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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Ready for Hillary?" Or maybe ...

If America is not "Ready for Hillary" how about Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Lincoln Chafee, Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire who has been governor of that state, Senator Debbie Stabenow or Senator Amy Klobuchar?

Suddenly there is a buzz about the "troubles" of Hillary Clinton's campaign. 

There is the horrible roll out of the campaign with the embarrassing "Scooby" SUV ride to Iowa followed by ... nothing. No real campaign followup. It looks more like the Bruce Braley campaign for the Senate in Iowa. Maybe she has the same campaign manager as Braley.

The "E-mail Gate" issue of her using servers from her home instead of official government servers as Secretary of State is more alarming now that we have heard about all kinds of money flowing to the Clinton Foundation that was NOT reported which has led to the Foundation "refiling" their income taxes which is also not good for a politician. AND, even after Hillary Clinton decided to run for President they are still receiving money from foreign donors.

Finally there is the almost unstoppable talk about the Clinton "Icky Money" machine and the New York Times story about the Russian government uranium company buying up uranium companies world wide and the convoluted money trail (through Canada which does not allow disclosure) to the Clinton Foundation and the $500K speaking fee Bill Clinton received in Russia.

All of these are very,VERY troubling.

No Democratic campaign should be under such a relentless barrage of very negative discussion from people like Chuck Todd, Political Director for NBC News and moderator of Meet the Press, who is one of the most respected commentators on politics in the United States.

As I've noted in several publications and media appearances on the Trent Rice and Arnie Arnesen shows I have suddenly come under attack by Democratic Party people who say these are all right wing Republican attacks and should be ignored. They are wrong. These are issues that any sane and sensible American should be concerned about in a potential President.

In May of 2016 I am hearing lamentations by many Democrats that they "coronated" Clinton and did not encourage a diverse field of contenders to run for the White House.  For those of you from Possum Bottom it means to crown like a royal sovereign who "inherits" power.

I also believe that it's not nearly too late for Democrats to jump into the race and Bernie Sanders of Vermont has just declared that he plans to run. After all as I write this it's still almost a year until the Iowa Caucuses.

Some Democrats are saying that Jerry Brown of California would make a powerful contender. He has held several administrative positions and has taken his state through crises. He is a "take no prisoners" politician. He was California's 34th Governor from 1975 to 1983, mayor of Oakland (1999–2007) and Attorney General of California (2007–2011). He was elected governor again in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. On October 7, 2013, he became the longest-serving governor in California history. He is also the youngest governor since 1860 and now the oldest governor of California.If you can run the sixth biggest economy in the world you are in a great position to lead the number one economy in the world. 

Note that there is a Jerry Brown for President Facebook page.I don't think Jerry Brown created it but that could be the start.










Saturday, April 25, 2015

Martin O'Malley and the Baltimore, MD Police Case.

I was just reading an article on the Baltimore, MD death of the young black man whose neck was broken. Suddenly BOOM! A 2016 potential presidential contender's name appeared. Here is the posting. Can you verify that Martin O'Malley implemented the "take no prisoners" policy?

I was born and raised in Baltimore City. I grew up in a working class part of the city and now live in the suburbs of Baltimore and travel into downtown Baltimore daily for work. The relationship between the police and the citizens has never been worse. The police that patrol these neighborhoods treat pretty much every citizen of color that they encounter with open contempt. The neighborhood Freddie Gray came from is poverty and crime ridden and has been for decades as such those individuals and families that live there are low hanging fruit to the police.There is also the matter of zero tolerance a policy that was introduced to Baltimore and implemented by former Mayor now Presidential candidate Martin O'Malley. This policy of "broken windows"policing was modeled after what Giuliani implemented in the city of New York. O"Malley even brought in a police commissioner from New York Ed Norris(He later went to prison for fraud btw).In Baltimore zero tolerance was aimed at the poor and black citizens who were jailed for minor offenses and saddled with criminal records for infractions that ranged from jaywalking to drinking a beer on their own front porches. Such was the plight of young Freddie Gray who unfortunately "looked" in the direction of a Baltimore cop who needed to meet his daily arrest quota. He paid the price for that mistake with his life. May he finally now Rest in Peace.
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fox News came calling.

https://www.iowacaucusesmooc.org/ Go here and sign up fpr my FREE caucuses online class.
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Chicago based Fox News correspondent Mike Tobin and his crew of 6 came to Ames and Nevada.

