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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jeb Bush is in!

The 2016 Presidential candidate selection process will be very exciting. Every day new Democrats and Republicans look in the mirror and ask themselves "Can I be President of the United States?"

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush did that today and decided the answer is "Yes. I should run and I can offer American voters something other Republicans can't"

Here is his announcement that he is now seriously looking into running
 https://www.facebook.com/notes/jeb-bush/a-note-from-jeb-bush/619074134888300

This is a decision that will change the dynamic of candidate jostling for a place in line. I describe this as the "Black Friday" of the Iowa caucuses. Just like the crowds of shoppers we have a huge number of presidential wannabes jamming the door of the political entryway. The door is now opening and we will see the contenders rushing in to make their case.

I was asked if Jeb Bush has a chance in conservative Republican Iowa "caucusland." My questionsare:

"Would the former Massachusetts Republican governor have a chance in Iowa?"
"Would a Republican governor who is socially moderate have a chance at winning the Iowa Caucuses?"
"Would a Republican governor who proposed and got passed a "universal" healthcare law passed in his state have a chance of winning the Iowa caucuses and getting the GOP nomination?"

Well you know the answer.

YES!

The name is Mitt Romney who was declared DOA - dead on arrival - as he declared his candidacy for President. He was too liberal, as Gov of Massachusetts he had no chance in conservative Iowa. 

Yet he tied for and won the Iowa caucuses and went on to get the party nomination for President in 2010.

Jeb Bush brings experience as governor of Florida, one of the largest and most dynamic states in the country. He is widely seen as being able to reach across the political isle to get support from independent (no party) voters. Of all the potential 2016 Republican contenders he is best positioned to appeal to Hispanic/Latino voters. That's a value the Republicans know can make a big difference in winning the White House as his brother George W. Bush proved.

So, the 2016 caucus and primary season will be more interesting with both a Bush and a Clinton running for President. It's almost like yesterday!





Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Caucuses are Coming!

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Rick Santorum has indicated that he’s setting up an exploratory committee for the 2016 race for the White House.

Exploratory!? What the heck! That basically means he is going to run for President.

I was asked by reporter Salena Vito of the Trib newspaper in Philadelphia if I though that the former PA Senator had a chance to do well in Iowa.

Of course I think that the winner of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses is a natural to come back for a second or third try! He has a solid conservative Christian base in Iowa. he has a devoted campaign organization that can be quickly reactivated. He has an excellent chance of coming in 1, 2, or 3 in the 2016 caucuses, which is where you need to be to have a chance at the nomination. If the "other" winner of the caucuses and GOP candidate for President Mitt Romney can be the current frontrunner then surely Santorum has an excellent shot at the golden ring.

Also, since according to the national news media, big GOP donors want an early front runner to avoid the costly and bloody bash-fest of the last caucus season declaring early and going for the other contenders throat will be an advantage this political season.

The 2016 Iowa caucuses are an incredibly exciting proposition.

“In you're opinion, who would be the top three endorsements from Iowa for Democratic candidates and top three coveted endorsements for Republican candidates?”

My answers were:

Democrats. Tom Harkin because Dems still love him. Tom Vilsack because he is successful and still a "winner". Congressman Dave Loebsack. He's one of the only currently politically successful Democrats in Iowa so he has the "magic juice" which may be crucial to the Democrat who wants to get the nomination and also win the general election. Hillary needs to have lunch with David because she thinks she's the cat's meow but his advice would be helpful.

Republicans. Number one is Terry Branstad because "he da man", the most incredibly Teflon coated governor for life. But he will not endorse anyone!!  A second number one is Senator Joni Ernst who has charisma such as I have rarely seen in Iowa politics.  Obviously Congressman Steve King of Kiron. King represents a powerful Tea Party conservative wing of the party. This cycle  he plans to literally become a "kingmaker" with his candidate forum. I think AJ Spiker is the third guy to watch because he is so central to Rand Paul's bid for the White House.

As I said, the 2016 elections will be absolutely exciting because there is no incumbent running for President so it’s a free for all political dream for a political scientist like me.

