Friday, February 29, 2008

HIllary Strategy: Sue If You're Losing

Hillary Strategy: Sue If You're Losing

Team Hillary has finally figured out how they're going to win this thing: when you're losing, sue.
The Texas Democratic Party warned Thursday that election night caucuses scheduled for next Tuesday could be delayed or disrupted after aides to Hillary Clinton threatened to sue over the party's complicated delegate selection process.

Texas Dems respond:
"As you know, the rules and procedures that govern the 2008 Texas primary and convention were actually developed by and utilized in previous Presidential election cycles by many of your key Texas supporters and have been available to your campaigns well before voting, or even campaigning, had started."

Just like the Nevada at large caucuses, just like Florida and Michigan: change the rules in the middle of the game.

Vermont has the solution to Iowa City's underage drinking "problem":
"Our laws aren't working. They're not preventing underage drinking. What they're doing is putting it outside the public eye," Vermont state Sen. Hinda Miller said. "So you have a lot of kids binge drinking. They get sick, they get scared and they get into trouble and they can't call because they know it's illegal."

On Thursday, a committee of the Vermont Senate approved Miller's bill to have a task force weigh the pros and cons of rolling back the drinking age and make a recommendation to the Legislature early next year.

City Council: after last fall's results, you should be camped out in the rotunda demanding this. Legislators: tell the Feds to shove their highway money. People who whine about 18 and the schools: that's the school's problem. When you're an adult, you're an adult. Either get the drinking age back to 18 where it belongs, or repeal the 26th Amendment.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Absentee Count by Precinct Bill Amended

Absentee Count by Precinct Bill Amended

A bill that would count Iowa's absentee ballots by precinct, rather than across whole counties, has been amended and reintroduced in the Iowa House.

The new version of the bill, House File 2367, specifies that it would apply only to partisan primary and general elections, and would exclude precincts with fewer than ten absentee voters in order to protect ballot secrecy. It passed the House State Government Committee last week.

Rep. Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, is HF2367's chief sponsor and says he intoduced the bill at the behest of constituents. "From our discussions with the Secretary of State and my Auditor, it doesn't appear to be overly cumbersome," said Paulsen. "However, it may not take effect prior to the November 2008 election."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Absentees May Get A Bit Easier

Absentees May Get A Bit Easier

The process of getting an absentee ballot may get slightly less bureaucratic this fall, if a bill that passed the Senate overwhelmingly Monday makes its way past the House and Governor Culver.

Senate File 2089 by Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, would roll back a 2004 change that required auditors to accept absentee requests only if they were on one specific statewide form. "I am just trying to restore the prior practice, which as far as I know was never a problem, said Quirmbach." With the change, any signed request on paper could be accepted as long as contained the required information: name, residence address, birthdate, and signature, plus a separate mailing address if needed and a party affiliation for primaries.

Under present law, voters who think a handwritten letter is sufficient now face delays as they wait for or look for a form.

Quirmbach said the change could help service personnel. "How tragically ironic if somebody risking his life to serve our country were denied its most basic right because he didn't use the proper bureaucratic form," he told Iowa Independent.

The initial catalyst was a Story County constituent who was hospitalized just before the 2006 general election. "His wife, who did not have internet access, had some difficulty getting her husband an absentee ballot," said Quirmbach. "That was ironic because she had previously been an employee at the Story County Auditor's office and knew what information had to be included. She was also aware that the law before 2004 allowed a letter request but apparently was not aware that the code had been changed." Quirmbach said despite the difficulties, the hospitalized man was able to vote.

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, raised the spectre of requests on envelopes, matchbooks and napkins. But Republican amendments specifically excluding those items and requiring use of an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper lost on party lines.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

No Top of Ballot Candidates in First Day of Filing

No Top of Ballot Candidates in First Day of Filing

The first day of candidate filing Monday for the June 3 primary saw no congressional contenders at Secretary of State Mike Mauro's office. The biggest name to file was House Speaker Pat Murphy, who was one of 13 House members to file on day one.

Three newcomers joined the candidate ranks, all in open Republican seats. Mason City Democrat Lionel Foster is seeking the House District 13 seat being vacated by Republican Bill Schickel. The seat is a top Democratic target.

The other two new candidates are Republicans. In House District 55, Jason Schultz of Schleswig hopes to replace Clarence Hoffman. Chris Hagenow of Windsor Heights filed in House District 59, where Dan Clute is stepping down.

In past primary seasons, opening day has been followed by a relative lull of activity until a filing frenzy the final week. The deadline this year is March 14.

Incumbent Senators Filing February 25 (3D, 0R)
  • Brian Schoenjohn, D-Arlington, District 12
  • Tom Hancock, D-Epworth, District 16
  • Frank Wood, D-Eldridge, District 42

    Incumbent Representatives Filing February 25 (11D, 2R)
  • Wes Whitead, D-Sioux City , District 1
  • Roger Wendt, D-Sioux City , District 2
  • Dwayne Alons, R-Hull , District 4
  • Henry Rayhons, R-Garner , District 11
  • Bob Kressig, D-Cedar Falls , District 19
  • Roger Thomas, D-Elkader , District 24
  • Tom Schueller, D-Maquoketa , District 25
  • Polly Bukta, D-Clinton , District 26
  • Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque , District 28
  • Dick Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids , District 33
  • Art Staed, D-Cedar Rapids , District 37
  • Kurt Swaim, D-Bloomfield , District 94
  • Paul Shomshor, D-Council Bluffs , District 100
  • Oh My Dodd

    Oh My Dodd: Chris Backs Barack

    The first endorsement from a fallen Democratic candidate. Joint appearance in Cleveland today. A better endorsement than the one the other Connecticut senator made.

    My five year old has a little D vs. G issue, and "Oh My Dodd" has become a family catch phrase.

    The Silly Picture Contest is now tied 50-50. Of course, Calvin Coolidge is still the all-time champ:

    And I'm getting politically incorrect two days in a row: just try to tell me you can look at this without thinking of Cleavon Little.

    There was a brief window in the 1970s after Hays Code censorship but before PCness, and Mel Brooks thrived in that era. It's good to be the king.

    Speaking of movies, if you want to waste a couple hours going down cinematic memory lane there's a fun toy at the New York Times of all places measuring the ebb and flow of the box office, week by week and movie by movie, for the last 22 years.

    Monday, February 25, 2008

    Federal, Legislative Candidate Filing Starts

    Federal, Legislative Candidate Filing Starts

    In the next three weeks, the political parties will lay most of their cards on the table for this fall's election. Filing begins Monday for federal and state legislative offices, and runs through March 14.

    Filing season usually provides a few surprises, as unexpected candidates show up and unexpected retirements are announced at the last second. The big picture is emerging on the federal level, and at the state level it's already clear Republicans will have more open seats.

    The marquee race looks like the 3rd District primary between Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell and 2006 gubernatorial candidate Ed Fallon. The Republicans are still seeking a candidate to face the winner.

    Democrats are looking at a 5th District primary for the right to take on GOP incumbent Steve King. Three Democrats are in the mix. Bob Chambers and Joyce Schulte faced off in the 2006 primary, with Schulte winning her second nomination but losing to King in the fall. The new candidate is retired minister Rob Hubler.

    Republicans expect a three candidate primary in Democrat Dave Loebsack's 2nd District. Funeral director Peter Teahen of Cedar Rapids and ophthalmologist Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa are positioned as moderates, while former chaplin Lee Harder of Hillsboro has a conservative activist background.

    Democrats anticipated a second Selden Spencer run against incumbent Tom Latham in the 4th District, until Spencer opted out last year. Two potential candidates bear unfortunately similar last names -- William Meyers and Kurt Meyer.

    The biggest question mark is on the Republican side in the 1st District, which was actually in GOP hands this time two years ago. But Jim Nussle is gone, Democrat Bruce Braley is in, and Republicans are looking for a challenger.

    Senator Tom Harkin is gearing up for a fifth term, and for the first time seems to lack a top-tier opponent. Two eastern Iowa businessmen -- Steve Rathje and Christopher Reed -- are getting ready.

    All of this, of course, is tentative -- pending the actual filing. Congressional candidates face the highest bar for nomination petitions, with a formula based on the party's votes for governor by county. State legislators have an easier standard: 50 names for the House, 100 for the Senate. Many candidates collected their signatures on caucus night.

    All 100 State House seats are up every two years, along with half of the 50 member Senate. Republicans are facing a tough year with more retirements than Democrats.

    Five GOP senators are stepping down so far, but only one Democrat.

