Tuesday, January 31, 2012

You Broke The Rules

As we wait for tonight's election returns from Florida, let us not forget that Iowa caucus night is supposed to be next week, on February 6. But Florida, of course, had to go ahead AGAIN and break the rules agreed on by both parties, and jump ahead to today. So that's why we got stuck caucusing in the middle of Christmas break, in old precincts instead of new, in order to keep our first place in line that both parties agreed to.

And Florida's punishment is... oh yeah, right: hosting the Republican National Convention.

Yes, Florida, You Broke The Rules, and Jack Black suggests your proper depilatory punishment (SFW version, if you want the original go here):

Of course, they'd just say thanks for the bikini wax and head to the beach anyway, but at least it would hurt for a little while.

Monday, January 30, 2012

GOP Primary Challenge in House District 1

First-term Rep. Jeff Smith (R-Okoboji) has drawn a primary challenge from a Campaign For Liberty/anti-tax advocate.

Kevin Wolfswinkel of Sibley, in Osceola County, has announced his candidacy in House District 1. His announcement pointedly calls it "new" District 1.

Indeed Osceola and blood-red Lyon counties, which together make up 60 percent of the population, are new to Smith. He keeps just his Dickinson County base from the old district, which he won with an easy primary and no opposition in the general when Mike May retired in 2010.

The new district had a R+ 7570 Map Day registration edge, making it the second most Republican seat in the state. Smith's old turf, which went south to Spencer in Clay County, had a GOP edge of less than 3000.

Usually getting a much better partisan edge would be good news. But Smith has been a low key freshman, compared to the Pearson-Massie-Shaw freshman Axis of Evil. And the new district is so overwhelmingly Republican that it may be looking for someone more confrontational in the mold of that crew or their more senior ally Dwayne Alons, who had Lyon in his old turf.

And Wolfswinkel, a Ron Paul backer in the recent caucuses, seems to fit that mold:
The Republican Party and the citizens of District 1 deserve a leader who will not just give lip service to the priority issues, but will be a leader who will go to Des Moines and fight for them. Prolife, the restoration of 2nd amendment rights and less government are party pillars, which require uncompromising dedication.
(Tangent: Republicans get to call no permit concealed weapons in day care centers a "rights" issue, and their party listens. But when I say a voting age adult being able to have a beer is a rights issue, my party calls me an extremist.)

In his role as president of the Osceola County Taxpayers Assocation, he called for 10 percent pay cuts for all county employees.

Democrats can't even hope for an extreme nominee to give them a shot. With a GOP margin this big, look for the primary to settle things.

Breitbach Announces in Senate 28

Dem Phoenix announces against Koester in Ankeny's House 38

Two candidates who lost close 2010 House races are likely to face off in a no-incumbent Senate race in the state's northeast corner.

Insurance agent Mike Breitbach, a Republican, has announced in Senate District 28, which is all of Clayton and Allamakee Counties and parts of Winneshiek (including Decorah) and Fayette (NOT including Oelwein) counties in Northeast Iowa.

Brietbach lost to Democratic incumbent Roger Thomas by an unexpectedly close 122 votes in 2010. However, the Republican had a 500+ margin in Delaware County, which is not in this district. Thomas won their mutual home county, Clayton, by a similar margin, and the Democrat's edge in Fayette proved to be decisive.

Still, Brietbach has some name ID in that end of the district, which will be new turf for Democrat John Beard. The Decorah Democrat was a one-term House member in a Winneshiek-Fayette district, winning in 2008 but losing in `10 to late-starting Republican Bob Hager.

On paper, the seat has a GOP registration edge (1584 on Map Day, I'd say new numbers should be ready within the month). But it's been swingy in the past. Winneshiek, historically GOP, trended very Democratic in 2008, but swung back in 2010. Maybe if Newt gets nominated, Luther grad Calista Bisek (aka Mrs. Gingrich III) will pay a visit?

Also announcing, on the Democratic side: former Des Moines School Board member John Phoenix in south Ankeny based House District 38. It's the more Democratic of the two Ankeny seats (+191 registration on Map Day, though post-caucus that may be R+something). But it's where GOP incumbent Kevin Koester lives, and where he decided to run for a third term. With a good party balance and a solid candidate, look for this one on the target list. The north Ankeny seat, House 37 (This Is Where Your District Went) is open and looks set for a multi-way GOP primary.

Paul Campaign Still Working Iowa

You thought this thing was over in Iowa?

The Ron Paul campaign is largely skipping winner take all Florida this week, but is hard at work on its strategy to accumulate national convention delegates. This strategy focuses on caucus and convention states, including Iowa.

Paul benefits in these states, because he has the kind of intensely loyal supporters who will stick around after the presidential "vote" to elect delegates and alternates, and who are willing to spend a day at the next level convention. As attrition peels away the less intense supporters of other campaigns, the relative concentration of Paul support increases, like moonshine in a still.

From the Sunday morning in-box, Paul Iowa chair Drew Ivers:
On January 3, you made a stand for limited constitutional government by catapulting Ron Paul to an incredibly strong finish in the Iowa Caucuses.

But our work has just begun.

If you believe in the founding principles of individual liberty, sound money, and constitutional government that made America the freest and most prosperous nation in the world, I need your continued help here in Iowa.

If you were elected on Caucus night to your County Central Committee, or if you were elected as a Delegate or Alternate Delegate to your County Convention to be held March 10, I’m asking you to please email me back and let me know which county and precinct you were elected to serve.

As we seek to restore the traditional small government values of the Republican Party, it’s important we continue to participate in the process that began on January 3.

And that includes participating in your upcoming GOP County Convention.

Participating in this process is the best way you can help Restore America NOW and take our country back.

So please, if you’d like to participate, simply reply to this email and let me know which County and Precinct you were elected to serve.

Once I receive your information, I’ll follow up with you to help you with the next step in this important process.

Together, you and I can Restore America Now!

Best regards,
Dr. Drew Ivers
Iowa Chairman, Ron Paul Campaign

P.S. Participating in the process that began on January 3 is the best way you can help Restore America NOW and take our country back.

So if you were elected on Caucus night to your County Central Committee, please email back and let me know which County and Precinct you represent.

Or if you were elected as a Delegate or Alternate Delegate to your County Convention to be held March 10, reply to this email and let me know which county and precinct you were elected to serve.

This is the most effective way you can help restore constitutional government in America.
This has serious long term implications for Republican county, district and state organizations, in Iowa and elsewhere. Look at Iowa's state central committee, and its disproportionate share of Paul supporters.

The only part of this I can't figure out is: what exactly is Ron Paul going to DO with all those convention delegates?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Clip Show

Skipped out on the president in Cedar Rapids Wednesday. The event seemed largely made for national cameras and I didn't feel like there was much unique that I could add to the story.

  • The Register did the leg work and tracked down people from the eight "missing" GOP caucus precincts. The result is a must read for any process geek and the stories are familiar to any caucus veteran.

  • Our local state senators come out strong against Matt Schultz's latest variation of the photo ID bill:
    Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said the bill would hurt many Democratic legislators' constituents.

    "The bill is a ploy to cut down Democrat voting in the state of Iowa because about 20 percent of voters in Iowa are Democrats and do not own the proper identification in order to vote," he said.

    He noted that there has only been one case of voter-identification fraud on record in the state's history, making the bill too harsh of a response to a small problem.

    Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said he agreed.

    "The bill is a solution in search of a problem," he said. "There are virtually no cases of people trying to vote illegally. This is Schultz being cynical. This bill is preventing seniors, people with disabilities, and poor people from voting."

  • Coming up next week: the February 1 deadline for state senators to declare residence, at which time we'll know for sure how many senate races will be on next fall's ballot. So far it looks like 26, just one more than normal and probably some kind of record low for a remap year. All the even-numbered seats are on the presidential cycle, and the two possible pair-ups are both even: Dem Mary Jo Wilhelm and the GOP's Merlin Bartz in 26, and a Republican primary between Jim Hahn and Shawn Hamerlinck in 46. (I still bet one of those guys blinks.) That would mean the only "extra" race is in Clinton-based no incumbent Senate 49.

