Friday, July 31, 2015

Mock Election: Able To Leap To Conclusions In A Single Bound

I'll admit to taking the Johnson County Fair mock election way too seriously. It's an occupational hazard, since I've been involved with it since its launch in 1999.

The shortcomings are obvious: self-selection, small children voting, the non-random sample of the fair. But over the years its predictive value, while nothing to base a campaign plan on, has been not half bad.

I spent more time at the fair than usual this year and ballot secrecy is a little loose - since the real job is to show kids how to mark a ballot and put it in the machine, you see a lot. And a lot of ballots seemed to be split, with the child marking a superhero choice, and the parent guiding a presidential pick.

One thing that is clear: fun questions help turnout. Our top three years have been the three years of the Weipert Administration, when we started doing the fun questions.

2015 participation TRIPLED from the last caucus year, 2011, which saw an all-time low 408 voters. That year, the caucus vote was accompanied by no less than NINE issue questions. (Sample: "Which issues would cause you to vote against a candidate if he/she disagreed with your position? Vote for no more than EIGHT." You could see kids and parents recoiling in confusion.)

Enough background. Let's dig into the results.

Total Voters 1303
Wonder Woman 270 22.0%
Batman 194 15.8%
Captain America 163 13.3%
Spiderman 124 10.1%
Flash 116 9.4%
Superman 105 8.5%
Iron Man 104 8.5%
Batgirl  90 7.3%
Supergirl 63 5.1%
Democratic  Presidential Candidates
Hillary Clinton 289 46.5%
Bernie Sanders 168 27.0%
Uncommitted Dem. 72 11.6%
Martin O'Malley 39 6.3%
Lincoln Chafee 33 5.3%
Jim Webb 21 3.4%
Republican  Presidential Candidates
Donald Trump 87 18.6%
Scott Walker 50 10.7%
Jeb Bush 45 9.6%
Bobby Jindal 38 8.1%
Ben Carson 35 7.5%
Uncommitted Rep. 33 7.1%
Ted Cruz 29 6.2%
Carly Fiorina 21 4.5%
Mike Huckabee 21 4.5%
Rand Paul 21 4.5%
Marco Rubio 18 3.9%
Lindsey Graham 15 3.2%
John Kasich 14 3.0%
Rick Perry 14 3.0%
Rick Santorum 12 2.6%
Chris Christie 11 2.4%
George Pataki 3 0.6%

My aggressive Bat-campaigning was only enough to help the Caped Crusader to a stong second place finish. I had a good, four point, issue based argument: Bat Cave, Batmobile, Robin thrown in for free, and best theme song.

But the BatVote was split with BatGIRL, as there was definitely a trend of young female voters supporting female superheroes. Together, the BatVote would have been in first place.

Instead, Wonder Woman took an early lead she never relinquished, and with no Wonder Man to split the vote, the finished first.

There may have been another factor: a high correlation with the Democratic presidential race.
Many, many blog posts have been written in many, many basements about comic books and gender, and I can scarcely do the genre justice. But Hillary/Wonder Woman was definitely a thing.

That Clinton percentage below 50 is a bit misleading, because the Uncommitted vote was largely a kid vote, and party ballot choices (to represent the caucuses, we had separate Democratic and Republican ballots, with the same superheroes on each) were often based on preferences for elephants over donkeys.

But there is, legitimately, a good sized chunk of uncommitted, or rather undecided, Democratic vote, and 12% is not far off the mark, especially if you factor in the Waiting For Biden folks.

So did Sanders disappoint? His percentage may not be representative of Johnson County, but the county fair looks a lot more like Iowa than most of the county does.

Lincoln Chafee did a bit better than I'd expected, but frankly the first line on the alphabetical ballot helped.

The talk of the fair, though, other than superhero related smack talk, was the Trump lead. No one seemed focused on the tiny percentage; the first place rank was the word. And that's going to keep going in the larger world as well.

Yet the first place rank clearly only exists because of how badly the rest of the field is splintered. The "establishment" candidates Walker and Bush, combined, beat Trump, and if you throw in some votes from a Kasich or a Rubio or a Perry you start to build a lead. The social conservative cluster of Carson plus Cruz plus Huckabee plus Santorum beats Trump.