    Retiring Senators
  • Jeff Angelo, R-Creston
  • Mike Connolly, D-Dubuque
  • Thurman Gaskill, R-Corwith
  • Mary Lundby, R-Marion (running for Linn County Supervisor)
  • Larry McKibben, R-Marshalltown
  • John Putney, R-Gladbrook

    On the House side, all nine of the true retirements are Republicans. The Democrats have two open House seats, but that's because the representatives -- Swati Dandekar of Marion and Pam Jochum of Dubuque -- are running for Senate instead.

    Retiring Representatives
  • Carmine Boal, R-Ankeny
  • Dan Clute, R-Clive
  • Chuck Gipp, R-Decorah
  • Polly Granzow R-Eldora
  • Sandy Greiner, R-Keota
  • Clarence Hoffman, R-Denison
  • Libby Jacobs, R-West Des Moines
  • Bill Schickel, R-Mason City
  • Walt Tomenga, R-Johnston

    The March 14 deadline won't completely settle the matchups. Even though they're on voter registration forms now, the state's new "political organizations," the Green and Libertarian Parties, won't participate in the June primary. Their candidates file in July and August, along with any other third party and independent candidates.

    If a spot goes blank in the primary, the Democrats and Republicans can still nominate candidates at a convention. That happened two years ago, when 2nd Congressional District Democrats nominated an obscure college professor to run against the unbeatable Jim Leach. A nomination can also go to a convention if no candidate wins 35 percent in the primary. That happened in 2002 when the four Republicans running in the 5th Congressional District all finished between 21 and 31 percent. Steve King led the primary and won the convention.
  • Politically Incorrect

    Politically Incorrect But On The Mark

    I often wish politicians could be as bluntly honest as great comedians. Comedians, and artists of all types, have the advantage: they only have to appeal to a niche, while politicians have to get to 50 percent.

    But if Hillary Clinton is going to make a comeback, she needs a drastic strategy.

    This weekend, guest hosting on her old Saturday Night Live gig, Tina Fey offered a rant worthy of her predecessor Dennis Miller, and an endorsement so blatant that Obama should demand equal time. It was a brilliant piece of work, because in just FOUR WORDS Fey summed up Hillary's problem, and made the Clinton case, better than any hour long speech of wonky bullet points.

    "Bitches get stuff done."

    You can use the link to watch it on NBC. NBC's site didn't let me embed it, and it got yanked from YouTube, which hurts Team Hillary by keeping it from going viral. In this political universe, you can't use a message like this yourself. It wouldn't appeal to Clinton's base of, as it was put in another skit, "white women over 80." Fey, in the post-Boomer net-savvy cultural world she ironically shares with Obama, can say this. It also follows the de facto language rule of "only a member of a group can ironically use the derogatory label."

    The just-ended writer's strike is also too bad for Hillary here. If this meme had gotten going between South Carolina and Super Tuesday, we might be looking at a different race now.

    Here's the text:

    FEY: And finally, the most important Women’s News item there is, we have our first serious female presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton.

    And yet, women have come so far as feminists, that they don’t feel obligated to vote for a candidate just because she’s a woman. Women today feel perfectly free to make whatever choice Oprah tells them to.

    Which raises the question, why are people abandoning Hillary for Obama?

    Some say that they’re put off by the fact that Hillary can’t control her husband, and that we would end up with co-presidents. ‘Cause that would be terrible, having two intelligent, qualified people working together to solve problems. Ugh.

    Why would you let Starsky talk to Hutch? I wanna watch that show, "Starsky."

    You know, what is it, America? What is it, are you weirded out that they’re married? ‘Cause I can promise you that they are having exactly as much sex with each other as George Bush and Jeb Bush are.

    Then there is the physical scrutiny of her physical appearance. Rush Limbaugh, the Jeff Conaway of right wing radio, said that he doesn’t think America is ready to watch their president quote “turn into an old lady in front of them.” Really? They didn’t seem to mind when Ronald Reagan did that.

    Maybe what bothers me the most is that people say that Hillary is a bitch.

    Let me say something about that: Yeah, she is. And so am I and so is this one. (pointing to Amy Poehler)

    POEHLER: Yeah, deal with it.

    FEY: Know what? Bitches get stuff done.

    Like back in grammar school, they could have had priests teaching you but, no, they had those tough old nuns who slept on cots and who could hit ya and you HATED those bitches! But at the end of the school year, you sure KNEW the capital of Vermont!

    So COME ON Texas and Ohio! Get on board, it's not too late!... BITCH IS THE NEW BLACK!

    Sunday, February 24, 2008

    Michael Moore: Make Michigan Revote

    Michael Moore: Make Michigan Revote

    Documentary film-maker Michael Moore may pick up another Oscar tonight for his health care movie "Sicko." While discussing health care on a conference call Friday, Moore also touched on the Democratic nomination calendar controversy and said his home state of Michigan should re-vote rather than keep the results of its renegade Jan. 15 primary. And the precedent for a re-vote may have been set Saturday on the Las Vegas Strip.

    "There was no election there (in Michigan)," Moore said. "That was a Soviet-style election with one candidate on the ballot." Most of the leading candidates took their names off the ballot to support early states like Iowa and punish Michigan for breaking Democratic party rules. But Hillary Clinton stayed on, winning with 55 percent to 40 percent for "uncommitted."

    Now Clinton is pushing to seat the Michigan delegation, which could have a big impact on the still-close delegate count.

    Moore initially supported seating his state's delegation. "I live in Michigan so my votes didn't get counted," he told CNN's Larry King on Feb. 7. "It's a crime that people in Michigan and Florida, our votes are not going to be heard or counted."

    Moore is not endorsing either Clinton or Barack Obama and doesn't like either of their health care plans. He favors a single-payer system instead. Still, Moore says either Obama or Clinton would be an improvement after "eight years of madness" under George W. Bush.

    The precedent for a re-vote in Michigan and fellow rule-breaker Florida may have been inadvertently set Saturday, as the Clark County, Nevada Democratic convention collapsed under its own weight in a too-small hall, and Clinton and Obama leaders reluctantly agreed to re-convene at a date to be determined.

    Nevada has a system similar to Iowa's. County convention delegates are elected on caucus day, and they choose congressional district and state delegates. Those district and state conventions choose the national delegates. But Nevada also has less experience with a caucus system than old pros like Iowa. No one in Las Vegas was counting on the nomination still being unsettled by county convention day, and they booked a too-small hall expecting the a high attrition rate of delegates. When both sides made maximum turnout efforts, organizers were overwhelmed.

    Nevada blogger Las Vegas Gleaner writes a summary of the fiasco, and calls for the immediate resignation of Clark County Democratic chair John Hunt's immediate resignation. "A restraining order should also be issued to keep him from coming within 500 yards of any decision that might have an impact on the county or state Democratic Party for as long as there are people who call themselves Democrats and a state called Nevada," the Gleaner adds.

    Saturday, February 23, 2008

    February Legislative Liveblog

    February Legislative Liveblog

    Good morning from the monthly League of Women Voters legislative forum at Harvat Hall in City Hall. Cohosts are Amer Assn of Univ. Professors and UI Faculty Senate. Charlie Eastham is our moderator for the day.

    Looks like we have Senators Bolkcom Dvorsky and Schmitz and Reps Mascher and Jacoby. Missing Lensing (ill), Foege and all the Republicans from the edges of the county.

    The anti-smokers are out in full force so I assume that topic will dominate.

    Schmitz starts about 9:38. Senate Eductaion Cmte passed core curriculum; provides instructional support for teachers. Economic Growth working on "Google Bill" trying to get that $600 million facility into Council Bluffs, and maybe Bill Gates too. State government cmte looking at charity oversight. Chuck Grassley is into this on the fed level. Some complaints have come in to Tom Miller about larger nonprofits. Looking at fees to get more $ to the AG. Ways and Means working on income tax checkoffs. Senate wants to add child abuse prevention.

    9:44 and here's Bob Dvorsky. Chair of Appropriations. Looking at supplemental appropos for FY08, including an amendment for DOT road salt. Voting equipment: hoping to have paper trails in place for November and moving toward optical scanners. "We have a tradition of open and fair caucuses, we need open and fair elections." State would be buying equipment for smaller counties. Vision Iowa: will run out of $ in next couple years. May change it to more of a community development program.

    9:47 and Joe Bolkcom. Congrats to house on smoking bill, which gets big applause. "We have some work to do to get support in the Senate." First funnel is March 7. Working on health care reform, mental health crisis services and wellness initiatives. "We have some fairly significant budget constraints and will be saying no to some worthy things that we just can't afford." Working on accountability and transparancy in tax credits. Need to see if "the lofty goals we had when we created those credits" are actually paying off in jobs.

