Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Braley to endorse Obama

Braley to endorse Obama

Congressman Bruce Braley is expected to endorse Barack Obama today.

The Waterloo Democrat joins his fellow Iowa freshman, Dave Loebsack, in the Obama camp. Braley supported former candidate John Edwards during the Iowa caucuses. Both are Democratic National Convention superdelegates.

Iowa's other House member, Rep. Leonard Boswell, is supporting Hillary Clinton.

Iowa State Convention: Conflict, or Kum Bah Yah?

Iowa Democratic State Convention: Conflict, or Kum Bah Yah?

Braley To Endorse Obama

Iowa has been back in the presidential spotlight the last few days, with Saturday’s congressional district conventions and Barack Obama endorsements by superdelegates Richard Machacek and, today, Congressman Bruce Braley. The state’s next moment in the spotlight, the June 14 state convention, could be one of the final major battles in the nomination fight between Obama and Hillary Clinton – or it could be Kum Bah Yah time.

With the last primaries scheduled on June 3, and Clinton campaign chair Terry McAuliffe saying the nomination will wrap up by June 15, the state convention could see a fight to the death battle for 11 national delegates. But if, say, Hillary Clinton leaves the race on something like Thursday the 13th, the convention on Saturday the 15th could be the first opportunity for Democrats anywhere to begin the reuniting process.

State Convention, Des Moines, June 14
State Delegates2500
At Large National Delegates10
 State DelegatesNational Delegates

As the math stands now, Obama would win five at-large national delegates, Clinton would gain three. John Edwards, viable on his own without help from another campaign, would get two. There is no scenario in which a candidate picks up only one delegate; the point of rounding up to one delegate is well below the 15 percent minimum for viability.

The state convention will also elected six pledged party leader and elected official delegates, which should break down as Obama 3, Clinton 2, and Edwards 1. There is also one add-on delegate, named by neutral state party chair Scott Brennan and ratified by the convention. The add-on delegate would need to be acceptable to the Obama campaign, since he controls more than 50 percent of the convention.

For Edwards to lose viability, he would have to lose 50 people at the state convention. The former candidate lost almost no one at last weekend's congressional district conventions, except in the 4th District where he was not viable.

All this assumes that everyone shows up and that no one switches preference. That’s pretty close to what happened last weekend. All or nearly all of the 2,500 seats at the five districts were filled. There were small shifts to Edwards from Clinton in the 1st District and from Obama in the 5th District, to make or keep Edwards viable. He was on the bubble of viability in both places.

In the 4th District, where Edwards was well short of viable, a deal between Clinton and Edwards to make Edwards viable failed when Clinton supporters insisted that the Edwards national delegate be chosen from among the Clinton supporters who would have switched over. The Edwards group refused that deal, and most of them joined Obama. In the other four districts, the Edwards supporters stayed steadfast.

As for Iowa’s superdelegates, two remain up for grabs: party chair Scott Brennan and Senator Tom Harkin. Harkin recommitted to staying neutral last weekend.

In addition to Machacek and Braley, Obama is backed by superdelegates Governor Chet Culver, Congressman Dave Loebsack, state treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, and state party vice chair Sarah Swisher. Clinton is supported by Congressman Leonard Boswell, state senate majority leader Mike Gronstal, and DNC member Sandy Opstvedt.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Yet Another Michigan Delegate Plan

Yet Another Michigan Delegate Plan

The Democratic Party is becoming increasingly desperate for a solution to the mess Michigan made when it decided to screw Iowa and New Hampshire by moving its primary to Jan. 15. How do you make everybody happy -- the two deadlocked campaigns, the Michigan voters who had little say in the matter, and the early states like Iowa that played by the rules?

When in doubt, roll out another plan.

Michigan Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger have presented a plan to the Michigan Democratic Party along with two notorious Iowa caucus haters, Sen. Carl Levin and Democratic National Committee member Debbie Dingell. Their proposal doesn't bother with any rationale other than admitting it's a compromise. The proposal simply splits the difference at Clinton 69, Obama 59. The four party leaders acknowledge that neither campaign is likely to back the proposal, but suggests that the DNC adopt it.

Here's where the math came from. Hillary Clinton won -- or didn't win -- 73 pledged delegates in the Jan. 15 primary, and another 55 went to "uncommitted," since Barack Obama and John Edwards took themselves off the ballot in solidarity with Iowa, New Hampshire, and the other early states. The Clinton campaign is insisting on all 73. The Obama camp's official position is they want an even 64-64 split, which would mean that the Jan. 15 vote itself was meaningless. And the DNC's position is still, officially, that Michigan doesn't get any delegates, as punishment for breaking the calendar.

Michigan blogger Emptywheel at Firedoglake has another, entirely unofficial variation on the split the difference plan, which she expects "will probably get me bounced from local politics."

  • Seat the congressional district level delegates selected on April 19 with full voting strength. 47 of those are Clinton delegates. 36 are officially uncommitted. Emptywheel estimates that Obama won 31 of those, with the others going to union members who originally supported Edwards.

  • Seat three party leader and elected official (PLEO) delegates, all of whom support Clinton.

  • Split the state's 28 at large delegates down the middle: 14 for Clinton, 14 for Obama.

  • And the punishment for violating the calendar? No superdelegates. If Carl Levin wants to go to Denver, he has to run for it like a mere mortal.

    Emptywheel's rationale:

    This solution accomplishes everything everyone has said they want to do. It would give Michigan's voters -- the people who will do the grunt work to get our Democratic nominee elected in the fall -- a say at the convention. It rewards Hillary, slightly, for having won. It penalizes Obama, slightly, for taking his name off the ballot in January. And it penalizes Michigan, 28 total delegates, for having broken DNC rules and moved its primary up.

    But it focuses that punishment on those who played chicken with the votes of Michigan, and lost last year, rather than punishing those who had no choice in the matter and got their ability to cast a vote in a truly fair election. It penalizes the superdelegates, many of whom were instrumental in the decision to defy the DNC.

    This solution falls short of the DNC's mandatory penalty of half of the state delegates, but at least has the element of poetic justice. Roll that plan back to half a vote each for the elected Michigan delegates, and you might even make an Iowan happy. As for the impact on the delegate count, seven superdelegates have endorsed Clinton while one backs Obama. 20 are officially uncommitted, but most are believed to back Clinton.
  • Monday, April 28, 2008

    Monday Delayed Linkfest

    Monday Delayed Linkfest

    Ran out of time this morning; better late than never.

  • Common Iowan has reports from the 1st and 4th District conventions. Comments indicate that the Edwards-Hillry deal in the 4th was contingent on the Edwardians election one of the Hillary people as the national delegate... which would defeat the purpose. An Iowa Independent comment confirms that the Obama-Edwards deal did in fact go down in the 5th. Any word on the 3rd?

  • Firedoglake argues that Michigan should be punished by not seating... the SUPERdelegates, who are the ones whose fault the whole mess is anyway. I can just see Carl Levin sputtering.

  • Nosi neighbor time: Press-Citizen salary survey is now online.
  • Sunday, April 27, 2008

    National Press Doesn't Get Iowa -- Again

    National Press Doesn't Get Iowa -- Again

    "The headline out of Iowa is going to be 'Obama gains one,'" I told my fellow delegates during casual conversations in the hours of down time at Saturday's 2nd Congressional District Democratic convention.

    So when I finally got home, and could access the national political blogs that for some reason the Mount Vernon School District's wireless network had blocked, what did I read?

    "Obama loses one."

    It's the latest example of national political writers just not understanding Iowa's caucus and convention process.

    On Thursday, I published a comprehensive look at the math that showed Obama taking 15 delegates, Clinton winning nine, and Edwards definitely getting two, with three delegates still in play, and one more delegate possibly shifting pending deals between candidates.

    But national estimates ignored things like deals between candidates and the possibility of people just not showing up, and acted as if the numbers were set in stone. Those estimates allocated two more delegates to Obama and one to Edwards, for a 17-9-3 estimate.

    On Saturday, Edwards gained viability in the 1st District, where he had been two people short of viability coming out of the Mar. 15 county conventions. My estimates had listed this seat as being in question, but national reports assumed Edwards would not be viable and that Obama would gain the delegate. This is what sites such as MyDD and Democratic Convention Watch are listing as the Obama "loss." But like the old blues song says, you can't lose what you never had. In fact, the truly accurate Iowa numbers before Saturday were Obama zero, Clinton zero, Edwards zero.

    Meanwhile, in the 4th District, a deal that Iowa Independent reported between Edwards and "another campaign" -- math would indicate Clinton -- failed to materialize, and Obama gained a fourth delegate which I had listed as in doubt. But national sites, pretending Edwards did not exist, had already allocated this delegate to Obama, and are failing to report it as a gain.

    It was a bit more fair for national sites to list the Edwards delegate in the 5th District as an Edwards hold. However, coming out of the county conventions Edwards was only viable by one person, so I had listed the seat as in question. That was a judgment call, as opposed to the inaccuracy of reports on the 1st and 4th Districts.