And these percentages aren't really all that far off any given poll of the week. The pattern of preferences among the non-Trump candidates might as well be a group of children randomly marking ballots at a county fair.

If one of the Kiddie Table Debate candidates wants to be a hero to 80% of the Republican Party, they'll drop out and endorse someone in the top four or five. Could be enough for a cabinet seat.

Also worth noting from what I overheard: People have noticed Bobby Jindal on TV.

But for me, the most disappointing performance of the fair was the poor showing by definitive superhero Superman at sixth place, just one vote over Iron Man.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Collecting My Midweek Thoughts

Dear Lord I do NOT want to write about Donald Trump but the Tipper Gore hater in me can't help but note that The Donald was using Twisted Sister as rally music last week. If you had told me 30 years ago during the record censorship hearings...

Note the resemblance between Mad Niedermeyer and Mad Donald.

The real importance of Trump - who will be the next to last candidate in the race, at which point all establishment support will consolidate behind the Not Donald - is his impact on the lower tier of the insanely large field:
And note who the Biggest Loser is. Digby: "Christie is desperate. He was supposed to be the prime asshole who told voters to 'sit down and shut up' and Trump has out-assholed him."

The A-Hole competition is fierce, with Mike Huckabee resorting to breaking Godwin's Law over the weekend, saying, "The Iran deal is marching the Israelis to the door of the oven." Jewish groups took offense, naturally - but they were never Huckabee's intended audience.

See, when Democrats toe the Likud line, and far too many do, it's about a certain narrow segment of the Jewish electorate. But when Republicans do, it's something different.
Most true tweet of the week.

But back to Trump one LAST (I swear) time:
Don't laugh. It's a big part of the appeal to the cohort of voters convinced (wrongly) that All Politicians Are Crooks.

One of my last Wisconsin elections was the 1988 US Senate race to replace William Proxmire, who was famous for spending zero money on his elections. The winner, Herb Kohl, owned department stores and a basketball team, and turned that on its ear with a "Nobody's Senator But Yours" slogan. Proxmire was not for sale, but the implied argument was, neither was Kohl - because he was too rich to be bought. It worked, for four terms. (Tammy Baldwin was definitely an upgrade, though.)

Second truest tweet of the week:
Rand Paul is teetering at the edge of the Kid's Table. At best, his seat at the Grownup Debate is a seat in a high chair. And the left-libertarian dynamic that we saw locally in the justice center elections and less successfully in last year's county attorney primary is why. The anti-war anti-drone anti-NSA vote is consolidating behind Sanders rather than Paul. I said it first...

Down the ballot, Desmund Adams is an interesting Democratic candidate in the 3rd CD. Pat Murphy in the 1st? Not so much.  And I still haven't guessed who the mystery candidate for the 4th CD, set to announce at the Wing Ding, may be.

And the Iowa City school board race is now up to nine candidates, and also up to five seats with the Tuyet (Dorau) Baruah resignation. Look for a school candidate rundown Friday, and a mock election update Thursday night. And don't forget to:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Raise The Wage On Board, Election Agenda

Working on Community ID this week, I've seen a lot of paychecks (because that's an accepted proof of address). And a lot of them have been really, really small.

And the people who've been bringing in those paychecks aren't in their teens or early 20s. They're in their 30s and 40s and bringing their kids along.

It's something the Johnson County Supervisors see, too, and they're taking a first in the state step to phase in, over three steps, a local minimum wage of $10.10 an hour by 2017. Three dozen supporters of the effort, many from the Center for Worker Justice and from organized labor (that would include me) rallied on the county campus this afternoon.

"Honk For Higher Wages," read the signs, and the last time I heard that many beep beeps, I saw Wile E. Coyote chasing after. (As seen here.) Occasionally, speakers were drowned out by honking horns.

"The federal government and state government refuse to act, so we need to act locally," said Iowa City Federation of Labor president Jesse Case. And the votes are there, so after a round of hearings and votes, the supervisors are expected to pass the wage ordinance.

That's where it gets interesting.

According to Case, the county ordinance would be binding county wide, including within cities. In order to opt out, cities would have to actively vote to lower an already enacted local minimum wage. And the timing of that vote would land right at the time of this fall's city elections.

Iowa City council member Jim Throgmorton, who is up for re-election this year, was at the rally to support the effort.

