Thursday, January 31, 2008

Grocers, Recyclers Split on Bottle Bill Direction

Grocers, Recyclers Split on Bottle Bill Direction

One of the raps against Iowa's bottle bill is that grocery stores are in the food business, not the recycling business.  But folks who are in the recycling and redemption center business say expanding the container law to cover more items would help the state's recycling rate.

"When you look in the ditches and the landfills, you see water and juice bottles," said Jim Hansen, co-owner of the Can Shed in Cedar Rapids.  "Those are products that didn't exist 28 years ago" when Iowa passed the bottle bill.

Hansen told Iowa Independent that the economy has also changed a lot in 28 years.  "Labor costs, fuel costs, all of our costs have increased, and because the law limits us to a penny (per container), there is nowhere we can go to increase revenue," he said.  "From a redemption and cost standpoint, increasing the handling fee would be the best solution."

"We're still unclear about the guts of the Governor's proposal," Hansen said of Governor Culver's proposal to raise the deposit to ten cents, return eight cents to consumers, and target the rest for environmental programs.  That proposal appeared dead on Thursday, but the governor still expressed interest in expanding the law to cover additional containers.

Expanding the types of containers covered by the deposit is another option on the table.  And even though it would take material out of his bins, Andy Ockenfels likes the idea.  "Whatever pulls material out of landfills, we're definitely for."

Ockenfels is president of City Carton Recycling in Iowa City.  City Carton is not in the redemption business, but Ockenfels said "we get a tremendous amount of non-deposit containers now through curbside recycling and drop-off sites.  We've seen a change over the years with more water and juice."

"If they go back to a redemption site, I think there would be an increase in the containers going back," he said.  "The current bottle bill historically has been effective.  Anything they can add to that is good for recycling, and that's what we're all about."  He added that expanding the types of containers covered by the deposit would particularly help recycling rates in areas without curbside recycling.

Jerry Fleagle, head of the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, calls the proposed deposit increase "a per beverage tax, surcharge or fee. A deposit is only a deposit when it can be fully recovered by the depositor." 

But Hansen disagrees.  "It's not a tax on consumers, it's a self-funding recycling effort.  We see over 90% recycling in states with bottle bills.  States with no bills, it's 30 to 40%."

"If no deposit was required on cans and bottles, but curbside recycling was available statewide, would we recycle our beverage containers?" Fleagle wrote in an editorial that's appearing in state newspapers.  "In the end, it becomes clear that a well conceived and comprehensive recycling strategy does not need to include mandatory deposits on a select set of items."

"The Grocer's Association maintains that their business is selling groceries, not redeeming cans," said Hansen.  "But when they get down to it, trying to get rid of the bottle bill is not pro-recycling."

Must See TV

Must See TV

  • Tonight's one on one Hillary vs. Barack debate is the Thrilla in Manila we've been waiting for. With five days to go before √úberdienstag, and a whole day's news cycle lost to the Super Bowl (it still hurts to talk about it), one You're No Jack Kennedy moment could settle the whole ball game.

  • Ja, remember that AHnold for Obama rumor? Oh well whatever nevermind. Der Governator has gotten on the leaving the station McCain train.

  • Iowa hater Kos takes his shots at us, but even he's mad at Florida, and at Hillary for claiming "victory":
    There's no doubt that the primary system is broken. There's no doubt that the Iowa and New Hampshire monopoly needs to end, and that an equitable system needs to be devised to give all states an equal chance of leading the pack. I even think it's bullshit that Florida and Michigan had their delegates stripped. But those two states knew exactly what would happen if they broke the DNC's rules. And as stupid as those rules might've been, they were the rules. So it's lame to now whine about the penalties they knew they'd suffer if they didn't keep to the officially sanctioned calendar.

  • And more Iowa bashing in the New York Daily News, in reacting to Chuck Grassley's remark that ROOOdy never caught on here thanks to his "New York personality." Noo Yawkers gotta problem wid dat:
    Ultra-New Yorker Curtis Sliwa showed in his comments why Grassley would be wise to think twice before insulting New Yorkers again.

    "I've seen Grassley before," the Guardian Angels founder said. "He wears polyester, waffle-weave, flame-retardant pants that look like they survived the high waters.

    "He wants us to come there and drink ethanol, block the hogs and promise farm subsidies and pander ... What does he know? There are more pigs than people [in Iowa]. Iowa is not a reflection of America."

    Sliwa, of course, is well known for his choice of headwear:

    Granted, Chuck Grassley embraces the hayseed act enthusuastically. Politico picks up on it and memorably calls Grassley "the butthead from Butler County. Huh huh, huh.

    But Rudy's flameout once again shows the failure of the Screw Iowa strategy.
  • Wednesday, January 30, 2008

    Anti-Robocall Bill Unlikely to Advance

    Anti-Robocall Bill Unlikely to Advance

    "Everyone's got caucus hangover right now," State Rep. Ray Zirkelbach said of the pre-recorded calls still echoing in the ears of Iowans. The Monticello Democrat is trying to put a stop to auto-dialed "robocalls" by making the tactic illegal in Iowa. But critics of the bill have free speech concerns, and Zirkelbach's own frank assessment is that the bill, though popular with his constituents, won't advance this year.

    Party leaders "haven't even talked to me about it," said Zirkelbach. "I'm sure a ton of people are against it." Still, he stands by House File 2008. "Everybody complains about (the calls) but no one does anything about it."

    Zirkelbach said he was prompted to introduce the bill because of complaints from constituents during his first campaign in 2004, and said the number of calls has gotten worse since then. "I have a lot of factory jobs in my district" in Jones and Dubuque Counties, he said. "A lot of people work third shift and sleep different hours."

    "I also look at Iowa's aging population, or families with young children," he said.

    Sarah Swisher of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) doesn't like the bill. SEIU owns, and often uses, autodialing equipment. "We use it to remind people of satellite voting sites, or when they've been sent a ballot in the mail, or when special activities are occurring," she said. "Nine times out of ten people are appreciative, especially of the reminders to vote."

    Zirkelbach, however, disputes the effectiveness of robocalls, saying studies show they only have a one percent persuasive impact on voting behavior and are among the least effective methods of political communication. The bill is limited to political calls. "I'd like to expand it, but one thing at a time," he said, adding that he does not want restrictions that would inhibit public safety, such as announcements of school closings.

    Political calls are exempt from most provisions of federal do-not-call legislation. People may tell a campaign or party not to call. But political parties are many-headed creatures, with multiple national, state and local level candidates and committees, and each one has its own list. Telling the Iowa Know-Nothing Party not to call is not the same as telling the Know-Nothing National Committee or the Pole Bean County Know-Nothing Party or the Millard Fillmore presidential campaign not to call.

    Swisher says the unpopularity of robocalls brings up some larger questions. "We've become the kind of society where people resent you knocking on the door, or calling them at home, but honest communication about governing is important," she said. "Prohibitions are dangerously close to violating constitutional rights."

    Zirkelbach disputes the constitutional concern. "I look at it as a privacy issue," he said. "It's harassment rather than free speech." Swisher, however, is unequivocal: "Political calls should be a protected form of speech."

    Thanks, John

    In any other year, in any other Democratic field, Johnny Reid Edwards (yes, "Johnny" is the given name) would have been the man to beat. But he just couldn't compete with the identity politics and the rock stars. He ran a great campaign that raised important issues, and I certainly hope public life has not seen the last of him.

    Tuesday, January 29, 2008

    Last Thought On Florida

    Last Thought On Florida

    Other than Hillary's blatant "Florida played by the rules" distortion, the thought I stay with for the night is this.

    The Republicans have played their hand, and thus the rest of the Democratic race takes place with the knowledge of who the opponent will be. The question becomes: who has the best chance to win against McCain?

    Reports of Florida Cheating

    Reports of Florida Cheating
    Hillary: Florida "Played By The Rules"

    Talking Points Memo has the best of it: three reports from two Dem campaigns of campaigning in Florida:

  • Florida AFSCME mailer for Hillary

  • US Rep Corrine Brown does robocalls in Jacksonville -- ostensibly from her committee and about a ballot measure -- with a tag line of "For Corrine's quick pick, I'm supporting Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president."

  • And this is a surprise: ACORN doing a bilingual mailer for Obama.

    Over on the Republican side, which counts, Rudy is looking like toast down at 15%.

    ROTFL Obama press release:
    Obama and Clinton tie for delegates in Florida.
    0 for Obama,
    0 for Clinton.

    Howard Fineman launches an AHnold for Obama rumor and calls defeated NJ Senate candidate Tom Kean Jr. "governor of New Jersey" which might be a surprise to Jon Corzine.

    Rudy's up to 16% but they aren't even showing Huckabee on the first screen... the Ron Paul REVOLution is down at 3 percent. This is turning into a living room liveblog.

    Now will have a stage full of Hillary and the Florida rulebreakers. Chris Matthews is repeating "this doesn't count" over and over. "The Clinton people keep saying 'all that matters is delegates,' and there aren't any delegates." Olbermann: "everybody just happened to have those signs at home." They're seeing Clinton chutzpah. I'm seeing a giant middle finger aimed at Iowa. She's hoveing just under 50%.

    In case you didn't figure it out from Saturday, MSNBC is my network of choice. Olbermann is the decisive factor, and I just can't hate Matthews as much as most lefties do. Andrea Mitchell: "This is a celebration of the fact that this is not South Carolina." No one is even questioning: "There are no delegates." Mitchell is also saying they have Bill on a shorter leash now.