    Saturday, April 26, 2008

    Obama Gains National Delegate in 4th District

    Obama Gains National Delegate in 4th District

    A deal between John Edwards and "another campaign" reported to Iowa Independent Wednesday did not make John Edwards viable in the 4th Congressional District, and as a result Barack Obama gained one national convention delegate at Saturday's congressional district conventions.

    The Iowa Democratic Party reports a national delegate count of Obama 16, Clinton 9, and Edwards 4 from the five conventions.

    Edwards supporter Sam Juhl, mayor of Roland and an Iowa House candidate, told Iowa Independent Wednesday there had been a conference call between 4th District Edwards supporters and "another campaign" to make Edwards viable.

    Math in the district would indicate that would have been Hillary Clinton's campaign. With Edwards not viable, Obama needed to gain fewer Edwards supporters to win a 4-2 split in the 4th district than Clinton would have needed to earn a 3-3 tie.

    Based on county convention results, Edwards and uncommitted forced would have been 18 people short of viability in the 4th District.

    Results from the other districts:

    CD 1: Obama 3, Clinton 2, Edwards 1

    CD 2: Obama 4, Clinton 2, Edwards 1

    CD 3: Obama 3, Clinton 2, Edwards 1

    CD 5: Obama 2, Clinton 1, Edwards 1

    2nd District Democratic Dispatches

    2nd District Democratic Dispatches

    Statewide National Delegate Split: Obama 16, Clinton 9, Edwards 4; Obama Gains 1 Delegate in 4th CD
    Harkin: Staying Neutral, Don't Count Rulebreaking States, Abolish Superdelegates

    Iowa Independent's John Deeth is at the 2nd Congressional District Democratic Convention, with live updates throughout the day and night. At 3 p.m. a rules committee member estimated from the podium that the convention will last until at least 10:30 p.m.

    At 3:30, the numbers were officially released: Obama 297, Clinton 169, Edwards 107. Obama gained two from the county convention, Clinton lost two, Edwards was unchanged. That translates into a national delegate split of Obama 4, Clinton 2, Edwards 1. "Five hours of waiting for no change" says Edwards chair Dave Redlawsk.

    9:00 AM and the convention is close to convening. The Edwards group is moving out of the main hall to convene in a side room. Clinton and Obama efforts are well in evidence. There was a heated flag pin argument in an aisle between a Obama backer and a couple Clinton supporters; more on that as the opportunity arises.

    The chairs are piling up with flyers for national delegate candidates, mostly from Team Obama:

  • Former state House leader Dick Myers of Johnson County

  • nurse Pauline Taylor also of Johnson

  • Faith Wilmot of Solon

  • Faith Bromwich, also Johnson County

  • Christy Mach of Linn County

  • Paul Osterholt of North Liberty

  • Sally Williams of Linn County

    Obama will likely elect four delegates, two men and two women (elections for male delegate and female delegate are held separately).

    The only flyer for a Clinton delegate so far is from Justin Shields, a Cedar Rapids labor leader and city council member. Team Hillary will probably elect one man and one woman.

    Edwards is expected to elect one male delegate; political science professor Dave Redlawsk is Johnson County's candidate. These contests often come down to the relative strength of counties, but a strong candidate, such as Myers, can draw cross-county support.

    9:55 and Harkin just finished speaking; see separate story.

    In addition to the hight profile delegate and state central committee races, one other job that's chosen here is presidential elector. Well, that's what people call it, anyway. It's actually the Democratic candidates for elector; you only get to be an actual elector, one of the 538 people who actually vote for president, if the Democrats win Iowa. Slayton Thompson of Cedar Rapids is running and has done the job before; he has an entire collection of old campaign pins on his vest.

    Another national delegate candidate has emerged in the Obama camp: Peggy Whitworth of Cedar Rapids.

    "It looks better percentage-wise for Hillary that it did in Linn County," says Justin Shields, comparing strength at the county and district conventions. Obama was strong in Linn County; Clinton's strength was in the souther part of the district. Shields isn't looking ahead to the fall campaign yet: "we've got too many primaries in Linn County."

    Just under the surface, there's a few simmering tempers. Clinton supporter Barbara Seinfeld of Fairfield complains about the People for Peace and Justice in the Middle East table. "She's misrepresenting the truth. There is no such thing as Palestine. It's Israel." She says Clinton's support of Israel is "a major reason" she's supporting the New York senator.

    While I'm at it, let's get back to that flag fight in the aisle. "It torques my jaw" that Obama doesn't wear a flag pin, said Tom Hill of Fairfax. "All my Republican friends are talking about it."  Hill says he won't vote for Obama in the fall and will instead vote for "somebody white."  He says that's different than saying he won't vote for a black candidate.

    Cathy Tullis of Wapello County is also upset about the flag, but not as vehement as Hill. "Of course" she'll vote for Obama if he's the candidate, "but that doesn't mean I'll be happy." Neither Tullis or Hill was wearing a pin.

    10:30. Alternate seating time. "Not everyone is being seated," yells DJ Arnold, meaning Obama will fill all his seats.

    "We went through the smallest and furthest counties first," says Obama group chair Sue Dvorsky. "If a small county had five or six people, we tried to seat two or three. We tried to gender balance. We split up couples so one of you can go."

    "We know we're viable," says Edwards chair Dave Redlawsk. Seating's not done but Redlawsk thinks Edwards also has more alternates than seats.

    10:54 Team Hillary also says they have all their seats filled. All three campaigns did triage in advance and ranked their alternates; the higher-ranked alternates were seated first. Objectivity disclaimer: My name turned up at #15 on the Obama list so now I'm a delegate. Won't let it compromise my journalistic integrity.

    The math has not been announced but it appears the Obama 4, Clinton 2, Edwards 1 math will hold. "Nothing will change unless there's a few traitors," says Tom Carsner of Team Edwards, who offers colorful suggestions on what should be done to traitors.

    11:00 and candidates for state central committee are speaking. Another national delegate candidate pops up; Marcus Perkins of Iowa City.

    "We're trying to keep the scratches down to a minimum," says convention chair Norm Sterzenbach Sr., extending Harkin's cat metaphor. The convention is at ease for lunch at 11:30, and the lunchroom-lobby is jammed while the hall is nearly empty.

    Norm is running for state central committee, as is Al Bohanan of West Branch. "Sharon Savage is a great candidate," says Bohanan of the challenger in Senate District 40. "(GOP incumbent) Jim Hahn should be worried."

    High noon. Edwards supporter Paul Deaton of Solon, counting the lunch money, says he doesn't expect any Edwards defectors. "At the (Johnson) county convention, you practically had to testify you were staying with Edwards," he sais. "That was a key concern when we went to vote." In Johnson, Obama and Clinton elected delegates through the put your hand down to be an alternate system, but the Edwards group went to the pre-printed strips of numbered paper that old convention hands call "railroad ballots." "They used to be in double rows like a railroad track," explains Paul Osterholt of North Liberty.

    At the People for Peace and Justice in the Middle East table, I catch the other side of Barbara Seinfeld's story. "This woman came by and ripped our sign down," said Bill Pusateri. "Another woman brought it back and apologized." Everyone at the table says they support Obama, though some are reluctant to make this a candidate vs. candidate thing.

    "You don't expect behavior like that from a Democratic crowd," said Pusateri. "It's childish and disrespectful."

    12:30 and back in business. Credentials announces all 573 seats are filled. Never happened ever before. Mount Vernon's hometown hero Dave Loebsack is on site and scheduled to speak soon.

    Tom Hill, who made the very strongly worded comments about Obama this morning, catches me in the bathroom. "I shouldn't have talked to you," he says, with a tone of regret. But in the end, he says, "I said what I meant."

    Tim Judd of North Liberty, also a Clinton supporter, is more positive. "The party will need to unite, and that's what we'll do" if Clinton is not the candidate.  Judd says the mood is good in the Clinton camp. "The superdelegates will work in our favor in the end."

    12:43 and Loebsack is on.

    "If we can get 573 people to a district convention, I'm not all that concerned, because it means we have a lot of people ready to elect a Democrat to the White House."

    "Proud of our whole Democratic delegation"; namechecks Boswell among the rest.

    "Things are moving in the right direction in Iowa, the question now is are we going to improve on the majority in the House of Representatives, and build the majority in the Senate?  The last thing we want is John McCain. We need either Barack or Hillary."

    "No matter who wins  the nomination, we're going to be unified. We can't afford 4 or 8 more years of George W. Bush. I want a president who won't veto the legislation we passed."

    Pushing timelines on Iraq. "We need a recommitment to Afghanistan, because that's really where the problems are."

    "It took 10 years to reauthorize Head Start. It took a new Congress."

    "Whether it's Hillary or Barack, SCHIP is going to be fully funded."

    "No matter what happens, Iowa is going to stay first in the nation.  Whether it's Barack or Hillary, we did our job in Iowa on Jan. 3" Scattered applause when he mentioned being a Bill Bradley national delegate in 2000. He namechecks "the bloggers here in the front row."

