Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The $700 billion question

I don't know much about economics beyond the balance my checkbook level, which is OK since I'm not running for anything. I get that if this problem isn't fixed, there more or less won't BE credit. And I think most people get that on some level.

I do know something of politics, and I get why a really unpopular plan failed. But here's the $700 billion question:

Is there a way to fix this thing without rewarding the people who broke it in the first place?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Democrats Have, and Need, Early Vote Lead

Democrats take estimated 30,000-vote lead in Iowa

Five weeks before Election Day, Barack Obama likely has a lead of more than 30,000 votes in Iowa, based on absentee ballot requests. But Democrats will need to continue their early voting blitz--they won the early vote in 2004 only to lose by a bigger margin on Election Day.

Through Thursday, the first day of in-person early voting, there were 62,024 absentee requests statewide from Democrats and 18,558 from-republicans. People not affiliated with a party have made 23,460 requests, and another 35 are from Greens and Libertarians.

Republicans will likely close that gap, though not all the way, before Election Day. Democratic early voting efforts in recent years have focused on door-to-door canvassing through the summer months. Republicans have responded later in the game with mass mailings, usually featuring a message from the state's most popular Republican, Senator Chuck Grassley. A 2006 mailing featured wrestling legend Dan GAble, but President Bush has been absent in recent years.

Let's make some assumptions on how the early ballots requested so fat break out. Let's say Democrats vote 90 percent for Obama and Republicans 90 percent for McCain. Let's also guess that independents break 55 to 45 for Obama, which is about where current state polling stands. Those percentages, and one more assumption, project to a 33,000 vote Obama lead five weeks before Election Day.

The last assumption, based on typical rates from past years, is that 95 percent of the requested ballots from party members and 5 percent do not. For independents, figure that 10 percent don't come back. Since they're not a sure thing, party staffers and volunteers are less likely to aggressively "chase" those voters and encourage them to get their ballots in.

That attrition rate reduces Obama's estimated lead by about 3,000. which is a lot when you consider that Bush won the state in 2004 by 10,000 votes and Gore carried Iowa in 2000 by only 4,000. The attrition rate may also be a reason why Democrats have shifted strategy this year to encourage more in-person early voting at auditor's offices and satellite sites. In-person early voters fill out their paperwork with the office staff standing by to help explain the origami of envelopes, and there's a 100 percent return rate as voters hand the ballot right in.

In 2004, Democrats went into election day with a John Kerry lead of 71,868 votes. But Kerry lost the Election Day vote by 81,920, for a Bush win of 10,052.

In Polk County, and more than a dozen others, Bush won the 2004 Election Day vote, but Kerry won the absentee by a wider margin and carried the county overall. Part of that, of course, was that Democratic voters voluntarily took themselves out of the Election Day voting pool. But most of it was Democratic and 527 absentee ballot efforts.

In the only other 2004 statewide race, the U.S. Senate contest, under-funded Democrat Art Small lost the Election Day vote to Grassley by more than three to one. But Small had a relatively respectable 38 percent of the absentee vote, indicating that a lot of those early voters were straight ticket Democrats.

Polls are showing a solid Obama lead in Iowa, and McCain didn't help himself by loudly proclaiming his opposition to ethanol subsidies in Friday's debate. Yet he hasn't written the state off, as evidenced by his planned visit to Des Moines Tuesday.

McCain Drops in Iowa Electronic Markets Post-Debate

McCain Drops in Iowa Electronic Markets Post-Debate

John McCain's political stock dropped--literally--after Friday's debate with Barack Obama, or so investors on the Iowa Electronic Markets think.

At 9 a.m. Monday, McCain's shares were trading for 32 cents on the IEM's Winner Take All presidential market, meaning traders give the McCain-Palin ticket only 32 percent chance of winning. On Friday, before the debate, McCain was trading at 37 cents.

Shares for the Democratic Obama-Biden ticket were at 67 cents Monday, up from 62 cents Friday. The Winner Take All market pays a dollar per winning share and nothing for a losing share.

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.

In the Vote Share market, which pays a penny per percentage point, McCain was selling for 47.3 cents this morning, which means investors believe he will receive 47.3 percent of the two-party popular vote in November. Obama was selling for 53.8 cents on the Vote Share market. Shares in the Vote Share market pay in proportion to the percentage.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Third Parties Less Than The Sum Of Their Parts

Third Parties Less Than The Sum Of Their Parts

On Thursday, the first day of in-person early voting, a staffer friend of mine was marking his ballot and wondering aloud about the plethora of socialist options among the nine presidential candidates on the ballot. Socialist, Socialist Workers, and Party of Socialism and Liberation, not to mention the Peace and Freedom Party and the Green Party.

As one considers the minor arcana of dogma that separates these groups from one another, it's easy to recall this scene from Monty Python's Christ parody, "Life of Brian." (NOTE: The video has NSFW language that's amusing but not essential to the point.)

REG: Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the Judean People's Front.
PEOPLE'S FRONT OF JUDEA (a grand total of five people including the new member): Yeah... Splitters!
FRANCIS: And the Judean Popular People's Front.
PFJ: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
LORETTA: And the People's Front of Judea.
PFJ: Yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
REG: What?
LORETTA: The People's Front of Judea. Splitters.
REG: WE'RE the People's Front of Judea!
LORETTA: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.
FRANCIS: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
REG: He's over there (indicates one man sitting alone).

It's a lot like academic politics or student government. The bitterness of the disputes are inversely proportional to the stakes.

The same dynamic occurs on both ends of the spectrum, as Erich Hoffer noted in his 1951 classic, The True Believer. Hoffer argues that movements are interchangeable, that fanatics will often flip from one movement to another, and movements resemble each other in style and method, even when their stated view are diametrically opposed.

This was evident in the past week as Congressman Ron Paul, erstwhile Republican presidential candidate and the internet phenom of November-December 2007, made his endorsement. Paul remains a sitting member of the House GOP caucus, but has explicitly NOT endorsed John McCain.

Two weeks ago, Paul hosted a press conference of several third party contenders and endorsed a generic, vote for any third party stance. But Paul's presumed favorite, Libertarian nominee Bob Barr skipped the event and held his own event instead. Paul, who was himself the Libertarian candidate in 1988, retaliated by endorsing Chuck Baldwin of the relatively obscure Constitution Party instead.

By third party standards, Libertarian nominee Barr is a relative celebrity, a former member of Congress who had a high media profile back in the Clinton impeachment era. In contrast, Baldwin is a classic third party contender--an leading activist in a tiny movement with no profile among the broader voting public. Third parties are often torn between nominating a longtime loyalist like Baldwin or a celebrity newcomer like Barr.

Electorally, they've done better with the big names, like Jesse Ventura, who went through some party splintering himself. He was elected governor of Minnesota in 1998 on Ross Perot's Reform Party ticket, then split after Pat Buchanan's hard-right hostile takeover. Ventura started his own Minnesota Independence Party, which has lived on past his governorship. No, it's not advocating that Minnesota become a country, like the Alaska Independence Party that First Dude Todd Palin affiliated with for a while.

Back over on the left, the strained relationship between Ralph Nader and the Green Party has led to electoral results less than the sum of the parts. Ralph Nader did much better running with the Greens in 2000 than he did running against the Greens, and their obscure party activist nominee, in 2004. Of course, there were other factors, like the Florida results of 2000. But the resources of the left, and the willingness of the media to cover lesser-known candidates, hurts both Nader and 2008 Green nominee Cynthia McKinney.

The candidates of the libertarian and right spectrum are likely to have a bigger impact than the left, as Barr may be a factor in several close states. Perhaps not so much Iowa, which is looking stronger for Barack Obama by the week. But Barr could be significant in some of the Rocky Mountain states, where Libertarians have run well, and in his native Georgia, which Obama is trying to put into play. (McKinney is also a Georgia native, but her African American base seems solid for Obama.)

But Paul's decision to back the obscure Baldwin, rather than the better-known Barr, is a classic case of the third party movement crumbling late in the game. It probably gives McCain a small boost in a few close states, but one would need special scientific instruments to measure it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday Quotes

Saturday Quotes

  • “I’d eliminate ethanol subsidies,” McCain said flatly. “I oppose ethanol subsidies.” On fourth down and long yardage in Iowa, McCain punts. Chalk up 7 points for Obama.

  • "Where is Sarah Palin? Joe Biden is all over the shows, but Palin is nowhere to be found" - Kos, watching the pundits post-debate.

  • "You got a guy that's worth $150 million with 12 houses against a guy who's worth a million dollars with one house. The guy with one house really cares about losing a house, because he is homeless. The other guy can lose five houses and still got a bunch of houses" - Chris Rock on Larry King. A second quote...

  • KING: "You must be proud that at this stage in our history a black man is running for president on a major ticket."

    ROCK: "Um, you know what? I'm proud Barack Obama's running for president. You know? If it was Flavor Flav, would I be proud? No."

