Thursday, July 31, 2008

Barack Obama: Obama Cedar Rapids Liveblog

BaraCOEbama: Obama Cedar Rapids Liveblog

It's 9:59 and I'm in. That took a little longer than it used to back in the caucus days. There was Secret Service presence at Obama events almost from the beginning, but now it's the full, near-presidential drill: the ambulance on standby, the sweep with the portable metal detector (I can never see that without thinking of Harry Shearer in This Is Spinal Tap) -- everything but the military aide carrying the nuclear launch codes. I was worried that the bomb smelling dog would go off on my laptop case, because the cats like to nap in it.

The speech itself isn't scheduled until 11:30. Obama's also supposed to meet with some flood victims but that's closed limited press. Let me set the scene here: 600 or so chairs on the floor and maybe about as much bleacher seating. It'll be the standard TV picture: a backdrop of bleacher people behind the candidate. The podium has the blue sign with the small Obama logo and the ECONOMIC SECURITY slogan we've seen in recent days.

Economy is supposed to be the theme, but maybe we'll get lucky and hear something colorful like the dueling references we heard in Springfield MO yesterday (you can make your own Zell Miller joke.)

10:15 and there's a sudden surge in the pace at which folks are getting admitted. It turns out to be the section of people seated behind Obama in the camera's line of sight -- the chosen backdrop people. A diverse mix of age, gender, race and clothing; maybe a half dozen SEIU tshirts out of 100 or so people. No VIPs that I can recognize from up here in the balcony.

10:38 and I'm back from a walk around the neighborhood. There's a fellow with a very old fashioned looking camera on the stage, complete with a hood over his head. As I chat with some friends, a staffer comes by and explains: "We're going to take a wide shot with a very old kind of camera, so when we announce it you have to kind of sit still."

"If you have a sticker on your ticket, please see the gentleman in the blue shirt," a volunteer says to people on the way in. That leads me to the chosen ones behind the stage. The sticker isn't some sort of hologram, Secret Service issued laminated thing: it's just a tab that you can get at any office supply store in a specific color.

The people in the TV backdrop area start asking me questions before I start asking them questions: "How many rows back can you see on TV? Will I be on TV?" I indicate about rows two through six, and a couple people scrunch in. Turns out there may not be a lot of science to it; one of them notes that she just happened to know one of the local staffers. I note that the folks in row one might not be on TV but have a better shot at a handshake, and a few people seem to be considering which option is the better deal.

There's a second filled-up section that will be visible from a second TV platform directly below me, for the profile view with a crowd off in the distance. The floor seating is about full but only the tele-visible parts of the bleachers are.

The vocal hubbub is louder than the music, though I manage to make out Clapton's "Change The World." They should throw on Tom Petty's "The Waiting" -- you know, the hardest part.

At 10:57 an announcement from the stage; the audio starts out muddy then someone hits a switch and it immediately improves. No big, just the volunteer and absentee ballot pitch. But it's a sign that things are more or less underway, as the off-camera bleachers begin to fill.

Chanting is starting at 11:12 -- the old caucus standard, "I-O-W-A, Barack Obama All The Way" -- and more significantly, some of the local dignitaries are showing up after a very low key meet and greet with the candidate for elected officials.

About half of the press gallery is saved for the Boys On The Bus traveling national press crowd. It's the half closer to the exit -- fast in, fast out. They're arriving at 11:20. All looking very intent, no standing round time to talk to a (shudder) blooger for media-interviews-the-media stories. I know I meant blogger, but I like "blooger." I find myself between Reuters and Ed Tibbets of the Quad City Times.

Running playlist includes "Celebrate" by Kool and the Gang, "I'll Take You There" by the Staple Singers.

Pretty much full at 11:26 except for aisles in the bleachers. Warming up, too. Today is one of those days that's so hot and humid that you never completely dry off after you get out of the shower, and 1000 or so bodies generate some temperature.

"I-O-W-A, Barack Obama All The Way"

"I-O-W-A, Barack Obama All The Way"

"I-O-W-A, Barack Obama All The Way"

"I-O-W-A, Barack Obama All The Way"

"I-O-W-A, Barack Obama All The Way"


AAAND- He's Here. 11:32, right on time.

Half of the local introductory speaker is drowned out up in press row. "When i vote this fall, it'l be the first time in 25 years that I'll vote for a Dem for president."

Obama leads with the flood, natch. "THe commitment I ake to you -- I am going to do everything in my power as a US Senator and hopefully as president to"-- to do something good, because it's drowned out by applause. Emphasized need to make decisions in timely fashion, stronger levees and higher floodwalls.

But immediate relief is not enough -- that provides the transition into the main body of the speech.

"Given the magnitude of our challenges.. you'd think we'd be having a serious debate. But so far, all we've been hearing about is Paris Hilton. (appl) I have to ask my opponent - is that the best you can come up with? EVen the media has pointed out that McCain has fallen vback into predictable attacks and demonstrably false statements."

And that's not going to lower your gas prices, bring your job back, etc. "The time for game playing is over."

"We can't afford to let dictators dictate our foreign policy, hold it hostage to our oil addiction."

"While big oil is making record profits, you're paying record places. We can't wait any longer, that's one of the coices we've got in this election."

"Under my opponents plan we pay billions more, we stay in the cycle of oil addiction. We need to fundamentally change."

"We need immediate relief and long term relief." Energy rebate, right now, hundreds of dollars, to help you get through the next few months. My bet is that's the national lede for the day. Longer term: close down oil speculator loopholes.

Increase domestic production where we can -- using existing leases. "WHen they use all those up, then we can start talking about more leases. We need to give them a choice: you use those leases or you lose them." Says it could increase production 75%.

"If I thought we could solve all our problems by opeining up additional areas, then I'd do it." "But the truth is, we can't drill our way out of this problem" because we use 25% of world's supply. "I don't want our children's future dependent on what other coutries do."

Pledges 5 million new green energy jobs. "Not just sort term gimmicks but long term transformation." Double fuel economy in 20 years; McCain has opposed higher mileage.

"I've seen steel mills in PA that were once empty now working again, making wind turbines that you'll use here in Iowa."

"It's too important to be going on the path of least resistance, doing business as usual. It is time for the American people to take control of our destiny again." Gives a shout out to the Feb. `07 Cedar Rapids visit, "our very first campaign stop."

"The cynics said it was a lot of celebrity, a little too much hope. The attacks havent changed much, but the people of Iowa believe the future can be different."


12:04. "We want to spend a little time hearing from you, maybe a half hour, 25 minutes." Q and A time. "I'm fair and impartial, we're gonna go boy girl boy girl."

First questioner: Short term long term economic plans. Obama: Combination of housing and oil means tight credit. "We have to shore up the housing market, not only for families but for the health of the economy." Step two is financial regulation ,particulary predatory loans. Step 3 is energy assistance - gas and heating.

Long term: less dependence on oil. "We have 3% of the world's oil reserves and use 25% of the oil. We can't drill our way out of this. We have to redesign how we use energy, and we can do it." Talks about electric cars that can actually sell power back to the grid. He's out from the podium, walking around.

"Think about what a rejuvenating auto industry would mean to the midwest. Michigan. Ohio. Iowa. Missour-ah." List of states: Yeeeeah!

Second long term step is health care. "I'm going to put forth a plan where evenybody who needs health care can get it, and everybody who gets health care can afford it." Step 3 is infrastructure. "We should plan each and every year. It shouldn't be this random pork barrel process." If people tell you we can't afford it, look at what we're spending in Iraq -- biggest applause yet.

12:17 "I know this is a really long answer but this is a really good question." Step 4 is education and a teacher says "yessss!"

Question two actually IS education, and No Child Left Behind. Obama: "The idea behind No Child Left Behind is the right one, that we have to raise our standards." Schools were designed for the agricultural age and need to adapt. "I'm a big believer in reform, but here's the problem. If you're measuring simply based on one standardized test... I'm reminded of a saying an Iowa farmer said: just weighing the pig doesn't fatten the hog." Teaching to the test, untested subjects pushed out. "I would completely redesign the assessments." Standardized tests OK, but "don't have the entire curriculum based around a standardized test" and the rest of the answer is drowned by applause.

Special ed funding, early child... "the parents have to instill..." and more loud applause. This is like being at the ballgame: it's exciting to be here, but you see and hear it better on TV.

Question three, monetary policy. Obama: turns it toward government fiscal policy and deficit. "I don't think our problem is too much money in the system, our problem is big structural deficits that have to be dealt with." "We're passing off our debt to our children -- that little guy there, yeah, you."

"I don't think we had a choice with Freddie MAc and Fannie Mae. The possibility of a complete loss of confidence in the financial markets was a real possibility."

Roll back tax cuts on wealthiest Americans, finish the war in Iraq, get a handle on health care policy -- all good applause lines in this crowd (which walked in the door mostly pre-persuaded.)

Next question: Education again, more just a statement about parents taking responsibility and talking about her kid. Obama: "I'm gonna call on another woman, because that wasn't really a question." Mostly inaudible except "my husband had diabetes." So let's say health care.

Obama: "If you qualify for medicare you'll continue to get it. If you have a private plan that is working for you, you can keep it, we're going to work with your employer to lower the premiums, as much as $2500 a year. If you don't have insurance... you will be able to buy into a health care plan similar to the one I have as a federal employee." Non-demagogic wording - he says 'federal employee' instad of 'membeof Congress.' "We will have a staggered subsidy system." Then he moves to preventive diabetes care, HE must have heard the question.

Last question. Job outsourcing, NAFTA, and a nibble at immigration. Obama: "The conomy has changed, it's global, and some of that is not going to change." "But we CAN say, we're not going to give you tax incentives," we can make sure trade agreements are fair and reciprocal with labor and health standards. Immigration: "When it comes to legal immigration, there should be a certification. If an American can do it companies shuld not be able to hire." But there are specialties with shortages. "Fair, less bureaucrtic, faster." As for illegal, he emphasized employer sanctions. "But for people who came here illegally but nor have roots here, kids in school, we have to get them out of the shadows" with a path to citizenship. "Try to hang on to the jobs we've got but try to create the jobs of the future." Which returns him to the energy economy Theme Of The Day. "Those jobs can't be outsourced. Those windmills? You've got to put`em up right here."

"Most Americans know in their gut that we've got to change - even my Republican opponent. The reason they spend all their time taling about me, is they jsut don't have any new ideas." "All you do is replace the name every four years. He's too liberal, he's gonna raise your taxes. But people know this election is different."