State Rep. Mary Mascher, who supported an effort to raise the state minimum wage which failed in the Republican controlled House, said city councils would be under a lot of pressure to oppose the local wage increase, and the public needs to pressure councils to instead support it.

"There will be a lot of fear mongering," said Supervisor Rod Sullivan. "Don't believe it. People who make more money spend more money." 

Mascher, a retired teacher, also said 40% of Iowa public school children are on free or reduced lunch because of the low wage economy. And workers, in Spanish and English, told tales of multiple jobs and bill juggling and payday loans and plasma donations.

Supervisor Terrence Neuzil noted the irony of the rally happening just outside the county Health and Human Services Building. "It would be nice if fewer people used these services - because they could afford not to."

Case and other organizers said they would prefer an increase to a living wage, but support the county's effort as a positive step.

"$15 an hour is a livable wage," said Supervisor Mike Carberry, "but we have to go through $10.10 to get there."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wings & Things

An ongoing question of the post-Harkin era of Iowa Democratic politics - "what takes the place of the Steak Fry?" - may have been answered Tuesday morning.

Just days after the IDP's Hall of Fame dinner featured the first cattle call of all five presidential candidates, north Iowa Democrats announced that their annual Wing Ding- love the name, the menu and the logo - would feature at least four candidates: Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders.

Wing Ding organizers also promised " a special announcement by a new candidate declaring a run for U.S. House of Representatives." The bulk of the two dozen county Wing Ding Zone is in the 4th CD, and of course any news of a new challenger to Steve King would be very welcome.

But part of the Wing Ding Zone is in the 1st District.

Cerro Gordo County, outside the district, would seem an odd venue for a 1st CD candidate to announce. And "a new candidate" would, I HOPE, preclude Pat Murphy making his launch here.

Tangent: Team Monica and EMILY's List lobbed a serious grenade at Murphy Monday, citing choice issues:
Murphy said he has had a strong record on abortion rights for the past “12 or 13 years” he was in the Legislature.

That distinction is likely what raises concerns for Emily’s List, as Murphy earned accolades among the Democrats for Life organization in 2004 and had a stronger anti-abortion voting record prior to the past “12 or 13 years.” He earned a 100 percent rating from the Iowa Right to Life Committee for his positions in 2003-2004.

A 2005 article in a conservative online publication noted positively Murphy had helped to recruit and elect pro-life Democrats. Murphy most recently described himself as “pro-life” in 2007 when he took the helm as Iowa House speaker.
These same items were out there in the 2014 primary, but never really publicized, at least not to this degree.

Back to the Wing Ding: No official word on why Jim Webb isn't on the bill. Remember that the Hall of Fame initially announced four candidates, and then added Chafee later.

Team Webb, though, did find time to send out more than 50 separate retweets of this from Friday:
All with similarly named accounts (IA 4 Jim Webb, NH 4 Jim Webb, SC 4 Jim Webb...) which all had the same photo of Webb as the avatar.

The Wing Ding Venue, of course, is the iconic Surf Ballroom, the most important Iowa location in rock history. For tragic reasons, of course, but the Surf's continued existence is more a celebration of the music itself.

At least I know what I'll be playing on the road trip.
Factoid: "Baby Got Back" was a hit a whole Buddy Holly lifetime ago.

Expend the national media to descend in force again:
As seen here.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Hall of Fame Recap

So what did we see tonight?

The short answer is we - 1,321 paying customers and an extensive press row - saw the first multi-candidate "cattle call" event (is that only an Iowa term or is it nationwide?) with all five Democratic presidential candidates in the 2016 cycle, at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner.

We also saw a who's who of Iowa Democrats (skewing toward the East Of 35 folks), catching up with each other, and gearing up for future campaigns.

But c'mon. What you're really wanting is a review of the presidential candidate speeches.

Not to bury the lede here, but to put one of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders first would imply I thought one did "better." So I'm going chronological...

...with some reluctance. Because the candidate who clearly offered the weakest presentation was Lincoln Chafee. (The speaking order was alpha.) It felt a little off even before he spoke, as he was the only one without a visibility table in the hall.

