Thursday, November 29, 2007

John Edwards: Iowa City Foreign Relations, Liveblog

John Edwards: Iowa City Foreign Relations, Liveblog

John Edwards addressed the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council Thursday night, focusing on trade issues but touching on several other global hot spots.

6:03 and Team Edwards is in Serious Speech mode.  No hoopla, few signs, no music.

We know this event is finite because some of the local Edwardians report seeing an MSNBC crew setting up near this event.  Edwards is scheduled for a Keith Olbermann interview between 7 and 8 Iowa time.

Efficient Mark McCullogh hand out the prepared remarks and an unfortunate blast of feedback starts the formalities.

Overflow crowd on the second floor of Iowa City's Hotel Vetro -- my guess is 300 or so.  Some prominent Edwardians but a lot of look-see-ers.  Questions will be written and chosen by the moderator.  Atmosphere is formal, almost academic.

6:13 and he's here; the lede on the press release is "Smart and safe trade policies that keep American families safe from dangerous imports."  We'll see where the Q and A takes it.  For the moment, he's taking it to toys -- that's how candidates will campaign through the holidays!  "Stop putting short term profits ahead of children's safety."

Moving on to pharmecuticals and working in the corporate/lobbyist theme.

"5 million jobs lost to unfair trade" in Bush years, he says.  "For too long presidents of both parties have led America into unfair trade agreements," specifying NAFTA.  Makes another attack on the trade agreements "of the last 15 years," which includes Bush 43 and Clinton 42.  "And too many people including Senator Clinton have gone along with it."

"Prohibiting sweatshops and child labor" draws first applause.  "When negotiating trade, we need to keep in mind that one size does not fit all."  Cites enforcement.

"Our trade policies need to lift up workers around the world"  Draws applause.

"We need to adapt to the realities of the 21st century."  Education, new energy economy, eliminate incentives to invest overseas.  Share prosperity.  Strengthen labor, raise the minimum wage... he's taken the foreign policy speech and made it domestic.  Keeps doing so with "universal health care."  But doesn't bring in the Congressional health care thing.

Working into the "20 generations/make sure our children have a better world" standard conclusion.

Prepared remarks wrap at 6:27.

First question from moderator Rex Honey: restoring America's role in world.  "We undo the bad by bring an end to the mess of the war in Iraq."  Bit that's not all.  Close Gitmo, end illegal spying on American people, no more rendition.  "No torture is permissable."  Big applause to all.

We also need to be a force for good: Darfur, Uganda, education around the world.  "Invest $50 billion in next 5 years around the world" on AIDS.  We need the world to know that America cares -- not beligerrant and selfish.  We have to be worthy of leadership.  "We need a President who speaks to the world about what our values are" including equality and diversity.

Edwards and the moderator are taking Q and A seated.

Global warming and Kyoto.  Edwards: "We are an example for bad -- were in competition with China" for worst polluter.  Big Energy industry is an obstacle.  "We have to take them on.  We have to make them uncomfortable."  (applause).  Cap carbon emissions, bring down each year, reduce 80% by  $30-40 billion.  Invest that in new energy.  Make polluters pay.

"Unlike Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama I am opposed to more nuclear power plants."  (gets applause).  "A moratorium on building any more coal-fired power plants."  Trots out the Patriotic About Something Other Than War line.  He's been using that since at least January, but it IS a good line.

Globalization, World Bank, questions lumped together.  Also World Court.  Edwards: "Bush is treating the rest of the world with enormous disrespect.  America dissing the UN, treaties... this creates chaos.  There is an enormous leadership vacuum in the world."  "We will engage these organizations in a positive way."  "When I'm president, my administration will also be transparent.  The presidency does not belong to a person, it belongs to the United States of America" (applause)

US and development aid (less than rest of world).  Edwards: "America should not just be following" UN Millennium goals, "it should be leading."  "We can't act as if as long as we're powerful the rest of the world will follow.  The rest of the world has to see us as a force for good, doing things."

Calls arms deal with Saudis "complete insanity... I mean, I know they're Dick Cheney's buddies and all."  "Unless I missed something, the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, most of them were Saudis."  Thinks it will escalate, not deter, Iran.

"I want to lead a long term int'l initiative to RID the world of nuclear weapons."

Last question (Olbermann awaits)... Russia and E. Europe.  Edwards: Oh, I know this one (cites experience)  There was a move toward democracy, but then Putin came along and "it's a complete autocracy.  They literally own the media.  Well, Bush has Fox News..."  Jokes that he wonders if when Bush looked into Putin's eyes and "saw his soul" if he saw this coming.  Says presidential candidates have to campaign on street corners because they aren't allowed on TV.  So what to do... push for economic reform and transparency.  Requires some balance and careful thought.  Promote non-gov't organizations.  Talk honestly but don't lecture.  But be tough about the things that matter to America.  It can't continue, but we have to do it the right way.  "Over the long term we want to live in a world where the great powers are actually working together to solve the world's problems."  If reform begins with the Russian people it'll be more effective.

6:50 and my that was short.

Highlight of the press avail is Edwards teasing a TV reporter he catched yawning: "What you yawnin' about!  I caught ya!"

He manages to note that "I was against NAFTA from the start... Sen. Clinton and I have a different approach to trade."  Says Russia is serious but Pakistan more unstable.  The DI asks about college debt and local TV asks what he's doing for Christmas.  Efficient Mark tells me the final sign in count is 417.

7:23 and we're in an only in Iowa moment.  Edwards is upstairs in a conference room and the staffers and press are watching him, bounced off a satellite or two, on Olbermann in the bar.  Olbermann led with questions about the GOP debate and the "planted" Hillary-backing general.  I'm only catching bits and pieces but he's steering it back to taling points: "I don't think Iowans are going to vote for somebody just because they've raised the most money."  At least Olbermann didn't put him on during Worst Person In The World, so it's a good media hit for Edwards.  Within about four minutes of the end of the segment, Edwards is out the door.

Jon Kyl's Rise and Iowa's Wane

Jon Kyl's Rise and Iowa's Wane

In a few days, U.S. Senate Republicans will officially anoint Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona to replace Trent Lott of Mississippi as minority whip, the number two post in the Senate GOP leadership. A few Iowans will recall that Senator Kyl's father, John Kyl (same name, different spelling) was an Iowa congressman. But in a way, you could argue that Jon Kyl cost his father his seat in Congress.

No, there wasn't some adolescent scandal in Bloomfield, Iowa. But the story of the Kyl family is, in microcosm, the story of Iowa's declining political influence as the American people, including a young Jon Kyl, have moved south and west.

The elder John Kyl was one of Iowa's first television personalities at KTVO in Ottumwa. He lost his first congressional bid in 1958 to Steven Carter, the first Democrat to win the 4th District in south central Iowa district in decades. But less than a year later Carter was dead, and John Kyl won Iowa's last (to date) congressional special election.

Iowa's glory days in the House of Representatives were the late 1890s, when we elected eleven congressmen, all Republicans, including Speaker of the House David Henderson. By 1959, when John Kyl was elected, Iowa was down to eight U.S. House members while Arizona, still a rural, ranchy state, had only two. That shifted to seven from Iowa and three from Arizona in 1962.

The elder Kyl was first a victim of Arizona in 1964, when Barry Goldwater led the GOP to a crushing defeat and Kyl lost to Democrat Bert Bandstra. Kyl beat Bandstra and made a return trip to Congress two years later.  They don't make landslides like those anymore: five Iowa Republican incumbents knocked off in 1964, four first term Iowa Democrats beaten in `66.  (The only surviving freshman: John Culver.)

But despite his return, John Kyl's days were numbered by the southward and westward migration of the American people -- including his own son.

Jon Kyl graduated from Bloomfield High School in 1960, just months after his father went to Congress. Jon went to the University of Arizona for college -- and didn't come back, settling in for law school and then a job at a Phoenix law firm.

As the refrigerated metropolis in the desert grew, Iowa shrank. The 1970 census, which officially counted Jon Kyl's move from Bloomfield to Phoenix, took yet another House seat away from Iowa and gave it, again, to Arizona. Seven congressmen don't divide evenly into six districts, and John Kyl got the short straw. His new district added both Democratic colleague Neal Smith and Smith's Polk County base. That trumped John Kyl's Ottumwa-Bloomfield turf, and Smith beat Kyl easily in 1972.

When the younger Jon Kyl was first elected to the House in 1986, Arizona had five House members to Iowa's six. Then, in 1992, it happened again: Arizona gained its sixth seat and Iowa elected only five House members -- the fewest since the Civil War. Jon Kyl moved to the Senate in 1994.