"What is risky: Taking a chance on change, or making the same mistakes again?" And that's what he leaves us with at 12:41.

The music is Springsteen's "The Rising," which Edwards used at caucus time, but actually had integrated into a "rise up" cadence at the end of the speech. Then the old Obama standby "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." Someone in the handshake scrum is actually wearing a Joe Biden tshirt. Is that a plug for the VP? The names we keep hearing are Kaine, Sebelius, Bayh... but he said nothing on that subject, and wasn't going to roll that one out in Cedar Rapids anyway.

Most of the crowd heads out the door -- I wonder if, being Iowans, the handshake scrum is less intense because we had so many chances before? The more diligent volunteers are folding the chairs at 12:51, even as Obama still shakes hands, Most of the national traveling press is still in their seats, writing.

12:54 and he's out the door, as the stragglers quickly head to the exits. No further news here; let's call it an afternoon.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Iowa City Flood Cleanup Complicated for Condominium

Iowa City Flood Cleanup Complicated for Condominium

Complicated legal arrangements have left residents of Iowa City's Idyllwild neighborhood with plenty of flood buyout questions.

Residents are also questioning flood management, in particular a temporary coffer dam on the University of Iowa campus that raised flood waters above 1993 levels.

The city and the Idyllwild residents are on the same page: “Council's instructions are to pursue a full buyout of these properties,” said Iowa City manager Michael Lombardo. But the devil is in the details.

The Idyllwild development, just across the Iowa River from lower City Park, consists of 23 four unit structures. Residents own their units “ from the paint in,” said resident Martha Monick at a Tuesday night meeting. The grounds are owned by a 92 member homeowners association, and each condominium owner is assessed 1/92 of the maintenance. “You can't take apart a 92 member association,” said Monick.

The homeowners association has voted in favor of the buyout, and attorneys argue that the vote is binding and no one owner would be able to refuse to sell. But FEMA coordinating officer Bill Vogel said that a buyout would require a voluntary request from each of the 92 owners, a pronouncement that edged the anxiety level in the room up a notch.

The flood plain map also complicates matters. Some of the individual units are in the 100 year flood plain, some are in the 500 year plain, and some straddle the line. “I think, frankly, that the flood plain maps are incorrect,” said Idyllwild resident Charlie Eastham. He said he had suffered a $150,000 loss on a home he purchased for $180,000 four years ago, and without assistance he may face bankruptcy.

John Wagemann, stare hazard mitigation officer, said an entire complex may be eligible for a buyout, even if some individual units would not qualify. “If we spend a dollar, we have to prove it will save more by avoided damages,” he said.

Ultimately, the decision is local. “There is no 'FEMA buyout' program,” said Wagemann. “The buyout program is really the city of Iowa City's program. FEMA provides some of the money, but it is your city's.”

But FEMA may not provide enough money to buy out all of the damaged properties. “We need to look at the state as a whole,” said Wagemann. “Based on available funding, we have to make some decisions.”

City officials are looking at other streams of money, including Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). “Do we recolor money as CDBG money? If we do that it has less strings attached,” said David Miller, state Homeland Security administrator. “That's one of the things we're struggling with now.”

Wagemann said the entire buyout process could take nine months to a year. Residents, in the meantime, are frustrated.

A particular point of contention was a temporary coffer dam on the University of Iowa campus, which raised flood levels upstream as much as a foot and a half. The 50 or so people at the meeting were shocked when Bill Cappuccio of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said his department had not been aware of the dam until last week. He said normally, such a structure would have been removed.

“We at Idyllwild we received no notification, but the coffer dam put us in a different flood plain because of mitigating circumstances,” said resident Mary Wallace, asking who should have been responsible for notifying residents.

Even as they clean up and consider their next steps, Idyllwild residents want to prevent future flooding. “Build a levee on Normandy. Raise the spillway. Use the Coralville reservoir for what it was intended for – flood control,” said one resident to applause. “People can recreate elsewhere. Please be proactive.”

Freecycle Pays It Forward

Freecycle Pays It Forward

Last night's rain left hundreds of overstuffed couches, eager for a new home, on the curbs of Iowa City. It's moving week, as college town leases all expire simultaneously, and everyone wants to get rid of junk.

How about the 21st century approach of doing it online? claims four million members in local groups worldwide. The attitude is pay it forward and the approach is simple: post your wants or offers to a Yahoo! group, irst come first served, the recipient generally does the hauling.

"What goes around, comes around," said Iowa City group member Linda Stipe. "I have felt that moving articles out of my living space gives me gifts that are spiritually based." Stipe has not yet asked for anything, but has given away a camper trailer, an outdoor umbrella for a patio table, space heaters, tools, fencing, televisions, bedding, paint, tool boxes, and clothing. "If I need something in the future, I believe all I have to do is ask for it," she said. "I also like to make people happy -- it makes me happy."

"I found freecycle when looking for baby items," said Andrew Gall. "We have a 6 month old and she loves her exersaucer that we got for free through this service. In fact, it is her favorite toy of all! It figures that her favorite toy is one we got for free." Gall said he also gave away a dog kennel.

The group is moderated and repeat requests are limited to once every month. The quick, just a keyboard away system is something members like. "I’m too lazy to have a garage sale or consign my stuff, but am happy to give it away to keep my house organized if someone will come and get it," said Lisa Van Hofwegen.

The free-to-a-good-home approach (yes, pets are often offered) is also a benefit -- or, as Dorothy Miller put it, an answer to a prayer, "Due to loss of our business we were downsized in our income and became unable to afford the lifestyle we were used to. When I began leading a Bible Study group in my home I desperately needed some more 4 more chairs and another small table," she said. "I was blessed to find not only four but five chairs and a small table perfect for my need -- and it looks 'just like me" and the rest of the decor in my home.

Miller also likes the social aspects of Freecycle. "I also have had fun sharing things such as heirloom houseplants and garden produce and think it breeds a great sense of community," she said. "I have met folks from Iowa City, Coralville, Wellman and Kalona, folks I would not have otherwise met."

Turnaround time can be very fast. (This blogger asked for a computer and within two hours I picked up a three year old Dell from a graduating medical student who was moving to the East Coast. My six year old was happily playing games on it that same evening.) Subscriptions are available both in daily digest form and as individual posts, but digest subscribers may miss out.

"The best thing I gave was a guitar to a family of nine who all wanted to learn to play," said Lisa Van Hofwegen. "My great-grandma gave the guitar to me, but I never learned to play myself. Since my grandma grew up in the dust bowl, she was a great believer in wasting not and would love this site."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Barth May Run In 2nd Congressional District

Greens May Run In 2nd CD

Wendy Barth, the 2006 Green Party candidate for governor, is considering a run for the 2nd Congressional District seat now held by Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Mt. Vernon.

Barth would be the fourth announced candidate, joining Loebsack, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and independent Brian White.

Barth (left) with Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney (center) in December.

"My record as a peace activist speaks for itself," Barth told Iowa Independent. "Bring the troops home, redirect the military budget to social programs that can provide real security, and encourage Israel to establish more respectful relations with their neighbors so they won't feel like they need so many weapons from us."

Barth declined to criticize Loebsack or the other candidates. "My opponents are all fine well-meaning people, courageously putting themselves into the spotlight," she said. "If we can use the media as a forum to explain our positions on the issues, the voters will be able to make an educated choice."

Barth's supporters are planning a Saturday meeting in Iowa City to make further plans.

The Barth candidacy represents a change in strategy for the Greens. "There were a couple mentions of running someone for Congress," Green Party secretary Holly Hart told Iowa Independent in late June, "but then Loebsack started voting against the military budgets."

"I had been toying with this idea for a while, but thought I should pragmatically spend a few more months saving my paychecks before I go out on the campaign trail again," Barth explained. "However, several people expressed to me the need to have a wider selection of candidates for the US House seat this fall, and it was pretty easy to get me to agree to be their candidate."

"I intend to run an issue-oriented campaign focusing on sustainability and the environment," said Barth. "We need to careful not to invest our precious last drops (of oil) in wasteful boondoggles. With my long-standing interest in the environment and alternative energy, I believe I have something meaningful to contribute to this very important issue, and if elected, the voters can be assured that I intend to act on these principles."

Barth needs 300 signatures by August 15 to qualify for the ballot.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Jim Leach's Wife Donates $1000 To Obama

Jim Leach's Wife Donates $1000 To Obama

Elisabeth Leach, wife of former Iowa Republican Congressman Jim Leach, donated $1,000 to Democrat Barack Obama's presidential campaign on June 30, the quarterly reporting deadline.

Elisabeth Leach listed her occupation as art historian and author on the Federal Election Commission campaign finance report. Her works include Grant Wood: The Artist in the Hayloft, published in 2004.

The June donation was Elisabeth Leach's second donation of at least $250 to Obama. She also donated $250 on March 24.

Jim Leach was considered the most moderate Republican in Congress during much of his 30-year tenure. He lost his seat to Democrat Dave Loebsack in one of 2006's biggest upsets. Since his defeat, Jim Leach has been a visiting professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Government at his alma mater, Princeton, and at the John. F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

The Leachs maintain their permanent address and voter registration in rural Iowa City, where they moved after the 2001 redistricting. Both remain registered Republicans. Elisabeth Leach's June donation lists this Iowa address. The March donation lists the suburban Maryland address where the Leachs stayed while Jim Leach was in Congress.

Jim Leach specifically declined to endorse any Republican (or, for that matter, Democratic) presidential candidate during a November interview with Iowa Independent. At that time, he said of Obama:
“I think the Democratic Party, based on where I feel the issues are, would be wiser to lean towards Barack Obama vis-à-vis Hillary (Clinton). I think Barack has a greater chance, and I think it was put very well by Ted Sorenson who is a great friend of mine, has a greater chance of kind of reflecting a new Camelot, a John F. Kennedy mode, than perhaps the other Democratic candidates.”

FEC records do not show any donations of $250 or more by Jim Leach to any candidates for any federal office.

Stuff I Found This Weekend

Stuff I Found This Weekend

It's moving week in Iowa City, and I am an unabashed curb shopper (last year's story). We had rain last night, leaving hundreds of overstuffed couches waterlogged on the streets of Iowa City. But before the rain, I scored: a desk, a couple wooden chairs, a plastic set of drawers, a folding wooden TV tray, three undamaged laundry baskets, and a dry erase board that the boys are having a blast coloring.