I had anticipated that CHafee, with nothing to lose, would be the one to come out swing against frontrunner Clinton. In the past, he has said Clinton's Iraq War vote "disqualifies" her from the presidency. And after a low key delivery of a laundry list of issues where he took progressive stands (despite his former Republican affiliation). he pivoted to foreign policy.
But despite references to "quagmires overseas," Chafee never pulled the trigger. And he ended his speech abruptly, taking only about half of his allocated 15 minutes. Applause was mild, with the biggest cheers for his support of the Iran deal.
Hillary Clinton seemed to have the support of about 2/3 of the room, and for the most part gave a condensed version of the stump speech. But she always seems to adapt and is well briefed on the lay of the land in Iowa. as she offered a timely rebuttal to recent statehouse events.
The Democratic rivals were not named - and, in return, Clinton was not named by her rivals. But there were jabs at Republicans in general and by name. In a good line that's new since I saw Clinton last week, she said of Donald Trump: "Finally. A candidate whose hair gets more attention than mine." And referencing Jeb Bush's call for people to work longer hours, she said "Americans don't need lectures, they need raises."

The mere mention of Scott Walker drew boos for the state of Wisconsin, which I protested in press row.

But not every Clinton line was new.

And as she's been doing, Clinton embraced the glass ceiling breaking factor. "There she goes again with the women's issues," she said of herself. "Well, I'm not going to stop so get ready," she added to loud cheers with a noticeably female pitch. The woman president reference closed the speech.

Martin O'Malley drew the next slot. In a lesson learned, Hillary's supporters stuck around for the other speakers. At multi-candidate events in 2007, Team Hillary often left en masse as soon as their candidate was done speaking. Was not seen as Iowa Nice.

Tangent: One of my least favorite aspects of any cattle call event is Sign War, the effort to out-yell and out-visibility your rivals. Only Clinton and O'Malley seemed to be playing. Team Hillary seemed bigger (Sign Warriors are mostly staffers anyway) but Team Martin get points for a chant which began: "Gimme an O! O! Gimme an apostrophe! APOSTROPHE!"

Inside the hall, O'Malley proved himself a serious guy, which we all knew, and started mellow but built in intensity. I've seem him make the same case in mellow back yards and crowded bars and big halls now: "I am the only candidate for president with 15 years of executive experience," and listing the progressive bona fides of his years ad Maryland governor.
O'Malley had a surprisingly large share of the crowd, maybe 15% - supporters very clearly sat in like-minded groups.His speech built in intensity.
And O'Malleys references to student debt got table stomping approval from the Sanders Corner.

Ah, the Sanders corner.

Sanders supporters are interesting. Hillary Clinton has committed, intense supporters, sure. But Sanders supporters are more... demonstrative, on their feet for every applause line, and interjecting shouts of approval like a revival meeting. They have more VOLUME per supporter than anyone else.

Anytime I tweet anything remotely pro-Bernie or even ABOUT Bernie, I pick up a bunch of Bernie themed followers and retweets. Two hours after the speech, it's still happening. Sanders supporter Nick Johnson noted the same to me: a picture of him riding a bike in a parade with a Sanders shirt picked up over 100 retweets.

Maybe it's because I'm on Reddit, but I see SO many parallels between Ron Paul 2011 and Bernie Sanders 2015.

So Sanders Corner - maybe 25% of the room - was chanting BER-NIE! BER-NIE! BER-NIE!almost before O'Malley got off stage.

I've seen The Bernie Sanders Speech before. But it was a;ways in a Bernie Sanders Room, not in a room that was about 2/3 a Hillary Room. So I was really curious about the reaction.

And it was relatively positive; polite to enthusiastic applause on most issues, because there's a lot to agree with. Other candidates offer lists of issues. Sanders has just one meta-issue:
Even the Hillary folks stood for Sanders call to repeal Citizens United. It's now a Democratic base issue.But free college tuition got just polite applause from Hillaryland - maybe they think it's too big a reach.
Webb acknowledged his poor alphabetical speaking draw and thanked Sanders for firing up the crowd - the only direct reference by one candidate to another all night. Webb then asked the veterans to stand for applause, a safe but popular move.

Webb also proved himself a serious person, and played his union cards well. But he stumbled a little coming out against the Iran deal, getting only tepid applause.

A few crowd members trickled out before Webb, but at least 80% of the crowd was still on hand.