  • Up in open House District 2 in Clay and Palo Alto. Republican Megan Hess reports raising $15,945.12 to Democrat Steve Bomgaars' $7,618.
  • Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    Better Late Than Never, I Guess

    Maybe I complain too much, especially since my senator Joe Bolkcom is the guy sponsoring the bill and a step forward is a step forward.

    But in considering Gene Fraise's sudden surprise support of medical marijuana, my main thought is: why won't politicians support this increasingly mainstream issue before they've announced their retirement?

    Even Gary Johnson, the current patron saint of the Peter Tosh platform, didn't support legalization until after his term limits kicked in.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    Bearinger Announces In House 64

    Another good name on the House Dems recruit list:
    Oelwein City Councilman Bruce Bearinger announced today that he will run for state representative in House District 64, which includes parts of Buchanan and Fayette Counties.

    Bearinger teaches agriculture and biology at Jesup High School and has previously worked as the Education Director for ISU Extension in Buchanan County. He is also the FFA Advisor for Jesup High School and helps with a variety of community services, including farm safety, environmental projects, and charity events.

    “It’s time for strong leadership at the statehouse that will put the partisanship aside and get things done for Iowa. I’ll work to find common ground on the key issues we face and keep focused on putting Iowans back to work while helping the middle class grow,” said Bearinger.

    On the city council, Bearinger serves on the economic development finance committee, works on local food initiatives, and is helping develop a health and wellness survey for Oelwein. He has been a teacher in Oelwein, was a member of the Oelwein Jaycees, and a donor to the Fine Arts Guild in Oelwein.
    Bearinger is challenging GOP incumbent Dan Rasmussen of Oelwein, who had such a tough re-election race in 2008 that he lost, to one-term Dem Gene Ficken, before winning the 2010 rematch by just 208 votes. (With this announcement it looks like a Ficken comeback isn't happening.)

    So there's an Oelwein vs. Independence dimension to this as well as a partisan dimension; down the ballot the friends and neighbors factor matters a lot. But as for the partisan aspect, Rasmussen loses a couple hundred voters. The last race was pricey, with both Waterloo and Cedar Rapids TV ads. Look for another top tier race here.

    Helland Draws Primary Challenge

    From the Did Not See That Coming Department, the DI reports UI senior Jake Highfill running in House District 39, now held by Erik Helland (R-Grimes).

    As you all know I'm a big fan of student candidates, but to me, this looks like one of those "Hey, I want to get involved and this is where I happen to live" campaigns. The funny part is that at age 31 Helland, first elected after a hot `08 primary and unopposed in 2010, is already one of the youngest legislators.

    Either way, the high-growth district shrinks a lot in redistricting and is basically just Johnston and Grimes, with Jefferson Township to the north and a small bit of Urbandale.

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    Obama Cedar Rapids Event Details Announced

    President Obama's post-State Of The Union visit to Cedar Rapids Wednesday is going to be less pep rally and more hard-hat and safety goggles trip: a tour of Conveyor Engineering & Manufacturing near the airport. They make what looks like, technical term here, big stuff.

    So the audience is sort of Iowa -- we're looking like a swing state again this cycle -- but it's really more for the national TV cameras. It's employees and invited guests only, but then noon Wednesday isn't a very rally-friendly time.

    Iowans wanting to see Obama speak should instead stop by a State Of The Union watch parties Tuesday night. It's a chance to gather in a room full of Democrats and watch the President on TV. You know, kinda like caucus night.

    The Iowa City event is at that old Democratic standby, The Mill. Given the next day's stop, expect a meat and potatoes, jobs jobs jobs speech.

    Campaign Finance From The In-box

    With the campaign finance filings out as of Thursday, I'm working up a big picture kind of story. This is an important stage in the triage process: serious contenders had better be in the race by now and raising significant dollars. But here's a few stories from around our fair state to tide you over while I number crunch:

  • They're already talking Million Dollar Race in Mike Gronstal's Senate District 8, but GOP challenger Al Ringgenberg only raised $5,745 last year and had less than $500 left in the bank. The money will come, no doubt, but Gronstal raised $349,762 last year, and has $434,275 on hand. Usually that leadership money goes to help in the tough races, but in this case Mike is the guy with the tough race. And the winner is -- Omaha TV ad sales reps.

  • GOP House leaderhip had a good haul, too: "Iowa House GOP leaders Thursday touted setting a record for their 2011 fundraising. (Speaker Kraig) Paulsen raised $253,914 and had $215,580 left in his campaign war chest, while House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, R-Garner, raised $211,631 and had $189,777 going into this election year."

  • I missed this announcement: Republican Jane Jech isn't letting two straight losses to Marshalltown Dem Mark Smith deter her. She has her ambitions set higher this cycle, challenging Senator Steve Sodders in Senate District 36. Finance reports show Sodders with a big cash on hand lead: $26,630 in cash on hand compared to $784 for Jech.

  • Democrat Desmund Adams outraised both Republicans in Polk-Dallas Senate District 22. And primary challenger Jeff Mullen outraised the moving-in incumbent, Pat Ward:
    The Adams for Senate campaign raised $18,655 for the 2012 November election. Sen. Pat Ward (R) presently representing Senate district 30 raised a total of $11,095 mostly from PACS while her Republican primary opponent, pastor Jeff Mullen of Waukee, raised $13,195.
  • From Knoxville, a look at open Senate and House races: Greg Heartsill looks to be the main-chance contender in the retiring Republican Rich Arnold's House 28. Heartsill outraised Christian bookstore owner Len Gosseling (another announcement I missed) by several orders of magnitude. Winner sees Democrat Megan Day Suhr in the fall.
  • Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Today's Pet Theory

    Hey, anyone heard from Stephen Bloom the last few days as the caucus counting crisis has hit the front page?

    It's easy for us locals to forget, amidst the hurt feelings that were so intense that even Bloom's co-author on the Oxford Project basically disowned the guy, that this wasn't just bashing for the sake of bashing. There was a thesis here: that because Iowa is so culturally backward that we don't even have a kosher deli on every block, we don't deserve our first place in the nomination process.

    And where is the temporary base he lobbed this grenade from? Michigan. And no one hates the Iowa Caucuses more than Michigan. Senator Carl Levin has made it his purpose in life to take the caucuses, and the New Hampshire primary, away. And Ann Arbor's even in the district of fellow caucus hater John Dingell.

    There are few arguments stronger than a "your own guy says so" argument. Obviously, no one could have predicted the perfect storm of a dead-heat result, but that just makes it even petter from their perspective. You think maybe some of these Michigan pols maybe had a talk with the visitor who was from Iowa but not of Iowa?

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Raecker Retiring

    An open GOP-leaning seat in Polk County, as House Appropriations chair Scott Raecker of Urbandale announces he's stepping down after 14 years.

    The new House District 40 was familiar turf for Raecker, as it shrunk all the way into his base, the Polk County part of Urbandale. The line changes cost Raecker about 200 registered Republicans but he still had a Map Day edge of nearly 1000. With the advantage of long incumbency he was winning safely: 61% in bad year 2008 and 65% in good year 2010. As an open seat it's not unwinnable for a good Democrat in a good year, but for now list this as GOP favored till the dust settles.

    In another Polk race, Democrat John McCormally exited this week, citing health issues, from the crowded open seat House 36 race (where Representative Janet Petersen is looking at a smooth transition to Senator Janet Petersen). John worked on a few campaigns over on this end of the state, including the landslide Dave Jacoby special in the summer of `03, and the Deeth Blog wishes him the best. As for House 36, it's still a crowded field that could go to a convention.

    Iowa CIty Federation of Labor Meets

    A special thanks to the politicos who showed up last night at the Iowa City Federation of Labor annual chili supper. No slight meant to anyone with a schedule conflict, but I like to give credit to those who make it. The legislators get a pass for being in session, but Mary Mascher stopped by on her way home. Also on hand were supervisors Rod Sullivan, Janelle Rettig and Terrence Neuzil, Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek (who helped organize his department before the voters kicked him upstairs into management), legislative candidates David Johnson and Sara Sedlacek... and don't forget Oxford Township Trustee Patrick Hughes, re-elected as City Fed president last night. Staffers were also representin' for Tom Harkin and Dave Loebsack.