Us old timers know how to live cheap. Now that I'm a grandfather I get to talk about The Olden Days, and with gas prices zooming we may see a lot of old-time thrift returning. Even my parents were acknowledging that over their weekend visit that lifestyles were going to change. Maybe not in their time but certainly in mine. and we got on a tangent about oranges trucked up from Florida in January at $5 a gallon and how that was probably going to go away, replaced by the concept of locally grown food in season.

Which gave me the perfect excuse to unload a bag of zucchini from The Smallest Farm on them.

Going local is a good thing, says this article on the lost concept of neighborhood:
More and more people are coming to appreciate the advantages of being able to shop and work the same place they live—especially now that most workplaces and stores are far more benign than at the height of the industrial age. It only makes sense to arrange our lives so we can meet many of our daily needs without climbing into a car. That was the natural pattern of human settlement throughout history until about 1950.

Joel Stein of the LA Times thinks one thing that would help olks go reeeealy local would be $8 gas. He acknowledges some elitism -- "Sure, $8 gas is unfair to poor people, but so is all of capitalism" -- but says in the 50 year long run we'll be happier:
Studies show that the only thing that consistently increases personal happiness is social interaction; high gas prices have led to real estate prices falling faster in suburbs and exurbs than in cities, so we may soon have more content downtown-dwellers. Those same studies show that the thing that makes people least happy is commuting, and telecommuting is way up this year. We could use the tax revenue to fund public transportation.

A couple loose links:

E.J. Dionne says this is finally the year that young people are going to vote. It true, we'll see it coming first in Iowa City.

Relatively new blog The Iowa Brigade has loads of info on Republican legislative candidates.

Fall Filing Begins

Fall Filing Begins

The filing period for third party and independent candidates trying to qualify for the Nov. 4 ballot begins Monday, and at least two independent congressional candidates could make the cut.

The filing period runs through August 15, which is also the deadline for Democrats and Republicans to file some of the 36 uncontested races for the Iowa legislature.

In the 4th Congressional District, third place Democratic primary finisher William Meyer appears to be moving ahead with an independent campaign, and newcomer Brian White is planning a run in the 2nd Congressional District.

On the presidential level, Iowa usually sees about eight candidates on the ballot, though a whopping 14 qualified in 1992. Green Party activist Holly Hart was working the Ped Mall of downtown Iowa City Saturday night, and said she thinks the Greens will gather the 1,500 signatures needed to get nominee Cynthia McKinney on the ballot.

Libertarian Bob Barr and independent Ralph Nader are also likely to qualify. Nader and McKinney are expected to draw votes away from Barack Obama, while Barr is expected to take votes from John McCain.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Olive Court Closed

Popular Tailgating and Campaigning Spot Closed

One of the most popular tailgating sites for Iowa Hawkeye Fans is no more. Olive Court has been sold.

Olive Court was a popular campaign stop for presidential candidates on the caucus trail. Ron Paul spoke to a rowdy crowd last year, but the most famous event was in 2006, when John Kerry was offered a "beer bong." Not long after that, Kerry opted out of the 2008 race, but that may have had more to do with his poor poll standing than with the embarrassing picture.

Up to 700 vehicles parked at Olive Court, a short walking or stumbling distance from Kinnick Stadium.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports that the property will be developed. Olive Court was one of the few unbuilt lots in University Heights, an independent city completely surrounded by Iowa City that is well known for its enthusiastic enforcement of speed limits.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mock Election Gives Dems Bragging Rights, Good Outlook

Mock Election Gives Dems Bragging Rights, Good Outlook

It's hard to draw firm conclusions from a “poll” that lets small children vote. But with a decade long track record, the mock election at the Johnson County fair has at least been an indicator of which way the wind is blowing.

The Johnson County Auditor's office started running the mock vote in 1999, and has only missed one year since. If the patterns of the past hold, the mock results indicate a good year for Democrats.

Barack Obama's 66.5 percent at the fair was well ahead of John Kerry's 56.5 percent in 2004. Granted, this is the heavily Democratic People's Republic of Johnson County. But comparing results from past July mock votes to the final November tally shows that the fair crowd leans a bit more rural and Republican than the county as a whole. Kerry improved to 64.1 percent in Johnson County in the fall, but that big Johnson County margin wasn't enough to make up the deficit for Kerry elsewhere in Iowa as George Bush carried the state.

Barack Obama (Dem)48266.5%
John McCain (Rep)19126.3%
Bob Barr (Libt)162.2%
Cynthia McKinney (Green)141.9%
Ralph Nader (Nom. Pet.)121.7%
Chuck Baldwin (Const)40.6%
Brian Moore (Soc)30.4%
Roger Calero (Soc Work)30.4%
US Senate
Tom Harkin (Dem)48668.5%
Christopher Reed (Rep)17524.6%
Diana Newberry (Soc. Work)496.9%
US Representative
Dave Loebsack (Dem)45664.8%
Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Rep)18826.7%
Brian White (Nom. Pet.)608.5%
Constitutional Amendment (50% required)
Conservation Bond (60% required)
Total Voters738

Just as notable as the Democratic gain was Republican slippage at the fair this year, as John McCain managed only 26 percent. Bush's totals at the fair, and in the real election, were stable between 2000 and 2004 in Johnson County, with Bush taking about 42 percent in the mock election and 34 percent in the real election both times, with the difference in Democratic margins being due to shifts in third party totals.

Third party votes have been bigger at the fair than in the fall, for a couple reasons. Any poll is a snapshot in time, and historically, third parties have lost support as election day gets closer. And since the mock vote doesn't really count, it's easier to get a protest vote out of your system at the fair.

Yet the county fair was an early indicator in 2004 that the Ralph Nader vote had largely collapsed. Nader took 8 percent of the fair vote in 2000, on his way to 6 percent in Johnson County in the real election. But in 2004, Nader slipped to less than 1 percent at the fair, and was down to 0.5 percent in the real vote. This year, Nader was at 1.7 percent at the fair.

In some sense, the third party tallies at the fair can be considered a none of the above or undecided vote. County fairs, even in Iowa City, are not known as hotbeds of Marxism, so how else to explain the 7 percent that the Socialist Workers candidate for U.S. Senate, Diana Newberry, picked up? That closely matches the 8.5 percent that independent moderate Brian White got in the U.S. House race, and the 7 percent for all the third party presidential candidates together.

The Senate race indicates smooth sailing for Tom Harkin, who won the fair with 68.5 percent to Republican Christopher Reed's 25 percent. That's better than Harkin did in 2002, when he won 60.5 percent at the fair on the way to 65 percent in the real election. The Greens lost two-thirds of their Senate vote between the fair and the fall in 2002, and the math indicates that it shifted to Harkin. The fair exactly predicted Greg Ganske's 32 percent of the fall vote.

The fair predicted bad news for Democrats in the 2002 2nd District congressional race, when highly touted challenger Julie Thomas lost to Jim Leach even as Harkin and Tom Vilsack were winning their mock contests. The 51 percent to 45 percent margin was within two percent off the real election result in the county.

But this year, Dave Loebsack ran about even with Obama and Harkin, at 65 percent to 27 percent for Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks and the aforementioned 8.5 percent for White. (2006 was the one year the auditor's office missed the fair, making the mock election just one more source that didn't see Loebsack's win coming.)

Supporters of a local conservation bond referendum got good news at the fair. The bond will need a 60 percent supermajority to pass, and it carried the fair with 76 percent. But one in eight skipped the measure. Bond supporters are pushing the phrase “turn the ballot over” to remind voters not to forget the $20 million measure.

And, in what may be the only poll of any sort between now and November on the “Idiot Amendment,” fair voters overwhemlingly supported changing the language of the Iowa Constitution from the 19th century term to the more politically correct “mentally incompetent.”

Other mock elections involving children, like the Kids Vote program in schools, show a pattern of younger children following the lead so parents, so maybe that doesn't invalidate the numbers as much as one would think. The Secretary of State will also be running a student mock election on October 30. Last winter, the Secretary of State's mock caucus program for students correctly predicted the finishing order of Obama-Edwards-Clinton on the Democratic side and Huckabee-Romney for the Republicans, though Obama's margin with the students was well above his actual caucus result.

Baby's First Fair

Baby's First Fair

This is, of course, the REALLY important fair story.

My daughter and I have been to the county fair almost every year since she was four, and this year the tradition moves on to the next generation.

There's an excessive cute factor here. Not naming any names, but some people wanted to pick him up and not give him back.

I'm noticing people with babies more now. See, I never really had a baby in my life -- I met my daughter when she was three and my sons when they were four and six. So the baby thing is new for me. I thought we'd be the only people humping a stroller through the cow barn, but babies were everywhere.

People with babies always check out all the other babies and strike up conversations with all the other parents or grandparents. But as they walk away, you can just feel them thinking: "Mine's cuter." And they are, of course, wrong.

Elias isn't quite sure about the piggies yet. He's only four months old so he probably doesn't know yet that he's an Iowan...

but he does know how to hold the bottle.

Mama's beads look like a fun toy.

Grandpa, of course, had to stage this highly partisan shot. I didn't see any elephants.

The World Wants To Love America

They Want To Love America Again

That was what I saw, watching just the conclusion of Obama's Berlin speech. The world wants to love America again.

They never really hated us to begin with. Everyone rallied around us in those dark days in September `01; even Tehran saw pro-American rallies. Never has so much good will not only been squandered, but been inverted and turned to animosity.

Except for a handful in the caves, they didn't hate us. The hate of those few may be irreversible, but they can be made irrelevant, if we are the best America we can be with the rest of the world on our side again.

No, what the world hated was our government, our policies, our war. And they want to love us again. But they can't quite love us yet, not with this government.

Berlin wants to love the America that liberated them from Hitler, and then, with the malice toward none and charity toward all that Lincoln spoke of, rebuilt their shattered continent. They want to love the ideals that America stands for and has done such a poor job living up to.

Maybe that's why the world has been so harsh to us. We were supposed to lead by our example, and we failed horribly. No, not we. George Bush failed horribly, and deliberately, showing the world the worst of ourselves, the worst of rule by force and government by cronyism. They are angry at us with the pain of a jilted lover, and they want to feel loved again.

And they want to love us again.

The presence of the thousands on the Tiergarten, greeted Obama as if he already were our leader, seemed to say, Please. Please be as good as they say you are. Please be as good as America can be. And they showed up in the thousands as if to tell us across the Atlantic, yes he can. We trust this choice, we trust this man -- and we need you to trust him. We need you again.

That's a lot of burden to place on one man's shoulders. He's running for president, not for Messiah. It's wrong to personify all of America in Barack Obama, just as it's wrong to personify us as George W. Bush.

