Friday, July 29, 2011

Dallas GOP Chair Makes House Run

Dallas County GOP Chair Taylor Makes House Run

The first candidate emerges in brand spanking new Iowa House District 44, as Dallas County GOP chair Rob Taylor announces.

This GOP turf (reg edge of 2700) is one of those "Rural Republicans who got paired, this is where your district went" seats. The old Ralph Watts district which encompassed most of Dallas County literally doubled in population. Watts keeps the western part; this new, no incumbent seat is Waukee plus the Dallas County parts of Clive and West Des Moines.

A Rob Taylor win could expand the House Taylor caucus up to three. Cedar Rapids Democrat Todd looks solid, but Sioux City Republican Jeremy is in a pair-up with Democrat Chris Hall. But Rob may not have this all to himself; a seat this Republican and this high-growth has primary written all over it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Few Clues at County Fair

A Few Clues in County Fair Mock Vote

The Johnson County fair has wrapped up, and with it the annual auditor's office mock election (disclaimer: that's the day job). As always, it's unscientific. Kids and non-locals get to vote (which this year skews one specific result). But my guess is kids' votes generally align with parental leanings, and in the 12 year history of the event I haven't seen a result that deviated dramatically from the general lay of the land or the eventual result.

That said, let's check some numbers. The important number to note isn't Obama outpolling the entire GOP field. That's good for maybe a little bragging, thus I mention it, but this is after all Johnson County, which went 70% Obama in 2008.

The important numbers are within each party.

Barack Obama 234 92%
Uncommitted 20 8%

Or, in caucus results format: Obama, 100 percent of delegates. The uncommitted anti-Obama vote is below the Democrat's 15 percent viability threshold.

On the GOP side the numbers are scattered all over the place... which is probably a pretty accurate assessment. This is the extra-expanded, anyone who might conceivably run ballot. These numbers track fairly close to recent public polling, with one exception.

Michele Bachmann 32 22%
Mitt Romney 24 16%
Ron Paul 16 11%
Sarah Palin 11 7%
Uncommitted 11 7%
Herman Cain 10 7%
Rick Perry 9 6%
Rick Santorum 9 6% *
Newt Gingrich 7 5%
Tim Pawlenty 6 4%
Rudy Giuliani 4 3%
Gary Johnson 3 2%
Buddy Roemer 3 2%
Jon Huntsman 1 1%
Roy Moore 1 1%
Fred Karger 0 0%
Thaddeus McCotter 0 0%

About that asterisk: Rick Santorum was running at zero at 11:00 Thursday morning. (One of the traditions is posting preliminary results during the fair to make things interesting.).

Then about 6:00 that evening a whole bunch of people in matching Rick Santorum t-shirts showed up. Turned out to be Karen Santorum, the candidate's spouse, and all the Santorum kids, who are spending the three weeks before Ames campaigning across the state. (The candidate was at another event in Pella.) So that Santorum total largely represents the all-important immediate family vote.

So aside from that statistical anomaly, we see Bachmann in the lead, Romney winning his silver, Ron Paul with his rock-solid ten percent (well, 11 in this case), Palin ahead of the Platypus, Pawlenty seriously lagging, and Karger and McCotter tied with Kevin Phillips-Bong.

There were also a number of issue questions. The most local-electoral relevant was on the proposed jail, which "won" a narrow 51-49% plurality. "Won" because remember, a bond issue takes 60 percent. I discuss that more in a rant which I may or may not get the nerve to actually post.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

High Risk High Reward for Perry

High Risk High Reward for Perry

Sunday when I ranked the winners and losers in the Ames ballot listing, I gave Rick Perry his own "Uncertain" category:
Having made noise through his "draft" committee about wanting in, he now has to make a strategic decision: The easy route would be to downplay the whole thing. The high risk, high reward strategy: try to prove something with the write-ins. (He would have to get enough to beat Romney.)
Today it appears Team Platypus is taking the No Guts No Glory approach:
A political action committee led by a New York tea-party Republican is running radio advertisements encouraging Iowans to “give Rick Perry a chance.”

David Malpass, chairman of GrowPAC, said he’s asking Iowa voters to write in the Texas governor’s name on the ballots for the Aug.13 Iowa straw poll, “and we want to encourage the governor to run for president.”
I'm a firm believer that there's no such thing as a "draft committee." There's just a politician standing by an open window in front of a fan. But I reiterate my setting of the bar: A "win" for Perry is second ahead of Romney. And I repeat: Lots of write ins means a delay in results.

Debt Fight: Rejecting The Premise of America Itsel

Rejecting the Premise of America Itself

As a specialized state-level blogger I've been micro-focused of late, pouncing on hot legislative campaign announcements while not looking at the big picture economic train wreck we're fast approaching.

It's not that I have no thoughts. Its just that the only thing I learned in four dead end years of grad school was: make an original contribution to the discipline or keep your mouth shut. And in eight plus years of blogging I've learned that my original contributions are my local contributions. I can't compete with the major leaguers, but then again they can't compete with District Of The Day.

That all said, last night on Hardball I heard the most accurate and thought provoking discussion yet of the debt ceiling crisis between Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, and David Corn of Mother Jones. Fineman even joked he should have written it as a column before going on air. The key exchange, slightly edited for clarity:
MATTHEWS: Is it possible what the Republicans are up to here—because I hear this from people around me who are on the progressive side. And you hear it, probably. You‘re on the progressive side. Is it possible that despite all this “We‘re all in this together” talk we like to engage in, and I believe in, that some people on the right are quite willing to see this country get burned in the butt, to really hit by the world market, to really start seeing spiking interest rates, to really see a drop in our bond rating, hellacious stuff, so that they can make their point? They‘re not at all willing to avoid that at the cost of their own ideology.

CORN: I think some people fear that or suspect that. I think the reality is that there are people who don‘t believe in reality and they don‘t want to listen to people in the government or people on Wall Street. "We know better. We tighten our belts when things go bad. The government has to do the same." But I do think there are some—I think Ron Paul said this just today, the past few days—we should default. Default would be good for America. It would put us back on the gold standard, and whatever he believes. So there are people who do believe you‘ve got to burn the village to save the village.

MATTHEWS: I think it‘s part of this flat earth society that doesn‘t believe in science, doesn‘t believe in human history, doesn‘t believe in global climate change—nothing!

FINEMAN: What‘s going on here, as I see it, is a kind of slow-motion secession. This is an ending of the social compact. This is two generations, three generations worth of agreement about Social Security, about Medicare, about the role of the federal government.

The Tea Party people are saying, We want to secede from that society. And the way to do it is to draw the line on spending and taxes, to starve the federal government so that it loses power, so that we aren‘t part of the social compact anymore. And that‘s the real argument that‘s going on.

And the Congress as an institution is incapable of dealing with that kind of fundamental argument, which—given in the entitlement age and the welfare state age, which is why you have the super-committees and super-duper-committees and the smaller and smaller ring of people attempting to decide something.

MATTHEWS: You know what this sounds like? When I spent two years in southern Africa. It sounds like what the whites talked about doing, eventually going into some sort of little circle, like Custer‘s last stand against the United States.

FINEMAN: Well, I wouldn‘t put—I wouldn‘t put a racial tone on it, but I would say that the Congress is not dealing with the fundamental question here. They refuse to do it. And they‘re not dealing with it now because both plans, both the Boehner plan and the Reid plan, don‘t deal with either entitlements or taxes.

MATTHEWS: Who‘s the guy emerging at the top, Republican name year hearing all these days? Rick Perry, who actually does talk about secession, withdrawing from not just the social compact but from the unity of the country and going back into the area where, I‘ll keep my money in the bank. I want lower tax rates. I don‘t want any government...