    Congrats also to award winners Joe Marron, Mary Larew and the Carpenters.

    Getting 21 Wrong Again

    Once again, the politicians are wrong on the rights of young adults:
    Iowa lawmakers are being asked to crack down on those who provide alcohol to minors.

    A House subcommittee began work Wednesday on House File 396,which would make it illegal for the owner, lessee or person who has control over a property that is not a licensed premises to allow a person under the legal drinking age of 21 to consume or possess an alcoholic beverage on their property.

    Rep. Lee Hein, R-Monticello, said he filed the bill to address problems associated with underage drinking at house parties in college towns, “keggers” or alcohol-related events “at the back 40” of a farmstead.

    “It’s just another one of the tools in the toolbox to help in the enforcement of underage drinking,” he told members of a three-person House panel assigned to consider the bill.
    Hopefully this is just one of those silly season bills which dies at funnel time, but guess who's lining up behind it:
    Jessica Harden, a lobbyist representing Iowa City, said officials there would welcome any part of the bill becoming law. “Overall, they support anything that gives them more tools to help them control alcohol locally,” she said.
    The "lobbyist representing Iowa City," or better yet the elected officials representing Iowa City, should be taking completely the opposite approach. Insert my standard rant: the problem isn't "underage" drinking, it's the drinking age itself. My read of the Constitution is an 18 year old is an adult.

    And in Iowa City, they're sending in 20 year old ADULTS to play gotcha at Bo James, trying to drive Leah Cohen out of business. Yet still people wonder why the students are going to vote no on the jail.

    Meanwhile, where law enforcement has actual problems to deal with, Broadway, they want to deal with it by... changing the street name? Chris Rock has a classic suggestion:

    Great idea, Chris. Better than the real estate developers who name cul de sacs after their kids, or the 60-somethings who think they're hip and throw in an Abbey Road or a Penny Lane. If I'm ever a real estate developer I want to name streets after Marxist leaders and serial killers, or both, and then write the whole thing off as a tax loss when I can't sell lots on Stalin Street. Let's vote.

    New Name for Broadway
    Martin Luther King Boulevard
    Tupac Shakur Boulevard
    The Glorious Shining Path To The People's Revolution
    Boulevard of Broken Dreams
    Euphemism Street
    Justice Center
    Highway to Hell
    Ron Paul
    Free polls from Pollhost.com

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    Happy Anniversary, Howard

    From the inbox, Howard Dean makes a pitch, one of many today, for an Elizabeth Warren money bomb:
    Today is the two-year anniversary of Scott Brown's special election. He's playing up the anniversary to officially announce his reelection campaign and he's probably going to raise huge sums of money from big contributors because of it.
    If I was Howard Dean, I wouldn't be reminding anyone of anniversaries today. Because today is the eight year anniversary of the 2004 caucuses:

    Though today may eventually go down as the biggest event in caucus history for now the Dean Scream, which followed the much more important Dean Disappointing Third Place, is still high on the list. The Dean Scream, by the way, is still my ring tone, instantly recognized by Democrats everywhere.

    On a happier note, the 1/19/10 date that was a downer for Democrats in Massachusetts and nationally was a good day here in Johnson County, as Janelle Rettig won her special election for county supervisor.

    Iowa Parties Need A Hand

    I spent another night on the phone last night, doing post-caucus detective work in the role I've played for five presidential caucus cycles now, co-chair of the county credentials committee. I was asking folks Which committee are you on, are you a delegate or alternate, what's your email. Little stuff, but still a fair chunk of work on my own time. No complaints; I signed up for the job.

    So today I feel sympathy and solidarity with Matt Strawn and the crew over at the Iowa GOP, who had to swallow hard and announce that 1) there were eight out of 1774 precincts that are never going to be found and 2) the numbers from the 1766 they DO have now show Rick Santorum on top.

    Iowa GOP Releases Certified Iowa Caucus Presidential Preference Vote Totals

    Des Moines, IA – The Republican Party of Iowa today released the final, certified vote totals of the January 3 Iowa Caucus presidential preference vote. The final, certified vote totals represent 1,766 of the state’s 1,774 caucus precincts, and reflect a record-breaking 121,503 Iowans who participated.

    2012 Iowa Republican Caucus Certified vote totals (1766/1774 precincts certified)

    Rick Santorum 29,839

    Mitt Romney 29,805

    Ron Paul 26,036

    Newt Gingrich 16,163

    Rick Perry 12,557

    Michele Bachmann 6,046

    Jon Huntsman 739

    No Preference 147

    Other 86

    Herman Cain 45

    Sarah Palin 23

    Buddy Roemer 17

    Total (1766/1774) 121,503

    Certified vote totals were unavailable for eight of Iowa’s 1,774 precincts. Full, certified vote totals per precinct are available online at www.iowagop.org.

    “Just as I did in the early morning hours on January 4, I congratulate Senator Santorum and Governor Romney on a hard-fought effort during the closest contest in caucus history,” said Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn. “Our goal throughout the certification process was to most accurately reflect and report how Iowans voted the evening of January 3. We understand the importance to the candidates involved, but as Iowans, we understand the responsibility we have as temporary caretakers of the Iowa caucuses.””

    As Strawn noted during the January 4 announcement of unofficial caucus night vote totals, Iowa GOP rules provided for a 14-day period by which each of Iowa’s 99 counties were required to submit a Form E document from each of the caucus precincts within the county. The Form E document is the official record of the presidential preference vote in each of Iowa’s 1,774 precincts. The deadline for county Republican officials to submit the Form E documents was 5 p.m. (CST) on Wednesday, January 18. Following Wednesday’s deadline, Iowa GOP officials were able to certify results from 1,766 of the state’s 1,774 precincts.

    Strawn noted that a hallmark of the Iowa caucuses is the openness and transparency within which the proceedings occur. Not only do voting Iowans and presidential campaign representatives have the opportunity to observe the vote counting in each of the state’s precincts, but each presidential campaign had senior campaign officials in the Iowa GOP’s official tabulation center on caucus night.

    Strawn indicated this openness and transparency will continue during the post-certification period as the Iowa GOP will be making the precinct caucus Form E documents submitted during the certification process available for review to both presidential campaign officials and members of the media.

    Here's hoping the national press is sidetracked by Rick "the Platypus" Perry dropping out and endorsing Newt "the Newt" Gingrich today.

    Nate Silver, the best numbers guy in the biz, tweets: "The 8 caucus sites that Iowa says it lost and cannot certify, Santorum won 81-46 based on election night counts." You can't just add that in, but it does lend an additional feather of strength to the 34 Santorum... win?

    I don't trust Republicans on everything, but I've worked with enough of them on caucus stuff to know they take it as seriously as I do, and I really believe that Strawn and Crew did the best job they could tracking this stuff down.

    But my hope, my desperate hope, was that they'd come up with a number that was 1) 100% transparent and 2) had a Mitt number greater than the Santorum number, not for Romney's sake but for Iowa's.

    Well, now Iowa's secret is out there: our beloved caucuses are a volunteer operation. And some mistakes happen. Not out of a venal back-room vote stealing kind, that wouldn't fly. Just plain human error. And I know as well as anyone that an all-volunteer operation can get spread too thin. For all the excesses of money in our political structure, at the most local level the ball game is still an amateur sport.

    Looking at my own local team, our activists are clustered in a few precincts. But on caucus night you have to get someone from East Pole Bean to chair the East Pole Bean caucus. In real elections you could bring in someone from another precinct and have them vote absentee early. With no absentees in the caucus, if you bring in a caucus chair from another precinct, that person has to give up their vote. And I've seen county chairs do that, skipping their own caucus to drive to the far corner of the county and waiting for no one to show up, just to make it all happen.

    And you might not have any good volunteers in East Pole Bean. Or you might have a volunteer who's good at the phone bank but over their head running a meeting. Counting the votes is a different skill set than getting out the votes. Or you could have a volunteer whose finger slips punching a result number into a cell phone. Or -- and this happened to us -- a precinct chair who has a family emergency and has to leave town at the last second.

