Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 In Review Part 1: Top Ten Posts

New Year's Eve is a retrospective day for most politico-journalists. More so for me, because December 31 is also the day I launched this blog, 13 years ago.

This year's review is handicapped at the moment by some connectivity issues with Twitter - now my primary medium, though the blog is still important for long-form pieces - and by a nasty cough that's had me down the last couple days.

So while I struggle to grab my tweets for the year I'll review the year statistically rather than chronologically. And I'll do it in countdown format, because New Year's Eve is about the countdown.

I hate to use traffic as my metric, especially since my highest traffic post of all time was also one of my lamest. But this year I think the top posts are mostly a good indicator of what the regular readers are interested in.

11. Because this list goes to eleven. 2nd Annual Charity Beret Auction: The countdown starts out self-referential. Since I'm stuck with the beret as a trademark, I may as well do something good with it, and this year Peter Byler donated $211 to charity for a $2 hat.

10. Someone's Polling Dems in Iowa: I got surveyed on February 2 and posted details of the call. "My guess is someone in Hillaryworld is message-testing and looking for the best way not to run against Warren - because as much as I wish it I don't expect it - but rather for the best way to co-opt Warren's message and rhetoric, to fend off a challenge from the left."

9. Iowa City Council: Can't Wait For Election Day The big caucus stuff, like the debates and cattle calls, didn't show up high on the charts, because the real-time focus was on Twitter and because there were so many national people covering them. Instead, local posts got the traffic and this post is the prime example. It was one of the first articles anywhere that talked about a "Core Four" slate running in the Iowa City council election. 

8.  Patel Out in 1st CD: No major insights here, but I think people assumed I had the inside scoop on the news that Ravi Patel was withdrawing for the 1st Congressional District race in June.

7. A Meal With Martin O'Malley. One of only two caucus pieces to make the list - when you get a one on one with a candidate, even one polling in low single digits, you get readers. This was a lot of fun.

6. Former Council Member Steven Kanner Dies. A local story that got a lot of non-local traffic from people who knew Kanner after he left Iowa City when his term ended in early 2004. His name comes up in the next piece, too...

There's a BIG leap forward in traffic to the next tier of stories:

5. Core 4, Old Guard 0. My late election night number cruncher, analysis, and celebration of the epochal Core Four city council win.
"For the first time ever, the People's Republic of Johnson County has voted, in a city election, in a way that resembles the way we vote in general elections. And it's not just a win for the next four years. In a very big way, this is a permanent win for Iowa City progressives. Because the old guard lost something more important than Dobyns and Payne and Hayek's open seat today. They lost their scare tactic."
4. Split Decision In Iowa City School District. The same post only for school board - interesting that the school board vote got (slightly) more traffic than the more historically important city vote.

3. Hayek's Last Act. This was fun to write - and may have actually helped.
Hayek long ago chose the unnamed de facto party of traditional local Iowa City power, a party he was literally born into, over the Democratic Party. And in that unnamed party (ya gotta admit, Core Four is at least catchy), there's nowhere to go up from mayor.

So this city election, in which he is not seeking re-election, is likely to be Matt Hayek's last act in local politics. And he's chosen to go out with no class.

As he was in 2010, Hayek is the designated deliverer of the Scare The Townies message, a stink bomb dropped in Thursday morning's Press-Citizen... 
The lame duck mayor's ham-handed editorial backfired and was widely shared, along with rebuttal, to motivate the Core Four's supporters. Plus it's not every day you can use the mayor in a Scumbag Steve meme.

2. The Ministry Is Interfering At Hogwarts. It's a close race between the Core Four win and the Bruce Harreld hiring for Story Of The Year in Iowa City. I've backed down some since September, as I think Harreld's opponents are overplaying their hand by pouncing on little stuff rather than saving their ammo - sorry! gun reference! - for the first substantive fight.

But I still think political payback is the best explanation of the hire, and that "the Ministry is interfering at Hogwarts" the best analogy.

1. JJ Post Mortem. Bucking the local trend, the top post of the year is a caucus piece that drew some national pickup, and a lot of Bernie Sanders blowback, around this observation:
The image that sticks with me from last night is of Sanders supporters leaving after his speech, through O'Malley's and into Clinton's.

Sanders leaders are aware it was a bad optic, especially since Press Row was a peninsula surrounded on three sides by Team Bernie while the Clinton sections were on the other side.  They're trying to get word out that the early departure was forced by transportation, as the crowd was largely students who bused over. (A problem solved by paying the bus drivers whatever overtime was needed.) And fingers are pointed at the security check in, which pushed the start time back an hour.

But walking out on the other speakers is very telling...
One of the reasons I'm staying neutral is so I can make candid and fair assessments of all three campaigns. I'll keep doing so in person when possible for the next month, and from a distance for as long as the nomination race continues...

Friday, December 18, 2015

Datapanik In The Year Zero

Here's what little smart stuff I can see in the middle of the shit storm:
  1. Everyone needs to calm the hell down before things blow up even worse. Bitter primary disputes lead to losing. Iowa veterans of Kerry and Dean in 2004, you know what I mean. STILL NEEDED
  2. This needs to get fixed and fixed fast - if possible, before the debate tomorrow night. DONE
  3. Team Bernie needs to be more upfront about what happened with the data and fully cooperate with internal investigations. PENDING
  4. The DNC and NGPVAN need to investigate fast - and I mean around the clock fast - and get Team Bernie back on line as soon as possible. DONE
  5. And yes, someone on Team Bernie needs to apologize to Team Hillary. NOT YET
  6. And Team Hillary needs to graciously accept, even though:
  7. Data that's taken is taken. There's no giving it back and no way to prove it hasn't been used. So Team Hillary has suffered damage that can never be made good.
  8. A ground campaign is dead in the water without its data. So Team Bernie has also suffered damage - a day and a half that can never be made up, and unless they got run on Thursday morning, there won't be any walk or call lists for this weekend.
  9. Even so, “we need the data that has been stolen by the DNC” is remarkable chutzpah from the campaign that did the stealing or looking or whatever it was in the first place.
  10. A simple version of why this matters: Two of the queries - and it's pretty clear there was some systematic work happening - were for strong and weak Hillary supporters respectively. You add the Sanders supporters Hillary has identified to your list of "ones," you cross the Hillary die hards off your call list and save hundreds of hours of calls - and use that time to call the weak supporters who might be persuadable.
  11. Weak Hillary supporters, you may need to turn off your phones for the next seven weeks. Even if Team Bernie didn't keep the data, Team Hillary will be trying to control the damage.
  12. Very very few people in the national press, and even fewer real world voters, understand any of this. But in the insular world of campaign organizing, this is a Where Were You When moment.
  13. Everyone needs to calm the hell down before things blow up even worse. 
  14. Try to look at facts without filtering them through your campaign's official line.
  15. The DNC probably needed to pull the plug, at least long enough to figure out what happened.
  16. But because of other issues - the debate schedule and her obvious preference for Clinton - Debbie Wasserman Schultz is mistrusted and hated in the other campaigns. (Also, for me, there's her foreign policy views that put parochial district pandering ahead of national interest.)
  17. So I doubt this is a Grand DWS conspiracy... 
  18. ...but I can totally see how someone could think that and I don't even blame them.
  19. Best analysis:
  20. The incident has also called into question Sanders' control over and engagement with the mechanics of his own campaign - he didn't know about the incident till  Debbie Wasserman Schultz told him.
  21. There's also some risk to damaging Sanders' Not Just Another Politician brand, depending on how the investigation turns out.
  22. Suing the DNC is a double edged sword. It reinforces support among Bernie's self styled outsiders...
  23. ... but "he's not really a Democrat" and "he won't do anything to help the down ballot candidates" are still live issues for a lot of near-left undecided Democratic activists. The near-left undecideds are where my county at least will get decided... and to these folks, suing the Democratic Party that you either did or didn't just join is terrible optics.
  24. And supporters talking about third parties because they've been locked out of data for 28 hours is even worse optics.
  25. Headline refers to.
  26. The argument that Sanders staff grabbed data to prove there had been a breach is analogous to the reporter who sneaks a fake bomb onto an airplane. It makes the point, but it's still a big no-no.
  27. And it's not a fake bomb. It's a real bomb that may or may not have been detonated. Give the techies a few hours to see if it's ticking.
  28. Everyone needs to calm the hell down before things blow up even worse.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Howard Dean Retro Liveblog

This morning I joked that since Howard Dean is coming to town, I might go all 2003 retro and live-blog him rather than tweeting. Then I realized that the Republican debate will jam politico-journalism Twitter beyond usable capacity, so I decided to follow through.