"We need a president who can articulate Democratic values while at the same time working across party lines," said Webb, and I tried to picture a universe where a President Bernie Sanders had to deal with a Republican House and Senate. I could not picture that universe because I could not picture Sanders winning without that revolution he keeps discussing.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Blogging Is Still A Thing

Twitter has been my medium of choice this week, as I've been too busy to string more than 140 at a time together, and because I have little to add to the BIG story of the week: we sent a SPACESHIP to freakin' PLUTO.

That last minute scare on the 4th of July, after a 9 1/2 year trip is almost forgotten, but read this and remember that ROCKET SCIENCE IS HARD AND THAT'S WHY WE CALL SOMEONE SUPER SMART A "ROCKET SCIENTIST."
But super smart doesn't have to be super serious. Rocket science reporter Emily Lakdawalla made herself a New Horizons hat. Anyone from Wisconsin knows what she used to start it with. Apparently the Packers are also Pluto's Team, probably because of the whole Frozen Tundra thing.
In a great irony, I was re-elected chair of my public employee union bargaining unit on the same day Scott Walker finally officially announced his presidential candidacy.

"Scott Walker is what would happen if you grew the perfect Republican candidate in a lab," writes Jonathan Allen - and that's basically what they did. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, conservative organizations were building a phalanx of professional Young Republicans, grooming them for future runs for office or think tank seats. And a generation later those investments are paying off. We have one nearby in Jeff Renander, Cedar County attorney and erstwhile editor of the late unlamented Campus Review newspaper.

Much is being made of Walker not graduating college - depending on who you believe he flunked out, dropped out, or got kicked out - but all of that misses the point. College was irrelevant. He was a College Republican in such a hurry that they found him a legislative seat before he finished college. And, for tenured faculty in Wisconsin, payback's a bitch.
In any case, my re-election as bargaining unit chair was easier that Walker's presidential race. Walker has 16 opponents, whereas I was elected by the time-honored method of No One Else Wants The Job. But of course my election would not even have happened in Wisconsin because "public employee union bargaining unit" is no longer a thing in my native state.

And someone stole my most famous hat at last night's Hillary Clinton office grand opening in Iowa City:
My effort at an exclusive interview with the cardboard cutout drew a no comment (I would have asked about the Iran deal and Palestine-Israel in general) but Mary Mascher, the organizers, and supervolunteer Robin Chambers had nice Hillary things to say to the crowd Officially counted at 80 (leaning about 2/3 female). "Pledge Card" is the drinking game word at Hillary events; I can't say enough how much she's running on the Obama 2008 organizing strategy.

Tomorrow is a big day - a YOOGE day as Bernie Sanders would say - on the Iowa campaign trail. I'll be at the first Democratic multi-candidate event of the cycle, the IDP's Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids. But I'll miss the preliminaries - Clinton and Sanders pre-events and Republican counter-events including a Walker visit - because it's also a YOOGE day for Johnson County.

Three years of effort are paying off as the Community ID program starts tomorrow with the first public applications. I've had a small role in supporting and promoting it but tomorrow my role is on the official side.
That is correct, professor: I'm one of the folks doing the work of actually processing the IDs. A good thing for the community and a nice little change of pace on the job.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saturday Scraps

Marco Rubio, is saying too many people are getting degrees in fields that have no jobs. The press is not picking up on the joke:
Rubio DID pick up a key area endorsement this week from State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann. He's a good get in his own right - and people will make whatever assumptions they want about where this positions Dad, the scrupulously neutral state party chair Jeff Kaufmann.  Kaufmann The Younger also picked up some $ at the Wilton fundraiser with Rubio, but near as we can tell has not yet picked up an opponent for next year.

In signs of de-evolution, the hardcore Know Nothing constituency that has been waiting to get tapped in an Iowa caucus since at least Tom Tancredo's brief abortive 2007 run (he dropped out before caucus night) may finally have their candidate, but I never would have guessed it would be Donald Trump of all people. That, more than his larger than life blowhard personality, is why Trump needs to get taken at least a little seriously.

Prediction: One of the asterisk candidates will, sometime next week, in a desperation Hail Mary move, take on Trump directly. It might kill them - but it might break them out of the also rand - also RANS but the typo is too good to delete - and into the top ten and first debate.