    9:52 and Dave Jacoby. Working on Econ Development approps budget. "I want to spend my couple of inutes on asking you questions." Two proposals: TIME 21 transportation funding and statewide SILO. TIME21 would raise registration fees on NEW pickups (not preexisting) to improve roads. "It looks good on paper, but I struggle because a disproportionate amount of Johnson County taxpayer money would be used in 98 other counties. A significant part of the revenues raised here should stay in Johnson County." Same concern with state SILO. "It is a targeted funding stream, but again I worry that a significant portion raised in our county would be spent elsewhere." Notes stemcell breakthrough at VA. "Application to patients is maybe only 5 or 7 years down the road."

    9:56 and last is Mary Mascher. Notes Chamber lobbying day this week and visits to pre-K programs. 4% allowable growth passed. Core curriculum is n House: looking at making coursed "rigorous and relevant." There's fears about one size fits all, but the bill allows flexibility. "We are establishing a baseline, and we hope there are districts that would do more than that. It does not mandate a specific curriculum, it mandates standards." Smoking: "We will not stop till we get a statewide ban with no exemptions," but this was best bill we could get. Protects 99% of statewide workers. "We will no longer tolerate secondhand smoke." State Govt Cmte established Native Americans commission. Nursing task force looking at shortages and pay; Patty Judge is heading up.

    First question by tradition goes to the League. Barbara Beaumont asks about VOICE bill. Mascher: it's in House approps. "There's a hefty dollar amount on it" and $ is tight this year. "To be honest, I don't believe our leadership on either side is supportive," and that would have to change before progress. Jacoby: "As long as we're lacking control or restraints on 527's, those external orgs., and with the price tag, I don't think it'll move this year." Schmitz is running a Senate bill that would require campaign disclosure for 527s.

    Peter Hansen of the Amer Assn Univ Profs. "How do you sell the UI to other legislators to get more support?" Jacoby: we work to show the value of UI to all 99 counties. "We have students from every county here. We need to pick up a little more on the UI as an economic tool and an academic institution that benefits the whole state. It's a continual discussion with members." Mascher: "The Univ sells itself as well. Every sessions hundreds of individuals from the Univ make that trek to Des Moines to offer their expertise and research. And our colleage recognize that. Every time you come up, you are ambassadors." Schmitz: the UI attracts many students from out of state who stick around. Dvorsky: way back when the legislature made a deal: Fort Madison got the prison, Iowa City got the University. "There's a question about who won." Some legislators are focused just on the bottom line of budget, and too many people in Johnson County think Regents funding is a given. "It's not a given, and people need to support that." Democrats believe in university research and unbiased research. "I still believe in the idea of a liberal education, not just workforce development." Bolkcom: Cites several examples of UI researchers helping Legislature. "I think support is strong for our regents universities. Legislatures change over time, and not everybody's knowledgable. But we're in a really good period now."

    David Drake of faculty senate. Largely repeats Hansen. Dvorsky says tuition increases will be lowest in years and thanks regents for making "modest" requests. Mascher: "It's not a coincidence funding has been good. Democrats know what their funding priorities are. Education, health care. The smoking ban would NEVER have happened. People need to connect the dots."

    Peter Small on HF2026 which lets state check immigrant documents, lets employees report suspicions. Immigrant community concerned. Asks Reps to withdraw support. Mascher: "2026 is dead." "We often are given information about general ideas of bill. We did not have a copy of specifics and language. Some of us feel betrayed by what was in it, and I have learned from that experience. I won't be signing on to anything until I see the language." Still working on an identity theft version of the bill. Father Rudolph Juarez: Post 9/11 "We've legislated out of fear. Political leaders try to outdo themselves bashing those who are disenfranchised." Jacoby agrees: "fear and misinformation." Juarez: "when you set the barrier so high that almost no one can meet the criteria of legal immigration, it's almost moot." Jacoby: highest number of illegal immigrants was in 1910, not 2007. Bolkcom: negative stories on the right have prevented national reform, so effort is moving to states.

    Massive line of questioners at 10:29, nearly all wearing antismoking stickers.

    Beth Ritter-Rubeck: gives an anti smoking speech. Bolkcom: Senate Democrats will caucus on smoking bill Tuesday. 7 or 8 rural members would prefer a local control bill. You know who they are and "They're probably being targeted at meetings like this." "We don't have the votes to pass what the house did. I'm prepared to supprot what the house did. It will not come to the floor unless we're certain we have the votes. The feeling is we don't want this to sit around very long." Schmitz: Plan is to get it through state govt. comte. Monday. Senate passed local control but it failed in house. "My preference was a statewide ban all along." Still questions about farmers. Dvorsky: "Ditto ditto ditto. But there are some tweaks to make the bill a it better, that should be our job. We're not a unicameral and should do some due diligence."

    10:35. Pat Ephgrave: assisted living reporting. Bolkcom: hope we can accomplish it. Jacoby: intent is to see that there's reasonable knowledge, there were unintended consequences to past legislations.

    Bob Welsh: more nursing home issues. Differences in degree of violation where people wander off. Nursing homes don't want to take people who wander off due to liability; we need legislation to MAKE the homes take them. More of a speech than a question. Bolkcom: "the nursing home industry was surprised and reacted kind of badly."

    John Oxley(?) asks about salt/sand supply issues. Bolkcom: "Have it snow less. No, really, it's really hard for local govts. People planned for the average year, and the overtime and fuel costs are high too. It's a tough thing to plan for." Dvorsky hopes levels of govt can share resources in an all-in-it-together way. "Maybe a crisis like this will force that." Schmitz: a plant in Fairfield is using sawdust.

    Niles Bliss: Healthy Families budget for family planning. Dvorsky: it's withing HHS budget. "The governor had a line item for it, we didn't. It's a really good new program that'll be tough to fund. Maybe we can move $ from existing programs."

    First of the students: Global warming. Bolkcom sites several bills that I have trouble hearing. Jacoby: "There are a very significant number of people in the House who do not believe in any form global warming and don't believe it has any effect on us in our society. The only way a representative from Sioux County might believe it is if a polar bear knocks on the front door."

    Someone whose name I missed while I was transcribing Jacoby's joke asks about Iowa mandating infertility coverage. (as an adoptive parent, I'm skeptical."Jacoby: looking at a commission to deal with which issues should be mandates. "I'm sure that'll be an issue the commission addresses." Mascher: there are 15-20 different mandate bills. "Every year different groups come before us: prosthetics. PKU. Hearing aids for children. Mental health and substance abuse is the biggest and most costly, but it saves money in the long run. Nonpatisanship is critical."

    Same sex marriage. Mascher: "I support same sex marriage." Applause. Well, OK, I started it. Schmitz: constitutional amendment not going anywhere, "one of the advantages of Dems being in majority." Jacoby: "I'm vehemently against the marriage amendment."

    10:58 Ben Stiers: Medicaid waivers and brain injuries, with a vets angle. Bolkcom: "the federal govt is not going to help us." Jacoby: two issues, Medicaid waivers and vets. Mascher: "This next election will change everything. In the present administration nothing will change. The next president will make very concerted efforts to take care of veterans." Schmitz notes auto accident aspect of brain injury.

    11:05 and the North Central Junior High kids are lined up with the questions:

  • Teacher pay (twice)
  • world hunger vs. ethanol
  • wildlife habitat
  • Minimum wage
  • meth
  • ocean pollution
  • population growth
  • Bike tax (opposed)
  • Lead contamination
  • Global warming again

    As usual legislators divvy them up and touch all the bases and wrap at 11:27.
  • Basic Cable Alert

    Basic Cable Alert

    Sunday, 12:30 to 9 PM, AMC. Godfather marathon.

    Of course, it's the basic cable edit and I've seen this enough times that I can even catch the edits in the Italian swearing.

    Friday, February 22, 2008

    More Last Thoughts on Wisconsin

    More Last Thoughts on Wisconsin

    Obama green, Clinton red

    McCain blue, Huckabee orange

    Dave Liep's US Election Atlas is one of the two best public-service, just the facts political sites on the web (the other is Ron Gunzburger's Politics1). Both sites have been around for approximately forever.

    Liep provides the maps I was looking for on Tuesday night as a visual aid to my sense of Wisconsin geography.

    My as-it-happens hunch was correct on the Dem side, as Clinton won 10 scattered counties out of 72 and nothing bigger than Superior, and Obama took all 8 congressional districts. In the Republican primary my geography was a little off; I thought there were two clusters of Huckabee support, but instead they all connected together. He did win the Mississippi-hugging 3rd CD, but also carried the 7th CD in the northwest. (The first 26 years of my life were spent almost entirely in those.)

    One caveat with US Election Atlas:

    In most of the world, the color red is traditionally associated with the political left, and blue with the right, as in the British logos above. I liked that and really, really want to go back. But for some reason, in 2000, the major networks reversed the convention and used blue for the Democrats and red for the GOP, and because of the, uh, special nature of that battle, the colors stuck and are probably stuck forever.