Dean is, of course, not here in Iowa City on his own behalf. He's here for Hilalry Clinton - and while he'll no doubt try to stay on Clinton message, it's inevitable that the Vermont Factor will surface and the subject of Bernie Sanders will come up.

I'm going retro 2003 with my wardrobe. Found this in the back of the closet:

7:08 and we have about 50 people on hand eating pot luck and waiting for Howard Dean. A couple other folks have joined me in wearing Dean shirts (this is a retro endorsement of Dean and not an endorsement of Dean's 2016 endorsement, said Mr Neutral)

7:15 and Howard in the house! Dignataries on hand include Chris Tayor der burgermeiser of Swisher and the one and only Sue Dvorsky. (Mary Mascher was a late arrival)

7:26 and Dean is working the room - I was one of the first hands grabbed because of the shirt. Another arrival is Zach Wahls, who released his Hillary endorsement yesterday. That's a big deal in Johnson County, with young Iowans, and the LGBT vote.

7:35 and I'm cheating a little on the liveblog rules because it's the easiest way to get pics up fast. The tech has come a long way since 2003. Dean was on the front edge of tech in politics - Obama won with the Dean strategy and Hillary is running with it now. Hoping to chat with him about that.

Organizer drops a reference to 50 State Strategy #drink

Dean is on at 7:38. "This is almost like a Dean reunion," he says, with shout outs to Leshtz and Wahls (who tells me his first campaign event was a Dean rally when he was 13).

"I know something about Iowa politics and this is a first rate staff."

"I like Hillary a lot because she knows what the facts are. Right now there's a whole party that doesn't care what the facts are," he says referencing the GOP debate.

7:43 "Citizens United reversed the clause of the declaration of independence that says we are all created equal."

"There's only one person in this field who understands anything about foreign policy." Specified GOP field... but maybe a veiled reference to his fellow Vermonter? Dean points to today's terrorism speech that I have not had time to read about.

"The people who are most likely to help us are Muslim Americans." Says he speaks to students - they are more afraid of ISIS than the rest of America. "Who has a bigger investment in making sure ISIS goes away? We cannot turn 1.2 billion people against us by doing what Donald Trump is doing."

7:48 "None of those people on that Las Vegas stage are qualified to be president - not one."

Dean wraps up in just over 10 minutes. Leaves lots of mingling time.

8:47 and I'm home. The liveblog plan pretty much went to hell as soon as the prepared remarks were over. In my nostalgia I was mentally prepped for a longer speech and somehow I forgot that Dean is not the candidate. (I asked how old he would be in 2024: "Too old.")

So it was a mix and mingle event and Dean mixed and mingled at length with pretty much everyone, not leaving until the room was pretty much just down to staff.

He did have a few minutes for a couple more formalized questions with me. Dean very carefully avoided direct criticism  of Bernie Sanders and said they get along well. He said he chose Clinton because he had a more broad base of experience, again emphasizing foreign policy; clearly this is what the On Message message is 48 Days Pre Iowa.

Dean says Iowa and New Hampshire have an important role but that it was also important to add the diversity of South Carolina and Nevada to the early state mix (that happened in 2006 for 2008, during his tenure at the DNC). Dean also said the DNC needs to be more of an organizing committee and less of a re-election committee.

As for the debate schedule, which his DNC successor Debbie Wasserman Schultz has taken a lot of flak for, Dean said he agrees with limiting the number of debates, citing the Republican's self-inflicted damage from their 20-plus debate schedule in 2012. He disagrees, however, with barring candidates who participate in unsanctioned debates (like the Black and Brown Forum in Des Moines was supposed to be) from being in the official debates.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Split Screen Organizing

I keep my Twitter feed going during my weekly football game. Mostly for the football talk...

...but I keep politically tuned in as well.

Around kickoff time yesterday I noticed a split screen battle in the Democratic race going on in my backyard.

Bernie Sanders was in Mt. Vernon, where he drew a crowd officially body-counted at 1100 people, with an intro by Linn County supervisor Brent Oleson (when he converted, he REALLY converted.)

Meanwhile in Iowa City, a Hilalry Clinton event had a full, if smaller, room, but no candidate.

(Not that Team H is neglecting the area, as Herself is in town Wednesday, and Howard Dean is here for Clinton tomorrow.)

This crowd was for a LONG precinct captain training, going over the nuts and bolts of caucus night.

So which crowd is a better indicator of strength, seven weeks out from caucus night?

Today's Register poll shows Clinton with a 48-39 lead over Sanders, with Clinton up 6 and Sanders up 2 since the last poll in October which included Joe Biden. Martin O'Malley, God bless him, is stuck at 4. (Those O'Malley second choices could matter: a delegate here, a delegate there...)

(Also, for the record, dead Register, I REALLY hate having to read a .pdf document in an embedded Scribd window.)

So is Sanders nearing the ceiling that lots of folks think he has? Hard to say - but nine points is close enough that late events and variable turnout can make a difference, and the Register poll indicates that Sanders has a strong edge among caucus rookies.

That's the challenge for Team Bernie. To get them counted, you have to get them there.

Here's a shot from a Sanders caucus training, also yesterday, reportedly in Davenport. This may not be indicative of the whole day - Team Hillary was social media-ing their events a lot more aggressively, though not as aggressively as Clay Matthews who sacked Cowboys backup quarterback Matt Cassell twice

And of course a lot of Team Bernie's energy was soaked up by the candidate event.

But there's been some grumbling from Team Bernie about the complexity of the caucus process for newcomers. That's one of the reasons I neutraled myself out. Somebody always walks into the caucuses feeling like they're gonna get screwed and not treated fairly. I know that - I was a Bill Bradley guy. So I'm keeeping all three teams in the loop in the process stuff. (Also: Neutrality means I can write frank assessments like this without people filtering it through who I endorsed.)

That said, grumbling about the rules is never a sign of caucus confidence. Hillary could tell you that, and did, a lot, in 2007. And I'm betting that at least some Bernie backers balk at checking that D on the voter registration form so they can caucus with the Democrats.

There's also a track record of difficulty getting Sanders supporters to show up at events OTHER than a personal candidate appearance. They can fill a big hall for him... but can they fill school gyms without him?

Here's an indicator that Team Bernie thinks their chances are better in next door New Hampshire, where independents can simply pick either party's primary.

It's ironic that the best bet for saving First In The Nation may be: Hillary  wins Iowa, rival wins New Hampshire, Hillary wins nomination, the reverse of how things played out in 2008.

In many other ways, Clinton is running from the Obama playbook of 2008. It wasn't just the fresh outsider energy that led Obama to his historic and crucial Iowa win - it was lots and lots and lots of field work. Sanders is doing that work, of course, but Clinton is doing it harder, bigger, and better.

At this point, caucus weeks are like dog years, and seven caucus weeks is a lifetime. But for THIS weekend, I'm guessing the organizer crowds are a better indicator than the candidate crowds.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Mein Trumpf

Ya know, I think I prefer Donald Trump's speeches in the original German.

Yep, it's time for a repeal of Godwin's law, because nothing short of "fascist" captures the essence of Trump's proposal to bar all Muslims - even US citizens temporarily abroad - from entering the United States.