FINEMAN: Tea Party people would say, and I‘ve, you know, been to their rallies and spoken to a lot of them in Congress and out, that they‘re being driven to this by the overweening role of the government, by the fact the total tax burden, counting state, local and federal, is so high, et cetera, et cetera, that I think it‘s a desire to withdraw from a deal that they think has gotten out of hand, that they can‘t control, even though generations of Republicansas well as Democrats, have benefited from the results of the welfare state.

MATTHEWS: It‘s like withdrawing money from the bank, but it‘s more like withdrawing money from America, saying, I‘m pulling out my investment in America. It‘s home schooling. It‘s all those things people are doing right now to get away.

CORN: We‘re talking about competing visions of society.
I'm not as reminded of late-era apartheid as I am of late period Weimar Germany. The Nazis and the Communists, two parties who did not believe in electoral democracy, controlled more than half of the Reichstag. Since neither could not be absorbed into any pro-democracy coalition, it made government mathematically impossible.

This analogy is NOT meant to cast any of the present players as Hitler, but we all know the story doesn't end well.

A wise friend of mine was once discussing a state election and discussing the young Republican mindset: "You're 22 years old and your whole world view is 'I got mine, screw you'?!? How sad is that?"

In the speech that propelled him to national fame, State Senator Barack Obama said:
Alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga.

A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief — I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper — that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one.
This fight is about nothing less than the rejection of that premise.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dems Have Senate 4 Candidate

Democrat Bob Jennings announces in Open Senate District 4

Democrats have recruited a candidate with strong community ties in empty Senate District 4.

Bob Jennings of Algona sports a good profile for a sprawling small town and rural north Iowa district with five whole counties (Emmett, Kossuth, Winnebago, Hancock and Wright):
Jennings, 50, is information director for Algona Municipal Utilities and is a former news director for KLGA radio in Algona.

He is on the Iowa Lakes Community College board of trustees and is a former president of the Algona Chamber of Commerce.
Is that enough to overcome a GOP registration edge of 2700? Well, some of this turf was Jack Kibbie's for a very long time. The rest of it belonged to Republicans Merlin Bartz and Rob Bacon last map. All three of them got paired up in other directions, with Kibbie retiring and the other two not yet announced.

The Republicans have one announced candidate, Tea partier Dennis Guth, who should being a lot of comic relief to the race. But the likely, not yet announced, Republican candidate is Stewart Iverson, who was part of the triple-up in the House District 8 half of this district (now just a double-up with Linda Upmeyer moving out). WRONG!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Winners and Losers in Ames Ballot

Winners and Losers in Ames Ballot Decision

Once again, the Republican Party of Iowa shows off its internal divisions in public, with yesterday's vote on who's on, who's off the ballot for the August 13 Ames straw poll. Several 5-5 tie votes broken by chair Matt Strawn. with another five members already committed to candidates and abstaining. (That in itself is an issue in GOP circles.)

But the decision nevertheless is made, so let's look at the winners and losers.


Michele Bachmann: The decision excluded exactly the people who would have hurt her (Palin and Perry) while including the people who make no difference to her support but will take votes from others (Huntsman, Romney, Gingrich).

Mitt Romney: Last cycle he wasted tons of money on a "win" that turned out to be worthless, since the big story was Mike Huckabee's second place. This way, Mitt gets to do nothing, and any votes he gets are just gravy. Watch carefully for a subtle stealth effort at the last minute, as he tries for an "out of nowhere" (ha!) second, or as he is so fond of saying, silver. But be warned, Mitt: straw poll voters have a history of punishing candidates who don't play.

Sarah Palin: Doesn't have to prove anything, which plays perfectly into her keep them guessing strategy, whether she's runnin' in 2012 or gonna be the white Oprah.

Ron Paul: Has rock-solid support and rabid intensity on his side. Dividing the non-Paul electorate between eight other candidates rather than five moves him up a notch or two in the finishing order. He also gains five or six votes (total) from the exclusion of Gary Johnson.


Jon Huntsman: So he finishes ninth. That hurts him... how? And he doesn't have enough support in Iowa that including him takes votes away from anyone else. Listing Huntsman is a Screw You back at the Screw Iowa candidate.

Newt Gingrich: Let's face it, Newt didn't bid on a space because he's broke. (He prefers spending his money on chartered jets.) At this point he's just running so he can get invited to debates and plug his books. He gets a seat at the table based on his former stature as speaker.


Rick Perry: Having made noise through his "draft" committee about wanting in, he now has to make a strategic decision: The easy route would be to downplay the whole thing. The high risk, high reward strategy: try to prove something with the write-ins. (He would have to get enough to beat Romney.)


Short version: All Paying Customers Other Than Bachmann and Paul. Details:

Herman Cain: He's staked a lot on Ames, in part because he can give the best speech of the six Paying Customers, and he made the loudest noise about wanting to exclude the others. So he's already lost something even before votes are cast.

Tim Pawlenty: Needs a win or a strong second to Bachmann, and the inclusion of fellow "grown-ups" Romney and to a much lesser extent Huntsman costs him votes.

Any Paying Customers Who Finish Behind Newt Gingrich or Write-In: Thaddeus McCotter gets the Duncan Hunter prize for who?!? this cycle. Rick Santorum, despite a handful of endorsements, can't overcome the shame of losing his Senate seat by 20 points, and has seen his niche in the field eclipsed by Bachmann. He's the odds on favorite for the Tommy Thompson Trophy: most likely to quit the morning after.

Gary Johnson, Fred Karger, Roy Moore, Buddy Roemer: Officially declared fringe candidates. Of these Johnson is hurt the most, as a former governor of relatively recent standing. (As opposed to Buddy "Lost A Primary To David Duke" Roemer.) This probably costs Johnson some debate invites. Fred Karger will make a fuss.

The people counting the ballots: Someone will have to tabulate those write-ins. Expect this to delay the results.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Same Candidate, Different Opponent

Same Candidate, Different Opponent

Here's one way redistricting reshuffles the deck: A 2010 Democratic challenger is running again, but this time against a different Republican incumbent.

Mark Seidl, last seen challenging Renee Schulte in 2010, is redrawn into new House District 67 and will challenge House Speaker Kraig Paulsen.
“I am disappointed in the leadership Kraig Paulsen provided during the last session of the Legislature,” said Seidl. “After promising to focus on creating jobs and improving the Iowa economy, Paulsen led House Republicans in pursuit of extreme policies that neither represent the view of most Iowans nor help to move our state forward.”

“I am running because we have to put an end to the ideology and bickering that have made it impossible for government to get its job done. While our schools, which used to be the best in the nation, are suffering funding cuts and our universities are increasingly out of financial reach for the children of working Iowans, our State is sitting on a billion dollars in surplus funds. This money should be invested in our children, who are our future. The men most responsible for the government's failure to make that investment are Terry Branstad and Kraig Paulsen. To make this a government of, by, and for the people again, we need to start by replacing the Speaker of the House, who is responsible for this failure to invest in our children, and that's Kraig Paulsen."
Seidl was a highly touted House challenger in 2010. It was one of the few districts where Democrats looked like they were going to play offense, after Schulte knocked off first-term Dem Art Staed by just 13 votes in 2008. (Last week Staed announced he will challenge Schulte again next year.) But there was too much defense to play any offense, and Seidl fell about 1100 votes short.

The new district has some convoluted lines, but all of them follow city limits; the northern part of the Cedar Rapids metro area was the scene of an annexation war this past decade. The district includes all or part of four cities: Hiawatha, Robins, north Cedar Rapids, and northwest Marion.

Paulsen's old district was a swing seat, with a slim Democratic edge, and he had relatively close races his first three terms. This new seat gives him an 1100 edge in Republican registration. He avoided opposition in 2010.

Seidl's announcement makes him the third Linn County Democratic challenger already announced at this early date. In addition to Staed, Daniel Lundby has announced against GOP incumbent Nick Wagner in Marion-based House 68.

