Thursday, March 31, 2011

Loebsack Would Move

Map Day 2: The After-Map
Loebsack would move

Everyone missing the lede here (emphasis added):
Dave Loebsack, Mount Vernon Democrat

“In Iowa, we are fortunate to have a nonpartisan redistricting process that puts Iowans and Iowa’s communities first, ahead of politics. For more than four years, I have been honored to represent much of southeastern Iowa – in Iowa’s Second Congressional district. Understanding that the redistricting process is ongoing, as the map stands now, I would plan to continue to represent the southeastern district of Iowa that stretches from I-35 to Iowa City, the Quad Cities and to the southeastern most tip of Keokuk. I have been honored to represent these communities in the past and look forward to representing them in the future.”
Makes sense. It's basically the same district he had except swapping Scott and Linn. Mt. Vernon is just a couple miles north of the county line.

Article now includes Steve King as well; everyone except Loebsack is content-free.

Meanwhile under the dome they're still taking it all in. And Craig Robinson is up with a Winners and Losers list. My guess is that House GOP leadership is microscoping the map and figuring out who can move and who can't. And like I said before, there's a lot less pairs than we had in the 2001 map. Of course, that year there was a whole slate of statewide offices and an open deep-red congressional district, so a lot of folks took their chances on up or out.

As they say, developing...

Map Day

Map Day!

Well, here they are: statewide and local insets.

"Look at all these straight lines," said redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering, weeping. "And what kind of a ^&$&!@# puts together TWO pairs of congressmen?"

"The guy who's screwed is Tom Latham," said Mandering. "He's got nowhere to move and King clobbers him in the primary with this 4th District."

Democrats were quick with a release best summed up as: our process is fair and Democrats are good. Republicans hit an hour or so later with a release on the also important but unrelated subject of Florida's primary leapfrogging the caucuses. Comments at TheIowaRepublican seem grouchy, but no pseudo-official analysis yet.

As of 11:00 we have statements from Boswell, Latham and Braley, none of which say much; nothing from Loebsack or King.

Key question: Will there be national pressure on Iowa Republicans to scuttle this map and take care of Latham, Speaker Boehner's buddy?

CDs 1 and 2 closely resemble Braley and Loebsack's current turf, with the notable trade of Scott and Linn. O. Kay says what many are thinking: "Loebsack could move into Johnson County."

Leonard Boswell gets a 3rd CD that closely resembles the Neal Smith-Greg Ganske turf of the 1990s. "It's not a good map for him," says desmoinesdem.

The Register has full list of legislative pairs. Much is being made of the high number of pairs, bit it's actually less than in 2001. Plus: I don't know the rest of the state to how many of those are you're screwed pairs vs. how many of those are "my district just not my house."

Local angle: Lisbon Democrat Nate Willems gets pulled all the way out of Johnson, with that congressional district line, and gets sent in a completely opposite direction to north rural Linn and all the way into Buchanan County.

There's an open district 77 running down the west side of the county and catching Swisher-Shueyville, North Liberty, Tiffin, Oxford, and Lone Tree, but skipping Hills. They drew the line along the old Hills Panhandle of the railroad tracks, which Hills de-annexed in 2010. "Now THAT's how you draw districts!" said Mandering.

This House seat combines with a Washington-Keokuk House district 78 to make up Republican Sandy Greiner's Senate district 39. Freshman Republican Jarad Klein gets pulled all the way out of Johnson and gets paired with fellow Republican Betty DeBoef. She first got elected in 2000, got paired in 2001, and moved in 2002.

Coralville's Dave Jacoby loses North Liberty and picks up one more west side Iowa City precinct in district 74, Iowa City 9, which happens to be where Mary Mascher lives. The rest of Iowa City basically is split along Highway 6, Burlington Street and Muscatine Avenue (with a jog down to catch student apartment precinct 19). Vicki Lensing is north of the line in 85; the open district 86 on the south side closely resembles Mascher's present turf and her 1990s district, except for that panhandle that picks up Hills (which is so solidly Democratic even I won it). The campus area, which was concentrated in Mascher's old district, not gets split between the two Iowa City districts.

Joe Bolkcom basically keeps what he had in Senate 43 (House 85 and 86), losing precinct 9 and gaining Hills. He may be the least impacted person in the state.

On the east side of the county, Republican Jeff Kaufmann, who lives north of the city of Wilton in rural Cedar County, picks up a bigger chunk of the county, including Solon. District 74 loses most of the northern tier of Muscatine County, except for the deep red city of Wilton itself. Democrats have made serious runs at the Cedar County seat in the past but always fallen short, and basically gave up the last two cycles.

I expected Bob Dvorsky to be pulled all the way into Johnson County, but instead he goes east, getting the Coralville-based 73 and the Cedar County 74 seat in Senate 37. I'd that's about a 60% Johnson district and he'll be all right. Jim Hahn gets pulled all the way out of Johnson County, but he only had two precincts here anyway.

Johnson County in general is less carved up. In the 2000s we had 3.8 House districts worth of population, and we got three whole house districts with the .8 sent in three different directions. This cycle we had about 4.3 House districts worth of people. We got the four whole House districts, and the .3 all gets sent over to Kaufmann. The surprise is that we then didn't get two whole Senate districts. Still, on the Senate side we're only split three ways instead of four.

That is, if this flies. Closing in on noon now and the Republican Party is still vewy, vewy quiet.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Maps While U Wait

Maps While U Wait

Tomorrow of course is all about maps and while these aren't the ones you want they're at least a little political cartography.

This one illustrates the percentage of folks self-identifying as "conservative" (vs. "moderate" and "liberal") in a Gallup survey. It very closely overlays the Obama-McCain map with a couple minor variations. Two moderate states went for McCain, Montana and his own Arizona.

But the glaring exception is Iowa. How come? Well, reading down the crosstabs it seems there's almost an inverse relationship between income and conservatism. It's what the Brits would call "working class Tories" and what Americans would call the Larry the Cable Guy demographic. This tells me self-ID as conservatism is social issue driven. A handy tool for an economic ruling class to have.

The good news is that the lighter colored states still add up to an electoral college majority.

This one comes under the catchy headline "Haley Barbour Comes Out Against Slavery." Although, seriously, the sitting GOP governor of Missi-freakin-sippi saying this is kind of a Big Deal:
“Slavery was the primary, central, cause of secession,” Barbour told me Friday. “The Civil War was necessary to bring about the abolition of slavery,” he continued. “Abolishing slavery was morally imperative and necessary, and it’s regrettable that it took the Civil War to do it. But it did.”
Remember, this is the only state that STILL has a Confederate flag in its state flag.

Anyway, the map argues that Henry Clay won the election of 1844, we never had a Civil War, and we got three new countries out of the deal: California, Texas, and Utah I mean Deseret.

As for THE map, look for me and Jerry Mandering to check in on that roughly noon tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

McCaskill backs Christie Vilsack

McCaskill backs Christie Vilsack

Some people think this is a bad thing. I think this is a good thing:
Sen. Claire McCaskill allowed for a moment of politics at Monday's St. Louis event with the nation's farming chief, offering a word of encouragement for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilasck after a joint appearance on the riverfront.

Only it wasn't Vilsack that McCaskill was extending her support to -- it was his wife.

Christie Vilsack, former First Lady of the Corn State, has been edging toward running for office herself, contemplating a run for Congress.

"Tell Christie I think it's a great idea," McCaskill said to Tom Vilsack after a press conference at the ADM grain elevator in St. Louis. "Tell her I'll come up and knock on some doors!"
But even the Show Me Staters can sense the tension:
The Vilsacks are popular among fellow Democrats around the U.S. -- they know the caucus political landscape as well as anyone -- but running a primary campaign against an incumbent is a delicate subject, if not a faux pas.
The article alludes to McCaskill's own primary challenge history: she knocked off an incumbent governor in a 2004 primary, only to lose in the general (thanks in large part to the John Kerry campaign scuttling Missouri late in the game).

McCaskill came back to beat Jim "No" Talent in 2006's Senate race. With a tough re-election race next year, it's unlikely we'll actually see her door knocking Des Moines, but the thought is nice.

Republican Candidates or Invasive Species?

They’re swarming… and it’s scarier than fiction

"In the context of jellyfish swarms, the word is a very serious indicator of the health of the ocean. It means that ecosystems are way out of balance. The predators that normally feed on jellyfish are declining due to overfishing, which allows jellyfish species to quickly proliferate. Predators of jellyfish are reduced as are fish species that normally compete with jellyfish for food such as phyto- and zooplankton.

Now, they’re terrorizing tourists and beachgoers as they appear en mass near beaches where they were once rare."

- MarineBioBlog

Call it global warming, call it the great extinction of overfishing and habitat destruction. But our waters are getting clogged with invasive lower forms of life: jellyfish, zebra mussels, and slime molds.

Much the same could be said of the Republican presidential field. It just keeps getting bigger, weirder, and more primitive, and it's invading our habitat.