I hope YOU will also get a scorecard or “brackets” and start following all the diverse people who think they can do a better job than Obama.

http://www.iowacaucusesmooc.org Get information about my free Iowa Caucuses Internet class in the fall of 2015.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Breaking Iowa Caucus News!

This political season it seems there are new, exciting, and important changes happening even two years before the First in the Nation Iowa Political Caucuses.

First, the Iowa Republican Party has implemented a neutrality policy. Jennifer Jacobs of the des Moines Register writes, "

To ward off controversies over conflicts of interest, the Republican Party of Iowa's leadership committee members have pledged to stay neutral in the Iowa caucuses, party leaders said Wednesday.
"No member of the Republican Party of Iowa state central committee, its officers, or its staff shall publicly endorse a U.S. presidential candidate during the 2016 Iowa caucuses," says the pledge, signed by Chairman Jeff Kaufmann, Co-chairman Cody Hoefert and all of the members at a meeting on Nov. 22."

 This is a very significant move intended to make the Iowa Caucuses fair and attractive to all Republican Presidential aspirants. That is crucial because "biased" caucuses discourage full participation.

Second, "No Labels, the non-partisan group aimed at breaking up gridlock in Washington, is advancing its effort to organize in Iowa with a plan to join the issues discussion surrounding the 2016 presidential caucuses," writes Kathie Obradovich.

Obradovich correctly asks whether a group that pushes non-partisan and bi-partisan dialog on the big issues facing the nation can expect a highly partisan event like the Iowa Caucuses to actually be a place for none partisan discussion.

She adds, "The group is hoping to get at least one presidential candidate to sign on to a national agenda built around goals related to a balanced federal budget, job creation and energy security. Along the way, the group wants to foster public discussions on how to achieve the goals. The group will hold town hall meetings and grill presidential candidates on the issues. The national strategic agenda would be unveiled in October 2015."

 Third, I was struck by the headline "Newt Gingrich Returns to Iowa." The former Speaker of the House and 2012 Presidential candidate has indicated that he is NOT interested in running for President in 2016. However, my experience is that if pushed, invited, and encouraged to do so he will say yes in a New York , or let's say a Cedar Rapids minute!

 "Gingrich said he wants to ensure that ideas for how to fight radical Islamists and stay competitive with China and Russia are part of the national debate in the 2016 presidential race — in both the GOP nomination battle and with the Democrats in the general election." http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2014/12/03/newt-gingrich-return-iowa/19851859/

Stay tuned because I know that the 2016 Caucuses are going to be very interesting and in some respects different from previous events.



Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Sign up for our forthcoming Presidential Caucuses Internet class

http://www.iowacaucusesmooc.org

We are planning a free Internet class on the 2016 Presidential Caucuses. Please go to this web site and we will put you down as interested. NO OBLIGATION.

The 2016 race for the White House will be one of the most exciting and tension-filled contests in decades. The Republicans have a field of at least 24 potential candidates. (see link below)

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2014/11/29/iowa-caucuses-potential-candidates-events/19690577/ 

The Democrats have a CLEAR front runner in Hillary Clinton.

How will this all shake out?

Will Clinton be challenged in the caucuses and primaries? If so who will be the most powerful challenger?

Mitt Romney is currently the GOP front runner. The problem is he has said he will NOT run!

If not Romney then which of the 23 or more other potential contenders will rise to the top?

In our FREE Iowa Caucuses MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) Fall 2016 we will explore the origins and highlights of the Presidential Caucuses.  We will have a dynamic on-line discussion forum where we want your opinions and insights.

http://www.iowacaucusesmooc.org Sign up here.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Iowa Caucuses 2016 - Is Hillary Clinton Inevitable?

Let me share with you the best article I've read so far on the Hillary Clinton phenomenon and the Iowa 2016 Caucuses.

Ryan Lizza, "The Inevitability Trap," writing in the New Yorker (Nov 17, 2014) analyzes the prospect of Hillary Clinton being the Democratic Party nominee for President in 2016 with her "coronation" rather than as a result of a vigorous primary season.