    Hillary speaks. "I will make sure I will do everything I can to make sure Florida's delegates are seated." That'll be the sound bite. (Update: yes, it is) Another middle finger to Iowa. For all they're criticizing it, MSNBC is sure sticking with the speech long enough, and she's milking it for all its worth and getting the Basic Stump Speech all up front. As if in response, the vote counter ticks up from 49 to 51.

    But after five or so minutes, Olbermann sees it for what it is and cuts away to Joe Scarborough talking about the GOP race. McCain looks to be pulling ahead but they're saying too close to call. Huckabee comes out and says something but I miss it for a phone call. Hard to call a 4th place 13% a win of an sort. I guess what he said is, he stays in. Is he Gary Bauer with a bass?

    Olbermann won't even say Hillary "won," he says "got more votes than anyone else." But swiftly they move to the Rudy endorsing McCain? story. That would definitely be the big story tomorrow and would completely bury Hillary's pep rally. Brokaw thinks Huckabee's got some life in him yet, at least as a horse trader, but Olbermann and Matthews think he's running for VP with McCain.

    Heeeres Rooody. He riffs on Ron Paul's folks spamming the polls. This was sounding valedictory, but now he's merging into the 12 Commitments stump speech. "Less lawsuits" is the big applause line. They're not saying ROO-dy, they're booing you. "We conducted our campaign..." using past tense. Calls for a 50 state strategy for the GOop.

    Mitt steps on him, a split screen moment. They go with Mitt, though whatever Rudy has to say is probably more relevant and interesting. Rudy was the GOP candidate who truly scared me, but you gotta admit, he's interesting. Girlfriends all over the place, John Gotti wanted to whack him, megalomaniacial tendencies... way more interesting than Mitt the Plastic Man, who is trying to get a "they haven't" call and response going. But the crowd is half a beat behind the rhythm. Biggest applause line so far is "Hillarycare."

    One thing about Florida is that, with no one dominant city but rather multiple centers of population, the candidates are all over. Miami, Orlando, St. Petersburg, and I thnk Huckabee was already in Missouri. Olbermann said Rudy finished up with a very past tense speech, but never said the "withdraw" word. The scenario is he flies to California tomorrow and endorses McCain before the debate tomorrow night.

    8:45 and no one's mentioned the Democratic side in about an hour. Here comes McCain. He leads with the "all Republican primary" -- no McCain friendly crossovers here. Gets nterrupted with big applause at "while I was away" referencing his POW years. He offers so many local official shoutouts that I expect to start hearing the names of dogcatchers.

    Offers lengthy, extensive, detailed praise to Huckabee and Rudy, with a passing mention of Mitt. AND HE TOTALLY IGNORES RON PAUL WHICH MEANS HE'S PART OF THE ANTI RON PAUL CONSPIRACY!!! shouts the three percent.

    Which reminds me of the Three Percent Rule we used to have on the `92 campaign: Three percent of all people are nuts and don't let them take more than three precent of your time.

    It's official: Rudy will endore McCain Tomorrow. Huckabee, of course, does McCain more good IN the race, splitting votes away from Mitt.

    I think tonight is when the GOP has decided. Was it only October I wrote the headline "Sun Setting On The Straight Talk Express"? Matthews: "This is going to be everybody against Romney from here on out."

    The pundits are loving, loving, loving the Rudy drama, and Hillary's choreography is long forgotten. Good news for Obama. Now for the first time in 90 minutes they discuss the Dems, Hillary is coming on soon. Russert stays with the party line: "There are No. Delegates." Olbermann sticks with "received more votes" not "won."

    Here's Hillary with Olbermann, she laughs at "received more votes." HRC: "their votes are going to count" and says "victory." Repeats seat the delegates. Olbermann: is that changing the rules mid-game? HRC: No, because we didn't campaign, brings up the Michigan uncommitted. Saying "victory" as often as possible. Florida "played by the rules, and we played by the rules."

    Florida played by the rules??!? Huh?

    Matthews moves on to Ted Kennedy, Bill, etc. She answers with the bullet points and previous statements. She's getting a freebie here, getting the exposure (even from me as I blog it) -- at least Olbermann made her squirm a little. Matthews throws up a softball: what sets you apart from the other two Dems and she plays Experience and the talking points again.

    Back to Olbermann: he's reading an Obama statement:
    When Senator Clinton was campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, she made it clear that states like Michigan and Florida that wouldn’t produce any delegates, ‘don’t count for anything.’ Now that Senator Clinton’s worried about losing the first Southern primary, she’s using Florida for her own political gain by trying to assign meaning to a contest that awards zero delegates and where no campaigning has occurred.

    She laughs The Laugh. Olbermann: "Apart from the laughter what's your reaction." She offers multiple variations on "every vote counts," Florida in the general, etc. "We all agreed not to campaign, but I'm very proud that I won." Olbermann reads her vote total at the end but still refuses to say "won."

    In all the discussion of delegates don't count, very little explanation of why.
  • Iowa DNC Rules Member: Clinton Florida Comments "Not Helpful"

    Iowa DNC Rules Member: Clinton Florida Comments "Not Helpful"

    As Florida Democrats go to the polls today to vote in a presidential primary that officially has no delegates at stake, an Iowa City member of the Democratic rules committee that unseated those delegates told Iowa Independent that Hillary Clinton's recent comments on Florida are "not helpful" to the process.

    Sarah Swisher, first vice chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, serves on the Democratic National Committee's rules committee.  That committee punished Florida for scheduling its primary today, a week before an approved window.  Friday, Clinton said she will ask her delegates to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan.

    "It's not helpful when you have candidates express themselves in direct conflict to rulings by the DNC," said Swisher.  "It's helpful for those participating in the nomination process to adhere to the rules of the party."

    "We didn't see any letters of support for Florida months ago," said Swisher.

    Florida and Michigan moved their primaries up in order to maximize their influence on the nomination.  Many leading Michigan Democrats said their goal was to end the traditional early role of Iowa and New Hampshire.  Republicans also punished Michigan and Florida, but only took away half of their delegates, not all the delegates as the Democrats have.

    "I hope to be President of all 50 states and U.S. territories," Clinton said in her statement, "and that we have all 50 states represented and counted at the Democratic convention."  Barack Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe said in response that Clinton is "using Florida for her own political gain by trying to assign meaning to a contest that awards zero delegates and where no campaigning has occurred."

    "State parties were very well informed about the repercussions of violating the DNC rules," said Swisher.  "Michigan and Florida chose to do so at their own peril and with full warning."

    Swisher acknowledges that ultimately, it'll be up to the national convention to decide whether or not to seat Michigan and Florida.  "At every level of the party, the convention is the ultimate governing body."

    Bolkcom Introduces National Popular Vote Plan

    Bolkcom Introduces National Popular Vote Plan

    The election reform debate of the seven years since Florida has focused on equipment, IDs and felony purges. But one fundamental electoral issue has been largely off the national radar: the Electoral College. No matter how you slice the hanging chads or the one-vote Supreme Court ruling that affirmed George W. Bush's 573 vote Florida win (?) in 2000, the fact remains that Al Gore won half a million more votes than Bush.

    2000 was the fourth time, and the first since 1888, that a popular vote loser went to the White House, thanks to the Electoral College, a system that in practice awards the entire weight of a state's vote to the statewide winner.

    Electoral College reform at the federal level would take a Constitutional amendment. But state lawmakers around the country are taking on the 18th century relic. If legislation sponsored by Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, is passed, Iowa may join two other states on the road to the popular vote.

    The National Popular Vote Plan does an end-around on the cumbersome Constitutional amendment process with a state by state approach, awarding the state's electoral votes to the national popular vote winner.

    Electoral College 101: Each state has one elector --they're real people -- per U.S. House member and Senator. The smallest states have three, Iowa has seven, California has 55. States may choose their presidential electors any way they wish, but since the Civil War all states have held a popular vote. The general practice, used by 48 states, is an at-large system. The statewide winner wins all the electoral votes in the state, the loser gets none.

    Republican voters in closely divided Iowa went unrepresented in the Electoral College in 2000, even though Bush won almost half of the state's vote. The tables turned in 2004, as Democrats were shut out when Bush narrowly beat John Kerry in the state.

    (The two exceptions to winner-take-all, Maine and Nebraska, use a congressional district system. Both states are small and neither has ever split their votes.)

    With a combination of narrow wins in big states and landslide losses in other states, a candidate can win with fewer popular votes than an opponent, as Bush did in 2000.

    The National Popular Vote Plan awards all of a state's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, not the statewide winner. There's a catch. Since no state wants to disadvantage itself under the current system, the National Popular Vote Plan only takes effect when states comprising a majority of electoral votes, at present 270, approve it. Thus the Electoral College, while still in existence, would become a simple rubber stamp for the decisive national popular vote.

    Dave Tingwald of Iowa City was a Democratic elector in 2000, and he'd be just as happy to see the Electoral College go. "The proposal shows Senator Bolkcom's commitment to putting good government before politics," he said.

    Surprisingly, there was no major effort for Constitutional change after 2000. Part of that may have been partisanship. Democrats were wearing of having their 2000 ticket mocked as "Sore-Loserman," and any Republican who backed Electoral College reform would have been tacitly arguing for Bush's illegitimacy.

    But another factor was that the bar for a Constitutional amendment is high: two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress and approval from 38 states. The last serious effort at a Constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College was led by Sen. Birch Bayh of Indiana in the 1960s. His plan passed the House but was stalled in the Senate by small-state opposition. Bayh is now serving on the National Popular Vote advisory board.

