Friday, August 29, 2008



First thoughts:

  • Blatant play for the PUMA vote, but one way or another the white male club is broken on January 20.

  • Hurts the experience argument in a big big way: it's hard to argue Obama's not ready when your running mate was mayor of a small suburb two years ago. Kos is already calling her "Quayle Palin."

  • Shores him up with the base, who will hear a lot about the baby with Downs.

  • May also help him in the sagebrush states, but if they're worrying about the Rockies they're acknowledging they're in big trouble.

  • In a micro sense, does this help Ted Stevens and Don Young survive? It'll boost the GOP in Alaska, but Palin has always been verrrrry distant from the congressional delegation.

  • Mac really wanted Ridge or Joementum but couldn't sell it to the party; Romney was out after House-gate, and Pawlenty was too meh.
  • In North Liberty, Cheers and Relief at Obama Speech

    In North Liberty, Cheers and Relief at Obama Speech

    Johnson County Democrats at a speech watching party greeted Barack Obama's acceptance speech with cheers, and a sense of relief.

    "All this week it was, 'can he do it again? Can he do it again?' He did it again," said county attorney Janet Lyness.

    Expectations were high, between Obama's oratorical skills, the 75,000 seat stadium, and the calendar coincidence of the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech, and kept getting higher, as Al Gore extended an analogy between Obama and Abraham Lincoln.

    But for most Johnson County Democrats, Obama delivered. "Obama challenged the conventional wisdom by challenging his opponent's record directly, without being disrespectful," Johnson County Democratic chair Brian Flaherty said after the speech.

    About 125 Obama supporters, a mix of the usual political suspects and newcomers, attended the party at the North Liberty community center. It was one of many speech parties across the state, as events were planned in all 99 counties. Attendees quickly demanded a channel change from CNN to the pundit-free version on CSPAN, and thus got to see the succession of Regular People who filled a half hour or so before Obama's speech. The best reaction, both in Denver and Iowa, went to the woman who says "I voted for Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Bush, but I can't afford to vote for McCain."

    Organizers were well prepared, lining the walls with poster sized sign-up sheets for phone banks and yard signs. And a text message urging Obama supporters to volunteer now landed just before the speech.

    West High student Zach Wahls is going to miss voting age by about eight months, but he's volunteering. "School's important, but this seems bigger in the grand scheme of things."

    Flaherty disputed my take that a subtle age theme was present in lines like, "Washington's been talking about our oil addiction for the last 30 years, and John McCain has been there for 26 of them," or "We need a president who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past."

    "I think he's playing off the same theme that's been successful for Democrats in the past," said Flaherty. "In many ways this election is similar to 1996. When it comes down to it McCain's policies are based in the 1980s and 1990s. If people really want a change from the ideologies of the past, the only way we can do it is by walking forward with Obama."

    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    The Speech: Live from 784 miles away

    The Speech: Live from 784 miles away

    As the car drives, anyway. Johnson County Democrats are among the many Democrats gathered for speech watching parties. It's supposed to be a 99 county thing in Iowa. This scene is the North Liberty Rec Center. Ironically, the first time I ever met John McCain was in this same room.

    It's an estimated hour twenty to speech time. Too soon for a crowd count as folks trickle in. The locals have put together some food to raise some bucks, and people are still in eating mode. The consensus quickly gets the TV switched from CNN to CSPAN. Stevie Wonder is playing the Obama standard "Signed Sealed Delivered" -- the actual Stevie Wonder, that is, not the usual staffer iPod. The staffers have formed a solid united front and are getting down the names -- a good thing for them since a lot of names beyond the usual suspects are present.

    The usual suspects, of course, are also present, except for a fair share in Denver. Johnson County got five elected national delegates and one superdelegate, and a few other folks went out just for the show.

    A little grumbling at the sign-in table from folks who want bumper stickers and yard signs. This is the stage of campaign, immediate post-running mate, when the old stuff is gone and the new stuff ain't ready yet.

    Al Gore comes on and gets applause from most (but not me). Despite my distaste (as noted by several of my friends), even I have to like the line "I believe in recycling but that's ridiculous." Maybe McCain will recycle Gore's running mate, too. The room quickly settles down into speech-watching more at this speech.

    Gore extends the Lincoln analogy a bit far -- expectations are already high enough with the I Have A Dream anniversary... County chairs pitching hard with the volunteer pitch; at least a dozen poster sign up sheets line the walls. Staffers standby waving sharpies.

    Body count looks to be 125 or so 45 minutes pre-speech. Let's do the rundown of the electeds I detect: Jacoby, Lyness, Pulkrabek, Sullivan, Neuzil, Correia. I think that's all.

    Biden starts out referencing the Broncos (which still hurts after Super Bowl XXXII) then reprises some of his material from last night. Only about five minutes, setting an All Time Record for Shortest Biden Speech.

    Perfect timing: Obama hits us with the VOLUNTEER NOW text message.

    Biden is followed by a series of Real People. County Chair Brian Flaherty makes the point that these Real People are carrying the attack on Bush and McCain, and the pundits are missing it. This, of course, is the CSPAN view of the convention. The pundits are no doubt talking amongst themselves. Best reaction, both in Denver and Iowa, goes to the woman who says "I voted for Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Bush, but I can't afford to vote for McCain."

    West High student Zach Wahls is going to miss voting by about eight months but he's volunteering. "School's important, but this seems bigger in the grand scheme of things."

    The stadium cranks some Springsteen and Lennon, which is pretty cool if you're an old guy like me who remembers Reagan trying to co-opt the Boss in 1984, as opposed to Obama getting the official Bruce endorsement.

    Dick Durbin whips up the crowd and introduces a film as the lights go low here in the hall. The sign of Obama gets applause here and stops conversations, except for awwwws at the baby picture.

    They seem to have saved some fresh stories and pics for the video.

    9:12 and Obama takes the stage to "City of Blinding Lights." (New stories but no new music.) I don't see an empty seat in the stadium. Looks like the Super Bowl.

    So he accepts the nomination. Big news; I'll try to get that up in the lede. But the room loves it and stands. Praise for Hillary way up top; no cutaway shot to her. (the networks would have done that, but CSPAN only cuts to Michelle and Biden, who are seated together. Kids again steal the show.)

    "Broken politics and failed Bush policies" ties together the Overarching Obama theme and the bashing that still seems to work. "We are better than the last eight years" goes over well. The name McCain not yet mentioned. They start chanting "eight is enough" thus securing the all important Dick Van Patten vote.

    Here's McCain: the same "served with honor" etc. (no one's touching McCain's personal dirt) but votes with Bush," etc. "What does it say about your judgment when you think Bush is 90% right" goes over VERY well.

    "It's not that McCain doesn't CARE, it's that he DOESN'T KNOW": Mathews will call that a "competency test" or a sideways way at getting at age. The allegedly controversial Greek Columns are a minor part of the scene.

    Oh, here's some praise on Bill Clinton's economic record. That'll make 42 happy.

    Flag pin: check.

    Restating the biography in all-American terms, and the little "celebrity" dig goes over well. And restating the "I am my brother's keeper" from 2004.

    "Drilling is a stopgap measure not a long term solution." The McCain digs are all issue based or tenure based ("We've been talking for 30 years and McCain's been in Washington for 26" - is that another way of saying "old"?) with no mention of, oh, houses.

    Government can't turn off TV's, etc., playing that Cosby card. We junkies have seen that side of Obama before but Real People haven't. They haven't heard "that's a debate I'm ready to have" either, but the crowd in Denver cheers so long Obama has to step on it.

    "McCain won't even follow Bin Laden to the cave where he lives." That's a hit in this room.

    "Threats of the future vs. ideas of the past." There's a frame for the whole national security debate of the fall. And it works OLD in there too.

    Takes on the Patriotism Thing and that;s a big hit here and in Denver. "I've got news for you John McCain -- we ALL put our country first."

    The reach out on God and Guns and Gays. Will it fly?

    "If you don't have fresh ideas you use stale tactics. You make a big election about small things."

    He directly addresses I Have A Dream -- which is also the first oblique reference to the history that is thick in the air.

    The speech is over and the partisans loved it -- with a sense of relief. "All this week it was, 'can he do it again? Can he do it again?' He did it again," said county attorney Janet Lyness. She was a Clinton supporter in the primaries and was phonebanking to former Hillary backers after the Tuesday night speech, and reported positive results.

    "Obama challenged the conventional wisdom by challenging his opponent's record directly, without being disrespectful," says Brian Flaherty. He's not with me on my Subtle Age theme, but does say, "I think he's playing off the same theme that's been successful for Democrats in the past. In many ways this election is similar to 1996. When it comes down to it McCain's policies are based in the 1980s and 1990s. If people really want a change from the ideologies of the past the only way we can do it is by walking forward with Obama."

    Calendar "reform" risky for Iowa, mistake for Democrats

    Calendar "reform" risky for Iowa, mistake for Democrats

    In the end, the Michigan and Florida delegate seating that was at the center of the political universe at the end of May sailed through without notice, on a quick credentials vote Monday before the delegates were even though the security lines.

    "Unity," it seems, mattered more than loyalty, and the Michigan and Florida pols who heaped vitriol on Barack Obama for standing by the rules, and for taking his name off the Michigan ballot, mattered more than the Iowans who actually caucused for him.

    Instead of getting tossed out of the Democratic National Convention for breaking the rules, Michigan and Florida were rewarded with front row seats. "Florida's Rebel Stand Pays Off," bragged the Fort Myers News-Press. You could almost see Michigan's Carl Levin sticking out his tongue and wiggling his fingers in his ears at Iowa, and at the rules.