Iowa held its own in the 2000 census, but is expected to lose a house district in 2010. But Arizona gained enough population that in 2002, it elected eight House members. By that year, the elder John Kyl had joined his son in Arizona, and late that year he died in Phoenix.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Caucusing Is Easier (For Republicans)

Caucusing Is Easier (For Republicans)

While Democratic caucus-goers will spend the night of Jan. 3 struggling with dividing by 15 percent and negotiating with the undecideds, Republicans will face a much simpler process: show up and vote. But the vote totals that will reach the national media well ahead of the Democratic numbers will have no direct connection to the election of national convention delegates.

Iowa Republicans have the same multi-level convention process as the Democrats: Caucus-goers elect county convention delegates, who choose congressional district and state delegates. The district and state delegates choose the delegates for the national convention. But Iowa Republicans have none of the preference group and viability business that makes the Democratic caucuses so complex.

“The caucus result from the straw poll has no binding on the county convention or the state convention,” said Todd Versteegh, who's helping organize the Republican caucuses in Johnson County. He said Republican delegates are elected at large, after the presidential vote, by the whole caucus. “We don’t allocate in terms of percentages, you’re just a delegate.”

The Republicans, with their simpler process, don't start their caucuses till 7, a half hour after the Democrats. The Republican sign-in process is similar to the Democrats. There will be a list of registered Republicans in the precinct, and if you're not on the list you can register, re-register, or change party.

On one procedural matter, the Republicans are making a point on a hot election law issue: the Republicans will ask you for an ID, while the Democrats aren't. “There is ID on there, just to verify the person is who they sat they are,” said Versteegh. Under most circumstances, you don't have to show ID to vote in Iowa, but the caucuses are party meetings and not elections so the parties can make their own rules.

"Requiring an ID to vote is a very touchy issue," said Iowa Democratic Party political director Norm Sterzenbach, who's working on caucus arrangements and training. "We spend a great deal of time messaging that we trust people."

This year Republicans are, in select locations, setting up "Super-caucus" sites where several precincts meet at one building. The hope is to draw high-level surrogate speakers or even the candidates themselves, along with national media attention. One place the GOP hopes to have a super-caucus, Versteegh says, is Coralville.

The GOP's first item of business is election of a permanent chair and then “we go straight into it,” says Versteegh. “The first thing you've got to do in your presidential year is your presidential straw poll.”

The Republicans have an actual paper ballot. It doesn't list any candidates, says Versteegh, just write in whoever you want. There's a little speaking time where folks makes a short pitch for their candidate, then you vote. It's a secret ballot, with none of the standing in front of the neighbors and bargaining that the Democrats have. This means second choices matter less to Republicans than they do to Democrats.

County convention delegates are apportioned in the same fashion as the Democrats. It's based on the top of the ticket vote in the last two general elections (Bush 2004 and defeated governor candidate Jim Nussle in 2006). But the delegates get little attention because the Republicans give the media a hard vote count.

After voting is done, the Republicans count up their votes and call a touch-tone hot line in Des Moines to report the vote count results. "Ronald Reagan 76 votes, Abe Lincoln 44 votes, Eisenhower 27 votes, and Nixon 1." Unlike the Democrats, where a precinct's impact on the caucus result is frozen based on a delegate count, higher caucus turnout in a Republican precinct means more influence on the outcome. "A vote is a vote," said Versteegh.

Voting should be done in plenty of time for people to catch the 8:00 TV programs, or the second quarter of the football game. About this time, Democrats are still dealing with realignment.

Once the votes -- remember, "straw poll" votes, they're called -- are counted, the delegates are elected by all the caucus goers who choose to stay. Then the caucus moves on to election of party officers and debate of the platform, just as the Democrats do.

Who choose to stay or go after the straw poll vote can have a big impact on the delegates. Take the dead presidents example above: Reagan 76 votes, Lincoln 44 votes, Eisenhower 27 votes, and Nixon 1. Could the Reagan supporters outvote the Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Nixon folks and elect all Reagan delegates with just over half the support? Or did the Reagan folks go home, while the Lincoln people stayed to elect the delegates? “It’s not divvied up by candidate,” said Versteegh.

By the time any non-Iowan figures that out, the candidates are safely in New Hampshire.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

All In The Family: Bill Clinton Campaigns Solo

All In The Family: Bill Clinton Campaigns Solo

Bill Clinton has to walk one of the finest lines ever in American politics in his unprecedented transition from president to spouse of candidate. While he has campaigned in Iowa with Senator Hillary Clinton before, he is now hitting the trail on her behalf by himself.

“I’m not asking anyone to support Hillary because they supported me,” Bill Clinton told a crowd of several hundred at the Muscatine YMCA Tuesday afternoon. “If we had never be married and she asked me to come here today, I would do it, because she is the best qualified, best suited non-incumbent who I’ve ever had the chance to vote for in the 40 years I’ve been a voter,” said the former president, chuckling at his own age and presumably excluding his own 1996 re-election.

Recent rhetoric on the Democratic campaign trail has become increasingly contentious, but Bill Clinton offered praise of some of Hillary Clinton’s rivals early in the speech. He thanked Joe Biden and Chris Dodd for their support in the Senate during his two terms, and later, in a question and answer period, praised Dodd again for his work on the Family Medical Leave Act, “the first bill I signed.” He also praised Bill Richardson’s work as Energy Secretary and U.N. Ambassador during his administration.

His praise of his wife’s leading rivals, however, was less effusive: “Whenever Edwards or Obama has something, I read it with interest.” Clinton 42’s critical comments were aimed mainly at Bush 43, in contrast with Clinton 44. “She will cooperate with others whenever we’re able, and act alone only when there’s no alternative,” he said of U.S. foreign policy, “which is the reverse of the last seven years.”

Bill Clinton’s love of the campaign trail is still clear, and he still packs a commanding presence, which flustered the introducer to the point that she lost verbal composure twice and made the phrase “in confident leadership,” referring to his presidency, sound like “incompetent leadership.” But once he had the podium, he adopted a familiar, folksy storytelling style in “a talk, not a speech” that stuck closely to four Hillary Clinton campaign bullet points:

  • Rebuild the middle class
  • Restore our world leadership
  • Reclaim the future for our children
  • Reform the government

    On domestic policy, the former president said his choice for the future president would open the doors of college education to all Americans, and noted that, ”Most of what we did was undone when I left office.”

    “She can get America back to the future and back to working on big things that matter,” he said, invoking visions of a DeLorean traveling at 88 miles an hour. “We need to put science back in the hands of scientists and take it out of the hands of politicians and ideologues,” he added to applause.

    Clinton also said alternative energy can be a big economic boom. “We’re supposed to be the innovation nation, and these jobs can’t get outsourced, they’re here,” he said, dropping the word ethanol as often as possible “and Hillary believes this is an adventure we ought to take together.” At this point he offered some praise of his former vice president, recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore, but said the Republican Senate had voted down the Kyoto treaty “before Al even got off the plane” in Japan. “It was the only time I had legislation defeated before I even sent it to them,” he joked.

    “Aren’t you getting sick and tired of sending money to the Middle East, or even to our neighbors in Canada and Mexico?” Clinton rhetorically asked. He said oil, not NAFTA, was the main reason for a trade deficit with Mexico. The NAFTA issue came up again in the question period, and Clinton responded with a call for increased trade agreement enforcement and “a reasonable immigration law.”

    “I made trade deals, but I enforced them too,” he said, adding that under the Bush administration, “enforcement is one quarter of what it was when I was president. Clinton said trade enforcement has been cut back against countries like China “because we’re scared they’ll quit loaning us money.”

    Clinton said the U.S. military is terribly overextended, and if there were a crisis in another part of the world such as Korea, “Even if 100% of the American people said ‘send in the marines,’ we couldn’t do it. There’s no Marines to send.” Asked later about Hillary Clinton’s plan to end the war in Iraq, Bill Clinton said, “Her plan would set a timetable to as rapidly and safely as possible” get people out of combat. He cited the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan as a case of the dangers of leaving too fast and without a plan, adding, “She is the only person running to insist that the Pentagon have a plan for the safe withdrawal of our troops.” Clinton 42 said a Clinton 44 administration would leave a small residual force to train Iraqi troops. The remaining questions are all political, he said: “How are they going to share the power, how are they going to share the oil

    The former president said Turkey would be a critical player in Middle East peace, as they are “the only moderate country with good relations with both Israel and Iran.” He said conflict between the Turks and Kurds would be disastrous, noting, “The Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world without a country

    Senator Clinton’s credentials before she took office in her own right have recently been targeted by her rivals, but Bill Clinton offered a long list of her accomplishments as first lady of Arkansas and the United states on education, preschool, health care, and foreign policy. “When I became president she represented America in 82 countries,” he said. “She played an independent role in the Irish peace process. All over the world I hear these stories. She did all that when she had no office.

