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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Where's Bernie?!

If you can figure our where Bernie is in the crowd this Saturday in Ames, Iowa you can see.

The 2 pm rally at the new Torrent Brewing Company was a shock. People started arriving at 11 am and had filled the facility to Fire Marshall limits (which were rigorously enforced) by 1 pm.

The crowd was remarkably diverse with people of all ages, some of my Latino and black friends, and many political independents.

"Who cares about independents in a party controlled caucus process?" you ask.

In Iowa they can go to the Democratic caucus in their precinct, register as Democrats on caucus night and participate. In New Hampshire, of course, they can just vote in the Democratic primary, So in 2016 these independents could be very significant.

I read an article about Bernie Sanders only attracting people 72 years old (his age) in New Hampshire. If that's true then they are much better mobilizers in Iowa because I talked to about a dozen 17-year-old students who will be 18 on caucus night and they were pumped about Bernie.

"WHAT, Dr. Politics!" you exclaim. "How can young people be excited about someone their grandfathers age?!"

All I can say is "Do you remember Ronald Reagan?" Reagan mobilized more young people for the Republican Party than any recent contestant.

The youth in Ames were excited about Sanders "honesty" and the fact that he is not directly taking any Super PAC or PAC money. They had seen his serious and meaty Tweets and loved them and told me they had reTweeted. They also were excited about his emphasis on affordable college and better education.

My greatest surprise today was that so many people at the event were the most active Democrats in Story county which, don't you forget, is The Cradle of the Modern Iowa Presidential Caucuses. (If you didn't know please join my FREE, online course that launches Sept 1. But, reserve now as we are filling up fast.

Below the overflow from a FULL rally facility.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dr. Ben Carson for President

Tom Fontaine the well respected reporter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review asked me to comment on the chances Dr. Ben Carson as a presidential contender. Here is my take on Carson.

Iowa Republicans love Dr. Ben Carson. He's been several times and gotten rousing applause. He's very quiet but his fierce conservative position is admired. His statement that "America is like Nazi Germany" went over well in 2014 at the Polk County, Iowa GOP straw poll, but probably would not be a good campaign motto for him going forward. 

He just won the Georgia GOP County Chairs straw poll with 76%, which is amazing. 

He and Carly Fiorina are the most interesting and "outsider" candidates since neither has held office and is not a politician. One is black the other a woman so that will split their attraction to the GOP caucus and primary voters. They and the two Hispanic GOP contenders give this field lots of diversity. However in Iowa 12-15 Repubs running for prez will no doubt badly split the voters.  So even though there is excitement about Carson (and Fiorina who actually got even bigger buzz at the big GOP dinner recently), there are others like Walker, Huckabee, Bush (Carson tied with Jeb in the latest poll for first place), Rubio, and Ted Cruz who are seen as more likely to build a strong caucuses machine. 

On Iowa caucus night organization is 97.6% of victory because you need your people one at least, to push the voters in each of 1700 precincts. 

Running a nation is not exactly like separating twins in surgery. You've got to work with a lot of powerful people in Congress and you have to balance all kinds of contradictory and conflicting interests in a process we call "politics". If you hate politics that's tough luck because government and Democracy functions because of politics do you have to learn how to make it work. 

One of my wisest GOP activist friends in Iowa told me a couple of weeks ago, "Steffen. All those goofballs posting dumb comments about Carson changing things because he's not a Washington insider may be hoping for better. But, if you don't know how it works – the political process- it's like a person whose never flown a 747 taking over the cockpit. The plane may never take off but if it does watch out for the landing!" 

I'm afraid on "D" Day (or "C Night" as we call caucus night),  many Republicans may come to the same conclusion. Or else maybe they'll give Ben Carson a victory as a symbolic gesture as they did with Huckabee, Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan, and Michelle Backmann@ the Ames Straw Poll. 

For now he is certainly getting a lot of GOP buzz. 

 There are still spaces open in the FREE Internet class on the caucuses and presidential selection that I'm preparing for Sept 1. Reserve your place here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hillary Clinton "Third Term'?