Jim DeMint, de facto Senate Republican leader, says he thinks even more people could get in, a tacit admission that the present field consists of low forms of life. But how much more can we de-evolve? Just in the last few days we've had the Trump Boomlet (I liked it the first time I heard it, in 1986 when it was Lee Iacocca) Roy "Ten Commandments Judge" Moore, and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson running on the Peter Tosh platform.

Oxygen-depleting pollution in coastal waters is a problem for most marine species that cannot survive in “dead zones.” Jellyfish, often referred to as the cockroaches of the sea, have no problem living in oxygen-depleted waters.

Such as the Ames straw poll. But once population densities get too thick, jellyfish are known to cannibalize each other. As are candidates.

A species is regarded as invasive if it has been introduced by human action to a location, area, or region where it did not previously occur naturally (i.e., is not a native species), becomes capable of establishing a breeding population in the new location without further intervention by humans, and becomes a pest in the new location, directly threatening agriculture or the local biodiversity.

When an invasive species super-saturates its niche, overpopulating the environment and sucking up all the resources, it starts dying off, a victim of its own fertility.

Thus shall it be with the Republican presidential field. We will not see all these creatures by the time caucus night rolls around. Some, I believe, are already extinct - does anyone really think Bobby Jindal is still looking at it? - and others inhabit the same ecological home (Rand Paul says he won't run if his dad does.)

The ever-objective Ron Gunzburger of Politics1 has 24 "major" Republican candidates or potential candidates listed. Let's make that 25 as Fred "Gay Republican" Karger had made a bit of noise here. Even though most of the candidates will say they don't believe in evolution, I'm going to rate the field on an evolutionary scale, higher forms of life to lower, based on degree of environmental threat. Any similarities between species and candidate are strictly coincidental, says our legal staff.

  • Nomura's Jellyfish (エチゼンクラゲ,Nemopilema nomurai) or Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Know for two distinct life history stages (body forms) during its life cycle.
  • Flavivirus (West Nile virus) or Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee; both boast of frequent appearances in Middle East
  • Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) or Governor Mitch Daniels (Indiana)
  • Sus scrofa (Wild boar) or Governor Haley Barbour (Mississippi)
  • Caulerpa taxifolia (killer algae) or US Senator Rand Paul (Kentucky) or Congressman Ron Paul (Texas)
  • Felis catus (stray cat) or Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Georgia). Population growing due to habit of mating with multiple partners.
  • Channa argus (Northern snakehead) or Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (Minnesota)
  • Dioscorea bulbifera (air potato) or Former Governor Sarah Palin (Alaska)
  • Agrilus planipennis (emerald ash borer) or Former Governor Tim Pawlenty (Minnesota). Able to bore even the sturdiest trees.
  • Bufo marinus (Cane toad) or Businessman Herman Cain (Georgia)
  • Rattus rattus (Black rat) or Former Governor/Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. (Utah) (though new reports are this species may not be seen in Iowa)
  • Paederia foetida (skunk vine) or Former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (Alabama)
  • Cynanchum rossicum (dog-strangling vine) or Businessman/TV Show Host Donald Trump (New York)
  • Panicum repens (torpedo grass) or Former Governor Gary Johnson (New Mexico)
  • Didymosphenia geminata (rock snot) or Former US Senator Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania)
  • Pueraria_lobata (kudzu) or Former Governor Buddy Roemer (Louisiana)
  • Conium maculatum (poison hemlock) or activist Fred Karger
  • Ophiostoma ulmi (Dutch elm disease) or would-be kingmaker Bob Vander Plaats (Iowa)
  • Sturnus vulgaris (European starling) or Former UN Ambassador John Bolton (Maryland)
  • Monopterus albus (swamp eel) or Governor Bobby Jindal (Louisiana)
  • Petromyzon marinus (Sea lamprey) or Former Congressman Joe Scarborough (Florida)
  • Coptotermes formosanus (Formosan subterranean termite) or Former Governor George Pataki (New York). Believed extinct.
  • Phakopsora spp. (Soybean rust) or Governor Rick Perry (Texas)
  • Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden oak death) or Former Governor Bob Riley (Alabama)
  • Carnivorous slobbius (Common coyote) or Super Genius Wile E. Coyote (New Mexico)
  • Hypophthalmichthys nobilis (Bighead carp) or Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (New York)

I don't expect any of the species that rank below Vander Plaats on the evolutionary scale to grow into actual campaigns; they're listed for taxonomic purposes only. All these species are likely to become extinct by November 2012.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Romney's Strange Role Model

Weird role model, Mitt

Once again, it just writes itself:
“It’s an unglamorous path (to the nomination), just sweat and muscle all the way through,” said longtime GOP strategist and Romney’s top 2002 gubernatorial adviser Mike Murphy.

Murphy compared Romney’s path to that of Walter Mondale in the 1984 Democratic primary, when the former vice president had enough organizational support from the establishment wing of his party to eventually pile enough delegates to fend off Gary Hart.
It's a timely analogy, coming coincidentally on the death of Geraldine Ferraro. Mitt does offer the excitement level of a Mondale, and probably the electoral prospects as well. An apocryphal story about the insularity of Twin Cities media was this mythical headline about the `84 election MONDALE WINS MINNESOTA. So we can look forward to ROMNEY WINS UTAH.

And there's a Screw Iowa zinger:
“The nomination is not going to be decided by one precinct outside of Des Moines,” said a Romney official who was at a Beeson session and is familiar with campaign planning.
Coulda said "Nashua." Coulda said "Myrtle Beach." Coulda said "Reno." Didn't. Said "Des Moines."

But there's one guy they're explicitly NOT modeling their campaign on: "Mindful of Rudy Giuliani’s wait-until-Florida strategic disaster, Team Mitt knows they must do well or at least meet expectations in the initial races to stay in the conversation."

Romney's got that right, at least. In the Manchester Union-Leader, former New Hampshire Republican chair Fergus Cullen offers a brutally accurate critique of Giuliani's failings as a retail candidate:
Wolfeboro is big enough to attract special attention from campaigns. McCain and Romney held town hall meetings there to meet voters, earn support and build their organizations. Giuliani? He stopped at a downtown ice cream stand and got his photo on the front page of the local weekly surrounded by a gawking crowd of... tourists and seasonal residents, not Republican primary voters. This was a typical Potemkin Giuliani event: It looked good to any national reporter traveling with the candidate that day, but the people were just extras.
The whole thing is a must read for any caucus lover. It's similar to a critique I aimed at Hillary Clinton, who understood the surface of the caucuses but not the spirit. But Clinton was warm and engaging with the voters she did meet (she just didn't feel like she had to have a five minute pet issue conversation with every one of them). And she remembered and worked the community of Key Players. Giuliani? Not so much, says Cullen:
In the course of the last campaign, during which I was state Republican Party chairman, I must have met Rudy Giuliani a half-dozen times. But for Giuliani, it was always the first time; he gave no indication of recognizing me. Getting to know individual voters was unimportant. In contrast, McCain and other candidates routinely picked me out of crowds. Mitt Romney even did so at a South Carolina event asking, "Fergus, what are you doing here?"
My own observations: OK, I stood out pretty prominently at Republican events as a lefty interloper. (Hard to be subtle in a raspberry beret.) But of all the contenders of both parties, Rudy Giuliani was the only one I never at least handshake met. Then and now, most of the Republican contenders - John McCain, Haley Barbour, Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee - made a point of introducing themselves to local press and engaging in a little chit-chat along with the questions.

(Tangent: the establishment's REAL beef with Huckabee: "The knock is that Huckabee hasn’t shown any capacity to raise money at the level demanded by a presidential campaign...")

In contrast, there was a faux Secret Service vibe around Giuliani. In October 2007 in Iowa City his people did the whole metal detector, search the bag drill. It was more intense that what we were getting from Clinton and Obama, who actually WERE under Secret Service protection. It didn't get Rudy Intense around Obama and McCain until they were the nominees. (There was a little of this vibe around Romney, but not nearly as intense; just some staffers with unnecessary dark shades and earpieces.)

Of course. Team Rudy may have put me on their enemies list -- and that's the thing, you can just SEE Rudy keeping such a list -- after I wrote the headline "Giuliani: Asked About HIV, He Answers With 9/11."

Dry Dance Better If You're Drunk First

Dry Dance Better If You're Drunk First

Hey, Iowa City! Hey, University! I got your nonalcoholic alternatives right here:
A number of students attending an alcohol-free dance party March 25 had one thing in common: They were already drunk.

Some University of Iowa students told The Daily Iowan they drank before the event, which was dubbed “nonalcoholic,” while others said they attended Friday After Class at the bars and imbibed earlier in the day. At least one female was carried out of the event on a stretcher shortly before 1 a.m.

The party at hotelVetro, 201 S. Linn St., was the second 18-plus dance party hosted by the newly formed UI student organization, AACE Entertainment. The first dance party, held at Old Brick, 26 E. Market St., brought in more than 2,000 people; it was aimed at promoting a permanent under-21 dance club in Iowa City.