But he's definitely off to a good start.

Four Way Poll

Slicing the Pie Four Ways

New NBC/WSJ poll takes a different look at the race:
Obama enjoys a 47-41 percent advantage over McCain, which is unchanged from last month. The survey was conducted of 1,003 registered voters from Friday to Monday, July 18-21, during Obama's overseas trip. It has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.

But Obama’s lead over McCain expands to 13 points when third-party candidates Ralph Nader and Bob Barr are added into the mix — with Obama at 48 percent, McCain at 35 percent, Nader at 5 percent and Barr at 2 percent. However, it’s important to note that the pro-Obama vote (48 percent) and anti-Obama vote (adding up to 42 percent) is consistent with the result from the two-way match up.

The undecided stays consistent: 12 percent in the two-way, 10 percent in the four-way. I'm still wrestling with this; are people switching from McCain to Nader in the four-way?

Barr is the one who's going to matter, but what's interesting to me is that the four-way is asking Nader, rather than McKinney. Nader has more name ID, but McKinney has an actual party and not just a shrinking band of personal loyalists.

  • I grew up in the three channel glory days of broadcast network television (I'm allowed to sound like a geezer now that I'm a grandfather) when TV political campaigns had little option but to cast a broad net. Which might be why this factoid about Obama's TV buy during Olympic coverage really struck me:
    The last network TV spot bought by a presidential contender was apparently a single multi-minute ad run by Republican Sen. Bob Dole in 1996.

    Or maybe it's because, living in swing state Iowa and watching mostly cable news, I've seen so many spots that I wouldn't notice a national network buy.
  • Larry Sabato launches his own take on Time's "the election won't be close" theme:
    Virtually all of the evidence that we have reviewed--historical patterns, structural features of this election cycle, and national and state polls conducted over the last several months--point to a comfortable Obama/Democratic party victory in November. Trumpeting this race as a toss-up, almost certain to produce another nail-biter finish, distorts the evidence and does a disservice to readers and viewers who rely upon such punditry. Again, maybe conditions will change in McCain's favor, and if they do, they should also be accurately described by the media. But current data do not justify calling this election a toss-up.

  • Lastly, my old crush, South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth (Sandlin) is now expecting, with a due date between election day and the start of the next Congress.
  • Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    Changes in Law Make Ballot Challenges Harder

    Changes in Law Make Ballot Challenges Harder

    Changes in state law which kicked in on July 1 will make it harder to challenge the qualifications of voters, a change which may affect the efforts of Iowa Republicans to, as they've put it, "insure ballot integrity."

    Ballot challenge programs are a relatively new feature to Iowa politics. The number of challenged and provisional ballots have risen dramatically since 2000, as the Democratic Party has ramped up its absentee voter program to the point where some counties are now seeing nearly half their ballots voted before Election Day.

    As one of the closest states in the nation at the presidential level, and one of only three states to switch sides between 2000 and 2004, efforts on the margins can make the difference. In heavily Democratic Johnson County, where Republicans spearheaded a big challenge drive in the last presidential election, the number of provisional ballots counted skyrocketed from 71 in 2000 to 1,358 in 2004.

    The 2004 provisionals were more Democratic than any precinct in Johnson County -- a whopping 77 percent for John Kerry and only 22 percent for Bush. More importantly, another 600 or so challenges were upheld. Those ballots were never counted, but likely had a similar margin.

    Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the ballot challenges cost Kerry a net 300 to 350 votes. That's significant, considering that Al Gore's statewide 2000 margin was about 4,000 votes, and George Bush won Iowa by about 10,000 in 2004.

    In the changes approved by the Democratic-controlled trifecta of House, Senate, and Governor Culver, false challenges are now an aggravated misdemeanor.

    Only a registered voter in the county can make a challenge, and the challenger must provide their name, signature, address and phone number. Any challenge lacking that information will be rejected.

    Some challenges are ruled out entirely. Blanket challenges to whole categories of voters are not allowed, and instead each challenge must be made to an individual voter. And the new election day registration law is covered; a person reporting a change of address at the polls or who is registering on Election Day cannot be challenged on the basis of not being a resident at the address where they are registered to vote.

    Not Supposed To Say That

    You're Not Supposed To Say That

    No journalist likes a predictable landslide -- that's a dull story. SO the press has a self-interest in maintaining the idea that an election is competitive.

    Time takes on this question and concludes:
    Oh, let's just admit it: John McCain is a long shot. He's got a heroic personal story, and being white has never hurt a presidential candidate, but on paper 2008 just doesn't look like his year. And considering what's happening off paper, it might be time to ask the question the horse-race-loving media are never supposed to ask: Is McCain a no-shot?

    Another thing you're not supposed to talk about is age. But that could be decisive. As a down-ballot candidate in 1996, after I knocked on a few thousand doors I came to the conclusion that the presidential race could be summed up in four words: "Bob Dole's too old." (Of course, I lost to a much older opponent, so the idea is not in and of itself decisive.)

    Politico looks at the series of Czechoslovakia and Steelers vs. Packers oopses and more or less calls them senior moments:
    McCain will turn 72 the day after Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) accepts his party’s nomination for president at the age of 47, calling new attention to the sensitive issue of McCain’s advanced age three days before the start of his own convention.

    Anyone can make a verbal slip up; just yesterday Obama said Israel was a strong ally of Israel. But when a verbal mistake falls into a pattern and reinforces a preconcieved image, that's a hard problem to shake. The classic example, of course, is Dan Quayle and potatoe. But McCain's Czechoslovakia slips are more reminiscent of Bob Dole's reference to the Brooklyn Dodgers, in casting an image of a geezer who's behind the times.

    My sense of humor is bipartisan and this cartoon was an LOL for me.

    Cross two names off the VP shortlists? Alaska governor Sarah Palin is in trouble for a vendetta. Seems her sister is in a nasty divorce, the husband is a state trooper, and Palin supposedly used her clout to try to get the guy fired. That cuts to the heart of her reformer, clean up state government and the GOP image.

    This could have a ripple effect into Alaska's House and Senate races, where longtime incumbents Don Young and Ted Stevens are in trouble. Kos himself writes: "Palin was considered the fallback candidate in case Stevens got indicted. She no longer looks so hot." I think Markos is trying to be funny here, as Palin is considered attractive by many. Which I think is more a matter of the lack of relatively young women in elective office. It's the opposite of the movies, where you have to be stunningly beautiful by normal world standards to play the Plain Jane best friend supporting role opposite the uber-starlet. A small town pageant winner like Palin wouldn't even get noticed in Hollywood. What's the old saying: "Washington is Hollywood for ugly people"?

    Kos continues: "Nor can she be an asset for Stevens, Young, or any other Republican up and down the ballot in her state. Alaska's most popular Republican has essentially been neutralized."

    John Edwards is considered a handsome feller by DC standards. You've probably heard the Edwards girlfriend and love child story. It is, of course, the National Enquirer... which will still give the mainstream press the excuse to 1) run it and 2) endlessly navel gaze about whether or not they should run it. Which reminds me of just how much I miss seeing the Weekly World News at the checkout line. There's a serious void in Space Alien, Bat Boy and Elvis coverage.

    This, too, if true -- I mean Edwards, not Bat Boy -- cuts to the core of the image. John leaves his ailing wife for a younger woman... oops, that's John McCain.

    Still, the Edwards allegation of girlfriend and baby falls short of the trifecta set by New York congressman Vito Fosella: drunk driving... to the girlfriend's house... AND a baby.

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    Hoops With The Troops

    Obama Shooting Hoops For The Troops

    It's classic Obama: a big risk with a big payoff. If he'd missed that shot, it would have been Michael Dukakis riding in the tank.

    Of course, nailing the three pointer shouldn't matter. But that, and his overall positive reception from the troops, is going to matter far more to the low information, undecided sliver of voters far, far more than the much more substantive story, prime minister Maliki's support for Obama's timelines.

    Because those undecided few don't care about Iraq, for chrissake. They care about the troops. They care about that kid from the grocery store who signed up for the Guard to save money for college who's now pulling his third tour, and they care about $4 gas.

    McCain was clearly pwned in the battle of visuals, with this Two Old Guys In A Golf Cart shot with George HW.

    McCain can't win, and he realizes this. He can only make Obama lose. He didn't even win the nomination, as much as everybody else lost it. The Mitt went to the wrong church, Huck couldn't raise the $$$ fast enough to consolidate on the Iowa win, Fred Thompson was the biggest disappointment since John Glenn and ran just strong enough to split votes one more way, and Rudy bet it all on a weak hand in Florida. (Ron Paul? He provided an exit ramp for future Bob Barr voters.) Or, as CQ put it, "McCain prevailed in part because both halves of the coalition had a different first choice: The social conservatives preferred Huckabee, and the business community preferred Romney."

    To make Obama lose McCain needs to make Obama into George McGovern, a dangerous pacifist (despite his heroic WWII flying record) who would sell out Our Troops to make the liberal bloggers happy. Why do you think the latest McCain bio ad starts with five seconds of hippies? Not modern, college campus faux wannabees -- actual Haight-Ashbury, barefoot, braless, unbathed acid-poppin' hippies. I expect to see archival footage of Hanoi Jane Fonda herself in the next one.

    Which is why this Obama clip is so important. Even in a staged event you can only stage so much. Remember, this is Defense Department pool video, and do you think for a second that George Bush's DOD is trying to make Obama look good? You go away with the impression that they like him and they trust this potential Commander in Chief to keep them safe AND bring them home. This is like Reagan in the There You Go Again debate, in that it undercuts John McCain's entire case.


  • CQ trivia: In West Virginia, the Democrats have won 18 Senate elections in a row going back to 1958, soon to be 19 as Rockefeller coasts. But that pales next to the 25 in a row Kansas Republicans have won, dating back to 1936 (there was a 1996 special in there, woth both seats up in the same year after Bob Dole resigned).

  • Speaking of both Senate seats in the same year, Rothenberg gets obscure too, looking at Wyoming and Mississippi's double Senate elections: "Over the last 60 years, there have been 23 times when both of a state’s Senate seats were up for election. In 20 of those instances (87 percent of the time), one party won both seats." Will Ronnie Musgrove beat the odds in Mississippi?

  • I've now seen the gopher myself.

  • And as CDs fade into obscurity in the iPod era, the late unlamented cassette format remains alive and well in one place: prison. (A chunk of broken CD, you see, makes a nice shank.)
  • Monday, July 21, 2008

    Democrat Has Big Money Edge in Open House District 89

    Democrat Has Big Money Edge in Open House District 89

    The Iowa House District 89 race, once again, features a young first time candidate against an older contender with deep community ties.