Recycled Milk Cartons : The Law of 14 in 2012

When I was growing up in the era of three TV stations, summer was rerun season. And political cycles have a season-like symmetry. So I'll dust off one of my pet pieces from four years ago and give it an update.

In 2003, writing in Reason, Jonathan Rausch proposed the "Law of 14":
With only one exception since the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, no one has been elected president who took more than 14 years to climb from his first major elective office to election as either president or vice president.

Rausch defines "major office" as a Congressional seat, governor, or big city mayor. "The rule is a maximum, not a minimum. Generals and other famous personages can go straight to the top. But if a politician first runs for some other major office, the 14-year clock starts ticking."

Foreign service officers and the higher ranks of the military have "up or out" rules: you either get promoted in a certain time frame or you're done. Maybe that's an unwritten political rule as well. Four years ago, Joe Biden was touting his "ears of experience," but they turned out to be cartons of milk that had long since expired.

The Rule of 14 doesn't keep you from getting nominated, it just keeps you from getting elected. Look first at the elected presidents (each milk is two years):

PresidentFirst Major OfficeYearShelf life
Bush 43Governor19946 πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›
Bush 41House196614 (to VP)πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›
CarterGovernor19706 πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›
NixonHouse19466 (to VP)πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›
JohnsonHouse193723 (to VP)πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›
TrumanSenator193410 (to VP)πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›
CoolidgeGovernor19182 (to VP)πŸ₯›
T. RooseveltGovernor18982 (to VP)πŸ₯›

(In a variation on Rausch's rule, I included cabinet posts for Taft and Hoover. Their first elected office was the Presidency. Either way they're under 14.)

Even the one exception reinforces the rule. LBJ lost the 1960 nomination to fresher face JFK, then got the vice presidency as a consolation prize because they needed to win Texas really, really bad.

Where's Gerald Ford on our roll call? The Rule of 14 is about getting elected president, not about becoming president. So Ford's on the list of losers.

LoserFirst Major OfficeYearShelf life
MondaleSenate196412 (to VP)πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›
FordHouse194827 (to VP)πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›
HumphreySenate194816 (to VP)πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›πŸ₯›
Mayor194519 (to VP)

How does this play out for the 2012 GOP field, announced and potential? We've got two never-electeds, Herman Cain and Fred Karger.  Rausch would probably exclude Alabama Supreme Court as a "major" office, but if you want to count it, Roy Moore won that election in 2000. Most of the leading contenders are in the 6 to 12 year range (though Thaddeus McCotter is kind of a ringer in that group.)

CandidateFirst Major OfficeYearShelf life
PalinGovernor20066½ ½ ½

Despite his relatively young age (53), Rick Santorum has been around forever, winning his first of two house terms in 1990 before moving to the Senate in 1994. Buddy Roemer hasn't won an election since 1987, when he was a Democrat. And for all the anti-government rhetoric, Ron Paul has been on the political scene longer than any of them. His three non-consecutive stints in the House date back to a 1976 special election win.

The question of how to count Rick Perry is a test of the theory. He was first elected governor in 2002, but he became governor in late 2000 when he took over for Bush 43. If you date his freshness from when he became governor, this is his last shot and he's stale by 2016.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hanusa Stays Put In Pair-Up

Hanusa Stays Put In Council Bluffs Pair-Up

Half an answer in Council Bluffs as first term Republican Mary Ann Hanusa announces she's running for re-election in House District 16.

Hanusa is paired up with fellow GOP freshman Mark Brandenburg, who hasn't announced his plans:
Hanusa's decision means Brandenburg, should he decide to seek re-election, would either have to face Hanusa in a Republican primary next year or move into the other Council Bluffs district, newly formed District 15.

"It's a serious decision," Brandenburg said. "It's not that easy. We've been here for 12 years."
House 16 is the southern and more Republican (reg edge +228 as of April) of the two seats, though still swingy. House 15 has no incumbent and is a Democratic (+2100) seat containing all the city's best Democratic precincts. (The city's split last decade was more of an east-west.)

Hanusa, a White House staffer under Bush 43, was the last second replacement nominee for secretary of state in 2006. She beat Democrat Kurt Hubler in old House 99 to hold a relatively even open seat for the Republicans when party switcher Doug Struyk retired. Brandenburg knocked off Democrat Paul Shomshor in Democratic leaning old 100, and had some health issues during the session.

Brandenburg and Hanusa both voted against The Map, Officially because it moved Pottawattamie County out of Steve King's district and into what became the Boswell-Latham mashup.

I'd speculated that one of the two might make the run against Mike Gronstal, which Brandenburg did unsuccessfully in 2008. But PottCo Republicans have recruited Al Ringgenberg instead, even going so far as to make an endorsement nearly a year before the primary.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ex-King Intern Explores House Race

Ex-King Intern Explores House Race

A "potential candidate" is out and about in no-incumbent Iowa House District 2: law student and young Republican Megan Hess of Spencer.

Hess showed up at a Clay County GOP dinner alongside presidential candidate Thaddeus "who?" McCotter and several state and local Republicans: "Iowa Republican Central Committee Chairman Matt Strawn, Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey, State Senator David Johnson of Ocheydan, State Representative Royd Chambers of Sheldon, and Clay County Supervisor Del Brockshaus."

The Spencer native expects to graduate next spring from William Mitchell law school in the Twin Cities. (Which could be problematic if there's a primary.) She's also spent time interning for Steve King.

This empty seat is all of Clay and Palo Alto, with the southern third of Dickinson thrown in. It's made out of pieces of Okoboji Republican Jeff Smith and Estherville Democrat John Wittneben's old seats. House 2 is a Republican seat, true, with a registration edge of 1152. But it's a veritable People's Republic compared to other northwest Iowa seats. Jack Kibbie's base is in Palo Alto, and Marcy Frevert lasted a long time before she retired and handed off to Wittneben last year.

Reading some tea leaves here: With a candidate in this district and with Royd Chambers at the same event as Hess, we can guess that Chambers isn't moving out of House District 3, where he's paired up with fellow Republican Dan Huseman. Back when I wrote up that seat in a very early District Of The Day I was guessing there could be a primary. But turns out Chambers and Huseman are good friends and roommates during session. That, and Huseman missing a big chunk of session after an April heart attack, leads me to predict a retirement instead.

Fallon and Libertarians Gaming The Caucuses

Fallon and Libertarians Gaming The Caucuses

I'm not one of those Democrats who'll mindlessly bash Ed Fallon at the slightest excuse. As a lefty Democrat I was hoping for single payer health care and the troops home now, too. And frankly, if I had lived in the district I would have voted for him over Leonard Boswell in the 2008 primary.

But Fallon is making some strange alliances for some misguided reasons. He believes that the first in the nation slot for the Iowa caucuses is at risk. Which is true -- it's always true. We have one tenuous ally in New Hampshire and 48 enemies.

But the reason Fallon believes the caucuses are in extra special danger this cycle is the hard-right direction of the Iowa Republican Party. The argument points to "sane" Republicans avoiding Iowa: Jon Huntsman running with a full Screw Iowa strategy and Mitt Romney making a token effort compared to his all-out 2007-08 straw poll and caucus run.

So Fallon proposes that Democrats become "Republicans for a day" and meddle in -- oops, cross over to -- the Republican caucuses. Convinced that an Iowa win by one of the non "grownups" will irreparably damage our reputation and thus Iowa's special status in both parties, he hopes to save the Republicans from themselves. (Thus violating one of the core principles of politics: never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself.)

Fallon's allies in this effort are Ron Paul supporters. On Friday, Fallon is hosting Coralville's Dustin Krutsinger on his radio show. Krutsinger attended 2008 caucuses and conventions as a Ron Paul Republican, but left the party in 2010 to run as a Libertarian legislative candidate. (That's how damaged the Republican brand is here in Johnson County; an unopposed Democratic legislator, and a candidate quits a major party to run on a third party ticket.)