Despite the evident intoxication of some in attendance, students and city officials said nonalcoholic parties are still a better option than bars.
Pass all the ordinances and ineffective drinking age laws you want; young adults want adult fun, and that's gonna include alcohol whether it's on site or off. And off site is, contrary to what the "public health" advocates argued last fall, less safe; just ask the girl on the stretcher.

Keeping it Classy, Steve King

Keeping it Classy, Steve King

Sometimes it just writes itself: "Cancer survivor Lance Armstrong is taking issue with Rep. Steve King's characterization of the health reform law as a 'malignant tumor' that needs to be yanked out of the body politic."

At least Krazy King isn't running for president...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Barbour, Schultz at Johnson County Republicans

Barbour, Schultz at Johnson County Republicans

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a likely presidential candidates, focused on attacking President Obama's economic record at Friday's Johnson County Republican spaghetti supper, with not one word about social issues or foreign policy.

The night's other key speaker, Secretary of State Matt Schultz, focused almost entirelyly on his signature issue, photo IDs for voting, saying it was "non-negotiable."

Following is a trademark Deeth Pseudo Liveblog.

5:46 and greetings from Tiffin where Mayor Royce Phillips has just welcomed us to the Republican spaghetti supper. The camera died ands the wifi is passworded (I tried to hack in with “Clippers” and failed). Barbour just strolled by and shook my hand.

Steve Scheffler from the RNC is handling the prayers. “We have drifted from the spiritual roots of our fathers” etc. Ends with In Jesus Name.

Senate Republican leader Paul McKinley is on hand, also Jarad Klein. I had a great uncle Paul McKinley in my roots from not too far from his turf, Unionville MO: wonder if we's kinfolk? McKinley looks like our first speaker at 5:51-no, wait, we get five minutes to grab food. I ate beforehand, but have been told I'm more than welcome to donate and eat.

We probably have 100 or 120 on hand, I'm sure my GOP readers will dispute that but that's my best guess. Jeff Kaufmann is in the house as well.

Barbour is working the room, taking a good chunk of time with folks. Not in any hurry. He's got a red Mississippi map pin on the lapel where a flag pin would be. “Hi, I'm Haley.”

He works my way again (I'm strategically located next to the pie and thus hard to miss) and sees me taking a picture with the backup system, the Blackberry. “Hope ya made me look thin,” he jokes, remembering I'm press, so I catch a couple questions.

Time frame for a decision? “By the end of April. I consider this a very important state, not only in the caucuses but in the general election as well.”

Chuck Grassley said there were two or three qualified candidates, are you one? “You'd have to ask Senator Grassley that. He and I have a good relationship going back to when I was RNC chair.”

6:11 and Jeff Kaufmann, a member of House GOP leadership speaks real briefly on the way out the door: “We want campaigns to mean something again. We're checking (our promises) off, we're going to follow through and do exactly what we said.”

6:12 and now McKinley. “We heard all the talk about hope and change. We got the change, now the hope is a Republican resurgence.” Obama's biggest accomplishment? “He actually made Hillary Clinton look moderate.”

Matt Schultz now in the house.

McKinley continues on education: “it is not about money. Iowa is made up of hard working productive people. “

“After 2012 we will capture the majority in the Senate and we can say Iowa is on the rise again.”

6:22. Barbour now. “I used to be a lobbyist so I'm used to talking and eating at the same time.”

“I am seriously thinkin' about running for president.” (applause) “If you're not already committed I hope you'll keep your powder dry, Can't ask for anything more than that.”

“I'm not one of these guys who's been wanting to run for president his whole life.”

“I've been involved in national politics since 1968. In all that time I never hear a statement that I now hear every day: I am concerned that my children and grandchildren are not going to inherit the same country we have today. Never heard it till the last 18 months. The stakes are incredibly high for the election of 2012.”

“These six electoral votes may be the difference between election a new president and four more years of Barack Obama (boos)”

Notes that he headed the R Governors in 2009-10 and cites gains from 22 to 29. “It's bad to stifle the urge to applaud.” (applause ) “It's not bad for you it's bad for me.”

“2010 was the most policy-driven election of my lifetime. Because the American people across the board understood that the Obama Pelosi Reid policies were bad for economic growth and job creation.”

“The president asked for and fought for that tax increase. He only through in the towel when not a single Republican senator would vote for it in the lame duck session. Then the liberal media said Obama had 'moved to the center'. It's like Ronald Reagan used to say about the Democrat's playbook: “Fake up the middle and run around left end.”

“Look at the data for 30 years: when gov't spending goes down employment goes up. When gov't spending goes up employment goes down. It is almost literally an exact inverse relationship. How can the economy grow when the govt is suckin' up all the money?”

Takes it over the line here: "And that's what Obamacare is, a government run health care system.” Huh? Coulda fooled THIS single payer guy... “How are you gonna hire more people when you don't even know what your health care obligations to your employees are?”

Says Obama energy policy is “Drive up the cost so Americans will use less. It's not energy policy it's environmental policy. There will be less pollution because we'll be in a deep deep recession. They may need $8 or $9 a gallon in Berkeley but we don't need it in Biloxi. $4 gasoline is bad for Iowa, bad for America, bad for agriculture, bad period.”

“Consistently the policies of this administration have been bad for the economy and business. Bigger government means a smaller economy. If you elect Republicans you will get limited government.” But, ignoring a biiiig chunk of the budget: “with peace through strength.”

“Let's make the election about that and get the country back on a path that was not too many years ago was a bipartisan path on the economy” and he includes Bill Clinton on that. “Bill Clinton lowered the capital gains tax rate. We knew we had to have open markets for our products. It's interesting to me that Bill Clinton signed NAFTA but this administration won't sign an agreement with Columbia because of a sop to the labor movement.”

Obama: “Unlimited faith in limitless government. They think we're too stupid to make our own decisions, and we know just the opposite is right.”

Wrapping with the “inherit the same country” theme. Not Word One on social issues. “The American People are tired of happy talk.”

Wraps at 6:40; goes back to working the room.

6:47 and the next speaker is representing “Strong America” which appears to be some sort of deficit hawk group. He has a slide show. Some folks attentive, others catch up on chitchat. We have a Miller-Meeks sighting. Elvis, er, Barbour, appears to have left the building. I spy a couple other interlopers from my team, but one is a fellow blogger and the other is half of a politically mixed marriage, so we're all on best behavior. There had been a Facebook mention of “Madison in Tiffin” protesters... but no sightings.

Strong America makes its pitch: Sign up to commit to only support candidates who pledge to cut $1.2 trillion in spending. He asks for a show of hands and only three or four get raised. “Iowa is the lever that moved Barack Obama into the White House; Iowa is the lever that will move him out.” That gets more reaction than the rest of the talk put together.

Schultz gets big applause when introduced; he's clearly a hero to the partisan faithful.

“If you read the Register I'm the worst guy in the state, so I must be doing something right. It boggles my mind that something so simple is so controversial.” Photo ID gets big applause. “There's a lot of misinformation out there. The media's trying to make it out like all the auditors are against me. There's some things that need to be worked out and we're doing that.”

“I don't know a lot but I do know this: you should show an ID when you go to vote. To me that is non negotiable. I don't know why this is a partisan issue. This is about fairness. This is about making sure our vote counts. Don't believe when they say it disenfranchises voters, that's bogus.”

Working the grass rots on the issue: "We need letters to the editor. We need you working the water cooler." Then the new line: "Don't blame the auditors. Blame the senators.” That's aimed at Democrats in general and Jeff Danielson in particular; Schultz is still hoping for a bill this session but if not wants a "bipartisan" bill next session. (Perhaps tacitly admitting that the House Republicans jumped the gun by passing an early in the session bill that, even if you want such things which I don't, has serious problems?)

Speaking of the senators, I forgot to mention Sandy Greiner and Jim Hahn are here.

Another loud applause at speech's end. Pretty much all ID all the time, but that met expectations.

They're starting the auction with Jarad Klein as auctioneer, time for me to sneak out. On my way out Klein says "It's great to be with so many Johnson County people who aren't Mary Mascher or Vicki Lensing." Gets some chuckles.

First Lady at UNI Commencement

Michelle Obama UNI Commencement Speaker May 7
From the White House press office:
In the coming months, First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver commencement addresses at the University of Northern Iowa, Spelman College and Quantico Middle High School, and speak to graduates and families at West Point. These institutions all share a deep commitment to service, and have students that are actively involved in improving the world around them. From students who are volunteering in underserved communities to dedicated military families and troops who are preparing to protect our Nation, these graduates represent the spirit of service that defines America.

Mrs. Obama will begin her 2011 commencement addresses in Iowa, making her first visit as First Lady to a state she came to know and love during the 2008 campaign...

MAY 7, 2011 – The First Lady will address graduates of the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), a top-ranked school among Midwest public universities located in Northeast Iowa. UNI traditionally holds more than one ceremony, but this year’s will be combined so that the First Lady can address all 1,900 graduates.