(Also Rands: Can't say enough how Bernie Sanders has stomped on Paul's Young People Strategy. Young lefty-libertarians who would have been drawn to cross over for Paul if the Democrats had a yawner, are now looking at Sanders and a Democratic race that is at least a little competitive. National and state readers, think issues like drones, domestic spying, etc. Locals, think about the three courthouse/justice center elections.)

But in signs of human advancement, we have a spaceship at Pluto. PLUTO, people, Pluto. But not without a last minute scare - it really does take a rocket scientist.

In other human advancement, the Confederate flag went down this week. NOW can we talk about guns, please?

Speaking of former confederates, our county supervisors are WAY less powerful than Boss Hogg:
Yes, the worst kept secret in Iowa politics is out if the bag and Rob Hogg is officially "exploring" next year's US Senate race. This is a VERY very good thing. For reasons I explained in November, it is extremely important to have a credible Chuck Grassley challenger next year, and Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause did not fit the bill.

Hogg does: Youngish and on his way up, identified with environmental issues that will keep the Democratic base interested, and in the middle of his legislative term so a loss doesn't kill the career. A Democrat who can break into the 40s against Grassley will be seen as having won a moral victory, winning by losing, and earning a lot of chips in the process. (See how much goodwill Monica Vernon earned last year, despite losing TWO elections.)

And breaking into the 40s will be easier than you think in a presidential year. The state - indeed, the national electorate - is now so polarized that even a Republican as personally popular as Grassley would have trouble reaching 70% in a presidential year like he did in 2004.

As for the other Senate candidates, Tom Fiegen happens to live in Bobby Kaufmann's district. Just a suggestion. Something more appropriately scaled.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Hillary Clinton Iowa City stop

What the top of the story is depends on your perspective.
For the national press following Hillary Clinton around for a living, the top of today's story is Greece.

For the locals who showed up at the Iowa City Public Library, the story was "OMG She's HERE!!!1!" and "why didn't they get a bigger room?"

My perspective was strange: a local ringer in the back with the press as a hobby-journalist. I was almost as interested in what they were up to as the speech itself, and provided some local color. The detail they seemed most interested in was that I'd chaired my 2008 caucus in that very same room.

The locals were interested in that room, too. The staffers reported 350 bodies in the room, a bit more than the 315 I crammed in there on January 3, 2008. Anecdotally there were close to that many outside. 50 or so who waited got in for a quick hello after the 8 minute 8 second press conference, but some didn't get in at all, and there was a little grumbling.

The crowd that DID get in was a mix of old and young - with not much in between - and leaned about 60-40 female. It wasn't a very "downtown Iowa City" crowd. And it wasn't a tough crowd. All five of the people who got called on in Clinton's first Iowa Q and A of the cycle nearly bubbled with their support. I only saw a couple not yet committed elected folks on hand, and not a lot of the caucus curiosity seekers that I see at most events.

Clinton has a very different type of speech than main rival Bernie Sanders. She offers a long list of issues and touches as many bases as she can. Even the "Four Fights" framework is one more set of bullet points. Sanders ties everything into one overarching ideological framework. Clinton downplays ideology; speaking on education she said she wants to focus on what works rather than ideology.

There was a little local color as Clinton worked the Coral Ridge Mall shooting into the gun control section ("The gun lobby does not represent a majority of gun owners) and mentioning the closing of state mental hospitals, but did not mention last week's Terry Branstad veto of education funding.

In any national campaign, there's a tension between the locals and the "people at 30,000 feet." Clinton has a plan, and she's sticking to it: She wants to be seen as approachable and accessible, and the campaign wants human scale events. Sure, Bernie Sanders is racking up YOOGE crowds. But that's his strategy to use crowd size as a bragging point, not hers.

But paradoxically, being MORE accessible in terms of a small room makes you LESS accessible in terms of everyone getting in. Would you like to see your favorite band play a club gig? Sure. But for a club gig to work you have to have a club gig size crowd.

UPDATE: Video of press conference from inside the press scrum.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Parade Summary

Johnson County had no presidential candidates today,

I only made it to two of my usual three 4th of July parades this year. A scheduling change meant we had to split into two teams. I was on the Hills team and thus missed Oxford.