    I think Flavor should have been invited to the debate as official timekeeper and allowed to cut off over the limit candidates by shouting "YEEEEEAH, BOYEEEE!"
  • Friday, September 26, 2008

    Some People Don't Have Maps of Russia

    Some People Don't Have Maps of Russia

    When was the last time you heard something like this?

    Was it, maybe, this?

    The only other analogy I can come up with was back in my radio days. This was before digital editing, so we physically sliced tape with razor blades. One time we picked up all the inarticulate pauses and verbal tics, the ones that save precious seconds from the sound bite, and spliced them together into a farrago of stammers and words vaguely related to the question at hand.

    But Palin saves us the time and does it for us without the editing.

    For the record: Chuck Grassley says "um" a lot and Tom Harkin uses the words "quite frankly." You notice stuff like that when it's 3 AM and you're on deadline for Morning Edition and rocking reels of tape back and forth.

  • Speaking of Russia, which I think was what Palin was trying to do, is America of the 2000s the new USSR of the 80s? "Is not wise to ᴙidicule members of ᴙuling paᴙty." Take a moment to pity Yakov Smirnoff, whose career died with communism, in the worst luck since Vaughn Meader.
  • Thursday, September 25, 2008

    In Johnson County, Battle for First Voter Bragging Rights

    In Johnson County, Battle for First Voter Bragging Rights

    The earliest early voters line up at the Johnson County Auditor's Office in Iowa City.

    In Iowa City, Democratic party activists have a traditional, friendly competition for the honor of "first voter." On Thursday, the first day of in-person early voting, three dozen people lined up at the county auditor's office before the window opened. The first-in-line winner was Sue Dvorsky of Coralville, an early Obama backer and one of the county's co-chairs for Obama at caucus time.

    Auditor's staffer Harry Rueber prepartes to give Sue Dvorsky the first ballot, as Tom Penne awaits the second.
    Auditor's Office staffer Harry Rueber prepares to give Sue Dvorsky the first in-person ballot as Tom Penne awaits the second.

    "Everything we've done for the last two years has led us to today and the next forty days," said Dvorsky. "It's an astounding thing to have come this far."

    Most of the voters lined up at 8 a.m. had attended a pre-vote rally at Democratic headquarters, three blocks from the auditor's office. The rally was one of 17 early vote rallies sponsored by the Obama campaign and the Democrats across the state.

    But the earliest early voters included some regular, non-campaign folks. "We're afraid we won't be back in time," said Sue Penne, who is taking a trip to Utah with her husband Tom that may last past election day. They eased into the second and third spots in line, ahead of Sue Dvorsky's husband, state Sen. Bob Dvorsky.

    By 11 AM, 65 voters had voted at the Johnson County Auditor's Office, and another 34 at a satellite voting site at the Iowa City Public Library.

    Voting Begins in Iowa Thursday

    Voting Begins in Iowa Thursday

    Election day begins Thursday across Iowa as the 40 day early voting period gets underway. Democrats will observe the day, 40 days before Election Day proper, with 17 early voting parties at coffee shops and campaign offices across the state.

    Absentee ballots were traditionally a Republican firewall. Back in the days where only shut-ins and overseas military personnel were voting absentee, Republicans lost the election day vote in high-profile races like the 1982 California governorship and a 1988 Florida Senate race, but won the election on absentee ballots.

    Iowa was one of the earliest states to allow any voter to vote early for any reason, in 1990. Most states have now followed suit, and West Coast states have absentee voting rates of nearly 50 percent. (Oregon is 100 percent--all voting is by mail.)

    Both Iowa parties worked the early vote with massive mailings in the 1990s. Beginning in 2002, the Democratic Party launched an aggressive and targeted field canvass for absentee requests. Statewide, absentee and early voting increased from 21 percent in 2000 to 33 percent in 2004. That compares to the roughly 5 percent absentee rate Iowa saw prior to 1990.

    Party canvasses were fortified by parallel efforts by independent 527 organizations in 2004. Literally parallel, in some cases; since the 527s and the parties weren't supposed to coordinate with each other, canvass teams could sometimes be working literally across the street from each other. An exaggeration, but only slightly.

    The 527 efforts, discouraged by the Obama campaign, have tapered off dramatically in 2008, and vote by mail requests are down from previous cycles, with just over 100,000 requests in so far according to Secretary of State Michael Mauro. But the change seems more tactical than due to a lack of interest, as evidenced by an increase in the tough to target military and overseas ballot requests, up from 2300 in 2004 to 3200 so far in 2008.

    Rather, the change seems to be that Democrats have refocused their efforts this year on in-person early voting at satellite stations and auditor's offices.

    Iowa's urban counties have seen heavy satellite voting in past years, but this year expanded petitioning efforts (it only takes 100 signatures to force a site, but the deadline was a week ago) have led to sites in other areas as well. Democrats petitioned for four Wapello County sites, the first satellite sites ever in the county. Tama County will have a site at the Meskwaki Tribal Center, and Buena Vista County will have a site on the Buena Vista College campus.

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    House Candidate Robinson Ends Campaign

    House Candidate Robinson Ends Campaign

    Iowa House candidate Mike Robinson announced he was ending his campaign Wednesday night, telling the Linn County Democrats in a prepared statement that he was exiting the race for personal reasons. He is expected to make a formal announcement today.

    Robinson, who chaired the Linn County Democrats until stepping down for the race, was challenging incumbent Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, in House District 35 in northern Linn County.

    Robinson's name will remain on the ballot. The deadline for withdrawal was weeks ago, and ballots are already printed. In person early voting begins tomorrow.

    Robinson is the second Democratic House candidate to quit a race yet stay on the ballot. House District 79 candidate Rebecca Spears announced she was dropping out shortly after filing, yet never filed the proper paperwork.

    Iowa Independent's Lynda Waddington contributed to this story.

    Loebsack Relaunches Campaign Site

    Loebsack Relaunches Campaign Site

    Democrat Dave Loebsack has launched a redesigned campaign web site which, while mentioning campaign events, keeps its focus on Loebsack's re-election strategy of emphasizing his work during his first term.

    The previous version of the site had been mostly unchanged since a thank you message on the front page following Loebsack's November 2006 win. The new site keeps the "Our Voice for Change" slogan Loebsack used in 2006.

    Loebsack's campaign strategy in his first re-election effort has been largely, as he put it, to "do my job." Though he did make a third trip to Iraq in his role on the Armed Services Committee, most of Loebsack's work since June has has been on flood relief,

    His main opponent, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, has attacked that effort, and the Democratic Congress, for not passing a flood relief bill sooner. But sudden changes in negotiations between Democratic leadership and the White House mean a vote could come as soon as today.

    The Miller-Meeks campaign is also critical of reports yesterday that Loebsack disposed of a donation from ethically embattled House Ways and means Chair Charles Rangel. Loebsack donated the $5,000 from Rangel's political action committee to various flood relief charities.

    “When he’s in Washington and he thought constituents aren’t watching, Dave Loebsack voted against investigating Charles Rangel’s alleged tax avoidance and other possible violations when he should have been voting for flood relief for Iowans," siad campaign spokesman Eric Woolson in a press release. "He voted to block that investigation because he wants to protect the status quo, not clean up Washington’s problems."

    Loebsack and Miller-Meeks also face Green candidate Wendy Barth and independent Brian White on the ballot.

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008

    Loebsack discards Rangel contribution

    Loebsack discards Rangel contribution

    Dave Loebsack is the first House Democrat to get rid of a donation from Charles Rangel's political action committee, the Politico reports.

    Rangel, the House Ways and Means chairman, is under investigation for alleged ethics and tax violations.

    Loebsack donated the $5,000 he received from Rangel's PAC to the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids chambers of commerce and three other organizations for flood relief efforts. His opponent, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, had been critical of the donation.

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    Tina Fey on Sarah Palin

    Quote of the day Fey

    "I want to be done playing this lady Nov. 5, So if anybody can help me be done playing this lady Nov. 5, that would be good for me" -- triple Emmy winner Tina Fey

    Nothing against your dead-on and very funny impersonation, Tina, but that would be good for the rest of us, too.

    More Cars Than Obama

    I Have More Cars Than Obama

    How many cars is enough? Newsweek checked the vehicle registration records and here's the score:

    Barack and Michelle Obama: 1
    John and Cindy McCain: 13 (but we'll have the staff get back to you on that)

    For the record -- John Deeth and Koni Steele: 2 (one each).

    Sunday, September 21, 2008

    Race Cards and Getting To Know You

    Race Cards and Getting To Know You

    "Have you ever noticed that Barack Obama is part African American?"

    That soft-spoken sentence from the governor of Kansas sure kicked off a firestorm around here. There were enough other oopses this past week. Sarah Palin managed two in one Iowa speech, noting how glad she was that the "Palin-McCain" ticket was in "Grand" Rapids. John McCain promised to fire the Securites and Exchange Commission chair--which a president doesn't get to do--and placed Spain in Latin America, where, as Dan Quayle would note, they speak Latin. And Joe Biden got some flak for saying higher taxes are patriotic. (That's two now, for those of you keeping score at home, but once again he got lucky thanks to bigger gaffes by others the same day.)

