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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ted Cruz and Indiana's Religious "Freedom" Law

Preregistration for my free, short, online, Iowa caucuses class is now open. Information here.

The 2016 Iowa caucuses will be THE most exciting in my lifetime, and yours!

We have an abundance of candidates. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has just joined the field as the "Foreign Policy" candidate. He says no one else has his experience in foreign affairs. But, just like at the popular deli, he's got a ticket to be served but with a high number. There are lots of other candidates in line in front of him!

This week is Ted Cruz week. He's announced he's running for president, the first to do so. Now he has to keep things HOT or by tomorrow he will be yesterdays news. So, he now has to grab attention.

Today it's his support of Indiana's law that allows businesses to refuse service to anyone on religious grounds. It's clear by the interviews with some of the businesses in Indiana that support the law that it would primarily allow service to be refused to gay and lesbians.

The Indiana law has set off another firestorm. Faith-based leaders such as Bob Vander Plaats of Iowa say this type of law allows people to exercise their first amendment rights to freedom of religion. Opponents of the law including the NCAA, the CEO of Apple, and many politicians and leaders are saying that it is an unacceptable form of discrimination. Boycotts of Indiana and travel bans of employees f some companies to the state of Indiana have already been announced.

Will Cruz's position help him with Iowa's conservative, Christian, Republican caucus voters? That's his intent and we should remember that Texas is also going to pass a similar law. We will keep track of how Cruz does in polls and report back here.

Parody - Taco Ted Cruz

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Challenger to Hillary Clinton

Brian Schweitzer for President?

Read about it in the Cedar Rapids Gazette

Steffen Schmidt, guest columnist
MARCH 29, 2015 | 10:00 AM
Cedar Rapids Gazette

Edited and revised. 

I had an interesting chat with a friend recently who is very politically astute. He averred that the Democrats should look at Brian Schweitzer for president in 2016. He thinks Schweitzer could do well in the Iowa caucuses, attracting independent voters and even some disaffected Republicans.

Let's think outside the box for a minute.

Schweitzer was Governor of Montana from 2005-2013. He beat a Republican challenger and became the state’s first Democratic governor in 20 years.

His grandparents on the father’s side were ethnic Germans from Kuchurhan in the Odessa Oblast then in Russia, and now in Ukraine. His mother’s grandparents were Irish. He is a distant cousin of Lawrence Welk. He’s a pretty good match for Iowa where after the 2000 Census there were 1,046,153 Germans, or 35.7 percent of the state’s total population, followed by Irish descendants with a total of 395,905 (13.5 percent) of Iowans. I’m sure Lawrence Welk is also a favorite especially among older Iowans.

Schweitzer got a BS degree in international agronomy from Colorado State University in 1978 and an MS in soil science from Montana State University. He used his education to become an irrigation developer on projects in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. He spent several years working in Libya and Saudi Arabia, and speaks Arabic.

Schweitzer is a down-to-earth politician who frequently brought his dog, a Border Collie “Jag,” to the State House and to other events.

As governor Schweitzer showed firm fiscal restraint using his veto authority 95 times including 74 bills in the 2011 legislature. None of his vetoes were overridden. He even used a branding iron to veto some bills which he said were “frivolous, unconstitutional and just bad ideas” that were “in direct contradiction to the expressed will of the people of Montana.”

One problem Schweitzer has is that Montana only has three electoral votes so if he swings his state in the November 2016 election it will probably not be enough to put him over the top.

However, as a running mate for, say, Hillary Clinton, he would be an excellent counterbalance to the “effete,” East Coast, “elite” element that has dominated the Democratic Party. I’m sure there would not be any “Pretty in Pink” appearances like Hillary Clinton’s 1994 Q & A press conference on a “tangled Arkansas land deal” and her controversial commodity trades, at which she wore a pink jacket.

Oh, I know that the Clinton’s are from Arkansas. However, aspirationally they are from New York.

It might be a refreshing change to bring a down-to-earth partner to the 2016 Democratic ticket.

• Steffen Schmidt is Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University, author of 11 books, and is launching a free online course on the Iowa caucuses in September. Google caucusesMOOC Comments:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Iowa Insults

Is this any way to run a campaign?

Gov. Scott walker's new digital media  manager Liz Mair was tweeting insults at Iowans.

Referring to Congressman Steve King's Freedom summit she tweeted, “In other news, I see Iowa is once again embarrassing itself, and the GOP, this morning. Thanks, guys.”Mair added: “The sooner we remove Iowa’s frontrunning status, the better off American politics and policy will be.”