But the whole team was in Coralville, and a big team it was. I attempted a new form of journalism by live tweeting from within the parade itself, and at least a few parade goers got the joke and noted the beret.

I did take a couple breaks from livetweeting to break out the good camera and get video of the whole unit. By tradition (with 2007 the lone exception) all the presidential campaigns stay within the all-encompassing Johnson County Democrats unit. We had a small Loebsack buffer zone (the congressman was elsewhere) between Team Bernie and Team Hillary.

No Ashton Kutcher sightings like I had in 2013 (STILL, I regret to say, the highest traffic day in Deeth Blog history). But for some reason that I can't figure out, Nick Johnson riding his bike, which I thought only the locals would care about, seems to have gone over big in Bernie World.
Not quite viral, but at least a bad head cold.

The Bernie contingent was much smaller than the Hillarettes, who made up about half the total Democratic unit and almost all of the noise, what with Sue Dvorsky leading the cheers and all. But objectivity forces me to note that a lot of fellows, interns and staffers are based around here, and lead local Sanders supporter Rod Sullivan was focused today on his own re-election next year.

Speaking of Hillary and parades.

As an occasional journalist, who'll be wearing the beret to cover Clinton on Tuesday here in Iowa City, I can't endorse keeping the press in a mobile roped off area inside a parade.

But I completely understand it.

Pro tip: The public hates press even more than it hates politicians, and feels they have as much - no, MORE - claim on a candidate's time. And nothing Hillary does short of a  Claude Rains mea culpa exit scene (with the press casting itself as Jimmy Stewart) will ever make them happy anyway.

So from her point of view, why bother? If an in the parade rope line means that many more people get handshakes and selfies, that they spend all year bragging about to everyone they know, but some reporters who don't like her don't like her just a little more, it's a net win for her.

Especially when the reaction is this over the top.
Attn: Joni Ernst.

But back here in the People's Republic, which nevertheless has plenty of Republicans, I noticed no GOP presidential candidate presence except a couple Fiorina shirts with the county party's unit. And the live-tweeting from within the parade unit worked well, but I don't recommend it unless you have people with you that you trust for horse warnings.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

It's a Two Horse Race

Poor Martin O'Malley. No one I know has anything bad to say about Martin O'Malley. Everyone I know is really grateful to him for his grassroots campaigning here in 2014.

But no one seems to be getting behind him as a first choice, either. This morning's Quinnipiac poll is the strongest indication yet that the Iowa Democratic caucuses have become a two horse race, with Bernie Sanders close to locking in as the alternative to Hillary Clinton.

The top line of the poll shows Clinton at 52 to Sanders at 33. O'Malley isn't even in third place at 3%. He's fourth, with non-declared Joe Biden at 7 points. Jim Webb is at just 2, and Lincoln Chafee fails to register.

It's a drop of 8 points for Clinton, who led Sanders 60-15 in Quinnipiac's May poll of Iowa. And doing the math, it looks like much of Sander's gain has come directly from Clinton, with small chunks coming from undecided and Biden. (Quinnipiac stopped polling Elizabeth Warren, who was at 19 in February, by May, and most of that shifted to Sanders.)

My gut feeling is Sanders has, without directly attacking Clinton has peeled off a lot of the soft Hillary support.

The big question is, how much soft Hillary support is left? Because there were/are a lot of folks who are not Ready For Hillary as much as they're Resigned To Hillary support.  But there are also a lot of fierce solid Walk On Hot Coals For Hillary supporters. Does the Sanders spike represents a trend, or a plateau?

A lost opportunity: Sanders trails Clinton just 46-37 with men, but Hillary has a massive 56-29 lead with women. Elizabeth Warren could have run on the Sanders platform (more effectively, in my opinion) AND taken gender out of the equation. I think she'd be running even with Clinton had she run. Disclaimer: I am neutral because I'm working on caucus arrangements, but I would have endorsed Warren had she run.

To many caucus goers, especially here in the People's Republic, the caucus choice is about Direction Of The Party as much as it's about Who Should Be President. People who were loosely tied to Clinton on inevitability are now feeling free to Make A Statement.