    But Kathleen Sebelius landed on the front page of the Drudge Report. This is what happens to traffic when you are on the front page of the Drudge report.

    The politics of outrage, real outrage or artificially stoked mock outrage, that tried to pigeonhole every criticism of Sarah Palin as "sexist," demand that we take Deep Offense at Sebelius' statement. But let's be honest with ourselves. If a stand up comedian had said the same thing, we would have just laughed.

    That's one of the struggles Democratic senate candidate Al Franken is facing in Minnesota. People expect Franken, as a professional comedian, to be, well, funny. But political expectations demand that he be serious. Thus Franken has a hard time playing to his strengths, and a harder time getting to the deeper truths than he did in his books or on Air America and "Saturday Night Live." (Apparently, Franken has coped by calling in a sketch idea to his old SNL colleagues, who led the show with it last night.)

    We have this dichotomy between politics and the rest of public discourse. We laugh at Dave Chappelle's blind white supremacist who doesn't realize he's black, yet the slightest hint of anything that can be remotely construed as racial dialogue is met with a shocked, shocked we are reaction worthy of Claude Rains.

    Real people, around water coolers and across fences around the country, have in fact noticed Obama's race, and Palin's gender, and many of them are going to make decisions accordingly.

    How many? We have no clue because, surprise surprise, people lie to pollsters sometimes. They call it "the Bradley effect" or "the Wilder effect," after two black politicians who performed better in pre-election polling than they did in the privacy of the booth.

    Sober discussion around this subject is difficult (read the comments on my Sebelius story for examples of just how difficult). An Associated Press-Stanford study tries to quantify the race factor and contends that "the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 — about two and one-half percentage points."

    But FiveThirtyEight disputes the claims point by point and notes that the poll does not account for how many people will vote for Obama because he is black. FiveThirtyEight also notes that Obama's mixed-race heritage is an inherent part of his unique biography and appeal: "His change message is probably somewhat easier to sell because he looks different than other (e.g. white) politicians. If he were white, in other words, Barack Obama would not be Barack Obama." FiveThirtyEight concludes that the race factor probably is four to five percent of the vote.

    Mark Ambinder cites a recent Harvard study that says the page turned at a very specific date and on very specific issues:
    When racially charged issues like welfare and crime dominated the political rhetoric, racial factors affected voting behavior and the Wilder effect asserted itself. But once welfare disappeared as a salient issue in 1996, political discourse was deracialized and race was less of a factor in voters' mind.

    I was a candidate that year, and the day Bill Clinton signed the welfare reform bill I was door knocking in one of my more Republican towns. The move was overwhelmingly popular at the door, and I could almost see Clinton raking in the chips as Ronald Reagan's welfare queen card was taken off the table. Not that Bob Dole was going to win that election anyway. I could sum it up in four words: "Bob Dole's too old." In retrospect, it seems Dole was nominated eight years too late and ran against the strengths of his own personality. (Yet to be seen: if history will repeat itself for the even older McCain.) But had Clinton vetoed that welfare reform bill, Dole would probably have been able to make a closer race of it.

    This is more anecdotal evidence, but may make my point. A quarter century ago when I went to college, the guys in my dorm seemed to break into three groups on racial issues. There were guys like me who came from small, all-white Wisconsin towns, who had few preconceptions and were clueless but usually open-minded and willing to learn. Then there were the guys from Milwaukee proper, the state's largest city where almost all of the black population was concentrated. They had six black best friends and listened to the same music.

    But it was the guys from the suburbs, close enough to see the inner city's problems but too far away to know any real people as individuals, who had issues and unstrung my Prince tape down the hall (there were some homophobia issues there, too).

    The Obama campaign is well aware of that peer-to-peer factor. There are too many of us at this stage of the game for Obama to shake every hand personally, but the campaign is using data-mining technology to get volunteers to build those one-on-one connections.

    But Iowa, of course, is special in presidential politics. That may be one reason Obama is doing so better here, where he camped out for months and met thousands of voters, than he is in the rust belt states where the campaign was an air war rather than a ground war. We Iowans got to know Obama as a person and not as a distant face on television. It's the strongest possible environment for Obama, and one of the weakest for McCain, who despite his visit this week campaigned minimally here in 2000 and 2008. The personal factor is one big reason Iowa is rated as the number one most likely state to flip from red to blue this year.

    Thursday, September 18, 2008

    McCain-Palin Liveblog

    McCain-Palin Liveblog

    Anti-war protesters briefly disrupted the John McCain-Sarah Palin rally at the Grand Cedar Rapids airport, and while John McCain adapted, Sarah Palin stuck to the speech.

    Here's the liveblog:

    8:57 and it's taken me this long to get seated after running the line of shuttle buses and security sweeping. Parking is all at the east end of the airport, and a dozen or so buses are shuttling folks to the west side of the airport, where the private and FedEx hangars that most folks don't usually see are located.

    Security line
    Security line

    About five security stations are sweeping people. I kept beeping, and wondered if the detectors were set to extra sensitive for liberal bias. Turns out I'd left my flash drive in my pocket.

    There's a definite made-for-TV feel here, as is inherent in an airport rally. Land, speak, off to the next (in this case, that's Minnesota). Print and radio press are off to the side and can't see the stage. "Obstructed view" if you were going to a ballgame or concert. I'll make sure to reposition.

    Music thus far is largely apolitical -- Martina McBride, the theme from St. Elmo's Fire, Mr. Mister (?!?) and Huey Lewis. Like being back in college for me. As Huey runs down the list of geography where the heart of rock and roll is, in fact, still beating, I expect a Deanesque "YEEEEEEEAH!" Van Halen's "Right Now." Van Halen is among the artists that’s grumbled, but Team McCain had paid the ASCAP fees (and Sammy’s a Republican, anyway.)

    The view from the Bob Uecker seats. The stage is behind the white corrugated wall.

    The view from the Bob Uecker seats. The stage is behind the white corrugated wall.

    On the bus over, state Rep. Dawn Pettengill says her campaign is going well and chats about classic rock acts. Miller-Meeks campaign manager Todd Versteegh is stickering the crowd, and congressional candidate Dave Hartsuch is on the scene. I get the idea that the draw of this event is most of Eastern Iowa. No guesses on crowd count yet.

    9:33. "7 to 10,000," I overhear a staffer saying on a cell.

    Cindy Michel of the Johnson County GOP likes the Palin pick. "She's not an insider that has a whole lot of undesirable baggage."

    The music has switched to a live guitarist, now playing "Wonderwall" by my guys Oasis. It's not the same without Liam Gallagher's sneering accent. A flight takes off; my big question is has Team McCain fixed the flight schedule so we don't have a loud takeoff mid-speech? How does that work?

    Between songs, boos and the singer: "Now, now, no fights here." By the time I can scurry, game over. Other than that, no between song patter of significance, no "wow isn't it great that John McCain's coming" or anything like that.

    As for that flurry of activity: I recognize a few, er... interlopers. "They didn't have a free speech zone," one tells me, "so we're here for some free speech." These particular folks are wearing recognizable colors (purple and gold--and union members know who that is--and making no effort to hide, So Even If U didn't read it here, I'm sure they've been spotted.) (UPDATE: Just to be clear, the purple-clad folks are not the people who shouted during the speeches.)

    The Zoo Plane, without snakes.

    9:56 and The Surge Is Working... its way toward the rope line. Elvis is here--kind of hard to hide a jetliner with McCAIN-PALIN on the nose. Now that they're here, I'm herded back into the press corral by a self-important volunteer. Oh, I can interact with the crowd -- as long as I'm escorted. The intern sees me writing this, starts to panic, and goes to get someone. Let's see where he goes with this.

    10:01 and the national press corps files in during the patriotic and religious rituals. The volunteer's higher-up tries to smooth my feathers, and does OK, but the moment has passed. I just like to see how they handle these things.

    I've successfully repositioned so I may be able to see. "God Bless The USA" is dedicated to the nation, the troops, and "our lord Jesus Christ." Still no sightings of the ticket itself.

    10:12. Joe Childers, state senate candidate, gets a speaking slot to critique opponent Swati Dandekar. House candidates Renee Schulte and Nick Wagner get slots too. (but, as we noted earlier, Kathy Potts does not.) Mostly boilerplate, with a couple opponent-specific lines each. I follow a scurry of press activity until James Lynch of the Gazette expresses friendly surprise that a blogger's in the pool... oh, the pool. So I slink back.

    National anthem time (take off the beret). On the way in, folks were told "no signs"; the standard issue COUNTRY FIRST signs have been distributed which will give that uniform sea-of-signs feel. johnmccain.com is in smaller print below. A few people have added slogans like "Go Cyclones" or such.

    10:25. "We're about 15 minutes away." I'm just realizing that Team McCain probably has two planes, and what has landed is what Hunter Thompson used to call the Zoo Plane, full of photographers and TV techs who need to set up early, while most of the big name writers and on-camera talent are on the candidate plane.