The Donald repeated his remarks to standing ovations last night, though it's not clear whether the crowd was chanting HEIL! or just SIEG! He did clarify that he would allow Muslim members of the US military to return home, a position modeled on Hindenburg's progressive policy of exempting Jewish war veterans from the first wave of Nazi laws.

Consider if you can these policy proposals:
4. Only those who are our fellow countrymen can become citizens. Only those who have (majority ethnic group) blood, regardless of creed, can be our countrymen. Hence no (member of specified minority religion) can be a countryman.

5. Those who are not citizens must live in (nation state X) as foreigners and must be subject to the law of aliens.

6. The right to choose the government and determine the laws of the State shall belong only to citizens. We therefore demand that no public office, of whatever nature, whether in the central government, the province, or the municipality, shall be held by anyone who is not a citizen.

7. We demand that the State shall above all undertake to ensure that every citizen shall have the possibility of living decently and earning a livelihood. If it should not be possible to feed the whole population, then non-citizens must be expelled from (nation state X).

8. Any further immigration of non-(majority ethnic group) must be prevented. We demand that all non-(majority ethnic group) who have entered (nation state X) since (tragic date in national history), shall be compelled to leave (nation state X) immediately.
24. We demand freedom for all religious faiths in the state, insofar as they do not endanger its existence or offend the moral and ethical sense of the (majority ethnic group) race. 

Pretty simple: Deny citizenship to an unpopular minority - and we're already talking about repealing 14th Amendment citizenship and railing against "anchor babies." Next step:  deny human rights to non-citizens.

And, just for fun, let's bash the media:
23. We demand that there be a legal campaign against those who propagate deliberate political lies and disseminate them through the press.

These are, of course, from Adolf Hitler's 25 Point Nazi Party platform. But they're easily recognizable as mainstream points in American political debate today, and it's Donald Trump who put them there, shoving the Overton Window so far to the right that we can turn our head and see the Reichstag burning.

Mass deportation used to be only whispered, not openly discussed. Even Steve King only went so far as to imply it. Now it's been mainstreamed, and as MSNBC's Christopher Hayes noted yesterday. "Pretty soon 'not rounding people up' will be the moderate position." I think we're already there, and I'm expecting the Anschluss of Canada any day now.

Am I hysterical here? Well, we're living in a district where the lone Republican congressional candidate is openly talking about killing people. You know who else...

A small part of me wants to see the Republican Party sink with Trumpism. Let them lose a Goldwater landslide, let President Hillary or Bernie or Martin sweep in with a filibuster proof majority, fix some stuff, and appoint Supreme Court judges who will sit till 2050.

But a bigger part of me wants America to back away from the edge.

One of the best parts of working on the caucuses this year has been building my relationships with the local Republicans. I know they are better people than this.

It's simply not good for democracy to have one of two major parties with less than zero (see what I did there) appeal to large and growing segments of the population. The sooner Trumpism is stopped, the sooner we can regain a more functional political culture.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

2nd Annual Charity Beret Auction

Congrats and thanks to Peter Byler of Iowa City, winner of the second annual charity beret auction. Peter sets a new record. Last year, caucus guro Dave Redlawsk and not yet school board member Chris Liebig tied and each won $210 berets.

Bidding stalled at $50 for several days till I sweetened the deal a little - I promised to throw in a Jimmy Carter button if the price hit $100. Soon after that the bidding war kicked in. Thanks to Mike Carberry for once again helping get that started; maybe next year he'll finally win. Laura Twing also helped inflate the price.

Original post November 17:

I never really wanted to be Beret Guy, you know.

It was supposed to be a one time joke, a play on use of "wear a lot of hats" as in play a lot of roles. I got a professional writing job and decided I needed a literal blogging hat. The readers voted, raspberry beret won. (I was lucky given what happened and given the other options.) I bought one. I wore it as a ONE TIME JOKE. The next day it was on Page One.

I was stuck. I tried to kill it; I was still stuck.

So I embraced it, and it became an accidental trademark. Yes, I know it looks goofy. But when the Vice President remembers Beret Guy, you're on to something.

Last year I decided to do some good with it. I've picked up a few spares over the years - always, as the song says, at a second hand store. I wear them in turn at events, to make them official game worn jerseys. And I popped one up on top of the county's mitten tree last year and auctioned it off.

Egomaniacal and attention-seeking? Maybe. But these days a writer has to self promote. And more importantly, it worked. The auction ended in a statistical tie, so I sold off TWO berets, that I paid about $2 a piece for, at $210 each for the Crisis Center of Johnson County.

With that good a track record, I better do it again. This year I'm upping my game.

This year I'm donating a beret and a press kit to the Johnson County Employee Charity Drive. Let's look at what you, yes YOU can have with your charitable donation. Top row, left to right:

Item 1 is a POLITICO note book. For the past several months I've been part of Politico's "Insider Caucus," a group of early state activists who make off the record comments and predictions. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we (I mean me) predict Scott Walker will win it all.

The centerpiece of the package is the beret itself, with attached $2 price tag. I've worn it at many events and retired it on Saturday, when I wore it to cover the Democratic debate in Des Moines. Behind it you see the as yet incomplete Certificate of Authenticity, which will include photos of this beret in action at the November 14 debate.

At right to hold it all is a Face The Nation goodie bag that was picked up off either my chair or the floor at the debate filing room.

On the bottom row we have a VOTE button from debate co-sponsor Twitter, glow sticks (unused) from a Bernie Sanders rally, and a Hillary Clinton press pass from an Iowa City event.
Attesting to authenticity.

Republican bidders may, at their discretion, substitute a McCain-Palin press pass from 2008.

Bids are being taken through the Johnson County Employee Intranet, but I'll handle all outside bids for this one. Send me your bids by email ( OR - subject line Silent Auction; Deeth Press Kit), Twitter direct message, Facebook message, phone or text. I'll update the leading bidder on the Deeth Blog home page (just below the exit sign). Bidding ends at noon November 30 December 3. Be generous!

Supervisor Election January 19

Democrats to choose nominee December 16

Things moved fast Wednesday and Johnson County will go directly to a January 19 special election to fill Terrence Neuzil's soon to be vacant seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Democrats almost immediately scheduled a December 16 nominating convention, and two names surfaced even before the decision was made to hold an election. Lisa Green-Douglass, who narrowly lost the 2014 primary, and first time candidate Kurt Friese have already announced for the June 7 primary. (More on that confusion below.)

The three member committee charged with filling the vacancy - Treasurer Tom Kriz, Recorder Kim Painter and Auditor Travis Weipert - met for a half hour Wednesday morning and opted for an election, with Kriz dissenting and favoring appointment.

The vote followed a public feedback session that illustrated some of the Democratic divisions going into the abbreviated election cycle. I've been through six of these over the years, and I've seen a lot of people, myself included, on both sides of the appoint vs. elect dynamic depending on the circumstances.

Green-Douglass and Friese both attended the meeting, with Green-Douglass speaking in favor of election. Tom Carsner, who is chairing Friese's campaign, argued in favor of appointment.

More pointedly, Caroline Dieterle argued for appointment and in favor of something she called "the Slockett rule." Former auditor Tom Slockett had an absolute policy that he would not consider anyone for an appointment who had previously run and lost. The mention of the "Slockett rule" seemed aimed at Green-Douglass, who ran 126 votes behind Mike Carberry in the 2014 primary (she actually led in the election day vote, but lost on absentees).

By coincidence, the January 19 date parallels the 2010 special election calendar. Janelle Rettig was appointed to the Board October 31, 2009 following the death of Larry Meyers, but a Republican-led petition drive forced a special election. It was high-profile and contentious, but Rettig handily beat Republican Lori Cardella.