The basic premise of the article is that "In every fight for the Democratic Presidential nomination in the past five decades, there has come a moment when the front-runner faltered."

1. In 1984, Walter Mondale seems inevitable until Senator Gary Hart suddenly surged as a serious threat to the "inevitable" Mondale. Hart faltered because he had a poor organization for harvesting delegates and Mondale prevailed.

2. In 2000, Vice-President Al Gore was on a glide path to the nomination until New Jersey Senator and former basketball start Bill Bradley challenged Gore and the Clinton Administration's coziness with Wall Street which had upset liberals in the Democratic Aprty.

3. In 2004 on of a group of experienced politicians especially John Kerry were expected to easily win the Iowa Caucuses until Dr. Howard Dean, a virtually unknown ex-governor of Vermont electrified the progressive wing on the Democratic party and gave Kerry a good run for the money. While Dean excited his large horde of followers, like Hart, he did not have a good organization to thrust his campaign forward. On caucus night Dean promised to continue the fight for nomination but at a rally of his supporters he excitedly shouted into the microphone which produced what has become known as the "Dean Scream" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5FzCeV0ZFc

4. In 2007 Hilary Clinton was the clear favorite and most deeply funded contender for the Iowa Caucuses and the nomination. Leading into the 2008 caucuses she was suddenly faced with a surging young Senator from Illinois Barak Hussein Obama. We all know that Obama pulled a surprise victory in Iowa and continued to pursue Clinton in ever subsequent primary and caucus all the way to June when he had accumulated enough delegates to win the nomination.

In 2016 Lizza argues that Clinton will find herself challenged for the nomination by at least three interesting Democrats who would appeal to different wings of the Democratic Party which, like the Republicans, is a loos coalition of several tendencies. The three likely challengers are Martin O’Malley, governor of Maryland, Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, and Senator Bernie Sanders, "a democratic socialist and the longest-serving independent in Congress, is seventy-three; he speaks with a Brooklyn accent that is slightly tempered by more than two decades of living in Vermont, where he was previously the mayor of Burlington and then the state’s representative in the U.S. House."

I will blog more in the near future on this very interesting prospect of a vigorous Democratic contest for victory or even second place in the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. 

For the full read of Lizza's piece go to The New Yorker:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/11/17/inevitability-trap

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Election 2014 and Iowa Caucuses

After the Tsunami 2014- Now What? On to The Iowa Caucuses
Steffen Schmidt

The annoying political ads have disappeared from our TV screens. Iowans can now set aside their anti anxiety medications and get back to what really matters; family, friends, faith, work, deer hunting, health, Christmas shopping.

The outcome was of course a tsunami that swept away many Democrats not just in Iowa but across the nation. After this rout the Republicans have control of the Senate by at least seven votes with Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell replacing GOP punching bag Harry Reid as Majority Leader. Most significantly the GOP has the largest majority of any party in the House since the Great Depression.  When all the outstanding races are called the Republicans may have more than seven Senate gains.

For Democrats Jean Shaheen’s victory in New Hampshire against Scott Brown and Virginia Mark Warner’s probably victory (there will be a recount it was so close) may be the only bright spots for the Democrats.

The Republicans have been fighting President Obama since his swearing in and the 2014 race was seen as a rejection of Obama’s policies. Obamacare has certainly been a contentious policy even though many parts of the healthcare law are very popular. If this election was a rejection of the Obama-Democratic policies there was actually no one to explain and defend the many potentially popular and successful policies. Saving the country from a depression, bringing down the price of energy, creating jobs and bringing down unemployment, stimulating economic growth to the point where the US is now one of the leading growth economies in the world.

The Democrats ran away from their President and from the very policies they had supported in the hope that they could distance themselves from these laws. That of course was a foolish idea.

In Iowa more than Obama explains the significant successes of the GOP.

First, Terry Branstad is a political machine covered in Teflon. Nothing negative about his administration sticks and he attracts independents which accounts for his juggernaut. His opponent Senator Jack Hatch was a low energy contender whose campaign never really began to roll out. He often seemed as though he actually hoped he would not win. When he was seen walking his dog in his bathrobe we knew it was all over.  Shades of Bill Murray.