    Despite her unpopularity with the Republican base, and her frequency as a target in GOP debates, Bill Clinton said his wife is actually the Democrat who will be best able to work across the aisle. “She has proved she can get stuff done with Republicans,” he said, citing several bills on medical records and military benefits she co-sponsored. “They did it together and she knows that’s what you have to do and she’s proved that she can do it. She’s always been a problem solver.” He also noted her success in winning over Republican voters in rural upstate New York. George W. Bush carried 40 upstate counties in 2004 while losing statewide in New York. Senator Clinton carried 36 of those 40 counties in her 2006 re-election.

    A question about the Supreme court and civil liberties drew an answer with an interesting turn of phrase: “After 9/11 the current government led by Vice President Cheney tried to get more and more power,” Clinton said, leaving it up to the listener to decide whether Cheney led the effort or the government. “If we respond to terror in a way that compromises our character, we’ve handed the terrorists a big victory,” he added.

    The former president said he spent Monday night in Iowa City and made several unscheduled stops in Iowa City Tuesday morning, including the public library and a return visit to the politically famous café the Hamburg Inn. “I wish I could say we went to vote for Hillary in the Coffee Bean Caucus,” he said, “but really we were just hungry.”
  • Never Mind: Michigan Won't Add Candidates to Jan. 15 Ballot

    Never Mind: Michigan Won't Add Candidates to Jan. 15 Ballot

    The Republican-controlled Michigan Senate refused Tuesday to take up a bill passed Monday by the Democratic-led House that would have forced four Democratic candidates onto the ballot for the state's calendar-violating Jan. 15 primary.

    Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, told the Detroit Free Press he was not inclined to spend more time on the primary legislation because "Democrats can't seem to decide what they want to do."

    Joe Biden, John Edwards, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson had taken their names off the ballot because of Michigan's violation of Democratic National Committee rules in scheduling the primary.  Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd and Mike Gravel left their names on the ballot, and Dennis Kucinich attempted to withdraw but filed improper paperwork.

    Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, Obama and Richardson also signed a pledge not to campaign in Michigan or other calendar-violating states. 

    Leach Pessemistic on Iran

    Leach Pessemistic on Iran

    Former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach says he is "extremely pessimistic" about U.S. relations with Iran. 

    "We've administered a policy analogous to the same policy we've had towards Cuba, both attitudinally and in effect, of not talking and of basically refusing to deal on a respectful basis," the head of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government told Iowa Independent.  "Isolating a potential foe .is in many circumstances counterproductive.  Just as we should be having more civil relations as much as we disagree with Castro, I think if we had more civil relations with Iran we'd be in much better circumstances to achieve a diplomatic outcome."

    "It's the most awesomely awkward issue in the world in many regards," Leach said.  "To the United States a nuclear Iran is exceptionally difficult.  To intervene militarily, on the other hand, could be a calamity for all sides, including the United States."

    In his Iowa Independent interview, Leach also discussed some of the presidential candidates.

    Leach said Iran's agenda includes both power and respect.  "They want to make it clear to the world that they have an old civilization and a sophisticated society that needs to be factored into any regional discussion, he said."  The country also wants to play a larger role in regional affairs: 

    They want to project power in the region and around the world, and they are particularly concerned that the United States wants to play an interventionist role in their country specifically but in other parts of the Middle East.  As far as Iranian security is concerned, possession of a weapon of mass destruction is a reminder to the United States that they can act out.  They in effect become the first country in the world with the opposite ends of strategy, one strategy being a potential nuclear weapon, the other strategy being total anarchy through Hezbollah type activities.  This would be novel to world affairs.  That is one of the reasons why Iran is currently so dangerous.

    Leach said it's not clear to the West, or even to the Iranians themselves, where the real power in the country lies.  "Five years ago it was certainly very clear that the ayatollahs held more power than (then-president) Hatami, that Hatami was the political government," he said.  "Today, one has the sense that the political arm is gaining increasing authority, but probably still doesn't match the ayatollahs.  They have a lot of power but it's hard to know if it's total power."

    Leach described current president Mahmoud Ahmedinijad as "a classic kind of political demagogue" and said his anti-Israel rhetoric is in part for domestic consumption but should also be taken seriously.  "He's in a very powerful position within his country and increasingly within the Muslim world," he said.  "Ahmedinijad himself is a classic kind of political demagogue who is tapping into some of the fears and aspirations of some of the Iranian population". 

    Leach described a meeting he had five years ago with Sen. Arlen Specter and the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations.

    This was under the prior government of Hatami.  Hatami would be considered in Iranian terms a moderate, Ahmedinijad a radical.  The discussions that Sen. Specter and I had related to how the United States and Iran can get along better in the world, and I suggested it would be very difficult for any American administration to proceed in a forthcoming way with Iran as long as they were funding Hezbollah activities and other anti-Israeli insurgencies.  To which the ambassador responded Iran would be perfectly content to cease such activities once an Israeli-Palestinian settlement was reached which had the support of the Palestinian people.  In a way that was an optimistic thing to say, in a way it was a very threatening thing to say.  The optimism being once a settlement occurred perhaps Iran would shift gears; the threatening aspect being they wouldn't shift gears unless and until an agreement was reached. 

    In any regard, whether or not that was the real position of the Iranian government four or five years ago, you have a different government today with Ahmedinijad being of a very different psychological ilk than Hatami.

    The Islamic world understands that any American admin has to be completely committed to the viability of the state of Israel.  That doesn't mean that on every issue there is total agreement, but on the basic issue of the viability of the state there is.  The role of the United States should be to help try to help precipitate a modus vivendi that is stable, if that is possible.  These issues involve timing; they involve leadership of various parties, and lots of imponderables and uncertainties.  But the United States certainly should make it clear that it's always on the side of trying to reach a credible resolution that is acceptable to all sides.

    Leach said Iran might not be the only country trying to fill a void once U.S. forces leave Iraq.

    There could be problems on more than one border.  You've got the possibility that Turkey will attempt to expand influence in the northwest, partly in response to certain actions that the Kurds have undertaken against Turkey and also potentially for other reasons.  On the eastern border, certainly, Iran has some possible influence that it wants to expand and we all understand that the Shia population particularly in the south of Iraq has some kind of religious kinds of ties to Iran that are not slight.  By the same token, there is an Iraqi nationalism as there is an Iranian nationalism.  A shared religion is important but it's not the only thing.  And so some suspect that Iran is going to try to play the same role in Iraq as Syria is in Lebanon, but I don't think it's likely to be quite as dominant or influential as Syria is in Lebanon.

    We're in a world that anything is possible.  We all understand that when American troops leave fully Iraq, whether it be in one year or 20 years, they're be destabilizing implications for the country of Iraq.  We also understand that Iraqis are perhaps unable to reach certain compromises if they can rely on American troops being there, and American troops presence can be considered offensive in and of itself.  And so what we might see as stabilizing, someone else might perceive as destabilizing.

    Leach has been at Harvard since September.  He spent the earlier part of 2007 at his alma mater, Princeton, in the Woodrow Wilson School of Government, following his 2006 defeat for re-election.

    Monday, November 26, 2007

    Senators For Life

    Senators For Life

    On the occasion of Trent Lott's resignation, a political trivia moment.

    Mississippi believes in seniority. Lott's departure marks only the third senator transition in the last sixty years. That's right, since 1947 only four men have represented Mississippi in the Senate.

    Mississippi sent two of the last old-time segregationist Democrats to the Senate: James Eastland (1943-78) and John Stennis (1947-88). Still, Stennis was an out and out lefty compared to the man he replaced, Theodore Bilbo, who proposed deporting 12 million black Americans to Liberia and once wrote a book titled Take Your Choice, Separation or Mongrelization.

    Stennis and Eastland dropped the overt racism toward the end, after black Mississippians started voting, but were still among the most conservative senators of either party. They were replaced, in turn, by men who were just as conservative but bore the new party label of the white South. Cochran was first, replacing Eastland in 1978 in a three way race with the brother of murdered civil rights worker Medgar Evers running as an independent, vote-splitting candidate. Cochran took 45% to become the first Mississippi Republican Senator since African American Blanch Bruce (1875-81).

    Lott replaced Stennis in `88 in what seemed like an odd move. He'd risen in the House to minority whip but apparently didn't see a path to a House majority. He was replaced briefly as whip by some guy from Wyoming named Cheney, then when Cheney left to become defense secretary for Bush Sr., Newt Gingrich settled in.

    Lott rose in the leadership again, and was even Senate Majority Leader for a time, but he dropped that ball in late `02 by speculating aloud about how wonderful a Strom Thurmond Presidency would have been. But Lott was on the comeback trail and Senate minority whip again.

    The resignation speculation abounds. The juicy rumor is that Larry Flynt has dirt on Lott, but the more mundane version is that Lott wants to avoid lobbyist laws that kick in at year's end. That may be a factor, but I think another reason is Lott doesn't see the GOP in the Senate majority anytime soon.