Stuff This Weekend

Stuff This Weekend

Political junkies have several weekend options in the People's Republic:

  • On the right, the Johnson County Republicans (yes, we have a few) is having the annual spaghetti supper, so you can check out Haley Barbour and - bring your ID! - Matt Schultz. Hear the speakers or join the protesters.

  • Saturday at 9:30 is the monthly League of Women Voters legislative forum at the North Liberty Community Center. Potentially bipartisan, but we never know till the last minute...

    (Speaking of the legislative delegation, congrats to the 2011 Senate recipient of the Herbert Hoover Uncommon Public Service Award, Coralville's own Bob Dvorsky.)

  • While that's going on, your other option is the Democratic State Central Committee meeting at Northwest Junior High in Coralville, from 9 AM to 1 PM.

  • On Sunday (1:00pm - 3:00pm) at Devotay (117 N. Linn) join the socialists and Obamabots for the one year anniversary of the health care bill. (Unfortunately, unlike last year, we don't get the president in person.)
  • Mitt: Screw Iowa?

    Mitt: Screw Iowa?

    Wall Street Journal:
    Mr. Romney said he needed to do well in the New Hampshire and Florida primaries and Nevada's caucuses, while emerging from those early states with enough money to convince undecided voters that he would have the financial firepower to get to the finish line.

    He said he expected to win in Nevada, as he did in 2008, and that he saw Florida's primary as pivotal, with only two candidates likely to emerge from that state able to compete in the later primaries. Less clear was his thinking on the nation's first nominating contest—the Iowa caucuses—where socially conservative voters dominate and where Mr. Romney placed a distant second in 2008.
    Atlantic: "This looks like a sign that Mitt Romney is indeed planning to skip Iowa in 2012."

    Mitt, Mitt, Mitt. When will you learn. No one ever wins with the Screw Iowa strategery. (No, McCain doesn't count. He didn't win; it's just everyone else lost.) Skipping Iowa means you let someone else, a Pawlenty, Barbour, or a Daniels, emerge to take over your niche as the grown-up alternative to Bachmann or Gingrich or Paul or Paul.

    This strikes my more as a Hillary Clinton style expectation reducer. You know you can't win Iowa? Hint at skipping it, so that your mediocre performance looks adequate.

    But much like the early stages of the 2008 Democratic race was a contest (largely between Edwards and Obama) to emerge as the Not Hillary, the 2012 GOP race will come down to Mitt vs. Not Mitt.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Bachmann 2012

    Bachmann 2012!

    Huckabee without the charm and Palin without the brains!

    But this article says take it seriously (as a game-changer, not as an actual nomination possibility):
    But when you put Palin and Bachmann side by side, it is striking how much broader and deeper—in a word, more seriously committed—the Minnesotan’s involvement with right-wing causes has actually been.

    Bachmann doesn’t give the impression her public persona is just an ego-gratifying act. She hasn’t starred in a reality TV show (or sent her daughter to dance with the stars), appeared on Saturday Night Live, or quit her job. And she is relatively free of Palin’s whiny martyr complex, which conservatives have begun to criticize quite loudly.
    Or, as a random Redditor noted: "Anyone else impressed by the way Michele Bachmann has successfully Single White Femaled Sarah Palin?"

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Three One-Liners

    Three One-Liners

    Leonard Pitts on support for marriage equality reaching a majority in recent polls:
    "It’s all well and good that 51 percent of us support the right of gay men and lesbians to tell it to the judge, but really, what hubris makes us think we have a right to say yea or nay in the first place? You and I cannot “give” rights. We can only acknowledge, respect and defend the rights human beings are born with.
  • Chris Good on the now official explorer: "Pawlenty is like a baseball player ranking fourth in multiple offensive categories, vying for the MVP."

  • And Swing State Project on the political implications of Detroit's 25 percent population loss in the last census:
    "I briefly had to wonder whether we might actually see Detroit turned into one CD, mostly contiguous with the city boundaries (since it's now about the same population as an ideal district), but I can't imagine that the Obama administration's DOJ would allow the state GOP (which controls the redistricting trifecta) to pack only one overwhelmingly African-American VRA district when the population is there to support two, albeit two that will have to reach significantly into the suburbs now."
    Detroit's 2010 population: 713,777, down from a 1950 peak of 1,849,568.
  • Targets, Targets, Targets

    Targets, Targets, Targets

    Iowa doesn't even have districts yet and we already have targets:
    The National Republican Congressional Committee is targeting 10 House Democrats with new robocalls accusing them of causing higher gas prices.

    “Feeling the pain at the pump every time you fill up your tank?” says one of the calls. “Well, you should know that your congressman, Heath Shuler, is supporting policies that could raise gas prices even more.”

    The calls are being made in districts held by Shuler and Reps. Ruben Hinojosa (Texas), Brian Higgins (N.Y.), Bruce Braley (Iowa), David Loebsack (Iowa), Leonard Boswell (Iowa), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Brad Miller (N.C.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.) and Mark Critz (Pa.)
    Add odd mix of mostly Blue Dogs and Iowans (or on Boswell's case, both). Interesting to see if the names in the calls match up to the current district lines or not...

    Not to be outdone:
    The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching a grass-roots attack and online "action center" targeting 10 House Republicans, the latest move in the DCCC's effort to flip 25 seats and win back the House majority in 2012.

    "Did you know that Representative Paul Gosar is part of a majority of the Republicans in Washington pushing to cut seniors’ benefits in Social Security and Medicare?"

    In addition to Gosar (AZ), the DCCC is doing more automated phone calls, live phone calls, print ads and emails to go after the following Republicans: Reps. Bill Young (Fla.), Allen West (Fla.), Dan Benishek (Mich.), Joe Heck (Nev.), Lou Barletta (Pa.), Blake Farenthold (Texas), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Sean Duffy (Wis.) and David McKinley (W.Va.). With the exception of Young and Ryan, the Budget chairman, the Members are all freshmen who were first elected last fall.
    No Iowans on that list, or on a larger, Top 50 survey of Obama`08, House Republican `10districts by Democracy Corps:
    These incumbents, identified by name, have an average approval rating of 35 percent across the 50 districts, with 25 percent disapproving. Another 38 percent were not able to give the candidates a rating, suggesting lack of visibility. This is about 10 points lower than the approval rating Democratic incumbents held in July of 2009 (with comparable disapproval rating).

    More importantly at this early point, just 40 percent of voters in these districts say that they will vote to reelect their incumbent (asked by name in each district), while 45 percent say that they “can’t vote to reelect” the incumbent.
    Flipping half those seats would flip the House... Iowa's excluded because our blue 2008 districts were all held by the Dems in 2010; Latham's current turf is pure purple and King's is deep red. Still, Iowa in a remap year is always hard fought. We had tow toughcontests out of five in 1992: the Nussle-Nagle pair and Elaine Baxter vs. Jim Ross Lightfoot. In 2002 FOU out of five were serious in the general.

    Another Goodbye, Too Soon

    Another Goodbye, Too Soon

    Shadow was only in our lives a bit more than a year. I wish it had been a lot longer. That's the hard part about living with furry friends. God gives us humans 70 or 80 odd years if we're lucky, which means several times in our lives we have to say goodbye to dogs and cats who get about 15. I just wasn't ready for it to be today. His illness was short with no signs in advance and only a few uncomfortable hours.

    This little guy only had three years in this world, but he touched a lot of hearts. My brother's in-laws Jack and Sheila adopted him from a shelter, and he made their last year of life happier. They passed away in close succession, and we kept Shadow in the family where he gave us another year of love. And he's still in the family, back with Jack and Sheila again.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Matt Schultz vs. Republicans

    Matt Schultz vs. Republicans

    Yesterday I gave Haley Barbour's upcoming Friday visit to the Johnson County Republicans spaghetti supper a plug. But he's not even the top-billed speaker. No, they keynoter is Secretary of State Matt Schultz, taking his photo ID to vote show on the road.

    And it seems that Republicans who know the most about conducting elections aren't on board:
    Holly Fokkena, president of the state association of auditors (and) a Republican, said it's very rare for the Iowa Association of County Auditors to publicly oppose an elections bill. This one is worrisome because it would disenfranchise voters, she said.

    "Some specific populations would struggle with this more than others," she said.
    That opposition is bipartisan and unanimous. Dozens of GOP auditors knew a good thing when they had it and endorsed Democrat Mike Mauro last fall (another reason for the rift). You didn't see Terry Branstad dropping Schultz's name at every campaign stop, the way he did with Brenna Findley, and you're not seeing Branstad pushing hard for photo ID now. Heck, Branstad thought so highly of Mike Mauro that he gave him a job.

    Schultz is a classic example of a guy who caught a wave, squeaking in with less than 50 percent of the vote, yet believes in all sincerity that he had something to do with it and has a mandate.