    In contrast, the state-by-state approach could pass with the support of just the eleven largest states. Maryland and New Jersey, with a combined 25 electoral votes, are the two states already on board.

    Dennis Backs Off On Impeachment

    Dennis Backs Off On Impeachment

    Dennis Kucinich is toning down his much-ballyhooed "principles" now that he's given up on the White House and is fighting just to keep his job:
    After promising last week that he'd mark President Bush's final "State of the Union" speech today by introducing articles of impeachment against Bush, Cleveland Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich announced he's postponing the effort.

    Kucinich said he met with members of the House Judiciary Committee after making last week's impeachment pledge on the House of Representatives floor, and came away "hopeful there will be an inquiry by the Judiciary Committee."

    "I will give them the opportunity to proceed before introducing articles of impeachment," Kucinich said in a statement issued by his office. The House Judiciary Committee's spokeswoman did not respond to The Plain Dealer's request for comment.

    Maybe this has something to do with the Plain Dealer's endorsement of Joe Cimperman, his main opponent in the March 10 congressional primary. It's loaded with killer lines:
  • "There's a fine line between believing you are right and being self-righteous."
  • "Despite his good intentions, Dennis Kucinich has not gotten results, and probably cannot."
  • "Kucinich carries little influence in Congress or among the Democrats who run it."
  • "Understanding problems and solving them are not the same thing. Fervor does not equal effectiveness."
  • "He insists that if he had not been in this year's race, no one would have been talking about the war in Iraq, health care or trade policy. What hubris."
  • Monday, January 28, 2008

    Does Ted Kennedy Trump Florida?

    Does Ted Kennedy Trump Florida?

    The big buzz today is the Ted Kennedy Obama endorsement. He still has a lot of ooomph among the party activists; back in `03, he came to the Johnson County Dems barbecue with his chosen candidate, John Kerry. Then-frontrunner Howard Dean was there too, but folks around here still call that one "the Ted Kennedy barbecue."

    It might have been the lede any other day, but author Toni Morrison, the woman who famously called Bill Clinton "the first black president," is endorsing Obama too.

    Does all this trump Hillary's win tomorrow in the uncontested, maybe official maybe not, Florida primary? She has been pumping it up as much as possible, starting with the seat-the-delegates memo and rolling out the Bill Nelson endorsement Friday. She made darn sure to to mention Florida in the five seconds of concession she offered Saturday night. Sunday Clinton was prominently filmed coming in and out of the state for "fundraisers":
    With a wink at the (no campaigning in Florida) deal, Clinton carefully staged her arrival so she left her airplane with palm trees in the background for photographers. Asked if she was happy to be in Florida, she said: "How could you not be. It is absolutely glorious. It is a perfect day here in Florida."

    Clinton has also, as anticipated, scheduled a Tuesday night flight down to Florida to celebrate. Kind of like holding a victory parade after a forfeit.

    But the Florida delegates she'll sort of win don't truly count toward victory, whether you think they should or not. They would only add to the score of an already-winning candidate in Denver. msn1 at MyDD notes what should be obvious, but I haven't heard elsewhere:
    If Clinton can get a majority of delegates to support the Minority (credentials committee) Report, than she has a majority of the delegates supporting her anyway, and she doesn't need Michigan and Florida.

    But if she doesn't have a majority of the delegates supporting her, it's hard to see why delegates supporting other candidates would vote to seat the two delegations, essentially helping her out. After fighting for the nomination for 2 years, why would Obama or Edwards and their delegates give up the fight in this way? It's just not going to happen. The delegations will NOT be seated if the nomination is contested.

    So Clinton's count-the-delegates rhetoric in Florida is not about the Florida delegates themselves. It's about running up the score in Florida to get a slingshot into Tsunami Tuesday.

    Her Florida score depends in part on how many absentee ballots are already in the box, and how those are being accounted for . (Most pollsters have no freakin' clue how to account for high absentee voting rates.) And her post-Florida momentum depends on three things:

    1) The media buys into the Florida Counts rhetoric. If Hillary's spin is too obviously spin, the press will play it as, well, just spin.

    2) No drama on the Republican side -- which is unlikely. There's already going to be a bias toward a GOP story tomorrow. Tuesday the 22nd was a bye week (remember way back when in the summer of `06 when that was originally supposed to be New Hampshire?) So there hasn't been the fresh meat of actual results in the GOP race since Saturday the 19th, and the balance the story bias of objective journalism will kick in.

    Plus it's just plain a better story. With the GOP candidates all in Florida actually campaigning for already official delegates (albeit a half-share), and Rudy betting everything on Florida, Tuesday night could well be a Republican story.

    3) Ted Kennedy is treated as Monday's old news on Tuesday, and Florida is bigger than any cards Obama has up his sleeve to play Wednesday:
    Okay, let’s drop another hint for those taking notes: What famous Tennessean might we see soon from California to New York Island, so soon after getting out ahead of his party’s presidential candidates to support gay marriage?

    Al Gore is the one remaining 800 pound gorilla in the Democratic Party. If I'm Barack, I have that lined up and ready to leak on Tuesday night, right about the time Hillary hits the stage, with a big rollout Wednesday.

    A Gore endorsement would further underscore a rapidly emerging theme in this contest. Months and months and months ago, I was predicting that the issue in this contest was Hillary, and it would come down to Hillary vs. Not Hillary. The bipolar dynamic has in fact emerged, and Iowa selected Obama over Edwards and the second tier as the Not Hillary.

    But with his increasing, and increasingly divisive, involvement and presence, to some extent this election is becoming about Bill Clinton. And a Gore endorsement of Obama would be the ultimate underscore to the Clinton vs. Not Clinton divide in the Democratic Party.

    I have absolutely no objectivity about Bill Clinton. He literally, personally, played a dramatic role in changing my life. I truly admire the man for all his complications. On the whole, I think Bill Clinton is potentially a positive.

    But either he's been misused or has gone off-message on his own. He needed to carry a certain above-the-fray aura of the ex-Presidency about him, but instead he became Attack Surrogate Number One. Hillary's got loads of lower-level people who could play that role. But instead, the campaign's asset of the greatest living campaigner in the Democratic Party has been poorly used.

    Saturday, January 26, 2008

    South Carolina: Obama and Big

    South Carolina: Obama and Big

    The exit poll numbers are massive, and Obama must be winning everything except old white voters. Massive black vote plus massive young white vote. Perhaps white backlash to black candidates is dying of old age. Or maybe young people are just looking at the candidates as CANDIDATES and not through an identity politics lens.

    Speaking of backlash, Hillary's campaign gets some: South Carolina Exit Polls: Even Hillary Voters Say She Unfairly Attacked Obama.

    This ought to give Obama significant momentum into does-it-count-or-not Florida on the way to Tsunami Tuesday. MSNBC is talking about Florida exclusively in Republican terms, so maybe they'll write it off on the Dem side. Hillary mentioned Florida in a concession statement, trying to shift focus. Maybe the Florida stuff yesterday came after a look at some bad internal polls? She's planning to speak after Obama and Edwards, so she gets last shot at spin.

    Here's a Robert Novak tidbit: "Illinois Democrats close to Sen. Barack Obama are quietly passing the word that John Edwards will be named attorney general in an Obama administration." That third place isn't good when the rumors of second were out there...

    Obama: "After four great contests..." take that, Michigan. And he namechecks Maytag. He's on tonight. "This election is about the past vs. the future." Nailed it. Tone was like a national convention speech.

    Edwards gives the Edwards Speech, complete with "The Rising" at the end.

    Hillary is basically trying to ignore it and doing the basic stump speech: back up to 45 minutes. She does manage to mention Florida, though.

    Legislative Forum Liveblog

    Legislative Forum Liveblog

    9:35 and good morning from Emma Harvat Hall at Iowa City hall for the first of the year's LWV legislative forums. The co-sponsors are the Iowa City Education Assn. and the school district. School Board members Patti Fields, Toni Cilek and Liz Crooks are on the scene, along with a lot of the usual suspects. House Candidate Larry Marek (House 89) is here with Senator Becky Schmitz. We also have sightings of Senator Bob Dvorsky and Reps. Mary Mascher and Vicki Lensing so far.

    9:38 and now we add Joe Bolkcom to the mix. The North Central Jr High students have also arrived; for you newcomers, they're here every time and usually ask the most interesting questions. Other notable educators are Superintendent Lane Plugge, ICEA's Nancy Porter, and Sue Dvorsky.

    9:40 and starting 10 minutes late; a schedule conflict with the Chamber of Commerce breakfast. The GOP delegation - Hahn, Greiner, and Kaufmann - are MIA. Reports are that Dave Jacoby and Ro Foege are on the way.

    Bolkcom: yesterday was filing deadline for individual member bills. Budget is #1 fous - teacher quality, early, higher ed, and health care. Budget is tight. "We may have to say no to a number of things." Big effort to insure all Iowa kids, do more for uninsured adults, cost containment, wellness, cost containment.

    Energy: a proposal to get 25% renewables by 2025 in Iowa. Working on lower payday loan rates and gift card fees/expiration. Smoking local control and also a statewide ban bill. Culver deserves credit for putting bottles on the table, details still being worked out. We need to expand and improve it.

    Dvorsky: Chairing Senate Approps. Budget "very very very very tight" (four verys). Community bases corrections and prison: need to have a plan, make sure we don't fill them up, look at whole correction system and treatment. Econ development: seeing if we can continue Vision Iowa (CR, Coralville have projects).