    Mariannette Miller-Meeks
    Mariannette Miller-Meeks

    10:32 and Miller-Meeks speaks. The teleprompters are in place now. "Drilling in ANWR and offshore" gets biggest response. "As an eye doctor I will bring Congress back into focus." The names Loebsack and Obama are not said. "If you want something done, ask a woman. We won't let the lipstick get in the way."

    A former Wasillan (is that the word?) who's moved to Bettendorf is singing the Palin praises. On the talking points, and apparantly the lipstick thing is a meme here. First Bridge To Nowhere and eBay references. The first thing I haven't heard before is "just call me Sarah," as in she's folksy and doesn't like to be called "governor."

    10:46 and Hartsuch and Reed get a slot. I'm seeing a plane taxiing, a smaller one than the Zoo plane. Traffic has seemed slower than usual here this AM. The stairs are rolled up and the music cranks to rally levels with Kenny Loggins' Top Gun hit "Danger Zone." What a coincidence, you may not have heard that John McCain was a pilot! The 80s flashbacks return. How will McCain do against Dukakis?

    The main plane pulls up right on cue with Van Halen (Van Palin?) This one just says McCAIN. It also says STRAIGHT TALK EXPRESS and has the url on the tail. 10:55. Back door opens first, presumably for the rest of the Zoo. A little more last second cheer rehearsal.

    The roar goes up at 11:02 as the ticket deplanes and the rest of the Zoo zooms in behind me. We get Elvis (actual Elvis-"A little less conversation.") Then Garth Brooks and "Standing Outside The FIre." Someone managed to get an unofficial sign, it reads "God Chicks."

    The ticket is announced as is First Dude. I turn around and find myself face to face with MSNBC's Kelly O'Donnell.

    Palin: "It is so great to be here in GRAND Rapids." OOPS. But she does get the Five Seasons reference right. Some hockey mom references and the well-known introductory lines of First Dude Todd--

    HOLD THE PHONE. A half dozen or so anti-war protesters, who look really familiar from the sit-ins I covered last year. I can't hear the chant as it's quickly drowned out by boos and U-S-A! chants. Cedar Rapids Police surround the protesters, who keep chanting, and escort them out. But they're well inside the event, and right in front of the press corps -- the cameras quickly swing their way. I think we have our lede.

    Protesters face police as Palin speaks
    Protesters face police as Palin speak

    The thing is, PALIN JUST KEEPS GOING. Over the hubbub, I can hear Palin reading The Speech, basically the same speech from the convention.

    First deviation. "We're going over to look at some of the flood damage." There was some criticism that such a tour wasn't planned in advance, but maybe it was just not announced.

    Palin outlines her VP duties: energy czar? And reform. Lots of reform. After some Obama bash, "He won't say this for himself but there's only one man in this race who has ever really fought for you."

    At 11:24 Palin intros McCain. The first My Friends is in the first sentence.Praise for the state fair and pork chops on a stick and says "Iowa will be close, my friends."

    On to ethics and Obama is "me first country second." The Vote Present meme returns. "Raising taxes in a tough economy is not patriotic, it's just plain dumb."

    Another group of protesters shouts and is dragged out more quickly than the first as the crows shouts USA! McCain pauses for the protest then recovers. "The one thing Americans want us to do is stop yellin' at each other." Then he turns it around, invites protesters to the town hall meetings... and bashes Obama again. "Let them come and yell at him, let them stand together." I think that's what he said, I missed the wording. Is it possible he was likening Obama to the protesters?

    Just after that he ends with a God Bless America as "Life Is A Highway" (the American version, not the Canadian original) plays. About ten minutes of McCain speech total. At least three "straight talk" references, countless reforms, shakeups, and My Friends.

    Protesters. Didn't McCain know Cedar Rapids is right next to Iowa City? "Two protesters. That's all you'll see on the news, two protesters," complains one attendee. Actually I'd guess more like ten. My text messages tell me some had "McCain Votes Against Vets" signs, and that a lot of people left after Palin spoke. I was so far inside the zone that I couldn't tell who left or stayed. But apparently O. Kay Henderson saw the same thing. Again, the most remarkable thing to me about the protests was that McCain was prepped with a response, and even a response that was reasonably on-message, though I missed the wording at the end. But Palin just went on with the speech.

    "I wonder if we're just better behaved," Mariannette Miller-Meeks says when I ask about the protest. "I mean, I was at the Obama event (at Coe College in July) and I didn't do anything, I just listened." As for the GOP majority in the crowd, "The natives were restless, it was a long time waiting."

    As for Kathy Potts, the GOP candidate who got un-invited and then re-invited to the event, my colleague Lynda Waddington reports that after getting calls to come to the event, Potts drove out to the airport. She says she was physically removed from the event, and escorted out of the building, and that McCain staff and local Republicans argued about her being there.it

    Chit-chatting with a CR cop while I wait (see below), he says the protesters were reasonably cooperative. "They said their piece, and when we told them to leave, they left." From what I aw they were walked out, but certainly not dragged out. (From what I remember attending their How To Get Arrested class last year, they discourage going limp because of injury risks and possible additional "resisting arrest" charges. But no one appeared to be getting arrested.)

    As of 12:10 both planes are still on the ground. National press is doing lunch (yes, I did get to meet Kelly O'Donnell) and the ticket and First Dude are touring the flood zone with a press pool (so you can get pretty much the same coverage anywhere). We're more or less done as the first noticeable aircraft noise returns. Now -- personal note -- I need the locksmith cavalry, as I locked my keys in my car.

    Epiliogue at 12:54. My wife is here to rescue me. The Zoo plane has already left. McCain and Palin work a line of 75 or so die hards who waited, including House candidate Emma Nemecek. I catch snippets of Palin conversation: "You guys are awesome! Thank you so much!" before the Secret Service and schedule watchers cut it short. Channel 7 from Waterloo shouts a question but gets no answer.

    Postscript: Here's the unedited, cut-n-pasted email from the protesters. Didn't seem like "dozens" to me, but it was more than the "protester" (singular) that my brother says the Old Media is reporting. My brother's question when I called: "That wasn't you getting thrown out, was it?" No, not me, I'm a respected professional journalist. Besides, you would have seen the beret.

    Dozens of students from the University of Iowa were kicked-out of the McCain-Palin rally for speaking out against 4 more years of the same unacceptable policies of George Bush.

    During Palin’s rally a group of UI women (including Megan Felt, Hannah Rounds, Laura Kacere, and Marni Steadham) advocated for women’s rights, which are being seriously threatened by the outdated policies of McCain and Palin. They chanted “our body, our choice”, “free abortion on demand”, “equal pay for equal work”, and “Palin, Palin get off our back, women’s rights are under attack!” They also held up a large banner reading “War is menstruation envy!” Following this protest these women were escorted out by the local law enforcement.

    Shortly after, a second group of protestors (including UI students Robin Berman, Dan Rathjen, and David Goodner) called Palin and McCain out when they blatantly lied to the crowd about the current economic crisis. In particular, Palin and McCain promised to reform our economy, even though their economic policies are no different than the current administration. These protestors were also escorted out.

    Toward the end of the speech McCain talked about his pro-war viewpoint. At the same time, UI graduate student, Justin Feinstein, screamed out, “John McCain, you never learn! We lost in ‘Nam! We lost in Iraq! You can never win in war!” The third wave of students (including Feinstein, Brooke Bachelder, Lara Elborno, Naomi Prager, and Anthony Carter) began loudly chanting, “Bring ‘em back, from Iraq”, “No justice, no peace, U.S. out of the Middle East”, “Wars, wars, that’s his name, 100 more years with John McCain”, and “All we are saying, is give peace a chance.”

    All protestors were escorted out peacefully and their demonstration is a testament to the 1st amendment rights given to every US citizen. The protestors encourage all people to exercise their right to freedom of speech.

    Wednesday, September 17, 2008

    McCain: Enough is Enough

    New McCain Spot Irresistable

    The McCain campaign launched a new ad called "Enough is Enough."

    JOHN MCCAIN: The economy is in crisis. Enough is enough.

    You know where I'm going with this, don't you.

    Yes, McCain and Obama don't agree on much, but both strongly oppose snakes on planes. But not nearly as strongly as Samuel L. Jackson does.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    Sebelius: Obama's race 'may be a factor'

    Sebelius: Obama's race 'may be a factor'

    IOWA CITY -- Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius publicly considered the possibility that Sen. Barack Obama's race might be a factor in this year's presidential election during an appearance here Tuesday.

    "Have any of you noticed that Barack Obama is part African-American?" Sebelius asked in response to a question about why the election is so close. "That may be a factor. All the code language, all that doesn't show up in the polls. And that may be a factor for some people."

    The remark, delivered in the governor's low key, folksy, out-from-behind-the-podium style, raised a couple chuckles but few eyebrows in the downtown Iowa City crowd, but Republicans took offense and responded in short order.

    “Governor Sebelius’s remarks in Iowa City today are hurtful and divisive at best," said Republican Party of Iowa Executive Director Caleb Hunter in a press release. "With less than 50 days to go, Democrats will continue to try and change the focus away from the issues that will decide this election."

