to "Higher and Higher" by Jackie Wilson.  The song starts a second time, they're multitasking and doing the bucket pass during Obama's entrance. (Update: that's 'cause they knew a lot of folks would sneak out after The Big Three.)

    Talks of size of crowds and "I'm reminded of the reason I'm in politics.  I moved to Chicago to be a community organizer where steel plants were closed.  I didn't like the idea of working people being laid off without anybody advocating for then."  Ordinary people can do extraordinary thing.  "What I've enjoyed most isn't the big crowds, it's the quiet moments, talking to workers."  He's more anecdotal than Edwards and Clinton were.  References his day with SEIU's Walk A Day in My Shoes project.

    "If the Democratic Party means anything, it means we value labor.  It's all of you that built this country."  Bush: "They don't believe in labor, they don't believe in workers."  The Department of Labor is "the Dept of Management."

    "If we're going to bring about real change we have to organize like we never have before" and bring new people into the process.  "And yes we have to reach out to independents and Republicans."  "I don't want to just win an election and not deliver if all we have is a divided county."  "We have to change the political math in a way we haven't for a very long time."

    "Who can help change our politics in a fundamental way.  I'm tired of playing defense, I want to play some offense."

    Ends with a story with the punch line and chant "Fired up -- ready to go!"  Leaves the stage to Aretha Franklin singing "Think."  The original, not the version from the Blues Brothers movie, so extra points.

    8:14 and Chris Dodd enters to Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down."  The hall is still reasonably full but there was a noticeable exodus post-Obama.  Dodd makes his way reasonably quickly to stage; folks nearby shake hands, but there's no push and scrum.  His "stage escorts" are partly made up of Connecticut labor folks.

    Audience hubbub is noticeable.  Dodd talks of trust and loyalty.  "Where have you been, and were are you now?"  "For 32 years, six in the house, 26 in the senate, I have never left organized labor, and I never will."

    "My Sec of labor will be a union guy or woman, and the members of the NLRB will be union people."  Pledges to impose employee free choice act by executive order on day one.

    Make No Child responsive to kids and families or get rid of it.  Tuition free community college.

    "It is shameful that in the United States of America we don't have a universal health care plan."  I passed Family and Medical Leave act, it took me seven years, three presidents and two veto.  "And I'm going to make it a paying leave program."

    "Giving away the store" on trade.  I was first person to cal for suspend China trade.  "I know the difference btw. a pension fund and a slush fund."

    Unions stick with their friends.  "If we want to build a middle class we need more union households."  People lost their lives in the fight for wages and unions.  "I've been a union guy.. and I'll do it as your president."

    Here's his angle: Caucuses are unique in America.  "I stand very strongly for first in the nation."  "I don't think you're impressed by celebrity.  You want to see what we believe in.  I like that process.  "I think you're going to give a guy like me a chance to be heard."  "If you give me a chance to be heard, I'm confident I can win the Iowa Caucuses."  Exits to U2, "Beautiful Day."  What was I saying before?  The ONE campaign was here, maybe it's a pitch for the Bono vote.

    8:32.  Biden takes the stage with no music (Update: Biden staff says that was a technical glitch and he was supposed to have John Fogerty's "Centerfield," you know, put me in coach.)  Support crew includes one local legislator, Dick Taylor. Noticeably more room here on the press platform.

    Sometimes it was easier to watch the wide side screens.

    Biden: big crowd means "we can hardly wait to get rid of George W. Bush."  "I owe my Senate seat to labor and I've been loyal from that day on."

    Talking about the war at greater length than anyone else (but Dennis is next).  "This war must end now."  (big applause from the remaining crowd.)  And "Bush is waging war on the house of labor, the house that built the American middle class."  Says of labor "you underestimate yourselves."

    We now have a majority so we can slow down Bush's assault, but we can't stop it without a president. "White collar workers have finally figured out the only reason they have benefits is because of labor, and they've figured out just how good their employers are to them."  We need them as allies and to organize. 

    Tie CEO pensions to employee pensions, applause line.  "unless we end the war and change the tax structure, we're gonna be at the end of the line."

    Bush could have used post 9/11 capital to get an energy plan but did not.

    8:44 Biden is done, again no music.  Good applause but fades fast.

    8:48 Dennis Kucinich enters to the Rocky Theme with some random supporters and his wife.  Starts with health care, emphasizes his sponsorship single payer bill.  Loses presidential points for using a bill number and looking congressional.  "Insurance companies make money NOT providing health care.  It's time to end the for-profit health care system."

    "Jobs outsource, building plants abroad, stocks go up.  We need a president who wants the stock of American workers to go up."  Pledges to kill NAFTA in first week.  Attacks other candidates over NAFTA.  "Buy American, it's time to have a president who understands that." 

    Dennis Kucinich makes a point and inadvertantly notes his percentage in polls.

    "NAFTA was about cheap wages and hurting labor's power at the bargaining table."

    "End war as an instrument of policy" is key line of anti-war riff; general antiwar discussing gets good applause.  "I would not hesitate to defend this country in an hour of need, but we need a president who knows the difference between defense and offense."  "A Kucinich administration will respect the constitution."  This gets applause that builds and peaks with impeachment.

    "There are those who said 'we're glad you're here, Dennis, because you're keeping other candidates honest.'  But I'm here to give the American people an honest choice."

    Ends with louder applause than Biden. I'm getting a "his folks stayed to the end" vibe. Music on exit is Rocky again. I have to note that the tall redheaded Elizabeth Kucinich looks rather striking in person. She appeared to be the only spouse present. We likely would have heard if Senator Clinton's husband had been here.

    Hall's about half empty; some folks are waiting for the $10,000 raffle but I recall some do not have to be present to win about that. They just held the rest of the crowd with two words: "FREE BEER." Alas, I have to drive to Iowa City.