    "I want you to be behind the Democratic nominee, whether it's he or she, to finish what we started in 2006."

    Norm Sterzenbach Sr. "Now you've heard from 4 of our 11 superdelegates. Do you still believe the media when they call these people crazy people in the back room?"

    At 1:26 the convention is in stall mode, hearing from presidential campaign surrogates. From Team Hillary, it's former secretary of state Elaine Baxter; attorney Steve Sovern is representing for Obama. Seems like an odd use of time: with the most committed of the most attended in attendance, ain't nobody changin' their minds. Still no Official announcement of the alignment count. It looks like a long day, folks.

    One possible reason for the stall is a labor caucus, where they're shaking out the surplus of state central committee candidates.

    And there's even more national delegate candidates for Obama: Veronica Tessler of Iowa City, Fred Seay of Lee County. The convention debates how long the Edwards speaker can speak... for longer than the Edwards speaker actually speaks.

    "They were trying to count automated and it didn't work," Dave Redlawsk tells me, unofficially of course. The delay seems to be getting exact totals from the preference groups, even though everybody seems to know who's where. "I hope they can count the voting ballots faster that the preference ballots," says Redlawsk, with a be-sure-to-write-that wag of the finger.

    Yet another Obama national delegate candidate: Dale Todd of Cedar Rapids.

    2:49 and the first actual ballot of the day is underway. Male state central committee members. Three seats, 12 candidates, no more than two can be elected on one ballot.

    "Our hope is things will go like Pennsylvania," Elaine Baxter of Team Hillary tells me, as the youth delegates endorse Obama. "She's getting better as a canddate and is on an upward trajectory. It's exciting," says Baxter.

    But what if it's Obama after all? Will Clinton's supporters come along? "I think they will," says Baxter, "but it's going to be difficult. They are so enthused and convinced that she is the right person."

    Sterzenbach has a folksy style as the convention chair. Asked about timekeeping, he says he's been keeping time but forgotten the start button once or twice. "When I was awake, everyone was within the time limit." Of course, the longer speeches have more lull one to sleep potential.

    As we vote on female state central committee members, tempers are bubbling. Asked to line the candidates up yet one more time, Harvey Ross of the rules committee says, "when we reopened nominations, we guaranteed this convention will go until 10:30 p.m. How much longer do you want it to go?"

    Objection is raised that this discriminates against "people who have difficulty retaining information," which may cover pretty much everyone in the hall. But this is voted down, and we forge ahead into platform discussion.

    Sandy Dockendorff of the state central committee says roughly three hours were added to the day when nominations were reopened for the state central committee because the initial candidates "didn't appear diverse enough." She's not bothered by the additional competition, but is frustrated by the process.

    Karen Laughlin suggests "The News" by Carbon Silicon, a London punk band, as an Obama theme song. As an old Clash fan, I'm up for anything London and punk, so I try to check it out. But The Mount Vernon School District has YouTube blocked. (Also Blogger, so I can't crosspost on my personal site or check some of our better Iowa blogs for news from other districts.)

    3:48 and preference groups will happen soon. I hear an implausible number and ask Senator Bob Dvorsky: "How many Obama candidates for national delegate?"


    "Don't you have to petition for that?"

    "Yeah, but it's only like six signatures."

    Team Obama is discussing how to lower that number, such as discussing diversity guidelines and noting that delegate expenses could run up to $2000. (Unions commonly help members pay their way, and other delegates have had fundraisers in the past."

    84 candidates for four seats. That's like the California governor recall. Harvey Ross's 10:30 p.m. estimate is looking optimistic. Postscript: It was; folks were there till after 1 a.m.

    As we break into preference groups at 4:00, some grumbling from folks on the platform committee and affirmative action committee, who want to finish their business first. (The unspoken fear: that folks will leave after the national delegate stuff is done.) (Postscript: That fear was well-founded; by the time I left at 10:30, the 573 delegates had dwindled to rounghly 150.)

    Delegate election is separated by gender; men and women elected separately. Obama will have two men, two women. Speakers will have a minute, which means an hour and 24 minutes. "If you are not 300% committed to being a delegate, I'd encourage you to withdraw," says an Obama staffer. "We certainly aren't discouraging people from participating," disclaims Bob Dvorsky.

    If everybody stays in, those who get less than 15 percent on the first ballot get dropped.

    In the Clinton room, 46 people are seeking two spots, though some are withdrawing. Edwards has 12  men seeking one seat.

    The line of candidates for Obama national delegate, waiting for their one minute turn to speak.

    Back in the Obama room, people are getting applause as they withdraw. Not many are. Only 16 take their names off, leaving 68 and over an hour of speeches. A lot of the speeches begin, "This is my first time participating." Usually, across the whole state, one person with such a profile wins; most national delegates are long-time activists or elected officials.

    In the Edwards room, one person has dropped off, leaving 11. The Clinton camp was still going through the drop-out process. One Obama person has an androgynous name, which causes problems when you're electing men and women separately.

    The most dedicated delegate appears to be Sam Hoheneke of Muscatine; he says the Obama logo tattooed on his hip is the real thing.

    5:53 and the Edwards group reports that they've narrowed from 11 people to five after one ballot. My wife has made her third "honey, when are you coming home?" call. In a nice way. I'm afraid to tell her about the 1996 state convention that ran until 4 a.m.

    The Clinton group has voted on delegates and moved on to state convention committees; Obama is getting ready to vote. One candidate drops out at the mike; gets a Dick Myers endorsement out before being told that's out of order, but he rang that bell already.

    As of 7 p.m. there's a significant attrition level in the Obama room, which no longer matters since the delegates are allocated. The concession stand is closed, so we're at the phase of a convention where victory on platforms and non-delegate offices comes down to who can sit the longest. (Postscript: pizzas appeared later in the evening.)

    The Obama group has cast a second ballot on female delegates.

    At 8:23 p.m. the two Obama male delegates are announced: Dick Myers and Angel Gonzales, both of Johnson County.

    Two minutes later, on the third ballot, the Edwards group elects Dave Redlawsk, so Johnson County gets at least three national delegates.

    Donald Schaefer and Kathy Krehbiel are the Clinton delegates. The ballots for Obama women are still in the third round of counting.

    8:38 and the Obama women are Peggy Whitworth of Linn County and Sandra Pope of Wapello County. They led strongly from the first ballot on, but it took three rounds to get a majority.

    Voting on state central committee continues at 9:27. I'm trying to see how the national blogs are playing Iowa, but the school has Daily Kos, MyDD, and Talking Points Memo all blocked.

    About ten people have decided to run for presidential elector (actually presidential elector candidate), which has never really been a big deal before.

    The platform is adopted at 10:12 p.m. The last person I promised a vote to (Iowa Independent's own Lynda Waddington of the state central committee) got re-elected, so this is my final report for the day. Thanks for watching.

  • Harkin Staying Neutral

    Harkin Staying Neutral

    Abolish Superdelegates, Don't Seat Rulebreaking States

    Senator Tom Harkin told 2nd Congressional District delegates at this morning's convention that he's still staying neutral in the nomination fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

    The senator also said rulebreaking states should not be counted at the national convention, and he hopes superdelegates are abolished.

    Key quotes from Harkin's speech, the first of five he'll deliver at all of today's conventions:

    "I am determined to stay neutral as a superdelegate until all of the people's votes have been counted. We set up rules. Every state signed off, so every state ought to have their say."

    "That also means that states who do not abide by the rules shoud not be counted." Partial standing ovation from most delegates.

    "I"ve never even been comfortable being a superdelegate, hopefully the convention will get rid of them." Applause.

    "Some of you are passionate for Barack, some of you are passionate for Hillary, but once our nomination is decided we ought to put our differences aside and be a united party."

    Rolling into an extended metaphor about farm cats. "All that screeching and yowling just means there's gonna be more cats." With this he touts the Dem's voter registration edge. "Together, we are unstoppable."

    The remarks on the presidential race concluded Harkin's speech. Before that, he bashed Republican John McCain a bit and made his own case as he faces re-electon

    "Instead of lowering our standards for recruiting privates and corporals, how about raising our standards for recruiting our next commander in chief."

    McCain 5 word health care plan: "Pray you don't get sick."

    "Change is not something that blows with the wind. A weathervane changes every day. Change needs to be rooted in values." This launched his case for himself. "I want to use my seniority to help a new Democratic congress and a new Democratic president." He did not name either name.

    Massive standing ovation to "End this nutty war in Irag and bring our troops home." Audience then hushed as he discusses the troops. Namechecks Boswell on the Omvig suicide prevention bill.

    "I may a bit grayer, and I hope wiser, than when some of us first met. But I have the same fighting spirit when it comes to standing up for Iowa values."

    Friday, April 25, 2008

    GOP Pedigrees At Issue In 2nd District Race

    GOP Pedigrees At Issue In 2nd District Race

    The Ed Fallon-Leonard Boswell race isn't the only Iowa congressional primary where party loyalty and campaign finance have become issues. A six-year-old campaign donation has become a point of contention between the three Republicans running in the 2nd Congressional District.

    Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Lee Harder are attacking Peter Teahen for giving Democrat Julie Thomas $250 in her 2002 race against Republican Jim Leach. Teahen unapologetically stands behind the contribution, saying it was made out of personal gratitude rather than political agreement with Thomas, a Cedar Rapids pediatrician.

    "Dr. Julie Thomas saved my daughter's life," Teahen told Iowa Independent. He noted that he has contributed to many Republicans over the years.

    Federal Election Commission records show that Teahen donated $250 to Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign and $500 to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Rathje last fall. The FEC also shows that Miller-Meeks has donated $16,515 to federal committees in the past decade, all to Republican candidates or medical political action committees. Harder's only federal donor history is $1,095 to his own campaign.

    Miller-Meeks is also raising campaign finance issues to tout her own strength. She surprised some observers by out-raising Teahen in finance reports filed at the end of March, and campaign handouts say she has raised money from across the district while Teahen has only raised money in Linn County.

    Harder is telling 2nd District Republicans that Teahen was a registered Democrat until Dec. 13, 2007, and is also criticizing Miller-Meeks as a moderate.

    Teahen told Iowa Independent he has been a Republican or independent most of his life, and registered as a Democrat in 2006 to vote for "pro-life, pro-business Democrat" Mike Blouin in his unsuccessful primary bid for governor. Republican Jim Nussle was unopposed in the 2006 primary.

    "When you're a community leader, you try to get the right people into the positions," said Teahen, who owns a family funeral home in Cedar Rapids and has volunteered as a Red Cross spokesperson at disaster scenes such as Ground Zero and Hurricane Katrina. "Do you talk about uniting America to make America better, and then say, 'only our party is the good guys?"

    Teahen considers the donation and affiliation questions to be non-events. "I'm disappointed that we're not discussing the issues and are going to personal attacks,” he told Iowa Independent.

    Republican activist Deb Thornton, Teahen, Miller-Meeks and Harder at district convention

    Miller-Meeks and Teahen are both walking a fine line in the primary. They are trying to portray a moderate image in the tradition of Leach, who held the seat for 30 years before losing to Democrat Dave Loebsack in 2006. At the same time, they need to appeal to the conservative party activists who turn out in primaries.

    Harder has no such concerns. "Vote Conservative," read his red and white yard signs, rather than "vote Republican." Still, Harder told Iowa Independent, they have the recognizable Republican elephant logo, "which is more than my opponents have."

    But both Miller-Meeks and Teahen have strong conservatives heading up their campaign efforts. Wes Enos, who managed Mike Huckabee's winning caucus campaign, is running the Teahen campaign. Todd Versteegh, who spent the 2008 caucus cycle with the Fair Tax campaign, is running the Miller-Meeks effort.

    Harder, who left a job as a corrections chaplain to campaign full-time, is running his campaign effort himself. He's getting help from his father and from his home-schooled son, who is getting a first-hand political education traveling the district with dad. Harder's name-id mnemonic is the simple slogan: "I will work Harder for you."

    Miller-Meeks supporters were quite visible at last weekend's 2nd District convention in Iowa City, wearing white medical lab coats as they placed white goodie bags on every chair in the hall. Miller-Meeks is an ophthalmologist and immediate past-president of the Iowa Medical Association. Their meeting the same day as the convention meant Miller-Meeks made only a brief appearance before 2nd District delegates.

    The Miller-Meeks campaign also handed out M&Ms to remind Republican voters of her MMM initials. Rumors that the candy was left over from the 1992 Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky campaign were quickly denied.

    Teahen and Harder spoke at more length at a candidate forum, taking alternating questions from delegates. The two spend most of the day in retail politics persuasion of individual Republicans and small groups.

    Geography may help Teahen in the primary. He is from Cedar Rapids, the district's largest county and much larger than Miller-Meeks' Ottumwa base and Harder's home in rural Henry County. "The county races will help get out voters," said Teahen. Linn County is going through a reorganization of county government and has competitive primaries in new county supervisor districts.

    Miller-Meeks hopes to break the Iowa-Mississippi jinx; those are the only two states that have never elected a woman either to Congress or as a governor. "I like her energy and her spunk," said Cathy Grawe of Coralville.

    Whoever wins the June 3 primary has an uphill battle against incumbent Loebsack. Despite Leach's long tenure, the 2nd District is the most Democratic in the state. National handicappers rate the race as "safe Democratic," and the seat does not appear on the Republican National Committee’s list of targeted races.

    Fallon Wasn't Iowa's Only Nader Democrat

    Fallon Wasn't Iowa's Only Nader Democrat

    Incumbent Leonard Boswell is hammering his 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary challenger, Ed Fallon, over Fallon's endorsement of Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election, charging that Fallon "helped elect George W. Bush." The appeal is powerful to the party activists who vote in primaries. In the post-Florida era, Democrats consider a 2000 vote for Ralph Nader an act of heresy, and non-president Al Gore is a martyred Democratic saint.

    But the picture of Gore was very different before the Nobel Peace Prize, before the Oscar, and before the 2000 election.

    Retrospective history has painted Fallon as a loner, and less than a year later he repudiated the endorsement. But Fallon was far from the only Democrat unhappy with Gore. Polls in the summer of 2000 showed Nader winning as much as 6 percent of the national vote, well above his final 2.7 percent.

    "If I had three hands maybe I could hold my nose, my gut and my mouth and vote for Al Gore," Fallon told a Cedar Rapids crowd on Oct. 29, 2000. "But in good conscience, I can't, I won't, and you shouldn't either."

    Mike Palecek, who was the 2000 Democratic nominee for Congress against Tom Latham in the old 5th Congressional District in northwest Iowa, also endorsed Nader that year. "Nader was clearly the better candidate," wrote Palecek in 2007. Palecek's Nader endorsement earned a mention in the Capitol Hill newsletter Roll Call just before the election. Palecek lost in a landslide, winning only 29 percent in a heavily Republican district.

    "Al Gore and Bill Clinton had bombed Iraq, continued the sanctions against Iraq for 10 years, "reformed" welfare, expanded the federal prison system. There is no way I was in support of that," wrote Palecek. "I do not regret endorsing Nader."

    Palecek remains a registered Democrat even though he "detests" the party and feels both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are too militaristic. "We need strong leadership, someone who would be willing to investigate the Bush involvement in 9/11, for example. I think what we might expect from either Clinton or Obama is more of the same."

    Lieberman, GoreFallon was among many people on the left end of the Democratic Party frustrated by Gore's choice of conservative Sen. Joe Lieberman, who supported Republican efforts to impeach Bill Clinton, as his running mate. History has proven those concerns to be prescient, as Lieberman bolted the Democratic party after losing his 2006 Senate primary, then defeated Democratic nominee Ned Lamont in the general election. That is the same kind of "nonsupport of the party" that got Fallon kicked off the Polk County Democratic central committee in 2001, yet Lieberman, calling himself an "independent Democrat," sits in the U.S. Senate Democratic caucus today.

    Tipper stickerOther liberal activists were annoyed by Gore's role in the Parent's Music Resource Council (PMRC) hearings of 1985, where Tipper Gore crusaded against Prince lyrics and faced spirited, circus-like rebuttals from Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and from Frank Zappa. Al Gore never distanced himself from the music labeling issue, and even bragged about his wife's efforts near the end of his final 2000 debate with Bush:
    "When (our oldest daughter) was little, she brought a record home that had some awful lyrics in it. And Tipper hit the ceiling. And that launched a campaign to try to get the record companies to put ratings that -- warning labels for parents. And I'm so proud of what she accomplished in getting them on there."

    "Tipper is hated by a lot of people for the warning stickers, especially by liberals who consider the labels censorship," wrote Jocelyn Marcus of the Iowa State Daily after the election. "Young people, especially males (who voted Nader in higher numbers than females), also tend to be the same people who buy CDs with 'Parental Warning: Explicit Lyrics' stickers on them. Though other PMRC members were also responsible for the warning stickers, the labels are widely called 'Tipper Stickers.'"

    The Daily Iowan reported that more than 2,000 people attended a Sept. 25, 2000 Iowa City Nader rally, and many paid with a small donation to the campaign. That was a common Nader fundraising approach in 2000. Two days earlier, thousands had paid to attend a Seattle rally that also featured Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder.

    At the Iowa City rally, some were persuaded:

    He won UI senior Jane Anderson's vote with this sentiment and others, she said.

    "I was going to vote for Gore because he is not as supportive of big business as Bush," she said. "After this (rally), my vote goes to Nader."

    "My Democratic Party affiliation is not a casual one," said University of Iowa law professor Nicholas Johnson, who introduced Nader at the event. His remarks remain on his web site:
    "I've worked for the election of every Democratic presidential candidate since Harry Truman in 1948. I've run for the U.S. Senate from Iowa as a Democrat. I've run for Congress as a Democrat. I've held three presidential appointments in the administrations of U.S. Presidents who were Democrats. I've worked on a Democratic National Committee project and held virtually every position within the Johnson County Democrats.

