Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Podesta Cautiously Confident in Iowa City Stop

"The stories of the people who are going to benefit from her policies are what will make or break this campaign," Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta told a mid-day crowd at Hillary's downtown Iowa City HQ.

The Clinton camp had been cautiously confident after what Podesta called, to applause and laughs, "a pretty good couple of weeks" that included the first debate, Iowa's Jefferson Jackson dinner, Vice President Joe Biden's final decision not to join the race, and Clinton's epic 11 hours of testimony before the House Benghazi committee.

"They've embarrassed themselves enough,"  Podesta said of House Republicans, "and wasn't she magnificent?"

House majority leader Kevin McCarthy "did us a little favor in admitting what this committee was all about, and he was telling the truth," said Podesta of McCarthy's comments that the Benghazi hearings had driven down Clinton's poll numbers. The comments are widely seen as having derailed McCarthy's bid for Speaker of the House.

Two polls today showed Clinton widening her Iowa lead over main rival Bernie Sanders, almost beyond the point of plausibility.  (The call universes were based on recent primary and general elections, so the accuracy depends on how accurately they screened for likely caucus attendance.)

But after her 2008 loss, it's almost a mantra in Clinton World not to take anything for granted. Podesta argued that Clinton leads in organization in Iowa and is "competitive" in New Hampshire, where Sanders has led in most polls.

Podesta said the terrain is better for Clinton in the next two states, South Carolina and Nevada, and in the largely southern Super Tuesday states that vote March 1. He said he hopes the nomination will be clear, if not mathematically clinched, soon thereafter.

"The sooner we can join the battle with the Republicans, the better off we are." he said.

Podesta took a page from the Sanders playbook by emphasizing Clinton's small dollar donations, saying she has over 300,000 donors who have given less than $50. Small donors are a big talking point for Sanders as he emphasizes campaign finance; he claims a million donors under $20.

While most of the focus was on his own candidate, Podesta did note that Sanders had made a "(pause) course correction" and been more negative in his remarks at the Jefferson Jackson dinner. Podesta also repeated Clinton's debate stance about being "A Progressive Who Gets Results," and stresses issue differences on gun control and on "realistic college costs plans." Clinton is arguing for interest free loans, while Sanders proposes free tuition.

Early Vote Seems Down

State/national readers: A Locals Only Post

It's hard to measure, because it's been a long time since we had a "normal" early voting cycle in Iowa City. But just anecdotally, with one week till the election, voting seems down. Despite a spike on Monday, there's been less than half the total requests that we saw in that last "normal" cycle, 2003.

Through 4 PM Monday, 570 voters (in all 11 cities) had requested ballots, mainly from Iowa City and mainly at the auditor's office. 515 ballots have been returned; no campaign has made a big vote by mail effort so it's just the usual self-starters.

There's no way we'll match the 6251 absentees counted in 2013, but that's not a fair benchmark, with that cycle's giant campus satellite sites petitioned by the failed effort to repeal 21 Bar, and the hot, Koch Brothers fueled race in Coralville.

But even other recent years are tough to compare. Here's a look at where things stood eight days out in other recent city elections, and some caveats. Again, these are for all cities, but all years are Iowa City dominated.
  • 2011. 2095 requested, 849 returned. And 753 of them were never returned. If they had been, Raj Patel would be up for re-election; Michelle Payne's win was by less votes than Patel's unreturned mailed ballots. Payne's win was also with fewer votes than Rockne Cole got losing in 2013.
  • 2009: 527 "requested," 222 returned. That was pretty much The Year Without An Election, as it was obvious on filing deadline day that townies Terry Dickens and Susan Mims would crush two students.
I qualify "requested" because a lot of those were overseas ballots. The way the law was interpreted then, overseas requests were good for four years. So a lot of ballots went to people who requested ballots for the presidential and had no idea about a city election. The law has changed and overseas requests are now only good for a calendar year.
  • 2007, just for fun: 5934 requests, 3993 returned. That was round one of 21 Bar, when Rick Dobyns tried to raise the age to 21 and got beat.
  • 2005: 1836 requested, mostly from a vote by mail drive pushed by Mid-American Energy, who ran a $600,000 campaign to crush the public power initiative. (That was also the year Dobyns lost his first council race, meaning Dobyns has a lifetime 1 W 2 L record.)

So that takes us back to the last more or less "normal" cycle, 2003. At this point we had 1190 ballots requested, double the current count, but only 341 returned. In part, that's because more people were voting by mail a dozen years ago. Also, there was a city primary that year, so in person early voting started later. (We were voting at the office this year the day BEFORE what would have been primary day.)