(Picture by Meriesa Elliott: Tobin left and Schmidt, 2015)

The story?

"Do candidates for president have to knuckle under to the ethanol industry in Iowa if they want to win the caucuses?"

The answer is NO!

"Well how do conservative small government Republican justify the federal Renewable Fuel Mandate (RFM) that requires gasoline to be blended with ethanol.?"

The answer is that the United States asked us to ramp up an ethanol industry in order to help the US

a. Become more energy self sufficient
b. Replace the very toxic which was the previous additive blended in gasoline because ethanol was deemed to be much more environmentally friendly
c. Encourage a "renewable" fuel (ethanol) which had been successfully used for decades in Brazil.
Investors, many of them farmers, put their money into new companies which built and ran ethanol plants. farmers planted sufficient corn to supply these plants with the input to make ethanol. 
A tax incentive and a mandate to blend fuel with ethanol made all of this feasible.

The tax incentive went away. Blending gasoline with ethanol continued to drive supply that made the economics of ethanol work.

Then it became a political issue.

Tea Party and small government Republicans began to question the mandate; forcing consumers to buy a product.  Shades of ObamaCare which forces Americans to buy healthcare insurance. Environmentalists said ethanol production uses up too much water, stresses farms with too much production of corn, diverts corns from feed and human consumption, and the claim that ethanol is bad for engines was added to the attack on this industry.

Now the question is whether presidential candidates must obey the rule of supporting the RFS.

I think not.

Republicans can realistically argue that phasing out the RFS and allowing market forces to sustain the industry rather than suddenly yanking the plug is the responsible thing to do. Freshman Iowa GOP Senator Joni Ernst successfully used that line of reasoning in her campaign.








Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ethanol and Politics 2016

Once again I was asked by a reporter about ethanol and the Iowa 2016 presidential elections. My answer roughly is the following:

Every state has interest groups that press candidates for office on issue of importance to them.

In Texas you can’t win a dog catcher race if you don’t support oil tax breaks "Over the past century, the federal government has pumped more than $470 billion into the oil and gas industry in the form of generous, never-expiring tax breaks. Once intended to jump-start struggling domestic drillers, these incentives have become a tidy bonus for some of the world’s most profitable companies”

In Massachusetts I assume it’s lobsterman tax breaks. In Georgia, peach tax incentives. In West Virginia it's coal.Washington State it would be salmon and apples.

In Iowa we remember that the federal government and the American people put out a call to save the environment, make the US energy independent, and create a renewable fuels industry. Iowa farmers, ethanol and bio diesel investors responded. Hundreds of millions where spent on ethanol plants and farmers planted the necessary corn and soy beans to make those fuels.

The tax break is gone but the RFS still drives demand for ethanol and helps keep the farmers and ethanol refineries solvent.

It would be strange if there were not a strong lobby to keep the requirement for 10% blend of fuels with ethanol in place. Yanking the plug on RFS would probably kill ethanol and drive corn and bean prices down disastrously.

The alternative is to go back to gasoline blended with Methyl tert(iary)-butyl ether (MTBE) which contaminated groundwater and had a huge negative impact, one reason why we switched to less harmful ethanol.

Of course ethanol and RFS is not the only issue contenders for the White House are facing in Iowa.

There is same sex marriage, the IRS, abortion, climate change, farm dust regulations, gun "confiscation" and of course the national debt.

Those opposed to “Big Government” mandating that American consume a product such as ethanol-blended fuels (mostly conservative Republicans) have a hard time siding with those mandates.