    So I have no intention of putting George W. Bush in the White House."

    Johnson attacked Gore for accepting campaign money from 66 corporations that had also donated to Bush:
    "AT&T, Phillip Morris, Microsoft, Federal Express, Anheuser-Busch, Pfizer, Time Warner. Ever heard of any of them? Well, there are 59 more I don't have time to list. These corporations don't care which of their nominees wins. They're not in this for the ideology. They're in it for the return on investment."

    Johnson praised the historic role of third parties in coming up with new ideas for reform, telling the Nader crowd:
    "That's how we got regulation of banks and railroads, a progressive income tax, the eight-hour workday, direct popular election of U.S. senators, workers' compensation, limitations on child labor, the women's right to vote, and the right to collective bargaining."

    In a conclusion that seems haunting today, Johnson advised the crowd on voting strategy:
    "If seven electoral votes could make the difference in who becomes president check the latest Iowa polls. Is the popular vote in Iowa likely to be close?

    Only if you answer all of those questions "yes" do you need to be concerned that your vote for Nader risks putting someone you fear in the White House.

    If there's a big spread on the national electoral votes, or the Iowa popular vote, it's a free vote for you.

    It is voting for Bush or Gore that becomes a wasted vote.

    It's the vote for Nader that's not wasted. The vote that's registered as a meaningful protest. A demand for campaign finance reform. For returning American democracy from the corporations to the people."

    Despite Boswell's charge that Fallon "helped George Bush win," Gore carried Iowa by 4,144 votes, with Nader taking 29,374 Iowa votes. Iowa's seven electors did prove to be more than Bush's five electoral vote margin. (It would have been a four vote margin, but one District of Columbia elector abstained to protest the city's lack of voting Congressional representation. An effective protest, since I have to mention it in this disclaimer eight years later.)

    After Democrat John Kerry lost the election, and Iowa, to Bush in 2004, Johnson wrote:
    Vice President Gore would have easily won had he held the support of Democrats. There were many multiples more Democrats who voted for Bush than there were Democrats who voted for Nader. And more than half of those who voted for Nader were either Republicans or indicated that, but for Nader, they would not have voted at all.

    'Never mind that,' said the party’s apologists, 'It’s all Nader’s fault.'

    This year [2004] the Democrats don’t have Nader, or anyone else, to scapegoat.

    Johnson supported Fallon in his 2006 campaign for governor.

    Enough News, What You REALLY Want is More Baby Pictures

    Enough News, What You REALLY Want is More Baby Pictures

    Mister Grandson is now six weeks old.

    Thursday, April 24, 2008

    Attendance, Attendance, Tactics To Shape Democratic District Conventions

    Attendance, Tactics To Shape Democratic District Conventions
    They say half the game is just showing up, and that's true for Iowa's Democratic congressional district conventions. The other half may be tactical politics, as supporters of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama try to deny the other campaign any advantage.

    The most important factors in determining how many national delegates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and, yes, former candidate John Edwards get on Saturday will be which campaign does the best job of getting its share of the 2,500 delegates to travel to the conventions, and who can quietly cut the best deals.

    A district-by-district review of the delegate totals shows that three of the 29 national delegate seats to be elected Saturday are up for grabs. One additional delegate may be in competition, if a deal between campaigns works out. As it stands, Obama can expect 15 national delegates, Clinton will have nine, and Edwards will earn at least two.

    A 4th District Edwards supporter said there was a conference call Wednesday night between Edwards backers and "another campaign." Math would indicate that the "other campaign" was Clinton's. And a 1st District activist reported that the Clinton campaign offered to lend supporters to Edwards.

    4th District Edwards supporter Sam Juhl, the mayor of Roland and an Iowa house candidate, said there was a Wednesday night conference call between Edwards supporters and "another campaign" to discuss a deal. "I think there may be viability" in the 4th District, said Juhl, despite numbers out of county conventions that show Edwards well short of viability there.

    In the 1st District, where Edwards is on the cusp of viability, an Edwards county leader reported that the Clinton campaign has offered to lend people to keep or make Edwards viable if needed.

    "Hillary is out there trying to help out Edwards for whatever reason, offering to give us people," said Highland Nichols of Clinton. "The other camps want to see Edwards viable."

    There's a long caucus and convention history of deal making, where one group joins another for a share of the delegates, and those lurkers can always switch back to their original choice at the next level. Edwards supporters may also be lurking in the Obama or Clinton camps, from counties where Edwards was not viable.

    From the Clinton campaign's perspective, every delegate Edwards wins is a delegate Obama doesn't get. At least, that holds true in two districts where a viable Edwards helps Clinton. In one district a viable Edwards would help Obama.

    In a normal year, three or four delegates wouldn't matter much. But three and a half months after the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, the 2008 Democratic race is anything but normal. To put the importance of these delegates in perspective, note that the entire state of Texas wound up with only a five delegate split between Clinton and Obama. 

    The die will be cast once delegate seating and realignment are completed, by mid-afternoon. After that, the math is complete and the delegates are allocated. The lengthiest battles are not between campaigns, but within campaigns, as district delegates struggle through multiple ballots to decide who actually gets to take the coveted trip to the August national convention in Denver.

    Delegates will also choose party officers and debate the platform, though platform debate has simmered down in the past decade as the party has tightened restrictions on the length of the final platform.

    Iowa Congressional DistrictsBefore we plunge into the district numbers, here's how it works. On caucus night, caucus goers elected delegates to county conventions, which were held Mar. 15. Those county conventions elected the delegates who will attend Saturday's conventions, and Saturday's conventions will choose national delegates. The number of district delegates, and national delegates, in each district is determined by past voting performance.  Another 16 national delegates will be chosen at the June 14 state convention.

    Each campaign has many alternates, who can fill the seats of delegates who don't show up. Presidential preference is more important than geography. For example, if an Obama delegate from Lee County doesn't show up to the 2nd District convention in Mount Vernon, the Obama group will first try to seat an Obama alternate from Lee County.  If that fails, an Obama alternate from Johnson County could be seated. A Clinton alternate from Lee County could not get the seat.

    Viability is determined the same way it is on caucus night. A candidate needs 15 percent of the convention to be viable, otherwise his or her supporters must move to a second choice or pick off supporters of other candidates to become viable.

    Now let's look at each district. All the viability numbers below assume that every seat is filled, either by a delegate or an alternate. That rarely happens in a normal year, but is quite possible this time. If seats go unfilled, the viability number goes down to 15 percent of the number of filled seats. Think of these numbers as a point spread rather than a final score.

    1st District Convention, Dubuque
      District Delegates534
      National Delegates6

     District DelegatesNational Delegates

    John Edwards won 77 delegates at county conventions, and two uncommitted delegates were elected out of Butler County where Edwards was non-viable. If Edwards fills all his seats, and is joined by those two uncommitteds, and only eight Clinton or Obama seats go unfilled, he could net a national delegate at the Dubuque convention.

    But if everyone shows up, Edwards will fall just two people short of viability, and his supporters will determine who gets the district's sixth national delegate. Obama has the edge. He only needs 24 of the Edwards supporters to gain his fourth delegate, while Clinton needs to attract 56 of the 79 Edwards and uncommitted delegates to get a 3-3 national delegate split. The easier road might be to lend people to Edwards, as Nichols reports, to keep the delegate out of Obama's hands.

    Edwards' efforts at viability are disadvantaged by the Dubuque location. He was non-viable at the Dubuque county convention, and of the 159 delegates who are from Dubuque or the four adjacent counties, only 12 support Edwards. Most Edwards supporters will have to make the trek up Highway 61 from Scott and Clinton counties.

    But Clinton County's Highland Nichols says the Edwards supporters will be in Dubuque. "I've talked to several other county organizers, and at last count I think we can make (viability)," he said. "We'll have all 11 Edwards delegates (from Clinton County) attend or have alternates."

    Obama's strength is relatively even across the district, while Clinton is slightly more popular in the counties closer to Dubuque.

    "I could live with Hillary a lot easier than Obama" if Edwards falls short, Nichols said.   "John Edwards started out talking about change and hope before Obama even announced. I don't think Obama's had an original idea since he's started."

    2nd District Convention, Mount Vernon
      District Delegates573
      National Delegates7

     District DelegatesNational Delegates

    Things are relatively simple in the seven-delegate 2nd District, which will likely shake out Obama 4, Clinton 2, Edwards 1. Edwards forces in the district are well organized and well above viability. "We are anticipating keeping most if not all of our group together, both Johnson County and district-wide," said professor David Redlawsk, Johnson County Edwards chair.

    The Mount Vernon location helps Edwards, who was strong in Johnson and Linn Counties, and hurts Clinton, whose was stronger in Lee, Des Moines, and the smaller rural counties in the southern part of the district.