    In any case, expect a long line of candidates (including former state attorney general Michael "not the Fahrenheit 9/11 guy" Moore, a Dem who could actually win), since open Mississippi Senate seats are as common as total solar eclipses.

    And yes, with all this segregation talk I expect to hear about Robert Byrd's brief, long ago renounced Klan membership.

    Caucusing Is (Sort of) Easy For Democrats

    Caucusing Is (Sort of) Easy For Democrats

    The Hillary Clinton campaign is having Fun With Video again, poking fun at the candidate and the husband in its "Caucusing is Easy" video. While caucusing may be easier than getting Hillary Clinton to sing in tune, it does take a little training.

    Clinton needs a Caucus 101 program more than some of her rivals because, more and more, it appears she is counting on first-time caucus-goers. Polls are showing that Clinton, not Gen-X phenom Barack Obama, is doing best among 18-29 year old potential caucusers (particularly young women). The flip side, as Jerome Armstrong writes at MyDD:

    The Clinton campaign must have polled and segmented and projected that, with the given caucus universe, they just can't win in Iowa -- recall their internal memo earlier this spring that considered ditching the state. So instead, the focus moves to the technique of expanding the caucus universe. More than 60 percent of those who have identified themselves as Clinton supporters, senior strategists say, have never participated in the Iowa caucuses.

    Obama, given how much he's spent already on TV, is probably coming to the same conclusion-- he can't win with the current universe of caucus attendees. So like Clinton, he's got to identify supporters that haven't caucused, educate them about the process, and get them there the night of the vote on January 3rd.

    So this isn't just a silly video, this is a serious effort, and as such it deserves a serious look for how it portrays the caucus process itself.

    At 0:54 into the video, we hear, "You don't have to be registered, or even a Democrat, you can register at the caucus that night." Partially true; you can register onsite, but when you do you have to register as a Democrat. And if you're already registered as GOP or no party, you have to re-register as a Democrat. The local party gets lists from their state party offices, listing just the registered Democrats, and if you're not on the list ...fill out the form.

    At 1:20 into the Clinton video, we hear: "Be sure to be (at the caucus site) by 6:30; doors close at 7 p.m. sharp." Democrats have to be signed in or in the line to sign in (the video never shows that long line) by 6:30, which is when the caucus actually starts. 7:00 is the earliest time you can break into preference groups, the "voting" stage of the caucus.

    So what happens between 6:30 and 7? The people still in line get checked in, mostly, but the first half hour starts with the election of a permanent chair. 99 times out of 100 the "temporary chair" appointed by the county party to start the meeting gets elected as the permanent chair.

    1:23 in: "Bring a friend, a family member or a neighbor." Sure, the more the merrier -- as long as they live in your precinct. Your across-the-street neighbor might caucus somewhere else, and your friend who lives across town almost certainly will.

    The funniest part of the Clinton video is about 1:35 in when they show an orderly school gym with about 50 people (carefully selected for diversity) and actual room to move around, even for the two people in wheelchairs. (One would be tokenism, two is a demographic.) Take that crowd, in a room that size, and multiply it by about eight or ten, and you'll get a more realistic picture.

    While this fantasy is happening on video, the narrator says precinct captains "will direct you to the Hillary corner. It'll be the one with the Hillary signs. Then stand there and be counted." That's how you vote in an Iowa Democratic caucus. You stand there, in front of your neighbors, and wait to get counted.

    At 1:49 into the Clinton video, a woman asserts "it usually takes about an hour." Theoretically possible, but in reality, very, very few precincts will be done with the "voting" stage that soon. The Clinton video skips over the wheeling and dealing and second-choicing that the Iowa caucuses are famous for, perhaps out of fear that a frank assessment of how long it takes won't get first-timers there.

    The deepest, darkest secret in the political universe is the vote total from the Iowa Democratic caucuses. It's never reported, it doesn't even exist. The only thing reported on caucus night is delegate numbers.

    Even that word "delegate" is confusing, conjuring up images of the national convention in August. The delegates elected on caucus night aren't going that far, they're going to a county convention in March, by which time it likely will be obvious who will be the nominee. The county conventions elect delegates to congressional district and state conventions, and these last two conventions choose the national convention delegates. It's much like a stack of Russian nesting dolls, or the man who was going to St. Ives.

    Each precinct is allocated a set number of delegates to the county convention based on general election performance, not past caucus attendance. Doesn't matter how many people caucused in 2004; what matters is votes for John Kerry in `04 and for Chet Culver for governor in `06.

    This leads to some interesting anomalies on the Democratic side. The results reflect not the caucus-going electorate, but a hypothetical, projected, general election voter pool. So in some Democratic precincts, where caucus turnout is high, it takes a lot more people to earn a delegate.

    For example in 2004, in Iowa City Precinct 18, a hotbed of activism full of liberal professors and students, 534 caucus-goers recreated the Black Hole Of Calcutta in the Longfellow Elementary School gym. In North Liberty Precinct 1, full of trailer courts, newly developed housing and independents who marked their fall ballots for the Democratic ticket, only 171 people showed up. But based on their general election voting in 2000 and 2002, North Liberty 1 and Iowa City 18 each elected the same total of 10 delegates.

    Much has been made of the 2008 caucuses falling during colleges' winter breaks. That'll affect turnout, but not delegate counts. In Iowa City Precinct 5, made up almost entirely of students, it doesn't matter if their turnout equals the 327 who showed up in 2004, or if it's 27 or even 7. They still elect the same six delegates in 2008.

    So now it's time to allocate those delegates, and we rejoin the Clinton video in the Hillary corner with the Hillary signs. Needless to say, there's also an Edwards corner and an Obama corner and so on. With six to eight candidates, there's not enough corners -- or delegates.

    If you remember one word about the Iowa Democratic caucuses, remember the word "viability."

    In order to elect those county convention delegates, your corner has to have enough people to be "viable." That means 15 percent of the people in the room (the percentage is higher in the very smallest precincts). If your group is smaller than that, you have to go to Plan B: realignment.

    Realignment is just making your second choice. (Does the Clinton video skip this part because they're confident they'll be viable everywhere, or because they're pessimistic about picking up second choices?) You can walk over to your second choice candidate, alone or en masse. Or you can play hard to get, waiting to be wooed and persuaded. The small fry can band together -- the James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce and Martin Van Buren groups join to form Uncommitted. (Using dead presidents as examples keeps me out of trouble with the campaigns.) You can cut a deal: "My 15 Truman people will join your FDR group if two of us get to be delegates." The larger groups usually oblige, because who's a delegate matters less than the number that's phoned in.

    Once everybody's realigned into viable groups, the results get called in from the precinct to Des Moines, using a touch tone hotline. The process bypasses the county chairs; old timers will share not-for-attribution rumors of county chairs who delayed their reports back in the Bad Old Days to manipulate the media reports.

    The result that gets reported is delegate counts only. "JFK two delegates, Woodrow Wilson two delegates, FDR four delegates, Uncommitted one." There's no indication at all that anyone supported Harry Truman as a first choice, or that the Uncommitted group is really a coalition of the Lesser Known Presidents.

    Back in the Clinton video, at 1:56 in we hear: "It's usually over early enough to get you back in time for your favorite TV show." Kickoff for the Orange Bowl is 7 p.m. Iowa time Jan. 3 and you might catch the second half if you're lucky. "ER" or "Without A Trace" at 9 are maybes, and "Gray's Anatomy" or "The Office" at 8:00 are lost causes.

    "Then, go home," says the video at 1:59. There's generally a mass exodus at this point, but there's still some work to do. As the delegates have been divvied up and the results are reported, it's just the relative trivia of who actually gets to be a county convention delegate. Sometimes these in-group elections are spirited in the caucus-night intensity, other times they're solved by "raise your hand if you're willing to be an alternate." Caucus veterans know that a lot of the delegates won't show up at the March county convention, and that the alternates usually get seated if they want to.

    After all the groups have picked their delegates, the whole caucus -- what's left of it, anyway -- gets back together and elects the precinct officers and deals with the platform.

    Easy? Sort of like long division: possible on paper, easier with a calculator. At least at the end of the video Bill gets his burger.

    Tuesday night, Democrats and Republicans hold a joint caucus training at 6 p.m. at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City.

    Wednesday: Things are easier for Republicans.

    Sunday, November 25, 2007

    Michigan Still Maneuvering

    Michigan Still Maneuvering

    While the date is now set, Michigan still has a trick up its sleeve for its calendar-violating Jan. 15 primary.

    The Michigan Legislature meets Monday and may consider an amendment to the primary law that would force four major Democratic candidates back onto the ballot.