Oddly enough, the interest groups pushing for continued federal EPA mandates for blended fuels are mostly Republicans and conservatives. And they are simultaneously opposed to the EPA even as they demand that the EPA continue to require blending!

So politically for the caucuses it’s simply a matter of walking the fine line and each candidate has to do a “Full Joni Ernst” on this issue which means say EXACTLY what she did during her campaign and afterwards. Say that eventually subsidies will not be necessary because the industry can be economically profitable without big government mandates. But, don't say exactly when the industry including corn farmers can cut the umbilical cord to mandated fuel standards. Just not right now.

The perfect political balancing act!





Monday, April 20, 2015

Huckabee in 2016?

Have you reserved a place yet to join me on Sept 1? 

Did you Know?

"Evangelical Christians make up 49 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners, according to a Pew Research polarization data set from 2014 consisting of 10,000 interviews. White evangelicals represent 40 percent of Republican leaners. They represent as much as 80 percent of the primary vote in the Deep South and, more significantly, around 60 percent of Iowa caucus-goers." NY Times *
What's the significance of these numbers for the 2016 election? 

As the brilliant Nate Cohen suggests in his column in the Times it means we should be scrutinizing GOP presidential candidates for their appeal to Christian Evangelical and cultural conservative voters. 

That candidate, if he enters the race, is Gov. Mike Huckabee. As an evangelical minister and winner
of the Iowa caucuses and five states in 2008, Huckabee still is probably the leading candidate for Evangelicals. 

(Photo from Huckabee Facebook page)

Cohen notes, "... the religious right remains [in 2015-16] the single largest voting bloc in the Republican Party." That means Huckabee can shine in Iowa, South Carolina and several other states sucking evangelical voters away and depriving other Republican contenders such as Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Scott Walker of these crucial voters.

Can Huckabee win the primaries in the big GOP primary states such as Florida, Illinois, and California and get the nomination? Probably not. So it's likely that he will change the dynamics and open space for candidates such as Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, or Ohio Gov. Kasich who is waiting for God to tell him what he should do with his life.

If he were nominated could Huckabee win the general election in November? Evangelicals and social conservatives say yes and blame GOP losses on the nomination of RINO's such as John McCain and Mitt Romney. However, polls indicate that Huckabee would be too convervative for a general election.

My suggestion is for us to keep a close eye on Huckabee, see if he enters the race - he already has a very interesting web site where is asking for donations. http://www.mikehuckabee.com/.

Then, when he thrown his hat into the contest, let's track the approval polls. Remember that with a field that now could be as big as 19 GOP contenders and Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate the 2016 caucuses will be the most exciting since 1972!

*http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/21/upshot/mike-huckabee-would-be-a-more-important-candidate-than-you-might-think.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&abt=0002&abg=0

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The technicalities of getting delegates

We all read about who "won" the Iowa caucuses in January or February of election years.

There is an assumption that "winning" means actually getting delegates to the national convention of their respective parties.

That's only partly true. in the Iowa GOP caucuses NO delegates are harvested because it's a pure "beauty contest" where caucus voters express their preference or support for candidates.

The best description I've ever seen on how delegates are actually harvested today is the 2015 article by Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times Magazine.

"The process by which presidential candidates are nominated is, at its most basic level, a race toward a magic number of party delegates — in the Republican Party’s case, 1,235 required to win — amassed state by state and, in some cases, congressional district by congressional district. Getting them depends not only on the speechifying, door-to-door vote-hunting and million-dollar ad buys we associate with campaigning, but also on a bewildering array of procedural minutia: obscure national bylaws that overlay a mind-bending patchwork of local rules that can vary drastically from state to state, some of which award delegates not based on votes received in primary elections but on back-room wrangling at local party conventions and meetings that take place weeks or even months after votes are cast." Article title: The Best Reason to Take Rand Paul Seriously Has Nothing to Do With His Politics


Beyond this great explanation of how candidates become THE party standard bearer is his conclusion that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and his organization are the very best team in figuring out how to harvest the most delegates by meticulously fulfilling all the draconian rules that regulate delegate selection. Please remember that in the last election cycle the Paul family organization (Congressman (Retired) Ron Paul followed by Rand Paul) actually came out of Iowa with an amazing delegate count and controlling the Iowa GOP no easy feat.