The Democratic convention nominee would seem to be the favorite - but that's not how it worked out in the March 2013 special election for the Board when Democrat Terry Dahms lost a shocking, low-turnout upset to John Etheredge, the first Republican to win a Johnson County supervisor race since 1958. Etheredge lost that seat to Carberry in the 2014 general election, and is not believed to be interested in running again.

The special election cycle overlaps with caucus season, the holidays, and most importantly the Hawkeye football team's improbable national title run. But that's just how Neuzil's life events worked out, as he landed a county manager job in Michigan a year before his term expired.

It also overlaps with the first stages of the June 7 primary season as well. Three supervisors are up in 2016 - Pat Harney, Rod Sullivan, and the soon to be former Neuzil seat (the resignation takes effect December 20). De facto announcements will be happening soon, as candidates traditionally pass nomination papers at the caucuses. Sullivan and Harney both seem likely to run, and Friese and Green-Douglass have announced.

The top three Democrats go into the November general election as heavy favorites. Even as a personally popular incumbent, Etheredge managed just 39% in 2014 with an R after his name.  Pushing against the straight ticket tide is even harder for a Republican in a presidential year.

The upcoming primary also affects the special election cycle and enforces at least a minimum of party unity. You could call that the "Sehr-Lacina rule." After losing at a convention in 1997, then-supervisor Steve Lacina ran as an independent in a special election for recorder, losing by 17 votes to appointee Deb Conger. Lacina then ran for the same job in the 1998 Democratic primary, but his special election defection from the party was an issue and he lost to Painter.

Similarly, in 1994 Don Sehr, a rural conservative Democrat, was appointed to a Board vacancy, but the more liberal, party-active Democrats petitioned for a special election. (Like I said about people being on both sides of the appoint vs. elect issue at different times.) Sehr lost the nomination at convention, and won the election as an independent. But two years later, that defection was still an issue, and he lost the 1996 primary to Jonathan Jordahl.

So if it still matters to primary voters a year or two later, it would be VERY awkward for a losing convention candidate to bolt the party in January to run as an independent, then immediately file as a Democrat in March for a June primary.

Green-Douglass has more or less kept running since the 2014 race, and seems likely to pursue the convention nomination. Friese got a somewhat later start, but has been testing the waters for a few months. His convention plans are less clear.

In contrast with recent complaints that Democrats have run too many Iowa City candidates, both Friese (Penn Township) and Green-Douglass (Madison Township) are rural residents.

The December 16 Democratic convention is from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Coralville library. The convention delegates are people who got elected at the off-cycle 2014 caucuses - another reason caucuses are important.

No word yet from the Republicans; independents can file with 250 signatures. The deadline is December 28.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Loose Threads

12 days without a post may be some kind of modern Deeth Blog record. But contrary to rumor I'm still here; everyone needs a vacation sometime. Anyway I'm making up for it with two today.

I have little to say about Colorado Springs that I haven't said before or that someone else has already said better. I'm numb to the idea that Americans simply accept periodic mass murder (with the intervals seeming to be increasingly brief) as the price of a free society.(Buried that same day, the most American headline ever: "Mississippi man guns down Waffle House waitress after she asks him not to smoke.")

The First Amendment doesn't come with a trigger warning, kiddos:
The items listed here would have been a MUCH better answer than the rejecting the premise "I won't have to work with Republicans because Political Revolution #drink" answer he gave in the Iowa debate:
Credit where it's due to Joni Ernst for retiring from the National Guard. I doubt it was because of my post a year ago, but post-election I noted:
Your continued personal military service at this point is largely symbolic, more about maintaining that public persona than about actually defending the country.  You have a new role in public service, a different role in defending the country.

You'll be on the Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security Committee (along with Agriculture and Small Business). The best thing you can do for the country is to be at those meetings, and to be on the floor casting votes to represent us three million Iowans.  Yes, even though those votes will mostly be the opposite of what I want.
People kicking Dave Loebsack's teeth in over the Syrian refugee vote need to remember that the alternative to Dave is NOT Dennis Kucinich. THIS is the alternative:
For border security, Chelgren believes a fence would define the border and control who enters and leaves. If one is found to have crossed into the country illegally, committed a felony while here, then been deported, he supports executing that individual if they break America's immigration laws a second time.
Way to bury the lede there, Journal Express.

Chickenman also wants to require drug tests for child support - not "welfare," child support -  thinks professors should be evaluated ONLY on student feedback, and likes to ride RAGBRAI naked. So if you want to "withhold support" for Loebsack because of a too-timid vote, you risk getting the real thing.

Still seeking a term for blood red Sioux County that corresponds to People's Republic of Johnson County without breaking Godwin's Law.

The Gazette's Lee Hermiston wins Best Lede Of The Month and it's only the 1st: "Brandon Wilson just can’t stop hiding drugs in his rectum." Which gives new meaning to the term "crack cocaine."

And bids on the beret end at noon Thursday with the current price at $50. I'll accept bids via any method of communication. It's hardly Ringo Starr's personal copy number 0000001 of the White Album, but it's still collectible.

Clinton Caucus Complaints Simmered Till At Least 2012

It's a lot to read into one line, and the context is clearly a critique of the state of the Republican race in January 2012. The word "Iowa" does not appear.

But in yesterday's batch of Hillary Clinton emails, this one stood out:

Three weeks after the 2012 caucuses, and more importantly four years and three weeks after her third place finish in the 2008 caucuses, Clinton is still a caucus critic.

I spent years obsessing over the blind quotes in Mark Halperin's Game Change, in which Hilary was quoted as asking "how many times do I have to talk to the same people?!?" and Bill Clinton is cited as charging the Obama campaign with caucus fraud. I reported the softer critiques made in public even before caucus night 2008. I've been told not to pass judgement on things people say in the moment of defeat, to focus on Now rather than Then, and asked nicely to let it go.

But it's out there again, and "Then" just got four years closer to the present. The offhand comment is consistent with all the past criticism.

It may be the wrong thing to ask, and may be the ultimate obsession of a spoiled Iowan. But I have yet to hear Hillary Clinton make a direct reference, positive or even negative, to Iowa as First In The Nation or to the Iowa caucuses as a process. There are references to the date, and asks to get out and caucus, but never a reference to Iowa's place in the process.

In fairness, Bernie Sanders isn't saying those things either (the only Democratic candidate with a deep connection to Iowa as First In The Nation is that old Gary Hart field staffer, Martin O'Malley). But Sanders doesn't have a track record of attacking caucuses as a process.

And Hillary 2016 is not Hillary 2008. The Clinton campaign seems to be working from the Obama 2008 playbook. On the staffing and organizational level, the commitment to caucuses is clear. Here in the People's Republic, you see lots of Bernie signs and t-shirts. But from my front row seat in the auditor's office, it's Team Hillary that's bringing in the voter registrations (presumably with commit cards back at HQ).

Clinton also has an overwhelming share of support from the core of elected officials and party activists, the kinds of folks who care about First, than she had in 2008 when those endorsements were splintered.

(UPDATE: She must have read this post because Hillary just announced visits to Ft. Dodge and Sioux City on Friday.)

All that's very good. But none of that is in the candidate's own words. Given the negative track record on the subject, it would be nice to hear an explicit, public Iowa Stays First from Hillary Clinton herself.

The irony is that the Iowa caucuses could play the role in strengthening Clinton's candidacy that the New Hampshire primary did in 2008. Given current polling it's very easy to see a scenario where Hillary wins Iowa, Bernie wins next door New Hampshire, and then Hillary sweeps through the South and de facto clinches the nomination Super Tuesday.

If that plays out and she wins, it puts President Clinton 45 (to distinguish from Bill H.W. Clinton) in command of the Democratic Party structure and process for 2020. Question is: when she thinks of Iowa, will she think of 2016... or 2008?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

One County's Youth Caucus

I just went to my first ever Republican caucus.