    Just after Michigan announced its move to Jan. 15, all six leading Democrats signed a pledge not to campaign in any states that violated the Democratic National Committee's official calendar order of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Four candidates -- Joe Biden, John Edwards, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson -- took that pledge a step further by taking their names off the Michigan ballot.

    The proposed legislation would force those candidates back on the ballot unless they sign an affidavit swearing they are not running for president. Ballot Access News also reports that, while Republicans have settled on the primary, Democrats still haven't and may yet opt for a caucus.

    In a post worth a read, Iowa blogger Cyclone Conservatives urges Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin to confront his colleague, Michigan's Carl Levin. Levin has long argued for an end to Iowa and New Hampshire's first in the nation status, and has been the driving force behind Michigan's leapfrogging this year. Levin has suggested a Michigan Democratic caucus on Jan. 8 -- New Hampshire Primary Day.

    Meanwhile, the Huron Daily Tribune reports, the biggest losers in the Michigan battle may be local election officials. They were legally barred from making primary preparations while two state courts held the primary law unconstitutional. But the state Supreme Court reversed the lower court rulings Wednesday, and now county clerks have to expedite their efforts.

    Saturday, November 24, 2007

    Voters Consider Intangibles and Identity Politics

    Voters Consider Intangibles and Identity Politics

    There are two kinds of issues at play in a nomination contest: policy issues and intangibles. Frankly, the policy differences between the six leading Democrats are relatively nuanced. They all want to end the war as soon as possible, with some disagreement on how soon that can be done. They all have some sort of health care plan that retains the private health insurance sector.

    So the race is coming down to the intangibles: electability, likability, competitiveness with the Republicans, and the identity politics of Voting For Someone Who Looks Like Me. The most important issue for many voters may not be Iraq War or Health Care or Economy. It may be Woman President.

    After the Las Vegas debate, in an article titled "Hillary and the Winning XX Factor," Celeste Fremon at Witness LA wrote:
    Hillary plays the girl card because, every time she does, it has a very good chance of resonating with half the American population.

    She spoke about mothers driving their daughters hundreds of miles to meet the person who might be the first woman president, followed by a heart-tugging story of a grandmother, born back when only men had the right to vote, who told Hil, “I want to live long enough to see a woman in the White House.” Yeah, it was cheesy, but it worked. I even got kind of teary, and I don’t much like the broad.

    So, let’s not kid ourselves, if Hillary wins the Democratic nomination it will not be in spite of the fact that she’s a woman, it will be, in a weird way, because of it.

    Last week, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times earned herself a permanent place in the Clinton enemy list:
    Obama offered a zinger feathered with amused disdain: “My understanding was that she wasn’t Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, so I don’t know exactly what experiences she’s claiming.”

    Everybody laughed, including Obama.

    It took him nine months, but he finally found the perfect pitch to make a trenchant point.

    Obama’s one-liner evoked something that rubs some people the wrong way about Hillary. Getting ahead through connections is common in life. But Hillary cloaks her nepotism in feminism.

    What if a male writer said "Hillary cloaks her nepotism in feminism" -- or a male candidate? Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light. Total protonic reversal. That's an important safety tip for Clinton's male rivals.

    Dowd cites Joan Di Cola, a Boston lawyer, in a letter to The Wall Street Journal this week:
    “She hasn’t accomplished anything on her own since getting admitted to Yale Law. She isn’t Dianne Feinstein, who spent years as mayor of San Francisco before becoming a senator, or Nancy Pelosi, who became Madam Speaker on the strength of her political abilities. All Hillary is, is Mrs. Clinton. She became a partner at the Rose Law Firm because of that, senator of New York because of that, and (heaven help us) she could become president because of that.”

    In fairness, Clinton wouldn't be the first candidate to benefit from a family tie, as the current president and his father could attest. And Speaker Pelosi's father served in Congress as well. But if the "experience" so often cited by Clinton supporters as the reason for their support were really such a decisive factor, then why isn't there a neck and neck race between Joe Biden and Chris Dodd for first place? If "qualifications" matter, then Bill Richardson and his long resume would be close behind.

    Clinton's standard stump speech riff on the gender subject runs something like: "I'm not running to be the first woman, I'm running because I feel I'm the most qualified, but it would be nice." But whenever the gender references happen, the cheers get just a little louder and just a little higher in pitch, and the same thing happened at the Nov. 10 Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Des Moines when Pelosi made reference to being the first woman Speaker of the House.

    Clinton may be the first female front runner, but she's hardly the first credible woman to run -- Republicans Margaret Chase Smith and Elizabeth Dole come to mind, as does Democrat Shirley Chisholm. And Barack Obama isn't the first black candidate, either. Has everyone forgotten Al Sharpton in the debates just four years ago, or all the primaries Jesse Jackson won in 1988?

    Yet the buzz around Barack Obama seems to be less about Black President than about Generation X President. At 46, Obama's technically a Baby Boomer, under the traditional 1946-1964 definition. But he's part of what's sometimes called the "Shadow Boomer" generation, born between 1958 and 1964. (To me, born in December `63, you're not a Boomer if you can't remember the Kennedy assassination or the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.) Obama often speaks of being too young to have participated in the civil rights battles of the 1960s, and his rhetoric has a certain 80's generation style and humor.

    In The Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan makes both the generational and racial case for Obama, arguing that only a post-Boomer can heal the bitter tone of post-1968 politics:
    The divide is still -— amazingly —- between those who fought in Vietnam and those who didn’t, and between those who fought and dissented and those who fought but never dissented at all. By defining the contours of the Boomer generation, it lasted decades. And with time came a strange intensity.

    The war today matters enormously. The war of the last generation? Not so much. If you are an American who yearns to finally get beyond the symbolic battles of the Boomer generation and face today’s actual problems, Obama may be your man.

    Sullivan then explicitly makes the racial argument:
    Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man —- Barack Hussein Obama —- is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

    Ironically, the leading candidate making the most explicit, leftist-populist case falls into a demographic that's been largely lost to the Republican party: middle-aged white Southern male John Edwards. But the identity politics are still in play here. Implicit in the Edwards electability argument is the unspoken notion that a white Southern man will attract voters that a woman or a black man can't.

    Are these considerations fair? Doesn't matter; they're real. Celeste Fremon concludes without concluding, weighing the policy issues against the intangibles.
    All things being equal, that isn’t such a bad thing. As a country, we are more than ready for such a gender breakthrough. I just wish the person with the best shot at smashing that “highest, hardest glass ceiling” she mentioned in Las Vegas, was someone other than poll-driven, hawkish Hillary Clinton.

    Friday, November 23, 2007

    Leach Praises Obama, Biden, Dodd, Richardson, Paul

    Leach Praises Obama, Biden, Dodd, Richardson, Paul

    Jim Leach offered unexpected praise of Barack Obama and several other Democratic presidential candidates in an interview with Iowa Independent this week.

    The former Iowa congressman, who is now head of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, also offered unsolicited praise of Democrats Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and Bill Richardson, and of Republican Ron Paul.

    “I have a lot of respect for friends like Joe Biden and Chris Dodd,” said Leach, who served 30 years in the House of Representatives before his upset loss to Dave Loebsack last year. “I think the Democratic Party, based on where I feel the issues are, would be wiser to lean towards Barack Obama vis-à-vis Hillary (Clinton). I think Barack has a greater chance, and I think it was put very well by Ted Sorenson who is a great friend of mine, has a greater chance of kind of reflecting a new Camelot, a John F. Kennedy mode, than perhaps the other Democratic candidates.”

    Leach explicitly declined to make a Republican endorsement, but had a great deal to say when told of Paul’s recent Iowa City visit:
    Ron is a close friend and one who I have a lot of respect for. His libertarian views are not precisely mine. But one day he came up to me on the floor and he said, “Jim, I’m astonished. You took second.” And I said, “What do you mean, Ron?” And he said “We libertarians just issued our vote-grading record for the year and of course I was first, but you were second.” So that caught me more than a little off guard. That probably only happened one year in my time in Congress, but in general I probably would have had a higher libertarian rating than many of my constituents would have suspected.

    Leach noted that Paul “is one of the few Republicans who, along with me, voted against the authorization to go to war with Iraq.” He assessed the war views of the other candidates:

    To date in general the Republican candidates have more or less accepted the foreign policy of President Bush, with nuanced distinctions. The one showing any difference from the President is basically Ron Paul.

    Barack and John Edwards as well as Joe Biden and Chris Dodd have been critical of Mrs. Clinton for her vote on a resolution relating to Iran that among other things implied giving the executive branch the authority to act not radically dissimilar from the resolution that authorized the use of force against Iraq. And that has become a minor cause celebre in the Democratic debates, with Sen. Clinton supporting the Bush-Cheney policy and the others having objections to it.