In the first district Democratic legislator Pat Murphy was slow in ramping up his campaign and lagged in fundraising. He seemed to never be able to switch gears  from being a State House candidate to a contender for a national position. Republican businessman Rod Blum simply ran a better and more robustly funded campaign. 

In the second district  the Republicans decided that maybe the third time would be magic for Mariannette Miller–Meeks against incumbent Democrat Dave Loebsack. That of course did not work and the Democrats retain he only national position  for Iowa.

The Third District race was close but  Staci Appel who had lost her reelection to the Iowa Senate in 2010, was disadvantaged. I am reluctant to say so but since no one else has the guts I ‘ll say so her commercials where poorly crafted. Her hair, a trivial part of any political choice to be sure, was the subject of comment and therefore was a distraction to her message. It was actually mentioned for months in Facebook and Twitter threads.

The Fourth District once again proved to be Steve King country. He barely ran any commercials but really didn’t need to. His opponent, veteran Jim Mowrer ran a weak campaign which was so disoriented that he failed to mention directly and clearly that he was an Iraq war veteran serving in the Iowa National Guard until the end of the campaign. 

The US Senate race in Iowa was a mismatch. Republican Joni Ernst proved to be a terrific candidate. She is photogenic, spoke directly into the camera and ta voters, spun a humorous and edgy campaign with her hog castration ads.  It helped immensely that she is a Colonel in the Iowa national Guard ad served in Iraq and that she was able to project a “macho” Gal image with her Harley, leather jacket, and shooting at the gun range. 

Congressman Bruce Braley suffered form very unfortunate Karma. Running unopposed for the nomination he missed the chance to sell himself throughout the state. Instead, the campaign got of to a very late start and then was plagued by foot-in-mouth issues of which his unfortunate fund raiser in Texas where he seemed to trash Senator Grassley and Iowa Farmers was fatal.  It also did not help Braley that almost every notable who came to endorse him including Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama mispronounced his name making it look like they had no idea who he was (they said Bradley or Bailey). This was capped by Senator Tom Harkin making some dumb comments about Joni Ernst "looking good" on the last day of the campaign for which he had to apologize.

Voters wanted an end to gridlock and by giving the GOP a solid majority in the Senate and the House they may get what they wished for. Now with the GOP in control of both houses of Congress bills will be passed and it’s up to President Obama to go negotiate with his Congress for legislation compromises that he can actually sign.

All of this will have a huge impact on Caucus 2016. The 2014 race was the launching place for the many candidates aspiring to become President in 2016. The 2014 election is a petri dish for studying the electorate, the issues, the mood of the country, and in Iowa to find allies for the crucial 2016 Iowa caucuses. That's why you saw almost every aspiring contender including Hillary Clinton and other Democratic wannabes (Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, etc.) and of course the full Republican field which includes at a minimum, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina, and two who have already filed with the Federal Election Commission Jack Fellure a retired engineer from West Virginia, 2012 Prohibition Party presidential nominee and Josue Larose a "Political organizer" from Florida. 



Friday, October 31, 2014

Election 2014 and the Iowa Caucuses

I get many, I mean MANY e mails, Facebook messages, and phone calls from reporters trying to puzzle out the Iowa Political Caucuses. A recent inquiry from my friend the US political corrspondednt of the largest Slovakian newspaper Pravda intrigued me and got me thinking.

What is the connection between off year elections when the caucuses are not exciting because there is no presidential race and the one's every four years that brings the world to every little town and hollow in Iowa?

The 2014 election is a good example.

Ostensibly this race was about:

a.  an open Senate seat which is a rare and precious opportunity for the opposite party from the current incumbent Democrat Tom Harkin who decided to retire, to snag a new seat

b. a governors race pitting world champion Terry Branstad seeking a sixth term in two centuries making him the longest serving governor in history and a weak Democratic challenger

c. an open House seat in the First Congressional District a seat vacated by Democrat Bruce Braley who decided to run for the Open Senate seat instead which is also a bonanza because there are not that many open House seats, making the results a tossup. The Democrat running for this seat ran a lackadasical race and there were fears this seat might flip to the Republicans.

d. another rare open seat in Iowa's Third District when the incumbent Republican Tom Latham decided to come home to spend more time with his family and business. This race became a BRUTAL contest between the Democrat and Republican with huge amounts of outside money poured into the race.

e. the Fourth District held by Tea Party ultra conservative Steve King who was under assault from a young Iraq veteran Jim Mowrer who rattled the old incumbent because Mowrer had no record in politics and was a combat veteran which made it hard to attack him.