But clearly, there was much more interest in voting, as measured by people taking a step toward voting.
All other things being equal, lower turnout, especially lower EARLY turnout, would indicate an advantage for the un-named slate of Payne, Dobyns, Scott McDonough and Tim Conroy. Despite Mayor Matt Hayek's attack on "slates," there have been an awful lot of four candidate endorsements from long lists of the usual suspects.

The Core 4 candidates - Jim Throgmorton, Rockne Cole, John Thomas and Pauline Taylor - also have a lot of four candidate endorsements, though I don't believe Taylor Swift has actually endorsed. (If Katy Perry can...) But they also attract the kind of voters who are less sure when the election is or where to go, which means they have to work harder at it.
Also making things more interesting at the last minute: a write in campaign in University Heights, marking Round Five of The Battle Of Saint Andrews.

So there's early voting 7:45 to 5:30 all week and again Monday November 2 at the auditor's office. Next Tuesday, gotta go to the polling place. There's also satellites at UIHC on Thursday and Friday (10-4). Thursday (10-6), Friday (10-4) and Sunday (noon-5) at the Iowa City library. No voting Saturday. We heard something about an undefeated Top Ten football team playing at home.

Monday, October 26, 2015

UI Lecture Committee Craps On Caucus Night

Spectaculary bad scheduling:
The University Lecture Committee is pleased to announce its spring 2016 lineup:
The Eighth Annual Cassandra S. Foens, M.D. Lecture: Laverne Cox on February 1 at 5:00 PM in the IMU Main Lounge. In partnership with the University of Iowa Outreach & Engagement's "Just Living" Theme Semester.
An outspoken transgender advocate, Cox is the first trans-woman to produce and star in her own television show, "TRANSForm Me", appear on the cover of TIME Magazine [June 9, 2014] and be nominated for an EMMY. She is also the first trans-woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show, Orange is the New Black...
Great speaker. Not a great decision.

Can you think of anything else happening the evening of February 1? Think just a moment.

I'll wait.

Anywhere you might have heard that date.

Any place you might need to be at 7:00 that one night and one night only, February 1, 2016?

Obviously the lecture committee has overlooked something. Spell it out for them, Vanna:

I'm sure Laverne Cox has a lot to offer, and the lecture is a great opportunity.

But it's going to deprive UI students of another great opportunity, because there's not going to be enough time to leave the lecture site at the IMU and get checked in at your caucus site. Realistically, people are going to have to choose one or the other.  Which either defeats the purpose of brining in a name speaker, or disenfranchises people on the first student-friendly caucus date since 2004.

Buy an A, Lecture Committee, and reschedule this.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

JJ Post Mortem

Since the 1984 Reagan landslide, Iowa Democrats have only lost the presidential race once.

That was in 2004, after a particularly nasty caucus cycle. Young idealists (and a few old ones like me)  inspired by Howard Dean were loath to settle for a Kerry-Edwards ticket, and in some places the Kerry folks were less than gracious in victory.

It took a few months to patch things up, months the Democrats never got back.

Last night at the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Dinner, some of that familiar tension was in the air between Team Bernie and Team Hillary.

Barring an increasingly unlikely breakout by Martin O'Malley, we now have a two way, zero sum race. Clinton's gains are Sanders' losses and vice versa. That usually forces contests onto the low road, a path that the Sanders supporters, drawn to an alternative politics, will find distasteful.

And now that the Endless Biden Speculation is over, the national press will be be playing up Sanders' chances. It's in their interest to make things interesting for as long as possible,

But in doing so, they'll elevate hopes and postpone the inevitable letdown later and later, closer and closer to election day.

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, especially when your candidate has yet to actually say he is a Democrat.

If I seem more critical of Sanders here, and I am still neutral, it's because I still see him having a more difficult path to the nomination. Despite his early state success, The Bern is still almost exclusively a white creative class phenomenon, and without a dramatic new development he seems pre-destined to flounder on the South Carolina beach and dry up in the Nevada desert.

Sanders supporters believe they will win. The rookies can't even conceive of not winning. Neither could us Deaniacs.

Yet it is still very, very likely that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. So: will the people drawn by the Sanders rhetoric (even "it's all about the issues" is a rhetoric) walk out on the fall campaign they way they walked out on Hillary Saturday?

And, in the unlikely but now conceivable event that Sanders is the nominee, will they identify with the Democratic Party, or just with The Political Revolution? Will they vote that ballot down to that moderate state Senator in a must-hold race?