Go read the full article and then remember the lesson you have learned here today. The winning candidate is the one who understands the complex delegate selection rules in every state in the nation. Can you say Barack Obama 2008? That's how he beat Hillary Clinton.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Iowa Presidential Caucuses: Caucuses Insights from Pravda

Iowa Presidential Caucuses: Caucuses Insights from Pravda: My friend Andrej Matisak, Deputy Head of Foreign Desk of the newspaper Pravda , in Braatislava, Slovakia often asks me to comment on US pol...

Caucuses Insights from Pravda


My friend Andrej Matisak, Deputy Head of Foreign Desk of the newspaper Pravda, in Braatislava, Slovakia often asks me to comment on US politics for his readers. I have been to Bratislava, the capital city and Nitra at the Agricultural University on a wonderful academic trip.  Shortly after that Slovakia and the Czech Republic split up into two countries but I was assured by high government
officials that it had nothing to do with my trip!

Andrej asked me about the possibility of alternative candidates to Hillary Clinton. My answer was that if other Democrats such as O'Malley, Warren, Biden, Webb, or Schweitzer want to run in 2016 they need to prepare for that possibility NOW.

Of course, Vermont Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders has been to Iowa and New Hampshire with huge reception by liberal Democrats and Independents. I think these alternative contenders need to be ready in case Clinton implodes and "e mail Gate" proves to be a serious problem.

Right now Clinton seems hard to knock off the mountain. But, like a spare tire, several of them need to identify and hire campaign staff, raise funds, appear at some events, try to help the Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic Parties with fund raising.

The Republicans are ok but they need to concentrate on finding a good candidate who can attract independent voters in November and who has a great sense of organization for a national campaign. THEN they need to have their themes for attacking Clinton ready if & when she begins her campaign but I think July & August when people slowly start to get interested in elections. Others think Clinton will announce in May to begin to excite the Democratic base which has been languishing without a political arena so far.

Question: "After the failure in 2008, how ready is Hillary Clinton right now?"

Hillary Clinton is surely learning from her 2008 mistake in Iowa of taking a caucus victory for granted and letting Barack Obama walking away with a shocking, surprise victory in Iowa. She needs to campaign in all 99 Iowa counties perhaps on an awesome bus tour.

You know she won almost every big state in 2008 but she came out wounded from Iowa by Obama's victory. Obama put his head down and pushed forward to every state in the country until he gathered enough delegates to be the formidable Clinton.

However, I see no Barack Obama to face Hillary Clinton in 2016.

If she repeats her success in the big states after a victory in Iowa and New Hampshire she will glide to the nomination and can keep her ammunition money and attacks on Republicans dry and use it strategically. It would be a monumental campaign with Clinton vs Bush or Rand Paul, or Ted Cruz.

I believe that a Clinton/Cruz race would be an especially bloody and nasty campaign.







Monday, April 06, 2015

Rand Paul Launches his campaiggn.

This week for my online Iowa Presidential caucuses class, I interviewed AJ Spiker who is one of Rand Paul's inside circle. (See picture in front of the Grant Wood mural in the Parks Library at Iowa State Univeristy)

Rand Paul is the second Republican to officially announce his run for the White House. Ted Cruz announced and immediately jumped in the polls.

Paul is an interesting contender because he represents the "Libertarian" wing of the GOP.

Some of the journalists I have talked with wonder if Paul is "really" a Republican. The answer is that in 2012 the Iowa supporters of Paul were active in the GOP. Spiker was Chair of the Iowa Republican Party so how much more Republican can you get!

It's true that there is conflict and tension between several of the "wings" of the GOP.