    The rest of Sebelius' remarks in Iowa City stuck closely to the Obama campaign's talking points.

    "The bottom line question is, do you think George Bush has been a wonderful president?" she told an audience whose questions focused as much on the horse race as on specific issues.

    Sebelius takes questions at the Iowa City library.

    One questioner argued that Obama was under-performing in polls because young voters with cell phones were under-reported, and Sebelius agreed. "I have a 24 year old and a 27 year old and they've never had a land-line since they went to college," she said. "So they don't show up in polls. But they need to show up at the polls."

    Yet at each turn, Sebelius tried to return the dialogue to bread and butter issues, to the delight of Bob Elliott, a former member of Iowa City's city council and a leading local supporter of Sen. Joe Biden during the Iowa caucuses.

    "Lipstick can stay home! Talk about the issues!" he shouted, in apparent reference to another governor.

    During a brief press availability, Sebelius said she didn't know much about her Alaska colleague. "She's one of our new governors, and I've met her at a couple of events that all the governors were at," she said of GOP vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. "But we've really had no personal interaction. The real issue is John McCain vs. Barack Obama, and their policies could not be more different."

    Sebelius responded to criticism from Kansas Republicans about her campaign visits, and implied that the campaigning went hand in hand with her job.

    "I can do a much better job as governor of Kansas, and Chet Culver can do a much better job in Iowa, if we have a partner in the White House instead of an adversary."

    Sebelius in Iowa City

    Sebelius in Iowa City

    11:54 and the staffers are stalling for a little time; they tell me she's running 10 or 15 minutes late. Gives them a chance to introduce the local electeds and do the volunteer and early ballot rap.

    A special shout out and thank you to my dear wife Koni who saved my butt yet AGAIN and brought me my forgotten camera battery.

    This is billed as a "brown bag lunch" but I only see evidence of one person nibbling a salad out of the 125 or so here. It's the second of three stops today for the governor; my editor Chase notes that the Kansas GOP shoots off a press release bashing her for campaigning.
    She told the Hutchinson (KS) News that she campaigns mostly on the weekends:

    Sebelius campaigns on behalf of the Obama-Biden ticket, with out-of-state travel - sometimes on commercial flights, sometimes by private plane - “entirely paid for by the campaign,” she said.

    Mostly, campaigning occurs on weekends, said Sebelius, scheduled to go to Indiana and Ohio this Friday and Saturday.

    To which the Kansas GOP blogged:

    Wrong. Most of Sebelius’s campaigning occurs during the week - during the time she is “working” for the people of Kansas.

    If not, then apparently today, tomorrow and the next day are weekend days! In that case, I want to follow the Governor’s schedule.

    "A lot of us are dying to get bumper stickers" hollers one audience member.

    County Attorney Janet Lyness is tapped to do the intro. Mostly the bio points; a little name humor. It's pronounced se-BEE-li-us.

    12:10 and she's on. "I'm the advance team for the McCain-Palin visit."

    "I don't know what economy McCain is looking at. He's not looking at the economy of Iowa, he's not looking at the economy of Kansas, he's not looking at the economy of America. We are not sound."

    Uses the device of 'ask McCain these questions,' (not that McC is doing Q & A necessarily)

    "What is your measurement of 'sound' - is it families at work, is it more affordable gas, more of us can afford health care. Barack Obama does not think the economy is sound."

    Gets to numbers on tax cuts and tax policy and health care policy, staying very very close to the talking points. "Health care is a moral responsibility, it's also a financial responsibility. We're spending more and not expanding care. BO like HC supports health care for all Americans." (dropping the Clinton name in passing -- though she was early for Obama herself)

    "The bottom line question is, do you think George Bush has been a wonderful president?" When you have exactly the same policies on the war, on health care, energy, and on privatizing Social Security. "Can you imagine if Social Security was playing the wheel of fortune on Wall Street right now?" Takes it back to the old Reagan "are you better off?" "We don't need someone who just talks about change, we need someone who will actually change the direction of this country, and that's Barack Obama and Joe Biden."

    Praise for the caucuses. "The vision and dreams of all the candidates are moving in the same direction and very, very different than four more years of Bush-Cheney policies."

    Says "something happened: to McCain and thinks it was losing in 2000. "John McCain the Maverick has become John McCain the sidekick."

    Speech overall is very low key, sit-down conversational. She moved out from the podium almost immediately. Main speech is done at 12:24.

    Q and A. Question 1 from a student from... Kansas! What's strategy to persuade Kansans to vote D? KS: We've only gone D twice, 1932 and 1964. "They'll elect Democrats statewide, but president is a little more of a stretch." Tells the Obama's mom is from Kansas story. Obama down 8 in Kansas, very different than Gore losing by 24. "I can do a much better job in KS, Chet Culver can do a much better job in Iowa, if we have a partner in the White house instead of an adversary."

    McCain role in financial de-reg? KS (that stands for both Kathleen Sebelius and Kansas, I realize as I type) is right to the talking points, citing Phil Gramm "who is the odds on favorite to be treasury secretary" and using the word 'whiners.' And the "don't know much about economy" quote of course.

    Next questioner more of a statement: How to reach people who made good economic decisions (kinda dancing around the mortgage crisis). 'The number one cause of bankruptcy in this country is medical." One of the main problems there is under-insurance. (She's ex-insurance commissioner.) "If you work hard and pay your taxes you should be able to afford to save, pay your bills, and send your kids to college. And it starts with fair taxation and a fair health care policy."

    Will McCain taxing benefits discourage people from signing up? KS: "Some people say the goal is to dismantle employer-based coverage. In Bush's first term there was some talk that people would be responsible for their own. Individual coverage is the most expensive and least effective kind of coverage because you don't share the risks. And I think it does discourage people. It's a frightening step in the wrong direction." Uses the Obama line: ownership vs. "you're on your own."

    The "clean" coal question vis a vis Culver. KS: "We need to see if carbon capture will be feasible in the marketplace, and move wind and solar to the marketplace. It's not that Culver believes there is such a thing as clean coal, though the coal companies would like us to believe that." We need to spend some real money, which Bush has not done. "Kansas is the third windiest state, even when the legislature is not in session. But we need some help with transmission lines."

    "John McCain has voted against alternative energy plans at least 9 times."

    Why is it so close? "A lot of people know more about the Olympics than the election, so they're not focused."

    "Have any of you noticed that BO is part African American? That may be a factor. All the code language, all that doesn't show up in the polls. And that may be a factor for some people" But "All that hard work he does shows he's more in touch than someone who doesn't know how many houses he owns." From there she goes to the every vote matters rap.

    Someone follows up with the poll accuracy and cell phone factor -- very horse race here today. "I have a 24 and a 27 year old and they've never had a land line since they went to college. SO they don't show up in polls. But they need to show up AT the polls."

    More horse race statements from the audience. "I don't see us counteracting the Republicans. We almost need a Democratic Karl Rove." KS: "Some of those concerns are well-placed. If anything that's going to accelerate. A lot of the Republicans and independents who support me used to admire John McCain. And that's pretty much gone. The word is getting out that he will do anything or say anything, even if he knows it's absolutely not true." Says attention will shift to the economy. "John McCain wants to talk about anything but the economy and his record, and I think that's about over."

    Bob Elliott: "Lipstick can stay home! Talk about the issues!" and that passes for a last question.

    1:00 straight up and she's gone after a little press time. I ask about the KS GOP critique. "It's unfortunate. I'm balancing my job with an opportunity to elect a new president. And I can do a better job as governor of Kansas if I have a partner in the White House."

    How about that one other governor? "She's one of our new governors, and I've met her at a couple of events that all the governors were at. But we've really had no personal interaction. The real issue is John McCain vs. Barack Obama, and their policies could not be more different."

    Why Iowa, with the polls looking good? "Iowa is likely to be decided by a couple percent either way," she said, citing 2000 and 2004 again. "This is an important time to be in Iowa, right before early voting starts."

    Tuesday's Clips

    Tuesday's Clips

    A month or so back, John Rich of Big And offewred a posthumous Johnny Cash endorsement for Johnny Mac. The Man In Black himself remeains unavailable for comment. But with the fifth anniversary of his death just past, daughter Rosanne Cash (a great musician in her own right) speaks on the family's behalf:
    'There are a lot of things that I read about my father that I let pass. This I just couldn't let pass. It's their presumption that's so galling. My father was a real human being with a lot of political passion and his own ideas. Even though he's been gone five years, it's not OK to borrow his beliefs - or what you assume to be his beliefs.

    'If I had initially responded by saying things that I know to be true about his political beliefs then I would have been doing the same thing - co-opting his views for my own agenda, and that's still not fair, even though I'm his daughter. I've always tried to restrain myself - I only said recently how opposed he was to the invasion of Iraq.

    Rosanne goes on to criticize the over-emphasis on celebrity endorsements... but offers her own anyway.