    While Leach focused on the candidates now serving in Congress, he went out of his way to add, “By the way I also like a lot Bill Richardson. I think Bill is a real credit to the country and is a very fine candidate.”

    “In a way it’s unfair that people like Joe Biden and Chris Dodd who are really distinguished Senators are not perceived as being as presidential as some others," Leach said. When told that Biden was very competitive with Clinton and Obama in endorsements from Iowa legislators, he said:
    I think it’s a sign of respect from legislators that understand he’s a very professional and thoughtful legislator. Some of his recent comments on foreign policy have, in my view, been extremely thoughtful. And several of the comments I’ve heard recently of Chris Dodd relating to some financial issues such as the sub-prime lending dilemma have been very thoughtful. These are two estimable legislators who obviously would have a more liberal voting record than I would prefer but are, I think, fine Americans. I think people should be… they should be given a lot of respect.

    Dodd chairs the Senate Banking committee, and Leach chaired the House Banking committee for several years.

    Leach was far less outgoing about the Republican field other than Paul, but did note the personal appeal of Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani:
    Leach: “If you just look at (Romney) and watch the way he interrelates with people, he’s got a lot of charisma."

    Deeth: “I saw the charisma effect going on when Mayor Giuliani was on campus as well."

    Leach: “Oh, without a doubt. These are two kind of different personalities but each has some attractiveness."

    Leach is working on campaign finance reform with a former Iowa congressional colleague, Democrat Berkley Bedell. On this issue, he again praised Obama:
    Barack has the right approach, he’s not taking PAC money, I think that’s very respectable and I think it’s something people ought to look at very carefully when the make a decision between the candidates.

    It’s in some ways the most important domestic issue because in some way it touches on all other domestic issues and it reflects on whether you can make decisions without conflicts of interest. We have greater weaknesses in American democracy than many people understand. I have reached the conclusion as Berkley has, that little is more important than to get big money out of the political system.

    Leach took over as head of the Kennedy School in September when the previous head, former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, left to run for the U.S. Senate. He had preciously spent several months at the Woodrow Wilson School of Government at his alma mater, Princeton.

    Thursday, November 22, 2007

    Dump Closed On Thanksgiving

    Dump Closed On Thanksgiving

    Just in case you have a half a ton of garbage.

    Thursday, November 22 closed.

    If Stockbridge, Mass. had had a web site in 1967, Arlo Guthrie could have saved a lot of trouble, but then we wouldn't have this:

    Here's the whole thing; for some reason embedding is disabled.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007

    Leapfrog Done: NH Jan. 8, Michigan Jan. 15

    Leapfrog Done: NH Jan. 8, Michigan Jan. 15

    The months-long game of caucus and primary date leapfrog came to a unexpectedly swift end Wednesday as Michigan and New Hampshire set their dates.

    In a surprise mid-day ruling, the Michigan Supreme Court today overturned two lower courts and ruled that Michigan's national-party-defying Jan. 15 primary is not unconstitutional.  Michigan election officials had said they needed a decision by noon today in order to prepare for a Jan. 15 election.

    Hours late, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner announced his state's long anticipated date: Jan. 8, five days after Iowa.

    "New Hampshire has held the first presidential primary in the nation since 1920," Gardner said at a Statehouse press conference. "This tradition has served our nation well."

    "It's earlier than we had imagined not too long ago, but first and foremost we are going to preserve the New Hampshire primary and this will let us do that," Gardner added.

    A New Hampshire law (which might not withstand a federal test) says the state's primary must be seven days before any similar contest.

    The endgame started in the Michigan Supreme Court, on a 4-3 ruling.  Two lower courts had ruled the Jan. 15 prmary law unconstitutional because of a provision that gives lists of primary participants to the political parties but no one else.  The Republican-led state Senate passed an amendment removing the voter-list provision, but the Democratic controlled House had not yet acted.

    The contest is more for bragging rights than anything.  Michigan has lost half its Republican delegates and all its Democratic delegates as punishment for going early.

    The more or less final national schedule:

    Jan. 3 - Iowa caucuses
    Jan. 5 - Wyoming GOP caucuses (faces party penalties)
    Jan. 8 - New Hampshire primary
    Jan. 15 - Michigan primary (faces party penalties)
    Jan. 19 - Nevada caucuses
    Jan. 19 - South Carolina Republican primary
    Jan. 26 - South Carolina Democratic primary
    Jan. 29 - Florida primary (faces party penalties)
    Feb 5 - Tsunami Tuesday: contests in more than 20 states

    All that's left now is lawsuits in Florida. The Democrats have taken away all Florida's delegates for scheduling a Jan. 29 primary, and the Republicans have removed half the delegates.  Two  pending cases cases demand that delegates chosen in the Jan. 29 calendar-breaking primary be seated.  The newest lawsuit is calling for a later primary.    Ausman v. Browning blames the state legislature for the mess and argues that a state political party has the right to a presidential primary date that won't disenfranchise its voters.  It asks that the Florida primaries be postponed to a date that's acceptable to the national parties, which would mean Feb. 5 or later.

    Michigan: Jan. 15 Back On

    Michigan: Jan. 15 Back On

    Detroit Free Press:

    Michigan’s Jan. 15 presidential primary is a go again.

    Overturning a pair of lower court rulings, a majority of the state Supreme Court Wednesday morning found the law setting the primary date and granting exclusive access to voter lists from it to the Democratic and Republican parties was not unconstitutional.

    The 4-3 decision, after a string of setbacks for the seemingly star-crossed election, means the vote can be held as planned.

    State elections officials had said they needed to know the primary’s fate by noon today to have time to prepare and deliver absentee ballots.

    Mitt Live At UIHC

    Mitt Live At UIHC

    9:41 and good morning from University Hospitals in Iowa City, where Mitt Romney is due in four minutes.  This morning's Register says he's the bet in the field at being on time, so any minute now I'll be binging you his remarks. 

    Iowans for Health Care has the purple shirts here, despite the SEIU Edwards endorsement, so we're watching for some bird-dogging questions.

    A middle-aged woman reading a novel while she waits won't give her name, but says she's trying to choose between Romney and Mike Huckabee.  Peter Eubanks of Iowa City, waiting with his three small children, is comMITTed (sorry, had to).  "He's a proven health care leader who's gotten results.  His plan got Ted Kennedy AND the Heritage Foundation excited, and I admire anyone who can do that."

    The TV scrum is arriving at 9:52.

    Head of Students for Romney and Dr. Steve Hunter handling the intro.  Hunter touts the straw poll win.  "Gov Romney's the only one who's actually done health care reform."

    Romney is on at 9:54.  Says he can work across the aisle and with private sector on health care.

    Drops phrase "global jihad."  Whipping through a laundry list of issues but the recurring theme is global competitiveness.  "Getting married before they have babies" draws the first applause. (scattered.)

    Talks of early days as governor and health care: "I'm not gonna raise taxes and I'm not gonna let the government take it over either."

    So plan's all private-sector base: buy the policy you can afford, gov't pays part of premium for poor.  Paid for by reduced emergency room costs.  That's what he says.  Cites conservative humorist PJ O'Rourke: "If you think health care's expensive now, wait till it's  free."

    Says Mass. isn't perfect but "a big step forward."  Plan not yet universal, but "we're getting there, we have some teeth in it."  Pro bono care is filling some gaps in a test program, he says. 

    "Very different approach than Edwards, Clinton and Obama are talking about.  Their plan is we give them government insurance."  "Get gov't out of it" draws applause.

    "We can either follow the Democrats on a sharp left turn toward the Europe of old, or Ronald Reagan's vision of America to keep gov't small and strengthen America."  Drops references to "families" for second time.  "Marriage is between a man and a woman" draws applause, and kids need a mom and a dad.

    Stronger Family, Good Jobs, Stronger Military.  The Mitt Three Bullet Points.

    Speech proper wraps at 10:06, about 12 minutes.  Makes the pledge card pitch.  "We want you to vote there two or three times," he jokes. 

    Doctor takes first question, offers comments on indigent care.  Common at UIHC, and it's good, but he says in other parts of the country it's not as good.  Mitt: "In my state, people don't get a gov't insurance card, they get private insurance" and that gives them better care.

    Next question: do we need more doctors, and is equipment too expensive.  Mitt says we need more docs and especially more nurses.  But says cost is 1) 47 million uninsured not payig anything and 2) cost of equipment.  Need more incentives for people to cost-compare.  Need more competition on equipment.  Questioner persists on cost of CAT scanners, Mitt asks "What's your proposal?"  Questioner suggests limiting the price.  Mitt: "I don't believe in price controls.  I do believe in having ample competition."  Gets applause.