    True, we Iowans were up front too. As we damn well oughta, after giving Barack Obama that critical first win on Jan. 3. But what did we get in return? A "reform commission" (that's Floridian for "Screw Iowa") led by Debbie Dingell of Michigan, one of Iowa's biggest foes.

    Hell, even Iowa's most prominent speaking role at this week's convention went to a Republican.

    So what can Iowa expect out of "reform?" The Republican rules committee voted Wednesday to keep Iowa first, but Republicans don't share the Democrats' obsession with rules and process. They dealt with their rule breakers swiftly and without controversy, and took away half their delegates. A fine tradeoff, said Michigan and Florida, and everybody just went on campaigning. Iowa can expect little help from a President McCain who has essentially skipped the state in both his nomination bids.

    On the Democratic side, if Obama loses, we can expect enraged "told ya so"s from Hillary Clinton's supporters and from a netroots still mad that we scuttled Howard Dean. We can expect a low-key contest tacked onto our June primaries for state and courthouse offices, last in line.

    But even if Obama wins, there are big questions. Is his retreat from a solid pro-Iowa stance to backing this calendar commission sincere change or a tactical maneuver, part of the peace negotiations with the Clinton camp? It's hard to keep everyone happy when Michigan sees it as a zero-sum game where they only win if Iowa and New Hampshire lose.

    Let's assume that a President Obama decides to dance with them who brung him (that would be us). Even then, look for some changes. At the very minimum, the town meeting nature of the caucuses will end. It really has already. For all the anticipation, the actual magic moment of caucus alignment is crowded and miserable, too many people in too little space with too much noise.

    As hard as it is for an Iowan -to admit, Hillary Clinton's backers had a point when they argued that caucuses left some folks out. Shut-ins and shift workers and soldiers who couldn't show up in one place at one time were excluded.

    Absentee voting at Democratic Party caucuses and conventions has been barred since the McGovern reforms of the early 1970s. It's considered "proxy voting." Back in the bad old days the way proxy voting worked was, Boss Hogg cast all the proxy votes for everyone who didn't show up for the meeting, which was usually held, conveniently, in the back room of Boss Hogg's saloon and carefully guarded by Boss Hogg's cousin, Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane. That's why they were banned.

    But now the pendulum is swinging the other way and some kind of absentee procedure is likely. Will it be limited to people with a hard and fast reason for their absence and a notarized excuse? Or will it work like Iowa's absentee ballots, where anyone can vote early for any reason? That would fundamentally change the caucuses from an in-person gathering to an absentee ballot drive. Every absentee ballot cast is one less person to call on caucus night, and the earlier the votes are cast, the more that name ID will matter and the harder it will be for an outsider to emerge. (Clinton's backers may have figured that one out.)

    How would realignment work for the bodies who aren't there? Will the precinct captains morph into cleaned up and sincere versions of a modern Boss Hogg, shuffling the proxies around like so many playing cards in a game of real-life poker? What if a candidate drops out before caucus night? (Ask the Super Tuesday voters who cast absentees for John Edwards.)

    And if the caucuses turn into a general election style get out the absentee vote operation, will our erstwhile allies in New Hampshire decide that it's too much like a primary, and try to move in front of Iowa?

    It's not just being first that makes Iowa and New Hampshire special. It's the soil we grow the voters in: the fertile, idea-rich prairie loam of Iowa and the ornery rocky granite of New Hampshire. The Democrats tried transplanting the caucuses into the desert sand of Nevada this year, and the process dried up and withered under accusations and counter-accusations. We experienced and more or less fair and sincere Iowans had a few problems, an overzealous precinct captain here, an overcrowded room there, maybe, but we got it done. Then the old-timers among us watched in horror as Nevada melted down with misinformation about locations, last-minute legal challenges, and finally a Clark County convention that collapsed under its own weight and had to reconvene.

    Iowans have been at this for two generations. We know how to run a meeting, and we know how to look a would-be president in the eye and ask a tough question in a nice way. The attacks on our "lack of diversity" are an insult to our open-mindedness, and our willingness to look at all the candidates as people and choose them based on their merits rather than identity politics. We're sized at a human scale, "the last place you can campaign without tens of millions of dollars" as Joe Biden put it. What if the rotating national calendar that Michigan says it wants lands on California first? Say goodbye to the Hamburg Inn and the crossroads cafes, and welcome to the era of the airport rally.

    You can rotate your nomination calendar, the way Michigan wants, but we Iowans know you can't rotate your crops to just any random field and expect them to grow. If the ground isn't fertile, you won't get the same yield. And whether it's corn or candidates, Iowa's got the richest soil in the world.

    Republicans Leaving Caucuses Alone -- For Now

    Republicans Leaving Caucuses Alone -- For Now

    The Republican National Convention's rules committee voted Wednesday to approve a 2012 nomination calendar that could help keep Iowa first. The proposed calendar goes to the full convention on Monday.

    The Republican Party of Iowa is calling it "a vote to keep Iowa first," though Iowa is not specifically addressed. States that hold nonbinding presidential caucuses or primaries could go early without penalties, and in Iowa the presidential straw poll taken on caucus night is not directly connected to delegate selection.

    Still, Iowa Republican chair Stewart Iverson declared victory. "There are still hurdles to be cleared, but at this point Iowa’s Republican Caucuses will be first in the nation for the 2012 Presidential Election,” he said in a press release.

    The Republican plan would give primary states New Hampshire and South Carolina an early window in February. Those are the same states the Democrats scheduled early this year, along with caucus states Nevada and Iowa. Other states could not go before the first Tuesday in March. States which violate the calendar will lose half their delegates, as Michigan and Florida did this year.

    The plan had the support of the John McCain campaign. A rotating regional primary plan proposed by Ohio failed.

    "It's an endorsement, I think, of the value of retail, grassroots, face-to-face campaigning, for which New Hampshire is so well known," Republican National Committeeman Sean Mahoney of New Hampshire told the Manchester Union-Leader.

    Under Republican rules, the national convention must OK the calendar. Democrats have set up a calendar commission. The Democrats are also seeking to push the beginning of the nomination process into February, but have not guaranteed Iowa an early role.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    Leach Ignored, Media Matters Grumbles

    Leach Ignored, Media Matters Grumbles

    Like most speeches delivered by people not named Obama, Biden, or Clinton, Republican Jim Leach's lecture to the Democratic National Convention was largely ignored by delegates. A media watchdog group is complaining that Leach's speech backing Barack Obama was ignored by the press corps as well, despite its prime time slot.

    "ABC, CBS, and NBC did not air any of Leach's speech, while MSNBC and Fox News aired only seconds of it," notes Media Matters for America. MSNBC cut away from Leach and instead aired an interview with Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a panel discussion that degenerated into a shouting match between Rachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan.

    That made for more entertaining television than Leach's professorial address, but Media Matters says it was unfair compared to the massive play networks gave Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell "Get out of my face!" Miller's speech endorsing George W. Bush at the 2004 Republican convention.

    I can never show this one enough.

    Of course, Leach didn't do anything nearly as dramatic as Miller did in challenging MSNBC's Chris Matthews to a duel. But Media Matters predicts that ex-Democrat Joe Lieberman, speaking next week at the Republican convention, will draw far more attention.


    Wednesday Clips

    Best line of the night comes from Spike Lee: "Hillary will Do The Right Thing." Which she basically did.

    Micheael Dukakis (!) gets off a good one too: "I owe the American people an apology. If I had beaten the old man you'd of never heard of the kid and you wouldn't be in this mess. So it's all my fault."

    North To Alaska: Ted Stevens wins his primary so start saying "Senator Mark Begich." But on the House side it's a squeaker: Don Young is up 146 votes with 98% in.

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    Iowa Electronic Markets Branching Out

    Iowa Electronic Markets Branching Out

    For the first time in their 20-year history of political trading, the Iowa Electronic Markets are branching out beyond presidential politics.

    The University of Iowa College of Business project, in which traders use real money to measure candidates' chances, has had a strong predictive track record since it started in 1988.

    The IEM has added three Congressional markets. In the first two, traders can buy and sell contracts that will predict whether the Democrats will gain seats in each of the Senate and House, maintain its current number of seats, or lose seats to the Republicans.

    In the third market, traders can buy and sell contracts based on overall control of Congress: Democratic or Republican control of both houses or split control.

    A fourth new market looks at Minnesota's U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and the Democratic challenger, comedian Al Franken.

    The IEM has two presidential election markets: a winner-take-all market and a percentage market. The winner-take-all market predicts odds of victory. The vote share market predicts the margin of victory, and pays out based on that percentage; a 55 percent share yields 55 cents.

    Recent trading in the winner-take-all market predicts an Obama victory is 60 percent likely. Trading has been very light in the vote share market, but the most recent trades indicate that the margin will be within two percent.

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    Convention Night One: Blogging The Iowans

    Convention Night One: Blogging The Iowans

    This morning's liveblog subject may be hard to top from the confines of my living room, but at least I don't have the Secret Service rifle squad sitting behind me. I'm sure even my most loyal readers will go to other sources for the big speakers (but was it hard not to feel a lump in the throat for Ted Kennedy.)

    Here's Candy Schmeider from Iowa County as one of the Real People (working mom, precinct volunteer etc.) slotted in between the big speakers. I can't pull a quote out but the gist is "Obama inspired me." Have to flip over to CSPAN to catch it; MSNBC was talking to Chris Dodd about Kennedy.