    Photo ID makes for a good sound bite, but gets worse the closer you look at it. Iowa voters are already identified at registration time by driver's license or (partial) social security number, and election day registrants are already required to show ID. And the "inactive" status voters (that happens when mail gets returned as undeliverable) also have to show ID - a fact that any part time poll worker knows but Schultz apparently wasn't aware of.

    So ID is a "solution" in search of a problem. Besides, if you're looking to swing an election, stealing votes one at a time isn't worth the effort. You need to do it in bulk.

    Like, say, with an ID law aimed straight at your opponent's base demographics.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    McGovern to Iowa in April

    McGovern to Iowa in April

    Has the left found its primary challenger?
    Historian, former United States Representative, Senator and Democratic presidential nominee George S. McGovern will present “Reflections on American Politics Today” as the inaugural lecturer for the annual John C. Culver Lecture at Simpson College on Thursday, April 7th at 7:30 pm in Smith Chapel.
    I'm thinking it's just an early start on 2016 myself. He'll only be 94.

    The McGovern name still carries some currency in these parts. The national lede out of our epic fall barbecue of 2007 (five candidates, a bunch of Bidens, and actor Forrest Whittaker on Team Obama's behalf) was McGovern's endorsement of Hillary Clinton. But at end game of the long march to the nomination, McGovern called on Clinton to drop out.

    McGovern was the first one to figure out that the 1972 Iowa caucuses fell before the New Hampshire primary -- not surprisingly, since he literally wrote the rulebook -- and he planned accordingly. The reform commission and McGoverns "stronger than expected" Iowa showing were two of the big steps that paved the way for Carter `76 and the caucuses as we know them today.

    Speaking of which, Jimmy Carter's only gonna be 92 on Election Day 2016...

    Two Lists

    Two lists for a Monday

  • Iowa's not on this list, probably because the losing one state stakes are so low and the nonpartisan process is so hard to manipulate, but here's a look at the top ten states that matter in redistricting. (Tesas, gaining FOUR seats, not in top 10?)

  • And we haven't even figured out who's running for presidnet, but we're already playing veepstakes. Really scary, really inexperienced names on this list (Ayotte?!? Rubio?!? Ron freakin' Johnson?!?!1!)
  • Barbour in Iowa City Friday

    Barbour in Iowa City Friday

    After a two day swing last week, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is back in state this week, with an appearance at the Johnson County Republicans (we have them here) spaghetti supper in Tiffin. Barbour also got a write up from Chris Cillizza this AM: "Barbour is playing the inside game very aggressively, matching the behind-the-scenes efforts of Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty."

    There's a niche for him: he's establishment-acceptable, indeed is probably the establishment's second choice behind Mitt Romney. But he doesn't have the poison pill of Romney's religion.

    The elephant in the room is the symbolism. I always figured a certain element of America would go off the deep end over the notion of a black president. I just figured it would happen BEFORE the election, not AFTER. And the good ole boy governor of Mississippi - MISSISSIPPI! - presents the ultimate contrast. Barbour is one of the last of the first generation of Strom Thurmond era southern Republicans. Back in `82, long before Southern realignment was complete, he ran against old school segregationist Democrat John Stennis for the Senate.

    I like the symbolism myself: it would send the perfect message the the Republicans are a monochrome regional party. Old, white, male, and Southern, Haley Barbour is the most honest choice Republicans can make.

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    Yes on 19 is Back

    Yes on 19 is Back

    The narrowly defeated Yes on 19 issue that split the electorate young and old last November looks like it's making a comeback.

    No, the OTHER one:
    The campaign behind a failed initiative to legalize marijuana in California announced Friday it had formed a new committee to put another measure on the ballot.

    The Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform 2012 aims to build on the unusual support that coalesced around Proposition 19, which would have allowed adults to grow and possess marijuana and authorized cities and counties to legalize and tax sales.

    Many activists are convinced that, with more money and broader support, a similar initiative could pass during a presidential election year when the turnout tends to be more liberal.
    Ja, und now zat AHnold ist no longer der GOVernor of KahleeFORnia, maybe he'll switch sides:

    That always seems to be when elected officials flip to support of legalization: immediately AFTER they're term-limited out or retired. (See Johnson, Gary.) In any case, a nice turnout booster that could force a few still-active politicians into taking a position.

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Thursday Things

    Thursday Things

    Slacking through spring break on the writing, so let's go right to the cutting and pasting:

  • Looks like I was right on no Chairmen Chet; word is Ted Strickland's the guy.

  • Here's what'll keep the caucuses first: "Lawmakers and elections officials in at least six cash-strapped states are hoping to move or replace their stand-alone 2012 presidential primaries, sacrificing some influence over who wins the nominations in favor of saving millions of dollars."

  • Does the president actually get to make spur of the moment where to go eat decisions? Here's how it works.

  • NPR's "real" problem:
    No matter how mainstream your audience is in truth, or how balanced you are in substance, or how many opinions you solicit from average red-state Joes, the prevailing feeling is that your style is unmistakably liberal.

    It's the folksy music between segments (never mind that it's often jazzy or electronic or classical; the effect is folksy). It's the warm, earnest quality of the hosts' and reporters' voices. It's their exotic names — Mandalit del Barco, Lakshmi Singh, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, Daniel Zwerdling. Are these tea party names? No, they're soy chai latte names. It's obvious.

    Face it, NPR, you could go content-free, relying only on those quirky music snippets and reporters saying their names, and you'd still come across as a granola bar disguised as a radio network.
  • And no, this is not The Onion, it's an actual poll that interviewed people and everything: "A new Public Policy Polling survey finds Sarah Palin trails Charlie Sheen by five points among independent voters in a highly unlikely match up for president, 41% to 36%." They lost the opportunity to flip the names and say Sheen was, duh, WINNING! I think it's all because Charlie's dad was president.
  • Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Dems go on offense on DOMA

    Dems go on offense on DOMA

    It's nice to see Democrats getting ahead on an issue for a change:
    Democrats in both the House and Senate will mount a coordinated attack Wednesday on the Defense of Marriage Act.

    In the House, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, will join the chamber’s four openly gay members – Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) – in introducing a bill to repeal DOMA, the 1996 law which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

    Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will introduce a companion bill in the Senate.
    Although it's not really ahead, when a poll yesterday shows "51 percent of voters oppose DOMA, while just 34 percent favor it."

    Of course it's going nowhere in the Republican House, and the filibuster kills it in the Senate. But it's still the right thing to do: take a strong stand on an issue that's getting more popular by the year, instead of cowering in fear.

    Here's a little secret about us lefties: we like a good futile fight. One of the things we loved about Minnette Doderer was those lone votes on a 99 to 1 roll call (98-2 after Ed Fallon got elected).

    So let's see some Iowa Democrats as co-sponsors on this ASAP.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Chairman Chet Won't Happen

    Chairman Chet? Not Gonna Happen

    Some buzz and chuckles yesterday at the Politico piece that short-listed ex-guv Chet Culver for the expected vacancy as Democratic National Committee chair (incumbent Tim Kaine appears to have had his arm sufficiently twisted to run for the open Virginia Senate seat next year).

    It won't happen, for reasons other than the merits, but let's look at the merits.

    Five faces, all governors past or present, are flashed at the top of the column. Two of them - Culver and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland - lost last fall. But Strickland, who lost by only 2 points, is today 15 points ahead of the man that beat him in a "do-over" poll. As for the other three, Deval Patrick was re-elected in Massachusetts, Jennifer Granholm was term-limited in Michigan, and Kathleeen Sebelius of Kansas stepped down to take the HHS cabinet post.

    So Culver, arguably, is the only one with a "loser" vibe at the moment." But how does it play with Iowa Democrats? Well, no one seems to be jumping up and down excited about it or forwarding the article around; the silence has to be a little embarrassing.

    Chet had problems on three internal fronts. No one on either side quite forgot that the overwhelming majority of state legislators, and labor, endorsed primary rival Mike Blouin in 2006. Culver and labor eventually kissed and made up, but mostly because labor saw, correctly, what Branstad 5.0 would mean. And the feud with the left in general, and the Ed Fallon camp in particular, never did get resolved. The Culver campaign closed strong to narrow the gap last fall, but plenty of Dems thought it was too little and (especially) too late.

    So those are the merits. But here's the real problem: Culver is an Iowan. And the politics of Who Goes First come into play. I can already hear Florida and Michigan screaming at the idea of a chair from Iowa "rigging" the calendar in our favor. And, in fairness, First In The Nation AND national chair may be too many goodies for us.

    Besides, if you are going to name an Iowan: The best get out the vote plan I ever read was from the Henry County Democrats in 1992, written by... Christie Vilsack. Since Democrats seem determined to Lose With Leonard In `12, I say give Christie the job, get the president re-elected, take back the House... then come home to beat Latham in `14.

    Or just bring Howard Dean back. We did pretty good in 2006 and 2008, right?