In many ways, Sanders more zealous supporters - not all; I know lots of party loyalists who are for Sanders - are capable of being their own worst enemies, projecting a cult of personality around the candidate who is about issues not personality. In the classic The True Believer, Eric Hoffer argues that the ideological spectrum curves around so that zealots on opposite ends come to resemble each other in behavior and attitude. And Sanders World, bragging about winning online polls, feels a lot like Ron Paul World late 2011.

(STILL the under-reported story of the election: the way Bernie Sanders snuffed out Rand Paul.)

The funny thing is, all three candidates are singing from the same songbook, much as "arch rivals" Kary Perry and Taylor Swift are both singing hooks written by hit factory songwriter Max Martin. The actual policy differences between Clinton, Sanders and O'Malley are trivial, compared to the vast gulfs within  the wings of the Republican Party - a fact Bill Clinton emphasized in Team Hillary's pre-rally.

But it's about the style, with Hillary as Top 40 and Sanders as some indie band you probably haven't heard of. Oligarchy And The Billionaire Class are the punk rock version of The Deck Is Stacked For Those At The Top.

The Iowa Sanders folks tweeted out a graphic of their march to the arena, with a caption bragging that they didn't need a pop star. But bashing people for Selling Out is the kind of thinking that killed Cobain. And an A-list star like Katy Perry comes to freakin' Des Moines and gives a free concert? Admit it: that's FUN.
So what if she's not singing about the class struggle like Joe Strummer? So what if it's empty calories scientifically engineered in a lab in Sweden to make your ears salivate when that hook from "Roar" hits? 77 million followers - 12 million more than Obama. Decry the culture of fame all you want; it's our cultural and political reality.  And when a reality TV star and a Christian media subculture celebrity are leading the Republican field, Dems need all the star power we can get.

The flip side, of course, is Team Hillary needs to be planning ahead. Sure, Bernie's folks will eventually need to get on board. But Clinton needs to get them on board, which is a tricky task.

The John Kerry campaign never really seemed to make an effort to get the Deaniacs on board; it was just assumed we would go along to Beat Bush. And while we pretty much all VOTED for Kerry - the Nader vote dwindled to a tenth of its 2000 share - a lot of folks did nothing BUT vote. And Clinton may have work to do to get even that.

She's carefully not attacking, which may not be helping but at least isn't deepening the wound. Positions on issues aren't doing it, because Sanders just keeps saying he was right on DOMA or the Iraq War or whatever FIRST. For now, she's carefully aiming at the left of the general electorate, embracing the median of the Obama era Democratic Party where it's understood that the white male South is gone forever.

Over my 25ish years in politics, I've seen literally dozens of campaigns, local and national, center their strategy around getting non-voters to vote. Only two have ever succeeded: Barack Obama, and the first 19 Bar campaign here in Iowa City in 2007 that got students out for a city election. (The second effort, in 2010, also successfully implemented the strategy, but fell just short.)

Sanders is trying that strategy, and while I wish him well,  in the new zero-sum dynamic of the Democratic race, he also need to convince some of the kinds of folks who care about control of the state Senate, folks who are largely in the Clinton camp now, that he can be a team player. Because having a Democratic president didn't do jack for the teachers and public employees of Wisconsin.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pre-Jefferson Jackson Ratings

Iowa Democrats are prepping for their last ever Jefferson-Jackson dinner tomorrow night; the name's being changed next year. The event comes at the end of an eventful two weeks in the Democratic race. Here's some short notes on how the key events affect the players.

The Biden Dropout

BIG win for Hillary. Joe was the only one with the gravitas to make a credible mainstream challenge, and his support was going to come almost entirely out of hers. It also means a pre-Iowa Obama endorsement is a possibility.

Some loss to Sanders. Biden eating 10-15% of the total vote, mainly out of Hillary, would have lowered the first place percentage closer to Sanders' ceiling of support - which I keep predicting is close to his current 40%ish.

Win for me as I correctly predicted it. However, I also predicted Sanders would NOT run and that Scott Walker was a lock for the Republican nomination. In an alternate universe where Sanders didn't run, Martin O'Malley is playing Bill Bradley to Hillary's AL Gore. Instead, we're playing out Carter-Kennedy, with O'Malley as Jerry Brown.

Benghazi Hearing

EVEN BIGGER win for Hillary. Presidential style, presidential stamina, and Republicans couldn't even come up with a way to spin it.

No difference for Sanders. His support is hinged on different factors.

Loss for O'Malley, whose whole strategy depends on being the only mainstreamer surviving after a Hillary collapse, which seems less likely every day. Bernie has given her a pass on email, and now Benghazi is off the table too.