    But Liep, who's been doing the site since 1997, had lovingly, tediously coded everything as red for Dems and blue for GOP. "Due to the sheer volume of maps on this site, changing them to match the media's recent color choices requires a significant investment in time," he writes, and after you read about him manually data-entering reams of pre-electronic era election results, one is inclined to give him a break.

    As for the the origins of left and right, that was based on where people sat in the Revolution-era French Assembly, and donkeys and elephants came from Thomas Nast cartoons.

    Absentee Votes Could Be Counted by Precinct

    Absentee Votes Could Be Counted by Precinct

    The second-biggest statistical secret in Iowa politics could be out in the open if a Linn County Republican’s bill passes the Legislature.

    The biggest secret, of course, is the raw vote total from the Democratic caucuses. That’s still hush-hush. But the second-biggest mystery is how the absentee votes break out by precinct. Current Iowa law, drafted in an age when the only absentee voters were shut-ins, service people and expatriates, requires that all absentee ballots across a county be counted as a separate precinct. The law forbids auditors from releasing any breakdown below the county level.

    But Iowa’s absentee voting rate has soared since 1990, when the law was changed to allow any voter to vote early for any or no reason. And as parties have targeted early voting, they’ve been starving for data. House File 2132, sponsored by Rep. Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, would direct auditors to count and report absentee ballots by precinct. This could affect not just election reporting, but the Iowa caucuses as well.

    As early voting increased during the 1990s, it had an impact on caucus results. It wasn’t so much that the overall rate went up. The issue was that even within a county, absentee rates tend to vary sharply by precinct. Urban voters like the convenience of early voting, while in rural precincts, the social tradition of neighborhood election day voting is still alive. In Johnson County in 2004, absentee request rates by precinct ranged from 17 percent to nearly 57 percent.

    The Democrats' delegate apportionment formula for caucuses was based on election results by precinct. But since absentees weren’t included, urban voters were in effect taking caucus delegates away from themselves by following the Democratic Party’s constant advice to vote early.

    The Democrats addressed this in the late 1990s and modified the formula. But the new formula is based on the number of Democrats requesting absentees by precinct, since breaking out the actual absentee count by precinct is still illegal. Those requests are multiplied by a percentage, to account for independent and Republican absentee voters who voted Democratic. But even that assumes that non-Democrats are voting Democratic at the same rate across a whole county, and penalizes precincts where a lot of independents vote Democratic, such as student precincts.

    The system of counting absentees by county also affects the appearance of results. The Democratic Party has made a stronger absentee effort in recent cycles. That leaves a disproportionate share of Republicans left to vote on Election Day, and makes it look like Republicans are “winning” more precincts because more Democrats are lumped into that one big absentee precinct per county.

    Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, is chairing the subcommittee handling the bill. Her county, Johnson, had the highest absentee rate in the state in 2004, with more than 50 percent of voters requesting early ballots. Worth County was on the low end, with only a 14.6 percent absentee rate.

    Mascher says the bill as amended would apply only to partisan primary and general elections. “The intent is to get a better tracking on the Democratic-ness or Republican-ness of any given precinct,” she said. “It helps us do a better job targeting races and candidates.”

    Rep. Mary Gaskill, D-Ottumwa, is also on the subcommittee and has a unique perspective as the former Wapello County auditor. “It’s just a tough thing for auditors to have to do, especially with the huge turnout this year and on-day registration,” she said. “They’ve also had changes in handling absentee ballots which will be time-consuming. We’re trying to figure out how to make it as easy as possible.”

    Still, Gaskill said, there’s political interest in the bill. “Both parties are very interested, because so many more people are voting absentee,” she said. “They’re doing their work by precinct, and they can’t tell how effective they are.”

    Gaskill said equipment may also effect implementation. “It was a lot easier with a central count system” where all ballots were brought into the courthouse and counted on one machine. The federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 mandates that all election day ballots are counted at the precinct, to allow voters a chance to fix errors. Mascher says most equipment could handle the change, but implementation could be delayed past the 2008 presidential election. That would give auditors until the June 2010 primary.

    Despite the political push to early voting, some small counties still have low absentee rates. Gaskill is concerned that ballot secrecy may be compromised in small precincts if only one or two people vote absentee. But Mascher says an amendment could waive the requirement for precincts with fewer than 10 absentee voters.

    Thursday, February 21, 2008

    Obama Needs A Woman On The Ticket

    Obama Needs A Woman On The Ticket

    The general election campaign began with Tuesday night's victory speeches by John McCain and Barack Obama, and when nominations are set pundits need a new parlor game to play. Thus, the veep-stakes talk is sure to start. Hillary Clinton's last bastion of ardent supporters, older white women, face a demographic disappointment in her failure, and presumptive nominee Obama needs a way to address this.

    While the historic identity politics of the 2008 Democratic race have swung more dramatically in Obama's favor, with his 90% margins with black voters, it's Clinton who has played the identity politics card more explicitly. It's hard to separate the identity politics from the candidate herself, but the explicit wish for a woman in the White House was often heard on the trail, especially from women who might be worried they won't see another woman get this close in their lifetimes.

    Will they resent this young upstart, who could have waited his turn?

    That's why Barack Obama needs a woman as his running mate.

    It won't be Clinton, for a couple reasons. Personal incompatibility, for one, after a competitive campaign. That's hard to overcome successfully -- I said successfully, Kerry-Edwards fans. His own critique of Clinton -- "this isn't about experience, it's about judgment" - would be undercut by her presence on the ticket.

    And then there's the matter of age. Obama says his decision to jump the queue was prompted by "the urgency of now," but the fact is Clinton-Obama would have made more chronological sense. In 2016, after a hypothetical eight year Clinton 44 presidency, Obama would be 55. But after eight years under Obama, Vice President Hillary Clinton would be 69 years old, near the upper limit of electability that the Republicans will test this fall with McCain. Sure, that's never been tested with a female candidate, but let's just assume the same age rules apply.

    So, part three of the premise: If what Obama is trying to heal is the "I want a woman president before I die" rift, then the running mate has to be young enough to run in 2016 as his clear successor.

    Let's draw that age line at 70. This means 62 or younger now, born in 1946 or later, and eliminates some prominent names, starting with the three Californians: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. (You could also easily argue that speaker to VP is a downward move.) It also eliminates the senior woman in the Senate, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.

    The last part of the premise relates more to message. Since Obama is explicitly running on change and judgment, and rejects the premise of "experience" as argued by Hillary Clinton and John McCain, experience is less important than compatibility.

    People thought Al Gore was a terrible choice to balance Bill Clinton -- next door state, same age -- until they saw them together. There was a clear spark of compatibility, which lasted through the campaign if not into the administration, and they presented an explicit generational contrast to an aging Bush 41. That contrast is even sharper this year, as 46 year old Obama faces 71 year old McCain in the biggest age gap ever between nominees. With Obama's post-boomer sensibilities, his ability to use phrases like "shout out," "give it up for," and "in the house" without sounding ridiculous, younger may be better.

    So we'll sort these potential running mates by age, youngest first, and look at the possibilities.

    Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN) - 47 now, 56 in 2016. The freshman senator would help make Obama look experienced, with just a year in the Senate. She was Minneapolis district attorney for eight years before that. GOP governor Tim Pawlenty (who's on McCain's short list) would appoint a replacement. Maybe incumbent Norm Coleman, after Al Franken beats him. Klobuchar is still uncommitted in the presidential race. Her odds: Unlikely.

    Sen. Blanche Lincoln (AR) - 47 now, 56 in 2016. An Arkansas woman on the ticket: would Team Clinton see this as in your face? A Hillary endorser, which was a smart move at home. One of the more colorful stories of the "Year of the Woman" meme of 1992: a Congressional staffer who knocked off her former boss in a primary. Took 1996-98 off to have twins then moved up to the Senate. Moderate track record, focused on home state and ag issues. Democratic governor names replacement. Judgment meter problem: she was a yes vote on the Iraq War in 2002. Bets on Blanche: Plausible.

    Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA) - age 49, 58 in two terms. Served one term in the House then lost in the `94 landslide and left politics for a dotcom career at Real Networks. (That would cost her the bloggers and geeks who despise the borderline spyware the company's Real Player has become.) Self-financed a narrow 2000 win, then lost the money in the dotcom crash. Clinton endorser. Judgment meter: Cantwell surprised a lot of folks with a yes vote on the war in 2002. Cantwell's chances: Slim but plausible.

    Gov. Janet Napolitano (AZ) - 50 now, 58 in `16. Western state governor, nice contrast. Would take the fight to McCain's home state; she's term-limited in 2010 when his Senate term is also up and has been mentioned as a likely opponent. Political roots include a stint in the Clinton 42 Justice Department (which didn't stop her from endorsing Obama), followed by state attorney general. Janet for the job? A good bet.

    Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA) - 52 years old now, 60 in 2016. Wrapping up second term. Caught some of the Katrina heat, but ex-Gov. Kathleen Blanco took the local political fall, and Bush administration manipulation (Republican Mississippi got faster help than Democratic Louisiana) was blatant. So a Louisianan on the ticker could be a powerful symbol. But Landrieu has the only truly tough re-election race for a Democrat this year, and if she dropped out it would effectively cede the Senate seat to the GOP. An uncommitted superdelegate. A yes war vote in 2002, weeks before a re-election that went to a runoff. Maybe Mary? No; will run for re-election.

    Sen. Claire McCaskill (MO) - 54 now, 63 in eight years. Enthusiastic Obama backer in a swing state. Long career in the legislature, Jackson County courthouse (cue the Harry Truman imagery) and as state auditor. Lost a close governor's race in `04 after knocking the incumbent off in the primary, then won the Senate seat in `06. Open seat situation: The GOP governor is quitting and the Dems are favored to take over; resignation timing if elected would have to take that into account. Claire's chances: possible.

    Sen. Patty Murray (WA) - 57 now, 66 on Election Day 2016. Another of the 1992 "Year of the Woman" women, she got the nickname "mom in tennis shoes" through terms on the school board and in the legislature, then took on a sex-scandalized incumbent in the Senate primary. He quit, she was in position and won. Judgment meter: No on the war, and eloquently and presciently argued, "What happens after the war? That will have as big an impact on our future peace and security. Will we be obligated to rebuild Iraq? If so, how? Our economy is reeling, our budget is in deficit, and we have no estimate of the cost of rebuilding." Clinton endorser. Probability on Patty: A better bet than Cantwell due to the war vote.

    Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI) - 57 now, 66 then. Before knocking off one term wonder Spencer Abraham in 2000, she spent two terms in the House and 16 years in the legislature. In the middle, she lost twice in 1994: in the governor's primary then again as the lieutenant governor running mate in the fall. Stabenow was a No on the war. She's endorsed Clinton, along with pretty much all the leadership of the Michigan Democratic Party, but could be an olive branch to delegate-free Michigan. (Michigan's governor, Jennifer Granholm, is constitutionally inelegible for the presidency since she was born a Canadian citizen.) The odds: A possibility.

    Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (KS) - 59 now, 68 on election day 2016. Chair of Democratic Governor's Association. Would underscore the 50 state strategy in a big, big way, but Kansas doesn't rank in the top, say, 40 of Democratic priorities. Six years as governor, 16 years various offices before that. An Obama backer before his big caucus win. An Ohio connection; she's the daughter of former Gov. John Gilligan. Chances: Good.

    Gov. Christine Gregoire (WA) - 60 now which makes her 69 after two terms. Up for re-election this year, barely won last time (Republicans still say she didn't.) Obama endorser. Twelve years as state attorney general, preceded by an appointed post as state environmental director. Possibility: Unlikely; of Washington's three contenders Murray is the best bet.

    Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH) - 61 now, 70 in 2016. Senior woman in House; has represented Toledo since 1982. Leading NAFTA opponent for rust bucket appeal. A nay vote on the war, but a poor record on choice. Odds: Slim; better bet for a cabinet post.

    A coda: Had things been reversed and Hillary Clinton looked like the nominee, and Obama were similarly off the short list, I would have argued she needed a black running mate, and recommended Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. That said, I'll let you readers chime in on Obama's choice.

    Obama's running mate?
    Maria Cantwell
    Christine Gregoire
    Marcy Kaptur
    Amy Klobuchar
    Mary Landrieu
    Blanche Lincoln
    Claire McCaskill
    Patty Murray
    Janet Napolitano
    Kathleen Sebelius
    Debbie Stabenow
    You Missed Someone
  free polls

    Wednesday, February 20, 2008

    Teamsters Endorse Obama

    Da Teamstas is Endorsin' Obama

    You gotta problem wid dat?

    The Teamsters have a storied, occasionally controversial history and are capable of putting large numbers of boots on the ground for their preferred candidates.

    I didn't even know Iowa ever HAD a Godfather.

    Before I forget: Bush approval is at a sub-Nixonian 19%.

    Last thoughts on Wisconsin

    Last thoughts on Wisconsin

  • Someone -- Joe Scarborough, maybe? -- pointed out that McCain is framing the general election, which, let's get real, starts today, people, as eloquence vs. experience. Those weren't the exact words, but that's the gist. The point was, that's exactly the same argument that hasn't been working for Hillary Clinton.

  • Hawaii comes in 3 to 1 for Obama. Of course, it's a caucus so it doesn't count.

  • Apparantly, Mike Huckabee said something, but it was in the middle of Obama's speech and no one came back to him. I'm still amazed at Obama's timing: he scored 48 uninterrupted minutes of free air time. Meanwhile, the early McCain speech and relative lack of GOP coverage means I only saw MSNBC's Kelly O'Donnell once, at the into of the night's team, and she never reported in at all. Pity.

  • Meanwhile, in Ohio, Hillary Clinton has taken to bashing hedge funds.
    "We also have to reward work more," Clinton told a small group of Ohio residents today. "and by that, I mean, I have people in New York working on Wall Street as investment managers, as hedge fund executives. Under the tax code, they can pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes on $50 million dollars, than a teacher, or a nurse, or a truck driver in Parma pays on $50,000. That's very discouraging to people."

    ABC notes that Team Clinton surrogate Chelsea "No Comment" Clinton works at... a hedge fund! Wonder what she thinks of her mom's comments? Oh, wait. I forgot. She doesn't talk to the press.
  • Iowa Electronic Markets: Obama at New High

    Iowa Electronic Markets: Obama at New High

    Following last night's Wisconsin win, Barack Obama has jumped to a new high price for a Democratic candidate in the Iowa Electronic Markets (IEM), topping Hillary Clinton's peak price.

    In the University of Iowa business school project, traders buy and sell contracts on political candidates using their own, real money.  As of midnight, Obama shares were trading at 78.7 cents, meaning traders think it's about 79 percent likely he'll be the nominee. That tops Clinton's peak of 74.6 cents on October 22.

    Clinton shares dropped to 20.3 cents last night. Withdrawn candidate John Edwards and the generic "rest of field" were trading at less than one cent.

    In the Republican market, John McCain has settled into the pattern seen by presumptive nominees like John Kerry in 2004. His price has stabilized at just above 94 cents since last week's wins in the Potomac states.

    The nomination markets are winner take all.  Shares for the nominee pay a dollar, and shares for other candidates are worthless. The IEM's general election market, which predicts vote share and pays out proportionally at a penny a percent, is currently anticipating a Democratic win of 51 percent to 47.5 percent.

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Why Doesn't Wisconsin Count?

    Why Doesn't Wisconsin Count?

    An excuse for some casual liveblogging of my native state. With Obama expected to win, we're waiting for Team Hillary weekly Why This State Doesn't Count statement. You can help.

    Why Doesn't Wisconsin Count?
    Next to Illinois so it's like practically his home state
    Same day registration so too many people can vote (unlike caucus states where too few can vote)
    Lack of party registration
    No WISCONSIN debates (the 15 pre-Wisconsin debates also don't count)
    Our senior women slipped on the ice
    Packer fans still angry at anything from New York (and thus embraced a Bears fan instead)
    Ron Paul
    Free polls from

    While we wait, here's a song about Wisconsin.

    Dahmer is dead.
    Dahmer is dead.
    A broomstick bashed him upside his head.
    Dahmer is dead.
    Dahmer is dead.
    A broomstick bashed him upside his head.
    Upside the head, upside the head.
    Bloody broomstick.
    Dahmer is dead.

    Am I supposed to feel outrage?
    Am I supposed to feel sorrow?
    That Jeffrey Dahmer has no bright tomorrow?

    The most telling aspects of the state of the Clinton campaign come out of Texas and Pennsylvania. In Texas, the arcane selection rules could mean that Obama can take more delegates with less votes (to make the long story short, it's based on 2004 and 2006 vote totals, and Hispanic turnout was down while black turnout was up). Obscure, but the rules have been out there for ages. As for Pennsylvania, Team Hillary failed to file a complete delegate slate.

    The common thread here: it's glaringly obvious that there was no post-Super Tuesday Clinton Game Plan other than "have the nomination wrapped up already."

    One smart move: saw Hillary at a rally in DePere last night and a person in a Packer hat was strategically located just behind her.