Krutsinger and company at least have a more understandable motivation: boosting a candidate. Libertarian Republicans are hoping anti-war Democrats will support Ron Paul, or perhaps Gary Johnson.

I've seen this in reverse for years, on a local level. We get a lot of "Democrats for a day" in Johnson County, which hasn't elected a Republican supervisor in 50 years. (Locals call it "the real election." Classic statistic: 1000 more votes for county recorder in the 1998 primary than for governor.) Such gaming the system always bothers me. Political parties deserve the right to choose their own candidates, without interference from the other team.

But that's goody-goody idealism, so let's look at some more pragmatic reasons why Fallon has a bad idea here.

The Iowa Republican caucuses have survived goofy results before, most notably Pat Robertson finishing ahead of the sitting vice president in 1988. Even the 2008 result was atypical, as Mike Huckabee failed to repeat his Iowa success in the rest of the country. Democrats, too, survived Tom Harkin's favorite son run, but only because unlike the other 1992 candidates he got on board with Bill Clinton right away. (I'm still convinced Jerry Brown wrote himself in that fall.)

And in the Tea Party era Iowa Republicans are, sadly, not that atypical. The Iowa polls showing Michele Bachmann pulling even with, or even ahead of, Mitt Romney are now being echoed in national surveys.

Fallon's effort may do more harm than good. Supreme Court rulings from the 1980s give political parties wide latitude in setting their own nomination rules. The Democratic Party has a strong preference for closed primaries, where registration with the party is required.

Iowa is what I call closed primary lite, allowing changes on election day or caucus night. But if the game playing becomes too blatant, the national parties have every right and ability to crack down on us. Is it really worth the risk?

This might seem like inside baseball this far out. But Iowa law gives party central committees and conventions a lot of power. If there's a special election, there is no primary. Delegates and/or precinct chairs (depending on the office) choose the party nominee. There's also a convention if no candidate wins the required 35 percent in the primary. It's only been a decade since a couple hundred votes at a district convention sent Steve King to Congress.

If you're a Democrat who decides to be A Republican For A Day, and your congressman dies or your state senator resigns or your mid-term county supervisor gets elected to the legislature, you're not in the room. You're not a Democratic delegate or committee member, because those people are elected on caucus night, and you were down the hall at the Republican caucus.

Granted, it would be kind of fun to mess with the Republican platform committee. But other anti-war and progressive Democrats are pursuing a more honorable approach: an uncommitted Democratic effort. I'm not with them -- as we say in Obama world, I'm In -- but I wish them well.

There were problems with accurately and honestly reporting uncommitted results against Bill Clinton in 1996, but now that results are reported directly from the caucus site to the state party, rather than through county party chairs, those issues should be resolved. A Kim Jong Il 100 percent result would strain credibility, and I'm sure the president will be just fine with 99.6. Whatever that small uncommitted Democratic percentage is, it will stand on its own as a clear message, rather than getting buried as an indistinguishable factor in the Republican results.

Caucusing as an uncommitted Democrat, rather than as an insincere Republican, also gets you a seat at the table for the Democratic platform (whatever that's worth; I'm more a GOTV guy myself) and any special conventions.

But the best thing you can do to protect the caucuses is to support the candidate whose Iowa win made history in the most important caucuses ever, shattered the myth that a black candidate couldn't draw white votes, and set him on the road to the White House. The president has not forgotten his debt to Iowa, and a re-elected Barack Obama will protect Iowa's first in the nation role for 2016.

Some day a Screw Iowa candidate is gong to be elected president and the caucuses will die. We'll quietly vote for Presumptive Nominee as we pick our local candidates in the June primary. But there's no reason to hasten that fate by gaming the system.

Perry's Calling

Perry's Calling

Texas Gov. Rick Perry chose an interesting word Saturday to describe his increasingly likely presidential candidacy:
“I’m not ready to tell you that I’m ready to announce that I’m in,” Gov. Rick Perry told The Des Moines Register. “But I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do. This is what America needs.”
Back home, he walked that word back a notch:
"There's a lot of different ways to be called. My mother may call me for dinner. My friends may call me for something. There are people calling from all across this country ... and saying, 'Man, we wish you would consider doing this,'" Perry said.
But the Houston Chronicle caught the undertone:
But asked if that meant his comments were devoid of any religious overtone, Perry quickly added, "Oh no, no, no. ... I am a man of faith. I don't make any apologies about my faithfulness. ... Do I look for signs, and do I look for good Scripture that tells me how to live my life? Absolutely I do that."
As the great military leader Colonel Sherman T. Potter used to say, mule muffins. "Calling" was a deliberate religious dog whistle, as in "called to Christ" or a minister being "called," not "hired," by a congregation.

In addition to the religious tone, it also implies a false denial of ambition in the way a British politician "stands for" office rather than "running." As Iowa pols know, Perry has been doing some "calling" of his own.

My take is Rick Perry is the Fred Thompson of 2012: looks good on paper, likely to fizzle on the trail. As for any "calling," I prefer Joe Strummer:

And if it HAS to be a Perry calling, I prefer this Perry.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Greenwood Announces in House 60

Greenwood Announces in House 60

Bob Greenwood of the Waterloo city council is hoping to make Republican Walt Rogers a one term wonder. Democrat Greenwood just announced in House District 60.

Rogers hasn't announced his own plans yet, though he did have an announcement today, endorsing... Rick Santorum?!? The district changes little and has a GOP registration edge of 838 (April) and in practice has been a swing seat. But Rogers ran first for the Senate in 2008, losing to Jeff Danielson by by a recount-close 22 vote margin. He then came back in 2010 to knock off Six Pack Democrat Doris Kelley.

GReenwood knocked off an incumbent once before, in 2001 to win his council seat. He's mid-term this year so the timing is unrelated to city filing, which is later this fall.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday Morning Funnies

Saturday Morning Funnies

Get your cereal, we have a good one this morning. Tea partier Dennis Guth has announced in Senate District 4 and so far he's our leading contender for the Nobel Unintentional Humor Prize for Campaign 2012:
Guth criticized government mandates such as mental health. "I don't think we need to be mandating things that we don't support," he said.
Like that great line from Charlie Wilson's War: "The Ethics Committee?!? Well, Jesus, Donnelly. Everyone in town knows I'm on the other side of that issue."

"Guth stressed his strong support of the Second Amendment, saying he has a permit to carry a concealed weapon." So he's armed and against mental health.

There's more: "Addressing a question about preschools, Guth said mothers should be staying home to care for their children, not sending them to preschool."

The no-incumbent Senate 4, of course, is where Stewart Iverson is expected to run. But there's no announcement yet. A GOP primary would make for some good entertainment. But be careful at the debate, Stew, Dennis may be packin'.

In less crazy news, yet another Democrat is on the comeback trail. Art Staed of Cedar Rapids, who won one term in 2006 before losing to Renee Schulte by 13 votes in 2008, has announced in House 66. Changes to the turf make it more Democratic.

This will be Staed's fourth run; he lost to Jeff Elgin in 2004. He took 2010 off. Democrats thought they had a good shot against Schulte with attorney Mark Seidl but Schulte won solidly.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Upmeyer Makes Move Official

Upmeyer Makes Move to House 54 Official

This one's been anticipated since Map Day and now it's finally official:
House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer has announced plans to run for re-election in House District 54.

After redistricting, District 54 is comprised of portions of Cerro Gordo and Butler Counties and all of Franklin County. Upmeyer intends to move to the Clear Lake area to run in, what is essentially, the district she currently represents.
My guess is she was just waiting till the end of session, which at the rate it was going could have pushed it dangerously close to the March 2012 filing period.