    Tom Harkin is doing double duty: He's signing and letting the interpreter speak, and he's introducing Jim Leach. Never thought I'd say that. "We Iowans never genuflect to ideology," he says (now with his own voice) by way of introduction. "Nobody exemplifies that more than Jim Leach." The audience seems to be hububbing. "He was a strong, proud, influential Republican. Jim is here because he knows red and blue are not as important as red white and blue."

    Leach: Deep respect for the history of my party, "but something is akilter." That's a great word, "akilter." "The change Obama is advocating is a clarion call for renewal that taps Republican as well as Democratic traditions." Gives us a history lesson walking through Jefferson and Lincoln and suffrage and civil rights. Invokes the progressive Republican traditions of Teddy Roosevelt and, he says, Ike. "In troubled times it was understood that country comes before party."

    "The party that once emphasized individual rights now wants to regulate values." Starts a whole list of "the party that once" statements. "America has seldom faced more critical choices." FOr the most part, Leach is on message and very similar to his earlier statements. "This is not a time for politics as usual or for run of the mill politicians. Little is riskier to America than more of the same."

    Leach bashed Bush more by implication than by name -- praising H.W.'s multinational coalition in Gulf War I, for example -- and names McCain not at all. Once again, only CSPAN viewers see it, MSNBC viewers get Rachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan shouting at each other. Which was probably of most interest to most non-Iowa viewers; would you rather see a history lecture or a wrestling match?

    So if a former Republican congressman falls in a forest, does he make a sound? Krusty makes an interesting remark:

    I can’t tell you how disappointed I am of Leach. It’s not that he’s openly supporting Obama; it’s that he’s killing a very good congressional candidate in Mariannette Miller-Meeks. She is ideal in her district, but Leach’s actions make it difficult for her to rebuild that Leach coalition.

    And people say that it’s the right wing killing the party…

    CNN's Bill Schneider
    calls Leach "a glimpse of an endangered species," the moderate Republican. ABC is harsher: "A good guy, but who outside of Iowa ever heard of this defeated former Republican congressman? He's no Joe Lieberman. He's no Colin Powell, either."

    Obama Davenport Liveblog

    Obama Davenport Liveblog

    At the last moment, I got some wifi and liveblogged Barack Obama's "town hall meeting without the hall" in Davenport.

    11:32 and our scene is the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, just in front of the Machine Shed Restaurant with a row of flags in the background. It's a very different vibe for an Obama event. The music is leaning more country and the volume is much quieter. No signs and no hoopla at all. It seems almost too small for a nominee event, and hard to believe that the same man will be speaking in front of 75,000 people in three days.

    The event is invite-only and supposed to be for undecideds, supposedly identified through phone banks.

    If the crowd is any indication, the undecideds lean older and female. There's at least a few ringers salted in and amond the crowd – a legislative candidate here, a local politico there, a couple union t-shirts. The true undecideds are easiest to spot by a certain tentativeness in their movements as they're escorted to assigned seats by Obama volunteers. But once they're settled in, their faces settle into a look of “convince me,” while the political ringers wear looks of giddy anticipation.

    There's a small group of Republicans with a neon green hand lettered “honk for McCain” sign. They get a handful of honks as the Secret Service high powered rifle crew seated immediately behind me (now THAT'LL make you nervous) checks them out in the biggest binoculars I've ever seen. The security mood is even more intense than a month ago – it's the first time I've ever had to do the power up the laptop drill and the first time I've seen squad cars stationed at the freeway exits.

    The format is town hall, so we should get some Q and A. It's almost caucus style and caucus sized at a couple hundred. That's a couple hundred Real People, that is; the reserved space for press is as large or larger than the reserved seating for actual voters. The high-power TV lights are ready as the sun ducks behind the clouds.

    What we won't get is new running mate Joe Biden; Obama is flying solo today. We also get no wi-fi in the middle of a large field. (Scratch that; literally as Obama began speaking I found a signal.)

    At 11:42 a motorcade rolls up the back way, a minister leads a prayer and we get the Pledge. National press corps rushes in. The staffer doing the rap is inaudible in the cheap seats, so I risk Secret Service wrath and move up. I'm not the only one. After that flurry, another lull.

    11:55 and he's here. Introducer Randy Wearman of LeClaire says he's a lifetime Republican and voter twice for Bush. The “undecided” crowd boos. “I don't believe the Rep Party represents me, my interests, or my family.” Says at one time he would have backed McCain but “there's nothing maverick” about him anymore.

    Obama introduces the dignitaries, like Braley and mayor Gluba. Namedrops Jim Leach endorsement to large applause. Lane Evans gets the biggest applause of all.

    "In about three days, I gotta go make a speech." Some laughs at that.

    “The American people are worried, anot just about themselves but about the direction of the country as a whole. The economy is just not working for ordinary Americans.

    And Washington is seemingly oblivious.” Moves from that to, with some reluctance, an issue based McCain bash. “He doesn't have much of a plan – not because he's a bad man but because he doesn't get it.”

    “And I think it is time for us to try something new.” Everything is economicsl. "John McCain has no economic plan."

    "If you're making so much that McCain will give you a tax cut, I want to talk to you because I'm still soliciting campaign contributions." Health care for all by end of first term.

    Health care, energy, education, infrastructure. “If we're spending $10 billion a month in Iraq we can spend 10 billion on our infrastructure.” That's our segue into foreign policy. "Let's look at John McCain's judgment. McCain fell in with Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney on Iraq."

    This rolls into touting his new buddy Joe Biden. Mostly biography -- as he leads into his own. "I know what you've gone through." Talks about just finishing his student loans, Michelle's dae, his single mom. May this be a preview of Michelle tonight?

    12:28 and we get Q and A. First we get Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae. Barack gives us Mortgage 101. It worked for a while until they started chasing higher profits and risky loans. "Because they were quasi-governmental, people though the gov't was probably gonna guarantee it. Now, with the housing market collapsed, they're posting billions of losses. If they collapsed, the financial system would suffer a body blow that would probably be disastrous. Freddie Mac and Fannie May kind of have us in the bad."

    "I'd like to be able to punish them for their bad decisions, but they're too essential." Transition needs to be carefully structured.

    Question 2 (he briefly forgets his boy-girl structure) from "a child of the Depression": A new WPA? Obama: "We are not going through what we went through in the Great Depression, but we have a long term problem that the income of the average family is not going up." More biography in the answer. "Our infrastructure is going to have to be rebuilt anyway. Remember that bridge in Minnesota." Applause for high speed rail. Goes on an extended riff on the difficulties of air travel for regular folks ("This was before I had Secret Service") compared to rail. Pay for infrastructure? "We start winding down this war in Iraq and some of that money goes to us." Iraq can pay for a lot of repairs with its own oil money. And "the great thing about infrastructure is the jobs stay here. You can't build the bridge in China and ship it back here."

    Question 3 is Israel and Iran. Obama says Israel is a great ally and while Iran would not likely use nukes, it would give them too much leverage. "Instead of the Bush admin. trying to talk, there was a lot of sabre rattling." Going into Iraq was "single dumbest thing" we could have done to contain Iran, because Iran will fill vacuum. Israel will not accept Iranian nukes; my plan as prez is to tighten sanctions before Israel feels it has its back to the wall.

    Next question is immigration and path to citizenship. (Questioner says "as our next president - and I know you will be president" which calls "undecided" into question). Border security gets little response; employer sanctions gets applause. Sanctions have to hurt. As for people already here, "I know Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs say 'send them home' but that's just not realistic." People have put down roots and the kids are "basically American." Law enforcement can't handle 12, 13 million people. "It would cost us tens of billions of dollars, and what would the image of us look like, rounding up families?" Bottom line: registration, fines, English (that gets applause), but then "give them a chance" for a 10 year path to citizenship. Answer gets applause.

    Next question is job outlook for college grads; Obama uses it as a launching pad for restating the economy rap: mortgage crisis, energy, education, etc. The notion of domestic auto production merits an applause interruption, as does reducing the dropout rate.

    Last question: She's a restaurant owner of Ross's in the QC. Obama interrupts: "what's your best dish?" She says "The Magic Mountain" which gets big applause; I'm not a Quad Citian but I'm taking it's well known. After more banter, she gets to the point on small business. Her husband is undecided. Obama: "What's his number, I'll call him right now. (Laughter) No I'm not kidding, I'll answer the question then let's call." So...

    Obama calling an undecided voter mid-event.

    Obama calls the guy. (Facing the other way, unfortunately.)

    "I don't want to talk too long, it's the middle of lunch hour... I gotta have me one of those Magic Mountains."

    (Update: someone else there YouTubed it.)

    The questioner returns to health care costs. Obama: "We need to help small businesses get a health care plan they can afford. Fixing health care can make an enormous difference." Small biz also needs better access to credit.

    Winding down at 1:03: change won't happen till we get someone serious about helping middle class. "The same people who brought you Bush are behind McCain. And they're not talking about his plans, they're talking about me." It worked for them before so I get it... "If you can't argue about big things then you make the election about small things." "The biggest risk we can take is doing the same old things." So I hope you give me a chance.. and now we're back to regular Obama music, the old Stevie Wonder standby, "Signed Sealed Delivered."

    The Last Word on Florida and Michigan: Full Seating

    The Last Word on Florida and Michigan: Full Seating

    The rules? Never mind.