    3rd District Convention, West Des Moines
      District Delegates527
      National Delegates6

     District DelegatesNational Delegates

    Two-thirds of the 3rd District's 527 delegates are from Polk County.  With the convention in West Des Moines, that makes geography a minor factor that only slightly aids Obama. The likely outcome is Obama 3, Clinton 2, and Edwards 1. The 3rd District's fireworks are more likely to revolve around the Leonard Boswell-Ed Fallon congressional primary.

    4th District Convention, Boone
      District Delegates507
      National Delegates6

     District DelegatesNational Delegates

    The Edwards and uncommitted forces need to pick up 18 delegates to reach viability. (The six uncommitteds are from Warren County, where Edwards was nonviable at the county convention.) Assuming everyone shows up, either Clinton or Obama could throw Edwards the 18 people he needs, without losing a delegate themselves.

    If there are no deals and Edwards is not viable, Obama only needs to pick up 18 Edwards and uncommitted supporters to get a fourth national delegate, while Clinton would need 42 Edwards backers to get a third delegate. Given that math, it seems likely that Clinton would send supporters to Edwards to keep him viable, rather than giving Obama a shot at the fourth delegate.

    Longtime party activist Margo McNabb of Story County says Edwards forces are making calls in the 4th District and "I plan to stand for John Edwards" at the convention. McNabb said she didn't have a sense of where Edwards' support would go if he's not viable.

    In general, Edwards backers moved heavily to Obama rather than Clinton at county conventions. In the 4th district's Marshall County, Obama dominated the convention three to one when almost all the Edwards delegates joined his group. The question is, how many Obama-leaning Edwards people have already switched, and how much more can Obama gain? Or will Edwards lurkers in the Obama camp go back to their first choice?

    Geography helps Obama, as he won heavily in Story County, next door to Boone. A big pool of Story alternates could help fill up empty Obama seats from farther away.

    5th District Convention, Council Bluffs
      District Delegates359
      National Delegates4

     District DelegatesNational Delegates

    The most spread-out district is also the one where who shows up will make the most difference. John Edwards is razor-thin viable. If all 359 seats are filled, Edwards is viable by one seat, with 55 delegates. (There are another three uncommitted delegates from three counties where Edwards was not viable.) He and Clinton would each get one delegate, while Obama would win two.

    If Edwards is non-viable, the math favors a 2-2 split. Let's assume Obama and Clinton fill their seats, while Edwards falls just one person short of viability and seats 53 district delegates. Obama would need all 53 to get a third national delegate, and Clinton would need only one to gain the 2-2 split. This makes the tactical game the mirror image of the 1st and 4th Districts; it makes sense here for Obama to lend Edwards people, to deny Clinton the second delegate.

    Geography helps Clinton, who was strong in Pottawattamie County. Of the 95 delegates who are from Pottawattamie or bordering counties, she leads Obama 43 delegates to 36, with 16 for Edwards.

    Election Day Starts Today

    Election Day Starts Today

    The countdown to the June 3 primary reaches 40 days today, and that's a major milestone. Early voting begins at auditor's offices across the state, and the first absentee ballots are in the mail.

    Iowa has one of the longest early voting periods in the nation, and that has changed the state's political landscape since the law change in 1990 that allowed any Iowan to vote early for any reason. In effect, election day is now nearly six weeks long.

    Before 1990, when voters had to have a notarized reason such as a medical excuse or out of town business on election day, Iowa's absentee rate was down around 5 percent. Now, in general elections, it's closer to 25 percent, and approaches 50 percent in some counties.

    Those high absentee rates in general elections are driven by political party efforts, mostly by Democrats. Early voting in primaries isn't usually that heavy, but a well organized campaign can get its votes in the bank before election day.

    Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    Republicans Have Modest Legislative Race Goals For Fall

    Republicans Have Modest Legislative Race Goals For Fall

    Republican legislative goals for 2008 seem modest: holding their own in the state senate while focusing on the House.

    "The battle's in the House, that'll be the hot one," said state representative Jeff Kaufmann of Wilton at last weekend's 2nd Congressional District convention. Kaufmann's state senator, Jim Hahn, was standing alongside him and didn't dispute that assertion.

    Hahn's Senate District 40 is a worry spot for the GOP. The first-term senator, who served in the House for 12 years before that, faces a challenge from Democrat Sharon Savage. Both are from Muscatine, a longtime Republican stronghold which has been trending Democratic in recent years. The Democrats won Hahn's House seat in 2004 when he moved to the Senate, and took over the county Board of Supervisors in 2006.

    "I'll get started on my campaign business soon," said Hahn, who was hoping the legislative session would wrap up within the week. "Gov. Gronstal hasn't decided what he wants to do yet."

    Hahn was referring to his Democratic Senate colleague, majority leader Mike Gronstal, who represents the Council Bluffs-based District 50. Gronstal's opponent, school board member Mark Brandenburg, is on the Republican's wish list in a race where outside interest groups may play a role.

    "We're down to about as few senators as we're ever going to have," said Republican senate candidate Joe Childers of the Senate, where Democrats hold a 30 to 20 edge. Childers is favored in a primary against Karla Sibert in District 18, where incumbent Mary Lundby is retiring. The Democrats are united behind state representative Swati Dandekar of Marion. Dandekar is favored for a Democratic gain, but Childers says she is "very beatable."

    "If you look at the demographics of the district, they lean conservative," said Childers. "And I don't think people are aware of how liberal Swati's voting record is."

    As for his primary opponent, Childers said he didn't know much about Sibert except "she was registered as an independent until a couple weeks before she filed."

    Another Republican candidate who switched registration was Cascade car dealer Dave McLaughlin, who had been a Democrat until recently. McLaughlin has a primary against Wyoming Republican who may have some yard sign problems; Gary Lee Culver is blessed or cursed with the same last name as the Democratic governor. The primary winner faces Democratic incumbent Tom Hancock, who narrowly defeated GOP incumbent Julie Hosch in 2004.

    Republican insiders are confident about Senate District 6, where incumbent Republican Thurman Gaskill is retiring and former Senator Merlin Bartz is on the comeback trail. Bartz, R-Grafton, was the party insider choice for secretary of agriculture in 1998, but lost in the primary. He was paired with Gaskill in the 2002 redistricting, but resigned to take a Bush administration agriculture job. The Democrats are running Doug Thompson, 58, a Kanawha farmer. Democrat Berl Priebe held a similar district slightly to the west of the current turf for awhile, finally losing in 1996.

    The GOP also expects to hold Senate District 48, where Creston incumbent Jeff Angelo is stepping down. Clarke County treasurer Kim Reynolds of Osceola is favored in the primary over contractor Jim Parker of Villisca. Democrats have a three-way primary in the seven-county district.

    A top pickup prospect for Republicans is Senate District 42. Davenport alderman Shawn “the Hammer” Hamerlinck is favored in the primary and likely to face incumbent Democrat Frank Wood, who won by only 480 votes in 2004.

    Kaufmann says House Republicans have 89 candidates running in 82 seats. Democrats control the House 53 seats to 47. "Do we have someone against Mary Mascher? No," said Kaufmann, referring to an incumbent from an overwhelmingly Democratic Iowa City seat. "But we've had our best recruiting year in a long time."

    Emma Nemecek of Mount Vernon is making her second House run. Two years ago she challenged incumbent Ro Foege. This year Foege is retiring and the Democrats are running Lisbon attorney Nate Willems. "You need to listen to both sides, that's the makeup of the district," said Nemecek. "I want to represent Democrats and independents as well as Republicans."

    Nemecek shot down rumors that she's considering dropping out of the race after the primary to allow Republicans to name another candidate. "I mentioned to the League of Women Voters that I wasn't sure about running," said Nemecek, citing family reasons. She said after that, she got many calls and emails from the district urging her to stay in, and she's committed to the race now.

    One of the Republican's top open-seat House candidates was wounded in action. Jarad Klein of Keota was crutching around at the district convention, having broken an ankle while door knocking. Klein will face Riverside Democrat Larry Marek in House District 89, where Republican incumbent Sandra Greiner is retiring.

    Tuesday, April 22, 2008

    Pennsylvania Ramblings

    Pennsylvania Ramblings

    Just settling in for Round 40 or so of the fight. Since it's 40 minutes till the Penn polls close, nothing to report yet. Let's clear the browser windows of the stuff I've been meaning to pass along.

  • Shoes suck. So there, mom.

  • This looks like a neat idea: A cat bed for your desk. Cats, of course, will never go for it, preferring to rest on the mousepad or keyboard. (Xavier seems to be filling the gap left by Butter's death in the role of writing assistant.)

    Obama talks hoops.

    7:00 and no call. Russert has the fantasy that Hillary will win then "bow out gracefully on a high note." Matthews doesn't say HA! but I do.

    They are fired up and ready to go in Indiana. Mellencamp is having it both ways, playing for Obama's crowd tonight and for Team Hillary later in the campaign. Of course his real choice is John Cougar Edwards.