    Polls close, instantly called for McCain. He's already giving the victory speech so he doesn't have to stay up past his bedtime. He thanks Huckabee before he thanks his wife. Meanwhile, on the Dem side, they're saying "substantial Obama lead but too early to call."

    Mac says "Americans will not be deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change" and then drops some specific unnamed attacks against Obama on foreign policy. Not even token Hillary bashing; he's got his opponent picked out.

    Ambien sales are likely to plummet this fall; just watch a McCain speech. At least he learned one lesson last week: speak BEFORE Obama.

    8:18 and just as McCain wraps they call it for Obama.

    Hillary speaks next, thanking the Ohio locals including "the student rep to the school board." Hello Cleveland! Hello, Cleveland. (Well, Youngstown, actually.) Not only no congrats to Obama, she kicks immediately into slams. Work, not words, solutions not speeches etc. etc. And a BLATANT reference to the woman who donated $ on behalf of her 2 and 4 year old daughters "to show them anything is possible" if you know what I mean.

    8:36 and Obama is taking the stage so Hillary gets cut off. He's able to say "give a shout out" and "in the house" without sounding awkward. The old organizer is plugging early voting AND the election day caucus. (Told you it was byzantine)

    My alma mater Eau Claire gets a mention from Obama. He's moving into the current version of the basic stump speech -- she was too, but when you win, you go last and you don't get cut off.

    Looking at counties... I'm seeing 63% Obama in Dane (Madison), but that's only about 20% in. Nothing yet from La Crosse or Eau Claire, Obama ahead in Portage (Stevens Point), Hillary ahead in Ashland, Obama in Bayfield, and that's the places I've lived, know well or have family.

    They're chanting the Bob The Builder mantra in Houston.

    The crowd start to boo McCain -- and he holds his hand up to stop them. Praises his service, then attacks point by point ("when he says he is willing to send our troops into another 100 years of war in Iraq"), lets them boo a little, and ends the passage with "he represents the policies of the past, and I look forward to having that debate with John McCain" and applause. Deft. So was his timing; stepping on Hillary and getting 48 uninterrupted minutes.

    Olbermann calls this the first pitch of the general election. Hillary flack says "outspent," which I left off the poll. Also a shot at the independents. (OK, I'm a hypocrite, I bash independents every chance I get.)

    Russert raised the Edwards Factor; his white men went to Obama. My thought: Hillary needed Edwards to stay in through Super Tuesday to draw votes off of Obama.

    Just before 10: Matthews, presumably called on the carpet this week, overcompensates on behalf of Team Hillary, badgering an obscure Texas legislator "can you name any of Obama's accomplishments as a US Senator?" The sad sack senator is woefully unprepared, and Hillary's spokesperson, Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Cleveland, is right on message. It's almost a tag team. Even Olbermann thinks he's overdone it and the net's two rock stars sign off their joint coverage very testy with each other:

    Matthews: "Somebody has to vet these guests. That's why they call it hardball."
    Olbermann: "This isn't 'Hardball', this is the election results."

    But Hillary doesn't gain much from the exchange, given she's down 15 in Wisconsin at the moment.

    Fascinating headline: Republican Gerrymandering Favors Obama In Texas because of the way delegates will break out by district.

    Updates on my old stomping grounds... Obama wins Up Nort in Ashland (52) and Bayfield (55). Madison goes 2 to 1 Obama, not a surprise. La Crosse: Obama 58. Eau Claire 60% Obama, Stevens Point 55% Barack. More to the point than Point: Obama 65% in Milwaukee. Out in Waukesha, the biggest suburban county, it's 53-46 Obama. 57% Obama in Packerland. The statewide margin is now 17 points... so did Hillary win ANYwhere? I'm seeing a few very small rural counties and Superior. That's it. (Wisconsin trivia: a century ago Superior, the lake port town at the state's northwest corner, was the second biggest city in Wisconsin behind only Milwaukee.)

    Chuck Todd just pronounced Waukesha "wah KEY shuh", it's "WAW ke shaw."

    On the GOP side Huckabee had a hot spot in the Eau Claire area, winning that county with 59% (?!?) plus a few neighboring as far south as, but not including, La Crosse. He might have carried the La Crosse-Eau Claire 3rd congressional district, which may or may not matter to Republican delegate math. Also Wausau and Stevens Point (Point has about six actual Republicans, it was one of about four counties in the state that McGovern carried in `72). There's been no mention at all of Team Huck tonight.

    Obama has a narrow 3 point lead in the no-delegate Washington beauty contest (they had a Super Tuesday caucus). If the results reverse, any bets that Team Hillary will say it counts? On the GOP side, which does decide the delegates, McCain wins but Mitt still gets 21% even after quitting and endorsing McCain.

    They're re-running Obama's speech and he suggests telling the kids to turn off the video games, so he just lost the elementary school boy vote at my house. Anyone else remember Calvin's polls of his dad's job approval ratings?

    Picture Calvin, times two, and that's my boys.

    Late Wisconsin Poll

    Late Wisconsin Poll

    My folks are always my test of what the pure independents will do. You know those diligent, study the candidate types that are held up as an ideal, but in reality only exist in civics textbooks? Well, my folks really are that.

    So on the eve of the Wisconsin primary I did my usual survey. Huckabee was never in contention; Mom was an elementary school teacher who got put off the fundamentalists along about the time they complained about having Halloween parties at school. Satan worship, you know. As for Ron Paul, the government=bad thing doesn't appeal to people who made their careers in public schools.

    Well, how about McCain? The "100 more years of war" quote has definitely sunk in. Which bodes well for the fall. So he's off the list.

    That leaves the two Democrats for today and Mom, who lands smack in the middle of the prime Hillary demographic, says "I think we'll cancel each other out." So it looks close, but my margin of error is pretty high here.

    Monday, February 18, 2008

    "Idiot Amendment" Could Confuse Voters

    "Idiot Amendment" Could Confuse Voters

    An amendment on this fall’s ballot will more than likely accomplish its short-term goal of modernizing the Iowa Constitution’s language. But in the short term it’s likely to produce a fair share of insensitive humor, and a fair amount of voter confusion.

    The so-called “Idiot amendment” would delete the words “idiot” and “insane” from the Constitution’s section on voting rights, replacing them with the more PC phrase “mentally incompetent.” The amendment is the brainchild of Rep. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, who the mother of a child with a mental disability.

    This fall’s vote is the culmination of ten year’s effort for Jochum, but the wording could have been enshrined into the constitution already. The office of then Secretary of State Chet Culver failed to publish notice of the Amendment after it passed the Legislature in 2004. In another error, the Chief House Clerk published only part, not all, of the amendment in the House Journal. Those mistakes pushed the vote back to this fall.
    The amendment was briefly the subject of a debate dust-up in the 2006 gubernatorial primary, when candidate Mike Blouin brought up the failure to publish as a question of Culver’s competence.

    The delay means that the amendment has been pushed from the gubernatorial election, with its relatively less turnout, into this year and what’s likely to be the highest turnout presidential election ever. And obscure items like this have a history of confusing voters. An amendment removing references to dueling from the Constitution was on the ballot in 1992 at the behest of the late Rep, Clay Spear, who was known to fellow legislators for scouring the law for such anachronisms.

    It passed overwhelmingly, but not without a lot of confusion. Auditors had trouble answering basic questions, even if asked in jest, such as “if you’re in favor of dueling, do you vote yes or no?” Answer: if you believed people who participated in duels should be allowed public office in Iowa, you would have voted yes. But that straight answer could be seen as an attempt to persuade voters.

    The relative handful of voters who still want to “study the issues” will be frustrated, because there is likely to be little campaigning and next to no information available. Voters who worry that their vote for president won’t county unless they mark every item on the ballot (not true) will hold onto absentee ballots longer and suffer through more phone calls from frustrated ballot chasers from partied and campaigns.

    This could even have a ripple effect into races that are higher on the ballot. Iowa is rapidly becoming a heavy early voting state, with a quarter of the statewide vote cast early in general elections, and almost 50% in some urban counties. If voters delay marking their ballots because of confusion over an obscure Constitutional measure, that could increase the importance of late campaign developments and attacks. The parties could be well served by working together to publicize the measure, which in and of itself is a consensus item. But odds are, they’ll have other priorities.

    Friday, February 15, 2008

    Less Than A Feeling

    Huckabee: Less Than A Feeling

    Mike Huckabee is slipping in the all important classic rock vote:
    Tom Scholz of the band Boston fired off a letter yesterday to Mike Huckabee asking the Republican presidential hopeful to stop using the song "More Than a Feeling" at rallies and campaign appearances. "Boston has never endorsed a political candidate, and with all due respect, would not start by endorsing a candidate who is the polar opposite of most everything Boston stands for," Scholz wrote. "Although I'm impressed you learned my bass guitar part on 'More Than a Feeling,' I am an Obama supporter."