    The DNC's credentials connittee made it official yesterday: The two states that broke the rules on the nomination calendar and caused delegate count turmoil until days before the primaries ended, Florida and Michigan, will get full seating and full votes at this week's convention.

    Michigan Senator Carl Levin, Public Enemy Number One of the Iowa caucuses, declared victory. "We had the guts to take the system on, and we made progress this year," he said. Levin has made it clear that in his mind, "reform" means "Iowa and New Hampshire don't go first anymore."

    The DNC is organizing a calender reform commission headed by Michigan's Debbie Dingell, another caucus hater. "There's a principle at stake, and we are committed to that principle,'' said Dingell.

    Unnamed Democratic officials said that Michigan and Florida had, in fact, been punished, noting that the candidates didn't campaign in those states and that the two states got lousy hotels in Denver.

    Leach to speak at Dem Convention

    Leach to speak at Dem Convention

    In his latest act or heroism or heresy, depending on your party affiliation, former Republican congressman Jim Leach is scheduled to speak tonight at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

    The evening's theme is “One Nation,” and Leach's appearance is meant to indicate that one nation includes Republicans, at least moderate ones.

    Leach is scheduled to appear just after the Ted Kennedy tribute (which may, depending on his health, have a "surprise" appearance by the senator himself) and before Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill. The night's speeches conclude with Michelle Obama.

    Sunday, August 24, 2008

    Saturday, August 23, 2008

    Biden Time

    Biden's Time: Things Will Be Interesting

    While the political world was buzzing Friday, waiting for The Text Message that finally arrived at 3:50 a.m., labor activist Scott Smith of Solon remembered introducing Joe Biden at the Hawkeye Labor Council's candidate cattle call a year ago and waiting backstage with Biden. Smith's wife was with them, even though she was supporting then-frontrunner Hillary Clinton. "I know she's number one," Biden said to them, "but I'd like to be your number two."

    Events have proven Joe Biden half right, as he joins the Democratic ticket today as Barack Obama's running mate.

    Biden at the Hamburg Inn, with a sugar shaker representing the billions of dollars in the health care economy. You had to be there.
    Biden at the Hamburg Inn, with a sugar shaker representing the billions of dollars in the health care economy. You had to be there.

    A year ago, I thought Joe Biden's moment had passed him by. The Delaware senator was a popular second choice, but languishing in the single digits in polls.

    "I should have run in '96, and I should have run in 2000." Republican Tommy Thompson said as he left the race. At the time, I said that Biden (and Chris Dodd) must be having similar regrets about waiting in 1992, when Bill Clinton saw the opportunity most leading Democrats skipped. "Biden and Dodd, who would have been giants in the 1992 field, are asterisks in 2007," I wrote.

    Biden spent weeks on end in the Hawkeye state. It was the only hope for a long shot, battling the rock star candidates. "Iowa is the last place where you have a chance without tens of millions of dollars," Biden told a December crowd. "You deserve to be the first in the nation because you take it seriously."

    He campaigned one on one on Iowa City's ped mall while Hillary and Bill Clinton drew thousands to the University of Iowa Campus. Sure, he filled the Hamburg Inn, but John Edwards drew so many people he couldn't get in the door.

    Joe Biden's "Ears of Experience" dwarfed his rivals, but Chris Dodd was left off.

    "Put me in, coach," he pleaded, taking the stage to John Fogerty's baseball anthem "Centerfield" and emphasizing his "ears of experience." That "grownup in the race" argument played well with elected officials. Biden's strongest precinct in the country may have beeen under the golden dome of Iowa's Capitol. He actually led on the House side of the dome with 14 endorsements from the 53 Democratic representatives, and was ahead of John Edwards on overall legislative endorsements.

    "I was one of those people who saw potential in both candidates," said Faith Nalani Bromwich, an Obama national delegate from Iowa City. "I went to Biden events and remember sitting with him and discussing farm issues. He has very strong opinions on many things."

    If you've ever seen Biden, you'll know that's an understatement. The national press corps will have lots of fun on the Biden beat, because he's one of the few politicians who plays a different set list every show. Biden will probably make a half dozen or so off-the-cuff and off the script remarks that'll draw a news cycle of attention.

    That's part of what got Biden in "plagiarism" trouble in 1987, though a forgotten attribution would barely make a ripple on today's scandal meter. (In fact, Obama did pretty much the same thing this year, citing an argument made by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and forgetting the credit once.) Having debated Biden over a dozen times, Obama has to know that Biden will be Biden, and goes into this partnership aware of that risk. The tradeoff is the refreshing genuineness of Bidens speak my mind style.

    The hard part will be squeezing Joe Biden into a sound bite, because he gives long, thought-out, detailed answers. On the stump in Iowa, he had the longest question and answer sessions, but answered about the same number of questions as other candidates because his answers ran about ten minutes each.

    But he can also be remarkably concise in debates. He had to be, because he got a limited share of debate time. According to the Chris Dodd debate clock, he sometimes lagged even behind Dennis Kucinich. Biden shot off the single best sound bite of the year:

    "A noun, a verb and 9/11" shows Biden's ability to attack with a smile on his face, and that can be extremely effective. He ribbed Obama once in a while, too. "I don't have Mitt Romney money," Obama once said, discussing personal finances and jabbing a leading Republican. "I don't have Obama money, either," Biden zinged back, with the confidence of one who can count the houses he owns on one finger. The commuter senator is famous for taking the train home to Wilmington each night.

    Iowans all know the story: his triumphant election to the Senate at age 29, followed weeks later by the death of his wife and daughter in a car accident. "Delaware can get another Senator, but my boys only have one dad," he tild the giants of the Senate, as he prepared to quit the seat he had just won. But they persuaded him to give a it a try, and Biden commuted four hours every day to tuck the boys in.

    Biden survived his own brush with death, a brain aneurysm, just after dropping his 1987 bid, but recovered in time to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee through the hearings on defeated Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. Biden's Senate work has also focused on foreign relations, and his trip last week to Georgia looked like an audition for the role he'd play as vice president. We're sure to hear more about Biden's plan for a three-part federal Iraq.

    Joe Biden gets up close and personal with Iowa City Council member Amy Correia.

    Biden has an in-your-face personal style, rarely pausing and getting physically close to the people he's speaking with, as he does above with Iowa City Council member Amy Correia. He constantly drops names that he picks up off name tags, throws his arm around people, and gestures with salt shakers. He's simultaneously larger than life and self-effacing, brushing off long-winded introductions filled with platitudes and saying, "I'm Joe Biden."

    The opportunities for that kind of one on one campaigning are more limited in a general election campaign, but Biden also excels in front of a large audience. "He's very good in this now-rare setting: mass audience oratory," I liveblogged at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner. "Rising to a shout, lowering to a whisper... 100 years ago he might have worked the Chautauqua circuit with William Jennings Bryan."

    Jill and Beau Biden
    Jill and Beau Biden

    Obama gets the hard-working Biden family as part of the deal. Wife Jill Biden, son Hunter Biden, and sister Valerie Biden Owens were all frequent campaign trail fixtures in 2007. So was Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, whose National Guard unit is off to Iraq in October. Beau Biden is the likely Senate successor should that come to pass. The logistics: Joe Biden is up for re-election this year and under Delaware law can run both for re-election and for vice president. Delaware's governor, Democrat Ruth Minner, would appoint a successor. Minner is term limited and leaves office at the end of the year, but Joe Biden could time his resignation early should the Republicans win the race to succeed her.

    Joe Biden once said the difference between his 2008 race and his aborted 1988 run was "this time, I don't have to win." He seemed driven more by issues than ambition. 2008 was his last shot at age 65, and when he left the race it seemed Jill Biden was more saddened than he was. Assuming a win and a 2012 re-election, Biden will be just shy of 74 on Election Day 2016, making it unlikely he would make his own run. If all works well, he could cap his career arc by bringing it full circle: from boy wonder senator to senior statesman.

    Olympics: Day Fifteen



    3:50 AM? We got The Text Message at 3 freakin 50 AM?!? Never woulda bet THAT.

    It was the flight manifest for the charter from Chicago Midway to Delaware that went to get Biden, and the sudden Secret Service interest in Biden, that blew the cover.

    So Joe-Bama it is.

  • He's up for re-election but under Delaware law can run for both. Dem gov. apppoints successor if they win; the almost certain bet would be attorney general Beau Biden.

  • Joe turns 66 in December which makes him 73 almost 74 on Election Day 2016.

    More analysis after more sleep.
  • Friday, August 22, 2008

    Loras President Signs Amethyst Initiative

    Loras President Signs Amethyst Initiative

    Loras College President James Collins has signed the Amethyst Initiative, a project calling for a review of the 21 year old drinking age. Collins is the second Iowa college president to sign, joining James Phifer of Coe College.

    But University of Northern Iowa President Benjamin Allen said Wednesday that he would not sign the initiative. And nationally, two college presidents have withdrawn their names, under political pressure from Mothera Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

    University of Iowa President Sally Mason said Tuesday that she would not join.

    Since the media rollout Monday, the Amethyst Initiative's list has grown to 123 college presidents nationwide.

    Olympics: Day Fourteen

    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    Nagle: Obama "throwing Iowa under bus" with calendar commission

    Nagle: Obama "throwing Iowa under bus" with calendar commission

    Dave Nagle told Iowa Independent that Barack Obama is "throwing Iowa under the bus" by supporting a commission to study the Democratic nomination calendar. That commission will be headed by Debbie Dingell of Michigan, one of the fiercest opponents of Iowa's first in the nation role.