BUT, in the strange world that is American politics 2014 became very much a precursor to the 2016 Presidential Caucuses. Not only did Hillary Clinton, the presimed candidate of the democrats, make frequent visits to Iowa mostly to support Democratic candidates but Bill Clinton also tagged along and got massive media exposure.

On the Republican side every potential 2016 candidate for President tracked through Iowa doing such improbable events as "raising money to elect Terry Branstad governor" a laughable neccesity since Branstda was awash in money and double digits ahead of his opponent.

I could make a list here of which Republicans came and who came for seconds and thirds but you can make that list yourself. If you REALLY need me to elaborate, contact me at sws@iastate.edu and ask me to post another blog with the names of Republican likely contenders for 2016.

The take away: fFor the Iowa caucuses any year BEFORE the actual presidential caucus is an opportunity to make connections and network in Iowa with an eye on the Presidency.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Media and Iowa Caucuses

I have noted that the Iowa caucuses are so important because the world media has been convinced that ... well, the caucuses are so important.

Several of my colleagues have written about the caucuses as "media driven." Drake University professor Hugh Winebrenner is a critic of the caucuses because he argues that they are mostly media hype.

This year (2014) Senator Tom Harkin again had his famous "steak fry" in Indianola, Iowa. Bill and Hillary Clinton were the guests and Hillary was the keynote speaker. There were over ten thousand attendees and a huge gaggle of media from all over the world. One of my colleagues estimated over 500.

Read the following description of the event and you'll get a good idea of the hoopla. Hillary Clinton attending and headlining the event was like hitting a hornets nest of media. Would she declare that she's running in 2016? How would Democratic activists attending the event assess her as a candidate? Will she do better in the 2016 caucuses than she did the last time she ran for President on 2008 when she came in third after Barak Obama and John Edwards?

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/14/hillary-clinton-democrats-iowa-steak-fry-2016

The media significance of the Iowa Presidential Caucuses is so huge that Iowa and Presidential Politics are associated with each other any day of the week of any year. That's true ONLY because the Iowa caucuses have become such a bright, flashing billboard on the American highway to the White House.




Friday, September 12, 2014

Hillary Clnton in Iowa

Here we go again!

Bill and Hillary Clinton are coming to Iowa. The news media is abuzz. What if Hillary and Bill were going to be at an event in, say, California? No one would care.

The reason is obviously that Iowa is home to the first in the nation Presidential selection event, namely the Iowa Caucuses.

Hillary (and Bill) is the keynote speaker at retiring Democratic Iowa Senator Tom Harkin's annual "Steak Fry" which is a long standing and important tradition. Clinton has not declared that she is running for President in 2016. However, coming to Iowa for this high visibility political festival practically guarantees that Clinton will run in 2016.

Practically in the same breath as reporting Hillary's excursion to central Iowa the media is reporting that Vice President Joe Biden is coming to Iowa the next week. Hmm, is that significant?

Vermont Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders was just in Iowa giving speeches and getting a big visibility column in the Des Moines Register. Is, HIS visit to Iowa significant?

The answer is yes to both Biden and Sanders. The reason is that Biden and Sanders (and, of course other high visibility Democrats such as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren) are seen as potential adversaries to Clinton for the 2016 White House bid. In fact many Democrats feel that the nomination MUST be contested and that Hilary should not be given a free ride to the nomination.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Caucuses and the Sorensen "scandal"

Iowa politicians and leaders are always worried that bad political things in Iowa may discredit the state as the place to hold the first in the nation candidate selection event, the Iowa Caucuses.