In a joint project with both parties and the Secretary of State's office, high school students across Iowa participated in a Youth Caucus Thursday at the Johnson County HHS building. Johnson County drew about 30 students, with Clear Creek Amana beating West High for attendance.

Five Republican campaigns were on hand - Bush, Cruz, Fiorina, Paul, and Santorum - for what that says for the state of the ground game. (The Donald also has people on the ground, but with the candidate in Newton they were all busy.)

And these guys were representin' for teams Bernie, Martin and Hillary.

The GOP took the floor first, with Cyndi Michel walking the group through their process. The campaign reps got up and gave their two minute drills, with pre-recorded messages from the candidates who didn't have someone in person. (We had the DVD on repeat before the program started and had to keep skipping Bobby Jindal.)

They we passed out the ballots - factoid: no names on the ballots, all votes in the Republican caucus straw poll are write-ins - and everybody voted. Well, almost everybody. They way we did this, all the students participated in both the Republican and Democratic processes, and we reported results. But one guy opted out of the GOP vote.

The campaign and party reps left to an adjacent room (which we Johnson County employees call "the Fishbowl") to count up while I did the MOST important thing of the night and talked about voter registration. A lot of people don't know that you can register when you're 17 1/2, and you can caucus if you'll be 18 by general election day (anyone born on or before 11/8/1998). We got five new registered voters.

The Republicans announced the results with Rand Paul the winner. With all students participating in both caucuses, the bragging rights are slightly problematic - insert my standard Bernie/Rand Paul argument here -  but the Secretary of State will be posting results.

The Democratic mock caucus was highly realistic because it was in my precinct, in my caucus room, and I was chairing it. It was also realistic because a couple people left early, and because the Republicans were done a long time before we were.

The organizer dudes represented well, and then I got to show everyone the magic moment of realignment. The Uncommitted group was the biggest - again, with all the students participating in both party processes, it's possible that the Republican leaning students went to Uncommitted.

Team Hillary was just short of viable, so I gave everyone a couple chances to make their best pitches. But nobody moved, so I had to call time. The Hillary group all instantly switched to O'Malley - same thing I saw the Gephardt group do with John Kerry at the real 2004 caucus - which gained him a delegate and not coincidentally one of the Hillary people got one of the two delegate seats.

After the briefest of overviews of our other activity - "Committee on Committees" is a good laugh line - I handed off to Dennis and Robin Roseman, who explained the platform process. We took Q and A off and on through all this, then called it a night. A few of the students stuck around to chat with the staffers.

Thanks to all of the above mentioned plus Karen Fesler from the Republicans, Jim Tate and Melva Hughes from the Democrats, the rest of the JCDems exec board for the last minute packet stuffing party, to HyVee for the snacks, and all the staffers and teachers.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Scenes From A Debate Day

If you get offered a ticket to a live show, you go. Doesn't matter that you'd hear the band or see the game better at home, you go. It's about the experience itself.

With that attitude, I set off on the road to Des Moines way too early Saturday and got home way too late in the wee hours of Sunday morning, to experience the on the ground vibe of a presidential debate. It's only two hours on stage, but it was two days of action on the Drake campus, And those experiences, rather than the actual dialogue of the debate itself, are what are sticking with me.

(As I review the day I'm cringing at the massive typos. In the Olden Days of liveblogging, I could go back and clean up.)

My first event of the day was a 10 AM session explaining caucus night process that was officially "off the record." Which was amusing because it was the exact same Power Point presentation I had seen the previous Sunday at our local caucus chair training - right down to and including the use of the four Beatles as "candidates" to explain preference group math. Poor Ringo always had the smallest group.

The out of state media questions were more skeptical than the questions my chairs had asked the previous weekend. More along the lines of "this is insanely hard, why do you do this?" The staffers gave the approved answers, not the real answer of "because if we report the vote totals the New Hampshire Secretary of State thinks it's a primary and we lose first in the nation." I gamely tweeted an offer to have on the record talk about this with other press, but none of them seemed to be among my followers.

I bailed on the caucus training - in fairness, I could have taught it - and signed onto the main media event of the morning, a tour of the debate hall itself.
Most shots were taken inward, not out, as the hall tour was basically a big excuse for selfies. One would think that journalists would picture themselves as moderating a presidential debate, but no one sat down at the moderator table. I was one of the few who even looked at it very long (glass topped with monitors underneath). Instead, they posed at the candidate platforms. Despite the alleged media hate, Hillary's was by far the most popular.

I'm not a selfie taker...
...but if someone else catches me in action I'll use it. I did also get photographed at the Bernie podium, but I was merely trying to find a place in a crowded room to tweet, which lasted about three seconds till a tech tossed me.

A debate hall is a TV set, and the sound, video, and lighting techs were visibly bristling at the unnecessary presence of the lower tier of the media. You get the idea that they saw even the audience as an inconvenience and would rather have just had the whole thing in an actual TV studio with just the three candidates and the four moderators, so they didn't have to haul the lights and the generators. One poor soul had the bad luck of spilling her coffee on the stage, and soon after that were were politely but firmly shooed out.

Also, it appears Mitt Romney provided the office supplies, as each candidate's notepad had a Staples logo. Later in the debate there was an exchange about a $12 vs. $15 minimum wage; when I moonlighted at Staples I made $8.25.
I was wrong; Timer did make a brief on camera cameo at the start of the debate.

The famous Spin Room fired up soon after the tour, but my pass didn't get me access. I had Super Bowl tickets but upper deck seats. Thus began a roughly four hour stretch of mostly down time at the filing center, punctuated by a massive burger and mountain of onion rings at the Drake Diner.
At my right is my unofficial partner for the day, Katrina Markel of Happenstance landed us in the same place a couple times so we just sort of informally stuck together. We positioned ourselves almost in the exact middle of the filing center.

The filing center was two blocks away from the actual debate. The long rows of tables could seat about 400 and got maybe 3/4 full by show time. Electricity was adequate - I carry my own power strip so that gave me a couple more slots and a little more elbow room. The organizers tried to send a message with the wifi; at least week's GOP debate the press password was StopHillary. So the Dems named their network 13MillionNewJobs and had no password. Some people grumbled on line about security risks, but I heard of no incidents.

No one appeared to be In Charge at the filing center, but everything just seemed to happen. Coffee and water appeared, then cookies and granola bars closer to debate time. 

Around 3:30 my batteries were re-charged and I'd visited with all the in-state journalists I knew. So I headed off to my next planned stop, the Bernie Sanders campaign's pre-rally.

Though a series of misadventures including a box of caucus supplies, confusion about the terms "ream of paper" and "CASE of paper," and running into miscellaneous friends, it took me an hour and a quarter and two and a half trips across the Drake campus to get there.

I also, briefly and almost literally, ran into Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her posse leaving Spin Room. My prepped and pointed questions were forgotten and she was moving away fast so I mumbled a Hi.

By this point, the security line was starting outside the debate hall.
Despite the delay, I was far from late and stragglers were still arriving as the sun set. I'm guessing about 300 total by the time speakers started. Ran into my old Iowa Independent colleague Douglas Burns (the western Iowa reporting god, newspaper magnate, and famous cat lover) and we both commiserated about how tightly the Indy could have had this multi-venue event nailed down.

There's a definite feel to a Sanders crowd, a mix of Iowa City Ped Mall and Island of Misfit Toys. This is an outsider campaign that is proud of being outsider. Also, though the more savvy ones try to keep it in check, there's no hiding the visceral distaste for Hillary Clinton. (The Clinton campaign may feel likewise, but they are much better at keeping to the official line of Taking Nothing For Granted and Staying Positive. Either way, the challenge of unity is going to be interesting, and challenging in direct proportion to the margin of victory.)