    "The creation of this commission is a clear sellout to Hillary Clinton," said Nagle, who chaired the Iowa Democratic Party during the 1984 caucuses and served in Congress from 1986 to 1992.

    Clinton supporters have been critical of the caucuses, arguing that they are too difficult to attend and that Iowa, where Clinton finished third, has too much influence. Obama won 12 of 13 states which held caucuses.

    "I got the email from (Iowa Obama campaign chair) Jackie Norris this morning saying this wasn't a problem for Iowa and we'd all be fine, but it's a real threat and it's really disappointing," said Nagle. "It's a real disaster for our state, frankly."

    "It operates on the assumption that Barack will be the president," said Nagle, "and there's absolutely no guarantee of that whatsoever."

    Nagle says he is certain that Iowa will lose its first in the nation role if Obama loses the election. "The only way you might get around that is if the mandate creating the commission restricts them from considering the status of Iowa and New Hampshire. It's all up to Obama," said Nagle. "I think if he could get Hillary's permission, then that could go in. But it's clear that Obama is perfectly willing to let her control this."

    "The highest governing authority of the Democratic Party is the national convention," says Nagle. He wants to see the convention reaffirm Iowa's first in the nation role, which would bind the commission for at least the next four years. "If they don't mandate that, the commission is really free to do whatever it wants."

    The Dingell commission will have 35 members and there is no guarantee that either Iowa or New Hampshire will be represented.

    "We should be making the Obama campaign aware that if he breaks his pledge to Iowa or New Hampshire, it could have serious consequences to his ability to carry this state," said Nagle. "In Iowa, it's a threat. In New Hampshire, it's a reality."


    Brad Anderson, an Iowa Obama spokesperson, disputes Nagle's view. "Senator Obama's commitment to Iowa and New Hampshire being first in the nomination process hasn't changed," Anderson told Iowa Independent.

    Three days before the 2008 caucuses, Obama told the Politico that the calendar should "absolutely" stay the same, with Iowa first, in four years.

    Miller's Last Call Was To Gazette

    Miller's Last Call Was To Gazette

    In the kind of scoop a reporter can't help but feel queasy about, the Cedar Rapids Gazette has exclusive details on missing professor Arthur Miller. The last call from Miller's cell phone was to the Gazette.

    Miller, the University of Iowa political science professor accused of trading grades for sexual favors, was reporting missing Wednesday morning. Iowa City police are searching a park where Miller's car was found, and believe he may have a rifle. Police are openly saying that Miller is likely dead.

    A note found at Miller's home was "cryptic enough that it causes us some concern that he may be out to harm himself,” said a police spokesman.

    “Not a single university administrator, not even the chairman of my department, came to me and asked me if I were OK" after the allegations went public, Miller told the Gazette. He also said he believed the allegations "were part of a vendetta against him by Linda Maxson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences," after an academic program headed by Miller was closed in 2002, the article stated.

    The Gazette states that Miller called the paper between 9:30 and 10:30 Wednesday morning

    As of Thursday morning, other state and local media were not yet citing the Gazette article, which was posted at 1:20 a.m. Thursday.

    Quick Clips

    Quick Clips

  • What if it is Biden? He's up for re-election this year. NPR's Ken Rudin says Biden can run for re-election and VP at the same time.

  • Those crazy Canadians suggest that the candidates embrace the politics of celebrity and offers tickets like Obama-Kid Rock and McCain-Cyrus. (Dunno about Miley and Billy Ray, but Billy Ray's dad was a longtime Kentucky state senator -- a Democrat.) My favorite: McCain-Prince. " Not only does the eclectic pop wizard immediately begin draining away Obama's black vote, but wouldn't McCain and Prince look cute showing up together at rallies wearing matching Raspberry Berets?"
  • Olympics: Day Thirteen

    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    Socialists Take Different Approach to Ballot Access

    Socialists Take Different Approach to Ballot Access

    The ninth and last presidential ticket to qualify for the Iowa ballot before last week's deadline used an obscure approach, Ballot Access News reports.

    Most third parties qualify for Iowa's presidential ballot by getting 1,500 signatures. But the Socialists held a "party meeting" provision, and used it very loosely.

    "Recently the Secretary of State ruled that the 250-person meeting requirement may be satisfied by holding a meeting at an outdoor location," writes Ballot Access News editor Richard Winger. "The Socialist Party set up its meeting at an outdoor spot on the campus of the University of Iowa. That spot had lots of pedestrian traffic. Persons walking by were asked to sign, and that person was considered an attendee."

    "Good going on the homework and implementation for these folks," said Karen Kubby of Iowa City. Kubby is no longer active in the Iowa Socialist Party, but while she was, she served 11 years on the Iowa City council. "They deserve some attention for this, Kubby said. "I hope it doesn't result in Iowa tightening any definitions."

    Mason says no to Amethyst Project

    Mason says no to Amethyst Project

    University of Iowa President Sally Mason has refused to join a group of university president calling for a reconsideration of the 21 year old drinking age,

    In an open letter (scanned .pdf) addressed to Amethyst Project head John McCardell, Mason said, "I do not agree that lowering the drinking age would be effective at this time."

    The letter was dated Tuesday, the same day the Amethyst Project received its first major media attention.

    Mason mentioned Iowa City's ordinance allowing 19 and 20 year-olds admission into bars, but did not note that a ballot initiative to raise the admission age to 21 was defeated last year with an overwhelming no vote from students.

    The only Iowa college president to sign on to the Amethyst Project thus far is James Phifer of Coe College. “We don’t know for sure that lowering the drinking age will make the binge drinking issue better, but it’s calling for a study and that’s what President Phifer supports,” said a Coe spokesman.

    Ben Allen of the University of Northern Iowa has not taken a position yet, and Gregory Geoffroy of Iowa State University is on vacation.

    Olympics: Day Twelve

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Leach Plays "Hardball" For Obama

    Leach Plays "Hardball" For Obama

    Jim Leach is taking his Barack Obama endorsement on the cable news circuit, appearing Tuesday night on Chris Matthews' "Hardball" on MSNBC in a "Republicans for Obama" segment.

    "Do we want a new direction rooted in historical American values, or one that might be described as aberrational, that is unusual, in which we attack countries that haven't attacked us, in which we lay plans for long term occupation of a land where America and the West are deeply resented," Leach asked. "It's time for a change and that change needs to come quickly."

    Leach declined to state who Abraham Lincoln would support in this election -- yes, Matthews actually asked. "It's always presumptuous to think of anyone in a historical setting," Leach said, "but Abraham Lincoln would insist that every American vote for the best candidate irregardless of color of skin. And that is where the great Republican tradition resides."

    Obama Leads in Hawkeye Poll

    Obama Leads in Hawkeye Poll

    Barack Obama has a five percent lead over John McCain among registered voters in the University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll released today. The survey of 709 registered voters was conducted Aug. though 13 and has a 3.9 percent margin of error.

    "The race in Iowa, while relatively close, appears to be moving in Obama's direction," said University of Iowa professor David Redlawsk, the Hawkeye Poll director.

    Demographic breakdowns show Obama leading McCain among all groups except senior citizens, though Obama's lead with men is less than one percent and within the margin of error.

    Both major party candidates seem to have solidified their party bases in Iowa, but Democrats have more confidence that their candidate will win. Three-quarters of Obama supporters think he will win, as opposed to only half of McCain's backers who expect a Republican win. "Confidence in your candidate is another motivator to actually get out and vote," Redlawsk said. "When you believe you will win, it's all the more reason to show up at the polls. When you think you will lose, it's easier to not bother."

    Other key findings in the poll:

  • Obama leads among women by nearly 13 percent. That's been harder for him in some states, where disappointed Hillary Clinton supporters still aren't on board.

  • Obama's strongest lead is among young voters under 30, where he as a 62-35 percent edge over McCain.

  • Over a third of respondents think Obama's race could make it more difficult for him to win support. ""We can't directly ask voters if they are unwilling to vote for someone because of race," said Redlawsk, "but we can ask what they think others will do. It seems clear, though, that race is a factor, even if it's hard to quantify."

  • It's lower than the national average, but 8 percent of respondents still identified Obama as Muslim.

    Despite Obama's lead, the state is no sure thing for the Democrats this fall. "It's very clear that voters who continue to support George Bush will vote for John McCain," Redlawsk said. "Not only is this a simple continuation of partisan support, but McCain is clearly associated with supporting much of the Bush agenda, and voters recognize the connection."

    "The challenge for Obama lies with independents who disapprove of Bush," said Redlawsk. "While McCain has the support of more than 8 in 10 Bush supporters, Obama is only picking up 6 in 10 of those who disapprove of Bush. This gap is allowing McCain to claim a plurality of all independent voters at this time."
  • College Presidents call for drinking age debate

    College Presidents call for drinking age debate

    Over 100 college presidents have signed on with a group which advocates reconsidering the 21 year old drinking age.

    The only Iowa name listed on the Amethyst Initiative is James R. Phifer of Coe College in Cedar Rapids.

    "This is a law that is routinely evaded," said John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who started the organization. "It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory."

    Strictly speaking, the drinking age of 21 is not a federal law. It's 50 state laws. 21 had been the law in most states until 1971, when, at the height of the Vietnam draft, the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18. Many states followed suit with the drinking age.

    But states raised drinking ages en masse after 1984, when Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. That bill imposed a penalty of 10 percent of a state's federal highway appropriation on any state setting its drinking age lower than 21.