Webb-Chafee dropouts

A win for O'Malley. Not because their asterisk percent support gets added to his. Because he gains a big chunk of their debate time. It's a lot easier for debate moderators to squeeze out a three man second tier than it is to squeeze out one person. He still won't get EQUAL time to Bernie and Hillary, but he gains 10 or 15 minutes. Now he needs to DO something with it, which he didn't in last week's debate.

A one millimeter gain for Hillary - only because Chafee was the only one who might have attacked her, and as we saw from the Vegas debate, he was easy to dismiss in a single syllable.

As for Chafee, he avoids one last humiliation at JJ: With the speakers in anti-alphabetical order, he would have been last, after Hillary, and would likely have been inaudible from the mass exodus.

A loss for Republicans, as the Democratic also-rans show some realism while the Republican One Percenters cling to delusion.

JJ Weekend Live Entertainment

Mainstream vs. Alternative, kind of like the campaigns. 

Unlike most musicians played at Republican rallies (they struggle for any acts newer than Ted Nugent) Katy Perry is an actual Clinton supporter AND at peak popularity. Super Bowl halftime is as A-list as it gets.

Sanders is bringing an alt-hipster list headlined by Marshall Crenshaw, who was alt-hipster 35 years ago. The Sanders Hipster Factor needs more attention. He's on an independent label from Vermont. You've probably never heard of him.

As for Martin O'Malley...

(Taylor Swift™ No copyright infringement intended. Property of TAS LLC Management 2014©)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Yard Sign Theft? Shake It Off

More proof that yard sign vandalism is rarely if never a sign of a political enemy conspiracy...
An Iowa City Police officer says he saw 18-year-old Quinn Conroy walking along South Dodge Street about 1 a.m. Friday carrying several “Conroy for City Council” campaign signs. The officer says he knew Conroy was not the council candidate and noticed his unsteady gait.

Conroy told the officer he had taken the signs from various yards because “they have the same last name as him.” He showed multiple signs of intoxication and registered a .156 BAC. He was also found to have a fake Maryland driver’s license with the birth date changed to 1994.
...and more often a sign of drunken stupidity. At least an 18 year old young adult got arrested for drinking, which should make Matt Hayek and Rick Dobyns happy.

I like to think my yard looks nicer than the mayor's.

I certainly hope no one named Taylor, Cole, Jim or John Thomas gets drunk. (And that's Pauline Taylor, not Taylor Swift.)

Yo Dobyns I'm happy for you, and I'mma let you finish, but Pauline Taylor has one of the greatest campaigns of ALL TIME.

(Taylor Swift™ No copyright infringement intended. Property of TAS LLC Management 2014©)

Yeah, If it weren't for that copyright thing, and campaign finance law, I'd print a bunch of these up...

Better advice: if you live on a bar crawl or game day route like I do, it's a good idea to bring those signs in on a Saturday night. The home football game, three days before the election, on Halloween yet, likely to do serious damage to Iowa City yard signs.

So when you hear the paranoid wailing on November 1, remember that the simplest explanation is the most likely, and that haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate.

(Taylor Swift™ No copyright infringement intended. Property of TAS LLC Management 2014©)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sanders, Granholm keynote Johnson County BBQ

The speaking schedule made the Johnson County Democrat's annual barbecue feel almost like two different events today.

The one presidential candidate to attend, Bernie Sanders, was the first speech on the program. He had been gone nearly 90 minutes before the Clinton campaign's surrogate, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, whose flight had been delayed, took the stage.

The Sanders crowd arrived early and many left early. Crowd estimates were a challenge as the event was held in two separate buildings at the Johnson County Fairgrounds - one for speaking and one for eating and visiting. The speech crowd peaked at about 300 during the Sanders speech. Granholm spoke to maybe half as many.

The big news from Team Bernie was local. Supervisor Mike Carberry endorsed Sanders in his introduction, joining board colleague Rod Sullivan as a commit for Sanders.

Sanders broke no new ground today, giving the Basic Bernie Speech. (This is about my fifth time seeing Sanders this cycle.)  It was a four drink speech, with three Political Revolutions and one Billionaire Class but not a single YOOGE or YOOMAN.

No references to last night's SNL debate (earlier in the day Sanders had said Larry David "does a better me than me" and later he noted he in fact owns multiple sets of underwear) but Sanders did joke a little about his dancing on Ellen.

But that was as light as it got, other than joking about how serious he was: At one point discussing Social Security, Sanders said, "I'm gonna bore you with some statistics." An audience member shouted: "Go ahead."