    But with the retirement of longtime incumbent Republican incumbent Sandy Greiner, the parties have reversed roles. It's the Republicans who have the young candidate with Jarad Klein, while the Democrats have the older contender with Larry Marek.

    Marek rolled up a big fund raising lead in the July 19 reports, with $14,924 cash on hand to Klein's $3,131.

    But Klein is clearly a GOP priority, with his large red and white signs on the highways of Washington County outnumbering those for higher on the ticket Republican candidates.

    Democrats made this a top priority race in 2004 with Mark Shearer, who represented Washington County in non-consecutive terms in the House and Senate. In 2006, underfunded Democrat Mark Nolte, young and with few long term ties to the district, made the race closer than expected.

    Klein says his relative youth – he's 27 to Klein's 68 – has its advantages “The energy and enthusiasm wears off on other folks,” he told Iowa Independent at the Republican state convention. “As a young farmer, a young family man, and a young businessman, I believe I'm the best person represent our district.”

    Along with a family farm background, Klein has worked as a legislative clerk and a Republican Party campaign staffer.

    Greiner, who is stepping down after 16 years in office, is the only representative the district has had under the present lines. First elected to the House in 1992 out of a district in Washington and Keokuk counties, Greiner moved to the Senate in 2000. But she drew the short straw when three senators wound up in one district after redistricting, and moved back to the House in 2002.

    Washington County makes up about 70 percent of the district, which also includes parts of Johnson and Jefferson Counties. Washington has traditionally leaned Republican, but has trended the other way recently. Democrat Becky Schmitz carried the House 89 half of her Senate district in her narrow 2006 win in Senate District 45 over incumbent David Miller, and top of the ticket Democrats have run between 48 and 52 percent in the district since the turn of the century.

    “Everything you hear on mainstream media is pretty negative,” Klein said of Republican prospects for 2008. “But the reality is night and day,” he said, citing the number and enthusiasm of volunteers.

    “This is one of those races that will probably be decided by a few hundred votes either way,” House Speaker Pat Murphy told the crowd at a Marek fund raiser. “This is a winnable race and we're targeting it. The big difference is Larry has long term ties to Washington County,” said the speaker, prompting a handful of chuckles from the partisan crowd.

    Klein and his family have farmed in both Washington County and in Keokuk County, which is outside the district. His address is on Keokuk-Washington Road, literally on the boundary of the district. “He isn't well known at all,” said Marek supporter Pete Morrison of Klein. “No one knows who he is.”

    Klein said that's not what he's hearing while he's doorknocking. “They're hearing the message” of promoting strong families, building a strong job-producing economy, and balancing the state budget .

    Murphy said House Democrats have tried to recruit candidates who fit their districts. Marek has a farm and soy marketing background and helped pass the Riverside casino referendum and organize the casino's charitable arm. “I've been involved with renewable fuels and soil conservation,” Marek told Iowa Independent. He's setting a goal of increasing Iowa's wind energy from 1 percent of the state's electrical generation to 25 or 30 percent, with a corresponding increase in jobs in the renewable sector.

    “With Larry's experience as an assistant soil commissioner, he'll be a real asset on flood control,” said Rep. John Whittaker of Hillsboro, who represents the other half of Schmitz's Senate district.

    Yet Marek also has a rural fiscal streak. “As a farmer, keeping taxes in line has always been important to me,” he told Iowa Independent.

    Klein says as a full-time farmer he understands the tax pressures. “A lo of people, they have to go to town and get that second job because of taxes.”

    Back On The Grid

    Back On The Grid, Still Playing Catchup

    I've been on line in some form or another since 1990 (!) and I remember The Old Days of that modem sound and watching each email appear line by line or, sometimes, character by character. What a great day when I upgraded from a 2400 modem to a 14.4.

    After a weekend out of town with extra-slow dial-up and intermittent cell phone service, those memories are fresh in my mind. So I'm still catching up with the news.

  • McCain gets a special Quote of Confidence award for this remark at a New Mexico fund raiser: "Could I mention the presence of my friend, Congressman Steve Pearce, who I believe will be joining me in the United States Senate?" Uh, Johnny Mac... aren't you hoping for another job? You may have well have said "... for at least the next two years until my state's popular and term-limited Democratic governor beats me for re-election."

    In any case Pearce is running maybe 15 or so points behind one of the Udalls. I get my Udalls mixed up.

  • The GOP is also worried about Georgia, Novak said, because of Bob Barr. The item is just below the note that Chuck Grassley is NOT a national convention delegate.

  • Charlie Cook moves four more Senate races in a more Democratic direction: "The debate is about how many seats the Republicans will lose; they no longer have a realistic chance of holding their own."

  • But CQ says one race is moving in the GOP's direction: Minnesota. "Franken Stumbling" is the headline. Jesse the Body didn't get in, but short-time appointee senator Dean Barkley did, after saying he wouldn't. Maybe -- I hate to say it -- Franken might be this year's case of a candidate the base loves who can't make the crossover.

    Damn plane crash.

  • Here's a guide on How To Make Fun Of Obama. Leno and company don't really have a shorthand take on him yet like Dan Quayle = dumb or Bill Clinton = horny. For McCain, they're recycling all the Bob Dole = old jokes.

  • People keep dropping the name of Sam Nunn as VP, but old guys like me remember how he scuttled gays in the military in the dawning days of Clinton 42. And if you go waaay back, he was the Zell Miller wing of the party's candidate in 1972 when he knocked off a more liberal progressive incumbent who had been appointed by Governor Jimmy Carter. This MyDDiary tracks the greatest hits.

  • I liked U2 self-righteous better than I liked them ironic, and now I get a bonus from the past: re-issues of Boy, October and War padded with non-album tracks that I paid waaaaay too much for as import singles back in 1984 or so.
  • Friday, July 18, 2008


    I'm Gonna Have To Get All Carl Spackler On This Gopher

    The Smallest Farm has been invaded by a gopher. I haven't seen him myself, but the boys say he looks sort of like this:

    There is, of course, only one appropriate response: a license to kill gophers.

    Thursday, July 17, 2008

    White Takes Independent Road in 2nd District

    Brian White Takes Independent Road in 2nd District

    Brian White is trying to take a tough road to the House of Representatives, but he believes it's the best route. The 31 year old attorney from North Liberty, running in the 2nd Congressional District, is trying to become the first truly independent candidate elected to the House in more than 50 years.

    "Nothing has changed in Washington" since Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, White told Iowa Independent. "And I'm the type of guy that when things aren't going right, you do something about it

    White deliberately avoids party labels, but he sees former 2nd District congressman Jim Leach as something of a role model, and interned for Leach one summer. So, would White describe himself as a Jim Leach Republican? "Well, without the Republican part," he said.

    Leach had a moderate and independent image during his tenure, but the Republican label caught up with him in 2006 when he lost one of the nation's biggest upsets to Democrat Dave Loebsack.

    Independents Elected to House of Representatives

    Frazier Reams, Ohio, 1950-1952. The last true independent, Reams won two three-way races before losing to a Democrat in 1954.

    Dale Alford, Arkansas, 1958. Alford ran a write-in campaign on a segregationist platform and defeated a Democratic incumbent. Served as, and later ran as, a Democrat.

    Joe Moakley, Massachusetts, 1972. Moakley ran as an independent against anti-busing Democratic incumbent Louise Day Hicks in South Boston. The "independence" was purely strategic and he served three decades as a Democrat.

    Joe Skeen, New Mexico, 1980. Skeen was elected as a write-in with Republican support after the incumbent died late in the race.

    Tom Foglietta, Pennsylvania, 1980. The ABSCAM scandal broke after the party primary, but incumbent Ozzie Myers wouldn't quit the race even after he was convicted and expelled from the House. Foglietta ran as an independent, with Democratic Party support.

    Ron Packard, California, 1982. A new congressional district looked so good for the Republicans that 18 candidates ran. After the primary, the winner turned out to be a fraud, and Packard, who lost the primary by 92 votes, won as a write-in.

    Bernie Sanders, Vermont, 1990-2006. Elected to eight terms as an independent with open Democratic support, socialist Sanders moved to the Senate in 2006.

    Jo Ann Emerson, Missouri, 1996. Republican incumbent Bill Emerson died late in the race and due to quirks in ballot laws his wife Jo Ann had to run as an independent.

    Virgil Goode, Virginia, 2000. Goode was first elected as a Democrat in 1996, and then switched to independent in 2000. He was re-elected as an independent that year, but was already caucusing with the GOP. He officially joined the Republicans in 2002.

    "He's putting his party's interests ahead of the district," White said of Loebsack. "He's voting with the leadership 98 percent of the time." That might not be a disadvantage in a district that, in terms of voter registration and performance, is the most Democratic in the state. But White disagrees. "There's a lot of pressure to follow the party" in Washington, he says, pressure he would be immune to as an independent. "(Loebsack's) a freshman playing the D.C. game."

    White's web site has little mention of the hot-button social issues that motivate partisan activists of the left and right. He says some of those, like gay marriage are state issues. He's focused on "fiscal responsibility" and supports a flat income tax, but not the sales-tax driven "Fair Tax" that was a prominent issue in the Republican caucuses.  White said his own presidential vote is up for grabs between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

    White says partisan posturing has made a solution to the Iraq War more difficult. "We need to move past the status quo of placing blame for past events and move forward to work together to create solutions that will ultimately bring our troops and our money back home without compromising our security," he said.

    "If a person of another nationality wants to move to America and become a citizen, it should not take five years to become one," White says on the immigration issue. He supports increases in legal immigration that would immigrants to establish residency after criminal background checks, followed by a faster path to citizenship.

    White works as a legal counsel at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. The medical connection, and Leach-like positioning, could cut into totals for Republican nominee Mariannette Miller-Meeks, an Ottumwa doctor. Neither the Miller-Meeks nor the Loebsack campaign had anything official to say about White's candidacy, though staffers for both candidates were curious.

    White has not filed campaign finance paperwork with the Federal Election Commission yet, though he says he plans to soon. He plans a grass roots campaign centered on letters to the editor and individual supporters. Unlike a party candidate "we don't have county chairs built in," said White.

    Another disadvantage White faces is the straight ticket line on the ballot. As many as a third of voters are likely to mark the straight ticket and automatically cast a ballot for Loebsack or Miller-Meeks, but White must earn each vote on his own. He says Iowa is one of only about a dozen states that still have the straight ticket, and while it's a state issue he would like to see it abolished.