    That bill was passed largely due to pressure from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), who quickly set their sights on the Amethyst Initiative. "It's very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses," said Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD.

    The drinking age was an indirect but hot issue in last year's city elections in Iowa City. An initiative that would have raised the bar admission age from 19 to 21 was defeated by an overwhelming student vote.

    Olympics: Day Eleven

    Monday, August 18, 2008

    Sebelius off VP list?

    Sebelius to Iowa Thursday - off VP list?

    Barack Obama's campaign today announced a three-stop Iowa visit Thursday by Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, one of the names that's been on his vice presidential short list.

    With time running out before next week's Democratic national convention, this could be a hint that Sebelius is off the list, since she'd presumably need to appear at a big roll-out rally with Obama if she were selected.

    Or, to take another approach to the tea leaf reading and Kremlinology of vice presidential selection politics, could the Iowa stops be auditions?

    Not likely. The three stops Thursday are relatively small events, and a running mate appearance is usually big. Sebelius will talk pay equity at a Des Moines lunch, hold a meet and greet at an Indianola deli, and campaign in Waukee with 4th Congressional District candidate Becky Greenwald.

    Olympics: Day Ten

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Olympics: Day Nine

    Thoughts on Saddleback

    Thoughts on Saddleback

    If Obama hadn't shown up, it would have been a minor blip of a story: Christian Right never really embraced McCain, he's reaching out to this important part of the GOP base, etc.

    But because Obama DID show up, it was a Major Event. Sure, McCain got the better reaction from the CROWD. He had home field advantage and he played to it perfectly. But because Obama showed up, McCain had to talk to the rest of us while he was doing it.

    If I'm Obama's people, I make an ad out of McCain's "At conception," answer and run it on Lifetime and Oxygen and We and get my pal Oprah to talk about it a whole lot.

    Obama had to talk to the rest of us as well, and other than selling out on gay marriage -- which every Democratic presidential candidate except Dennis Kucinich did -- he managed to talk about faith in a way that didn't make secular types cringe.

    Part of Rick Warren's point in doing this was to show that the fundamentalists are interested in other issues besides fetus worship and homophobia. Sure, Obama's not going to win the megachurch vote. But he cared enough to show up, and if he takes a sliver of it, that makes Johnny Mac's job harder. And there's a lot of undecided independents in the basements of the old fashioned mainline churches,

    Obama also dropped the name "Christ" a lot more tham McCain did. Nothing's ever going to kill the Muslim rumor; "Muslim" is just a way of saying "black." But Obama pushed it further to the fringe.

    McCain hit all the right Right notes in simple soundbite form. That's supposed to give him the win -- but isn't that what Bush has been doing for eight years? Obama was supposedly too long, too gray, too thoughtful. How awful; a president who thinks.

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    Olympics: Day Eight

    Uncontested Races

    21 Legislative Seats Uncontested

    21 Iowa legislative candidates, including one open seat contender, can start picking out their favorite desk trinkets for the January session -- they've got no opposition at all.

    Democrats have a slight edge over Republicans in filling places on the ballot in Iowa's 125 state legislative races. Democrats have fielded 114 candidates, while Republicans have 108.

    The two parties break nearly even on uncontested races. 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans have no opposition in the fall. The Democratic edge comes in the seven races where Democratic incumbents will face only a third party opponent and no Republican.

    In Senate District 2, Republican Randy Feenstra will walk into his first term without facing an opponent in either the primary or general election (not that having a Democratic opponent would have made much difference in a Sioux County district).

    With Friday's filing deadline, the Democrat vs. Republican matchups for Iowa's federal and state races are final -- even if a candidate dies. That actually happened two years ago, when unopposed Republican Rep. Mary Lou Freeman passed away. A December 2006 special election was required to fill her seat.

    There's one asterisk on the list: In Cedar County-based House District 79, Democrat Rebecca Spears filed in March, and then announced her withdrawal from the race. However, she did not file the paperwork to withdraw by the Aug. 7 deadline, and will appear on the ballot against Republican incumbent Jeff Kaufmann. Spears failed to respond to an inquiry from Iowa Independent. Cedar County Democratic Chair Linda Carillo told Iowa Independent that Spears did not respond to repeated attempts at communication before the withdrawal deadline.

    Third parties still have a week to substitute candidates, but only in districts where they've already filed. The Libertarians have two candidates and the Greens have one.

  • Complete list of candidates at the Secretary of State's site (.pdf)

    Unopposed Democrats

    House District 22: Deborah Berry, D-Waterloo (won a primary challenge)
    House District 24: Roger Thomas, D-Elkader
    House District 25: Tom Schueller, D-Maquoketa
    House District 30: Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville
    House District 34: Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids
    House District 38: Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids (Republican opponent dropped out)
    House District 42: Geri Huser, D-Altoona (won a primary challenge)
    House District 48: Donovan Olson, D-Boone
    House District 78: Vicki Lensing, D-Iowa City
    House District 88: Dennis Cohoon, D-Burlington

    Unopposed Republicans

    Senate District 2:  Open Seat -- Dave Mulder retiring, GOP nominee Randy Feenstra was also unopposed in the primary
    Senate District 26: Steve Kettering, R-Lake View
    Senate District 28: James Seymour, R-Woodbine
    Senate District 30: Pat Ward, R-West Des Moines
    Senate District 32: Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale
    House District 5: Royd Chambers, R-Sheldon
    House District 6: Mike May, R-Spirit Lake
    House District 51: Rod Roberts, R-Carroll
    House District 82: Linda Miller, R-Bettendorf
    House District 97: Rich Anderson, R-Clarinda
    House District 98: Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia

    Candidates With Third Party Opponents Only

    Senate District 4: Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg ("Grassroots For Life" opponent)
    House District 15: Brian Quirk, D-New Hampton (independent opponent)
    House District 46: Lisa Heddens, D-Ames (Libertarian opponent)
    House District 66: Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines (Green opponent)
    House District 77: Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City (independent opponent)
    House District 90: John Whitaker, D-Hillsboro ("4th of July Party" opponent)
    House District 93: Mary Gaskill, D-Ottumwa (independent opponent)
  • Friday, August 15, 2008

    Nine Choices on Iowa Presidential Ballot

    Nine Choices on Iowa Presidential Ballot

    Two presidential tickets filed on Friday's deadline day, giving Iowans nine candidates to choose from. The last minute additions are Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party and Brian Moore of the Socialist Party.

    The Constitution Party started as the US Taxpayers Party, an umbrella group of several single state conservative parties. It changed names in 1999. Baldwin was the 2004 vice presidential candidate. He's running under different labels in some states.

    The Socialist Party is the lineal descendant of Eugene Debs' campaigns of a century ago and elected, as Alice Cooper duly noted in "Wayne's World," three Socialist mayors of Milwaukee. The party faded almost to non-existence in the 1960s but has been an off and on presence on Iowa's presidential ballots since 1980.

    Nine presidential tickets is about average for Iowa in recent presidential cycles. The most crowded ballot was in 1992 with 14 candidates.

    The big news in Congressional filing was the non-filing by Democratic primary loser William Myers in the 4th Congressional District. There will be three-way contests in the 3rd and 5th Districts, and a four-way race in the 2nd. The U.S. Senate race is a two way contest between incumbent Democrat Tom Harkin and Republican Christopher Reed.

  • Complete list of candidates at the Secretary of State's site (.pdf)
  • Slow Traffic on Iowa's Internet

    Slow Traffic on Iowa's Internet

    If the Internet is the information superhighway, then Iowa's traffic is stuck behind a slow moving, two-lanes-wide combine.

    In tests conducted by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Iowa had the seventh slowest broadband speed of the 50 states plus D.C. The average download speed of 1,455 kbps was just over half the national average of 2,346 kbps.

    Iowa joined a group of rural states at the bottom of the rankings. Speeds were slowest in Alaska and fastest in the small Eastern states, with Rhode Island at number one.

    Still, even Rhode Island's relatively speedy 6,769 kbps connections leave one staring at the hourglass a lot longer than you do in Japan, where average speeds are estimated at 63 mbps, nearly ten times faster.

    "The United States has not made significant improvements in deploying high-speed broadband networks in the past year," said the CWA report. "Our nation continues to lag behind other industrial nations and currently is ranked 15th in the percentage of residents who have broadband access."

    Olympics: Day Seven

    Republican Congressman Attacks 14 year old blogger

    Republican Congressman Attacks 14 year old blogger

    Because nothing is more dangerous than a teenager with broadband. Here's the rest. It's Virgil Goode, the same guy who pitched a fit about Keith Ellison and the Koran.

    Just killing time this morning, waiting for the 5 p.m. filing deadline. Here's more clips:

  • Jackson Browne sues John McCain:

    The song, "Running on Empty," has been used by the Ohio Republican Party (not the McCain campaign) apparently against Browne's approval. The music icon also claims that in doing so, the false perception is created that he is endorsing McCain's candidacy.

    Technically, it's the Ohio state party using the song. But didn't anyone in the GOP catch the clue train and realize that if you look up "tree hugging liberal rock star" in the dictionary, there's a 35 year old picture of Jackson Browne there?

  • I've got a pet McCain=Dole theory, nominated eight years too late: "The Greek tragedy aspect of this election could turn out to be, George Bush defeats John McCain twice."

  • As veepstakes nears end game, the Wash Post gets all High Fidelity on us with two Top Five Lists of best and worst VP picks. Joementum is on one of the lists -- the wrong one.