    And all this is at the worst possible time, when all the regular volunteers are off busy with campaigns, and in the last couple of cycles right over the holidays.

    I can't say exactly that those specific things happened to the Iowa GOP in 2012, but that's the kind of things that happen.

    The caucuses are too important to Iowa to let us become a punchline to all the old Florida jokes. The spotlight is too intense for all the volunteer excuses I just made.

    We party activists need some help. And we have the people to do it: our Secretary of State, county auditors, and poll workers. (Full disclosure: I work for the county auditor, on the accounting side of the office, but at election time we all help.) I don't have an exact plan, and I still want to see the parties running their own show. We don't want to be "too much like an election" and incur the wrath of our uneasy ally New Hampshire. But there's an existing infrastructure of people who are used to doing the paperwork and reporting kind of stuff, even if it just means recruiting some of the same experienced people on their own time.

    It's also a good time, even as the excitement of the caucuses fades away, to get involved in the party of your choice, in building that precinct by precinct organization. A lot of those committee spots went unfilled on caucus night, and us old timers on both sides would love to have you.

    It’s something to consider as we face the latest criticism. The expectations bar for the caucuses has been raised far above their town meeting origins, and planning ahead for additional resources, public and partisan, is the only way we have a hope for keeping first place.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    An Unconventional Convention

    This is a bigger deal than people think:
    In addition to announcing that President Obama would deliver his acceptance speech at Bank of America stadium, Democrats also said yesterday that they were shortening the convention from four days to three. (On Labor Day, they will instead gather at the Charlotte Motor Speedway for a day of organizing.) Make no mistake: This change will have a lasting repercussion. We likely won’t ever see four-day conventions any more. Also, given that they have just three days to work with, Democrats have a potential primetime scheduling challenge on their hands. How do you find three days to fit in primetime speeches by Obama, the first lady, the vice president, the keynote speaker, and Bill Clinton (who you know will want to receive speaking time)?
    Of course, with Labor Day as an "organizing" day it's still de facto four days.

    I don't think the convention, an institution nearly as archaic as the electoral college, will ever fade away completely. (What is gone forever is the political junkie's ultimate fantasy: the brokered convention.) The delegate seats are just too big a perk for the mid-level politicos who compete for them. The longest delegate fight I ever saw was in an uncontested year, 1996. We were voting until 3:45 AM at the state convention for the last national delegate seat.

    Three kinds of people get elected out of district and state conventions as national delegates, but 95 percent of that is one kind of people.

    I remember a line of eighty-four people waiting to speak and running for four Obama delegate seats at the `08 2nd CD convention. Mostly fresh-faced youngsters, but some long time veterans as well, as national delegate is kind of a lifetime achievement award. At that 2008 district convention, the first of those 84 people elected was former House Democratic leader Dick Myers, who amazingly had never been a national delegate before. Dick was one of the first six people in the whole country to back Jimmy Carter back in 1975, and even that was only good enough for national alternate.

    That's most of the delegates and serious contenders. Legislative committee chairs, mayors, state central committee members, former congressional candidates.

    Sometimes, though, national delegate is a Rookie Of The Year prize. Usually one of those fresh-faced youngsters gets elected out of the whole state. That's a good thing, and a lot of these folks are all-star activists, at least for a cycle or two. Sometimes they stay active longer, other times life intervenes. But they work hard at it while they're around.

    Then there's the fluke winner, again usually one in the state per cycle. The person who no one has ever seen before who decides: "I want to get involved in politics! I'll start simple by going to the national convention so I can learn about it!" having no clue how hard that is. And they get lucky. Give a good speech, maybe have the right combinations of demographics (a big deal at Democratic conventions), and capture the zeitgeist of the day. They get third and fourth and fifth choice votes on the early ballots and make it to the late rounds. (Democrats make you use all your votes on every ballot; if it's a Vote For Five ballot you have to use all five.) Their friends stick around late while supporters of the also-rans drift away after 1:00 or 2:00 AM, and they stumble into a win. Such is democracy.

    The old-timers hide their disappointment that their lifelong friend just lost, welcome the n00b, and hope she or he turns out to be a Rookie Of The Year.

    The newcomer goes to the convention, gets their picture taken with some famous people, comes home... and never shows up at the phone bank. You see them once, probably on the stage when the vice presidential nominee comes through the state. Four years later, you look at an old list and have no idea who that person was.

    Just describing a phenomenon here, not trying to be elitist.

    Which leads to the subject, much discussed in 2008 but an afterthought this cycle, of the superdelegates, the high-level officials who are automatic national delegates on the Democratic side. One problem with getting rid of the superdelegates that isn't discussed much: If the congressman has to run against the 84 fresh-faced youngsters and mid-level officials, the congressman will win. And the congressman doesn't want to beat the fresh-faced youngsters and mid-level officials, because that win will hurt some feelings and alienate some folks.

    The three day convention is also the latest convention ever, concluding on September 6. Historically the out party went in mid-July and the president's party in early August. The Democrats went in late August in 1964 and 1968 at the bequest of LBJ's ego, as he wanted his conventions to run over his August 27 birthday. Of course, `68 wound up not being "his" convention after all, and the Democrats had less time to reunite their bitterly split party. That wound up taking 40 years anyway but who's counting.

    It was the Republicans who first broke the September barrier in 2008. They also, sort of, broke the four day barrier, scuttling most of their Monday proceedings to look sensitive as a hurricane headed to the Gulf coast.

    Third party activists will note -- did, in fact, note in 2008 -- that September is after the filing deadline in many states including Iowa, a legal issue that the major parties frankly fudged in some cases. I know the importance of a good campaign kickoff, which this convention is clearly meant to be. But I'm also enough of a rules and credentials geek (post-caucus work is still cutting into my writing time, dear readers) that I believe in fair play.

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Deeth Blog Stirs From Slumber

    Took most of the holiday weekend for my post-caucus data entry marathon, which gave me something to do while I watched pass after pass get dropped. So I should have more time for writing now, since I'm suddenly much less interested in the NFL post-season.

    My dad, a retired coach and now an NFL owner, always used to tell the press this when asked the dumb sports reporter question, who's gonna win: "Well, if we play our best and they play their best, we'll win." (Reverse polarity as needed.) "But. If they play their best and we don't, they can win." Pretty much what happened yesterday.

    Of course, Jon Huntsman thought Iowa was a bye week, and I have little to say about his drop out other than what I said before. The more important development of the weekend than Huntsman throwing his three supporters to Mitt is the alignment of so-cons behind the once unlikely figure of Rick Santorum. So, in the end, what the caucuses really did was pick Santorum over Newt, Bachmann and Perry as the Not Mitt...

    ...while Ron Paul as always did his own thing. One subject of post-caucus grumblings has been the cross-over vote. It's not howls of rage, but it's out there -- a twitter here, a comment there, aimed at the Paul campaign. A campaign for which I feel much less camaraderie than I did before this incident... and here's a good take on Ron Paul as false prophet for the working class. And we all know a working class hero is something to be.

    Also in the party loyalty department, legendary Iowa journalist Chuck Offenburger is under some heat from his fellow Greene County Republicans for his support of Christie Vilsack. I can't do him justice, just go read it.

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    Anderson Out In House 24

    Back at District of the Day time when I looked at the new empty districts in Ankeny and Dallas County, I said: "Paired up rural Republicans, this is where your district went."

    No pair-up represented the politics of the past, geographically or politically, better than Richard Anderson and Cecil Dolechek in House District 24 in small and getting smaller Page, Taylor, and Ringgold counties. The pair-up resolves itself as Anderson, saying he needs more time for his law practice, stands aside.

    Anderson, 55, also briefly applied for a Supreme Court seat last year before withdrawing his name. Matbe he's hoping for another shot. Varnum justice David Wiggins is up for retention in 2012, and Anderson's thoughts on marriage equality are well known:
    “The reason we try to protect marriage because we want to protect something called responsible procreation,” said Anderson, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “We want to drive procreation into a stable relationship and procreation only happens between a male and a female. See a male and a female can do something that a homosexual couple cannot: They can create children accidentally. That’s the issue. It’s not about love. It’s not about romance. It’s about driving state policy toward responsible procreation.”
    Of course, the anti-equality folks have a more complicated message than NO this cycle. Wiggins is joined on the ballot by Terry Branstad's three appointees who replaced the deposed justices.