    Bob discusses Ruth Bonfiglio, longtime community activist from Coralville, who died this week. "Ruth was there for everybody in the community." "The last thing she did was try to convert a bunch of Republicans at Oaknoll." He sounds choked up; Ruth truly was special to the community.

    Schmitz: Statewide SILO has support. Successful Families Caucus is emphasizing financial literacy esp. in high schools. Trying to figure out wha to do with worker shortages; there's more cooperation with high schools and community college. Mental health: shortages and reimbursement issues. Bill passed this week which will allow counties to apply for some funds. State of Judiciary: Chief Justice Ternus has emphasized juvenile justice progress. Now have CASA in all 99 counties (court appt. special advocates).

    Lensing: very active first two weeks. Biggest challenge is living within mean while honoring commitments. Oversight Cmte. has heard about student credit cards and debt. Still working on best road to financial literacy. Parents may not even have those skills. Lottery: Ombudsman has concerns about interity of system due to problems in Canada. Some voting machine/election issues wil come up. Final draft of open meetings/records in next 10 days. Bottles: hope we actually see it. Make sure redemption centers have the $ to keep going. I hear a lot, people are excited about it, still need details.

    Mental health: house needs a full parity bill.

    Mascher: we've been proud to say 'promises made, promises kept.' GOP often promised things then said 'oops, no $," and we're not going to do that. We'll maintain commitments to education.

    State of the State was exciting - this will not be a do-nothing session. Smoking ban and local control will make a big difference. Education Cmte: model core curriculum. Last year was voluntary, now we're talking about a mandate. Most districts already on board voluntary. We need to keep looking at that curriculum each year to keep challenging kids. STEM: Science, Tech, Engineering, Math. Encouraging more kids into those areas.

    Ed Appropriations: SAM grant for school administrator managers. Tracks time of administrators. A lot of that time winds up being very menial tasks. Typical principal works 75-80 hours a week.

    Jacoby: Last year was great, but this year we need to 1) thoroughly review values fund. My top concern is the economy. We have severe budget concerns. We want to meet our commitments, but not increase taxes. Hoping to move to 2-3 year budgeting.

    Want to help insulate Iowa from recession -- Iowa runs 1-2 years behind national cycle. Johnson county is somewhat but not completely insulated.

    10:05 we start with Q & A. First question is campaign finance reform. Mascher: VOICE bill is in Ways and Means. "I don't know that there's the support to get it out of that committee." It's still alive but not sure there's the votes. Jacoby: concerns are gathering the support and the $ involved. "I certainly see the merit of it. You wouldn't find too many people, D or R, who don't want to change the campaign finance structure." A hot House race can run $250,000.

    Bolkcom: Senate has moved it to approps. I met with some large donors and Citizen Action this week. Even the big donors are fed up, and there's an effort to get them to lobby for it. Leadership, in both parties, has not bought in. The leaders have a responsibility to raise $, and they're reluctant because they're successful. Public finance will only happen wth a bipartisan effort and with support from the parties. Need to make sure it won't disadvantage one side or the other. Don't expect action this session.

    Lensing: we need some education for the general public. There was concern last year on the price tag. Last year's bill was voluntary at first. In an election year, competitiveness will make parties shy away. Legislation moves in small steps... keep talking about it.

    Jacoby: the caucus process is fantastic, but look at the disclaimers of who's running ads. 527s can do things candidates can't. That's where a lot of those phone calls were coming from, especially the negative ones. Need to make them more responsible.

    Schmitz: I was told to spend 50% of mt time raising money, I would have rather spent 100% of my time talking to voters. My race in a mostly rural area cost $200,000, and I had concerns about this long before I ran.

    JP Claussen of the Iowa City Education Assn.: how can we make teacher quality $ permanent?

    Mascher: We've been discussing including that in the formula, make it part of allowable growth. "We know how that works, and that's how we got to be 42nd in the nation. That has to be targeted money." We're rewriting school funding formula, and we want to incorporate that.

    Patti Fields, school board: it turns out the WHOLE school board is here (look around). What are prospects for funding modifications on early childhood.

    Mascher: no talk of rollback, the commitment is there. We can improve existing legislation. Jacoby: part of the problem is our funding structure year to year. Every year school district spends inordinate amount of time on budget, and multiyear budgeting would free up time for other things.

    Dvorsky: Some would say school budget is 9% increase, but 3% of that is earlier commitments. 3 more is governor's initiatives, and the rest is moving funds over from general fund. Mascher: next big issue is 0 to 3 education. We need a children's living trust. Increase pay for day care providers, and get them some professional benefits to reduce turnover. Business community is behind this, these kids are workforce of the future. Schmitz did interim work on child care best practices, addressing daycare quality. Some peer review underway. Need to get people connected right at newborn. Early brain development is critical.

    10:25 and the questions come from general public (as opposed to sponsors). Chris Squire of the anti-smokers. "There's one piece left: clean air smoke free legislation." What are the chances of getting clean bills without exceptions, and will you pull a bill if it gets bad?

    Jacoby: I'm concerned about dept. of heath awarding Quit Line contract to out of state provider. "They pulled the rug out from under the University of Iowa" and the winner was not the low bid. "The least we can do is keep it local." As for legislation, "due diligence would be a statewide ban, and not pass it off on local entities. I don't know the reality of getting that out without exemptions." Issue cuts across party lines, some people who backed tax won't back anything else.

    Bolkcom: Will be difficult to keep casinos from getting exemptions. Huge support, but it'll be a tough fight.

    Martha Yoke asks about chronic mental illness assistance. Says combining that with substance abuse is not compatible. Schmitz: House is looking at a different approach, which make make insurance companies doing it without mandate. Still a work in progress. Last year people didn't want substance abuse in the bill.

    Nancy Porter, teacher: after school programs. Mascher: it's a system approach. Businesses are interested in this too, they need employees with good parenting skills. Living Trust for Kids will help in this area and in parenting skills education. Dvorsky: Linn County is doing some good things with this. Mascher: Horace Mann's Hispanic program is excellent in student achievement impact and in bringing in parents. Porter says great, but our funding is being cut.

    Janelle Rettig says she's concerned if bottle proposals make REAP have unprotected funding. Also concerned about funding natural resources through regressive sales tax increase.

    Bolkcom: Chet deserve credit, but I don't see support for a dime deposit and 8 cents back. There needs to be a handling fee increase. Not sure about connecting REAP $ to this, I share concern about setting up a fund that could be raided. I like the constitutional amendment approach to set $ aside. Not sure yet how to get that money, sales tax or other, but getting it before the voters will be the best way to set the $ aside. Getting closer each year to get full REAP funding, given the nature of who we send to the legislature.

    Dvorsky: we need a comprehensive look at this. Glad Chet put bottle proposal on the table, but a lot of questions out there without answers. "A lot of rural legislators just hate DNR because of their regulatory function, and won't support anything."

    Jacoby: we need to discuss our tax structure in Iowa. "Sales tax isn't necessary regressive unless it's stacked on some other tax structure." SILO "I want to keep the one cent local." REAP: "A statewide referendum is not a bad idea, but I'm not a fan on changing the state constitution, it's one of the strongest in the nation."

    Judy Pfohl: rapid change to green-ifying state buildings? Dvorsky: LEED standards for state bldgs died in House last year. State Assn of Architects are getting really green right now. Lensing: I have a bill, not sure it'll go anywhere. Not all of our colleagues even accept that climate change exists. Jacoby: Iowa City School Districts has some great examples with the two new schools (Van Allen, North Central). We're swapping bulbs in some older school buildings too. Mascher: Some schools are at their bonding limit. Long term savings are real, but short term they cost more. We need to help those districts. Dvorsky: People will keep bringing up statewide SILO all session. Also, some GOP legislators were passing around a book "Unstoppable Global Warming" saying this is just natural every 1500 years. "We have to deal with these people every day in the legislature." Lensing: some of that is kind of astonishing...

    Tim Krumm of the school board: concern about long-term funding and state economy.

    Jacoby: "we need to make sure we remove barriers for job and business growth." In the corridor we have a lead on other areas. But can we fund commitments over the years? We also have to work with the companies that are closing or laying people off. Make sure the workers have training opportunities. "420 people (at Victor plastic) is significant to our school district." Need separate structures for different classes of property. "We ARE in a recession by any measure. How do we make sure it doesn't turn into a depression?" We're projected at 6.7 percent growth this year, but 2% next year.

    Mascher: Business is discussing bringing more jobs into this area, 6 or 7 contacted the Chamber. State of State address had good economic development pieces. Says son is now working for a wind turbine company and training in Spain. "Those are the jobs of the future. There are lots of Iowans out there who can do that." Dvorsky: Funding for Center for Biomedical Discovery at UIowa creating many jobs. "It's a different paradigm in the way we deliver medical services." We also opened up the door to stem cell research. "The answer probably isn't another casino in Newton." 2009 you might see a lot of looking at our tax structure.

    Kevin Johanson, a North Liberty parent: affordable health care and insurance industry profits. "They are one of the most protected industries because of successful lobbying."

    Bolkcom: the need for reform is huge. Legislation calls for a health insurance consumer advocate. "It's also a national issue." Insurance payment to providers "is an incredible black box" with discount negotiations; "quite a mess." Jacoby: 1) Iowa has lowest Medicare reimbursement rate in nation and that needs to at least reach median. "Our providers are shortchanged and the costs are passed on." We have to cover the uninsured, but also look out for middle and lower income who are worried about losing coverage.