Granholm's speech could not have been more different. She launched into a high-energy script delivered in Dr. Seuss derived verse that touched variously on issues and political events that I thought was an introduction - but turned out to be the full speech. References to a female president got the most applause from a crowd that by that point in the program leaned as heavily Hillary as the early crowd leaned Bernie.
Like that. It was a wittily written speech, but it passed over the fight about the 2008 primary calendar.
Dave Loebsack introduced Granholm, or more accurately his own speech segued into his Granholm intro. Of the current sede vacante Speaker of the House battle, Loebsack said the 45 to 50 member House Freedom Caucus, including Iowans Steve King and Rod Blum, is holding both Congress and the country hostage. "It's not Congress in chaos. It's Republicans in chaos."

Loebsack, sporting a Hillary sticker, gave shout outs to congressional candidates Monica Vernon (1st CD) and Jim Mowrer (3rd CD), both of whom he has endorsed in contested primaries, and to King challenger Kim Weaver.

Bob Dvorsky spoke on behalf of the legislative delegation and stressed the importance of holding the state Senate, saying Terry Branstad would turn Iowa into Wisconsin "in about 20 minutes" if Republicans controlled both the House and Senate. All three Johnson County senators (Dvorsky, Joe Bolkcom and Kevin Kinney) are mid-term this cycle, so Dvorsky stressed helping in neighboring districts, specifically for Chris Brase in Muscatine. (This has been and will be a recurring theme.)
Not a lot of commit cards signed, but a lot of love on the ground for the O'Malley staff, especially Sean McEnerny, who managed Kinney's critical win last year for the 26th Senate seat.

The three US Senate candidates - Hogg, Tom Feigen and Bob Krause - were all on hand, and Hogg and Fiegen at least stayed late (not sure about Bob; like I said, two buildings.)

Also working the room: Iowa City council candidates Jim Throgmorton, Rockne Cole and Pauline Taylor:

I was my usual low key self:

Actually, I was more likely checking the score of a nail-biter Packers-Chargers game.

There was a supermajority of local electeds on hand; Sue Dvorsky and I had a friendly competition going for seeing who could spot who first for the list to deliver to chair Martha Hedburg for introductions. Another guest merits a mention: Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson, who switched parties and joined the Democrats last month.
And of course we had the silent auction, to which I donated some memorabilia:
A bidding war ensued on this item between Patrick Rynard of Iowa Starting Line and a local activist named Mel (Stahmer). Stahmer was the winner at $45.

Nathan Rifkin of Team Bernie wins the beret for a BARGAIN.

And the MOST important news of the day was after I got home:

With a sign of relief from both me and Bob Dvorsky. (More observations on the Twitter feed.)

JCDems BBQ Pre-post

It'll be an afternoon tweetstorm today from the Johnson County Democrats' annual barbecue. Doors open at 3 with Bernie Sanders scheduled to speak at 3:30.

Past caucus year BBQs have been mini cattle calls. Five candidates - Clinton, Edwards, Richardson, Dodd and Kucinich - attended in 2007.  In 2003 Edwards and Dean showed up, but John Kerry overshadowed them by bringing Ted Kennedy with him.

But this year only Sanders is on hand. Martin O'Malley is in New Hampshire today; Hillary Clinton has no public schedule. The Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee "campaigns" are impossible to contact.

UPDATE: Chafee must have seen his own face on the milk carton because we found him:
No time today but I should do the math on who produces a bigger Democratic margin: Johnson County or the 23 counties combined that hosted the Wing Ding in August. .This year's Wing Ding‬ got four candidates (all but Webb).

However, the Johnson County Dems suffer from a scheduling conflict: we locked in the date and venue months ago, then got stepped on by the state party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner next weekend, which all five candidates are attending. Back to back cattle call weekends just weren't going to happen.

The Clinton campaign is sending former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm; Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin is campaigning today elsewhere in eastern Iowa. Our own Dave Loebsack will also be on hand to speak. Not speaking but attending are the US Senate candidates, presumptive nominee Rob Hogg and Some Dudes Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen.

For me the highlight is our silent auction. This year I am once again donating an official, event-worn Deeth Blog beret, with proceeds to the JCDems. The last berets I auctioned off (for the Crisis Center) sent for $210 each.

I've also donated an I'm STILL WITH MEL button from the 2000 Missouri Senate race. The Democratic candidate, Gov. Mel Carnahan, was killed in a plane crash two weeks before the election. Under state law he stayed on the ballot, and he won the election posthumously (widow Jean Carnahan was appointed). Patrick Rynard of Iowa Starting Line has put in an early bid of $20.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Hayek's Last Act

In 33 years as a registered voter - my first vote was for William Proxmire - I've cast a few ballots I regret.

Mostly by omission, passing over a candidate in a multi-winner race who turned out pretty good, in order to bullet vote only for my one favorite.