    Next questioner says China is raising prices on US medical equipment.  First Romney brings the guy up on stage, then has him show off the Salt Lake '02 Olympic jacket he's wearing. Turns out he was an Olympic volunteer  Romney riffs on that for a couple minutes.  Then moves to the question, talks about China and copyright issues.  "We have to get China to play fair."  Says he wasn't familiar with med. equip. specifically but the principle applies.

    An inaudible questioner...  Mitt repeats; the affordability of medical school.  He notes his own pre-med son.  1) Tax free savings (applause) under $200k income.  2) Scholarships for superior performance.

    Federal support of biomedical research comes from above.  "I feel like I'm in K-Mart," says Mitt, and I wonder when he was last in a K-Mart.  Romney discusses non-fetal stem cells.  "I do not believe in either embryo farming or cloning."

    Will private insurance be able to deny coverage?  Says Mass. has a board that takes care of this, and Dem. legislature took it further and won't allow sale of unapproved plans.  "Catastrophic illness like breast cancer ought to be covered."

    Do you expect a national Mass. style plan, or leave it to states.  "My plan is a good model for other states and the nation."  Expects mass plan to be tweaked as it plays out.  "I will use federal dollars as incentives to get states to reform their markets" and use fed. dollars to get everyone insured.  "My plan and Hillary Clinton's could not be more different.  Hers gives everybody gov't insurance, mine doesn't."  Rolls on this for a while without naming other Democrats.

    Liability and Malpractice.  "An extraordinary lottery for lawyers -- look at John Edwards' house."  Cap the non-economic damages.  "I believe in federal tort liability reforms.  Runaway awards are not good for medicine."

    Applause at the end of each question.

    Taxes on the rich.  30 percent pay no tax at all, Mitt says, citing Earned Income Credit... "middle income Americans making $200k or less will pay no tax on savings."  "I don't lose sleep worrying about our highest income Americans.  I do worry about families."

    HIPAA health care privacy law interferes with medical research, asserts a questioner.  Mitt: "I'm not surprised to hear that, but I'm not familiar with it."  Turns it into an overall "simplify government regulations."  "I'm actually kind of interested in hearing about the HIPAA regulations you're describing."

    Last question: NIH budget.  "I haven't put together my final budget yet, but it's something I believe in."  "I'd rather have the $ allocated not on politics, but on science."  (Is that a dig at Tom Harkin?  He's not named...)

    Closing remarks.  "You can't be the world's military leader and a second-rate economy.  The Soviet Union tried that."  First war reference at the very end: citing Shimon Peres in saying the US is the only war winner who doesn't take land.  "My campaign is about keeping America strong."  He wraps at 10:38.  Press avail forthcoming.

    Romney's still handshaking after the speech at 10:48.  One person asks about dental; Mitt says his plan is "not a dental plan."  Questioner notes many people come to ER's with just a toothache.  I catch the introducer, Dr. Hunter, and give him free rein with the "why's he your guy" question."  Hunter says he's brilliant and has succeeded at everything he's done, gov't and private sector.

    11:01 and press time done.  A good third of the questions are horse race based and focused on Mike Huckabee.  Romney's answers indicate the sparring points will be immigration and taxes.  Paraphrasing: Huckabee says he raised taxes in a fiscal crisis; I had a fiscal crisis and I solved it the right way by cutting spending.  He paints a bright face on the polls: "As (Huckabee)'s picked up support, I haven't lost any," and "I hope I fall in the top three" in Iowa.

    Other horse race goodies: NH Sen. Judd Gregg's comment that IA grows corn and NH chooses presidents "sounds like a New Hampshire Senator to me, and I don't subscribe to that," as he pledges his love for all things Iowan.

    Just an observation: in both the Q and A and the press I hear more variations of "I don't know" than from other candidates. Does this reflect an underlying knowledge base issue, or does he just deflect and steer questions differently than others?

    As for health care -- "every couple days we have another message," he says, which seems very Reagan-style -- he says the other leading Republicans who've discussed health care (Giuliani and McCain) have similar private based visions, but his plan has been done and is more detailed especially on the funding end.

    Legislative Endorsement Update: Richardson Now On The Board

    Legislative Endorsement Update: Richardson Now On The Board

    Bill Richardson scores his first legislative endorsement, as State Rep. Marcella Frevert of Palo Alto County looks over the resume and hires the governor.  The endorsement is part of a recent flurry of activity on the Democratic side:

  • Joe Biden has the backing of Rep. Mary Gaskill of Ottumwa.
  • Hillary Clinton picked up two Cedar Rapids legislators, Sen. Rob Hogg and Rep. Todd Taylor.
  • John Edwards got the endorsement of Rep. Bob Kressig of Black Hawk County.
  • Rep. Brian Quirk of Chickasaw County is with Barack Obama.

    Time for an updated chart of donkeys:



    The standout stat from this chart remains Joe Biden's high levels of legislative support -- actually leading on the House side, and only one donkey behind Obama --- despite his low standing in the polls.

    NameDistrictHome CountyEndorsement2004 Endorsement
    Sen. Herman C. QuirmbachSenate District 23StoryBidennone
    Sen. Dr. Joe M. SengSenate District 43ScottBidennone
    Rep. McKinley BaileyHouse District 9HamiltonBidennew
    Rep. Doris KelleyHouse District 20Black HawkBidennew
    Rep. Roger ThomasHouse District 24ClaytonBidenKerry
    Rep. Polly BuktaHouse District 26ClintonBidenDean
    Rep. Dick TaylorHouse District 33LinnBidenKerry
    Rep. Lisa HeddensHouse District 46StoryBidenKerry
    Rep. Bruce HunterHouse District 62PolkBidenDean
    Rep. Kevin McCarthyHouse District 67PolkBidenLieberman
    Rep. Jim LykamHouse District 85ScottBidennone
    Rep. Mary GaskillHouse District 93WapelloBidenKerry
    Rep. John WhitakerHouse District 90Van BurenBidenGephardt
    Rep. Mike ReasonerHouse District 95UnionBidenLieberman
    Sen. William A. Dotzler, Jr.Senate District 11Black HawkClintonGephardt
    Sen. Roger StewartSenate District 13JacksonClintonKerry
    Sen. Michael ConnollySenate District 14DubuqueClintonKerry
    Sen. Wally E. HornSenate District 17LinnClintonnone
    Sen. Rob HoggSenate District 19LinnClintonnone
    Sen. Dennis H. BlackSenate District 21JasperClintonKerry
    Sen. Dick L. DeardenSenate District 34PolkClintonGephardt
    Sen. Staci AppelSenate District 37WarrenClintonnew
    Sen. Becky SchmitzSenate District 45JeffersonClintonnew
    Sen. Gene FraiseSenate District 46LeeClintonnone
    Rep. Roger WendtHouse District 2WoodburyClintonKerry
    Rep. Mark KuhnHouse District 14FloydClintonGephardt
    Rep. Todd TaylorHouse District 34LinnClintonnone
    Rep. Swati DandekarHouse District 36LinnClintonKerry
    Rep. Paul BellHouse District 41JasperClintonKerry
    Rep. Mary MascherHouse District 77JohnsonClintonKerry
    Rep. Vicki LensingHouse District 78JohnsonClintonnone
    Rep. Cindy WincklerHouse District 86ScottClintonDean
    Sen. Jeff DanielsonSenate District 10Black HawkDoddnew
    Sen. Tom HancockSenate District 16DubuqueDoddnew
    Rep. Ray ZirkelbachHouse District 31JonesDoddnew
    Rep. Bob KressigHouse District 19Black HawkEdwardsnew
    Sen. Daryl BeallSenate District 25WebsterEdwardsDean
    Sen. Keith A. KreimanSenate District 47DavisEdwardsEdwards
    Rep. Wes WhiteadHouse District 1WoodburyEdwardsGephardt
    Rep. Andrew WentheHouse District 18FayetteEdwardsnew
    Rep. Ro FoegeHouse District 29LinnEdwardsEdwards
    Rep. Art StaedHouse District 37LinnEdwardsnew
    Rep. Geri HuserHouse District 42PolkEdwardsEdwards
    Rep. Nathan ReichertHouse District 80MuscatineEdwardsnew
    Rep. Kurt SwaimHouse District 94DavisEdwardsEdwards
    Sen. Steve WarnstadtSenate District 1WoodburyObamaKerry
    Sen. Rich OliveSenate District 5StoryObamanew
    Sen. Bill HeckrothSenate District 9BremerObamanew
    Sen. Robert E. DvorskySenate District 15JohnsonObamaGephardt
    Sen. Tom RiellySenate District 38MahaskaObamanew
    Sen. Frank WoodSenate District 42ScottObamanew
    Rep. Brian QuirkHouse District 15ChickasawObamaKerry
    Rep. Pam JochumHouse District 27DubuqueObamaKerry
    Rep. David JacobyHouse District 30JohnsonObamaKerry
    Rep. Tyler OlsonHouse District 38LinnObamanew
    Rep. Mark SmithHouse District 43MarshallObamaKerry
    Rep. Donovan OlsonHouse District 48BooneObamaKerry
    Rep. Helen MillerHouse District 49WebsterObamaGephardt
    Rep. Janet PetersenHouse District 64PolkObamaKerry
    Rep. Ako Abdul-SamadHouse District 66PolkObamanew
    Rep. Elesha GaymanHouse District 84ScottObamanew
    Rep. Marcella FrevertHouse District 7Palo AltoRichardsonDean
    Sen. John P. "Jack" KibbieSenate District 4Palo Alto Kerry
    Sen. Amanda RaganSenate District 7Cerro Gordo none
    Sen. Brian SchoenjahnSenate District 12Fayette new
    Sen. Matt McCoySenate District 31Polk Kerry
    Sen. Jack HatchSenate District 33Polk Kerry
    Sen. Joe BolkcomSenate District 39Johnson Dean
    Sen. Thomas G. CourtneySenate District 44Des Moines Gephardt
    Sen. Michael E. GronstalSenate District 50Pottawattamie none
    Rep. Dolores MertzHouse District 8Kossuth none
    Rep. Deborah BerryHouse District 22Black Hawk Kerry
    Rep. Tom SchuellerHouse District 25Jackson new
    Rep. Pat MurphyHouse District 28Dubuque none
    Rep. Beth Wessel-KroeschellHouse District 45Story new
    Rep. Jo OldsonHouse District 61Polk Kerry
    Rep. Wayne FordHouse District 65Polk Edwards
    Rep. Rick OlsonHouse District 68Polk new
    Rep. Mark DavittHouse District 74Warren Kerry
    Rep. Eric PalmerHouse District 75Mahaska new
    Rep. Dennis CohoonHouse District 88Des Moines Edwards
    Rep. Philip L. WiseHouse District 92Lee Lieberman
    Rep. Paul ShomshorHouse District 100Pottawattamie Lieberman