    White said prominent individual supporters have contacted him from both parties, though he named no names. "Every supporter is important regardless of stature, he said." Ultimately, White expects his campaign to cost in the low tens of thousands of dollars. That's small compared to the $470,000 Loebsack has raised.

    "Take out the party, and 80 percent of (Loebsack's) money has come from out of state," White says. "I have no delusions we can raise as much." But White says he's in the race to win and is confident he can help bridge the partisan divide in the House, even if he is the only independent.

    There are currently no independents among the 435 member House of Representatives, and the odds are long. Bernie Sanders of Vermont served eight terms before moving to the Senate in 2006, but he functioned as a de facto Democrat. Seven other members were technically elected as independents in the last half century. But those members were all elected under unusual circumstances and quickly aligned with a party.  The last true independent was Frazier Reams of Ohio, who served two terms in the 1950s.

    The filing period for independent and third party candidates is July 28 through August 15. The bar is low -- 300 signatures, less than party candidates need for the primary.  White says he's well on the way.  He would be the first independent to run in the 2nd District under its current configuration.  The 2006 race was a two-way fight between Loebsack and Leach. Libertarian Kevin Litten ran in 2002 and 2004, but is not a candidate this time.

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    Barack Obama's Reality Catches Up With Chris Rock's Fiction

    Barack Obama's Reality Catches Up With Chris Rock's Fiction

    After Bernie Mac got in trouble at a Barack Obama fundraiser the other week for telling... well, typical Bernie Mac jokes, I got to wishing, yet again, that politicians could tell the blunt truth the way comedians do. I briefly imagined a no-language-barred, HBO-sponsored debate between Republican Dennis Miller and Democrat Chris Rock.

    Then I remembered.

    Just five years ago the idea of a black president wasn't merely a joke. It was the comic premise of a whole movie, Chris Rock's “Head of State.”

    Rock, with Bernie Mac as running mate, walked similar territory that Eddie Murphy had visited a decade earlier, in “The Distinguished Gentleman.” But Murphy's con man congressman, who gets elected because of the lucky coincidence of having the same name as the dead incumbent (“Vote Jeff Johnson, the name you know,” he says, borrowing yard signs from the widow) could have been any shady character of any shade.

    Other fictional black presidents, like Dennis Haysbert's character in “24,” have fallen into the just-happens-to-be category. And in 1972, James Earl Jones took a serious take on the subject as “The Man.” But “Head Of State” bases its humor almost entirely on a notion that seemed laughable in 2003:
    Narrator: “It seems that for the first time in history a BLACK MAN WILL BE PRESIDENT…” (on screen: people in white suburbia running to the polls in terror to vote against him).

    The idea was so far-fetched that Rock wasn't even going to imagine a black candidate winning the nomination in his own right, from a strong base as a senator from a large state. His character, Washington, D.C., alderman Mays Gilliam, was a last-minute stand-in, picked by the Democratic National Committee when the presidential and vice presidential candidates died in plane crashes. (Unlike most political fiction, Rock actually names the parties instead of using thinly-disguised stand-ins.)

    Rock said he based the scenario in part on Geraldine Ferraro's vice presidential campaign of 1984, the idea being that a party nominates a first-of-her-kind candidate in a no-chance election to gain goodwill with that constituency for the next election. A last-minute stand-in candidate also appears in Fletcher Knebel's novel “Dark Horse,” in which a New Jersey turnpike commissioner gets a presidential nomination when the candidate dies. And “The Man” also took a convoluted path to the presidency: The president and House speaker die, the vice president is too infirm to take office, and James Earl Jones, as president pro tem of the Senate, is sworn in.

    The real-life Rock and the fictional Gilliam are largely interchangeable, as the Hollywood pitch for this film was probably five words: “Chris Rock runs for president.” Obama would likely distance himself from Rock's non-PC language, just as he did with Bernie Mac. Rock himself acknowledges that his cussing merely adds emphasis but is not central to his point.

    Gilliam is portrayed as a decent, hardworking local official, and the film sells the notion that Everyman can be the president, like Kevin Kline in “Dave.” The usually brilliant Rock went for the easy joke a few too many times in “Head of State”: White people try to get down and fail, a campaign logo looks like gold rapper jewelry, etc.

    But in the movie's high point, when Rock/Gilliam tears up a ghostwritten speech and speaks from the heart, we hear a platform of progressive social policy mixed with personal responsibility that's not so far from Obama's message.
    Gilliam: They had a speech written for me about what the people need. But you guys are the people. You know what you need.

    Better schools. Better jobs. Less crime.

    How many of you, right now, work two jobs just to have enough money to be broke?

    That ain't right.

    If you work two jobs, and at the end of the week you got just enough money to get your broke ass home...

    Let me hear you say, "That ain't right!"

    Crowd: That ain't right!

    Gilliam: If your child's school has old-ass books and brand-new metal detectors, let me hear you say, "That ain't right!"

    Crowd: That ain't right!

    Gilliam: How many of you work in a city you can't afford to live in?

    Crowd: That ain't right!

    Gilliam: How many of you work in a mall you can't afford to shop in?

    Crowd: That ain't right!

    Gilliam: That ain't right! How many of you clean up a hotel you ain't never gonna be able to stay in? We got nurses that work in hospitals they can't even afford to get sick in.

    Consider for a moment this excerpt from Obama's Father's Day speech, the one Jesse Jackson was so upset about:
    We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child -- it's the courage to raise one.

    That's a PC-language version of part of Chris Rock's most famous routine. I'm advised not to use the correct title, as it uses the eighth word you can never say on television. Let's just say the name compares and contrasts two types of African-Americans.
    They'll brag about stuff a normal man just does. They'll say something like, “Yeah, well, I take care of my kids.” You're supposed to, you dumb (Oedipal word). “I ain't never been to jail.” Whaddya want? A cookie? You're not supposed to go to jail, you ignorant low-expectation (Oedipal word)!

    The closing debate in “Head of State” set a stage that could have packed a similar punch but fell short, and was cheapened by a little unnecessary crudity which added nothing to the point. But his opponent's closing statement could be copied and pasted into the McCain campaign's talking points:
    Alderman Gilliam can be captivating and entertaining. But America needs more than that from its Commander in Chief. To lead America, it takes experience. And to me, America is like a fine performance car. And now is not the time to turn this fine vehicle we call America over to the hands of an amateur.

    Rock/Gilliam responds with an Obama-like shot at the experience argument:
    You're right, Vice President Lewis. I am an amateur.

    When it comes to creating so many enemies that we need billions of dollars to protect ourselves, I'm an amateur.

    When it comes to creating a drug policy that makes crack and heroin cheaper than asthma and AIDS medicine, I'm an amateur.

    But there's nothing wrong with being an amateur. The people that started the Underground Railroad were amateurs. Martin Luther King was an amateur.

    Have you ever been to Amateur Night at the Apollo? Some of the world's best talent was there: James Brown, Luther Vandross, Rockwell, the Crown Heights Affair.

    But you wouldn't know nothing about that. Why? Because when it comes to judging talent and potential, you, my friend, are an amateur!

    Back in real life, Rock has publicly supported Obama, recording a robo-call to New York voters before Super Tuesday and introducing Obama on one occasion while slinging zingers at black politicians who endorsed Hillary Clinton: “You’d be really embarrassed if he won and you wasn’t with him. ‘I had that white lady. What was I thinking? What was I thinking?’”

    Mays Gilliam faced less of a challenge than Barack Obama does. He only had to appeal to a niche of the population, the core Chris Rock constituency. Anyone offended by a word here or a stereotype there could opt out of the electorate. And he had the advantage of Rock writing the script and the election results. Obama needs more, and has to walk a tighter rope that a freewheeling fictional candidate.

    But you can still imagine, and sometime when one imagines, real life catches up to fiction.

    JibJab vs. Dylan

    JibJab vs. Dylan

    Bob Dylan's early works are so deeply ingrained in the American consciousness, they've almost become the folk songs he was emulating. It's hard to imagine someone sitting down and actually writing "The Times They Are A-Changin'" after the title has become a part of the language, like it was handed down for generations.

    But it's still got a very real copyright. So watch the latest from on-line Flash cartoonists JibJab, before Bob's lawyers do.

    What else have I got here...

  • Two days in a row, John McCain references "Czechoslovakia," which is of course nestled between East Prussia and Austria-Hungary. No big deal, of course. It's Czechoslovakia. It's like going into Wisconsin.

  • The Decider offers an explanation (via Political Wire):
    "I'm 62, I'm having trouble remembering things."

    -- President Bush, at a news conference earlier today, in comments not helpful to 71 year old John McCain.

  • Arbinder notes that if it's McCain-Mitt, the announcement may be sooner, as Romney is going to the Olympics. Ah, Beijing 2008, in the fine tradition of Berlin 1936.

  • Georgia and Alabama voted yesterday; Georgia's challenged House incumbents all won handily.
  • Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Republican Convention Reacts

    Republican Convention Reacts

    The GOP bloggers seem to have collected their thoughts following the weekend:

  • David Chung of Hawkeye GOP (who I met Saturday) has been less active on the blog since joining the state central committee, but has a series of four posts, including one on a "loyalty oath" that would try to get candidates to at least acknowledge the platform.

    Speaking of which, I found it interesting that the "right to life" (sic) section was the very first item in the platform. Also, while it calls for a constitutional ban, it then goes on to name some lesser measures (funding, notification, parental consent, etc.) consent. Why bother, if you've banned it constitutionally? The writer in me wants some sort of transitional sentence ("until we reach that goal we support these intermediate measures" or something). If I were writing it, I would have done that. Actually, if I were writing it, it would have been pretty much the opposite, but I'm critiquing language at the moment.

  • The Spore(r) has a few more thoughts. Unlike the Dems, the GOP elects their congressional district level delegates the night before state convention, and some districts were more efficient than others.

  • Conservative Reader, who I just discovered, has two posts.

  • Krusty has a great many thoughts, and the comments are well worth a read including a concession letter from defeated RNC candidate Sandy Greiner.

  • An unrelated item that I've been rambling about for years: the under-polled cell phone only vote masks an Obama advantage.

  • And Nader plans to debate a dummy, which ought to be a fair fight. I love my third party friends, but Real People don't care about debate exclusion as an issue. Non-political types feel like paying attention to TWO candidates is too much work, let alone four or five.