    The student questions, en masse:

  • global warming
  • No Child Left Behind ("good job" root the teachers)
  • protecting family farms
  • funding for pet spay/neuter for lower income people. (Mascher, in teacher mode: "Jackson, you did that with no notes, very good!")
  • Bottles again
  • wind energy
  • the negative energy efficiency of corn-based ethanol
  • smoking
  • Bottles again
  • world hunger

    Jacoby: "I'm not so worried about the future when I hear questions like these from 7th graders." Takes on the pet question, says it's worth looking at. "What can we do in their early years so we have less pets at the shelter."

    Mascher: "No Child Left Behind has caused many problems for educators and schools across the country." Lack of funding, states set inconsistent standards. "You will see it changed dramatically with the election coming up in November. Teaching to the test is never a good idea."

    Lensing: we were pleased with tobacco tax but we're not done. But we may have to make exemptions, esp. casinos.

    Schmitz: By Fresh Buy Local program can help farmers at farmers markets. Need to create more markets statewide. 90% of our food comes from outside Iowa (!) The pets again: Fairfield got people to donate to a spay/neuter fund.

    Dvorsky: discusses governor's alternative energy initiatives. High corn prices mean farmers like ethanol, so it's a short term economic boom. Emmetsburg plant looking at converting to cellulose, getting federal $.

    Bolkcom: lots of energy initiatives on the table. I'm introducing a coal plant moratorium bill. Economic model of corn ethanol is tricky espicially with subsidy.
  • Loebsack: Afghanistan Needs Recommitment

    Loebsack: Afghanistan Needs Recommitment

    Congressman Dave Loebsack, back from his first trip to Afghanistan, told Iowa Independent Friday that Afghanistan is "the forgotten war," and said efforts to dislodge the Taliban and Al Qaida need a recommitment from the U.S. and the International community.

    Loebsack visited Afghanistan last weekend as part of his work on the House Armed Services Committee.

    "Clearly the Bush administration took its eye off the ball by invading Iraq, as many of us would agree, and the Taliban has made a real resurgence," Loebsack said. "And also Al Qaida in Afghanistan in the last couple of years. It’s not a happy situation to have to commit more troops to Afghanistan, but it is time to make a recommitment and in that sense I support sending 3200 Marines, which will happen in the spring."

    More of my conversation with Loebsack:

    Deeth: To what extent are we spread too thin? Is Iraq hurting our effort in Afghanistan?

    Loebsack: There’s absolutely no doubt that by maintaining 130,000 to 170,00 troops on a regular basis in Iraq, and many of them are on their second or third tour of duty, it really takes our resources away from, in many ways, the most important theater of action. And that’s Afghanistan, given that Osama bin Laden is in all likelihood somewhere on the border there, either in Afghanistan or Pakistan, given the rise of the Taliban and the outside fighters who have come into the country. They’ve actually taken over some areas in southern and central Afghanistan again. That’s just not acceptable for America’s national security.

    I want to mention the international nature of this force. There are close to 40 countries that are participating in this, and it’s very different from the so-called ‘coalition of the willing’ in Iraq. These folks really are participating, militarily and economically as well. I visited a Turkish run 'provincial reconstruction team,' they’re called, to the west of Kabul. The Turks are running the show, and they’re doing a great job.

    Deeth: What’s the outlook for Pakistani cooperation, with the turbulent political situation there?

    Loebsack: That’s going to be problematic, there’s no doubt about it. The Pakistani government’s under tremendous pressure. They have been good allies to us for the most part. But whether it’s Musharraf or anyone else who’s president -- or whoever else, I hope they do have free and fair elections soon -- that person will be under a lot of domestic pressures. That part of Pakistan to the west, the federally administered tribal areas and further south – those are areas that are very difficult for the Pakistani army to penetrate and to carry out operations in. Even in the Pakistani army, there are elements who are very friendly to Al Qaida and the Taliban, so that presents a tremendous challenge too. So it’s always going to be problematic, I think, dealing with Pakistan. But we have to just keep pressing ahead and doing what we can to convince them to cooperate as much as possible with us in that party of their country.

    Deeth: How is the Taliban managing to hang on, are they ever going to fade away? How long is this all going to take?

    Loebsack: No one knows for sure obviously. There is a strategic review being undertaken now on the political front as well as the military front in Afghanistan by our leaders. And clearly, so long as there’s a safe haven in western Pakistan, there’s going to be a challenge I think, there’s no doubt about it. We can reduce the challenge, we can commit more resources, we can certainly dislodge the Taliban from the places where they’re now in control in southern and central Afghanistan. How long this will take, I don’t think anyone knows, but I think for our own national security we’ve got to make a recommitment.

    Deeth: What about non-military efforts, non-military aid?

    Loebsack: It’s huge. We’ve got to have more economic assistance, there’s no doubt about it. This is something that was a big part of the package that I voted for. This isn’t just military; it can’t be just military. It has to be economic as well. Also, it has to be political. Afghanistan is very diverse, ethnically and tribally. That presents a tremendous challenge. It’s in some ways more complicated than Iraq if you can imagine that. But we’ve got to do all we can to assist them in state-building, building the capacity of the government to do what it has to do, not only in terms of the military and police forces, obviously, but economically as well, to make sure that assistance comes in from us or the rest of the international community -- and it’s significant from the rest of the international community as well – that it in fact makes its way to the people where it’s supposed to go.

    Friday, January 25, 2008

    Hillary and Florida Delegates: Rest Of The Story

    Hillary and Florida Delegates: Rest Of The Story

    Huffington Post:

    Senator Bill Nelson, D-FL, will endorse Sen. Hillary Clinton for president, according to several sources with knowledge of his plans.

    A well-connected Democratic strategist who asked not to be named did not think that Nelson's endorsement was part of a quid-pro-quo for Clinton's statement. But Nelson was quoted as recently as two weeks ago saying that his endorsement would depend on "how [the candidates] treat Florida."

    An official with Nelson's office declined to confirm or deny the endorsement. They did, however, send a press release issued by the office in which the Senator criticized the stripping of his state's delegates. Nelson, the release read, is "happy to see that Clinton agrees with the principle at issue in his lawsuit - that every person has a right to vote, and have the vote count as intended."

    What about the principle of playing by the rules, Florida? What about changing the rules in the middle of the game? Ezra Klein on Hillary's seat the delegates statement:
    If this pushes her over the edge, the Obama camp, and their supporters, really will feel that she stole her victory. They didn't contest those states because they weren't going to count, not because they were so committed to the DNC's procedural arguments that they were willing to sacrifice dozens of delegates to support it. It's as hard as hardball gets, and the end could be unimaginably acrimonious. Imagine if African-American voters feel the rules were changed to prevent Obama's victory, if young voters feel the delegate counts were shifted to block their candidate.

    And Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo says No Way: "All these particulars are secondary to the principle, which is that you don't change the rules in midstream to favor one candidate or another."

    If this whole deal plays out the way Hillary wants, the caucuses are dead. It's a big middle finger to Howard Dean, to Iowa, and to process. Where are Hillary's Iowa supporters, and why aren't we hearing from them?

    Hillary: Seat Florida, Michigan Delegates

    Hillary: Seat Florida, Michigan Delegates

    Hillary Clinton issued a statement today in which she, for the first time, openly said she will ask her delegates to support seating delegates from Florida and Michigan, in opposition to the DNC's delegate penalties.

    "I know not all of my delegates will do so and I fully respect that decision," Clinton said in the statement. "But I hope to be President of all 50 states and U.S. territories, and that we have all 50 states represented and counted at the Democratic convention." 

    The DNC stripped Florida and Michigan of all of their delegates after the two states violated the national party's calendar that placed Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina first.

    "I hope my fellow potential nominees will join me in this," Clinton challenged her rivals.

    But Obama campaign manager David Plouffe responded:

    When Senator Clinton was campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, she made it clear that states like Michigan and Florida that wouldn't produce any delegates, `don't count for anything.'  Now that Senator Clinton's worried about losing the first Southern primary (in South Carolina Saturday), she's using Florida for her own political gain by trying to assign meaning to a contest that awards zero delegates and where no campaigning has occurred.

    "No one is more disappointed that Florida Democrats will have no role in selecting delegates for the nomination of the party's standard bearer than Senator Obama," Plouffe added.

    Clinton won Michigan handily on Jan. 15, after most other candidates took their names off the ballot. She would stand to gain 73 of Michigan's 128 delegates, while "Uncommitted" would win 55. Florida votes next Tuesday, and Clinton leads polling there.

    She says she'll still abide by the early state pledge not to campaign in Florida, but at MyDD, Trickster has a suggestion for Clinton:
    In case you still don't think the Florida Democratic primary is going to get play, there's something Hillary Clinton can do to ensure that it gets publicity, and it's something that is explicitly permitted by the (early state) agreement and the DNC rules...

    She can hold a big ole victory party in the ballroom of the fanciest hotel in downtown Miami. If the polls close at 8:00, her jet can touch down on the tarmac at 8:05 and she can arrive at the party at the appropriate time for a victory speech.

    Nothing Obama can do about it except whine...

    Even an Iowan would have to admire that kind of nerve.

    Florida Dems: Give Candidates A Break On Early State Pledge

    Florida Dems: Give Candidates A Break On Early State Pledge

    A Florida Democratic official has contacted DNC Chair Howard Dean and the four official early states, in an effort to get the presidential candidates to visit Florida before next Tuesday's primary.

    Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the top elected Democrat in state government, said the voluntary ban on campaigning in Florida and Michigan signed by the top six Democratic candidates on Aug. 31 will have achieved its purpose after the polls close in South Carolina Saturday.