I was still full from the Drake burger but the Jethro's BBQ was tempting me to abandon my objectivity. I grabbed a water and settled for orbiting the crowd two or three times.
Bernie world, like Ron Paul world before it, has an interesting contradiction: a cult of personality around a candidate who insists on issues over personality. There's also the same very loud support: A Paul Supporter and a Sanders supporter walk into a bar. How do you know? Because they tell everyone. There's the same dismissiveness of all rivals, and the same "revolution" rhetoric, the same love of winning online polls. I still don't get why no one national is picking up on Bernie Sanders as the reason Rand Paul has collapsed. Maybe it's just an Iowa City thing.
Cornel West was the keynoter at the Sanders rally. He is even more intense and fiery than Sanders himself and scathing in his attacks on, mostly, Clinton. "She didn't 'evolve'," West said of Clinton's switch on marriage equality. "She checked the polls."

I wondered if West could be the in that Sanders has needed in his thus far unsuccessful effort to draw competitive support in the African-American community. The question is whether West and his style would play in the black precincts of South Carolina, and I don't know enough about the internal politics to answer my own question.

Still, Cornel West from 15 feet away on the back of a pickup truck is an Only In Iowa wonder to behold.

The Sanders group marched away to a movie theater for their debate watch party. Also playing: Spartacus. I veered away, hoping to catch a bit of Martin O'Malley's visibility.

Despite their smaller numbers, Team O'Malley plays a good sign war. Bonus points for "Gimme an O! Gimme And Apostrophe!" And they won Sign War by forfeit as Team Hillary had called their visibility off in the wake of the Paris attacks.

But I missed the show, arriving just in time to see them breaking up and walking across campus. O'Malley himself had stopped by to thank his troops and shake hands.

At this point I was back at the security line and visited with the carious dignitaries waiting their turn. The attendees were mostly mid to upper level activists. I don't know all my donors but I know a lot of elected officials. These are people who WILL be at caucuses and who lead opinions, so the applause in the hall was probably a pretty good indicator.
Also crossing campus I ran into Griff, the Drake mascot. Drake was plugging Griff as a potential 2016 candidate through the day. He was definitely a Good Boy, but I left my Jimmy Carter button pinned to the beret.

By 7, or what we in Iowa City called Kickoff Time,  I was back in the filing center. There were three YOOGE TV screens to the front and right, and three more living room size screens to the left. I hoped that one of them would get tuned to the game. Instead, the front two where showing debate logos while CBS Radio audio plated. 

The one on the right was showing Twitter metrics. Twitter was a debate co-sponsor and had piled the ends of the press tables with buttons:
They were largely ignored by the press, but I scooped up a few at a time till I had a couple dozen. I know a lot of people who will like them more than the press did.

The twitter metrics were measuring tweets about the debate and mentions of candidates. The mentions jumped from 1200 a minute pre-debate to 8000 a minute during the debate, making the hashtag #DemDebate essentially useless. The mentions of candidates started with a strong Hillary lead and ended with a narrow Hillary lead; O'Malley jumped from 3% pre-debate to 12% during and after.

From following my regular tweeps I saw that the in-hall preliminaries started just after 7 with patriotic ritual and introductory remarks from Wasserman Schultz and from IDP chair Andy McGuire. None of this was on screen at the filing center, though we did get a visit from Griff.

The CBS radio feed continued till about 7:50. Mostly it was caucus discussion, with pollster Ann Selzer trying to explain realignment and viability in a sound bite. At one point the announcer mentioned that the Hawkeyes were ahead 7-0; I was the only one who cheered.

At 7:50 CBS News appeared on the screens moments after Pat Rynard tweeted about the lack of video. The screens showed Paris coverage until the top of the hour.

From there, we got the same feed as the viewers at home. Kathie Obradovich got a loud cheer from her Des Moines Register colleagues, seated in the front row of the filing center, when she was introduced as a moderator.

The debate itself, you know about. During one commercial break, the video and audio went out. After a few seconds of hushed murmurs, the screens came back just before panic ensued. The whole thing felt a lot shorter sitting in the filing center than it does sitting in the basement home office.

I had some comment commitments to Politico and the Des Moines Register post-debate that I started drafting near the end. I also started pre-emptively packing. I also got grabbed by another reporter for a quick react.

These comments seems to have gotten me into a little trouble in Bernie World, especially since the more negative drew more focus. But at least I was accurately quoted. There seems to be a mindset that anyone who doesn't explicitly Feel The Bern is an establishment enemy, and that ignores all the other nuances that people may feel. 

But I'm Neutral Leaning Carter and I'm fair. And one of the reasons I'm neutral is so I can write honestly. It's yet to be seen how much the Wall Street 9/11 thing hurts Hillary, or whether O'Malley has finally had his breakthrough, but two minutes after the debate, I felt that they had a better night than Sanders.
Obligations met, I powered myself down with one last look at the score - Hawkeyes ahead with two minutes left!

I'd been invited to the Hillary post rally and told she would be arriving a half hour after the debate ended. (For whatever reason I didn't see any of my usual Bernie contacts all day, but did run into my Hillary and O'Malley people.) My seatmate Katrina decided to join me and we launched on an epic fast walk/slow sprint on our dead feet the three blocks to the after-rally hall, with neither of us 100% certain of the location.

We arrived to what was, amazingly, my first security line of the day. The line was maybe 70 people long, mostly young and leaning female. Some staffers recognized me and zipped me, Katrina, and maybe four other press to the front of the check in line.

By this point my bag was loaded down with all my usually excess of gear AND the two dozen Twitter VOTE buttons, so I thought I'd screw the whole line up. But I passed muster and was ushered upstairs.

I detoured for just a moment to say hi to Dave and Terry Loebsack - Tom Miller was also on hand - then walked into the back of the hall.

The post-rally hall had been the scene of Team Hillary's debate watch party. They'd gone with pizza so lots of empty boxes. The press tables were already full. In the Iowa Independent days, one of us would have gotten the Hillary post-rally beat and been in place, but as a one man show I just have to run across campus with Katrina.

I'm guessing maybe 700 in the crowd, but I never really got a good look as the stage was barely visible.

Later I was told that Hillary had taken extra time to handshake in the debate hall. That was my salvation as barely 90 seconds after I walked in and with almost no warning we heard the bare minimum introduction


That's the best look I got.

Hillary spoke for about the length of one Ramones song, praising the organizers, repeating a couple talking points, and emphasizing the caucus date, voter registration, and voting rights.

That's a big difference. Bernie talks about a political revolution, Hillary talks about voter registration. It's a difference I see in action on the ground, too.

No idea how long she shook hands at the post-rally, but the crowd quickly thinned. I carefully checked for the OK, as I did not want to get tackled at the end of a very long day, and sought out various contacts on Team H for beret-off conversation.

I also checked the football score. 10 and O, baby! Then I stopped back at the filing center to see if I'd left anything behind. My half finished Diet Coke was still there; I'd heard word that fluids were verboten at the Hillary rally. So I grabbed that and another half dozen Twitter VOTE buttons, and hit the road.

Inevitably, a story that ends with "I drove home and went to sleep" is anticlimactic.

On the drive west to Des Moines, I had seen every SUV in the state headed east to Iowa City. With the game just getting out, I saw the pattern repeat in reverse.

When I drive at night I keep thinking I see deer. The shadow patterns look like deer to my fifty-plus eyes. So I tend to drive a little too slow and too cautiously. In this case, I was driving in my socks, as my feet REALLY needed a break.

About a mile from my exit to home, I saw police lights ahead. No one was pulled over. As I passed I looked left and saw, sure enough, A deer that someone had hit. The cop was apparently there as a warning till removal. Senator Grassley's whereabouts at 2 AM Sunday are unknown.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Politics Of The Plausible

The most critical moment of last night's debate was not Bernie Sanders'  very good "I'm not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower" line. And it was not Hillary Clinton's Wall Street/9-11 fumble.

It was a low-key exchange about two-thirds of the way in between Sanders and moderator John Dickerson.
DICKERSON: Back now in Des Moines with the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Senator Sanders, I want to start with you. Let's say you're elected president. Congratulations.