  • What's the future of suburbia? There is none:
    The only subject under discussion about our energy predicament is how can we keep running all our cars by other means. Even the leading environmentalists talk of little else. We don’t get it. The Happy Motoring era is over. No combination of “alt” fuels will allow us to keep running the interstate highway system, Wal-Marts, and Walt Disney World.

    The automobile will be a diminishing presence in our lives, whether we like it or not.
  • Thursday, August 14, 2008

    Barth Files in 2nd CD

    Green Candidate Barth Files in 2nd CD

    Wendy Barth, the Green Party's 2006 candidate for governor, filed for Congress Wednesday in the 2nd Congressional District, setting up a four-way contest.

    Barth joins Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and independent Brian White in the race.

    In other paperwork filed with the Secretary of State Wednesday, Barth is also listed as the Green Party's vice presidential candidate. The Greens are expected to replace Barth with the party's actual vice presidential candidate. Use of a stand-in for petitioning purposes is common in third party ballot access efforts.

    In state legislative races:

  • Independent Kenny Abrams filed in open Senate District 6, where Republican Thurman Gaskill is retiring. He'll face former Republican senator Merlin Bartz and Democrat Doug Thompson.

  • Libertarian Eric Cooper is making a second run against Ames Democratic Rep. Lisa Heddens in House District 46. Cooper won 2.6 percent in a three way race in 2006; there is no Republican this time.

  • While the candidate has not formally filed yet, Polk County Republican Chair Ted Sporer reports on his blog that the GOP nominated Larry Voorhees, owner of several taekwondo dojos, in House District 68 at a Wednesday night convention. Voorhees will challenge Democratic Rep. Rick Olson.
  • Olympics: Day Six

    Olympics: Day Six

    Barr and McKinney File For President

    Barr and McKinney File For President

    Iowa's two official third parties both qualified their presidential candidates for the state's ballot on Wednesday. In a coincidence, both parties are running former U.S. House members from Georgia.

    Bob Barr was a Republican in Congress, but now he's the Libertarian presidential nominee. Cynthia McKinney, a former Democrat, is the Green candidate.

    Barr is showing up as a 2 to 3 percent blip in national polls, drawing support from disgruntled Republicans and former Ron Paul supporters. Paul, still serving as a Republican congressman, hasn't endorsed Barr -- but he hasn't endorsed John McCain either, and speaks often and highly of Barr.

    First elected in the 1994 Republican landslide, Barr had a high profile role in the 1998 House impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Barr lost his seat in a 2002 primary, when redistricting paired him with another Republican incumbent. He surprised people by working with the American Civil Liberties Union on privacy issues, and left the Republicans last year.

    National polls have excluded McKinney, preferring to ask about Ralph Nader instead. McKinney was first elected in 1992, and lost a 2002 primary where she was targeted by pro-Israel groups for her pro-Palestinian views. She won the seat back in 2004, but lost again in 2006 after getting a lot of negative attention over a physical confrontation with a Capitol police officer who failed to recognize her as a House member.

    McKinney will compete with Nader, who qualified for the Iowa ballot as the "Peace and Freedom" candidate last week, for a similar group of voters. Nader is the better known name, but the Green Party has more of an organization than Nader's loose network. The Greens had hoped to increase their support from minority voters by nominating their first African-American candidate, but the Democrats seem to have had the same idea.

    Greens and Libertarians earned a place on Iowa's voter registration forms on Jan. 1 this year as "political organizations," the new law's term for third parties. Voters can register as Libertarian or Green, but the parties still have to petition to get their candidates on the ballot. The deadline is Friday.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Leach for VP?

    Leach for VP?

    In yesterday's conference call endorsing Barack Obama, Jim Leach suggested a fellow Republican, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, as Obama's running mate.

    Jim, you were always a modest guy. If Obama's going to go with a Republican, how about you?

    Lord, two years ago I never thought I'd say that.

    The most partisan Democrats might scream at the notion of a Republican on the ticket. But Leach, at age 66 on Election Day 2008, would be an unlikely prospect for the White House in 2012 or 2016. And talk about the symbolism. In his pre-Congress diplomatic career, Leach literally worked side by side with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

    Leach is a far better fit on the issues than Hagel. Chuck Hagel wants to get the war over, true, but on every other issue he's a Big Red Nebraska conservative. Leach, on the other hand, had a voting record smack dab in the middle of the House during his 30 year career, is acceptable to Democrats on the choice issue, and represents a moderate Republican breed of cat that has been searching for a home ever since John Anderson left the party in 1980.

    Leach is clearly a forgiving fellow, willing to overlook Obama's last minute campaign stop in Iowa City for Loebsack in 2006 that was literally right outside the door of his congressional office. And after the election, Leach, thinking of continuity and constituent service, turned over the lease on that very office to the Loebsack team. Even the phone number is the same.

    Leach has also got a lot of appeal to Democrats. To get really, really micro, he might help in Iowa, which is in the Leaning Obama category but still not 100 percent safe. Leach carried the People's Republic of Johnson County more often than not during his 30 year tenure, which allowed him to hang on in a Democratic-leaning district until the R label proved to be too much in 2006. In retrospect, it wasn't a fluke that Dave Loebsack won; rather, it was remarkable that Leach held on as long as he did in such a blue district.

    In his 2002 race, Leach signs appeared side by side with Tom Harkin signs in many yards. Leach voted no on the war that October, and while Democrats didn't want to punish Tom Harkin for voting yes, they wanted to reward Leach. His Democratic opponent, Julie Thomas, was left to say, about a day too late, that she would have voted no too. But an "I woulda" is never as good as an "I did."

    Leach's campaign style also fits well with many of Obama's themes. He refused PAC money and ran on an "Integrity" theme. In his last campaign, the Republican Party dropped one negative mailer, complete with the classic ugly distorted picture of the opponent. It made the bearded professor look like Vladimir Ilyich Loebsack. Leach immediately put the kibosh on any more of that. Could he have won if he had gone scorched earth? Maybe. But only at the cost of his whole persona.

    And that may be the down side to the Leach for VP boomlet. The running mate traditionally is the attack dog of the ticket, the bad cop of the good cop-bad cop team. That's a role that ill-suits Leach.

    But Obama has talked about putting Republicans in his cabinet, and that seems like a better bet. Leach was mentioned as a possible U.N. ambassador in late 2006, just after his loss, but his war opposition probably ruled out any post in the loyalty über alles Bush administration. That, or another diplomatic job, still sounds like a good job for Leach, who worked at the U.N. back when George H.W. was ambassador and was a high-ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee. A financial post might also be a good fit for the former Banking Committee chair. Maybe Obama needs a Mortgage Crisis Czar.

    But if Barack Obama is going to go all-out with his theme of rising above partisanship, Jim Leach is a perfect fit.

    Colorado Roundup

    Colorado Primary Roundup

    Sister site Colorado Independent has roundups of three hot House primaries last night:

  • 2nd CD: Senator in waiting Mark Udall's seat. Businessman Jared Polis wins a three way race with 50 percent. Safe Dem seat; Polis is heavily favored and will be the third openly gay House member. Also one of the youngest at 33.

  • 5th CD: "Freshman Rep. Doug Lamborn won this Republican stronghold in south-central Colorado in a squeaker of a five-way race two years ago, and Jeff Crank and Bentley Rayburn have returned for a grudge match." A Crank-Rayburn agreement for one of them to quit fell through, and hardline conservative Lamborn won with a plurality.

  • 6th CD: Secretary of State Mike Coffman wins a four-way GOP race in Tom Tancredo's district.

    GOP favored to hold both 5 and 6.

    Also some minor primary action in Connecticut and Nevada, but nothing decisive.
  • Olympics: Day Five

    Three Independent Congressional Candidates File

    Three Independent Congressional Candidates File

    At least three of Iowa's U.S House races are now three-way contests, as independent candidates join the races.

    In the 2nd Congressional District, independent Brian White of North Liberty, a self-described moderate, followed through on his announced candidacy and filed. He joins Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack and Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks. But 5th District candidate Victor Vara of Sioux City is an unexpected addition to the race between Republican incumbent Steve King and Democrat Rob Hubler.

    Socialist Workers Party (SWP) candidate Frank Forrestal filed in the 3rd Congressional District, where he'll face Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell and Republican Kim Schmett. The SWP also filed for president on Tuesday. But the presidential candidate Iowa voters will see on their ballots isn't the party's official nominee.

    The SWP, a regular fixture on Iowa ballots in presidential years, has nominated Róger Calero, who also ran in 2004. But Calero is constitutionally ineligible for the presidency, just like Arnold Schwarzenegger, as he is not a native-born U.S. citizen.

    "The SWP was for many years the leading voice of Trotskyism in the USA," writes ballot completist Ron Gunzburger of "Since the 1980s, the SWP has drifted away from Trotskyism and moved towards the brand of authoritarian politics espoused by Cuban leader Fidel Castro's style of Marxism." The SWP is the group that actively sells The Militant newspaper.

    James Harris will serve as the SWP's stand-in candidate in Iowa, just as he did in 2004. Harris will appear alongside the official vice presidential nominee, Alyson Kennedy. It's not clear what will happen if the Яevolutioи occurs and the SWP wins, but they'll have to improve on their 374 votes in 2004 in Iowa (out of 1.5 million cast) for the question to matter.

    Announced SWP U.S. Senate candidate Diana Newberry did not file Tuesday. The deadline is Friday and 1,500 signatures are required.