    There's less than no activity on the Republican side, as two names drop off the committed chart with Sam Brownback's departure from the race.  (They didn't follow Brownback's lead and endorse John McCain).

    Uncommitted (so far)36279


    NameDistrictHome CountyEndorsement
    Sen. E. Thurman GaskillSenate District 6HancockGiuliani
    Sen. Mary LundbySenate District 18LinnGiuliani
    Sen. Jeff AngeloSenate District 48UnionGiuliani
    Sen. David HartsuchSenate District 41ScottHuckabee
    Rep. Dwayne AlonsHouse District 4SiouxHuckabee
    Rep. Carmine BoalHouse District 70PolkHuckabee
    Sen. John PutneySenate District 20TamaMcCain
    Sen. Larry McKibbenSenate District 22MarshallMcCain
    Sen. Pat WardSenate District 30PolkMcCain
    Rep. Mike MayHouse District 6DickinsonMcCain
    Rep. Bill SchickelHouse District 13Cerro GordoMcCain
    Rep. Steven LukanHouse District 32DubuqueMcCain
    Rep. Rod RobertsHouse District 51CarrollMcCain
    Rep. Walt TomengaHouse District 69PolkMcCain
    Sen. Dave MulderSenate District 2SiouxRomney
    Sen. David JohnsonSenate District 3OsceolaRomney
    Sen. Brad ZaunSenate District 32PolkRomney
    Sen. James F. HahnSenate District 40MuscatineRomney
    Rep. Dave DeyoeHouse District 10StoryRomney
    Rep. Tami WiencekHouse District 21Black HawkRomney
    Rep. Chuck SoderbergHouse District 3PlymouthRomney
    Rep. Ralph WattsHouse District 47DallasRomney
    Rep. Dave TjepkesHouse District 50WebsterRomney
    Rep. Christopher RantsHouse District 54WoodburyRomney
    Rep. Jodi TymesonHouse District 73MadisonRomney
    Rep. Linda MillerHouse District 82ScottRomney
    Rep. Steven OlsonHouse District 83ClintonRomney
    Rep. Rich AndersonHouse District 97PageRomney
    Rep. Greg ForristallHouse District 98PottawattamieRomney
    Rep. Doug StruykHouse District 99PottawattamieRomney
    Rep. Sandy GreinerHouse District 89WashingtonThompson
    Sen. Mark ZiemanSenate District 8Allamakee(ex-Brownback)
    Sen. Jerry BehnSenate District 24Boone 
    Sen. Steve KetteriinSenate District 26Sac 
    Sen. Ron WieckSenate District 27Woodbury 
    Sen. James A. SeymourSenate District 28Harrison 
    Sen. Nancy J. BoettgerSenate District 29Shelby(ex-Brownback)
    Sen. Larry NobleSenate District 35Polk 
    Sen. Paul McKinleySenate District 36Lucas 
    Sen. Hubert HouserSenate District 49Pottawattamie 
    Rep. Royd ChambersHouse District 5O'Brien 
    Rep. Henry RayhonsHouse District 11Hancock 
    Rep. Linda UpmeyerHouse District 12Hancock 
    Rep. Chuck GippHouse District 16Winneshiek 
    Rep. Pat GrassleyHouse District 17Butler 
    Rep. Dan RasmussenHouse District 23Buchanan 
    Rep. Kraig PaulsenHouse District 35Linn 
    Rep. Dawn PettengillHouse District 39Benton 
    Rep. Lance HorbachHouse District 40Tama 
    Rep. Polly GranzowHouse District 44Hardin 
    Rep. Gary WorthanHouse District 52Buena Vista 
    Rep. Dan HusemanHouse District 53Cherokee 
    Rep. Clarence HoffmanHouse District 55Crawford 
    Rep. Matt WindschitlHouse District 56Harrison 
    Rep. Jack DrakeHouse District 57Pottawattamie 
    Rep. Clel BaudlerHouse District 58Adair 
    Rep. Dan CluteHouse District 59Polk 
    Rep. Libby JacobsHouse District 60Polk 
    Rep. J. Scott RaeckerHouse District 63Polk 
    Rep. Jim Van EngelenhovenHouse District 71Marion 
    Rep. Rich ArnoldHouse District 72Lucas 
    Rep. Betty De BoefHouse District 76Keokuk 
    Rep. Jeff KaufmannHouse District 79Cedar 
    Rep. Jamie Van FossenHouse District 81Scott 
    Rep. Tom SandsHouse District 87Louisa 
    Rep. Dave HeatonHouse District 91Henry 
    Rep. Cecil DolecheckHouse District 96Ringgold 
  • Michigan Inaction Means NH Waits

    Michigan Inaction Means NH Waits

    UPDATE: Michigan Supreme Court overturns lower courts, Jan. 15 is a go.

    “Keep your eyes on the Michigan legislature and the Supreme Court,” New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner told CQ Politics when asked about his state's primary date. Gardner, who alone holds the power to set the date for the primary that has been first in the nation since 1920, isn't going to get impatient after 30 years of defending his state's status.

    In Michigan, on the other hand, the clock is ticking. The state's Jan. 15 primary law has been declared unconstitutional, due to a provision that would give lists of the participants to the political parties but no one else. The Republican-led state Senate has passed an amendment removing the voter-list provision, but the Democratic controlled House failed to met yesterday and is not scheduled to return to session until next Tuesday.

    State Elections Director Chris Thomas, in an affidavit submitted with Monday's appeal of a lower court ruling, said election officials need to know by noon today whether the Jan. 15 primary will be held. That means the only hope left for Michigan's primary, which violates the Democratic Party's calendar, is a swift ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court.

    If the Jan. 15 date holds, the contest is more for bragging rights than anything. Michigan has lost half its Republican delegates and all its Democratic delegates as punishment for going early. If there is no Michigan presidential primary, Ballot Access News reports, the Republicans will choose their national delegates at a state convention on January 25-26. Democrats would hold caucuses, but no date is determined. Leading Michigan Democrats, including Sen. Carl Levin, Public Enemy Number One of the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucuses, have threated to schedule Democratic caucuses on the New Hampshire primary date. That just gives Bill Gardner all the more reason to wait.

    There's another lawsuit under way in Florida, another calendar leapfrogging state, but this one's calling for a later primary. The Democrats have taken away all Florida's delegates for scheduling a Jan. 29 primary, and the Republicans have removed half the delegate. Ausman v. Browning blames the state legislature for the mess and argues that a state political party has the right to a presidential primary date that won’t disenfranchise its voters. It asks that the Florida primaries be postponed to a date that's acceptable to the national parties, which would mean the Tsunami Tuesday de facto national primary on Feb. 5 or later.

    Two other pending cases cases blame the national Democratic Party instead, and demand that delegates chosen on Jan. 29 be seated.