    As for House 24, Dolechek gets a safe GOP seat that's slightly more compact that his old four counties and change district.

    That Didn't Take Long Update: Tuesday Dave Tjepkes announced his retirement in paired up House District 10. Two days later, district mate and fellow Republican Tom Shaw announces he's in.

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Paul Beats Romney in New Hampshire

    No, this isn't someone in Co-os County entering a 22 instead of a 2. Ron Paul finished ahead of Mitt... in the Democratic primary. As I noted yesterday, for some bizarre reason it's a New Hampshire tradition to write in the names of the other party's candidates. Paul's 2273 votes gives him 3.7% and second place in both primaries.

    But this primary's main legacy may be the "I like being able to fire people" and "vulture capitalist" lines. Mitt's new nickname, via the Newt, is "King of Bain." Hey, Newt, Sting called asking for his royalty check. At least Weird Al has the artistic courtesy to give co-writer credits.

    Question: what's worse for Mitt? The largely true charge that he's a head chopping job cutter -- or the counter-attack? The pushback from elements of the GOP that such a charge is "anti-capitalism" is probably even more damaging to the bigger Republican cause. Oh please, oh please...

    Session Starts Silly

    The first week of session is always good for some silly bills. Merlin Bartz has a silly bill about... well, silly bills. The paired-up GOP senator, headed to a fall faceoff with Dem Mary Jo Wilhelm, wants to repeal a whole bunch of "obsolete" laws. But probably not the one that makes your neighbor pay for half your fence.

    First term Rep. Bob Hager (R-northeast corner of state) is getting all 1990 on us with a term limits bill. Think Terry Branstad will sign that one? And Hager's very presence in the House doesn't make the best case for his own bill. He was a late-starting candidate who used our present system of term limits, called "elections," to defeat an incumbent. A one term incumbent. (That would be Decorah Dem John Beard, now on the comeback trail seeking an open Senate seat. Despite the name, he does not have one. Much like ZZ Top's drummer.) As for me I like my legislators and want them to keep doing the good job they've been doing for a long time.

    With the session now underway Jerry Behn has taken over the Spinal Tap Drummer job of Iowa politics, Senate GOP leader, from Paul McKinley, who's leaving the legislature entirely at year's end. Bleeding Heartland has a good look at the district and the developing race. Former Knoxville city manager Dick Schrad announced this week on the Democratic side; Wayne County Supervisor Amy Sinclair was the first announced Republican soon after McKinley's retirement but we could well see a primary in this relatively even but slightly Republican seat.

    Coming soon to a courtroom near you: Iowa’s workers’ compensation commissioner Chris Godfrey's $1 million discrimination lawsuit against Terry Branstad. Part of this is opposing agendas; part of it (charges Godfrey) is homophobia. And making this better, Godfrey's attorney is one Roxanne Conlin... Pass the popcorn, this will be good to watch.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Screw Iowa Fails Again

    When, oh when, oh when will they learn? President Jon Huntsman is the latest to find out the hard way that the Screw Iowa strategery does not work.

    Huntsman joins President Wes Clark, President John McCain, and the pioneer of Screw Iowa, President Al Gore (1988) in the rogue's gallery of those who have loudly announced Ethanol Sucks and "Iowa picks corn New Hampshire picks presidents" only to crash and burn in New England.

    My main fun watching Huntsman's speech last night, once I figured out who this stranger was, was in noticing his obsession with "Ticket To Ride."

    He mentioned it enough times that Yoko called demanding he pay royalties to the Lennon estate, and he ignored the all too apt opening line "I think I'm gonna be sad I think it's today." MSNBC's Kelly O'Donnell noted that the song is from the album and movie "HELP!" which Huntsman definitely needs. And may yet get in the form of superPAC money from his billionaire dad.

    But despite the Money, there are in fact only two tickets to paradise, or at least to South Carolina. And Mitt and Ron Paul are on completely different vehicles. Paul will take his now usual 20-25% indigestible vote, while Newt and Perry and Santorum splinter the Anyone But Mitt vote. (Politico has the most complete results and it looks like Newt just edged Santorum for fourth place in the close race of the night.)

    So this thing winds down by the end of the month. Ron Paul will stay in it to the end, picking up delegates here and there as part of that "secret" strategy that I was not privy to. The big question is what he plans to do with them. Clearly the Paul campaign is about the movement and the issues rather than the presidency, But I don't see how delegates to a convention he can't control works toward his goals. The conventions are too late for the drama of a symbolic walk-out to launch a third party run; the filing deadlines are before the conventions. He won't be able to get his pet causes into a platform, he won't get a prime time speech. And what would be the point of that? They say the dude's "consistent" but I've been listening to the same Ron Paul speech he gave last night for the past five years.

    Lots of comments last night about Romney being the first non-incumbent Republican to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. Number one, that was a shift from the "virtual tie" line of last week, and number two, it ignores the fact that Iowa Republicans don't have their presidential straw vote in re-election years.

    As for the handful of Iowa Dems grumbling last week about individual votes not counting in the caucus process, Obama romped to an 81.5% win. Scattered write-ins took 10.5 points; historically most of those are for candidates in the other party's primary. The rest went to another Granite State tradition: eccentric candidates who file for the attention. Perennial contender Vermin Supreme scored 1.4%, and as much of an ObamaBot as I am, I would have been sorely tempted by that name on my ballot.

    Seymour Retires in Senate District 9

    One more Republican redistricting pair resolved, one less election this fall. James Seymour, R-Woodbine, is hanging it up after a decade, leaving Nancy Boettger, R-Harlan, alone in Senate District 9.

    Since District 9 is normally on the governor year cycle and because Boettger was just re-elected in 2010 and is now alone in the district, she will hold over until 2014. Had Seymour stayed, the two would have faced off in a primary this year. Seymour would have needed to run either way, because his 2008 term expires this year.

    That 2008 race was the textbook example of why you should always recruit a candidate everywhere. An October opposition research data dump publicized a 2002 arrest for soliciting prostitution, but the Dems had no candidate. Write-ins got an unusually high 11%.

    So it's kinda sorta been assumed since Map Day that Seymour was going to be the one to stand down here. Boettger owns a family farm based bed and breakfast and immediately said she wasn't moving, even though the new district is more Seymour's than hers. She keeps only her home county, Shelby, and pick up Harrison, Monona, Ida, and most of Crawford from Seymour plus some leftover rural bits of east Woodbury. Harrison County was in Boettger's first district when she was elected in 1994.

    Boettger last had an opponent in 2002, and the new seat had a Map Day GOP registration edge of more than 3000.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Tjepkes Retiring, Leaves Paired District to Shaw

    An opening day retirement resolves a two Republican redistricting pairup:
    State Rep. David Tjepkes, a Republican from Gowrie with a reputation for working across party lines on issues as diverse as road funding and protests at military funerals, announced Monday that he will not seek re-election this year.

    His retirement will end a decade-long legislative career in which he became chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

    ''At the conclusion of this, my fifth term in the Iowa House of Representatives, I have decided not to seek re-election to a sixth term,'' he said in a written statement. ''It has been a humbling and rewarding experience to serve all the folks in our district in the Iowa Legislature.

    Tjepkes represents House District 50, which includes Calhoun and Greene counties plus most of Webster County. The reapportionment process placed him in a new House District 10 along with Rep. Tom Shaw, R-Laurens. That district includes Calhoun, Humboldt and Pocahontas counties plus western Webster County.
    That "reputation for working across party lines" might have been more curse than blessing in a primary matchup with Shaw, a tea partier who first announced his 2010 run as an independent, won a hot primary, then picked up the old Delores Mertz seat from the Democrats on her retirement.

    Shaw quickly aligned himself with the Crazy Caucus. Tjepkes, a generation older and years removed from any tough races, was one of four House Republicans who did not co-sponsor the anti-marriage equality constitutional amendment (though he, along with all Republicans and sadly three Democrats, ended up voting for it in the end). This had some folks talking primary challenge even before the map came out.