  • Speaking of celebrities, when you check out your groceries you'll see Sarah Palin on about five tabloid covers. The latest: She ain't just Downs baby right to life -- she's clinic-picketin' anti-choice, too!
    At one point during the hospital battle, passions ran so hot that local antiabortion activists organized a boisterous picket line outside Dr. Lemagie's office, in an unassuming professional building across from Palmer's Little League field. According to Bess and another community activist, among the protesters trying to disrupt the physician's practice that day was Sarah Palin.

  • Every election cycle, a race comes out of nowhere. Last time, of course, that was Dave Loebsack right here. Remember this name: state senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina. She's Elizabeth Dole's opponent -- and CQ just changed the race to TOSSUP.
  • Monday, September 15, 2008

    Palin Aide: Stop Blogging Now

    Motivational Phrase Of The Day

    In this New York Times piece, which more or less argues that Sarah Palin went to the Corleone Family School of Small Town Politics, we get this priceless line:
    Four months ago, a Wasilla blogger, Sherry Whitstine, who chronicles the governor’s career with an astringent eye, answered her phone to hear an assistant to the governor on the line, she said.

    “You should be ashamed!” Ivy Frye, the assistant, told her. “Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!”

    Whetstine later awoke to find a moose's head in her bed.

    I knew this ticket was a match made in heaven. You can never see this clip enough:

    Sebelius to Eastern Iowa Tuesday

    Sebelius to Eastern Iowa Tuesday

    Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, an erstwhile vice-presidential short-lister, will be campaigning for Barack Obama in eastern Iowa Tuesday.

    The Kansas governor, a two-term winner in one of the reddest states, will be in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

    Sebelius was believed to be in the VP mix until the last days, as a possible map-changer who could have carried her state. She is term-limited out of office in 2010 and is considered likely to run for the Senate seat now held by former Republican presidential contender Sam Brownback. Kansas has not elected a Democratic Senator since 1932.

    Iowa City details: 11:45, Public Library.

    Sunday, September 14, 2008

    Obama by 12 in Register Iowa Poll

    Obama by 12 in Register Poll

    Barack Obama leads John McCain 52 percent to 40 percent in Iowa, according to a Des Moines Register Iowa Poll released Sunday.

    The poll, conducted Sept. 8 through 10 after both parties' conventions, also included Libertarian Bob Barr, at 2 percent, and Ralph Nader at 1 percent, and has a 4 percent margin of error.

    In the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Tom Harkin leads Republican challenger Christopher Reed, 53 percent to 34 percent.

    Other key findings in the Register article:

    • Independents prefer Obama to McCain, 49 percent to 36 percent.

    • Voters under 35 prefer Obama by two to one.

    • Obama leads among women, 53 percent to 39 percent for McCain.

    • Republicans are more satisfied with McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, than Democrats are with Joe Biden, Obama's vice presidential pick.

    • President Bush's approval rating with Iowans is at an abysmal 25 percent, with 71 percent disapproving.

    • Senator Chuck Grassley remains popular with Iowans, at 69 percent approval.

    The rollout of Iowa Poll presidential results usually signals a weeklong series of Register stories featuring polls on other races and issues.

    Saturday, September 13, 2008

    McCain, Palin to Cedar Rapids Thursday

    McCain, Palin to Cedar Rapids Thursday

    The Republican ticket comes to eastern Iowa Thursday, as presidential nominee John McCain and Running mate Sarah Palin visit Cedar Rapids for a morning airport rally.

    McCain and Palin have made most of their campaign stops joint appearances since the Republican National Convention. The Alaska governor has been a lightning rod for liberals but is popular with rank and file Republicans.

    Most polls show Iowa leaning Obama, but competitive, and the McCain-Palin vist is a sign the GOP intends to keep Iowa on its map.

    Ticket distribution is set to begin Monday at GOP headquarters across the eastern half of the state.

    “John McCain and Sarah Palin value Iowa voters and they are committed to keeping Iowa a red state," said Iowa McCain spokeswoman Wendy Riemann in a press release which hit as many of the campaigns buzzwords as possible in the next sentence: "This is a team of Mavericks who will reform Washington, shake up the status quo, challenge the establishment and put government on the side of the people. We’re excited to welcome them to Iowa.”

    Not to be outdone, Team Obama got its talking points into the in-box. "It's past due for John McCain to explain to Iowans why he wants to keep the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and oil companies, but completely leave behind Iowa middle class families and Iowa-grown renewable energy," said Iowa Obama chair Jackie Norris in a dueling press release. "The time has come to turn the page on this failed Bush agenda because working Iowa families can't afford four more years of the same."

    More than three, and you're crazy!

    Guilty on all three counts

    Well, technically not; since Butter's death there are only three cats physically present. But close enough, I think.

    Friday, September 12, 2008

    Schweitzer Already Touted For 2016, Cabinet

    Schweitzer Already Touted For 2016, Cabinet

    "No politician, we repeat NO politician, just happens to go to Iowa," writes Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. "Every one of them knows that an Iowa trip means the press will float the idea of a presidential run."

    So it is with Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, this year's guest speaker at Sen. Tom Harkin's annual Steak Fry.

    Schweitzer was on the long version of the vice presidential short list, and is also mentioned as a member of a possible Obama Administration cabinet, as Secretary of Energy or Interior.

    He needs to get re-elected first. Montana is one of a dozen states that elects governors in the presidential year, but Schweitzer is feeling secure enough about his own re-election chances over an under-financed Republican opponent to take time away and give Harkin a hand at the senator's biggest annual fundraiser.

    Gov. Brian Schweitzer, D-MontanaSchweitzer, a folksy rancher, is one of a group of huntin' and fishin', bolo-tied, anti-gun control Westerners that many Democratic strategists cite when arguing that the compass of victory is pointing west, not south. He raised his national profile last month at the Democratic National Convention with a well-received speech that focused on energy policy and jabbed at the Republicans.

    "After eight years of a White House waiting hand and foot on big oil, John McCain offers more of the same," Schweitzer told the delegates. "At a time of skyrocketing fuel prices, when American families are struggling to keep their gas tanks full, John McCain voted 25 times against renewable and alternative energy."

    In his first campaign, Schweitzer, now 53, narrowly lost a 2000 U.S. Senate race to incumbent Conrad Burns. He came back in 2004 when the incumbent governor stepped down, and as part of a bipartisan image chose a Republican lieutenant governor.

    One of Schweitzer's first moves as governor was to recommend that Montana's National Guard troops be recalled from Iraq to help fight wildfires in the state.

    Before running for office, Schweitzer worked on irrigation projects in Africa and the Middle East (he is fluent in Arabic) and served in the Agriculture Department under the Clinton Administration.

    The Steak Fry speaker's slot is a certain route to presidential speculation. The recent list of guests? 2005: John Edwards. 2006: Barack Obama, in what in retrospect looks like the start of his presidential campaign. 2007: the entire Democratic presidential field.

    But with the 2008 election still seven and a half weeks ahead, even the most devoted political junkies aren't ready to look that many chess moves ahead. "I'm the biggest Schweitzer fan around," writes Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, "and even I am not ready to start talking 2016."

    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    Lipstick On A Pig, Snakes On A Plane

    Lipstick On A Pig, Snakes On A Plane

    Joe Biden got lucky Wednesday. He made the first of his guaranteed half dozen off-message remarks of the campaign, going over the top with praise and saying, in his effusive, Joe Biden way, Hillary Clinton would have been a better vice president than he would. Nobody (except a couple of PUMA bloggers) noticed, because there was so much other good Silly Season Stuff happening.

    Most of the Old Media were caught up in Lipstick On A Pig, Day Two, trying to decide if Barack Obama had insulted Sarah Palin, and occasionaly noting that John McCain had used the same phrase describing Hillary Clinton's health care plan. Obama decried the Same Old Rove Politics by repeating (at 2:42 into the clip below) the emphasized "Enough!" from his Democratic National Convention stadium acceptance speech, but then concluded the clause with "Enough Is Enough!"...

    ...and fans of internet memes all know what follows THAT exclamation.

    Democrats looking for a surrogate to go on the attack could do worse than Samuel L. Jackson and his NSFW anti-snake rhetoric.

    Jackson is also anti-pork -- eating, not spending -- in "Pulp Fiction," memorably noting, "I don't wanna eat nothin' that ain't got enough sense to disregard its own feces." But lipstick on a pig may actually help here in the hog state, provided this independent candidate doesn't split the votes.

    Arnold Ziffel guarantees "no pork barrel politics," so that bridge to nowhere, or rather to Hooterville, is a firm "thanks, but no thanks."

    Independent candidates (perhaps including Ziffel) will split the vote all over the place, if Ron Paul has his way. He endorsed... well, no one in particular on Wednesday, but rather third parties in general and Not McCain in the specific, making a point of saying that he'd gotten a last minute call from the McCain campaign asking for an endorsement and that he's turned them down. Everyone assumes Paul is really backing Bob Barr, whose running mate this week offered to stand down for Paul. Paul, meanwhile, is coasting to re-election to the house -- on the Republican ticket. He may have to eat lunch alone next year.