    That said, I'd like to see a split system: one early debate with the candidates who have a theoretical chance of winning based on ballot access -- which would mean five or maybe six this year -- and then the later debates with just the people above x percent in the polls. My theory is that, having seen the lesser known candidates, the public will largely reject them and the fairness argument will be defused.

    But empty chair stunts like Nader is pulling usually succeed only in making a candidate look ridiculous. It worked soooo well for Ed Fallon in the primary...
  • Monday, July 14, 2008

    bigger than the smallest farm

    Bigger than the Smallest

    Desmoinesdem claims to have a smaller garden, so while I may not claim the title of Smallest Farm in Iowa, that's still its name.

    Sunflowers have recovered from the rabbits and are now bigger than the boys, who are also growing in the backyard.

    Ethan has to quality inspect the pepper plants.

    This is the Big Picture of the north garden.

    Two of the three eggplant are productive so far.

    Starting to see red...

    Bee balm is like catnip for bees. This may be the single best photograph I've ever taken of anything.

    The south garden is starting to like like an Iowa cornfield. The vining squashes and pumpkins are sprawling bigger than I had expected, though. The big failure is the watermelon -- it started slower than the pumpkins and is losing the race.

    It won't be long now...

    Here's a spaghetti squash just a couple days from ready.

    A future giant pumpkin.

    A sample of harvest: one very large zucchini, an eight ball squash, a cuke, and what's probably the last radish. Also a coffee stain on the counter.

    Sunday, July 13, 2008

    McCain's Steel Curtain

    McCain's Steel Curtain

    Ah, this gift keeps giving:

    The senator's mixup with the Steelers "was an honest mistake," a campaign spokesman said yesterday. "If bloggers want to make fun of John McCain because he forgot which team he used under torture, that is their right."

    Oh, that's an open invitation.

    The more I think about it, in fact, the more it seems like a minor theme. McCain wants to make "bloggers" into negative shorthand for the left of the Democratic Party.

    The question, of course, is not what he said under torture. The question is what he said in 2008 at a radio station. True, this doesn't rise to the Bosnian sniper fire level. But he changed a story he's been telling one way for 35 years to pander for an extremely minor political advantage. Even the Pittsburgh paper acknowledges, "the Steelers of the late 1960s were so unsuccessful, few people outside their immediate families would claim knowing them."

    As for Wisconsin, latest polls show Obama winning even before this Packer dis. Anyone in Pennsylvania who changes their vote because of the implication that John McCain is a Steelers fan should probably be considered under the provisions of the Idiot Amendment. Let's put it this way: I'm voting for a Bears fan.

  • For president... and for school board, as Patti Fields announces for re-elect.

  • The Packers have bigger issues than John McCain, anyway:
    During the interview Saturday, (Packer general manager Ted) Thompson made it clear the Packers will not release Favre and gladly would accept him back on the roster if he applies for reinstatement. What he wouldn't say is that Favre, who is currently on the reserve / retired list, would be allowed to come back as the starter.

    The old girlfriend coming back... but are the Packers married to Aaron Rodgers, or just dating? I can't say I saw this coming, but it's exactly what I was afraid of...

  • Lots of GOP traffic yesterday, and a couple grumbles at my brief "scooped the GOP bloggers" remark. Didn't mean much by it, and I certainly wasn't the first with the news; all I meant was that the top tier bloggers in the Iowa rightosphere were mostly tied up with doing, rather than writing. I know how it goes; I barely wrote anything about the Johnson County Dems convention because I was locked away in the credentials room. Participatory journalism has its limits.

    As of this morning, only Sporer has much up on yesterday. The Conservative Reader notes that the GOP wrapped at 5:30. For my Democratic readers, that's p.m., not a.m.

  • Another thought as I liveblogged yeaterday: Wish I could type as fast as Mike Glover. McCain's Luddite streak is based on a stereotype that was dying out just as I was going through high school: Real Men Don't Type. I remember not being allowed to take a typing class, in part because of that and in part because of advice that it might hurt my grade point. Little did we know. I'm still paying the price, with my hunt and peck skills.

  • Speaking of classes I never took and degrees I never finished, Chris Bowers spent a decade battling academia, much as I did, and reaches exactly the same conclusions:
    Instead of asking why blogs suck, and being forced to defend them, I'd like to ask why academia sucks, and why "serious" magazines and journals suck. Articles for those publications are rarely timely, given the length of time it takes to produce and publish an issue. There is very little direct interaction with the authors, only a gatekeeper "letter to the editor" function. Speaking of gatekeepers, a couple of editors dominate the entire content of the magazine, and bring with them all of their cultural biases and predilections. And, in the end, very few people read anything produced in either academia or the "serious" magazines Appell mentions, whatever those might actually be.

    While I struggled to produce a handful of conference papers or publishable articles during that decade, in my four years as a blogger I have published about 4,400 articles that have received about 50,000,000 direct page views, 46,000 incoming links, and over 100 Lexis Nexus mentions. Had I stayed in academia, none of this would have been possible, and I would have continued to receive an endless series of rejections from the gatekeepers. The "experts" that Appell describes did not see the same value in my writing huge numbers of other people clearly have.

    Bowers is an a-lister, while I'm at best a utility infielder, a part-time player but still a professional (at least in the literal sense that I'm paid). My own stats are somewhat slighter -- maybe 200,000 page views in just over four years (I didn't track the stats the first year) and maybe 4,000 posts, though I really didn't get serious until late 2005 or so when I discovered that when I wrote some original content that filled a local or state niche, people actually read it. Even Republicans.

    Some of those have been crap -- remember, this post started with a LOLMcCain --but some have been excellent. 200,000 is roughly a thousand times more than would have read any academic article I would have written.

    Don't get me wrong, my academic friends who have the patience for it are great -- but it's healthy to know that something's just not your thing. Which was the most important lesson I learned in grad school. That, plus it got me here to Iowa City, where I found my niche and my home.
  • Saturday, July 12, 2008

    Republican State Convention Liveblog

    Republican State Convention Liveblog

    9:04 a.m. and the GOP is starting more or less on time with the patriotic-slash-religious preambles in HyVee Hall. They happen to be facing in the opposite direction than the Democrats were a couple weeks back. The prayer and national anthem go well, but the Pledge kind of eased in and becomes audible somewhere around "to the republic for which it stands."

    The hot contest of the day looks to be for the national committee seats. I'm not an expert in the internal politics of the Republican Party of Iowa, but bloggers Krusty, Battleground Iowa and Polk County chair Ted Sporer have been all over it all week.

    The female race is between outgoing state Rep. Sandy Greiner and Kim Lehman of Iowa Right To Life. On the male side it's two Steves: incumbent Steve Roberts and challenger Steve Scheffler of the Iowa Christian Alliance. The fight is higher profile than the DNC fight was -- Roberts has full-blown yard signs and they all have stickers like candidates for public (as opposed to party) office. I catch Greiner in the lobby handing out stickers and meeting and greeting; she feels good about her chances.

    First fight of the day is a rules issue. National convention delegates are nominated by committee; the dissenters want to be able to nominate from the floor. At first glance the nays have it; they're standing now.

    "You must know it's going to be a Democratic year when the Republicans are acting like Democrats," Tiffin mayor Royce Phillips kids me. He says the fight is mostly a matter of who gets to go, but he senss a difference in the convention. "Instead of being about 75 percent conservative like it's been in the past, it's about 55 percent," he estimates, "but we'll see how it goes when the votes get counted." He says "Scheffler has a lot of support."

    "The county chairs will count their nos." I myself only have one nose.

    Greg Baker, chair of the Iowa College Republicans, is working the lobby. The official platform line is to repeal same day registration, but he's trying to get some $$$ together for campus registration drives. "New same day registration laws will likely turn out young voters in record numbers," reads his pitch, "and the ICFR wants to make sure these numbers are in our favor. Obama currently has an upper hand in the youth vote... (and) failing to respond to the youth movement crisis could greatly jeopardize our ability to win this fall." Greg thinks McCain won't win on campus, but will do better than other Republicans would have and will ultimately keep Iowa in the GOP column. He also thinks Miller-Meeks has some outsider upset potential.

    Reagan helps McCain keep some distance from Bush.

    There was an extremely long line at the Starbucks stand, putting lie to the "latte drinking liberal" stereotype. David Yepsen is here somewhere; I'll have to bring that to his attention.

    I hover near a legislative candidate for a while, but the longer I hover, the more back turning and mouth-covering happens. That's atypical; most people are more than happy to chat.

    I catch up with Ted Sporer just as he finishes up with a TV interview. He's one of the leading backers of Lehman and Scheffler for national committee. "Our party needs dramatic change," says Ted. "People are tired of losing." He also prefers the excellent Warren Zevon/Hindu Love Gods version of "Raspberry Beret" to the original.

    10 AM and the rules amendment fails, in what's probably one of the key votes of the day. This means the slated delegates likely get elected, and that everyone goes home earlier.

    The credentials committee reports attendance by county and at length; the punchline is "we outdid the Democrats."

    Speechmaking starts in earnest with RPI chair Stew Iverson. His spin on the presidential race: "who do you trust to be commander in chief?" Yet he touts the down-ballot: "A lot of times it's not the top of the ticket that gets votes out, it's a county race."

    Most of the congressional candidates have a visible presence, at least at the sign level, with one exception: I see no anything for 1st CD challenger David Hartsuch.

    Grassley is stuck at the airport. Instead we get... STEVE KING! Showtime!

    "We can't just defend the constitution when it's easy... we need to defend what it was understood to mean at the time of its ratification." He talks about the English Only law and Spanish voter reg forms at length to significant applause. "Even when we pass laws that defend our values, it doesn't mean they'll be respected."

    "We turned out more Republicans to the caucuses than ever before (applause)... but the Democrats turned out twice as many." In praise of McCain: 1) "He is an authentic American hero." 2) "He is a tough and ornery nationalist." The POW stories segue into some John Kerry bashing. Hm. THe idea is: none of McCain's Hanoi Hilton brothers will turn on McCain like the Swift Boaters did on Kerry. "That's the difference between our nominee and the Democrats." Huh? Didn't know the Democrats had nominated Kerry again...

    "I see nothing in Obama's background that would see him exposed to patriotism, but he has been exposed to the Harvard School of Law." This leads into the Supreme Court argument. "George Bush got his nominations right in Roberts and Alito. He needed a little help, and McCain will too."

    "My nightmare is 357 Ruth Bader Ginsburgs on the federal courts, and 3 or 4 of them on the Supreme Court. Obama will appoint Ruth Bader Ginsburgs, and John McCain will nominate strict constructionists. We are one vote away from overturning Roe vs. Wade. We can chose between 357 Ruth Bader Ginsburgs and 357 John Roberts." They're flashing pictures of Justice Ginsburg, including one of her in front of a menorah.