    Shaw now is the favorite over Democrat To Be Named Later in this good Republican (reg edge +2333 on Map Day)

    That Didn't Take Long Update: Shaw announces two days later.

    Friday, January 06, 2012

    Another Star Dem Recruit

    Well, that didn't take long: The day after Assistant Majority Leader Steve Lukan (R-New Vienna, the eNVy of Iowa the sign says) announces his retirement -- an odd term at age 33, Democrats announce a top tier candidate:
    A longtime Dyersville community advocate and Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame recipient announced today that she’s running for an House seat being vacated an assistant Republican majority leader.

    Democrat Nancy Dunkel, 56, is running for House District 57, which covers almost all of Dubuque County except for the city of Dubuque.

    Dunkel was elected to the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame last fall and was the first chairwoman of the Iowa Bankers Association...
    Is this heaven? No, it's Iowa redistricting. Republican entrenched in swing seat leaves, new open Democratic seat with strong candidate. This one's in the must-win column for the Dems now.

    Democrat Wittneben Draws Two GOP Rivals

    A Republican primary looks likely in House District 7 in notth central Iowa. The area was one of the few bright spots for Democrats in 2010. Incumbent Democrat Marcy Frevert stepped down and Democrat John Wittneben held the seat by just 32 votes.

    Wittneben looks set for another tough one this year. The new district loses 1200 Democrats to become a swing seat, with a Democratic registration edge of just 121 on Map Day (probably a deficit post-caucus). Wittneben loses the Frevert base of Palo Alto County but keeps his own Emmet County base, all of Winnebago County, and rural north Kossuth. The seat also adds the city of Algona.

    At least two Republicans see an opportunity and spoke up on caucus night. Ted Gassman has been Winnebago County GOP chair and a school board member. Mark Frakes of Forest City is a West Point grad and former Army helicopter pilot; if he wins maybe he'll start a Chopper Coalition with Guy Vander Linden.

    As the small town papers trickle in with their local caucus stories, I'm getting more and more of this kind of stuff in my in box, from Google News alerts and from readers. Look for the usual full coverage of the filing deadlines this March and some updates in the District of the Day department once the caucus registrations and the detail work of reprecincting are done and we can get updated registration numbers.

    Thursday, January 05, 2012

    Good Luck, Republicans

    "When Mitt Romney won Iowa by eight votes and I've got a 20-vote discrepancy here, that right there says Rick Santorum won Iowa," True said. "Not Mitt Romney." - KCCI

    "Iowa GOP rules provide for a two-week certification process for each of the 1,774 precincts. The Iowa GOP will announce the final, certified results of the 2012 Iowa Causes following this process. Out of respect to the candidates involved, party officials we will not respond to every rumor, innuendo or allegation during the two week process. That said, Iowa GOP officials have been in contact with Appanoose County Republican officials tonight and do not have any reason to believe the final, certified results of Appanoose County will change the outcome of Tuesday's vote." - Matt Strawn, Republican Party of Iowa chair

    The first thing I wrote late Tuesday night:
    I used to say three things could kill the caucuses: a Screw Iowa candidate winning the presidency, an ice storm, or an ADA (or military) lawsuit demanding an absentee ballot. So... what does a dead heat result do? I don't care whether Santorum or Mitt wins; I care about 2016.
    One of the last things I wrote early Wednesday morning:
    I take the virtual tie line. One typo in one spreadsheet, one transposed digit, could flip this thing as the GOP checks the paperwork. By that point the national press and candidates will be in Nevada and South Carolina and it won't matter.
    To the nomination race, maybe. But it could matter a lot to Iowa.

    It's not the Republican Party of Iowa's fault that the result was close. And it's only a little bit RPI's fault that a local volunteer may have made a mistake. I spent a lot of time the last 36 hours tracking down details from my team's volunteers, and we Dems were just lucky enough we had a 97 percent victory margin instead of eight votes. (This does, however, point out some advantages of the Iowa Democrats' system of delegate results, which admittedly has different disadvantages. You're reporting numbers of people elected to a representative body, rather than raw numbers.)

    But the national press won't see that distinction, they'll just say "Iowa screwed up an election (sic)." Not "the Iowa Republicans." IOWA. No doubt they'll invite Stephen Bloom on to critique our IQs. The Beltway gang hates hates HATES flying out to Des Moines and driving two hours to Polebean Center, when Manchester, New Hampshire is a short commuter flight from NY and DC and everything else is within 30 miles. (Anyone else catch the Boston Globe's little Screw Iowa dig tonight with a Jon Huntsman endorsement?)

    I'm not a Democrat right now laughing at Matt Strawn's misfortune (I reserve that right for other matters). I'm an Iowan hoping they get it right. Because my first place in line in the 2016 Democratic race depends on it. Good luck Iowa Republicans, and thanks to all the volunteers on both sides who make the caucuses happen.

    We Are The 98.42 Percent

    The Iowa Democratic Party released the final, complete delegate counts for Tuesday's caucuses this afternoon. There's been some grumbling in the twittersphere and commentsphere that because some precincts, including a dozen here in the People's Republic of Johnson County, were delayed, there was some kind of results coverup. I can understand, since the 1996 regime at IDP did just that with the five delegates we elected for Uncommitted and Ralph Nader.

    Well, the final results including the "coverup" shifted by all of 0.04% compared to the preliminary results. And here in Johnson, which took much of the heat of the implied corruption, the late results that were supposedly the Vast Conspiracy by Sue Dvorsky's Mafia goons (of which I'm proudly one since 1990) actually improved the president's margin. My friend Sue deserves an apology, but I understand the frustration so I won't ask that.

    What happened? Just some human errors from the locals. Remember, at the county level the Iowa caucuses are an all-volunteer show. We had some rural precincts without chairs and a hard working couple who wasn't quite sure what to do with the extra packets, a family emergency in a student precinct, and a precinct chair who went out for a late dinner with his wife and forgot to call until 4 AM.

    Johnson County was fair. We (by that I mean me, personally, on my own time and skipping a friend's funeral to do it) explained the process to the uncommitteds. We bent the rules to let them speak to the large groups. I let them talk in my own precinct. And even with all that, in the state's most lefty county, Uncommitted could not reach 15 percent viability. (Though I expect they will be viable at the Johnson County convention due to attrition, determination and tenacity.)

    But almost no one is interested outside the readers of Iowa political blogs. Why not? Because there weren't enough people interested in going uncommitted to make it newsworthy. There weren't enough people to demand the speaking time and the clarification of the rules, or to get the national press interested in the results. If anything, uncommitteds and occupiers and protests have gathered FAR more than two percent of the Democratic news.

    Sure, GOP had a more elaborate results operation right down to Matt Strawn's grand announcement of the eight vote margin. That's because because people were interested. Don't forget: when Republicans have an incumbent president, they cancel their vote. Ask Pat Buchanan about that.

    There was a lot of noise, some of it for good reasons of policy, some of it because we screwed up in 1996. Some people in some places didn't know the rules, and maybe some people didn't make as much effort on that as Johnson did. You can make that argument and it may be fair. Argue about the viability rules and the no-absentee caucus process if you want; just understand that it all ties in to going first.

    But you CANNOT argue that there is a critical mass, or even significant, opposition to the president's renomination. 98.42 to 1.58. If Uncommitted was a candidate, she'd be dropping out and going home with her wife Marcus. We are the 98 percent, give or take a decimal point.

    I was a down-ballot candidate in a presidential year so I know this: The fate of the Democratic Party in this presidential year is linked to the fate of President Obama. The statement has been heard. Constructive criticism is always welcome. But the alternative is not President Sanders or President Kucinich. The Alternative is President Romney or President Santorum.

    Thanks to everybody who did the right thing and stayed with the Democrats, Obama or Uncommitted, on Tuesday. Now it's time to unite to win.

    Lukan Leaving Legislature

    State Rep. Steve Lukan, R-New Vienna, won't seek re-election to the Iowa House this fall.