One big problem was the miscount of Republican caucus votes in 2012 which gave Mitt Romney the victory only to require a correction awarding Rick Santorum slightly more votes.

The latest "scare" is the legal disaster of Kent Sorenson. Here is how the Des Moines independent publication Cityview spun the story in their September 4, 2014 issue.

"Two years ago, Cityview wrote: “Kent Sorenson dropped out of high school at age 17, has filed for bankruptcy, has been convicted of delivery of marijuana and been sentenced to jail, has been convicted of defaulting on car loan payments, had unpaid federal income taxes for three different years, has dealt with a serious illness of one of his six children — and last week said his decision to leave the Bachmann campaign to sign on with Ron Paul was ‘one of the most difficult I have had to make in my life.’ ”

It turns out the decision was made easier by cash.

The former legislator from Warren County pleaded guilty last week to two federal charges: willfully filing false reports of federal campaign expenditures and “falsifying records…intending to obstruct” a federal investigation. (He earlier had “vehemently” denied the allegations.)

Sorenson, who had a following on the far right, was supporting fellow Republican Michele Bachmann for the party’s presidential nomination two years ago when he suddenly shifted to backing Paul. The shift was prompted by a secret $73,000 payment, which he added to the money the Bachmann campaign was paying him. He then lied about it to investigators.

He could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison. Sorenson and the federal prosecutors have entered a plea agreement that would reduce his sentence, but a judge may ignore that. The presentence investigation is due Oct. 13. Senior federal district judge Robert Pratt will determine the sentence. No date has been set, but the deadline for objections to the pre-sentence report is Monday, Nov. 3.

So Sorenson could again be on the front pages on Election Day. But the photo might be different this year."

It's too early to tell is this yucky political disaster will be enough to taint Iowa as a place with decent, honest politics which is what got Iowa the privilege of first in the nation.



Thursday, August 07, 2014

Are the Iowa Caucuses Still Relevant?

Recently my colleague Kathy Obradovich wrote a very insightful column on the Iowa caucuses. I want to share that with you because there is ALWAYS a discussion of whether the caucuses distort the Presidential selection process.

Kathy wrote.
 
"I hear more often than you might expect from Iowans who think it would be just fine to substitute the caucuses for a primary. Sure, we'd give up our first- in-the-nation status, they argue, but then everyone can participate. A caucus requires attendance at a precinct party meeting in January or February. In a primary, voters can cast a ballot any time the polls are open or vote absentee.

Sometimes, I hear from people who want to participate but find it difficult because they are elderly or have mobility issues. Their concern is absolutely valid and it's one of the reasons why I'm happy to see the Iowa Democratic Party working to address accessibility issues at the caucuses (/story/opinion /columnists/kathie-obradovich/2014/08/02/obradovich-caucuses/13517071/). Others, however, seem to think it would be just fine if Iowans could make up their minds based on TV ads and national media reports rather than seeing or meeting candidates in person.

What I don't think some voters here have considered is that if Iowa held a primary in June 2016, they most likely wouldn't have their pick of seven or eight candidates. Instead, they'd be left with the ones who voters in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and maybe Michigan or Florida thought were fit to be president. Yes, every Iowa voter could participate — if only to rubber-stamp the choices already made in other states.

If states like Iowa got rid of caucuses and all moved to primaries, American voters would see far fewer candidates challenging the ones with big names and big bucks. Iowa's choices don't always go the distance, but they usually make sure the ones anointed by the kingmakers in Washington, D.C., have some competition along the way.

The caucuses are far from perfect, and both parties need to do everything they can to make sure people who want to participate are able to do so. They need to be transparent, accountable and accurate. But those who think Iowa's special status is robbing some voters of a voice should consider how losing the caucuses would rob all Iowans of choice."
 These are sound comments that well describe the benefits of the Iowa caucuses. 
Of course, the caucuses, like all good things, will some day go away. For now however, the Iowa caucuses continue to offer a good opportunity for Presidential contenders to "strut their stuff." As I've written before, the caucuses are like the county fair. From there, the competitors and exhibitors who make it go on to the big event, the State Fair which are the "mega primaries" that seal the fate of contenders.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Here Comes Ted Cruz

The Iowa Caucuses are like honey to flies for politicians. If you have even a small Napoleon Complex and think you could be the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth then Iowa is your venue every four years for the caucuses.