Then there was that write in for my cat in a race with no candidate, which came back to karmically bite my butt when I spent a whole Veteran's Day weekend tallying those write-ins.

But in all my years of voting there is no vote I more regret - and I specifically include Ralph Nader 2000 in this - no vote I more regret than Matt Hayek in 2007.

I didn't just vote for him, I actually HELPED him. He campaigned as a broad consensus builder, and the other choices that cycle were both weak and bad, so I signed up.

But soon after his record-setting win, he turned away from the progressive half of his coalition, and siding with the developers and landlords that have run this town since long before I arrived. 
And say what you will about the merits or demerits of Iowa City's 21 Bar ordinance. I've said enough and that's not the point here.

The point is, even if you agreed on the issue, the campaign Hayek led in 2010 was ugly and nativist. Hayek made 21 Bar a townie vs. student culture war, and defined the issue to townie crowds as "taking our city back."

No, it wasn't enough to argue the merits.  Hayek and the old guard had to put the students in their place. Because that's what the Iowa City landlord and real estate class does - not just to students, to the working class and poor population of this city as well.

I did NOT make the mistake of supporting Matt Hayek in 2011.

Hayek was once rumored to have higher ambitions. But his flimsy ties to the local Democratic Party long ago crumbled from neglect.

Sure, he's put in the occasional appearance when the President was in town, always getting a shout out from the stage based solely on his title while the local leaders who were actually WITH Obama (Matt was a DODD guy) in 2007, Bob Dvorsky and Rod Sullivan, sat unrecognized.  A petty gripe, I know, and not one I ever heard Bob or Rod make. But I heard a lot of OTHER people say it, people who would move and shake in any hypothetical Democratic primary Hayek would be interested in.

But as for actual substance, 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, meaning it was aimed straight at aging natives because no one else still reads it in print.

The whole thing is worth a read because, whoever actually wrote it, it's a priceless insight into the mindset of the Iowa City old guard. Excerpts:

A group of city council candidates threatens this balance. They call themselves the “Core Four” and seek a majority on the council. 

That would be Jim Throgmorton, Rockne Cole, Pauline Taylor and John Thomas.

One of them is presently suing the city.  Another says our community is not “just” and wants to issue public debt to fund his pet causes. 

Keepin' it classy, Matt.

All of them are unabashedly running as a slate.

A SLATE!?! OH NOES! Not a SLATE!  Hayek then just happens, maybe on accident,  to endorse individually and separately and not at all in a slatey way... yup, all four of the other candidates in the race: Michelle Payne, Tim Conroy, Rick Dobyns and Scott McDonough.

If this slate wins, the next mayor will likely be Jim Throgmorton. 

You say that like it's a BAD thing, Matt.

We will return to the anti-growth, micromanaging city hall of eras past. We will lose the critical progress made by recent councils with the help of talented professional staff. 

Because Lord forbid that the elected officials actually decide stuff, rather than the staff.

Hayek's over the top editorial has been making the rounds on the progressive social media circuit, as unintentional comedy and as motivation.

As chance would have it, the Iowa City Federation of Labor met Wednesday night. The Core Four got a near-unanimous endorsement. Only "near" because Taylor, an SEIU delegate, abstained from endorsing herself. One delegate described Hayek's piece as "a necessary unmasking" of the council majority faction.

Before the endorsement vote, candidates discussed Hayek's editorial and other experiences they've had while campaigning.

"What bothered me the most " about Hayek's piece, Taylor said, "is  Jim is warm and compassionate about Iowa City, and it was total disrespect. We're seeing the other side get anxious."

Throgmorton said he had attended the Chamber of Commerce candidate forum, which only a small number of chamber members attended and which, unlike all other forums to date, was not recorded. Throgmorton said as soon as questioning began Dobyns, Taylor's opponent in the District A race, attacked Taylor saying she had "corrupted the narrative" by allying with Thomas, Cole and Throgmorton.

"They (the current council majority) firmly believe they are entitled to ALL of the seats," said Cole.  "We want to add new seats at the table."

"When we have thoughtful voices like Jim and we get attacked, it really shows where we are," Cole added.

"We will need you help AFTER we get into office," Throgmorton told union delegates, "because the same players are out there."

So maybe we've all cast votes we're ashamed of. I'm proud of the vote I cast last week for  Jim Throgmorton, Rockne Cole, Pauline Taylor and John Thomas.

And today, I'm prouder still.

Because I know my vote canceled out Matt Hayek's.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sanders Gives Clinton A Strategic Debate Win

Careful what you wish for, Sanders people.