    “After significant thought, I have decided that it is time for me to seek new challenges,” said Lukan in a press release. “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve our great state. I want to thank the voters for the opportunity to serve, and I look forward to working on major issues we need to address for Iowans during the upcoming legislative session. I intend to work hard in 2012 to deliver a balanced budget, property tax reform and improvements to our education system in Iowa.”

    Lukan will remain serving as a House Assistant Majority Leader. Lukan was first elected in 2002.
    Not entirely a shock; speculation started right after Map Day when Lukan got dealt a bad hand. His new House District 57 lost all of GOP leaning Delaware County and pulled entirely into Democratic rural Dubuque County, all the way to the city limits. The Map Day registration margin was 2326 for the Democrats, and even though that no doubt shrunk Tuesday night it's still a Democratic leaning seat, now open, that'll be key to the battle for House control.

    As for Lukan himself, he's in leadership and has a decade in office, despite being in his early 30s. Under the old lines, Lukan had a break-even district yet had established himself to the point where he went unopposed in 2010. So we may well see him back in the ball game in some role down the road.

    Back to the District of the Day Routine

    We turned into a pumpkin at midnight -- well, 1:20 AM to be exact -- Tuesday/Wednesday, so with the national press off to New Hampshire it's time for us locals to get back to the routine local stuff of non-presidential politics. And for me that's legislative races.

  • The big, though not entirely shocking, news is that Kim Pearson is bailing on the legislature after just one term. The rumor mill had long been saying she was considering it. There had even been reports that's she'd recruited her own primary challenger, tea partyish Jim Carley.

    Pearson upset conservaDem Geri Huser in 2010 with under 50 percent of the vote in a three way race, and that was as an unknown with an R after her name in a really good GOP year. She won few friends among her leadership to put it mildly, and derailed an anti-choice bill because it wasn't a pure total abortion ban.

    Pearson's retirement may actually improve GOP chances in the new version of Altoona-based House District 30, even though the margin gets slightly more Republican. I'd expect other Republican(s) to jump in. Joe Riding, a moderate-ish Altoona city council member, is already in on the Democratic side.

    Bleeding Heartland speculates Pearson may be forming a new anti-choice group; my bet is, now that she has even less to lose, she focuses on recruiting primary opponents for impure House Republicans and further monkeywrenching the whole legislative process.

  • In Ottumwa, Republican Blake Smith announced for House District 81 against Democrat Mary Gaskill.

    Republican Galen Davis took advantage of a local Democratic in-fight in this District Draws Itself turf (Ottumwa is 82% of a House district) for a fluke 1998 win. He got knocked off by Democrat Mark Tremmel, who left after one term to run for county attorney.

    In 2002 Gaskill, the former county auditor, won a close primary and settled in. Republicans looked like they were making a serious 2010 effort with Jane Holody; even Mike Huckabee took an interest. But Gaskill earned a 57% win. Ottumwa trended Republican the last two cycles with Mariannette Miller-Meeks on the ballot, Republican enough for the fluke 2010 election of Senator Mark "Chickenman" Chelgren. But with MMM not running, I expect Wapello County to trend blue.

  • And in really dull news, Republican Randy Feenstra announces for a second term in Sioux County dominated Senate District 2. The lines shuffle a bit but it's still the most Republican seat in the state.

    Old Senate District 2 was the scene of an epic primary in 2004 as relative moderate Dave Mulder knocked off the state's leading queer-baiter of the era, Ken Veenstra. Mulder stepped down after one term, semi-voluntarily (another epic primary was likely), and Feenstra moved from the county courthouse to the Senate with no opponent in either the primary OR the general. That's likely again this time, which I guess is good; one less race to boost Republican turnout.
  • Tuesday, January 03, 2012

    Deeth's Free Association Caucus Thread

    UPDATE: Real Dems Results: 98.6% Obama. Jump down for more.

    I used to say three things could kill the caucuses: a Screw Iowa candidate winning the presidency, an ice storm, or an ADA (or military) lawsuit demanding an absentee ballot. So... what does a dead heat result do? I don't care whether Santorum or Mitt wins; I care about 2016.

    At this point I'm rooting for a narrow Santorum win because I think Mitt will let a narrow second slide; Santorum might be more litigious and fight for the Official win. And there's not really a recount process for what's really just a straw poll at a party meeting.

    The Ames Straw Poll is dead. So are the two candidates who peaked on that split screen day, Bachmann and Perry. Perry at least is smart enough to know it. My only regret is that I never got my "the Platypus" meme to stick.

    So my bet of a Ron Paul win sucked thanks to my Johnson County perspective. But consider: What if the caucused had been held when originally scheduled on February 6, and not in the middle of college winter breaks? Thanks, Florida.

    But how many Paul and Santorum people stuck around to elect delegates after the Romney and Gingrich people went home?

    Enough of the Republicans for now, let me tell you about my experience on the Democratic side.

    My opinion is that the GOOD part of the caucus is the run-up: the visits, the national attention. And we Democrats didn't get that this cycle. I get that Obama/Plouffe/Quaxelrod probably wanted to keep The Big Guy above the fray. But Bill Clinton did pre-caucus weekend here in 1996 and we filled Carver-Hawkeye. Sorry but the video link just didn't cut it. Heck, even sending Joe would have helped.

    Actual caucus night is a chore. It wasn't as horrible as four years ago, when we could barely move, but it was still a long night. We had 300ish (I was busy and missed the exact count) for the seven precincts at Southeast Junior High. I was busy with straggler sign-ins and problems and missed most of the presidential presentation.

    Johnson County's party exec board decided last week that we needed to bend the state rules and let non-Obama speakers address the large group. There were three speakers on each side, counting Obama himself. The first uncommitted speaker was receieved OK on specific issues but got a few boos when she described Obama as "worse than Bush" on some issue that I don't recall at the moment.

    After the third non-Obama speech an Obama supporter asked to "rebut" some remarks. The informal agreement our exec board hammered out was supposed to be equal numbers on each side, but the large group voice-voted (which wasn't formally in the ruled) to let the rebuttal speaker speak. I may have been the lone no, simply because I wanted to stick to what had been worked out.

    But the mood of the night was to talk, and talk, and talk, It was after 8 when we got into our precinct room; I was handling Iowa City 10 where I live now, and Iowa City 11 where no one signed up to chair. (After reprecincting, I'll be in 11. So I got to caucus with both my old and new precinct.) I won a contested (!) election for chair, and an uncommitted fellow was my secretary.

    Precinct 11 was easy. It's a largely student apartment precinct and only three people showed up. They were all for Obama, elected themselves, called a friend, elected her as a fourth delegate, and left.

    Precinct 10 wound up in a Mexican standoff. I'm not supposed to say numbers but I will anyway, Four delegates. 15 bodies for Obama, 9 for Uncommitted. (This was after a discussion on whether there could be an "uncommitted" group and an "undecided" group.) The delegate math there works out to 2.5 Obama, 1.5 Uncommitted. The rules say you round up above .5 and down below .5, but a panicked re-read of the rules didn't tell me what to do with two .5's, and neither could the rules experts next door in the mighty 18th Precinct.

    Both sides offered the usual deal: if one of your people comes over, we'll make them the delegate under our banner. You can switch back to whatever you want at the convention. Both sides knew that it wasn't about who was the delegate -- the actual election of delegates later was accomplished by the usual "put your hand down to be an alternate" method -- but about the number tonight.

    Later I learned that if the standoff can't be resolved you flip a coin. But by that time, Uncommitted had won the filibuster and yes I choose that word deliberately. An Obama couple with a young child had to go home, which gave Uncommitted the second delegate. So a clear Obama majority at alignment time gets reported as a tie. Such is caucus math.

    At that point all but three of us Obamabots went home, and the Uncommitteds stayed. The committee and platform elections went uncontested. I got re-elected to the central committee out of precinct 10, which is being split up in about four directions. A seat went begging in precinct 11, so I'll probably resign from one and run for the other when we reorganize our central committee. (That'll be a mess with reprecincting, but frankly the national press doesn't care so we just have to figure it out. Thanks again, Florida.) I'm also on the annoyingly named Committee On Committees

    Some caucuses have the mood of: let's pass all the resolutions tonight and let the platform committee do it. That's what I'm used to and frankly what I prefer. I'm a GOTV guy not a platform guy, and I'm actually considering voting no on the whole platform just to make some sort of point. (If we can't make people follow it, why have it?)