    This gets into band politics as well: while Scholz wrote the song (which, if you listen carefully, has the same chords as Louie Louie), former bandmember Barry "extra set of hands" Goudreau played with Huckabee last summer right `cheer in I-O-way.

    Huckabee's plans for touring with Amy Winehouse are still on hold. (Give the guy a little credit: at least he or someone in the entourage at least knew who she was.)

    Harkin Calls for Revote

    Harkin Calls For Florida, Michigan Revote

    Senator Tom Harkin said Thursday that Florida and Michigan Democrats should vote again, as a way to seat their delegations at the Democratic National Convention without recognizing their calendar-violating primaries.

    “They were sanctioned. They were told not to do that,” Harkin told a press conference call. Party rules said only four approved early states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- could hold primaries or caucuses before Feb. 5, but Michigan and Florida went early anyway. As a result, the rules committee of the Democratic National Committee stripped the two states of all their delegates.

    Now, the DNC is stuck having to either stick by its ruling and alienate those two key swing states, or seat the two delegations and alienate the four early states. One option that's emerging is a caucus, near the end of primary season. But Monday, Michigan Democratic chair Mark Brewer rejected that idea. "The Obama and Clinton campaigns have to agree. It takes one year to prepare for a caucus. It takes money,” Brewer said. “It is not a viable option.”

    In addition to the questions of rules, fairness, and disenfranchisement, the issue is also deeply caught up in nomination politics. Most observers expected the Florida and Michigan delegates to be seated by a winning who had decisively clinched the nomination in the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday primaries. Instead, the nomination fight is dragging on, and seating the Florida and Michigan delegations would give Hillary Clinton a boost.

    Thursday, the Michigan Democratic Party announced its "delegate allocation," even though their official delegate allocation is still zero. Based on results from their renegade Jan. 15 primary, Clinton would have 73 delegates and 55 would be uncommitted.

    Barack Obama and most other candidates took their names off the Michigan ballot on Oct. 9 because of the calendar violation, but Clinton stayed on the ballot. At the time, she said Michigan's delegates wouldn't count, but on Jan. 25, after winning Michigan easily, she called for seating the Michigan and Florida delegates.

    Candidates did not have the option of taking themselves off the Florida ballot. Clinton won with 50 percent to 33 percent for Obama and 14 percent for John Edwards, who dropped out immediately after Florida. All the leading candidates signed a pledge not to campaign in Michigan or Florida. That pledge was largely honored, though Clinton pointed a finger at Obama for running national cable TV spots in Florida, while Obama drew attention to two Clinton fundraisers in Florida, technically allowed under the pledge, two days before voting. As soon as the polls closed, Clinton flew to Florida for a victory rally.

    Some observers are calling for treating Florida and Michigan differently. Chris Bowers at Open Left calls for seating Florida. "The DNC's punishment has achieved its goal, as Florida has been denied a major role in the horse race to date," he writes. "The sentence for changing the primary date has been served." But he argues Michigan is a different matter, since Obama and otheres weren't on the ballot.

    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    Love Notes

    Love Notes

    Just two quickies this AM:

  • Mike Huckabee is campaigning in... the Cayman Islands?
    Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee on Wednesday defended his decision to suspend campaigning before Wisconsin's presidential primary so he can fly to the Cayman Islands to give a paid speech.

    He said he needs to make a living, and the event has been on his schedule for months.

  • Hillary Clinton agrees to an MSNBC debate despite the Pimping Chelsea Out Flap. Greg Sargent at Talking Points Memo: "However crude and dumb Shuster's remark was, this was never primarily about him. It was about Chris Matthews."

    A bunch of things -- as I've said, the guy's sensibilities are decidedly pre-feminist old school. But the big one is this Jan. 9 clip where Matthews said "the reason she's a US Senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a fontrunner, is her husband messed around."

    I'm not going to play with that dynamite. But it does make one imagine an alternate universe.

    If Hillary Rodham had taken Bill Clinton's advice in 1973, dumped him, and put her own career first, would she be where she is today? Quite possibly.

    But what if the point of divergence is later on the timeline? Say Hillary follows the path she indeed chose, but Bill doesn't come back in 1982 after his 1980 re-election loss? He goes down in history as a boy wonder who failed, a two year asterisk, a mere footnote. Does she fade into obscurity too?

    Or does she take the lead role earlier? We could now be saying "did you know her husband was governor of Arkansas once? Yeah, when he was like 30. He got beat because he raised license plate fees."

    What if 1992 is a failure, and Bill loses to Paul Tsongas or Jerry Brown, or later to Bush 41? You can write a lot of scenarios. And it's pointless. On this timeline, in this reality, the two careers are entwined to the point of inseperable.

    The larger point is that the implication of Matthew's comment is that she's unqualified on her own merits, and that's part of what's offensive. The other offensive part is that Matthews doesn't seem to get that his comments about a "sympathy vote" imply her lack of qualification.
  • Wednesday, February 13, 2008

    FISA Fight Focused on Boswell, Blue Dogs

    FISA Fight Focused on Boswell, Blue Dogs

    Leonard Boswell prominently displays a "Blue Dog Conservative Democrat" logo on his House web page. And this week, his Blue Dog partners control the fate of federal legislation granting telecommunications companies retroactive immunity for cooperating with the government in warrantless surveillance.

    Boswell and other self-described Blue Dogs
    are bucking Democratic leadership and joining with House Republicans to keep the retroactive immunity provision the Bush Administration wants.

    The Protect America Act, a stopgap measure, has been in place since a classified ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court reportedly imposed limitations on the government's warrantless eavesdropping activities. The Protect America Act was meant to allow the federal government to continue ongoing investigations while Congress crafted a more permanent Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and had a six-month sunset provision. That's set to expire on Friday.

    On Jan. 28, Boswell was one of 21 Blue Dogs who signed a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsing the Republican version of the FISA bill. The Senate bill "contains satisfactory language addressing all these issues," they wrote, "and we would fully support that measure should it reach the House floor without substantial change."

    House Democrats passed their version, called the RESTORE Act (if you like acronyms, that's Responsible Electronic Surveillance That is Overseen, Reviewed, and Effective) passed 227-189 in November. The House plan does not include no retroactive immunity. Iowa's delegation split on party lines at that time, with Democrats Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack for and Republicans Steve King and Tom Latham opposed.

    But President Bush says he'll veto any FISA bill that doesn't include retroactive immunity, and the administration has fought hard for the provision in the evenly divided Senate. Senate progress stalled in December thanks to an effort led by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who interrupted his presidential campaign two weeks before the Iowa caucuses to filibuster the Senate version until Majority Leader Harry Reid shelved the bill. Temporarily, as it turned out.

    With Friday's deadline looming, Dodd and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) offered an amendment Tuesday to remove retroactive immunity, but failed on a 67-31 vote. Iowa's Tom Harkin supported the amendment while Chuck Grassley was opposed. (Of the presidential candidates, John McCain opposed the amendment, Barack Obama supported it, and Hillary Clinton missed the vote.)

    Dodd called the Senate's vote "the single largest invasion of privacy in American history."

    So now the action returns to the House. “There will be little, if any, time for conference” to reconcile the House and Senate versions, said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. With 15 of the 21 Blue Dogs, the Republicans can win passage even in a Democratic House, but with seven of them, Pelosi and the Democratic leadership can block passage.

    Democrats tried to buy time with a three week extension, but lost that vote 229-191 Wednesday night against a unanimous Republican vote. 34 Democrats voted with the Republicans. That included Boswell and the Blue Dogs, plus a collection of progressives who oppose the entire Protect America Act such as Dennis Kucinich.

    Matt Browner Hamlin, formerly of Dodd's presidential campaign, examined campaign contributions and found that all 21 House Blue Dogs had received money from telecommunications PACs. Boswell got $5,000 from AT&T.

    Historic Perspective

    Historic Perspective

    Back in the Brown vs. Board days, in the death throes of the Harry Byrd Democratic machine, the state of Virginia adopted a policy called "Massive Resistance" to integration. Prince Edward County went so far as to close their entire public school system for five years, from 1959 to 1964, rather than allow black children to attend.

    Barack Obama was three years old when those schools re-opened.

    2008 February Democratic Presidential Primary Unofficial Results

    Barack Obama 1,803 (73.11%)
    Hillary Clinton 632 (25.62%)

    Wednesday Morning Quarterbacking

    Wednesday Morning Quarterbacking

    When Barack Obama took the stage in Madison last night, he wasn't talking about Hillary Clinton; he wasn't sounding like a candidate for the Democratic nomination. He was talking about John McCain and sounding like the Democratic nominee. Kos: "He's looking past Hillary to McCain."