    Or perhaps dine with Joe Lieberman, whose John McCain endorsement got kicked out of the Senate Democrat's lunch table, but not out of his committee chairmanship. Yet.

    As for McCain, he's fighting the election with the running mate he has, not the running mate he wishes he had. Sarah Palin's fifteen minutes are continuing, the question being if they will last until Nov. 4. But an analysis of Gallup polling shows that nearly all of McCain's post-Palin gains are in the South.

    In the South, South Carolina Democratic chair Carol Fowler got herself in trouble Wednesday for noting that Palin's giving birth to her son with Down syndrome was an important part of her public persona. And that's something I've heard Palin's pro-life/anti-choice (choose your side, even neutral language is near impossible) supporters say as well. Unfortunately, the phrase Fowler chose was that Palin's "primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.”

    She quickly apologized. But Joe Biden, wiping a little saliva off his shoes, may have been grateful.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Hartsuch Believes Message Will beat Money in 1st CD

    Hartsuch Believes Message Will beat Money in 1st CD

    Two years ago, Iowa's 1st Congressional District was at the top of national target lists for both parties. Republican incumbent Jim Nussle stepped down to run for governor and Democrat Bruce Braley won the seat in one of the highest spending races in the country.

    It couldn't be more different this year.

    Dave HartsuchIn a district that was held for decades, under varying configurations, by Republicans like Tom Tauke, Jim Leach, and Nussle, the Republican nominee is having trouble even campaigning door to door. State Sen. David Hartsuch of Bettendorf says he doesn't even have enough money in the bank to print flyers for doorknocking.

    Still, Hartsuch thinks his solid conservative message will prevail in the district, which includes Waterloo, Dubuque, and Davenport. "I think the Republican Party doesn't even think this is a winnable race. They think it's a left leaning district. But Chuck Grassley got 69 percent of the vote in the 1st District in `04."

    Hartsuch hopes to make a silk purse out of the sow's ear of an underfinanced campaign. "Three-quarters of his contributions come from trial attorneys," he said of Braley, who headed the Iowa Trial Lawyer's Association before he was elected. "He's got a spigot of fundraising. He turns it on, the money flows out. And he's been very responsive to that constituency"

    The Democrats have a post-caucus voter registration lead of about 10,000 in the 1st District, but Hartsuch thinks many of those registered Democrats aren't going to be voting Democratic. "The Democrats have has a concerted effort to enroll Democrats. I believe in some case, particularly with regard to unions, I think they actually use coercive methods."

    Braley defeated Republican Mike Whalen in the 2006 race, 55 percent to 43 percent. But Hartsuch notes that Mary Anne Hanusa, the little-known, last minute replacement Republican candidate for Secretary of State, won 42 percent in the 1st District. "That should tell you there's a substantial baseline Republican vote," he said. "I believe this is a winnable race."

    Hartsuch, an emergency room physician who is also a certified public accountant, got his start in electoral politics two years ago, challenging and defeating long-time moderate Republican state senator Maggie Tinsman in the primary. Hartsuch then narrowly defeated Democrat Phyllis Thede in November, in a normally Republican district. Since Hartsuch is in the middle of his term, he can return to the state Senate if his challenge to Braley is unsuccessful.

    "America is at a tipping point as to the preservation of its values. Liberalism has really laid waste to traditional American ideology, and the result has been a decline in our standard of living, a decline in our traditional values, and a lot of Americans are concerned about that."

    Hartsuch says the issues he hears about most from voters are higher energy prices, higher taxes, border security and preserving patient choice in health care "Barack Obama is going to drive us into socialized medicine where people use their ability to choose providers," he said of the Democratic standard bearer.

    As for his own party, Hartsuch said, "I think we are polarized right now, and I honestly don't know what's going to happen. I endorsed Mike Huckabee (in the caucuses), but I think in retrospect John McCain would be the best person to unite this country."

    "Where we're at as a party is kind of where the Whig party was at at the formation of the Republican Party years ago with Abraham Lincoln," said Hartsuch. The Whigs didn't want to address the issue of slavery, and Lincoln was willing to take that issue on. I've been reading a lot of Lincoln's speeches lately, and those same discussions revolve around a lot of these social issues like same-sex marriage. The question is, does one state have a right to marry same sex couples that would otherwise be considered not married in another state. It was the same question in the Dred Scott decision with regard to slavery."

    "I’m getting a lot of questions on the same-sex marriage issue, and certainly it's an issue which divides Bruce Braley and myself," said Hartsuch. "He already said in the last election that he felt it was discriminatory and he opposes any constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. I, on the other hand, of course have been a strong defender of traditional marriage in the Senate, and the general public supports traditional marriage."

    "Bruce Braley has voted to raise taxes by not making the tax cuts permanent," Hartsuch said of his opponent. "He has consistently voted against any expansion of oil production or energy production. The Democrats have been trying to make it appear as if they're for expanded drilling but in reality those proposals are kind of empty."

    Tuesday, September 09, 2008

    Fields, Cilek, Shaw Win In Iowa City

    Fields, Cilek, Shaw Win In Iowa City

    Patti leads the Fields for Iowa City school board and hopefully is the first of two Bears fans to win this year. Fields gets re-elected with 77 percent, Toni Cilek takes a third term with 73 and new candidate Michael Shaw was not far behind at 67.

    Richard Tiegs was well back at 32 percent, but ran third and over 50 percent in his Coralville base, ahead of Shaw. (The mathematical paradox happened in Coralville: four candidates, vote for three, everyone had support from more than 50 percent of voters). That's the only micro-trend that stands out. Otherwise the patterns were similar: Fields first everywhere except Hills (the smallest precinct by far in school elections), with Cilek and Shaw swapping second and third and Tiegs way back.

    The emailed endorsements (that I got anyway) varied between Fields-Shaw and Fields-Shaw-Cilek,

    The interesting race was Clear Creek Amana where a write-in campaign popped up late. The two districts merged legally back in 1994 (my father in law Bob Steele was the superintendent the two districts shared back in that era) but they haven't quite merged electorally. The results always break down on Clear Creek vs. Amana lines. The Clear Creek folks can usually get about an 80 percent vote for their people, but Amana results tend to look like they come out of one of the more reliable precincts in Pyongyang (98 percent and 97 percent tonight, I've seen 99). The incumbent, Amana, on the ballot side (in an unusual alliance with Oxford, usually they go opposite directions) beat the Tiffin/Cosgrove, challenger, write-in side this time. What was it Tip O'Neill said?

    Gore to Headline Jefferson-Jackson

    Gee, guess I'll be blowing off JJ this year

    The Iowa Democratic Party announced today that former Vice President Al Gore will be the keynote speaker at the 2008 Jefferson Jackson Dinner. The dinner will be held on Saturday, October 4, 2008 at HyVee Hall in Des Moines. This will be Mr. Gore’s first trip back to Iowa since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and authored “An Inconvenient Truth.”

    “We are deeply honored that former Vice President Al Gore, our nation’s leading voice on combating the global climate crisis and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, will be the keynote speaker at our Jefferson Jackson Dinner,” said Scott Brennan, Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. “I join Governor Chet Culver and Senator Tom Harkin in expressing gratitude to former Vice President Gore for accepting the invitation to speak at what will be our biggest event of the year. We are excited to welcome him back to Iowa.”

    Speak for yourself, Scott...

    Voters Head to Polls for School Election

    Voters Head to Polls for School Election

    With only eight weeks to go before the presidential election, Iowans are going to the polls today for school board elections.

    It's the last time that will happen in a presidential year. Changes in state law take effect in 2009, and school board elections will be held every other year in odd-numbered years, rather than every year.

    As part of the transition, some districts will have short terms on the ballot. For example, Clear Creek Amana voters will elect two members to three year terms and one member to a one year term. In Urbandale, where two candidates are running for two seats, the candidate with the most votes gets a three-year term, and the other candidate will get a one year term. Urbandale also decided to lengthen the terms of three members elected in 2007 from three years to four, another option under the law.

    School elections have several quirks setting them apart from other elections. Many voters have a different polling place then in other elections. Part of that is because school district lines are a cartographer's nightmare, based on where people wanted to send their children to school in 1960 when the old township schools were consolidated into school districts. Many districts also consolidate precincts for school elections to save money, as districts pay for their own elections.

    School election turnout is usually the lowest of all elections. A hot funding issue, however, can boost turnout to near-gubernatorial levels in the 40 to 50 percent ballpark, but unless money is involved single digit percentages are the norm. The Des Moines Register reports that the Des Moines school district is having a hotly contested race between eight candidates for three seats, and that Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald is expecting 10 to 12 percent turnout. That's considered high.

    Turnout dips even lower for uncontested races. There are no contested races at all in Scott County's four main school districts.

    Sioux City and Council Bluffs will each see four candidates seeking two seats. Iowa City will see four candidates seeking three seats, which in a vote for three election can lead to the seeming mathematical paradox of a candidate winning support from more than half of the voters, yet finishing last and losing.