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Monday's Mix

    Monday's Mix

    Sarah Palin shows up in Arizona, where, incredibly, the rumor mill says she may run for the Senate, and in New Hampshire, where former Sen. Judd Gregg says with a lot of regret that she may have a shot at a presidential nomination if the field splits just right:
    Although she is not viewed by most as strong enough to win, she is viewed by many as a person worth voting for to make a statement. And primaries tend to be populated by people who go to the polls with the purpose of making a statement.

    Finishing second and third isn’t really a big deal — until you get enough delegates to be the nominee. And picking a nominee who it seems would be easily defeated by President Obama might not be the best statement.
    Go right ahead...

    In Indiana, the voter fraud charges against new Secretary of State Charlie White could bring down not just him, but the whole Republican Party:
    A Democratic lawsuit challenges White’s status on the ballot last November because his voter registration was allegedly false (a contention backed up by grand jury indictments.) If a judge rules in the Democrats’ favor and White is disqualified, the Republicans would not receive the 10% of the vote in the Secretary of State race that is required to maintain major party status. Libertarians, however, would reach 10% after the White vote is removed. Major shift.
    Noted in comments at Swing State Project: "That outcome would also mean that their nominating process for statewide candidates for the next four years would be via convention and not primary. And that means Dick Lugar becomes the next Bob Bennett."

    I'll just sit back basking in the schadenfreude.

    Also from Indiana, former Sen. Evan Bayh burns all bridges for an electoral comeback in the Democratic Party by signing on for a Fox News gig.

    Speaking of Blue Dogs, a list of defeated Blue Dogs unlikely to run again. Good riddance to some, but others were the best their districts could hope to do.

    A key stat from Wisconsin:
    Number of state lawmakers removed from office by recall in all of American history: 13.

    Number of state lawmakers currently facing recall campaigns in Wisconsin: 16.
    And finally,

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Friday National Stuff

    Friday National Stuff

    This morning when we checked in with Bob Vander Plaats, he was fantasizing about challenging Tom Harkin in 2014. From that same presser, BVP talks about something he actually may have a clue about: “For anybody reading the national polls, especially the polls in the South, if you’re saying Huckabee’s not going to run, I think you’re nuts. I think he’s going to give it strong consideration.”

    If so, we may need to be seeing Huck again sooner than we want to, as an unlikelt state starts plating Caucus Date Leapfrog:
    Legislative inaction to move back Utah’s presidential primary date is just the latest threat to a calendar already in turmoil.

    State law establishes a primary date of Feb. 7 — one day after first-in-the-nation Iowa — and lawmakers are set to adjourn their session today without making a change. That date is in violation of rules set by both national parties stipulating that no states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada can hold nominating contests before March. With Florida also threatening to hold a primary even earlier, chances are increasing that the Hawkeye State will have to push up its own timetable just to keep its first-in-line status.
    Utah would be weird as an early state with two de facto home state candidates, Huntsman and Romney. But to Iowans, any one president or nominee is less important than Being First.

    So here's where we stand now:

    Iowa is Officially on 2/6 with New Hampshire on Valentine's Day, and South Carolina and Nevada in the next two weeks. Other states are supposed to start March 6.

    But Michigan is looking at 2/28; there's an excuse about combining with local elections bu there's a Screw Iowa element to it as well. This is mostly GOP driven but the Michigan Democrats are fine with it.

    Florida is the big problem; they want 1/31. This is entirely Republican-driven.

    The absolute WORST thing Iowa Democrats can do is stick to the schedule and pick a night other than what the Republicans pick. All it'll take is one jerk bragging about going to both party's caucuses and we'll be casting meaningless votes in a June primary.

    I'll admit to the chip on my shoulder about 2008, when Michigan and Florida got seated by the Democratic convention in direct violation of the rules. But donning the beret of objectivity: these two mega-states with multiple media markets are terrible places to start the process. You'll have tarmac rallies instead of house parties.

    So if Florida sticks with it, that could push South Carolina to 1/24 and Nevada (likely to caucus rather than primary) to the weekend of 1/28. That makes New Hampshire 1/17 and we Iowans are all the way back to January 9. That leaves only one week of wiggle room, with a worst case scenario of Monday, January 2.

    As Politico's Ben Smith says: "Christmas in Iowa, here we come."

    Friday State Stuff

    Friday State Stuff

    Terry Branstad is way past doubling down on playing poor me with his personal finances. The double-dipper is either tripling or quadrupling down in yesterday's protest-marred Iowa City event: "I left a job that paid twice as much as this and went unemployed for a year because I love this state and want to make a difference.” (More on the warm People's Republic greeting here.)

    The difference he made, of course, was loyal service to the Republican Party; the whole raison d'etre (Tish! That's French!) for Branstad 5.0 was that he was the only guy who could beat Bob Vander Plaats in a primary, and BVP was the only guy who'd've lost to Culver in the general. So that paycut was basically a $200K a year donation to the Republican Party. Mission Accomplished.

    As for BVP, he may finally have given up on the governorship, but only because his latest fantasy seems to be challenging Tom Harkin in 2014. Oh pleeeeeeeez, pleeeeeeeez... he could do even worse than Christopher "Not Tom Harkin" Reed did in 2008!

    Meanwhile, Republicans really need to watch their mics. House leadership got caught in a way-too-revealing chat:
    Kaufmann: Jorgenson, we’re yanking him off the bill. The hell with him. He hasn’t been doing anything.

    Lukan: He should have seen this coming.

    Helland: You know what that means? It means I’m going to end up stuck with the bill?

    Kaufmann: Sounds like you’re getting out of the Alaska bill.

    Helland: Oh yeah, I’m getting out of it after I end up on a blog.
    Here you are, Erik, here you are.
    Lukan: The Alaska bill – what’s the Alaska bill?

    Helland. I’m the dirty hatchet man for the caucus. Something nobody wants to do. Some dirty, nasty job. I’m the one who gets dropped in you know why, ’cause I’m expendable.

    Kaufmann: The crazy, give-a-handgun-to-a-schizophrenic bill.

    Off camera: His microphone is on.

    Microphone goes dead.
    In fairness, give-a-handgun-to-a-schizophrenic isn't much worse than what the House is actually passing.

    This causes more trouble within the deeply divided Iowa Republican Party than with the larger electorate. Don't forget, even with all the money and all the establishment, Branstad barely cracked 50 percent against a (then) two time loser, and after he was the nominee he had to hustle just to get his party convention to approve his running mate. Kaufmann's quip is way too revealing about the cynicism and contempt that the old guard Money Republicans have for the gays and guns newcomers. With fresh district lines just weeks away, some of that dynamic may play out in primaries.

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    NH Drops Anti-Student Bill

    NH Drops Anti-Student Voter Bill

    The good news is New Hampshire is backing off on a bill that would have strictly limited student voting:
    The bill would have redefined "domicile" as the town or state where students lived before moving to the campus town regardless of whether they intended to return to that town or state after graduation:

    Sorg referred to students as "transient inmates . . . with a dearth of experience and a plethora of the easy self-confidence that only ignorance and inexperience can produce." He argued that his bill, HB 176 ... would end unfair domination of local elections by students. He said the state should revert to laws that were in place in the 1950s, before state and federal court decisions said students living in a town have a right to vote there.
    It's like the Battle of Madison on another front: don't like the outcome of the election? Change the electorate.

    That theme of "domination of local elections" popped up in the House speaker's rhetoric too... and I just remembered why from 2008:
    Vanessa Sievers, a Dartmouth College junior, was not content to wait tables or make coffee as a side job. Instead she ran for treasurer of Grafton County, N.H., and won, unseating the incumbent and unleashing a war of words.

    The current county treasurer, Carol Elliott, 68, called Ms. Sievers, 20, a “teenybopper” in an interview with a local newspaper, The Valley News, and said she had won only because “brainwashed college kids” had voted for the Democratic ticket.

    Ms. Sievers beat Ms. Elliott by 586 votes out of about 42,000 cast, and won big in Hanover, home to Dartmouth, and Plymouth, home to both Ms. Elliott and Plymouth State University.

    Sievers’s big investment in the campaign was a $51 advertisement on Facebook, which she paid for with her own money.
    Hmm. Someone should try that for Iowa City council this fall. Too bad city council isn't on the same cycle as president. We should get that changed. (Yes I know it would require state law changes.)

    The rhetoric from the local old guard sounds familiar to Iowa Citians, too:
    The county Republican chairman, Ludlow Flower, however, does not think that new media or college students belong in a county race.

    “College students are not involved in local things at all,” Mr. Flower said. “They’re only involved in Dartmouth College. They don’t buy property here, they don’t pay taxes here, so they’re not concerned with how the treasury is handled.”
    Sadly, the story doesn't end well; Sievers and the old guard clashed over issues such as scheduling, preferred mediums of communication (Sievers preferred emails to meetings) and party (the old guard was all GOP). She graduated and didn't run for re-election, and her predecessor got the job back.

    Thursday Clips

    Wisconsin GOP Gets Lent Wrong

    They're already calling it the "Ash Wednesday Ambush" in Wisconsin, but in the Lenten context I thought the betrayal by Judas wasn't scheduled till Maundy Thursday.