You will soon be tired of seeing "Here Comes" but unfortunately you are reading a blog on the Iowa Caucuses and we are "only" three years from a Presidential election so every Republican with a pulse is coming to Iowa, and frequently!

This week Texas Senator and "Tea Party Darling" (that was what one good political reporter calls him) Ted Cruz was in the state. As usual he was the guest of the guest of the network of Christian Educators and homeschooler's.  He then went to Mason City for a fund raiser with "Tea Party darling Iowa Congressman Steve King.

Cruz is trying to cement his credentials as a social conservative and as "the" religious candidate of the GOP. His main theme was the persecution of religion and imposition of unconstitutional mandates on schools by the federal government.

Iowa is the state of corn and ethanol, alcohol made from corn and blended with gasoline by federal law. Cruz is an opponent of ethanol blending which is no surprise since he comes from Texas where oil and gas are king.

On his March visit he got push back from a group calling itself VoteVets.org. "The Voice of American's 21st Century Patriots." It featured a picture of a soldier on his stomach aiming a rifle at a distant, Afghan-looking landscape. The ad admonished Cruz for opposing " ... the renewable fuels industry which supports 62,000 jobs and provides $4 billion in income for Iowa families."

The full page ad asked "Senator Cruz, as military veterans. we have one question for you. Do you want to import more oil from dangerous parts of the world, or produce more clean, homegrown American Biofuels?

The ad ends "A new job for you [ President of the United States?] shouldn't come at the expense of 62,000 Iowa jobs."

VoteVets Mission Statement states,
"Founded in 2006,  and backed by over 360,000 supporters, the mission of VoteVets.org is to use public issue campaigns and direct outreach to lawmakers to ensure that troops abroad have what they need to complete their missions, and receive the care they deserve when they get home.  VoteVets.org also recognizes veterans as a vital part of the fabric of our country and will work to protect veterans' interests in their day-to-day lives.  VoteVets.org is committed to the destruction of terror networks around the world – with force when necessary – to protect America."
The ad also has a banner line at the bottom from "SaveTheRFS.org" with RFS being the Renewable Fuels Standard which is the mandate that requires ethanol to be blended with gasoline. There is also a .com version with a different theme (no military veterans on this page) http://www.savetherfs.com/ 

If I am Ted Cruz I'm not very happy to have bumped into this hornets nest. These are heavy hitters. When you come to Iowa campaigning it doesn't matter how much Congressman King takes you pheasant hunting (that was last time) you are staring at a formidable coalition of farmers, ethanol plant investors, clean fuel consumers, and jobs. And in Iowa you don't mess with veterans either!

Even if this whole initiative may actually be launched by liberals, which is hard to tell since it is well packaged in a very patriotic theme.






Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Iowa Caucuses - Here comes Rick Perry

Rick Perry has been in Iowa again. The Texas governor was here last week to help Republican candidates, including Gov. Terry Branstad, who is trying to get re-elected for a sixth term.

Sure he is, because Branstad is in such a tight race with his Democratic opponent that he needs Rick Perry to help pull him over the top. Anyone who believes that has the intelligence of a fence post.

What amazes me is that Iowa Republicans are putting up with Perry and publicly fawning over him. That’s just wrong.

Rick Perry is a Texas “Big Oil” pusher. He is in bed with the Texas oil and gas industry. This energy sector is the greatest threat there is to Iowa’s ethanol, biofuels and wind power industries.

That also means that Perry is the single biggest threat to Iowa corn and soybean prices because these are the inputs for ethanol, biodiesel and wind turbine companies located in the state as well as a threat to the energy companies investing in wind farms, and a threat to the future of farmers leasing land to wind farms.

“Why is that so?” you ask.

Because Perry’s oil and gas industry is the big money behind efforts to eliminate tax breaks and other crucial federal policies that have made wind, ethanol and biofuels profitable.