Upmeyer was part of the only triple-up in the whole state in House 8 with fellow Republicans Stewart Iverson and Henry Rayhons. It almost looked like a deal breaker for the whole Map for a few hours. But Iverson is widely expected to run in open Senate District 4. Rayhons, in his mid 70s, could be a retirement, but with Iverson and Upmeyer settled he could decide to stick around.

As for Upmeyer's new district, it's got a better Republican registration edge (+4000) than either her seat from last decade or the one she shared with Iverson and Rayhons. So she can worry less about re-election and more about why her presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, is tanking. She's chairing his state committee but since the post-vacation cruise staff evacuation, she says her Newt duties are "on the back burner."

A couple months back, TheIowaRepublican was reporting young veteran Gabe Haugland was also interested in 54 on the GOP side; any ammo still in that round?

Gronstal Opponent Makes It Semi-Official

Gronstal Opponent Makes It Semi-Official

Council Bluffs Republicans just can't wait to start running against Mike Gronstal: "Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Al Ringgenberg has been chosen by the Pottawattamie County Republican Central Committee to challenge Sen. Michael Gronstal, a Council Bluffs Democrat, in the November 2012 general election."

There's that little pro forma matter of a primary (ask a Wisconsin Democrat), which isn't for 10 1/2 months, but "Ringgenberg received (county party) support to oppose Gronstal as result of a candidate forum on Monday." Other states do pre-primary endorsements; it's a big deal in our neighbor to the north, Minnesota. But it's not usually done in Iowa.

In any case, Ringgenberg's name has been floating since at least late May. One small issue yet to be resolved: "(Ringgenberg) recently told a tea party meeting in Council Bluffs that he planned to sell his home so he could move into Gronstal’s Senate district."

Senate District 8 is the least changed district in the entire state; unless I missed something below the map scale it's literally identical to the turf Gronstal had last decade, except for the number (which used to be 50). It had a late April Democratic registration edge of 1872.

"Every freakin' Democrat in ten counties is in Gronstal's district," said redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering in an epic District of the Day analysis. "You couldn't get him better turf if you were trying."

In his last race in 2008, Gronstal also had a big target on his back and faced a tough-looking challenge from Mark Brandenburg (who won a House seat in 2010). But Gronstal won handily, 58 to 42 percent. With Omaha TV in play, look for this one to break every legislative race spending record in Iowa history.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

BVP Jumps The Shark

BVP Jumps The Shark

I wish tonight wasn't Wednesday night
I wish it wasn't the thirteenth of July, yell help
And you're looking at the guy whose eyes can't deny
That he wishes he were somewhere else tonight

Elton John, 1975

Bob Vander Plaats no doubt wishes he were somewhere else tonight. Wednesday the thirteenth of July, 2011, is going to go down as the day he and the famIly leader jumped the shark. The day three leading Republicans decided the little emperor of Iowa's religious right had no clothes, and I'm so sorry I put that image in your head.

BVP took a one-two-three hit today as, in turn, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Herman Cain all announced they were not going to sign the "Marriage Vow." That follows Gary Johnson's hell, no early on. Who's left who might sign? Roy Moore?

The high profile refusals, polite though they may be, along with Rick Santorum's irrelevance (sorry, Kim Lehman, who drops a spectacularly poorly timed endorsement), devalues the eventual famIly leader endorsement of Michele Bachmann below that "top ten endorsements" level that Vander Plaats was reveling in. Now, I still think Bachmann wins the caucuses, but that's on her own "merits" without Bob's help.

The slavery line was just tone-deaf, although the national media that pounced on that as the big story has its own tone-deafness. In religious righty circles references to slavery, and particularly to Dred Scott, are often abortion dog whistles. Not saying that's what happened here for sure, but in context it helps explain. (But taking it out probably means David Duke won't sign.)

You know who else loses here? Back on Friday and Monday, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich hedged on signing, which seemed gutsy compared to Bachmann and Santorum battling over who could sign first. Now, compared to outright rejection, "studying it" and "reservations" seems cowardly.

Dems Sweep, Mitt Gets One Right

Dems Sweep Special Elections; Mitt Gets One Right

A six for six sweep last night in the Wisconsin senate recalls, as all the party-backed candidates defeated what even the objective media was calling "fake Democrats." (All six were GOP activists who ran simply to force a primary and delay the actual recall vote by four weeks. Some even said so on the record.)

WIsconsin is a fully open primary state, with no party registration (unlike the closed primary lite of Iowa, where you have to affiliate for a primary but can do so on the spot.) Since there were no GOP primaries, Republicans were free to cross over and interfere, so the results are a good leading indicator of which way the final recall votes will go next month.

And the news is good. Five of the six Real Democrats pulled between 64 and 70 percent. The sixth, the lone first time candidate in a Democratic field made up mostly of sitting state reps and other elected officials, won 54-46. Democrats need a net gain of just three seats to take Senate control (they have to play defense in three of their own seats).

For good measure, Dems also won a California congressional special and an Arkansas legislative seat.

I really hate to have to say this, but good for you, Mitt Romney:
Romney “strongly supports traditional marriage,” but the oath circulated last week by the Family Leader “contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign.”

UPDATE: And good for you Tim Pawlenty.

Some of this is Romney's Screw Iowa lite strategy. Some of this is he's got nothing to lose anyway, as the famIly leader base and leadership finds him religiously unacceptable.

The Pledge is backfiring badly, literally becoming a national laughingstock. Stephen Colbert gave it a whole segment last night:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

But one quibble with most media coverage: Romney was not the first candidate to reject the BVPledge. That would be Gary Johnson. He may be trailing the asterisk in the polls, but he's won two statewide elections for governor, which is two more than Bob Vander Plaats.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jerry Mandering Finds Work

Jerry Mandering Finds Work in NC, WI

With redistricting long since done in Iowa, and reprecincting well under way in Iowa City and North Liberty, we haven't heard from our friend redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering in some time.

But news reports show incontrovertible evidence that Jerry has been working with Republicans in North Carolina and Wisconsin.

"When they split North Carolina's 9.5 million people into 13 congressional districts, Republican mapmakers reserved a special place for Sallie Stocks.

They put everybody in Sampson County into the 2nd Congressional District. That is, except for the 85-year-old woman who lives off a country road near Duplin County."

The puzzle pieces are somewhat bigger in Wisconsin, but there's some creative hooks and peninsulas around Democrats who are challenging Republicans in recall elections. (Fake Primary Day is today; Republicans put ringers in Democratic primaries to stall off the main recall and to try to knock out the actual Democratic candidates. In a state without party registration, and without comparable Republican contests, it could work. The Nixon folks called this "ratf***ing.")

This is designed to be a 5 R, 3 D incumbent protection map, with the goal of shoring up GOP freshmen Sean Duffy and Reed Ribble. here's a nice lower case n shaped state senate district along Lake Superior that borders a three-lobed barbell. But my favorite part is the hook that runs through the cranberry bogs of Adams and Juneau counties into the geographic center of the state to take heavily Democratic Stevens Point away from Duffy and give it to La Crosse Democrat Ron Kind.

The Poll Plus

TheIowaRepublican Poll Plus

No one teases out a poll better than TheIowaRepublican. Most outfits start with the big top of the ticket race, then drag the story out a few more days with the downballot and the issues. Not TIR. They start with "ethanol not a deal-breaker" and hit yesterday with the declared presidential candidates.

But wait, there's more! You also get, today, the presidential poll with four undeclared candidates added:
Romney 18
Bachmann 15
Christie 13
Cain 7
Palin 7
Perry 6
Pawlenty 6
Paul 5
Gingrich 3
Giuliani 2
Santorum 1
Huntsman 1
Christie has all but made the Sherman Statement, and even at 13 percent he isn't in nearly the position Fred Thompson was pre-candidacy at just about this time four years ago. Of the others, the platypus looks most likely; Palin, who knows, Rudy, who cares.