    In state legislative races:

  • Republican Vic Mokricky, a retired teacher, was nominated in Waterloo's House District 20. First-term Democratic incumbent Doris Kelley won with only 51.5 percent in 2006. Mokricky's nomination leaves 30 races still uncontested.

  • In Clinton's House District 26, previously announced Republican Jonathan Van Roekel officially filed against Democratic incumbent Polly Bukta.

  • Libertarian Russ Gibson filed in open House District 60 against Republican Peter Cownie and Democrat Alan Koslow.
  • Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Loebsack, Miller-Meeks on Leach Endorsement

    Loebsack, Miller-Meeks on Leach Endorsement

    Congressman Dave Loebsack praised his predecessor, Jim Leach, for crossing party lines to endorse Democrat Barack Obama for president today.

    “I believe that Jim Leach sees Barack Obama as a candidate who is following in his footsteps, one that is working to change the way business is done in Washington by putting aside party affiliations and ending the era of negative partisan attacks in order to finally address the needs and priorities of hardworking Americans,” said Loebsack. “I know this is what inspired me to support Barack Obama for President.”

    Loebsack’s Republican opponent, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, said she had great respect for Leach despite their differences on the presidential race.

    “I have tremendous respect and admiration for Jim Leach,” Miller-Meeks told Iowa Independent. “He’s about the most honest and insightful person I know in politics.”

    Miller-Meeks restated her support for Republican nominee-to-be John McCain. “You can have a difference of opinion and be allowed to voice that,” she said of Leach’s Obama endorsement. “It doesn’t change the way I feel about (Leach).”

    “It’s difficult to know” how Leach’s Obama endorsement will affect her own race, said Miller-Meeks. “It depends on how people percieve Obama and Loebsack.” She said in a down-ballot contest like a congressional race, more voters get to know the candidates as individuals. “There are many of us who vote for people based on their own credentials.”

    Loebsack was the first member of Iowa’s congressional delegation to back Obama, and the only one to endorse Obama before the Jan. 3 caucuses.

    “Jim Leach has a remarkable career in public service; he has always made it a priority to stay away from divisive party politics,” said Loebsack, who defeated Leach in 2006

    Leach Endorses Obama

    Leach Endorses Obama

    Conference call this AM under a "Republicans for Obama" banner. To be honest, I though Jim was just going to be quiet and let the silence, and Elisabeth's donations, speak for him.

    I'm also thinking, with a sense of irony, back to that big Ped Mall rally two days before the 2006 election. 5,000 folks showed up for Obama, but Dave Loebsack got the second biggest cheers. I started to think, "you know, he just might do it." Good to know Leach doesn't begrudge Barack just because he campaigned for the other guy.

    Key quotes:

  • "Frankly, I'm convinced that the national interest demands a new approach to our interaction with the world. Like many I'm astonished at Barack Obama's meteoric rise as a candidate. I have no doubt his is the leadership we need."

  • "I also have no doubt that a lot of Republicans and independents are going to be attracted to his call for a new era of nonideological, bipartisan decision-making."

  • "Barack Obama's platform is a call for change, but the change that he is so gracefully articulating is more renewal than departure. It is rooted in very old American values that are as much a part of the Republican as the Democratic tradition. There's an emphasis on individual rights, fairness and balance at home and progressive internationalism."

  • "Basically from my perspective, this is simply not a time for politics as usual. The portfolio of issues that are going to be passed on to the next president will be as daunting as any since the Great Depression and World War II and that means that the case for inspiring new political leadership and a social ethic has seldom been more self-evident."

    UPDATE 1: Reactions --

    “Congressman Leach is well-respected across the state of Iowa by Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike, and we are honored to have his support,” said Obama Iowa State Director Jackie Norris in a press release. “This election is about changing the way Washington does business, and many Republicans like Congressman Leach understand America cannot afford another four years of the failed policies of the Bush Administration.”

    "It’s rather ironic that someone like Jim Leach, a person who placed such a strong focus on campaign finance issues, would be endorsing the first presidential candidate since Watergate to skirt the public financing program in the general election," said Iowa McCain spokesperson Wendy Riemann in a press release. "Despite Obama’s lofty speeches on change, Iowans know that real change comes from working across the aisle to get things done. A single endorsement does not hide the fact that Senator Obama has no record of achievement beyond the confines of his party. While John McCain has spent his career putting the country first -- ahead of personal and party interests - Senator Obama's record is a lesson in partisanship.”

    Iowa's top Republican blogger, Krusty Konservative, expressed surprise at the endorsement. "While he is very well respected in the Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport area, his endorsement doesn’t carry much weight unless he’s willing to make some appearances and work to get his former supporters to back Obama," writes Krusty.

    Republican activist Mike Thayer, author of the Coralville Courier blog, disagrees. "Not surprising, and another example of how and why many GOP faithful lost faith in Jim Leach," he told Iowa Independent.

    State Sen. Dave Hartsuch of Bettendorf, the Republican candidate for Congress against Rep. Bruce Braley in the 1st Congressional District, is a conservative who defeated moderate incumbent Maggie Tinsman in a 2006 primary. Hartsuch said Leach had been quoted in a recent issue of Campaigns and Elections magazine as a supporter of the Republican Leadership Council, a group that hopes to move the party in a more moderate direction. "I think it's interesting," Hartsuch said of Leach's endorsement, "because it really shows how far to the left this group is."

    "For some reason, probably the war, (Leach) feels that he cannot support John McCain," writes Republican state central committee member David Chung at his Hawkeye GOP blog. Leach was one of only five Republican House members to vote against the war in 2002. "Moderates in the party have long complained that conservatives would abandon them. In fact it is obvious that just the opposite is true," said Chung.
  • Olympics: Day Four

    Olympics: Day Four

    The series continues, as it will throughout the Games.

    "I wish American television would stop using Tiananmen Square as a set. This is a freaking grave. This is a place where a really bad thing happened. We would not tolerate French television coming to New York and using Ground Zero as a backdrop for talking about how happy and merry New Yorkers are. The corporations that own and sponsor the US coverage of the Olympics have to tap dance around the Chinese human rights record, but my lord let's not use this place as a backdrop. People died there." Sports analyst Charlie Pierce on NPR's Only a Game.

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    Did Edwards Cost Clinton Nomination? Maybe Not.

    Did Edwards Cost Clinton Nomination? Maybe Not.

    A top aide to Hillary Clinton says if revelations about John Edwards' extramarital affair had come out before the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton would be the presumptive nominee today.

    That's impossible to definitively answer, of course. But a caucus night survey indicates that most Edwards caucus goers had a second choice other than Clinton, and his absence would likely have meant a bigger Iowa win for Barack Obama.

    "I believe we would have won Iowa, and Clinton today would therefore have been the nominee," if Edwards had dropped out before Iowa, former Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson told ABC News.

    Iowa's delegate totals -- the Democrats refuse to release actual vote counts -- were Obama 37.6 percent, Edwards 29.7 percent and Clinton 29.5 percent. Wolfson's assertion assumes that two-thirds of Edwards' supporters had Clinton as a second choice, rather than Obama or one of the second-tier candidates.

    Wolfson said internal Clinton polls showed "our voters and Edwards' voters were the same people. They were older, pro-union. Not all, but maybe two-thirds of them would have been for us and we would have barely beaten Obama."

    University of Iowa political science professor David Redlawsk conducted a caucus night survey on second choices. "We asked people 'If your candidate is not viable, what will you do?' 82 percent of Edwards supporters said they would support another candidate and 18 percent would not," said Redlawsk. "When we asked which candidate they would then support, 32 percent said Clinton and 51 percent said Obama. Had this actually happened statewide, Obama would have been even further ahead of Clinton."

    "As the campaign progressed few Edwards people gave any indication that Clinton was their second choice," said Redlawsk, who was himself elected as an Edwards national delegate and now supports Obama. "And obviously a campaign without Edwards would have had a totally different dynamic, with different foci, with different media coverage for all of the candidates, and so on. The great thing about Wolfson's quote is that it seems like it might be right, but of course can never be proven one way or the other."

    Clinton's Iowa campaign emphasized her experience and a "ready to lead on day one" theme, rather than the economic issues Edwards emphasized. Clinton shifted toward economic themes later in the campaign, after Iowa.

    While attention in the late primaries and early general election campaign has shifted to the economy, the Iraq War was on the front burner a year or so ago when Iowa's party activists were making their choices. Edwards and Clinton took different approaches toward their October 2002 votes authorizing the war. Edwards explicitly apologized for his vote, saying, "I was wrong to vote for it. I have to take responsibility for that and I do." At the same time, he said, "There's not a single voter in America who doesn't understand that their president is human, and their president will sometimes makes mistakes" -- ironic in retrospect.

    Clinton merely said she would have voted differently on the war if "I knew then what I know now," and in February 2007 said, "If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from."

    Edwards also tried to emphasize his electability, but dropped the argument after he was accused of subtle racism and sexism. But the electability theme was still on the minds of many of his supporters. The evidence may be anecdotal, but at an October Edwards debate watching party, viewers seemed more hostile to Clinton than toward Obama, at a time when Clinton was still the national frontrunner. The comment, "she can't win" was overheard more than once.

    Edwards was out of the race by the time Iowa county conventions met in March, but in many counties the Edwards group stayed together. In places where they didn't, the shift was overwhelmingly toward Obama. In Marshall County, the Edwards group en masse joined the Obama group.

    Edwards himself endorsed Obama in May and was considered a long-shot possibility as a running mate, or more likely for a position in an Obama cabinet, until news of the affair was revealed Friday.