SANDERS: Thank you.


Looking forward to it.

DICKERSON: You've said you'll have a revolution.


DICKERSON: But there's a conservative revolution going on in America right now. As John Boehner knows and as Democrats know, who have lost in state houses across the country.


DICKERSON: Those conservatives are watching tonight and probably shaking their heads. So how do you deal with that part of the country? The revolution's already happening, but on the other side?

SANDERS: And we are going to do a political revolution, which brings working people, young people, senior citizens, minorities together.

Because every issue that I am talking about-- paid family and medical leave, breaking up the banks on Wall Street, asking the wealth to pay their fair share of taxes, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour -- every one of those issues is supported by a significant majority of the American people.

The problem is, that as a result of a corrupt campaign finance system, Congress is not listening to the American people. Its listening to the big money interest.

What the political revolution is about is bringing people together to finally say, enough is enough. This government belongs to us. Not just the billionaires.
tl;dr = Sanders simply rejected the premise and argued that his "political revolution" (drink) will sweep away all in its path.

This exchange underscores the magnitude of the challenge facing Sanders.

To his credit, Bernie Sanders has come farther faster than anyone ever expected, but the mountain is really, REALLY high. And the few journeys America has taken that are comparable have taken decades, not months or one election cycle.

The Sanders strategy depends on expanding the electorate. Obama's expansion was primary a demographic change. And despite his strong first term accomplishment, his policies - the stimulus, the private insurance based Obamacare - were evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

The civil rights era was a revolution, and the  Nixon-Reagan era also effected a political counter-revolution, in the opposite direction, but that took decades, with roots reaching back to 1948 and fallout continuing into the Obama era.

FDR realigned the electorate as well, and he arrived just after the last time income inequality was as brutal as it is today. But he also followed the complete collapse of the economy. As bad as things are now, they are not Great Depression bad.  (Which would have happened without the relatively timid but best he could get Obama stimulus.)

To win, Sanders will need a New Deal level re-aligning election - in an era where there's already a strong counter-trend to the way he wants to lead the country.

Are there 218 House seats that can be won not just be Democrats, but by non- Blue Dog Democrats? Can the Democrats pull off a 14 seat gain to get a filibuster-proof majority - because even with the biggest landslide in history (to the level of Chuck Grassley losing), 30 Republican Senators are mid-term hold over?

Because, by his own acknowledgement, that's the kind of thing that needs to happen for a Sanders win and for a President Sanders to get anything done that even remotely resembles his ambitious goals.

Sanders vs. Clinton is the classic test case of idealism vs. pragmatism, but it's also a test of plausibility. Iowans take the caucuses seriously, and we very much feel like we are choosing a president. The aftermath of Paris will underscore that even more.

Hillary Clinton may be a polarizing figure, but pretty much all Iowa Democrats if pressed would acknowledge she is capable of doing The Big Job. (Martin O'Malley still has a grade of incomplete) But Sanders, campaigning just to his base in the hopes that his base will grow, still has to get past that test. Which he made harder by exiting from the Paris discussion as fast as possible in his opening statement so he could pivot to his Billionaires and Political Revolution comfort zone.

There was a semantics game of "Not America's Fight" vs. "Not ONLY America's fight" between Clinton and O'Malley. Sanders, however, has a clear discomfort discussing anything he can't filter through an economic lens. Asked about security threats, he discusses climate change and veteran's care. Both very important issues - but not the issues one images being discussed in the Bin Laden War Room, an image Clinton again invoked last night.

To break out of his niche and into the broader electorate, into a true MASS movement, Sanders has to figure out how to get people to plausibly picture him in a national security setting.

Also to the issue of plausibility: Clinton devastated Sanders' free college tuition plan (she and O'Malley argue for "debt-free" instead) with one line" I disagree with free college for everybody. I don't think taxpayers should be paying to send Donald Trump's kids to college."

Getting called a clown by Trump is a YOOGE win for O'Malley. He positioned himself well as the Uncola to the front runners' Coke vs. Pepsi, and benefited immeasurably from getting pretty much all the time that had been wasted on Chafee and Webb in Debate 1. For the first time, he looks like a plausible (that word again) option.

Clinton's  9/11 answer was bad. But it wasn't Rudy Giuliani bad, because Giuliani's whole raison d'etre was that he was mayor on 9/11.  It was bad in the sense that Clinton has a painful blind spot as to how her career-long relationship with the financial sector is perceived, and was too quick to double down in defense. (Her followers only heard the 60% of donations from women line that immediately preceded it.)

More of my thoughts on the twitter feed. A few underscores:

Why is the specific phrase "radical Islam" important to Republicans?  How is it different from "radical jihadist ideology" (Clinton) or  "radical jihadis" (O'Malley)? Answer: it's important to the Christianist wing of the Republican base to specifically include the non-Christian religion in the term. The only OK non-Christian religion is Judaism, and only because Israel is a sign of the Rapture.

Bernie Sanders talks about a political revolution. At her post-debate rally, Clinton talked about voter registration and the caucus date.

Hillary loses some points with labor arguing for a $12 minimum wage vs. Sanders and O'Malley's $15. But reminder: a Republican Congress under a GOP president could ELIMINATE it.

The reaction to Hillary saying "I come from the 60s" is classic faux outrage and will be long forgotten by next year. (However, legalizing weed was taken as a serious issue in a presidnetial debate).

Future post: Color and flavor.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Neuzil Hired For Michigan Job

Michagan news outlet mlive reports that Johnson County Supervisor Terrence Neuzil was been hired tonight as County Administrator in Kalamazoo:
Commissioners voted 7 to 4 to select Terrence Neuzil, a county administrator (sic) in Johnson County, Iowa, with all Democrats and Republican Roger Tunier voting for Neuzil. The remaining Republicans voted "no," throwing their support behind Kalamazoo County Treasurer Mary Balkema.

"He interviewed very positively," Democrat Commissioner Julie Rogers said when moving to choose Neuzil. "He came in and stated he's very energetic and enthusiastic. ... This is the right candidate for our county. It can bring us forward."

Neuzil has been the county administrator (sic) in Johnson County, Iowa, since 2001 and was Iowa's youngest county administrator when he was first elected to office, according to his resume.
Neuzil's likely resignation shuffles the deck in next year's supervisor race. He was facing a run for a fifth term next year, with the June primary a bigger deal than the November general election. (No Republican has won a general election for supervisor since 1958, though John Etheredge won a two year term in a March 2013 special election.)

Three supervisors are up in that primary are up in that primary: Rod Sullivan, seeking re-election, Pat Harney, whose plans are the subject of speculation, and until now we thought Neuzil (though the rumor mill has had him job hunting for some time). Lisa Green-Douglass, who narrowly lost in the 2014 primary, is running, and Kurt Friese is also exploring a bid.

More details as they develop...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Carter For President

It's Veterans Day so happy holiday to that nuclear sub sailin', Annapolis graduatin' Navy man Jimmy Carter, who is 91 years young and kicking cancer's ASS.

Caucus rules and caucus trivia: You can caucus for anyone you want. Republicans have an all write in ballot and Democrats have no ballot at all. Just go stand in your corner. And at an Iowa City dorm precinct, some students did just that and elected a Carter delegate.

In 1992.

This gives me an idea, and perhaps a strategery, to navigate my neutrality.

What if I caucus for Jimmy Carter in 2016?

It would be a tribute to Carter's role in caucus history. Carter, of course, is the man who made the Iowa Caucuses into THE IOWA CAUCUSES so we have him to thank for all the attention that has come since.  A caucus corner would be a nice tribute. And I know people who still brag that he slept on their couch in 1975, so maybe I'd have some allies.

Walter Mondale is still available as a running mate. And the 1980 defeat means that despite the mistake of the 22nd Amendment (without which Bill Clinton would STILL be President) Carter still has one term left.