    “There’s nothing left to be gained by permitting Republican candidates to barnstorm through our state unchallenged, allowing them to monopolize the airwaves and dominate the news coverage,” Sink said.

    The Iowa Democratic Party has not yet commented on the request. A spokesman for the South Carolina Democratic Party said that even though the state parties in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina asked for the pledge, they aren't responsible for enforcing it or for saying whether it's time to release it.

    In July 2006, the DNC scheduled the four states in an "early window" and said other states could not hold primaries or caucuses before Feb. 5 of his year. Florida and Michigan broke these rules and the DNC has, for now, stripped the two states of all their national convention delegates. Most observers think the eventual nominee will have the delegates seated anyway.

    This week, the Hillary Clinton campaign accused Barack Obama of breaking the pledge with a national cable ad buy.

    Blatant Retaliation

    Blatant Retaliation

    The neo-prohibitionists won't give up. Side by side Press-Citizen stories: a campaign finance report indicating the Student Health Initiative Taskforce took in $10,000, and an effort to close Bloc21 leader Mike Porter's bar One Eyes Jake's for "fire code violations."

    Blatant retaliation here, Council. The people of Iowa City -- ALL the people, including the students who drive this town's economy and make us more than a run of the mill dead county seat town -- voted, and your precious 21 bar ordinance LOST.

    The underage drinking "problem" is a matter of definition, not behavior. The Legislature's in session, Council. You should be up in that lobby every. single. day. telling the legislators to shove the federal highway money and to give us a drinking age law that is both enforceable and consistent with the principle that you're an adult at 18.

    Oh, but that'll get it into the schools? Too bad. That's the school's problem. The age of majority is 18, and sometimes principles need to outweigh so-called pragmatism. (Maybe kids should graduate at 17 like I did.)

    Thursday, January 24, 2008

    Dennis Quits

    Dennis Quits

    Cleveland Plain Dealer:

    Cleveland Congressman Dennis Kucinich is dropping out of the Democratic race for president.

    Kucinich will make the announcement Friday at a news conference in Cleveland. In an exclusive interview with Plain Dealer editors and reporters, Kucinich said he will explain his "transition" tomorrow.

    "I want to continue to serve in Congress," he said.

    Kucinich said he will not endorse another Democrat in the primary.

    So his 1.66% support base is left to its own devices.

    AP notes:
    Kucinich, 61, is facing four challengers in the Democratic congressional primary March 4...

    ...which, with vote splitting, means he'll probably win. But he must have had some bad local polling to give up his small corner of the national stage. AP continues:
    Rival Joe Cimperman has been critical of Kucinich for focusing too much time outside of his district while campaigning for president.

    Cimperman picked up an endorsement last week from the guy who has Dennis' old job -- Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson.

    Earlier this week Kucinich made an urgent appeal on his Web site for funds for his re-election:
    "Right now I'm under attack by corporate interests, most of them from the city of Cleveland, who have an agenda that has nothing to do with the people of my community, nor with most people in this country. And so what I'm asking you to do is to help me stay in Congress, so that I can continue to represent the people of my community, the state of Ohio and the United States of America."

    DK probably spent the last of his campaign $ suing to get into debates... or demanding a New Hampshire recount that showed no significant changes.

    On the bright side, for Dennis anyway, he gets to spend more time at home.

    UI Launches Diversity Dialogue Circles

    UI Launches Diversity Dialogue Circles

    The University of Iowa Women's Resource and Action Center (WRAC) is starting a series of Diversity Dialogue Circles beginning next week. As part of the University's Human Rights Week events, WRAC sponsored a one-night preview of the process Wednesday.

    "Iowa is becoming more diverse," noted program coordinator Leslie Leathers. "This will help build relationships and stronger communities."

    “I was struck by how involved you were in each other’s lives and you just met each other,” said co-facilitator Tina Hoffman, walking around the room and listening while participants paired off and discusses a cultural check in worksheet that included the ultimate open-ended question, “Who Are You?” The question is meant to get at cultural identity, as one participant discussed her choice of "black" as opposed to "African American." “'Woman' comes out a lot” on that question, said Hoffman.

    The project's confidentiality guideline keeps the names out of the story, but most of the 18 or so attendees were young members of various racial and ethnic minorities, with a roughly even gender split.

    In the circles, facilitators guide participants in an exploration of privilege, oppression and cultural competency “Instead of looking to get over racism, we need to tol… appreciate our differences.” said one participant. “Why did you stop yourself from saying ‘tolerate’?”, asked Hoffman, which led to a discussion of the difference between mere tolerance and true diversity.

    Participants drew parallels between American attitudes toward southern and eastern European immigrants a century ago and attitudes toward Hispanic immigrants today.

    “We can say stop being racist but people aren’t going to do it,” said one participant, adding that his view is not pessimistic but realistic and saying our best hope is to affect the people closest to us. “I don’t believe you can change the world.”

    Another participant said we need to rethink the definition of what it means to be American: “Trying to get white people to think about what it is like to be NOT white in America is difficult.”

    The Dialogue Circles will run for eight weeks, beginning Jan. 31. More information and on-line sign-up materials are available at WRAC's web site.

    Clinton Florida Bound?

    Clinton Florida Bound?

    MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell saying:
    Despite Clinton's comment yesterday that she would abide by party rules and NOT campaign in Florida, aides still say the campaign is considering "all options" regarding Florida -- based on their claim that Obama's national cable TV advertising buy constitutes "campaigning" in Florida markets.

    Whether or not that is just a "pretext," as critics say, Clinton is seriously considering expanding a private fundraiser into a public event.

    Team Clinton may be hoping to shift focus as South Carolina looks like Obama Country. In fact, Todd Beeton at MyDD argues that John Edwards -- remember him? -- may just catch Hillary in SC and push her into third, which would be really hard to spin away.

    Dick Morris, Minister of Triangulation in the Clinton 42 administration, bluntly makes the race argument in saying that Clinton 44 wins by losing in South Carolina.
    It's one thing for polls to show, as they now do, that Obama beats Hillary among African-Americans by better than 4-to-1 and Hillary carries whites by almost 2-to-1. But most people don't read the fine print on the polls. But if blacks deliver South Carolina to Obama, everybody will know that they are bloc-voting. That will trigger a massive white backlash against Obama and will drive white voters to Hillary Clinton.

    The more President Clinton begs black voters to back his wife, and the more they spurn her, the more the election becomes about race -- and Obama ultimately loses. (The Clintons') love needs to appear to have been unrequited by the black community for their rejection to seem so unfair that it triggers a white backlash. In this kind of ricochet politics, you have to lose openly and publicly in order to win the next round.

    And as usual, the Onion gets it best:
    After spending two months accompanying his wife, Hillary, on the campaign trail, former president Bill Clinton announced Monday that he is joining the 2008 presidential race.

    "No longer will I have to endure watching candidates like Hillary Clinton engaging in single-pump handshakes with voters, as I use every last ounce of restraint not to shout out, 'No! Warm double-clasp! Warm double-clasp!'" Clinton said. "America deserves someone who can do it right."

    Since his announcement two days ago, Clinton has raised a staggering $550 million. He has also surged in national polls, rising from a mere 2 percent prior to his candidacy to a commanding 94 percent, ahead of former front-runners Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who are now tied with 3 percent each. John Edwards withdrew from the race Tuesday, saying only, "I am not worthy."

    Wednesday, January 23, 2008

    Hunter Endorses Huckabee

    Duncan Hunter Endorses Huckabee

    This gives Huckabee the edge in picking up the all-important Duncan Hunter's immediate family vote.

    What Was I Saying About Nevada?

    What Was I Saying About Nevada?

    From an excellent MyDD diary by desmoulins outlining Nevada problems:
    State Senator Dina Titus, one of Clinton's co-chairs and one of Nevada's DNC members, yesterday announced that in response to the frustration of so many Democrats with the process Saturday, the caucuses could not be considered a success and announced she would introduce legislation for the state to hold a presidential primary in four years.

    Who let the Mitt out?

    What do you do when you've done everything you set out to accomplish at age 37? (Especially when you've been ten points down for months.) If you're Matt Blunt, you quit your re-elect race for Missouri governor. We may see the return of former Sen. Jim No Talent.

    Finally, Kid Oakland at Kos has a nice piece on Obama and the 50 state strategy.

    Tuesday, January 22, 2008

    Fred Out

    Fred Out

    Stayed in just long enough to screw Huckabee in South Carolina. The bright side for Rudy is, now he might be able to move up from sixth place every week to fifth.

    Expect that big McCain endorsement soon from Fred, timed to land whenever it best suits Hanoi John's needs.

    Super Sunday Meets Super Tuesday

    Super Sunday Meets Super Tuesday

    Packer DT Corey Williams after the loss

    I'm still in mourning over Sunday night's game, and only now recovering enough to write. Eli Manning and the Giants just played a better game -- an exciting game, actually, if you didn't have a birthright emotional investment in who won -- and congrats to them. I think the hand of Vince Lombardi himself reached down from football heaven to bat those first two Giant field goal tries away, but the third time he said "you %$#@! SOB's don't deserve to win."

    But my five year old appears to have learned the lesson of sticking with your team through good and bad. I was on Wisconsin soil for the game, visiting my parents for a caucus-delayed Christmas trip. Before the game Sunday my little guy had to have a Brett Favre shirt to match daddy and big brother. So we raced through the malls, and at the fourth store I found the last one in a kid size, so precious that it was locked up with a long bike chain, and I paid way too much. Roughly 80% of the mall population was wearing green and gold, and close to 25% were in Number 4 jerseys. (At the grocery store, every bagger and checker was in a Packer jersey, except for one brave soul in a Tom Brady shirt.)