Bernie clearly had the moment of the night with the "the American people are sick of hearing about your damn emails line." And Sanders supporters loved it. He used it to pivot to talking about The Media and The Issues.

But Hillary Clinton was nodding and smiling and thanking through all of it. And with good reason.

Clinton had done just fine on her own with her own answer, painting it as partisanship and getting applause. One part of the strongest overall performance of the night. Bernie's answer was more dramatic... and very final.

Bernie Sanders has taken email off the table for the Democratic primary season. The other candidates can't raise it now without diminishing themselves.  The obsessed media will continue, of course, but now Clinton can easily deflect by saying "this is a partisan attack" (the answer she clearly always wanted to give) "and even my main opponent says we're sick of this."


In any case, Sanders and Clinton were relatively evenly matched much of the night, each playing to strength: Sanders spontaneous, Clinton measured.

But Hillary seemed more ready. Sanders came off as if trying to cram the whole Bernie Speech, at arena volume, into one answer, and it took him a couple rounds to settle in.

And unfortunately for Sanders, the first major exchange was on guns, the one issue where Clinton could get to his left which she did solidly. Martin O'Malley helped with the assist - and reminded us of it near the end naming the NRA as the enemy he was most proud of - and Sanders was left arguing that he had to be for gun rights in a rural state. Bernie Sanders, making a Red State argument.

In the end, Sanders satisfied his supporters and Clinton hers, and Clinton gets a big strategic win. There was no obvious weakness, and email is now off limits, so the slim chance that Joe Biden gets in has faded even more.

Martin O'Malley was clearly the winner of the second tier. He tried to play the Reasonable Role and navigate the narrow straits between Hillary and Bernie. O'Malley offered solid answers, well within the mainstream of Democratic primary voters. But, and this may be a critique of the process, he didn't generate a breakout moment. His best moment, the firm "The. National. Rifle. Association." response to the enemies question, was too late and too context dependent.

And the most, um, memorable answer to that question came from Jim Webb bragging about That Charlie I Killed In Nam,and looking almost eager to go back and do it again. Up to that point, the most notable point about Webb was his role as the Timekeeping Nag. At one point Hillary reaised her hand as Webb was speaking, then realized the absurdity, laughed, and lowered it.

Lincoln Chafee got the least time, but more time would only have meant more damage. Before tonight he was an obscurity; now he's a laughing stock. His admission that, as a brand new appointed senator replacing his late father, he simply wasn't ready to cast an informed vote may have been the most honest answer of the night, but it's one of the most devastating gaffes in debate history.

Chafee had fumbled long before that; Hillary easily batted away his attack on the Iraq vote, he got time to repeat it, and when she was offered response time she simple said "No." (Almost as good as Joe Biden's identical response about his verbosity.) I'd like to have his nine or so minutes back and split it between Webb and O'Malley.

(And that's part of what was good about this debate: half as many candidates = twice as much time per.)

As for moderation, Anderson Cooper spent the first hour of the debate working variations of "Bernie, are you a Red red or just a pinko Com Symp?" and "Hillary, are you a crook or just a liar?" And Dana Bash tried to instigate a Hillary Clinton-Carly Fiorina cat fight, but Hillary wouldn't take the bait.

Another week's notes

Harry Reid, delete your account:

Only reason Nevada even IS an early state is because guys from New Mexico and Arizona were both running in 2008.

Yes, we are still first, though the Johnson County Democrats BBQ this Saturday is not the cattle call that it's been in recent years. In 2007 it was a five candidate event. In 2003 we had three candidates, and one of them, John Kerry, brought along his pal Ted Kennedy.

But this year, it looks like Bernie Sanders is the lone candidate. Team Hillary is sending ex-Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm - who is reportedly quite dynamic, but still not a candidate. The candidate is scheduled to speak to African American group the Alabama Democratic Conference Saturday.

Martin O'Malley staff confirmed yesterday that he will be in New Hampshire this weekend; a surrogate is yet to be announced. And it's next to impossible to find an Iowa contact for teams Webb or Chaffee.

In any case, doors open at 3, Sanders is scheduled at 3:30, and schmoozing with the locals is always fun. Plus there's a silent auction, and a genuine interview-worn beret is on the block.

Part of the problem for local Dems is that after scheduling their event around football and County Fairgrounds availability, they got stepped on by the state party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner. (The last one ever, as the name is being changed next year.) All five candidates will be at that, and Iowa cattle calls back to back weekends just weren't going to happen.

Hillary is binging Katy Perry (definitely more A-list than Granholm) in for a pre-rally, but whoever brings Perry the Platypus gets my endorsement. Rick Perry of course is out and Joe Perry is probably just as mad as Steven Tyler about Trump using Aerosmith as rally music.