    I'm near speechless at the naked power grab by Wisconsin Republicans. Perhaps I'm still in denial and bargaining stages, byt 1) this is to some extent going to shake out in court, with the broken open meetings law issue a key, and at the ballot box with a whole lotta recall elections.

    Because ultimately what has to happen is a change in control of state government, and 2) Existing contracts may buy some time. As notes:
    Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, now poised to clear the Legislature, would have little effect on Madison and Dane County's union employees, who have wage and benefit deals locked through 2012 and 2014 respectively.

    In January, the county finalized agreements with all its unions through 2014.

    On Feb. 11, Walker proposed the repair bill, which would make public employees pay toward health care and pensions and erase most collective bargaining. On Feb. 17, the City Council approved new deals with unions that didn't have them through 2012.
    Which pushes things to another election cycle.

    Other stuff here: A look at the systematic GOP effort to disenfranchise students (don't give the Iowa City council any ideas), along with a thorough debunking of the "voter fraud" problem (sic) in Iowa.

    And Julianne Moore is waaaaaaay too good looking to play Sarah Palin.

    Wednesday, March 09, 2011

    All That's Left Is Our Friendship

    Senator Ensign, meet Congressman Hagen

    With the scandalized John Ensign announcing his retirement under some duress, the always geeky Smart Politics notes that "only one Senator from Nevada that left office quietly and on his own terms over the last 100+ years: Democrat Richard Bryan, who retired after two terms in 2000."

    But in the Nevada rogue's gallery, they forgot Pat Geary.

    Actually they didn't; all accounts are that the crooked, profane senator from The Godfather Part II is loosely based on the real life Pat McCarran. And as ugly as Ensign's sex scandal is, Geary's is way, way worse.
    Geary: I didn't do anything.

    Tom Hagen: It's okay. You're very lucky -- my brother FREDO operates this place, he was called before anyone. If this had happened someplace else, we couldn't've helped you..

    Geary: I -- when I woke up, I was on the floor -- and I don't know how it happened.

    Hagen: You can't remember?

    Geary: I passed out. [He stands up and moves over the bed where we see a bloody dead girl.]
    Thus violating even Edwin Edwards' code of ethics: "The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy."
    Geary: I -- I'll fix it. [He unties the girl's hand from the bed post.]

    Just a game. [He takes a towel and begins to wipe up the blood that is all over her. He looks at the towel and wipes off his hands.]

    Jesus, Jesus. [He begins to cry. As he does, Hagen: looks over at AL NERI who is wiping his hands in the bathroom.]

    Jesus, God -- Oh, God. I don't know -- and I can't understand -- why I can't remember.

    Hagen: You don't have to remember -- just do as I say. We're putting a call into your office -- explain that you'll be there tomorrow afternoon -- you decided to spend the night at Michael Corleone's house in Tahoe -- as his guest.

    Geary: I do remember that she was laughing...we'd done it before -- and I know that I couldn't've hurt -- that girl.

    Hagen: This girl has no family -- nobody knows that she worked here. It'll be as if she never existed. All that's left is our friendship.
    No one does hardball like the Corleone Family.

    Smart Politics also fails to mention Tom Hagen, consigliere extraordinaire (except in wartime). The Don's wish of "Senator Corleone, Govrnor Corleone" never came true. But In the 2004 sequel The Godfather Returns, written after Mario Puzo's death but with the approval of the Puzo estate, Hagen is appointed to "Congress" in 1960 after the incumbent's death, then proceeds to lose to the dead man in a landslide. He then gets called "Congressman Hagen" from time to time.

    It's a dumb mistake on the part of sequel author Mark Winegarden. No one is EVER appointed to the House; only the Senate gets appointees. (And only I would argue about that relatively minor point.) Why didn't he tie it together by simply making the nameless dead incumbent Pat Geary?

    Tuesday, March 08, 2011

    The Least Objectionable Program and the Republican Nomination

    The Least Objectionable Program and the Republican Nomination

    A broadcasting theory of the 1970s may be the best tool to understand the 2012 Republican nomination contest.

    As I remind my kids, back in The Olden Days there were only a few TV channels. We had three, four if you counted PBS, and on a good day we could get a second NBC channel from Rochester and a second CBS from Mason City. (That was a REALLY good day because we got Bart's Clubhouse after school).

    So let's call it six, with four basic messages and a couple of weaker signals that are just minor variations on the same theme. Sometimes those minor variations, like Bart's Clubhouse, are important to a demographic, socially cohesive group.

    Sounds pretty analagous to a presidential primary field.

    At the moment the 2012 Republican field is more like a basic cable lineup, but by the time people are actually caucusing it won't be much bigger than the old-school broadcast TV spectrum. Indeed, conservative columnist George Will got loads of attention this week for narrowing the field:
    There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon - Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.
    That's your major networks right there. Throw in a Herman Cain infomercial (does he remind anyone else of Alan Keyes crossed with Morrie Taylor?) and Ron Paul's public access show. Then of course there's Fox News.

    Oh, wait, that's a real TV channel. And a real job for several candidates. Last week Fox suspended Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum and gave them 60 days to, as they euphemistically say, fish or cut bait on a presidential run. The most important part of that news was that fellow Fox commentators Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin were not suspended, one more clue that they'll, apologies to the Steve Miller Band, take the money and not run.

    So we basically have our channel lineup. It's a flawed slate of choices for Republicans, so what do they do?

    Back in the 1960s, NBC executive Paul Klein came up with the theory of "least objectionable program" (LOP). "Since the introduction of television, the same percentage of sets are in use on, say, a Thursday evening at a certain hour, year after year, regardless of what content is broadcast." Fair enough. We know people are going to watch something on TV, we know Republicans are going to pick someone as a candidate.

    Continuing with the LOP concept:
    TV viewers turn the set on, deciding to "watch television", and then seek out something to watch from what is available, flipping around, not until they find "something they like" - because television programming is in fact very rarely satisfying, and viewers rarely watch anything they actually like - but until they find something that doesn't offend them enough to make them flip to the next channel.
    In a 100 plus channel market, that doesn't work so well, but if you have a limited menu of choices, being the least objectionable program can be a path to victory.

    Every one of the major Republican contenders is flawed in some way. Newt Gingrich has his three divorces and abrasive personality. Mitt Romney has RomneyCare and his religion. Jon Huntsman served in the Obama administration, making him a non-starter. Mitch Daniels actually dared to dis the religious conservatives. Haley Barbour has a long DC insider history and exudes good ole boy so much that you expect him to be sending Roscoe P. Coltrane out to catch the Duke boys. And Tim Pawlenty is, well, meh.

    And "well, meh" makes him the Least Objectionable Program. So this is a good test of my latest pet theory.

    Monday, March 07, 2011

    Ron Paul in Iowa City

    Ron Paul in Iowa City

    Most of Iowa's action is elsewhere this afternoon - the labor rally and testimony in Des Moines, the five-candidate Republican forum in Waukee - but the third ring of the circus was Bob Vander Plaats and the Family Leader Presidential Lecture series, which brought Ron Paul to the state for the day.

    The first Paul stop, in Sioux Center, was scrubbed due to weather, but he made it to Pella and Iowa City.

    Time and tech constraints have me going with the modified liveblog format:

    Press availibility is on time at 3:05. Paul the elder (we need to specify now with Rand - now that's a libertarian, you name your kid "Rand"?!? - Rand in the Senate) takes a couple education questions: “The higher cost of education is a consequence of government policy. When I went to college (early-mid 1950s) government wasn't as involved and the cost was very low. In a free market students can afford it.”

    With Bob Vander Plaats looking over his shoulder, Ron Paul talks to press

    Next is the million dollar question when Bob Vander Plaats and Ron Paul are standing together: how to reconcile a libertarian outlook with social conservatism. “It depends on the issue,” says Paul. On marriage and abortion “I defer to the states and I want the states to deal with that. I'm strongly right to life, but the states should take care of that. It'll be imperfect because laws will be different, but what is bad is when you allow the federal government to decide.”

    That was my question, so instead I asked about the Middle East. “It's their revolution and they ought to have it. Our involvement is part of the problem. We propped up the government of Egypt for 30 years. We're propping up Saudi Arabia. We need to to a lot less a lot sooner,” he said, which pretty much sums up Paul's entire approach to, well, everything.

    Such as our current wars: “The country is flat out broke.” When informed that a no fly zone had been established over Libya, he said “a no fly zone is an act of war.”

    Paul said he doesn't set out to appeal to young voters, “but to them the message is appealing. I've been talking about the same things for many years, but it's gotten more attention in the last couple years.”

    Paul said “printing press money” (his term) needs to stop and government should “serve the interest of liberty, not special interests. If you want prosperity you have to have freedom. If you seek security you lose your liberty.”