Take the Renewable Fuel Standard. Perry said, “I also think that there’s a time that these incentives mature and that they can go away.”

Remember that. The Texas governor, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has long been a critic of the federal mandate, which requires that a certain amount of renewables be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.

Really, governor? How about the massive federal tax breaks the oil and gas industry enjoys? When, Governor, can those “go away”? I’ll bet my farm that you would never say that in Texas.

It is hard to believe that Perry has been received so politely and even enthusiastically by Iowa Republicans. By giving him the run of Branstad’s campaign, the message seems to be that Perry is received with open arms by Iowa Republicans.

Can you imagine a presidential candidate who advocates an end to subsidies to the oil and gas industry being cordially received in Houston? I can’t.

In past years, presidential candidates who trashed ethanol were at least challenged when they came to Iowa. And some, such as Arizona Sen. John McCain, lost Iowa in the November elections in part because of their position against Iowa’s treasures of corn, soybeans and wind power.

In case you don’t understand, an end to the blended fuel mandate and tax breaks for wind power would be “devastating to Iowa’s economy,” as Gov. Branstad himself has said.

Maybe Iowa Republicans will tell Perry how they feel about his position on support for corn, wind, ethanol and biodiesel when he appears on stage with the other 2016 GOP contenders, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, John Kasich, Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Kelly Ayotte, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum.

We had better send the message out loud and clear and now not later that for economic reasons, for sustainability, green energy, for jobs, and for the cleaner fuels of the future, in Iowa we will not support any candidate for national office who is not 100 percent behind our biorenewable and wind-powered energy initiatives.

From my Des Moines Register column March 3, 2014

Monday, January 20, 2014

Iowa Caucus Reforms 2014

The Iowa Presidential caucuses every four years are always under attack.

The 2016 caucuses are no exception.

Des Moines Register Senior Political Reporter Jennifer Jacobs explains.

"No remedies have yet been put in place to heal the Iowa GOP’s black eye from the vote-count embarrassment that unfolded after the 2012 Iowa presidential caucuses.

Two years ago today, Rick Santorum was announced as the official winner based on a certified vote, reversing Mitt Romney’s eight-vote win announced after 1 a.m. on caucus night."
Obradovich and Jacobs comment on Iowa caucuses (click for full video)
There are lots of critics of the caucuses but Jacobs reports many GOP operatives like and support the caucuses. I recently was interviewed by Nick Cary of Thomson Reuters and we talked about the significant admiration of the Iowa Presidential Caucuses by many Republican operatives specifically in Washington D.C. I've found the same to be true of the many Republican activists and professionals I know personally, many of whom are former students of mine. It's amazing how many professionals you produce in both political parties in 43 years as a professor at Iowa State University!

As we've said, the narrative of Presidential candidate selection with Iowa kicking off the process, New Hampshire following and then a short series of other primaries - Nevada and South Carolina to give some early regional diversity - is a pretty good way to manage the American political process. I have also talked at great length with New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner in his memorabilia-filled office in Concord. Gardner is the "dean" of SOS's holding that position since 1976! He is a big fan of "Iowa Caucuses First; a week later New Hampshire Primary Second."

The Iowa GOP has been preparing a series of changes in the Caucus procedures to improve the process. Of special importance is the creation of a better Caucus night operation. This includes:

1. Better training for the volunteers who preside over the thousands of precinct caucuses.

2. Create a vote counting process that is more consistent across all caucuses on the night of the big event.

3. Design a vote reporting system once each caucus votes which precisely delivers the exact vote to party headquarters. This will require a very simple but exact Internet and or phone-in system.

4. A data base that is user friendly, has verification redundancy, and can be quickly updated. The site needs to have a web site that each precinct chair can access after submitting the vote and he/she and at least two caucus officers from each precinct can verify.

5. A clear and simple information campaign to inform party leaders around the national and the news media on the reforms. This is vital to establishing a renewed credibility for the Iowa caucuses.

It's important to note that the validity of the Iowa Presidential Caucuses is totally centered on the reputation and integrity of Iowa as the best state to start the Presidential candidate vetting process. The reforms are crucial to restoring that reputation.



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