The Republicans are also stopping by the People's Republic. Rand Paul was in town last night - I'm still trying to sell the media on my theory that Sanders is what's killed the Paul campaign. And Jindal, Santorum and Huckabee are in town for a pro-Israel event tonight.

That, of course, conflicts with the Democratic debate, and since we've waited long enough I'm going to be watching that.  Expectation: Bernie and Hillary will almost seem to be in different debates and will bend over backwards to avoid attacking or even acknowledging each other.  So who makes the Hillary attack? Chaffee, who is only running so that he can be in debates and specifically make an Iraq war attack.

Dennis Hastert is contemplating a plea deal officially over banking fraud but unofficially over molesting his students decades ago. His punishment may be having to become Speaker of the House again. One key difference between American legislative politics and a  parliamentary system: We just had the the Vote Of No Confidence, but we don't get the new election to follow.

The Gazette just did its city election endorsement which I half agree with. Their praise for some of the candidates they didn't endorse was interesting, but more interesting was their lack of mention for one incumbent. Shorter version: Anyone But Michelle Payne. Factoid: Rockne Cole got more votes losing in 2013 than Payne or Rick Dobyns got winning in 2011.

And my own endorsement: Cheap Trick has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, giving me an excuse to re-up this. All right Tokyo!

Monday, October 05, 2015

Think Small

Art Small passed away over the weekend and I don't really want to minimize his death in a catch-all post, but Jeff Charis-Carlson already covered the basics.

Small's last hurrah was as Chuck Grassley's 2004 challenger. Art did the party a favor by stepping up when literally no one else was willing, and he didn't get the credit he deserved at the time for that stand-up act of citizenship.

Art's slogan that year was "Think Big, Vote Small," perhaps inspired by the legendary Volkswagen ads of the Mad Men age?

Small would have been a formidable Grassley challenger three cycles earlier, in 1986. That was the year Art left the legislature in an attempt to run for lieutenant governor - which was, at the time, an independently elected office with significant responsibility. Art fell short in the primary.

Between Small's passing and the death last week of Joe Johnston, it's really feeling like the end of an era...
I've dropped off the radar in the past week, falling behind enough on the news that even Yet Another Mass Shooting failed to get me writing. It's hard to write the same post over and over and over...

Caucus chair recruiting has moved from the low hanging fruit, mass email stage to the gentle arm twisting stage. 46 chairs lined up, 11 to go...
The yard on the left, spatially and ideologically, is mine. Early voting for the November 3 election started today and we saw a dozen Iowa City voters (including myself)  and one small towner at the office. Stop by and say hi to me, Travis Weipert and the crew.

Mark "Chickenman" Chelgren is announcing his candidacy against Dave Loebsack tomorrow, with a Free Beer! event in Iowa City. I have a feeling that in a presidential year, a race between an incumbent who's stronger than people think and an often abrasive state legislator is going to look an awful lot like Dave Hartsuch vs. Bruce Braley in 2008. By the end of that one, they weren't even inviting Hartsuch on stage when John McCain visited his home county...

It's funny; Republicans like to dismiss Loebsack as a fluke, but no one gets to term FIVE as a fluke. Meanwhile, Chelgren won his first term in the worst Democratic year in two decades by blindsiding an unsuspecting incumbent. by a whopping TEN votes. Then in 2014, his Democratic challenger made the most boneheaded unforced error of 2014*; instead of merely recycling Chelgren's "survey" mailer, he filled it out with smart ass answers and sent it back.  Would have cost us the state Senate if it weren't for Kevin Kinney.

* Only because Brandon Bostick in the NFC championship was technically calendar year 2015.
If Amy Poehler had shown up, Darrell Hammond's head would have exploded from critical Hillary mass. Val The Bartender - we hope this is a recurring character - pulls off the second best presidential candidate intro of SNL musical guest ever.  (No one will ever top Steve Forbes having to say "Ladies and gentlemen, Rage Against The Machine.") And at some point we need to see if Kyle Mooney can do a decent Bernie Sanders.
Speaking of Bernie. I met with some international visitors today through UIowa's CIVIC program, something I do periodically and always enjoy. We have a local blogger panel of myself, libertarian Joseph Dobrian, and Nicholas Johnson who's one of the more prominent local Sanders supporters.  They both liked my theory of the overlap between Sanders and Paul support.

My national readers don't get that theory. Only people who really know Iowa City seem to get that theory. If you had wanted to be at ground zero of the Sanders/Paul singularity, you would have gone to the Edward Snowden tele-lecture at the Englert last week.