    Bob Vander Plaats was silent during press time this time, but as of 4 (after a break for a closed door event with GOP activists) took over as MC again. Calls Paul “one of the true committed individuals in Congress committed to our liberty and the constitution,” adapting to PAUL'S RHETORICAL style. (damn capslock)

    Paul: “You not only have the right to take care of yourself, you have the OBLIGATION. We don't need the government telling us what to do."

    “Families are the most important units in a free society,” he said, adapting to BVPs style. “Your rights and responsibilities come from your creator.”

    “Salvation doesn't come collectively. I object to hyphenated rights, minority rights There's only one kind of rights, individual rights.”

    Now, the million dollar contradiction for libertarians: “Based on my medical training, life begins as concettion. As an MD I had a responsibility to care for the mother and the fetus, the baby, she's carrying.”

    “When I went to medical school the issue of abortion didn't come up.” That's 1957-61; Paul's an OB-GYN by trade.

    “The morality of people changes the law.“ Paul says there's never going to be 'magic laws' to make everyone be moral, but “Freedom works best when the society itself is moral.”

    Paul moves to his favorite turf, money policy, and refers to IRS agents, by implication, as thieves. “The Founders wrote in the constitution that only gold and silver could be money.” If you allow the federal reserve to print and spend money at will, that's counterfeiting,” he says, and notes that the first penalty for counterfeiting was death. (He also mentions his Audit The Fed bill at this point.)

    About 200 bodies were on hand, much bigger than last month's Tim Pawlenty event.

    Paul says students “realize what's falling on your shoulders” with the debt. “Things like endless oversea commitments, printing $ at will, no jobs available... somebody's messed up.”

    “It's a major problem but it's not complicated. We sent too many people to Washiongton who did not take seriously their oath to obey the constitution.” Will be hard to fix in short run but “our answers can be found in our traditions. There was a time when we had honest money and low taxes.”

    “When they talk about sacrifice, what if you've never created the problem? What if we gave you your freedom back? I wouldn't consider that a sacrifice, I'd consider it a gift.” (applause)

    Without the bailout “there would have been a depression on Wall St. They DESERVE to have a depression, not the peoplel” (applause)

    The Soviet system failed morally and ecomically. “And one of the final blows was they thought they could conquer Afghanistan.” (laughter and applause)

    “The free society based on moral principles is the only humanitarian system that can take care of the mass of the people. It's a moral issue and a religious principle, and freedom is something we can salvage.”

    20 minutes in now. “The role of government is to preserve liberty. I don't believe you have to give up any liberty to be safe (alluding to his votes against Patriot Act without a direct reference). Your ultimate liberty, other than invasion, comes from the 2nd Amendment” (big applause)

    “The people who are for minimum wage law are creating unemployment,” he says, referencing “Austrian free market economics” which apparantly is a buzzword on the right.

    At the beginning of his career “I was convinced I could not be elected because I had these 'strange views',” but said he first ran to be educated. Wife said “That could be dangerousyou could be elected”

    Speech done 4:26. BVP and Chuck Hurley step up with prescreened Q and A.

    Hurley goes first: should govt or parents have primary responsibility for education? (coughhomeschoolcough)

    “I don't believe the fed govt should be involved in education at all (appl) That means I don't believe in the Department of Education (more appl). ”

    “I want to make sure you can opt out of the state institution and have private or home schooling.”

    BVP: most important legacy for next generation (with reference to 'your children')

    “My wife and I didn't lecture our children, but there was examples set.” (there's no specific reference to Rand, who's also making an Iowa trip. Missed my chance at press time to ask if he and Rand are going to run against each other.)

    Hurley: Why have most Christian groups not embraced your message?

    “That's a deep question and I don't know the answer.” (some chuckles.) “There's disagreements on foreign policy, I think that's where the biggest difference is. I am strongly against the wars that are going on, I want wars to be declared and fought to win. I believe in the just war theory. You're supposed to work very hard to prevent war.” (even I have to applaud that.) BVP says “as a leader of THIS Christian group we respect you.”

    After the fact aside: My guess is that to a lot of the Christian right proper, and Paul is a VERY different breed of cat, "libertarian" means "pro-abortion" (sic, and Paul is explicity anti-choice) and "pro-drug."

    National debt: “The best way would be to pay it off.” (applause)

    “Fiscal policy is a moral issue” and what we have done is immoral. "Don't blame me if I want to clean up the mess and return to sound money.”

    To a question about the “broken progressive income tax system” (as if we still HAVE a progressive income tax?) Paul says “I don't want to fix it. I want to get rid of it” (to much applause) “The best tax is the least tax. The tax is the symptom of the problem: people want too much stuff and the politicians respond. We really enjoyed it before 1913 when we didn't have an income tax.” No word on whether we're going back to the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act of 1909 or to a whiskey tax.

    Asked about “Activist judges” by BVP, Paul says “At the federal level we ought to have the same right as you have in Iowa" to vote them out, "but that's not how it was written” in the constitution. Says nullification is “very very healthy.” “The Supreme Court has improved, there is some more interest in private property, because there has been some education of the public.”

    Hurley: DOMA and Obama's refusal to defend. “The presidents goal is to undermine state's right to define marriage" says Paul. "DOMA was protecting the states. Marriage is a very personal religious matter and it shouldn't be the legal matter it is today. You're not going to satisfy 50 states.”

    Paul closes at 4:43: “Young people are the ones who will need to bring about the change in the next decade or so.” Gives me optimism. Likens gov't to addiction: “you cant start a recovery till you admit the problem.”

    And he's whisked to airport with no time for post-speech meet and greet. (Last time I sawy him, at the last-ever Olive Court tailgater, he shook every hand in the place.)

    My bet: He runs again, gets the same 10 or so indigestible percent again. As for when he passes the torch to Rand, there's the complication of the KY senator coming up for re-election in 2016.

    Voter Notes

    Voter Notes

    While we wait for Ron Paul this afternoon, a few notes from the realm of election law:

  • Deja vu: First Florida plays leapfrog with the primary date, and now, as usual, Michigan is getting in on the act.
    The state Legislature sets the primary day and according to a 1999 law, the Feb. 28, 2012, date stands for next year's presidential primary. That coincides with the state's quarterly local and school elections. Michigan reimburses localities for the cost of running a presidential primary, and in 2008 it was nearly $10 million.
    I'm actually OK with that argument, since 2/28 is at the very very end of the early window. But that's not what it's really about:
    State party leaders say they want to challenge the influence of the traditional "early states" of New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada, and there has been no effort to change the primary date.

    "We still think it's unfair that New Hampshire and Iowa always go first," said John Tramontana, spokesman for the Michigan Democratic Party.
    And I still think it's unfair that "in a last-minute deal worked out between state and national officials in 2008, the Democratic delegates, stripped of their votes ahead of the convention, were seated just days before the kickoff in Denver."

  • In New Hampshire, Republicans Don't Want You To Vote if you're a student:
    New Hampshire's new Republican state House speaker is pretty clear about what he thinks of college kids and how they vote. They're "foolish," Speaker William O'Brien said in a recent speech to a tea party group.

    "Voting as a liberal. That's what kids do," he added, his comments taped by a state Democratic Party staffer and posted on YouTube. Students lack "life experience," and "they just vote their feelings."

    New Hampshire House Republicans are pushing for new laws that would prohibit many college students from voting in the state - and effectively keep some from voting at all.
    Iowa may get lucky since new Secretary of State Matt Schultz, who got elected on a wave but seems to believe it was about photo ID, doesn't appear to be interested in any other issues. But Indiana's ID law didn't keep THEIR new Republican Secretary of State from committing voter fraud and voting from a bogus address.
  • Sunday, March 06, 2011

    Battle of Madison moves to Des Moines

    Battle of Madison moves to Des Moines

    The Battle of Madison moves to Des Moines tomorrow as the House holds a public hearing (6-8:15 pm) on House Bill 545, which would end binding arbitration for public employee and generally scuttle collective bargaining. "Wisconsin lite," says local labor leader Patrick Hughes.

    If you're headed up there's a "Rally to Save Iowa's Middle Class" beforehand at 5. Bus leaving Coral Ridge Mall (by Barnes & Noble) at 3 pm on Monday.

    I'll be otherwise occcupied; Ron Paul is headed to the People's Republic for the second in Bob Vander Plaats' "Presidential Lecture" series. That's at 4 at the IMU. Show up early to submit questions, but fair warning: BVP screened them all last month with Pawlenty. (Scheduled for April and May: Bachmann, Santorum).

    And as the Republican candidates flood the state, Iowa's not forgotten by The Prez:
    The president's reelection committee plans to put its own organizations into the early primary and caucus states - Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

    "We can't cede the playing field," one adviser said. "We can't just play general election. So we're going to have to organize on the ground in early states."
    Note the presence of experienced Iowa hand Jennifer O’Malley Dillon.

    The Reg has a must-read on the brewing battle between Christie Vilsack and Blue Dog Boswell. Of note: "Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the U.S. House, is scheduled to headline a fundraiser for Boswell at the home of Des Moines lawyer Roxanne Conlin on March 24." So much for the Iowa-Mississippi Club solidarity...