Governor Walker, when are you issuing your apology? (Well, I guess you sort of did by firing her one day after hiring, er um sorry, she "resigned one day later. Now I guess some GOP candidate who won't compete in Iowa can hire her and take advantage of her anti-Iowa position.

Then Ken Langone, one of Chris Christie's most prominent and richest supporters, was just quoted in a WSJ story saying the Iowa caucus system is tantamount to letting a bunch of little old ladies pick a president.

I was asked by a reporter how Iowan's would feel about this insult.

I think Iowans probably feel the same way about being called little old ladies as Chris Christie feels when people call him "just a New Jersey Porky Pig" or a "Hothead Joisey Governor with a collapsing economy."

We love little old ladies in Iowa.

They are much more polite than Christie.

All out aunts and grandmothers are little old ladies.

They vote a lot more than other voters.

They balance their budgets better than lawyer governors.

Christie is welcome to come and have some marshmallow jello and a crock pot Iowa beef stew with little old ladies and try to talk them into supporting him on caucus night!

Governor Christie, when are you issuing your apology to the hard working, politically engaged caucus voters of Iowa?

Iowans are very polite people who don't call names. We listen and work hard to do the right thing especially in election years.

If your candidate can't connect with Iowa voters (little old ladies or others!) then he can't connect with voters in New Hampshire, South Carolina or anywhere else.

Stuff that in your campaign organization hat.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Why are Iowa voters so good at picking winners?

Here is the question I was asked this week by Washington Times reporter Jennifer Harper. "What is it about Iowa voters that enables them to remain such an important and consistent political barometer over the years?"

(Dr. Steffen Schmidt, Fall 2007 ISU pol sci department newsletter)

 My answer is below.

1. Smarts. Iowa has been one of the most literate states and tops in education. Education leads people to be more interested in politics and that leads to taking the process seriously at least for the hard core political geeks.

2. Heritage. Iowa is one of those states with a very high level of "civic culture" also called "civic republicanism."  Researches such as Tom W. Rice, University of Iowa and Jan L. Feldman have noted in the article "Civic Culture and Democracy from Europe to America" that the historical ancestry of Europeans from certain countries produces a very high level of civic culture in their descendants in the United States. See the article in The Journal of Politics, Vol. 59, No. 4, Nov., 1997. A large % of the population in Iowa and some other states is descended from these politically and "civically active" societies. These American states, including Iowa, are characterized by high voter turnout in most elections. "Civic Culture and Government Performance in the American States," by Tom W. Rice and Alexander F. Sumberg is also worth another read. It needs to be revisited!

3. Political engagement. See above. The "civic culture" includes an almost guilt driven desire to volunteer, participate, help the neighbor, improve the community, and participate in politics. "Civic engagement is about the right of the people to define the public good, determine the policies by which they will seek the good, and reform or replace institutions that do not serve that good." See the book Globalizing Civil Society: Reclaiming Our Right to Power, by David C. Korten, (1998). Harvard University professor Robert D. Putnam has written excellent studies on civic engagement including the bestseller Bowling Alone.

4. The "Heartland attitude." Because Iowa has a small population and there is still a lot of "neighbor relations" - on county roads (where I drive from my farm - we still hold up a couple of fingers and greet cars coming at and past us just in case it's a neighbor! When you grow up on a farm or a small town you have to help each other because it's a rough life out in the country. So, a sense of cooperation and active engagement in improving the community, the township, and county is very strong.

5. Finally, Iowa has been very purple and so even though minorities are a smaller % of the population, we have liberals, moderates, conservatives, and "very" conservative voters. That's why Obama, Hillary, Santorum AND Mitt Romney could all do very well in Iowa in the same year!

Oh, I forgot to add this. Iowa, especially Des Moines, is also a great test market for products, including things like testing different flavors of Jello. Or, testing presidential contenders.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Question: "What will YOU do about modernizing weapons systems.?"

At Republican leader and ag + ethanol businessman Bruce Rastetter's Agricultural Summit we heard from some Republicans what their position is on ethanol, genetically modified crops, immigration, and other agricultural issues. Before that we heard about gay marriage, abortion, and other social issues at Congressman Steve King's Freedom Summit.

Now we need to hear from them about their position on the future of American weapons systems and national defense at Dr. Politics (that's me) Future of the Military Summit which I am launching here. 

Many of you saw my column in the Ames Tribune and sent me "atta boy's."

Presidential candidates, here is the issue:

"... we are still basically using weapons from World War I, like barbed wire, tanks, rifles, ships, and airplanes"

Steffen Schmidt: Where is our ‘Enterprise’ when we need it?
By Steffen Schmidt, March 9, 2015, Ames Tribune

This week at the gym, I was watching an episode of “Star Trek.”