But one of my bigger fears is eased a little bit. What happens to all the folks showing up for Sanders rallies who think he's actually going to BE president once Hillary Clinton is nominated? Quinnipiac's Would Not Support numbers are low for all six Democrats, especially compared to the Hell No percentages on the other side for Jeb Bush and Donald Trump. (Who, remarkably, seems to be staking out the Steve King-Tom Tancredo anti-immigrant niche.)

The Big Rally strategy is an old leftie tactic that dates back to at least Henry Wallace and includes Ralph Nader. Often these events had low dollar admission and were a big part of the fundraising.

But no less a source than:

Vermont makes the Dean-Sanders comparisons too easy. There are a LOT of dynamic differences between 2004 and 2016.  Dean peaked about a month early but was still a frontrunner on January 19, albiet a very narrow one. One of the last pre-caucus polls showed a four way dead heat.

Old-time Deaniacs like me will remember a coordinated Screw Dean effort by the other campaigns to take him out in Iowa. Even Dennis Kucinich played along, with a bizarre caucus morning semi-endorsement of John Edwards as a second choice in the many, many precincts where he was non-viable. In my precinct, before we could even herd all our Dean cats, the just short of viable Dick Gephardt group marched en masse to Kerry. Same thing all over the state: Realignment strategies designed to help Anyone But Dean.

The Scream, which never gets old, was the least of Dean's caucus night problems. It was AFTER the Much More Important Third Place.

In a two way race, like Bradley-Gore in 2000, you don't get those kinds of strategic moves. It's a zero sum game. Every marginal, last delegate in the precinct is coming directly out of Clinton and going to Sanders or vice versa. And at these levels, even an O'Malley-Webb-Chafee-Not Sure coalition is short of an Uncommitted delegate.

(undecided ≠ "Uncommitted." Uncommitted is, paradoxically, a commitment. undecided, not capitalized, is a decision yet to be made, And Neutral ≠ Uncommitted. It is a commitment NOT to make a committment, at least not till the Magic Moment of Alignment.)

Our county's one Uncommitted in that 2000 caucus was a labor guy whose union was for Gore but he supported Bradley. He couldn't bring himself to go directly against his union, so he got an Uncommitted group together.

In that light, and in this bipolar dynamic, this may be the most important and most under-reported news of the cycle:
Whoa if true: Tells me that AFL-CIO intends to make TPP a litmus test of Labor Solidarity. If labor gets all the way behind Sanders, and that moves X% of caucus goers, in a well-organized high-turnout demographic.

But are they already included in that Sanders 33%? The ideology facet of the poll shows the left of the party pro-Sanders and the mainstream slash center pro-Clinton. This means a counter-intuitive take on turnout. In low turnout years, the ideological wings of both parties show up. The higher the turnout, the more moderates. So low turnout actually helps Sanders. But here I give Clinton, miles ahead of Sanders on organization and field staff, to have an edge.

The most interesting number to me in the whole Quinnipiac poll is that 7% for Joe Biden, despite any clear indication that he's serious about getting in. The Biden loyalists are really, REALLY loyal, and have only increased in number and loyalty during his vice presidency. He's also riding a public sympathy wave following his son's death.

I always say it: Joe Biden's only real fault is an excess of heart. Not a bad flaw to have. The man is brilliant and God forbid something happened to Barack Obama, Joe Biden cound step into the job immediately ready and up to it.

But at some point Joe Biden will reluctantly, because in his big, big heart he really does want to be president, make a definitive Not Running statement. And right now his 7 points makes the different between a narrow Clinton majority, or even plurality, win, and the 60%, near-Gore level bar that I've set for her (despite Team Hillary's efforts to sell 50% as the expectation).

Not sure what if anything Hillary Clinton can do to sell herself as more progressive than Bernie Sanders. My pet theory since Sanders got started has been that Clinton is coming up with the right policy ideas, but the lefty base wants blame. And Clinton's "system favors the rich" line is too mild for people who want blame and eat up Sanders'  "billionaire class," "top 1%," etc.

At some point Clinton may need to have a closed door chat with her donor class and play the MLK vs. Malcolm X card. Or, more in keeping with her New Deal launch and Sanders' socialist persona, the FDR vs. Norman Thomas card. "Look, guys, I need to kick up the rhetoric a notch, because if I don't, you get the torches and pitchforks. Don't take it personal."