    And even after the loss, he's insisting on sleeping in it and wearing it to school. The Deeth family Packer loyalty moves on to the fourth generation.

    So. That Onion article, Brett Favre Demands Trade to 1996 Packers ("The Packers would be willing to consider a trade package including a first-round draft pick and the 1996 Brett Favre"), turned out more accurate than I had dreamed. Third best in the NFL, best season in a decade... but damn, when they get that close it hurts.

    Way back last May, I noticed that the Super Tuesday primaries are only two days after Super Sunday. Now we know the matchup: both teams are from states with 1) primaries on Feb. 5 and 2) candidates still in the race, as Mitt's Patriots meet Hillary and Rudy's Giants. So that's Massachusetts and New York, and add to that New Jersey, where the Giants actually play, and Connecticut, since the team's nickname is New England. And the game itself is in John McCain's Arizona, which also votes Feb. 5.

    Now, a shameless cut and paste, mildly updated crib of my analysis from last May.

  • Real People who do not live, sleep, eat and breathe politics will be distracted, particularly in the five primary states affected most by the game. Sunday nights are a great time to catch people at home, but in this case, the whole critical two-days-out evening is shot for campaigning and phone banking. Will some campaign, in crunch-time isolation from the real world, be dumb and call into Boston?

  • NFL audiences normally lean somewhat Republican -- not as much as NASCAR, says demographics firm Scarborough Research, but noticeably. The classic communication study "Super Bowl: Mythic Spectacle" by Michael Real touches on all sorts of psychology -- use of force, coaching authoritarianism, military metaphor, women as spectators and not as participants, and social Darwinism. These usual partisan and gender leanings are muted somewhat by the sheer size of the Super Bowl audience, as non-fans watch their one game of the year at parties or just "for the ads."

  • Speaking of ads, with a de facto national primary, would the millions for a Super Bowl ad be worth it? Washington Post:
    At least two of the 2008 presidential contenders, seeking bang for their buck, have privately discussed bypassing a barrage of targeted local ads in favor of buying a spot with potentially more impact to run during the Feb. 3 Super Bowl broadcast, at a cost of about $2.7 million.

    The first rule they teach you when you campaign in Iowa is don't door-knock during the Hawkeye game, and a political ad could be seen as an unwanted intrusion. (Other than their pre-pregame political special, how much will Fox editorialize during the broadcast?) Jim Nussle ran ads during the Hawkeyes in `06, to a huge statewide audience and to no avail. To get past that "I'm in my leisure time" barrier, a Super Bowl political spot would have to be fun and creative to the gold standard level of most Super Bowl ads: cultural catch phrase, wardrobe malfunction water cooler memorable.

  • The game itself will be a one-narrative story of the 18-0 Patriots. A Packer win would have meant a killer story of Favre's resurgence vs. the Patriots bid for the historic undefeated season. They were already predicting biggest. ratings. ever. for the game. Now the media will have to settle for Underdog Giants and Peyton's Little Brother as the (very) secondary narrative.

  • My Packers may have lost... but at least Barack Obama won't be distracted by another Bears Super Bowl appearance.
  • Vilsack Questions Obama on Early State Pledge

    Vilsack Questions Obama on Early State Pledge

    Former Governor Tom Vilsack charged Monday, during a Hillary Clinton campaign conference call, that Barack Obama broke the early states pledge by running campaign ads on national cable networks.

    Losses in New Hampshire and, by Clinton's count, Nevada, "compelled (Obama's) campaign to sacrifice part of his integrity," Vilsack said during Monday's call. "Your word ought to be your bond, whether it's politically convenient or not."

    "Words matter, promises matter and pledges matter," said Vilsack, who ended his own presidential campaign in February 2007 and endorsed Clinton. "It calls into question the promises and pledges he's made on the campaign trail."

    Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said the cable networks could not eliminate Florida from the national buy. He added that the campaign sought and received permission from Carol Fowler, the Democratic chair in last remaining early state South Carolina.

    On Aug. 31, the top six Democrats all agreed to skip campaigning in states that violated the Democratic National Committee's calendar which placed Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina first. The DNC later punished Florida and Michigan by taking away all their delegates. But the close race and the advantage going into Feb. 5's 20-plus state primary makes Florida irresistible.

    Iowans, of course, saw many candidate ads on cable, but those were local buys. The Obama ads in question are national buys on CNN and MSNBC. A Clinton press release charges:
    These ads are a clear and blatant violation of the early-state pledge that Senator Obama and the other leading Democratic candidates signed last year.

    The early state pledge was crystal clear in its prohibition against any kind of campaign activity (outside of fundraising) in states that do not adhere to the DNC calendar. There is no ambiguity. Among the list of prohibited activities are “electronic advertising that reaches a significant percentage of the voters in the aforementioned state.” (According to Nielsen, there are 6.6 million TV households in Florida that receive CNN through either local cable systems or satellite dishes. This represents 92% of all Florida TV households.)

    "We certainly weren't happy about the pledge, but we have scrupulously abided by it," Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a national co-chairwoman for Clinton, said on the conference call. "Now, it's time to review all the options on the table." Those options could include any kind of campaign activity.

    "If the Clinton campaign wants to campaign in Florida and ignore the pledge they signed, they'll be running the wrong way around the track because there are no delegates at stake," said Plouffe.

    In a statement on Jan. 15, the date of the Michigan primary, the Obama campaign said:
    Senator Obama is firm in his commitment to neither participate nor campaign in the Florida Primary and its outcome has no bearing on the nomination contest. We raise Florida today because Senator Clinton has scheduled a fundraiser in Florida on Jan. 27th, and there are signs -– despite Senator Clinton’s public pledge to the contrary –- that she may be planning to campaign in the state – inquiring about large venues and increased organizing activity – ahead of the Florida primary.

    Our position and the position of the DNC is clear – neither the Florida nor Michigan primaries are playing any role in deciding the Democratic nominee and we are not campaigning in either state.

    Despite the official loss of delegates, the Florida Democratic party said in a statement: "We are confident that the Democratic Presidential nominee will seat Florida's delegation at the Convention."

    Blogger Jerome Armstrong of MyDD wonders if the national ad buy was a consultant's mistake: "Anyone think this was an oversight by the Obama campaign? Can Obama just blame (media consultant) David Axelrod? How much of a commission will Axelrod gain from running ads in a state that doesn't matter?"

    In another event on the early state front, a low-key Republican National Committee meeting last week looked at the nomination calendar for 2012. A Thursday rules committee meeting held preliminary discussions about proposals for overhauling the system.

    “It’s pretty obvious now that no person can win the nomination of our party unless he or she is both financially and organizationally prepared to conduct a campaign in half of the country simultaneously,” said committee Morton Blackwell of Virginia. "That is not good."

    Republican rules require any changes in the 2012 nomination process to be made at this year's national convention.

    Monday, January 21, 2008

    Nevada Woes Help Iowa's Case For First Place

    Nevada Woes Help Iowa's Case For First Place

    Anyone heard Hillary Clinton complaining about the caucus process since she, maybe, won Nevada? Class? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Maybe process matters less than result -- or location. The relative bumpiness of the first-ever Nevada caucuses, where the candidates can't even agree on how to measure who won, makes a counter-intuitive good case for Iowa's process and first place.

    The neighborhood meeting process is part of what's important about Iowa, sure. But what's more important is the nature of Iowa: established, rooted, and civically engaged. The political upside of our slow growth is an electorate which knows its way around the block.

    Census statistics released last month show that Nevada remains the fastest growing state. One in seven Nevadans are new to the state since the last presidential nomination season, compared to 1.8% of Iowans. In general, the more mobile the state, the shorter the length of residence, and the higher the growth rate, the lower the civic participation and voter turnout. High-growth areas tend to be rootless, with nascent or empty civic institutions and a lack of civic tradition.

    Nevada, in fact, has a a singular tradition of anti-politics, which may help explain the second place finish for Ron Paul on Saturday. Nevada was one of the best states for anti-politician Ross Perot -- though granted, half of today's Nevadans didn't live there in 1992. Nevada is a state with such a dim view of the civic process that it's the only state that places "None Of The Above" on every ballot for every office. An opt-out statement is given equal value to the choice of a community representative or leader.

    Nevada had the process of Iowa, grafted on artificially because of the need to accommodate its original place on the schedule, which was before New Hampshire. But Nevada doesn't have the tradition of Iowa. And tradition is what makes Iowa's caucuses work. Some would say we have so much tradition of civic involvement that we're inefficient, with our 99 counties, 950 cities, trustees for tiny townships and annual school elections. But that makes us active and engaged.

    So take that neighborhood tradition, transplant it from the fertile soil of Iowa, and see how it grows in the desert of Nevada, where many of the "neighborhoods" didn't even exist four years ago. Perhaps, with the months of deliberation we had, Nevada could have risen to the occasion. Instead they got little more than a week. But let's compare notes anyway.

    Other than the overarching problem of too many people in too little space, and the philosophical question of should we require people to vote in person only in one place at one time, the biggest problems in Iowa seemed to be the occasional poor training or incompetence on the part of an overwhelmed volunteer precinct chair.