Lots of interesting cross-tabs; this is exactlyt why lefties should read righty blogs and vice versa. (Though I wish I had the resources to do polling...) Craig Robinson's takeaway: "Bachmann has the squishiest support of the candidates campaigning in Iowa."

Seems Bachmann is also somewhat squishy when it comes to in-person criticism; the Miami Herald checks the police records and finds she's quick to call the cops.

But Jonathan Martin at Politico chimes in with an interesting comparison:
Michele Bachmann hasn’t declared yet that she’s running to represent “the Republican wing of the Republican Party,” but that’s all that’s missing from a presidential bid that bears more than a passing resemblance to Democrat Howard Dean’s in 2004.
Don't cringe, I see the pattern. Dramatic on-line fundraising, strong message, appeal to base. Things looked really great for Dean at this point in July 2003, in the glory days of The Bat and Meetup.

Will Bachmann meet the same fate?
“[Democratic primary voters] were still so afraid of what Bush could do in a second term that in the end they got pragmatic,” recalled Joe Trippi, who managed Dean’s campaign. “Obama engenders that same anxiety and fear within the Republican base.”
Dean peaked about a month too early, right around the time of the Tom Harkin and (shudder) Al Gore endorsements. I can see the same happening in about December with Steve King. Then at the last minute, in the week before the caucuses (remember that four way dead heat Register poll?) everyone chickened out. "We need someone who can beat Bush. They can't attack John Kerry -- he's a war hero!" Don't forget that THIS:

happened AFTER the much more important third place finish.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gingrich Yearns for Lincoln-Douglas in Twitter Era

In Iowa City, Gingrich Yearns for Lincoln-Douglas in Twitter Era

BVP, Newt

Bob Vander Plaats and the famIly leader (all lower case except the I, because it's all about Bob) presidential lecture tour made a sixth and maybe final venture into the People's Republic of Johnson County Monday afternoon with Newt Gingrich. The event moved upstairs to the Iowa Memorial Union ballroom, because the main lounge was busy with freshman orientation. The incoming freshmen were six when Newt stepped down as speaker in late 1998.

The crowd is is 50 or 60 people. Many more public were here for Ron Paul, many more public and press here for Michele Bachmann. (My spell check wants to change Bachmann to Eichmann.)

At a brief press availability before the speech, Lynda Waddington of Iowa Independent asks the elephant in the room question: how does the BVP Marriage Pledge mesh with Newt's personal life? Bob answers: "We are a Christian organization, we believe in redemption and forgiveness. We believe he is committed to his wife right now."

I ask about the debt ceiling negotiations and his experience with government shutdown. He uses this as a launching pad to talk economics and Obama bash, including a repeat of the reference to Obama as "the leading food stamp president in American History." In direct response, he says he's pleased that Boehner held the line on taxes, but doesn't talk shutdown per se.

The Daily Iowan asks about the main emphasis of the Marriage Pledge: marriage of the gay variety. Gingrich calls on the Obama administration to back the Defense of Marriage Act (sic) in court. He concedes that New York went about marriage equality (my word) the right way through the legislative process, and the proper recourse is to vote the people who supported it out of office. Iowa did it through “judicial activism,” a favorite phrase of Vander Plaats.

BVP handles the introduction and says there may be another edition of the presidential lecture series in August or September, but drops no names. The fliers list an August 1 date with “to be announced.”

Newt starts saying "We need to find the solutions to the future." He talks at length about the Food and Drug Administration and finding a 21st century model "that accelerates moving science to the patient." This seems like part of a “niche issue” strategy that Gingrich discussed recently; he hopes to bring together a diverse coalition of intense single-issue advocates.

As Newt talks about the last shuttle launch and relying on the Russians for five years of space launches ("it only took us eight to get to the moon") Calista Gingrich enters the room, in an impossible to miss manner. Newt stops the space discussion to introduce her.

The Main Ballroom is a nice looking space but has two shortcomings: poor lighting and poor sound. I got my one usable photo at press time, but the speech is hard to hear. There's a general foreign policy drift: "We are not safer than we were on 9/11," citing North Korea and Pakistan. "When you talk about family, there a lot of Iowa guards people in Afghanistan, and a lot of people lost loved ones in 9/11." Also cites jobs report, repeating lines he answered me with:

Moving on to the economy, Gingrich repeats some line he offered me at press time. “Jobs are a family issue. You can't have a family if you can't provide for A FAMILY. You have a dependent family, not an independent family." As for last week's jobs report: "The US added just 18,000 jobs last month. That is approximately one job for every 1000 unemployed Americans. This may not be a plateau from which we bounce back, but a plateau to an even deeper loss.”

His solutions? We ought to put more offshore drilling in the debt ceiling bill. Gingrich also cites a “radical rewrite of labor law" by the National Labor Relations Board, prompting the first applause from the partisans. As a symbol of Big Government, Newt notes, "Washington DC is the only city that has not lost housing values."

Gingrich wraps the speech by citing his own book "A Nation Like No Other." It's a pattern; he mentions his newsletter and columns and books and films a lot. Defining American Exceptionalism, he says: “We are the only society in history that says power comes from God to each of us personally. The center of power is the citizen, not the government. You can only have a family oriented society if you have a sovereign citizenry." Sound improves slightly.” In the Obama model, Gingrich says, "power is centered in the government."

As usual at the famIly leader events, Q & A is submitted in writing in advance, and read aloud by Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley. How does Newt attract independents? Newt: "They'll look at the ideas and make a decision." Starts talking about regenerative medicine and dialysis, part of that niche issue strategy. Moving to foreign policy, he says: “This administration refuses to recognize that there's a real threat to this county, and the administration won't be honest about who's trying to kill us. That's a 80, 85 percent issue with the public." He's careful to distinguish between “peaceful Muslims” and “radical Islamists,” but note that he's already used the word “radical” in describing Obama administration labor policy.

Chuck Hurley asks what's THE most important issue. Rather than saying homer-SEX-yule marriage, Gingrich gives an interesting answer. "The greatest challenge we have is how can we have a conversation. There's this passion of the media to trivialize everything." He cites the obsession over Anthony Weiner's sex scandal and the Casey Anthony trial. "If you look at the total volume of coverage about the devastating unemployment report vs. an admittedly tragic trial, it's out of proportion." Newt talks about the length and depth of the Lincoln-Douglas debates – seven three-hour debates, no moderator – and contrasts the recent debate questions about favorite TV shows. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself. This is not a game show. This is a conversation about the future of the United States of America and there ought to be some dignity. It is pathetic that we have degenerated into a politics of 30 second TV ads." Applause at end.

Vander Plaats asks, is Newt alienating moderates by being socially conservative? "If the choice is perfection you can splinter the Republican Party into 100 factions. The choice is between the general direction Newt Gingrich would take the country vs. Barack Obama." Repeats the Food Stamp President line AGAIN, adding "I want to be the pay check president"

Gingrich then goes on to take the lion's share of the credit for the economic boom of the late 1990's; William Jefferson who? "I helped balance the budget for four straight years.” Newt wants to go past deficit reduction, run surpluses and buy down the debt. "Truman and Eisenhower, even Kennedy, were pretty frugal. You don't start to see the big deficits until about 1967."

"Reagan ran on lower taxes, less regulation, and praise for entrepreneurs If we had seven years as good as the Reagan recovery you would have 25 million new jobs."

The "Activist judges" question gets asked, as it does at each famIly leader forum. Newt: “Everyone remembers taxation without representation, but the number two complaint in the Declaration of Independence was judges. One of the reasons we were so adamant about trial by jury was we wanted the local population to be able to overrule the judges." Says any five Supreme Court justices are "a floating constitutional convention." Only in the Warren era, says Newt, did the Court assert itself over legislatures. The answer is more Federalist papers than gay marriage. "Congress has the option to pass laws that block appeal to the court, so for example you could pass laws allowing school prayer." An interesting interpretation which may not jive with Marbury v. Madison.