    Not bad red meat, but I've seen Steve feistier.

    Now Bob Vander Plaats is introducing Mike Huckabee (who is billed in the program as representing the McCain campaign.) Is this an audition in the veepstakes? Vander Plaats says he was called nuts for backing Huckabee; he says that stands for "Never Underestimate The Spirit." Wonder if that's what Jesse Jackson meant.

    The caucus win is mentioned.

    Huckabee starts with some reminisces about his campaign and the ephemeral nature of fame and recognition: "If everybody who says they voted for me actually voted for me, I'd be the president by now." Two or three stories would have made the point but he's having too much fun telling the fifth or sixth. The final punch line is "You're Mitt Romney." "If I were Mitt Romney I wouldn't be riding coach."

    On to the main course. "I recognize that for many people, their fist choice may not have been the one who ended up with the nomination. But this is not about the candidate, this is about the country. My first choice didn't get the nomination either. I wish he had. But we have a clear fundamental difference between the person our party nominated, and the Democrats."

    "As a person who grew up with segregation, I can recognize and affirm that this country has come a long ways since the 50s when it would have been inconceivable for a party to nominate a black American." Some applause, no boos, at his point on progress.

    "While I can celebrate Senator Obama for his journey... he has gone far enough." (applause) "It has nothing to do with his color and everything to do with his convictions. We are not electing a president to be a symbolic figure. We are electing a present to deal with missiles in Iran and $5 a gallon fuel." Mike offers to let oil companies drill in his back yard. "If somebody is going to get rich drilling oil, it ought to be Americans."

    "We need judges who respect the law and respect marriage." No elaboration, none needed.

    "You can't take our firearms and not take our liberties."

    Says Obama should go run a business before running the American economy.

    "I believe in Senator McCain's record on the issue of life." Acknowledges some grumbling in the GOP on this point. "I became a Republican out of conviction that life begins at conception." Biggest applause yet but quickly topped by "Marriage still means one man, one woman, and nothing else."

    "I'm still a strong advocate and supporter of the Fair Tax." (2012? He's mentioning McCain at a polite level, but focusing on base issues instead.) "You can run your family, you can run your business, and you can take care of yourselves, that's the Republican way."

    "One cannot separate the economic issues from the most important issue, the moral character of our country."

    "If we all lived by the Golden Rule, do unto others, then the legislature wouldn't have to meet but every 100 years or so to say yep, it's still working." All the other laws are because people are treating each other wrong. "The fast pash to less government is making sure we live by a higher moral standard."

    In his mythical community of "Hucktown," which has a Pizza Ranch like all Iowa towns, there's no crime, no littering, no drugs, no dropouts, no locks on the doors... because everybody lives by the Golden Rule. (I'm confused... is this Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul?)

    "I hope to come back and call my friend Governor Vander Plaats someday." But then he picks on BVP by calling the anti-Hucktown "Bobtown." I would have bet he'd have called it Obamaville, but he never does. Bobtown wants Hucktown to pay more taxes. "When we fail morally, we fail economically, and please don't ask me to leave my convictions at the door."

    Paints his rural working class vision of an America of "old Chevys not new Bentleys... high school football games because they can't afford the skyboxes... They know where WalMart is... They watch CMT not MTV... Touched By An Angel and Walker Texas Ranger not Desparate Housewives." Yeah, he worked Chuck Norris in. "Those are my people, those are your people, those are you. The people on the coasts of America have forgotten something. We don't elect a president to solve all our problems, you elect a president to leave us alone to solve our own problems."

    "We will get John McCain elected because he best reflects those values" is the conclusion, and one of only a couple mentions of the nominee.

    At 11:00 the national committee voting begins. Scheffler is nominated first. The case: Not a lawyer, not a lobbyist, not a RINO (that's Republican in Name Only), and "Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve." Roberts is next and a long-timer; chaired the party in the `70s, national committee since 1988. "He's pro life and pro family regardless of what other people are saying, I won't get into name calling." Only two candidates, as opposed to the ten or so that the Democrats nominated in the corresponding contest.

    Now the women. Greiner nominated first. 44 years of activism, 16 years in the legislature where she was "a strong voice for conservative values." (Every speaker seems to have to mention "one man one woman" in and among the laundry list.) "Sandy is a very tough negotiator." Kim Lehman next. "Kim Lehman's Christian worldview dominates her thinking. Every day she works to stop the slaughter of the innocent." Drops the name Iowans for Tax Relief; also apparently a "Choose Life" license plate is a base issue. "Kim believes nothing is politically right if it is morally wrong." The lapel stickers are mis-spelled LEHMAM but everyone gets the point. A third candidate is Linda Kay Harrington -- but all indications are that the real fight is Lehman-Greiner.

    Nominations close. It's 50 percent plus one.

    Scheffler speaks and the message is clear. "Our party is in dire straits and our leadership has failed us." "I will unite our party around our platform" (significantly, not "around our nominee.") Says he is a choice for a uniform agenda with tough position vs, "Status quo appeasement" and bashes Republicans for Choice, Log Cabin Republicans, etc. Bashes his opposition for negative robocalls.

    Roberts responds: "Steve Scheffler has been called many things, but never a moderate." He bases his case on experience. "Advocating for issues is not the principal job of the Republican national committee" -- that's the grass roots' job. "The RNC is designed to run the nomination process and elect the nominee." "My loyalties are not divided, my first priority will always be the party." A valedictory note: "If you choose my opponent, I leave with my head held high."

    The process is at issue. Roberts says he fought to stay first; Schiffler says he played a key role in selecting Jan. 3.

    11:23 and Greiner speaks. "My years in the legislature I learned to work with people I don't neccessarily agree with." Priority is keeping First In The Nation. "This is economic development for Iowa and many people want to take that away from us." Pledge to listen to all factions of the party. "I won't air party laundry in public. If a team doesn't work together, it cannot and will not win anything." Says every House member has endorsed her (she was handing out a flyer with the signatures earlier). "We have to bring this party back together. Our issues do not come to the floor unless we're in the majority."

    Lehman: "Not only am I pro-life and pro-family, but I want to push my agenda and make sure the Republican Party platform stays Republican." Has no qualms with unity -- but redefines unity. "There's been talk that we need to be quiet and not talk about these pro-life pro-family issues. I am a right-wing, platform loving Republican." Denies rumors that she won't be endorsing McCain, and then does so. "We can't affort Obama to take the presidency while we don't have the House and Senate. This country can't afford more socialism."

    "We need another judge." Doesn't specify any particular January 1973 ruling, but everyone gets it. "We'll never have a perfect candidate... that is, unless Jesus decides to run." Lists her priorities as "God, then family, then country, then the Republican party" in ranked order.

    The third candidate worked for John Cox for President. She's also running a Fair Tax platform amendment. I think this is a non-factor, but this national committee battle looks interesting... Krusty reports getting bashed for decribing it as "inside vs. outside" but that's kind of how it smells, with a dollop of religious right. While the delegates were chosen independently of presidential preference, remember that they were chosen in a process that began on the night that Mike Huckabee won.

    11:41 and voting is beginning, with a couple credentials scraps on the eligibility of alternates. A very different national committee process than the Democrats. They got about one minute of speech each, barely enoigh for an introduction -- but there were about ten candidates for each slot, many of whom were not especially... plausible. The nomination process must be tighter in the GOP.

    High noon and David Vaudt is speaking, what sounds like his standard "Dems overspending" speech. State house candidate Jarad Klein, who's running for Greiner's old seat, thinks her experience message is good but says there's a geographic element as well: "She's got to beat Polk County people." And as in any convention, the geographically near are over-represented. Not sure if the vote is weighted in any way to account for that.

    Someone passes by the press table handing out Chick comics -- you know, those oblong miniature comic books that you can buy in bulk with an over-the-top hellfire Come To Jesus message.

    At 12:17 we have Miller-Meeks. "Isn't Steve King a great congressman?" she thanks him for the his intro. "Dave Loebsack is walking in lockstep with Nancy Pelosi." "The way to defeat Loebsack is to give voters what they want: someone sincere, hard working, a real Republican who will look toward the future."

    "I may be a little vertically challenged," (I've never said it before, but since she raised it the doctor is rather diminutive) "but I will stand tall and work hard on the issues that are important to Republicans and hard working Iowans."

    Indicts Democratic majority and says "On the issues, Loebsack is on the wrong side and the wrong track." Thus the nickname "Wrong Track Loebsack." Health care reference to "personal responsibility" draws applause. Refers to "Social Insecurity."

    My initial thought as to why so few candidates ran for the national committee posts was all wrong. I had guessed it was a higher nomination threshold than the 25 signatures that Democrats want. But no, you simply have to be nominated by someone. And yet, even with what looks like a divisive situation, there were only two men and three women running. So now I'm thinking it's more a matter of organizational culture.

    As of 12:30 they break for lunch. The votes are not yet counted so folks will dine while the rules and credentials types work furiously. But our own Jason Hancock will bring you the results. He's one of the last press here. The Gazette's James Lynch is still working but most of the rest went with the Huckabee lede and vamoosed. (The root word of vamoose is the Spanish vamos, so I should be careful -- Steve King is still here.) As for me, I have a nephew with a first birthday, so signing off.


  • Other than a "Support The Troops - Let Them Win" table, the Fawlty Towers rule ("Don't Mention The War") was largely followed.

  • Also, the incumbent president was little mentioned. When he was, it was largely in the context of his Supreme Court appointments.

  • Johnson County is sending two folks to Minneapolis: Edgar Thornton and Bob Anderson.

  • The Miller-Meeks ambulance was a serendipitous find; campaign manager Todd Versteegh saw it for sale on Highway 2 along the souther tier of the district. A little detailing and paint and it was ready to roll; Todd says the inside compartments make it work like a rolling office and the lights and PA work.

  • And Jason Hancock reports that Lehman and Scheffler carried the day. (As participants, all the konservative bloggers were scooped-though it did get a rapid mention in Sporer's comments.) Not even close:

    Sheffler 788
    Roberts 543

    Lehman 729
    Greiner 484

    Another difference: Republicans announce actual vote totals. (Kinda like the caucuses.) About 60 votes difference between Sheffler and Lehman on the one hand and Roberts and Greiner on the other, but still very similar margins. Possible difference: Roberts was an incumbent but the female seat was open. Also, there was that third woman who drew a few votes.