    Compare that to Nevada: Clinton campaign partisans launching lawsuits to try to block the at-large caucus sites on the strip, charges of union intimidation (“The lady told all of us: Nobody can go to the caucus unless you’re voting for Obama”), and counter-charges from Team Obama:
    We currently have reports of over 200 separate incidents of trouble at caucus sites, including doors being closed up to thirty minutes early, registration forms running out so people were turned away, and ID being requested and checked in a non-uniform fashion. This is in addition to the Clinton campaign’s efforts to confuse voters and call into question the at-large caucus sites

    In all, this lent an overarching negativity to the abbreviated campaign.

    It might be hokey, but that sort of stuff just doesn't fly in Iowa. That tradition of seriously, independently weighing the candidates is really what we bring to the table, and that tradition can't be transplanted to a national primary or a randomly picked state any better than it can flourish in the desert.

    Sunday, January 20, 2008

    McCain: Eight Years Too Late?

    McCain: Eight Years Too Late?

    John McCain gets his South Carolina win eight years too late, thanks mainly to the Fred playing spoiler for Mike Huckabee. In fact, with Thompson's motivations so unclear, and the widespread speculation that he'll endorse McCain, is it possible that Fred stayed in just to play spoiler?

    McCain may go down as a semi-tragic figure like Bob Dole, beaten by the Bushes on the first serious try (I'm not really counting Dole `80) then nominated after their time. I was a downballot candidate in a Republican leaning district in `96, and over and over I heard the same thing, the election compressed into three words: "Dole's too old."

    The smartest thing McCain could do, right now, would be a one-term pledge. It would take the fight out of the Republicans who aren't enthusiastic about him, and even some of the Democrats, because everyone would see another chance in four years. It would also enhance the image of Maverick McCain, beholden to no one.

    As for the rest of the GOP: Rudy in sixth yet again. Ron Paul is second in Nevada with about 12%, but that's only because of the Mitt's overwhelming, Mormon-base driven win. For all the sound and fury, the REVOLution is stalled pretty close to the 10% zone, consistently, everywhere. (Except SC, where it was only 4.) Hard to see where Huckabee goes from here -- is there friendlier evangelical turf anywhere than South Carolina?!? Fred may have burned him just the way Wes Clark burned John Edwards in `04, hanging on one week too long.

    And Duncan Hunter finally hung it up, without ever answering the question "why?"

    The GOP needs a perfect storm to win, and one of the weather conditions is Hillary as the Democratic nominee. Did she take a step closer in Nevada? Reeeealy hard to say. We're in the midst of a spin war dust storm, as Obama claims a delegate win based on an non-Vegas sweep while Team Hillary says a win is a win.. Kos of course takes a chance to process bash, but the charges of dirty pool in Vegas make me think squeaky clean Iowa is a nice place to start.

    I don't expect the brokered convention fantasy. Tsunami Tuesday will settle it, with a late nationwide swing one way or another.

    As for Edwards? That 5% really hurts, as as much as Team Edwards hates the spoiler argument, it's time to think about that. The role of Iowa this cycle was to choose Obama over Edwards in the Not Hillary primary, and to eliminate the entire second tier, if not the indefatigable third tier.

    Friday, January 18, 2008

    Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail In Las Vegas

    Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail In Las Vegas

    Just in case I never have a chance to mash up two Hunter Thompson books in a headline again.

    The GOP is praying down in South Carolina, as the Huckster takes it even further and compares gay marriage to bestiality, surpassing even Rick "Man On Dog" Santorum:
    I think the radical view is to say that we’re going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal.

    The scary thing is, that might actually WIN him votes in South Carolina. Mason Dixon says:

    McCain 27%
    Huckabee 25%
    Romney 15%
    Thompson 13%
    Paul 6%
    Giuliani 5% (another sixth place? Back in college forensics -- that's speech, not CSI -- we had this thing called Sixth Corps, for people who qualified for the final round of six speakers in an event but then finished dead last. Rudy seems to be bucking for membership.)

    For the Dems, it's Vegas, baby. Back in July `06 when the calendar got set up, I really though the Dems and media were going to blow off icy Iowa and New Hampshire and spend the six months before the season in Vegas. Instead, Nevada got a compressed week and a half.

    There's polls, sure. But unlike Iowa, Nevada has no track record of caucuses, so there's really no freakin' way of knowing who's gonna show up. Mason Dixon has Hillary by nine over Barack, but hasn't released the actual numbers.

    As for John Edwards? Well, let's quote one Vegas expert:
    I'm gonna keep on the run
    I'm gonna have me some fun
    If it costs me my very last dime
    If I wind up broke well
    Ill always remember that I had a swingin' time

    Here's three takes on that analysis.

    The original, 1961:

    Dead Kennedys, 1979, with a nod to Hunter Thompson:

    ZZ Top, at the very end of their MTV phase in `92. This was one of those "new song on the greatest hits album" things that used to drive completists crazy -- at least until the download era.

    This song seems to come around every 15 years or so, so we're about due. Notice how ZZ Top's Elvis sounds almost like Bill Clinton?

    Speaking of Vegas, the Vegas line on Sunday is Packers by 7 1/2, but down by 10 in a hypothetical Packer-Patriot Super Bowl.

    Thursday, January 17, 2008

    Redlawsk: Late Decisions Explain NH Polling

    Redlawsk: Late Decisions Explain NH Polling

    University of Iowa political science professor David Redlawsk told Iowa Independent that late decision making and an unexpected shift in independent voting patterns help explain Hillary Clinton's unanticipated New Hampshire victory.

    "A, people moved towards Clinton, no matter what they had told the pollsters a couple days before," said Redlawsk, who conducts his own polling research. "B, independents went more over to the Republican side than the pollsters had anticipated. And those independents who did vote on the Democratic side were extremely Obama. You don't have to take a whole lot of those away plus see some movement to Clinton to change the numbers pretty substantially."

    Redlawsk said the compressed campaign schedule and late shifts in opinion made it harder to predict Clinton's victory. "While candidates campaigned in New Hampshire, for all practical purposes the campaigns didn't really ramp up hard core until those five days" after Obama's Iowa win. "We know that people made decisions very late in the process overall. Clinton campaigned aggressively and intensely during that time, and seemed to people to be much more human than she had come across before."

    "The polling pretty much ended Sunday. One of the pollsters was running on Monday but they were doing three-day averages," Redlawsk said. "So there were changes, but they really didn't end up affecting the three-day average enough to make a dramatic difference. There were hints of it, but most of the polls were pretty much done. I think there's a very good possibility that enough independents decided at the last minute essentially they were going to go vote for McCain on the Republican side, that it lost Obama serious points.

    Redlawsk isn't sure if the polls themselves steered people toward the GOP race. "The numbers seemed to have spiked up so high for Obama with everyone saying he was going to win that it could have given some people permission in effect to say, let's go over to the Republican side. I think part of it is some people looking at it and going, well, (Obama) doesn't really need our votes. I also think there really was a move to Clinton that just didn't get picked up, independently of the independents. I think it just happened late."

    "Remember, too, that every poll is a snapshot at a point in time," he added. "Even if you can average the polls and get a sense of what might be, they're all subject to error, plus or minus X percent. I'm not suggesting the methodologies were bad, but polling is always a probabilistic thing. The media tends to take polls as if they're election returns, when what they really are is estimates subject to error."

    Redlawsk said he was "annoyed" by the way the New Hampshire result has been reported as a come-from-behind Clinton triumph. "While Clinton certainly did win it, of course, prior to Iowa her lead was routinely double digits. Obama did, in fact, surge substantially in NH coming out of the win in Iowa with Clinton third place," he said. "For him to come within three points considering where he was coming from, in any other circumstances other than this frenzy of polls saying 'Obama's winning' would have been considered a victory or at least one of those 'exceeds expectations.'"

    The late decision making and independent shift is a more plausible explanation than charges of voting machine fraud that have led to a recount request from Dennis Kucinich. "While I recognize the reality that voting machines in some places are not as secure as we might like, I tend to look for the simpler answers."

    Another argument that's been made has been variously called the "Wilder effect" or the "Tom Bradley effect," referring to two African-American candidates for governor in the 1980s whose pre-election polling was higher than their Election Day vote totals. Redlawsk has done some polling on this question, most recently in a March University of Iowa study. "Trying to get at the question is extraordinarily difficult," he said

    You can't ask people directly, 'would you vote for a black man.' They're going to say of course, because that's the social pressure. But you can ask questions like 'the fact Obama is an African-American will be a problem for him.' In other words it's not me, it's other people. We asked that last question in March, and a substantial percentage, 20 to 30 percent, said it will be a problem for him. On the other hand across our full sample, both Republicans and Democrats, less than 10 percent said it's important that the candidate be of the same race that they are. That number is substantially smaller on the Democratic side than on the Republican side but it’s tiny on both sides.

    Redlawsk also says exit poll evidence makes this polling effect less likely. "Why would they lie to one pollster the day before the vote, and then tell the truth to the exit polls after they vote?" he said.

    While Redlawsk acknowledged that racism in the privacy of the voting booth may be an issue, he said such voters are less likely to be Democrats. "I would see that effect being more likely in a general election than in a Democratic primary."

    Iowa, of course, does not have a private vote in the caucuses, and Redlawsk, a John Edwards supporter, thinks this may have been a factor in Obama's favor. "I've actually though all along that in places where Obama was likely to be extremely strong, like Johnson County, his being an African-American would be a substantial benefit," he said. "And it would be a benefit because it was public, because in a good lefty progressive place like (Iowa City), there was some pressure of how could you not stand up for the first African American with a reasonable opportunity. It's a factor, whether you like it or not. I happen to think Edwards is more progressive, and I had some frustration coming from the Edwards perspective."