But there's another, more solid reason to caucus for Carter: To make a serious statement about foreign policy.

Compare these 2015 statements from four leading Democrats about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Democrat A:
“In terms of Israel and Palestine you are looking at one of the more depressing tragedies that has gone on in the world for the last 60 years. And I would not be telling you the truth if I said I have a magical solution. But this is what I do believe. I believe in two simple principles. Number one, Israel has a right to exist in peace and security. The Palestinians are entitled to a state of their own with full political and economic power. That's the broad view that I hold and I will do everything that I can to make that happen.”
Democrat B:
I have stood with Israel my entire career. (In one office), I fought to get Magen David Adom accepted to the International Red Cross when other nations tried to exclude the organization. I wrote and co-sponsored bills that isolated terror groups, and pushed to crack down on incitement in Palestinian textbooks and schools. (In another office), I requested more assistance for Israel every year, and supported the lifesaving Iron Dome rocket defense system. I defended Israel from isolation and attacks at the United Nations and other international settings, including opposing the biased Goldstone report...
Democrat C:
“This senseless violence produces nothing but tragedy and more distrust, and it does not move the people and the parties closer to a peaceful and long-lasting resolution,” said Democrat C. “Both sides have to take steps to end this violence and address the underlying cause of it. Both sides have to make the resumption of discussion, talk and dialogue to include a fair, safe and adequate access to sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Provocative actions on either side must be avoided.”
Democrat D:
“The Netanyahu government decided early on to adopt a one-state solution … but without giving them [the Palestinians] equal rights.” In this sentence, Democrat D accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of having pursued, upon his election in 2009, a deliberate policy of relentlessly annexing and colonizing the Palestinian West Bank, ensuring that it will end up as part of Israel. At the same time, Democrat D said, Netanyahu conspired to ensure that the 4.2 million Palestinians under Israeli occupation remain stateless and without rights.
Democrat* A is Bernie Sanders, who for all his revolutionary zeal is relatively conventional on Israel/Palestine.

Democrat B, as you likely guessed, is Hillary Clinton, who took an Israel/Palestine question in Coralville last week, gave a pro-Israeli answer, and followed up the next day with a piece headlined "How I Would Reaffirm Unbreakable Bond With Israel — and Benjamin Netanyahu."

Democrat C is Martin O'Malley, who was at least willing to TALK to an Arab-American group, but was backpedaling the next day and issuing disclaimers sticking blame to the Palestinians.

Democrat D, of course, is Jimmy Carter:
But who comes to me, huh? Fucking nobody. Why ask old Jimmy anything? What the fuck could he know about peace in the Middle East? It's not like he fucking won the Nobel Peace Prize for that shit. You myopic pricks. Back in '79, I sat Sadat and Begin right down and made those two dicklicks shake hands. It was beautiful—I had all the pieces lined up and I smiled and waved in my best fucking suit and tie right there on TV. And what do you do, you pieces of shit? You screw the whole goddamn pooch. 
Oops. Wrong article. But even though those aren't Carter's words (he's a Sunday School teacher, for Christ's sake), it's a reasonably accurate assessment.

Carter actually DID say:
In international affairs, I would say that peace for Israel and its neighbors has been a top priority of my foreign policy projects for the past thirty years. Right now I think the prospects are more dismal than any time I can remember in the last 50 years. There’s practically– the whole process is practically dormant. The government of Israel has no desire for a two-state solution, which is the policy of all the other nations in the world. And the United States has practically no influence compared to past years in either Israel or Palestine. So I feel very discouraged about it, but that would be my number one foreign policy hope.
We aren't talking enough about the Israel-Palestine conflict, which is central to the entire regional conflict, this election. And if we were, none of the three Democrats actually running is addressing it in anything like an appropriate way.

Only Jimmy Carter, who won a freakin' Nobel Peace Prize for that crap, who has been out of electoral politics for 35 years, has the courage to speak the truth. And to write a book that in its title explicitly called Israeli policy "apartheid."

I've neutraled myself out of the caucuses, though I will eventually pick a corner.  And he won't be viable anyway so it won't be registered anywhere and I'll need to realign. But maybe, just maybe, walking to my own Jimmy Carter corner would be my own little statement, more than walking to my own Uncommitted corner would be. And only the Onion part feels like a joke.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Core Four Win Feels Like Loebsack's Breakthrough

After a couple days of resting and catching up on caucus details (more of the second than the first) I realized what election Tuesday's Iowa City shocking Core Four sweep reminds me of the most:
Dave Loebsack in 2006.

It's got the unexpected underdog upset. The same decades long struggle, the multiple cycles every two years, alternating between serious contenders and Some Dudes, the few times when victory slipped out of our fingers.

It's got the underfunded outsider defeating money and power (though Jim Leach personally showed a very commendable restraint). The two new candidates of the Core Four, John Thomas and Pauline Taylor, raised far less money than the corresponding first timers on the unnamed other side, Tim Conroy and Scott McDonough.

Both cycles have winners with deep roots and much love within the local Democratic Party. Loebsack was both a key organizer of Linn County's Phoenix Club, the county party's fundraising arm, and a worker bee who was one of MY volunteers in 1992, my one cycle as a staffer, knocking doors in Mt. Vernon. Pauline Taylor has long been a workhorse activist in the Johnson County Democrats, and was one of the key organizers of SEIU's successful drive tor organize the UIHC nurses in 1998.

The winners benefited from branding. "Core Four" was a label that worked, despite the other side denouncing "slates" even as they endorsed the opposite four candidates. And in 2006, the label "Republican" was toxic enough to drag down even a genuinely decent guy like Jim Leach, and "Democrat" after your name was magic. In this cycle, Conroy and McDonough played the role of good guys dragged down by unfortunate allies, with Rick Dobyns and Michelle Payne cast as Cheney and Rumsfeld, and lame duck Matt Hayek repudiated as clearly as lame duck George W. Bush was.

Hey, we even had a delay in Johnson County absentee results, the only two times it's ever happened, though on Tuesday it was just 15 minutes, not the interminable four hours of 2006, and it was only because two ballots showed up at the last minute and not because the results had been erased.

And despite the shock of the win, it doesn't feel like a fluke. It feels like the future.

I've said many, many times that the fluke was not Loebsack's win, it was Leach's survival, and Loebsack has confirmed that in becoming one of the few survivors of that Class of 2006.  In 2015, the real fluke is not that the Core Four won; the fluke is that conservatives have governed the most progressive city in the state for decades.

And it feels like, now that the breakthrough has finally happened, things are never going to be quite the same again.

On election night I wrote that the Iowa City establishment had lost its eternal scare tactic, their fear-mongering and red-baiting that the crazies would ruin the city if given a chance.

Along with that, the cycles of near-left liberals accepting moderates as The Best We Can Do, the way a quarter of Johnson County Democrats used to vote for Leach, are over, now that we know we can get the real thing. (Apply this to the presidential contest if you want?) Some endorsements, or lack of endorsements, will look regrettable in retrospect.

This doesn't quite fit in with my 2015 as 2006 analogy, but it's worth noting: In 2014, we saw Johnson County counter-trending, holding its ground or even inching leftward even as the rest of the state was lurching right. Outperforming every other county in the state by 13 to 15 points, race by race. Saving the State Senate for the Democrats by gaining (gaining! In 2014!) an open Republican seat. Voting for Governor Hatch just as we had voted for Senator Conlin, all by ourselves.

After the 2014 election, I wrote:
Joni Ernst's folksy style that was successful almost everywhere else was met with visceral distaste and disbelief here."The Pig Lady can't possibly WIN, can she?" The rest of the state looks in the mirror and sees Ernst; we look in the mirror and see Dave Loebsack.
I sometimes phrased that in conversation as: "Iowa City looks in the mirror and sees a former college professor with a beard."

Which, when you look at our new mayor, seems about right.