Kirk and crew take the Enterprise and end up in a life and death war with hostile Klingons. They were using a “directed-energy weapon.” 

It’s a weapon that emits energy in an aimed direction but without the need of a projectile like a shell. The weapon transfers energy to a target for a number of potential effects such as stun, heat, kill, or vaporize.

Of course as we all know, “Phasers were the most common and standard directed energy weapons in the arsenal of Starfleet. Most Phasers were classified as particle weapons and fire nadion particle beams. But some like the Ferengi hand Phasers were classified as plasma weapons and fired forced plasma beams.” See

We also know that Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu and others had amazing platforms from which to launch their operations, including the Enterprise or Constitution class Starships, Daedalus class vessels, and the Galaxy Class ship USS Venture which participated in the Battle for Deep Space 9, First Battle of Chin’toka, and Battle of Cardassia, part of Battle Group Omega sent to intercept Reman warship Scimitar.

These ships were instrumental to the Federation defending civilization and repelling the threats from a host of admirable adversaries like Klingon General Chang, a Vulcan named Sybok, the Gorn who are angry, hissing, lizard-men, and of course, the dreaded Borg, which is “… a teeming collective of countless cyborg drones, all ruled by a single hivemind.”

Since the TV series “Star Trek” launched in 1966, we have been introduced to existential moments when civilization hung in the balance and very bad aliens threatened its very existence. 

In the 1979 film, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” a mysterious and immensely powerful alien cloud called V’Ger approaches Earth, destroying everything in its path. Admiral James T. Kirk … assumes command of his previous starship — the recently refitted USS Enterprise — to lead it on a mission to save the planet and determine V’​Ger’s origins.

Throughout it all we came to expect and even “understand” the engineering and science behind the marvelous craft and weapons. For example, we all know that, “In the 2270s, phaser power systems of Federation starships were redesigned to channel power directly from the warp core.” We actually want to understand this engineering.

I believe that thousand of similarly technical specs on every aspect of “Star Trek” and also “Star Wars” raised our expectations about how to deal with real dangerous enemies here on Earth. The solution we learned is, you bring new technology and smart, brave heroes to bear on the threat, you fight mightily, and in the end, crush the enemy and neutralize the threat to civilization.

Today, we face a cruel and unusual adversary in ISIS, which could easily be a new interplanetary enemy in “Star Trek.” It even has a character, Jihadi John, who could be inserted into a science fiction episode as an unusually cruel and dangerous enemy from an incomprehensible planet.

As we anxiously wait for a solution to the Middle East crisis I believe we are despondent that there seem to be no answers to the threat. Our leaders are, on a daily basis, more and more confused and seem helpless in the face of this challenge.

We ask ourselves, why can’t we move one or more of our powerful Starships into place over the enemy and issue an ultimatum. When they refuse to surrender, we deploy our Transphasic torpedoes, Isokinetic Cannons, Trilithium resin, or if necessary the Varon-T disruptors and wipe out the enemy?

Instead, we are still basically using weapons from World War I, like barbed wire, tanks, rifles, ships and airplanes, which were first used in that terrible war almost 100 years ago. 

Oh sure, these old weapons systems have been “improved” and made shiny but at the core they are obsolete. Our enemies have the same weapons as we do. That’s a strategic disaster. 

A “Federation-level” power such as the United States must have new, game changing technology if it expects to win and survive.

If Congress can ever stop hyperventilating about irrelevancies maybe they can ponder losing the technology race in which we find ourselves. If we don’t, I guarantee that soon the new Klingons will rule the Earth.

Reserve a place in my FREE Internet class on the Iowa Caucuses at:

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Sunday, March 08, 2015

The REAL significance of the caucuses

A light bulb went off over my head this weekend.

The Iowa Agricultural Presidential Summit was a bold event with an estimated 250 media reporters and bloggers. That's as many as come to the Hawkeye State on caucus night! Unfortunately the event was overshadowed by the Hillary Clinton e mail story and by the anniversary of the Selma march which sucked up a lot of the news coverage.

Twenty four hours after the Summit it was fading. The news cycle shelf life is so short!

No Democratic Presidential contenders showed up.

Ted Cruz was resplendent in his HUGE cowboy boots which overwhelmed him because the camera angle for most shots was low and the boots grabbed my attention. Cruz's position on government programs such as the blended fuel standards - the Renewable Fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel that are mixed in with the petroleum products. He opposes big government and feels market forces should dictate the success of wind and biofuels.