The most dramatic was revealed recently when Indiana and Arkansas passed "Religious Freedom restoration" laws which allowed businesses to refuse service to people who offended the religious sensibilities and beliefs of business owners. The socially conservative and faith-based Republicans strongly support those laws. The "business" or "establishment" Republicans do not and we saw the business community put pressure on the governors of both states to amend the laws to prohibit discrimination against LGBT customers. The governors jumped to the challenge and asked the legislatures to revise the laws.

In the same way the Rand Paul "brand" of Republicanism is quite different from the Tea Party and Business wings. Paul believes that the US should not use military force and intervention so quickly as a tool for US foreign policy. As a libertarian Republican Paul is also more accepting of young persons social behavior. Moreover, he has gone directly to young voters, liberal college students, and minority venues in an effort to make the GOP relevant among these communities which are a "deficit" in the Republican voter support.

So, we certainly look forward to the injection of Paul's discussion into the 2016 Iowa caucuses.

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Sunday, April 05, 2015

Ted Cruz Launches His Campaign.



Special invitation to you: Reserve a place in my September 1 short online, Iowa Caucuses course.
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Texas Senator Ted Cruz saw the handwriting on the wall this week. Terrible early poll numbers. He was in eighth place with 4% in the latest poll with Jeb Bush leading (16%), followed by Scott Walker and Rand Paul (13% and 12% each).

He decided to change the conversation by declaring his candidacy for president first and cut off his ultra conservative competitors like Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Dr. Ben Carson, and Rick Santorum at the pass. They are the most faith-based and truly right of center contenders competing for the same Iowa voters that he hopes to attract on caucus night a year from now. 

My own feeling is “Good luck Ted.” These other 4 GOP candidates have done a terrific job of connecting with conservative Christians already. So, he’s going to have to cut into their base of support or find new likely caucus voters to add to his team. 

Then he has to deal with Rick Perry a fellow Texan although Cruz’s likely supporters are probably different from Perry because Cruz is an “insurgent” who went against the Texas GOP establishment to win his Senate seat. 

The other question is whether Cruz will be cruzified (pardon the pun) for his opposition to ethanol and the Renewable Fuels Standard. The Des Moines Register "Don’t expect U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to shuck his opposition to the ethanol-friendly Renewable Fuel Standard.”  

His bigger problem is that he was born in Canada. To be eligible you have to be a “natural born” US citizen. That’s commonly assumed to mean that your mother has to be physically in the United States, an American territory or even a US military base when you see daylight.

His mother was born in the United States and his father was born in Cuba. Cruz argues that because his mother was born in Delaware he is a “natural born” US citizen. Most legal experts agree that he is eligible to run but it’s probable that his opponents in the GOP and if he gets the nomination his Democratic opponent will bring that up. Remember what the Republicans have done to Barack Obama and his citizenship, his Kenyan father, his mother living in Indonesia and other doubts. Unless his GOP opponents and the Democrats are a very forgiving bunch they will no doubt frequently drop hints on this or even do it as in “We forgive Mr. Cruz for being a Cuban born in Canada.”

I would add Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin to the obstacles Cruz faces in his quest for nomination. Walker lived in Iowa. 

Jason Stein of the Journal Sentinel had an excellent column on Walkers early Christian experience. He wrote, “Plainfield, Iowa — Before Scott Walker stood on a national stage, he crawled beneath the wooden pews and white steeple of First Baptist Church. His father [Rev. Llew Walker] preached and his mother ran the Sunday school in this Iowa farm town too small to have a stoplight. Growing up in the parsonage next door — in the shadow of the church — Walker learned his first lessons in faith, politics and living a life on public display.”

Walker even started “… a “Jesus USA Club” to do good deeds and seek donations for a new flag for the Plainfield City Hall,” as Stein reports. 
I know Ted Cruz can’t come even close to that!

BUT, his poll numbers shot up a week after the announcement. According to Real Clear Politics,“He came in third place among nine presidential contenders with 16 percent support, according to a survey from Public Policy Polling (D). In a similar poll near the end of February, Cruz was near the bottom with just 5 percent support.”