    Nora O'Donnell with demographics. Young people, blacks, men like Obama, old peope, women, whites like Hillary. Yawn.

    Olberman thinks thefact it ain't called after 22 minutes is bad news for Team Hillary. Russert thinks Ed Rendell may be the only person who can tell Hillary it's Game Over because his loyalty is unquestioned. Fineman said Team Obama wins by losing because he bankrupted Hillary in PA. A pyrhhic victory, kind of like how we won the Cold War by bankrupting the Rooskies. And ourselves; thanks, Ronnie.

    7:47 and the nomenclature has changed from Too Close To Call to Too Early To Call. Which telegraphs a midrange Hillary win. And as soon as I write it, they call it.

    When did Harold Ford Jr. sign on with MSNBC?

    This looks like a loooong night of more of the same. We waited six weeks for this?

    Pat Buchanan just used the phrase "Marxist dialectic" and Rachel Maddow was dumbfounded. Line of the night: "Let's use the Rocky analogy correctly; Obama went the distance in Pennsylvania." I missed a bunch of stuff with an overheating laptop; there was a fascinating Mathews/Olbermann discussion of Team Hillary moving the goalposts and how her supporters see that as a plus.

    More doomsday polls about how many of Hillary's people won't vote for Obama and vice versa. Of course, these polls were taken at the very end of a very negative campaign. Ask again in September.

    Hillary speaking and piling cliche upon cliche, throwing in the Vote For Me Because card for good measure. If I did a shot every time she said some variation of "fight" I'd be reaaaaly drunk by now.

    Hillary leaves the stage to Mellencamp; Obama takes the stage to the same freakin' song. I'm not catching every word of Obama due to my real life, but unlike Hillary he's taking it to McCain. Olbermann says Mellencamp's gonna broker the nomination.

    Other news: Mississippi 1 congressional special goes to a runoff - and the Dems almost take it away from the GOP outright.
  • Monday, April 21, 2008

    Obama Leads Iowa Electronic Markets

    Obama Leads Iowa Electronic Markets on Pennsylvania Primary Eve

    Barack Obama is maintaining his lead over Hillary Clinton in Iowa Electronic Market (IEM) trading on the eve of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary.

    As of 9:00 Monday morning, Obama shares were trading at 75 cents, meaning traders give the Illinois senator a 75 percent chance of becoming the Democratic nominee. Clinton shares were going for 21 cents. Obama has held the lead since Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.

    In the University of Iowa business school project, traders buy and sell contracts on political candidates using their own, real money. Nomination markets are winner-take-all; winning shares pay a dollar and losing shares are worthless.

    The winner-take-all general election market has the Democratic nominee, once there is one, leading presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, 54 cents to 45.5 cents.

    Sunday, April 20, 2008

    Hoover-Wallace Dinner Honors Leach, Ponseti, Sen. Culver

    Hoover-Wallace Dinner Honors Leach, Ponseti, Sen. Culver

    Former Senator Culver, Governor Culver

    Iowa's highest and mightiest gathered Saturday night in Coralville to honor a groundbreaking physician and two political leaders who have continued their public service despite their rejection by Iowa voters.

    The annual Hoover-Wallace dinner raised over $57,000 for the Borlaug-Ruan International Internship Program and honored former congressman Jim Leach and former Senator John Culver for their public service, and Dr. Ignacio Ponseti for his pioneering method of treating children born with clubfoot, a congenital bone defect.

    The guest list was a who's who of Iowa politics, including Governor Chet Culver, son of the former senator.

    The dinner also honors two Iowans who made their marks in both humanitarian work and in politics: President Herbert Hoover and Vice President Henry A. Wallace. “Their greatest contribution is their inspiration,” Leach said in his speech. “What strikes me is the inspiration more than the successes. “

    Ironically, the dinner's two namesakes strongly disliked each other, said former senator Culver, author of American Dreamer, the definitive Wallace biography. The former senator said Wallace felt a dispute over agricultural policy in the Coolidge administration between his father, Agriculture Secretary Henry C. Wallace, and Hoover, then Commerce Secretary, contributed to Henry C. Wallace's death in 1924. Henry A. Wallace, still nominally a Republican, then supported Democrats Al Smith and Franklin Roosevelt over Hoover during Hoover's two White House bids.

    Leach and former senator Culver received the Hoover-Wallace-Borlaug Public Service Award, named for the dinner's namesakes and for Iowa Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug. The evening's other honoree, Dr. Ponseti, received the Hoover-Wallace Humanitarian award.

    “It was like watching this miracle unfold, one cast change at at time,” said the mother of a child born with clubfoot in a video presentation. The Ponseti Method treats clubfoot with a series of casts, rather than through the old method of invasive surgery that sometimes left patients still unable to walk.

    “The tendons can be stretched by gentle manipulation,” said Ponseti of his method. With a series of cast changes every three to four days immediately after birth, the defect can be fixed in less than a month without surgery or hospitalization. “Any medical professional trained in the method can do it,” said Ponseti.

    Dr. Ponseti describes his life's work as Congressmen Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack and University of Iowa Preisdent Sally Mason listen.

    “This is more than I deserve,” said the very modest 93 year old physician. “It is actually the medical school and the hospital you are honoring, for making it possible for a man to realize his aspirations.”

    Ponseti's aspirations began in his native Spain, where he was a doctor for Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War. He fled to Iowa in 1941, after the Republicans lost the war to dictator Francisco Franco's forces. “That terrible conflict gave birth to a wonderful Iowan,” said Congressman Bruce Braley.

    “Here, I found my home,” said Ponseti.

    “I specialized in the politics of the developing world,” as a professor, said Congressman Dave Loebsack, “and what Dr. Ponseti has done is especially important in the developing world.”

    Loebsack also praised Culver and Leach for their public service in and out of office. There was a little irony, as Loebsack had ended Leach's 30 year congressional career with his 2006 upset win. But Leach was affable toward his former rival.

    “When Congressman Loebsack was introduced I almost applauded more loudly than people thought possible,” said Leach, now head of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, “because he made possible my job change.”

    Jim Leach

    Leach seemed relieved to have moved to academia, and offered words of caution about modern political culture. “There is a sense increasing in America that maybe the best and the brightest are not being attracted to public life,” he said, “and that's something we need to think through very deeply.”

    “American politics is to an overwhelming extent today about salesmanship,” said Leach, noting that both Hoover and Wallace were multi-talented men in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson. “Increasingly, America is a place where success is measured by advancing personal ambition, rather than serving others” as Hoover and Wallace did, he said.

    Former senator Culver focused his remarks more on Wallace than on his own career. He said the occasion of Wallace's death in 1965, during his own first term in Congress, inspired him to become Wallace's biographer.

    “Wallace had been out of public life 15 years, and he was so controversial in 1950 that he's been written out of history. He'd become a non-person,” said the former senator. “I became very curious. I was struck by what an extraordinary life he'd had, and I decided some day I wanted to write his story. It was important to him and the world to give him a more appropriate place in history.” That story was finally published 35 years later, and was recently produced for television by PBS.

    “The next Wallace or Hoover or Borlaug or Culver or Leach or Ponseti may be in an Iowa classroom today,” said governor Culver, as the ten 2008 interns in The Borlaug-Ruan Program were introduced. The governor's speech offered no unique remarks about the former senator, other then his saying “my father” as he named the three honorees.

    “I cannot think of another experience that has shaped my life to that extent,” said former program participant Curtis O'Loughlin of his internship in India. O'Loughlin will graduate from the University of Iowa College of Medicine next month.

    Other prominent guests included former governors Bob Ray and Terry Branstad, former congressman Mike Blouin, most of the statewide elected officials and legislative leadership, University of Iowa President Sally Mason, and former Ambassador Kenneth Quinn.

    Saturday, April 19, 2008

    King Rallies Troops In 2nd District

    King Rallies Troops In 2nd District

    “Nobody wonders where I stand,” Congressman Steve King told 2nd Congressional District Republicans Saturday, making a detour out of his own 5th District to rally the eastern Iowa GOP troops at their district convention in Iowa City.

    In a brief Iowa Independent interview, King stood behind the rhetorical style that’s earned him scorn from liberals and Worst Person In The World “honors” from the media, but solid support from Republican activists.

    “I just tell the truth, and I’m waiting for somebody to stand up and say ‘I have a different number, I have a different statistic,’” he said. “But they don’t. They just want to call names. So when you get to that point you’ve already won the debate.”

    King, whose high profile endorsement of Fred Thompson failed to give the former Tennessee senator much traction in the January caucuses, now says he’s fully behind the party’s certain nominee, John McCain. “There are some folks who have a ways to go yet, but it’s coming, because they understand the rationale,” he told Iowa Independent.

    “With John McCain we can rebuild the Reagan coalition and become a governing coalition again,” he told delegates.

    King strongly defended McCain’s position on the Iraq war and attacked the Democrats. “You cannot tell people you support the troops if you do not support their mission there,” he said. “Those things are linked together.