Governor Scott Walker got good vibes but I didn't quite understand what his position is on government programs sustaining ethanol, biofuels, and wind energy. I think he's opposed.

Mike Huckabee used humor to hide his position opposing government subsidies for wind and ethanol by saying that "eternal life" should only be for people and dogs. In other words not for wind and ethanol. They should die? I think.

I'm not sure how Republican caucus participants in February of 2016 are going to use the results of the Ag Summit in their decision of whom to support.There was no real scorecard although the Des Moines register did a fabulous job reporting. And as one Republican consultant told me on Saturday night, "The answers were often convoluted and weasel talk."

I've carefully scrutinized as much of the response to the summit as I could and here is my conclusion. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush got more attention and positive coverage than any of the other contenders.

Bush was the star of new Third District Republican Congressman David Young fundraiser. Young is a close protegee of Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. By my calculation that means that Young and Grassley are sending out an early signal about their support for Bush. You don't have an event such as this fundraiser at such a visible moment and so early unless you are sending a strong message.

The national news media correctly pointed out that the conservative wing of the GOP does not favor or like Bush because of the "family dynasty" and because Bush supports immigration "reform" (read decriminalizing illegals who came to the US as young children) and because Bush supports Common Core education standards (or something like that controlled at the state level which he stressed in Iowa.) But Bush is still likely to capture the establishment Republicans.

Let me give you the new insight we reached at the Iowa Association of Political Scientists held at Drake University on March 6 as the Ag Summit wrapped up.
Our panel discussion consisted of Dennis Goldford and Rachel Caufield of Drake University, myself, and Kelli Brown, Content Strategist, Digital and Multimedia, The Des Moines Register. As we explored the intricacies of the caucuses, a light bulb went off over my head. 

I suddenly realized that the Iowa caucuses are so important because they set off early political events such as Congressman Steve King's Freedom Summit, Rastetter's Agriculture Summit, followed by a number of other political events including more summits and the Ames, Iowa Straw Poll which would not exist if it were not for the Iowa caucuses. 

There are NO sequences of events like this in other states. The Iowa presidential caucuses are a catalyst for so many other interesting and useful presidential selection activities. That alone makes the caucuses irreplaceable.

NOW it's time for you to reserve a space in my short, fun, and FREE Internet class on the caucuses that launches in September.  Go here - reserve your spot:

Thursday, March 05, 2015

The campaign season has started ... again.

We just finished taping the interview with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad for the Iowa Caucuses MOOC course. He was there at the beginning of the Iowa Caucuses. I WAS THERE AT THE beginning too! We reminisced.

His official ceremonial office where we taped is fabulous as you can see. (Yes I know the picture is running off the edge but you need to see it this size!)

The interview was really wonderful because the governor loves and believes in the Iowa caucuses. It showed in his enthusiasm and excitement at reminiscing. It will be prominent in the FREE Internet course I'm teaching starting September 1. YOU can sign up for it and reserve a free spot at:

This is also the weekend when the Agricultural Summit takes place in Des Moines. A large group of Republican presidential potential candidates will get on the stage and each talk for 20 minutes about agriculture.

The meeting is actually very important since Ag is a HUGE part of the American economy. Corn, ethanol, soy beans, biodiesel, wind power (which is ag because the turbines sit on farmland) are all on the agenda.

Crucial to all of this are the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a mandate that requires a certain amount of the largely corn-based fuel to be blended into the gasoline. That was established to reduce US dependence on imported oil. It was also seen as a way to include a "cleaner" fuel - ethanol - to gasoline.

Corn growers increased their acreage. Investors, many local farmers, put their money into ethanol plants which are very expensive. The DuPont biofuels plant in Nevada, Iowa will cost $200 million, and produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels. Expected to be completed in mid-2014, the new facility produce cellulosic ethanol from corn stover (what's left over after harvesting and combining corn.".

I also saw a report that "renewable fuels support 852,000 Jobs and $46 billion in wages for America’s workers."

If the federal RFS mandate is reduced or eliminated  the demand for biofuels (ethanol) and for corn will sharply decline. Already corn prices are half of what they were a year ago and companies such as John Deere which builds agricultural machinery, has already begun major layoffs.

SO, the Republican contenders for the White House (no Democrats have accepted the invitation to the summit) will be scrutinized for their knowledge about and position on various agricultural policies.

The Agriculture Summit is being sponsored by Republican Party patron Bruce Rastetter who is a major force in farming and in renewable fuels.

On my way out of the State House in Des Moines I took a picture of the rotunda (below). If you have never been you MUST go to the State Capitol and marvel over its splendor. The best museums in the world have nothing over this architectural marvel.