    The train is pulling out of Platform 9 3/4 and the superdelegates -- oops, the "automatic" delegates in the official Clinton campaign term -- are smart politicians with their own butts to protect.

    So, on to my native Wisconsin, and any old friends from Up Nort' who are reading this, you know what to do.

  • Overlooked result: TWO Maryland US Reps knocked off in primaries last night. Corporate Dem Al Wynn lost to progressive Donna Edwards in a rematch from 2006. Safe Dem black majority district in the fall. Whether that's a leading indicator for Boswell vs. Fallon is hard to say. Clearly Change is in the air, but Fallon won't have the advantage of new Obama voters coming to the polls for the June primaty like Donna Edwrads did.

    Moderate Republican Wayne Gilchrest was knocked off by Club For Growth winger Andy Harris in the Eastern Shore district. This might be winnable; Gilchrest knocked off a scandalized Dem in 1990, then got paired in redistricting in `92 and beat Tom McMillen, who may have been the tallest Congressman ever at 6'11" (he was in the NBA)

  • Overlooked historic trivia: remember that jinx on sitting senators getting elected president? Not since JFK? Well, looks pretty likely now. Of course, miracles are possible and Huckabee and Jesus are like this.

  • Michigan Dem chair says a caucus that would seat their delegation within the rules “is not a viable option.” Julian Bond of the NAACP says seat them, Al Sharpton says don't change the rules mid-game. Even Iowa hater Kos takes Iowa's side on seating the delegates, though he gets his jab in: "I appreciate what they did because it should lead to an honest re-examination of the primary process and an end to the unfair monopoly enjoyed by New Hampshire and Iowa (sic). But the rules were the rules."

  • The guy from Team Hillary who wrote the Screw Iowa memo is gone. Looking back, I see that I saw the key line as "If she walks any from Iowa she will devalue Iowa (our consistently weakest state)." Which plays into what's now become a running meme on the blogs: Any state that Hillary doesn't win doesn't count because... (insert list of excuses) Washington Post:
    Clinton has made a habit of ignoring contests she loses. On Monday, she cited Louisiana's large African American population in explaining her defeat there. At other times, her campaign has suggested the results of caucuses in general should be discounted.

    No mention at all last night in her El Paso speech of the Obama trifecta. She's adopting the Texas/Ohio Firewall strategy that worked soooo well for Rudy in Florida...
  • Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    Dems Marriage Stance Irks LGBT Activists

    Dems Marriage Stance Irks LGBT Activists

    The vote count is close on the question of gay marriage in the Iowa Legislature, but the personal feelings are overwhelming, according to a Des Moines Register survey published Sunday. Only six legislators -- three Senators, three Representatives, all Democrats from urban districts, answered no when asked "Do you believe marriage should be only between a man and a woman?"  And it's that idea, as much as the policy stance on a proposed constitutional amendment, that's got some in Iowa's LGBT community upset.

    The issue has heated up again in the wake of last year's Polk County court ruling that Iowa's law banning same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. That ruling was stayed on appeal, but not before one male couple managed to get a valid license and hold a wedding ceremony. Gay marriage opponents now want to enshrine their views in the state Constitution, joining 25 other states.

    The question won't be on this fall's ballot, as it would have to pass two consecutive sessions. But if it comes to a roll call, those votes are likely to be prominently featured in GOP campaign ads.  Democrats must trade that fear against the money and volunteer time LGBT activists offer to campaigns.

    "Shame on me for investing my time, money, and efforts supporting candidates that believe I'm not fully equal to them," said Democratic activist Janelle Rettig of Iowa City, citing Johnson County legislators who won't commit to the principle of full equality.  Rettig and her partner have a valid marriage license from Canada.  "I guess being good neighbors, citizens and taxpayers isn't enough."

    Long before gay marriage was a front page issue, Iowa Democrats were in the forefront in support.  They placed marriage equality in the state party's 1994 platform.  But the day after that platform was approved, gubernatorial nominee Bonnie Campbell formally renounced it, specifying the gay marriage issue.

    Legislators who say no when asked "Should marriage be only between a man and a woman?"
    Senators: Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City; Michael Connolly, D-Dubuque; Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines

    Representatives: Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines; Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City; Dick Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids

    Another seven Senators and 12 Representatives -- again, all urban Democrats -- either said they were "undecided" as to whether marriage is only between a man and a woman, or did not answer.

    As it stands now, the vote on HJR 8 or SJR 2001 breaks exactly 50-50 on the House side, with four Democrats crossing party lines to support the amendment and one Republican opposed.

    House Democrats: Yes
    Geri Huser, D-Des Moines

    Dolores Mertz, D-Ottosen

    Brian Quirk, D-New Hampton

    Kurt Swaim, D-Bloomfield

    House Republican, No

    Chuck Gipp, R-Decorah

    That dead heat would kill action for the year, but one switch to yes would put the Senate in play. On that side of the Rotunda, the issue is more up in the air, with 12 Democrats and one Republican either undecided or not responding. Amendment opponents would need most of these votes to block Senate action, as the Senators who have committed are split 21 in favor to 16 opposed.

    Monday, February 11, 2008

    Double Bubble Trouble

    Double Trouble with LA's Double Bubble Ballots

    Six days past Super Tuesday and we're not done yet. New Mexico remains a squeaker, though it looks like it'll come down on Clinton's side. Perhaps she'll try to use that to claim a victory between Obama's four states, one territory and one Grammy weekend and his likely two state, one District win tomorrow.

    California was Clinton's brightest spot on √úberdienstag, but there's a big question mark over 95,000 or so Los Angeles County ballots in what's dubbed the "Double Bubble" controversy. I'm not going to try to touch on every aspect of this because BradBlog does it so well.

    Though he doesn't bother to mention that one of his more colorful sources, Mimi Kennedy, is best known as Dharma's mom from "Dharma and Greg," and from every indication was not acting in that role so much as she was simply behaving. That's why I don't wear my hair at ponytail length anymore -- with the baldness I don't want to look like Dharma's dad.

    Voters who weren't registered with a party, but were instead registered as "Decline To State," were able to vote in the Democratic primary. But the process was a little convoluted, as Jacob Soboroff at Huffington Post explains quite clearly in the Short Version:
    Here’s the trouble: In the voting booth, voters must then mark a bubble on the ballot that confirms the voter is indeed voting on a Democratic ballot. If they fail to mark, their ballots go uncounted. And further, if a voter neglects to fill in this bubble, a voting machine will not return the ballot because the vote is counted as an under-vote. But by requesting the ballot in the first place, voters are already in essence filling out this bubble.

    Another significant problem: there election also had ballots for Decline To State people who didn't even want to vote on the presidency, just on ballot issues. But some folks who did want to vote for president got the ballot with just the ballot issues. Still with me? We had a local election like that in 1986, which is one of the reasons Iowa law got change to prohibit that practice. Can't combine anything with a partisan primary in Iowa anymore.

    But back to Trouble One, the double bubble. This is stupid, stupid design and an "Is Anal Retentive Hypenated?" interpretation of the law, bordering on the deliberately byzantine. They saw this coming ahead of time, as this Feb. 4 story notes. Of course these should get counted.

    But that doesn't mean we shouldn't think about Trouble Two.

    "Decline To State."

    That's an interesting term, "Decline To State." Very different than the proud "Independent" that wishy-washy voters like to proclaim.

    These are voters who Decline To State, even for a day while asking "how soon can I change back" the way people need to in Iowa, that they are Democrats. Yet they have a say in choosing the Democratic Party's nominee for president. Why the hell are they even voting in the Democratic Party's contest? The California Republicans closed their primary, which was registered elephants only.

    One sideline to this, which is my third tangent so far, including the freakin' lede: In addition to the Double Bubble problem, some voters got excluded from the Democratic Primary because, drawn to that "I" word they love so much, they registered as members of the American Independent Party -- the right wing remnant of the 1968 George Wallace campaign. I can't help but be amused by that, as the myth of the Pure Independent, I Study The Candidates And Vote The Person Not The Party voter collides with the reality of ignorance.

    Sure, the campaigns all knew going in that these Decline To State folks could vote in the Democratic primary. And the outcome of counting these votes would probably narrow the California margin in a way I'd like. But some of this can't be chalked up to innocent mistakes.

    There's evidence -- and unfortunately I lost the cite -- to suggest that at least some of this problem was people who deliberately refused to mark the party bubble, even when instructed to do so, out of sheer "independent" orneryness. That wouldn't be out of character to what I've seen of voter behavior. So hostile to those evil institutions, parties, who only ended slavery and the Great Depression, that they won't even go through the motions.

    They should get counted anyway, but it's instructive that it was a Green Party activist who drew this to my attention in the first place; don't they, like, have their own candidate?