And the elephant of Gingrich's marriages is in the room again. This Time Gingrich answers: "Of course you know I've been divorced twice. I've done things I'm not proud of, I've turned to God for forgiveness." Somehow, in a trick reminiscent of Rudy Giuliani on the subject of 9/11, this segues into the tax code and Alzheimer's. "If you had a tax code that favored families taking care of their loved ones, it would be a fundamentally different approach to health care." Again one of those niche issues. "The pursuit of happiness did not mean hedonism. Our rights and responsibilities transcend any one person."

In a closing statement: "I hope you will decide to be WITH me, not FOR me. The team has to include picking up seats in the House and Senate, and citizens at home. That will take power away from the bureaucracy in Washington. The left will not give up quietly. They will fight every day. They spent 80 years building their world.” Implying a rollback to pre-New Deal... or further? “This is probably the most critical election since 1860,” a line he's used before. “Four more years would be a disaster. This is about much more than politics this is about history and the nature of our country."

Caucus Date Leapfrog Less Intense But Still A Factor

Leapfrog Less Intense But Still A Factor

The Iowa caucuses are Monday, February 6. Really, swear to God, officially: Monday, February 6.

Of course, for several cycles in a row Iowa has announced dates only to move them later, as other states try to cut into a line that's been very carefully arranged by the national parties. The battle seems less intense this time, but one of the 2008 culprits is at it again.

Last cycle, the pushing and shoving that landed Iowa's caususes on the insanely early date of January 3 was led by the Michigan Democrats and the Florida Republicans.

Michigan's insistence on an early date was always less driven by their own desire for an early date than it was by the hatred of leading Michigan Democrats (Senator Carl Levin, Congressman John Dingell, and his wife DNC member Debbie Dingell) for Iowa and New Hampshire's early role. We don't care who's first, as long is it's NOT Iowa. With the Democratic monination lookig uncontested, and Republicans now in full control of Michigan government, Michigan has settled down, for now.

But the Florida GOP is still at it, though less intensely than in 2008. They've agreed to recognize the national quartet of early states selected by both parties: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. But their slogan is "We want to be fifth."

Politico reports that Florida, in the post-shuttle era, is trying to launch during a very narrow window. They'll accept a slot after South Carolina, currently scheduled for February 28, but before Überdienstag, which for now looks to be Tuesday, March 6.

This means a non-traditional, non-Tuesday election:
"If we do it on that Thursday (March 1) or that Saturday (March 3), that would show respect for the RNC rules and those first four historic or semi-historic early states and also ... allow us to go before other states because Florida is that important,'' said Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, hopeful that the RNC will cut Florida some slack.

Don't count on it, says the RNC.
The Republican penalty for breaking the calendar rules is half the delegates, a tradeoff Florida and Michigan gladly made in 2008. Indeed, Florida was the final Republican contest of significance in 2008, where Rudy Giuliani bet it all and fizzled, leaving John McCain to take the nomination by default. (The Democratic penalty was Officially 100 percent, but in the end was ignored. Yeah, I'm still pissed.)

So the ball is in the court of the South Carolina GOP -- entirely, because they re paying for and conducting the primary themselves. Will they be satisfied with going two or four days before Florida, or will they move back? They had a Saturday contest in 2008. Saturday the 25th is a possibility, and Nevada (now at 2/28) might be OK with that. This would leave New Hampshire on Valentine's Day and us on February 6.

Of course, all that's a best case scenario that assumes no one else wants to cut in line. It's a political version of the Tragedy of the Commons. Everyone agrees that obscene front loading is bad for everyone, but it's not in the best interest of any one state to hold back.

In any case, Iowa Democrats are likely to be bystanders in all this. Separate caucus nights would be a disaster for the state. If just one person goes to both party caucuses and has a press conference to brag about it, BAM, we're voting in the June primary. So Dems are likely to follow the Republican lead.

While I'm at it, does Michigan J. Frog's friend look familiar to anyone?

Presidential Roundup

Your Monday Morning One-Stop Shop

The beret is planning to check in with Bob Vander Plaats and Newt Gingrich this afternoon, as the famIly leader tour stops by the People's Republic. That line in Bob's pledge about marital fidelity could produce a moment of awkward...

The pledge itself, of course, has been amended after the national press interpreted it as... pro-slavery? Here's the controversial part:
Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President.
The controversy, of course, is in the line 'election of the USA's first African-American President." The amended version reads "Socialist Muslim Kenyan 'president' (sic)."

So what does the pledge revision do for the two who signed the antebellum version, Bachmann and Santorum? Does it help them in South Carolina?

But as the great philosopher R. Zimmerman once said, if you ain't got nothin' you got nothin' to lose. Thus Gary Johnson, the alternative for folks who find Ron Paul too socialist, is the only candidate who had the gonads to tell BVP to stick his petition where... well, in a place where it would be illegal to stick much of anything if Bob had his way.

The big non-Pledge news is of course this AM's TheIowaRepublican poll:
Bachmann 25
Romney 21
Cain 9
Pawlenty 9
Paul 6
Gingrich 4
Santorum 2
Huntsman 1
That only adds up to 76, so it seems there's a lot of undecided, scattered, and "anyone else." The real winner here may be Rick Perry. And, as always, Sarah Palin is hoverin' over this.

Another bizarro blip on the Bachmann front, this time a past association with a heavy metal fundamentalist -- you read that right -- "who believes gays are responsible for the Holocaust and endorses Muslim law calling for the execution of homosexuals." Maybe she's hoping for an endorsement from Tipper Gore. (Yeah. Still pissed. In other news, Members Of Twisted Sister Now Willing To Take It.)

I hate to say anything positive about a Screw Iowa strategy, even a modified one, but it seems Romney has made a smart choice. Last time he threw everything he had into Iowa and got a second plice 30 percent. Here he's doing nothing more than openly saying Screw Iowa like Huntsman, and he's at 21.

As for Herman Cain, he hits a bump in the road in his campaign for Secretary of Commerce as he's denounced by Hispanic Republicans, both of them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Grammar Guy vs. Deeth Blog

But is there a hyphen in anal-retentive?

Last week, while trying to figure out which cola beverage Tim Pawlenty is most like, I cited the great Nate Silver. He's the single best example of blogger made good: his number crunch blog FiveThirtyEight has been annexed by the New York Times itself. The move to the mainstream required some compromise, though, as I noted in a tangent:
"Instead of being the consensus choice, he finds himself with very little breathing room. Voters deciding between Mr. Pawlenty and Mr. Perry tend to prefer Mr. Perry, those deciding between Mr. Pawlenty and Mr. Romney tend to prefer Mr. Romney, and so forth.

(Tangent: One of the compromises a blogger made good has to make is the New York Times stylebook that Mr.'s and Ms.'s everyone. Most famously, the NYT referred to the singer of "Paradise By The Dashboard Lights" as "Mr. Loaf." We now return to our block quote already in progress.)

Put differently, Mr. Pawlenty is not intrinsically well differentiated from his opponents. A lot of voters might find him acceptable — but the types of voters who find him acceptable will also tend to find a lot of other candidates acceptable."
This tangent prompted a response that has to be repeated verbatim to be appreciated:
Dear Mr. Deeth,

I’ve just come across your blog entry with a digression on “Mr.”

The New York Times did NOT refer to Meat Loaf as Mr. Loaf, except in an unmistakably self-mocking headline. The story is apocryphal, though it has embedded itself in the conventional wisdom.

You owe The Times a correction.


Allan M. Siegal
Retired A.M.E.
and co-author, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, 1999
Well, a little investigating finds the "self-mocking" headline and a subsequent article that call's the songwriter "Mr. Steinman" but the singer "Meat Loaf."