    Some precinct have the tradition of talking through them all, amending them word by word. My precinct 18 next door neighbors do that. That's also what my folks wanted to do. I'll be honest, I wasn't too tuned in, especially after the Oh Crap moment when I realized I still needed to call my results in! There was lots of the Occupy finger wiggling; I'm not of that movement so I don't get it. We had a straggler from the wrong precinct; we let him read his resolutions, someone else formally made the motion, we passed them.

    Precinct 18 headed out the door; precinct 10 stayed. We finally wrapped at 10:02 PM. Sure, democracy takes time, but did it need to take THAT much time?

    I did not hear the phrase Hey Hey Ho Ho all night, and I am glad.

    1:13 AM and now they're calling it Mitt by 14 votes. Again this is a political party meeting not an election so there's not really a "recount" process. But there's really no way to describe this as anything but a tie. And a record low, below 25 percent "win."

    Later they update this to Romney by 8. Even more of a tie. If this was a real election they'd still be recounting it by national convention.

    The Real Democratic Results land at 1:15 AM:
    With 97.18 percent of precincts reporting, the Iowa Democratic Party has released county-level data for state delegate equivalents earned in tonight's Democratic caucuses.

    President Obama earned 98.46 percent of the reported delegates to the state convention, with 1.54 percent reporting as other. Data is available by county at http://iowademocrats.org/caucus/hPressVt76HujI/.
    See, this is what I didn't like about the bogus attendance "result." Uncommitted sure made more than 1.54% of the noise, so their result, no matter what the delegate math, is an embarrassment. (and as noted, in my precinct the delegate math actually gave Uncommitted half the delegates with less than half the people.)

    So instead of giving them the two-stage result to complain about, why not just emphasize the real number out there? Obama: We are the 98 percent.

    (Wonder how it woulda gone if folks hadn't given Ron Paul a chance to win?)

    My bet is the 2 point somethin' percent of precinct not reporting are mostly small rurals with no attendees.

    Two headlines:
    News from The Hill:
    Romney wins Iowa caucuses by 8 votes

    POLITICO Breaking News
    The Iowa caucuses delivered a virtual tie for first place

    Can you imagine the paranoia and conspiracy theories if it had been Ron Paul in second by eight votes? I was really hoping that my tale of getting tosses from his training would have gotten more play.

    I take the virtual tie line. One typo in one spreadsheet, one transposed digit, could flip this thing as the GOP checks the paperwork. By that point the national press and candidates will be in Nevada and South Carolina and it won't matter.

    The tweets and comments are slowing to a trickle so I'll end with this.

    I met Santorum a couple times. Though I think he's entirely unelectable and though I loathe his views, I found him personable and likeable. (I find Dennis Kucinich annoying despite our by and large agreement on issues.) And leaving aside the internal politics of the fight for King of The Iowa Christian Conservatives -- and that battle will play itself out the next few months -- Rick Santorum's tie tonight is a win for Iowa.

    Hear me out, Democrats. Hear me out, Stephen Bloom, preparing the latest screed about the relatively high degree of consanguinity in our gene pool.

    Rick Santorum did it the Jimmy Carter way. The Iowa way. The guy had nuthin.' No office, no base, no money, no plausible rationale.

    At the end of July each year we have a mock election at our county fair and post results periodically. At the next to the last results, the middle of the fourth and final day,Rick Santorum had zero votes. An hour before closing time, Karen Santorum and six of the kids showed up. It's just for fun, so they all voted. Pitiful? Not really. Because they were at all those county fairs and county meetings and visited Pole Bean Center and Casserole Junction, sometimes more than once.

    I'll admit, I skipped a lot of them: who wants to drive to the next county to cover some fourth tier candidate with no chance? I even blew off the six block bike ride when he was on campus with BVP, the night after Obama got bin Laden.

    This result is not simply proof of what social issue throwbacks we are. This result is good news for some unknown Democrat with no money and lots of shoe leather who will start showing up at Iowa county party barbecues sometime in 2013, who will campaign with legislators in 2014 the way Santorum campaigned against the judges in 2010. And where the small fish swim, the big fish follow. And sometimes the little fish grow.

    If you had told me at that point that five months after that county fair, a Some Dude who lost his own Senate seat by 20 points, who literally couldn't draw votes outside his immediate family, would wind up in a tie for first in the Iowa caucuses, I've have eaten my beret.

    As for Rick Santorum, he's probably wondering where he could have found nine more hands to shake.

    Caucus With Your Own Party

    For all the criticism we Iowans get at this special moment every four years, we at least have the reputation for playing the game of politics fair and straight.

    That's one of the reasons that the massive crossover vote from Democrats and non-party voters -- that term "independent" always seems self-righteous to me-- I expect in tonight's caucuses, doesn't feel right to me.

    I've predicted that crossover votes will lead to a Ron Paul win tonight. But if only self-identified "real" Republicans were caucusing, Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum would be more likely to win.

    Now we're Iowa Nice, of course, so we have a pretty open set of rules. You can change affiliation on the spot (though Republicans, to make a political point about photo ID laws, are asking for ID to re-register this year. Democrats, in part to make the opposite point, aren't.)

    I've seen crossover interference for years, on a local level. We get a lot of "Democrats for a day" in Johnson County, which hasn't elected a Republican county 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.)

    Most of this, despite the complaints of party regulars like me and my evil Republican twins, isn't a calculated effort to nominate a weak candidate for the other party. It's usually a sincere effort to vote for someone, or sometimes against someone. Sorry, but in my mind that's what general elections are for. Gaming the system always bothers me. Political parties deserve the right to choose their own candidates, without interference from the other team, and that right has ben successfully argued all the way to the Supreme Court.

    But that's goody-goody idealism. Here's a practical reason.

    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, 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.

    Johnson County is virtually guaranteed such a convention, with mid-term supervisor Sally Stutsman running for a strongly Democratic legislative seat with no incumbent.

    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. Sure, there's going to be a first-stage attendance Democratic "result" reported early in the evening, before the actual delegate count gets reported. I don't support that idea and will do my best to report the real result. But 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.

    Monday, January 02, 2012

    Betting The Beret

    OK, here's the polls

    Paul 20
    Romney 19
    Santorum 18
    Gingrich 14
    Perry 10
    Bachmann 8
    Huntsman 4
    Roemer 2
    Adds up to 95. Who the hell the 4 percent are for the Screw Iowa Huntsman, isn't explained. And has Buddy Roemer -- whose votes actually will be tabulated, even set foot in this state?

    Romney 24
    Paul 22
    Santorum 15
    Gingrich 12
    Perry 11
    Bachmann 7
    Adds up to 93.

    I know the officially polled momentum has been downward, and I know I have a unique viewpoint here in the People's Republic. But I think all the late polls are seriously underestimating the crossover for Ron Paul. Without a compelling reason to go to the Democratic caucus -- and no, an uncommitted vote or seeing Obama on TV aren't compelling reasons -- left-leaning independents and a significant number of Democrats will cross over, and that'll be just ebough to put Ron Paul over the top. Well, Ron is kind of over the top anyway.

    So here's how I'm calling it:
    Paul 23
    Santorum 21
    Romney 20
    Gingrich 14
    Perry 12
    Bachmann 7 and dropping out on caucus night
    Other 1.5
    Cain 1 percent round that down to 0.999
    Huntsman 0.5
    Roemer some two digit number of total votes
    The nationals are underestimating the crossover appeal of Ron Paul--not to me, but to antiwar Democrats who really don't have much excitement on the Democratic side. The preemptive grumbling about crossovers has already started, and as distasteful as I find the practice the rules are the rules.

    Note that insanely low "win" number at 23 percent. Mitt tries to spin that as "three way tie."

    The Santorum second will play out like the Pat Robertson second of 1988, only more so with the Ron Paul first. End result will be that whatever party establishment is left behind Newt and Perry will move en masse to Mitt.

    Bachmann drops out on caucus night. one of Gingrich and Perry survives to South Carolina, and Mitt de facto clinches in Florida.