    Iowa Republican Party chair Stewart Iverson echoed King’s thoughts on the war. “We all want to see this brought to and end as quickly as possible,” Iverson told delegates. “The difference is, we want to win.”

    Supreme Court appointments are one of the critical issues to Republican activists, and King told delegates the next president may appoint two to four justices that may be able to overturn Roe v. Wade. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be the model for Obama or Hillary,” he said. “Many of us have worked a lifetime to get here, and if we go backward in this presidential race, we can write this off for my lifetime.”

    Despite his support for McCain, King still acknowledged some disappointment that “we aren’t going to elect a president who supports the Fair Tax.” The flat, consumption based tax was a centerpiece of the Mike Huckabee campaign, and support from the Fair Tax group was credited with helping Huckabee to the second-place finish in the August 2007 straw poll that started him on the road to his caucus victory.

    Next weekend’s Democratic conventions are likely to draw heavy attention from state and even national media. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama delegates, and some John Edwards diehards, will face off to elect the state’s first actual national delegates. But Republicans don’t elect national delegates until June, their nomination fight is settled, and the press table was pretty lonely except for the Cedar Rapids Gazette’s James Lynch and myself.

    The speeches by King and other party leaders were the highlight of a convention otherwise taken up by election of party officers and platform debate. “I’ll be happy as long as someone throws in eminent domain and property rights” in the platform, said state representative Jeff Kaufmann of Wilton, who has focused on the issue during his two House terms. While he didn’t endorse anyone during the caucuses, Kaufmann says he’s firmly behind McCain. “In my heart, I think he’s the only candidate who gives us a chance and reaches out to independents,” he said.

    One of those independents is Hani Elkadi of Iowa City. Elkadi used to be active in the Democrats, but left the party “because of Bill Clinton, to be honest.” He said he is still undecided about many state and federal races, but “that’s the best thing about being an independent.”

    One new face at the GOP convention was Clyde Cleveland of Fairfield, the 2002 Libertarian candidate for governor. Cleveland moved to the GOP to support Ron Paul. “We have to turn this country around now,” he said. “We don’t have time to build a third party.”

    Cleveland is less than pleased with McCain. “He has an F minus with gun owners. It’s hard for a Goldwater Republican like me, who grew up a constitutionalist, to support him. Is he a lesser of three evils? Sure,” Cleveland said, comparing McCain to Obama and Clinton. “We just have to do the best we can do now.”

    Other former supporters of other Republicans are more positive. “I’ve got real hope for McCain,” said state senator Jim Hahn of Muscatine, who was an early Mitt Romney supporter. “He’s got some good attributes.”

    Red Watson of Fairfield echoed the sentiment that McCain was the best of the three remaining major candidates, but was more enthusiastic than Cleveland. “McCain believes that life begins at conception,” he said.

    Congressional candidate Lee Harder said he is hopeful that McCain “may be more conservative as a president than he was as a senator.”

    Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey acknowledged 2006 was a tough year for Iowa Republicans in his speech. Northey himself was one of the party’s few bright spots; he took over the agriculture job while his party lost the state house and senate and two congressional seats. “This is built one election at a time,” he said.

    As a former state legislator, King says he still keeps a close eye on state issues. He said the Democratic trifecta of governor, house and senate has given Republicans “banner issues for our statehouse candidates to run on,” singling out Renee Schulte of Cedar Rapids, who is running against Democratic freshman Art Staed.

    Linn County Republican chair Jim Conklin said, “the party is still growing, though not as fast as I want.” He said the party is coming together after the caucus season, unlike the other party.

    “I hope Hillary and Obama keep helping McCain get elected,” he said.

    Aside: Steve King’s one-liner when faced with a liberal blogger in a raspberry beret was fully in character: “If I need somebody to go get me a bottle of French wine, can you do that?” My response, of course: “Oui, oui.”

    Friday, April 18, 2008

    2nd District Republican Convention

    2nd District GOP Candidates To Highlight Convention

    The only contested Republican U.S. House primary in Iowa will take center stage Saturday at the 2nd Congressional District convention in Iowa City.

    Lee Harder, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and Peter Teahen will face off in the June 3 primary for the right to face first term Democrat Dave Loebsack in November.

    Miller-Meeks, an Ottumwa ophthalmologist, is emphasizing health care in her bid. Teahen, owner of a Cedar Rapids funeral home, has made a name as a Red Cross spokesperson in disaster areas.

    Miller-Meeks and Teahen are portraying relatively moderate profiles, in the image of the district’s 30-year representative, Jim Leach, who lost to Loebsack in one of 2006’s biggest surprises. Still, both have their conservative backers. Teahen’s campaign manager is Wes Enos, who managed Mike Huckabee’s winning Iowa caucus effort. Todd Versteegh, who spent the caucus cycle with the Fair Tax organization, is backing Miller-Meeks.

    But if moderates split between Miller-Meeks and Teahen, that could leave an opening for Harder, a Hillsboro minister and conservative activist who is emphasizing social issues like abortion and immigration.

    The district convention gives Harder, Miller Meeks and Teahen a chance to make their case to party activists, but there won’t be a formal endorsement from delegates. Platform debate and election of party officers will be the main business of the day. While Democrats will start electing their national convention delegates at their congressional district conventions April 26, Republicans don’t choose national delegates until another congressional district meeting on June 13. That event will be in Des Moines, a day before the state convention.

    Iowa's other four congressional districts have one Republican candidate each. 4th District Rep. Tom Latham and 5th District Rep. Steve King are seeking re-election. In the 1st District, Davenport state senator David Hartsuch is challenging first term Rep. Bruce Braley. Republican Party activist Kim Schmett will face the winner of the 3rd District's Democratic primary between Rep. Leonard Boswell and challenger Ed Fallon.

    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Debate So Bad No One Can Play It

    Debate Screwed Up So Bad No One Can Play It

    There's an old baseball story, probably apocryphal, variously attributed to Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, Frankie Frisch, or some other manager. Player makes a couple errors in a row. Manager pulls the guy, says "I'll play it myself," promptly makes an error. Punchline: "You screwed up third base so bad no one can play it."

    That was last night's debate. I'm dumbfounded to the point of inarticulate. Charles Gibson and George Snuffleuppagus were so stupid that no one can say anything intelligent. The first non-cable, broadcast network, prime time debate of the season, with the largest potential audience, and they wasted the first full half of the debate entirely on tabloid gotcha. The candidates didn't sink to ABC's level as much as they got mired in it.

    The latest worst. debate. ever. -- but they were saying that back in December about the Des Moines Register debate, too, for exactly the opposite reasons.

    Hey, ABC "News" -- can I have those two hours of my life back?

    Wednesday, April 16, 2008

    Springsteen Endorses Obama

    Boss Backs Barack

    When you see the recent clips of the “Alabama” part of Pennsylvania, the rustiest parts of the Rust Belt, you can almost hear the Springsteen soundtrack.
    Now Main Street's whitewashed windows and vacant stores
    Seems like there ain't nobody wants to come down here no more
    They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
    Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back to your hometown

    And Obama hits today with the ultimate rebuttal to Bittergate: the Bruce Springsteen endorsement.

    Sure, he’s a niche artist nowdays, though the niche is still big enough to get a Number One chart debut for last year’s “Magic” album. (As Dennis Miller once said of Steely Dan, that may be because all the fans are 50 years old and can’t figure out how to download it for free.) A crossover country hunk like, say, Tim McGraw (one of the few country stars who's openly a Democrat), might have meant more with the target audience for next Tuesday than the aging (58) Springsteen.

    And it’s worth debating how relevant any celebrity endorsement is, though the celebrity-obsessed political media culture will no doubt overkill this. Especially since most of the gatekeepers are old white guys (like me) who can't connect to anything that came out post-Cobain or post-hiphop except for retro-throwback Sheryl Crow, and will latch on to a rock star they actually recognize. Probably with a lot of bad lyrical references included; Obama was "Born To Run" for president, how will this endorsement play on the "Streets of Philadelphia," etc. (That was a preemptive pun strike on my part.)

    It helps more than Hillary's Elton John fundraiser, which is now under attack because Captain Fantastic is a British subject. Which somebody should have figured out way ahead of time; I knew Elton was British when I was about nine, when "Crocodile Rock" was brand new and was one of the first 45s I bought. Question: if the wingers are attacking Elton for being foreign, instead of for being gay, is that progress or not?

    But back to Bruce. The Obama endorsement is of a piece with Springsteen’s work since his urban landscape turned into an abandoned moonscape. It’s a long way from 1984, when Ronald Reagan tried to steal “Born In The USA” away from Springsteen, and Bruce: 1) wouldn’t let him and 2) got us to actually listen to the lyrics. It doesn't get much more "bitter" than that, even if it's set to a rousing shout-along chorus. Check out the demo version from the "Nebraska" session on the "Tracks" box set to get a quite different interpretation.

    This will go down as one of the last nails in the coffin of Bittergate; the last nail will be whatever line Obama has ready for tonight's debate.