    Cedar Rapids has two candidates for one at-large seat, and two unopposed candidates for two district seats, but the election is overshadowed by the flood. 11 polling places were affected by the flood, and the auditor has set up 20 "voting centers" within the Cedar Rapids school district, where any voter within the school district can vote. The voting center provision, along with election day voter registration, are new under state law.

    Northeast Iowa Community College and Southeastern Community College district voters will vote on whether to renew a 6-cent levy per $1,000 taxable valuation. And voters in nearly 60 districts, including Council Bluffs, Keokuk, West Des Moines, Ankeny, Urbandale and Dallas Center-Grimes, will consider how to spend their portion of a one cent statewide sales tax for school infrastructure.

    Most larger districts open the polls at 7 a.m., while some small districts don't open until noon. All polls close at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than in a general election.

    More elections today

    More elections today

    It's the last major primary day of the year, with contests in seven states and DC. Politics1 has a roundup.

  • Noel Gallagher of Oasis got his ass kicked on stage the other night.This would not be noteworthy, except that it wasn't Liam Gallagher who did the ass-kicking.

    These are guys whose sibling rivalry is so notorious that they actually had a charted, hit record that consisted of an interview in which the two of them got in a fight.

    One of these years I have to finish my Most Blatant Beatle Ripoffs in Oasis History list. It starts with the use of the words "yellow submarine," not a phrase one hears everyday, in their first freakin' single, and ends where they hire Ringo's son Zak Starkey as their drummer. It's just too damn long to list every time Liam pronounces the word "shiiiiine" exactly like John Lennon does on "Rain."
  • Monday, September 08, 2008

    Monday Miscellany

    Monday Miscellany

  • Palin's finally doing an interview Thursday or Friday, two full weeks after joining the ticket.

  • John McCain: You won't like me when I'm angry.

  • My brother, an audio guy from the Twin Cities, worked the Daily Show last week. Here's one of the bits he worked on:

  • Bill Maher:
    Republicans need to stop saying Barack Obama is an elitist, or looks down on rural people, and just admit you don't like him because of something he can't help, something that's a result of the way he was born. Admit it, you're not voting for him because he's smarter than you.

    Barack Obama can't help it if he's a magna cum laude Harvard grad and you're a Wal-Mart shopper who resurfaces driveways with your brother-in-law. Americans are so narcissistic that our candidates have to be just like us. That's why George Bush is president.

  • And an angle on urban sprawl that I hadn't considered but now seems obvious:
    For children, this trend has been catastrophic because they lack the mobility to use environments designed solely for motoring. This consigns kids either to nebulous low-grade hangouts in the left over scrap places of suburbia - the 7-Eleven parking lot, the storm sump, the wooded "buffer" between the housing tract and the strip mall - or to virtual and heavily commercialized public realms of television and the computer, which include rentable movies, the Internet, and computer games.
  • Sunday, September 07, 2008

    Flood Update

    It might seem a little late, but...

    The Deeth home is FINALLY 100 percent un-sandbagged. (We were lucky and the waters stopped rising a block and a half away.)

    And the Barracuda drama gets better:
    Former Heart guitarist Roger Fisher, one of the song's co-writers, said he strongly endorsed the Democratic ticket, and would donate a portion of royalties he receives from the Republicans' airing of "Barracuda" to the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama.

    "With my contribution to Obama's campaign, the Republicans are now supporting Obama," he said.

    Fisher and the Wilsons wrote "Barracuda" with drummer Michael DeRosier. It appeared on the group's second album, "Little Queen" in 1977. The song was inspired by the band's anger over an obnoxious record label executive.

    So maybe it's appropriate after all?

    Friday, September 05, 2008

    Dean: “We can't afford to lose a single vote in Iowa”

    Dean: “We can't afford to lose a single vote in Iowa”

    Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean called Iowa “one of the most important swing states in America” at the University of Iowa Friday.

    “We didn't win Iowa last time,” Dean said in his first Iowa City visit since a rally the night before the 2004 caucuses. “If we win Iowa this time, we will win the presidency of the United States of America.”

    Riding into town on a red white and blue Obama “Register For Change” bus, Dean stressed voter registration, early voting, and volunteering.

    “We can't afford to lose a single vote in Iowa, I'm not kidding. Not one,” said Dean, asking the mostly
    student crowd to pretend the eager staffers in the back armed with voter registration forms ware big burly security guards. “They won't let you past them until you get signed up.”

    Dean emphasized generational change in his speech, which was part of a tour of college campuses.

    “Barack Obama is the candidate of a new generation,” said Dean. “He's older than you, but he thinks like you, he speaks like you. This is the time where you're going to make a difference.”

    “The mistake we made was after we changed America, we decided it was OK to sit back,” said the 59 year old Dean of his baby boom generation. “We removed ourselves from politics for a generation. You need to learn from our mistakes, George Bush and Dick Cheney would not be in the White House today if we had stayed involved. You can't take a vacation from politics.”

    Dean cited the importance of one on one persuasion in Tim Kaine's 2005 victory for governor of Virginia. That race, shortly after Dean assumed the DNC chair was an early test of Dean's “50 State Strategy” of campaigning everywhere, even in areas that have been historically Republican.

    “We had people wither who knew the person or had something in common with them, and we knocked on their doors three times,” said Dean. “This is more than just a blitz like you're used to, this is actually getting to know people and they're much more likely to listen to you.”

    The 50 State Strategy was at first derided by party insiders, but Obama embraced it early, and it has now paid off with a trifecta of early 2008 special election wins in heavily Republican congressional districts.

    “We've got a lot in common with people in states that have been run by Republicans since before Ronald Reagan,” said former Iowa House minority leader Dick Myers, introducing Dean and praising the 50 State Strategy. “Now we're electing people from Mississippi on the Democratic ticket. We're electing people from Louisiana on the Democratic ticker.”

    Myers was a key early Obama supporter in 2008, just as he was for Dean in 2004 and for Jimmy Carter in 1976. “We've got a great candidate – the best I've ever seen, and I'm an old, old man,” said Myers, a very energetic 73 years old. “I don't care if you live to be 600, this is the most important election you'll ever be involved in. I've been around Barack Obama for almost two years. Not getting paid or nothing, just observing, And with all my experience I can tell you -- this guy is the real deal.”

    Dean mingling and posing for pictures with students following the speech.
    Dean mingling and posing for pictures with students following the speech.

    In many ways – strong appeal to young voters, successful use of the internet for fundraising and organizing -- Obama's successful path to the Democratic nomination was modeled on Dean's unsuccessful 2004 campaign. “The party needed a backbone, and Howard Dean made people proud to be Democrats,” Nate Willems of Lisbon told Iowa Independent. Willems was one of the first staffers on Dean's campaign, and is now running for the Iowa House.

    “Dean had more of an issue oriented appeal – the war, tax cuts and No Child Left Behind,” said Willems, “and Obama is more about the big picture.”

    Dean acknowledged as much. “Iraq and the economy and jobs, gas prices and health care are what this about in the short term,” he said. “But in the long term this is about healing America” after 30 years of divisive politics. “Your generation has rejected that and, so has Barack Obama. We need to start working on the things we do agree on to make the world a better place.”

    Of course, it wouldn't be a partisan event without at least a little red meat, and Dean, who spent the week in St. Paul counter-messaging the Republican convention, offered a few servings. “I agree with Barack Obama, I don't think they get it at all,” said Dean. “John McCain's campaign is run by lobbyists, it is paid for by lobbyists, John McCain is owned by lobbyists.”

    “We're not the tax party – the Republicans are the borrow and spend party,” Dean said. “We can't afford any more Bush-McCain economic policies. Are you going to believe John McCain and Sarah Palin on TV one night, or the record of the last eight years?”

    Iowa Electronic Markets steady after conventions

    Iowa Electronic Markets steady after conventions

    It's too soon for polls to reflect what bounce if any John McCain and Sarah Palin got out of the Republican National Convention, but traders on the Iowa Electronic Markets (IEM) are mostly unmoved by the unprecedented back-to-back convention weeks.

    At 9 a.m. Friday, Barack Obama's shares were trading for 58.5 cents on the IEM's Winner Take All presidential market, meaning traders give Obama and Joe Biden a 58.5 percent chance of winning. John McCain was trading for 41.9 cents. Before the two conventions, the market was at 60 cents for Obama and 40 cents for McCain. In the Winner Take All market, winning shares pay a dollar and losing shares are worthless.

    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.

    In the Vote Share market, which pays a penny per percentage point, Obama was trading for 53.9 cents Friday, which means traders believe he will get 53.9 percent of the popular vote. Before the Democratic convention Obama was trading at 52.8 cents. McCain was down to 47.1 cents Friday, from the 49.5 percent he was trading at when the DNC started.

    In other markets, traders predict an increase in Democratic control of both the U.S. Senate and House by a 90 percent margin. But in the one race-specific market, the Minnesota Senate race, traders expect Republican incumbent Norm Coleman to defeat Democratic challenger Al Franken.