So I stand corrected, no doubt giving Mr. Siegal, still marking copy in his retirement, great pleasure in proving me wrong...

...and proving my tangential point about nit-pickiness even better than I did myself.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Not To Be Confused

Not To Be Confused

We've already got the problem of two David Johnsons: the Republican senator from northwest Iowa and the Democratic candidate from West Branch challenging Jeff Kaufmann in House 73.

Now we've got two John Archers, and one of them is endorsing the opponent of the other:
This John Archer believes:

  • We should get our military out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • We should increase taxes for anyone making more than $250,000 per year.

  • We should impose a luxury tax on any car, boat or airplane costing more than $50,000.

  • We should have universal health care for all.

  • We should allow any two people who love each other to marry.

  • We should leave health decisions to the patient and her doctor.

    This John Archer supports Dave Loebsack as the best candidate to serve as our representative in Congress.

    This John Archer will be voting for Loebsack!

    John E. Archer

    West Liberty
  • Democrat Archer has something else in common with Democrat Johnson: he was Kaufmann's 2010 opponent.

    Kevin McCarthy is pleased (that's Kevin McCarthy the House minority leader not Kevin McCarthy the conservative California congressman.) Jim Hahn is not. (That's Jim Hahn the Republican senator from Muscatine, not Jim Hahn the former Democratic mayor of Los Angeles.)

    Friday, July 08, 2011

    The Taking Bachmann Seriously Thread

    The Taking Bachmann Seriously Thread

    A convergence of stories last couple days taking Michele Bachmann seriously not just as a potential Iowa winner, but as a possible nominee.

    Most significantly, Nate Silver weighs in with lots of graphs and numbers (being Nate Silver). The whole analysis is worth it but the tl;dr version is:
    Imagine that Ms. Bachmann has won the Iowa caucuses while Mr. Romney has taken the New Hampshire primary, and the nomination is essentially up for grabs between them. As the contest shifts to a key state like Ohio or Pennsylvania, suppose that conservative Republicans split 60-30 in Ms. Bachmann’s favor (with a few voters opting for a hanger-on like Ron Paul), while moderate Republicans go 80-15 for Mr. Romney. Who is going to win?

    Turnout would be decisive. If two conservative Republicans cast ballots for every moderate Republican — roughly the ratio in 2008 — Mr. Romney would prevail by a couple of points. But if the turnout looks more like 2010, and there are three conservative Republicans at the polls for every moderate Republican, Ms. Bachmann would win by about six percentage points...
    Jonathan Chait adds:
    Many reporters have noted that a one-on-one matchup between Romney and Bachmann is Romney's dream scenario. That's true -- it's his best chance to have the establishment rally behind him. I haven't seen them mention that it's also Bachmann's dream scenario -- she gets to face off against an establishment candidate totally unacceptable to large segments of the party base.

    Now, the far greater danger to Bachmann is that she faces off against somebody other than Romney -- say, Rick Perry, or possibly even Paul Ryan -- who can appeal to right-wingers and party elites as well.
    Bachmann was the fastest candidate yesterday to sign off on the famIly leader pledge, so fast she accidentally stabed Chuck Hurley in the hand with her pen. Most of the rest wimped out with no comments or mutterings about "studying it." Jon Huntsman totally punted by making a pledge not to sign pledges, adding: "I already told your whole state to piss off, so why do I care about what some guy who can't win a primary there thinks?" for good measure. (That's not a direct quote, but a reasonably likely transcript of the inner monologue.) Only Ron Paul had the gonads to say he had "reservations."

    But back to Bachmann, it seems there is method to the seeming madness of her fast and loose interpretation of historic "facts." Spencer Critchley:
    While Sarah Palin's eye-darting improvs fairly scream "I didn't do my homework," in all likelihood Bachmann did do her homework on this one. It's just that she's reading from a different text than most of us...

    The rewriting of history is a natural, and even unavoidable, consequence of the absolutism on both religion and the Constitution that characterizes Tea Party Republicanism, of which Bachmann is now the figurehead. Such absolutism requires believing that the founding text of your creed is complete and perfect, and that its authors were infallible. When reality and belief collide, reality has to give way.

    So if the Founders owned slaves, and the Constitution said that was fine, there are only a few choices:

    1. Slavery actually wasn't all that bad, or
    2. The Founders must have been trying to end slavery, and/or
    3. There were more Founding Fathers than you think: we need to include that child prodigy John Quincy Adams.

    T-Paw Steps In The Gaga Again

    T-Paw Steps In The Gaga Again

    Tim, Tim. Tim. I'm sorry I compared you to a can of generic cola yesterday. Sure, you need some pizzazz. But I didn't mean for you to go out and start talking about Lady Gaga again:

    Yes, the Unlikeliest Little Monster is once again trying to look cool, and this time we have video. It's just short of two minutes into the softball interview. He's almost escaped... and then HE's the one who goes there:

    The weird part is, he stumbles onto some semi-lucid thoughts that would make sense in any context other than a Republican nominating contest:

    “Well you know, in terms of the beat, I like ‘Bad Romance,’” Pawlenty said. “I gotta say, even though she’s a little unusual, ‘Born this Way’ has some appeal. She’s actually very talented. Now if you go to the end of the HBO special, the Lady Gaga HBO special, and you watch her sing a cappella “Born This Way,” she can sing. She can definitely sing. She’s talented.”

    True enough; look around a bit on line and there's a lot of good versions of her music without the dance-pop glitz, stripped down to the songs.

    Somewhat apologetically, Pawlenty also noted that if he limited his artistic taste only to conservatives, he “wouldn’t have a lot of choices.”

    Yeah, and as we've noticed all last campaign and again with the Michele Bachmann-Tom Petty fight last week, it's always artists from the left objecting to candidates from the right. Pawlenty names several other left-leaning artists: Springsteen, Mellencamp... heck, even one of his country faves, Tim McGraw, is one of the few Democrats in Nashville.

    “You gotta be willing to tolerate different politics,” he said.

    Fair enough. But me acknowledging that despite my differences with Ted Nugent's politics, "Cat Scratch Fever" kicks much ass is one thing. Tim Pawlenty going out of his way to praise a queer-pride anthem with the hook line "don't be a drag, just be a queen"? It's really hard to credibly separate that song from its politics.

    Is it cluelessness, cynicism, clumsiness, or all of the above? Or is it some kind of double reverse dog whistle Jedi mind trick? But it's risky; I'm surprised Bob Vander Plaats didn't have an anti-Gaga line in his famIly leader pledge, right next to Sharia law.

    Thursday, July 07, 2011

    One Retirement, One Train Wreck

    Districts Revisited: One Retirement, One Train Wreck

    With the quadruple-overtime legislative session finally over, we're seeing the campaign announcement and retirement fallout from The Map. Two updates from districts where two Republicans are paired up: one smooth retirement and one train-wreck primary.

    The fratricidal face-off that looked like a map-killer on Map Day seems like it will actually happen. Annette Sweeney has announced for re-election in House District 50. She's paired up with our next United States Senator, Pat Grassley, who also announced for the same seat last month.

    Is this a game of chicken, with one of them veering off at the last minute? Or will they actually settle this at the polls? There's usually one where one of the parties can't work it out: Bill Brand vs. Jane Svoboda in 1992, Rick Larkin and Phil Wise in 2002.

    Republicans have settled things more smoothly in House District 79. Oskaloosa freshman Guy Vander Linden is running, and Jim Van Engelenhoeven of Pella is retiring after seven terms.

    Both these seats are solidly Republican. There is some good news for Dems, though: Vander Linden, who knocked off Eric Palmer last year in a swing district that went north to Grinnell, is staying with the House race instead of challenging a very vulnerable Democratic senator, Tom Rielly.