There is a lot of noise about Hillary Clinton's election as president being either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama's "third term" as president.

The New York Times even ran an article headlined "Hillary Clinton Tamps Down ‘Third Term’ Chatter."

The argument is that if you can accuse her of not being her own self and just a third term for the policies of her husband or president Obama voters will ignore her and not support Clinton for president.

I've talked to several of my former students who are now political professionals in both the Democratic and Republican parties and asked them for their assessment of the Republican strategy to paint Clinton as a tag-along.

"Steffen, Bill Clinton left the White House with pretty high approval ratings," said Michaela Rantz who works as a campaign strategist for the GOP. Indeed, in 2001 his approval rating was 67% among "Independents" and an amazing 93% among Democrats (but only 39% among Republicans). Rants said "Bill Clinton could have easily been reelected for a third term so I worry that Republicans are actually stopking the wrong fire when they say Hillary would be a third Clinton term."

I checked the latest polls and found that in the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll " ... 56 percent of people have a positive view of the former president while just 26 percent hold a negative one." Clinton beat George Bush and Barack Obama and was clearly the most popular political figure in the United States. Counterintuitive though it seems, Bill Clinton's approval ratings shot up with the impeachment effort by Republicans and has stayed up.

Sam Stinten, my former honors student who now works for a Democratic think tank thinks that President Obama's approval ratings will rise over time. He currently has approval of 45% of Americans polled by Gallup. "The trend line for Obama has been slow but steady up from a low of 41% in July of 2011," Stinten noted. " we are hardly hearing a word from Republicans about "Killing Obama Care" anymore since the insurance industry and hospitals are dead set against another disruption of healthcare." 

By contract George W. Bush's approval rating as compiled by Real Clear Politics from six independent polls is a miserable 29% with 65.2% disapproving of the former president.

The point being that Republicans may want to rethink their strategy of saying that Hillary Clinton would be a third term of the Clinton or Obama presidency. It could be more of a positive than a negative for her. On the other hand it's clear why Jeb Bush wants to distance himself from his brother's eight years at the helm.

(Names of my students in this column are pseudonyms)

Friday, May 08, 2015

Dr Politics on the Daily Show

Yesterday I spent over two hours taping an interview on the Iowa caucuses for the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

It was a gas!
Comedian and "Latin Correspondent" Al Madrigal (on the left in the selfie) did the endless interview.

They will slice, and dice, and intersperse the cuts from the video with shots of pigs, the Iowa State Fair, corn, ethanol and God only knows what else!

Once again I found out that for the Iowa caucuses there are several things "baked in" that the media wants and needs.

1. Ethanol and why are politicians running for President forced to support ethanol? I said they are NOT forced but that contradicts the story so it's ignored.

2. Corn. Every corny image or joke about corn which comes up again and again.

3. Pigs or hogs. After Joni Ernst make hogs the buzzword of her awesome campaign Iowa and hogs are eternally wedded together.

4. White people.  Iowa is mostly European immigrants and as the media calls them "white people." Not enough diversity as far as the world is concerned never mind when I mention immigrants - German, Irish, Italian, Norwegians, Swedes, Dutch, Czech, - the media says "white" after each of these!

5. The State Fair and deep fried food. 

I'm dying to see how they concoct a humorous piece about the caucuses from all the hours of material they shot!

The episode will be linked in my FREE, Internet course on the Iowa caucuses that YOU need to sign up for right now at


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Hillary Clinton's odd Dillemma.

The New York Times has an interesting poll this week on the 2016 Presidential contenders.

To me the most interesting finding was the response about Hillary Clinton which is summarized in this chart.

The "Honesty" issue is definitely a negative. When she is pitted against a Republican this could become an issue. Yet it's not an insurmountable problem because Richard Nixon was deemed a "crook" and yet he was elected President.

Her "strong leadership" score on the other hand is an important asset that will help her make a case for her candidacy. As I've written elsewhere no other contender has been Secretary of State. No other candidate has lived for eight years in the White House.

The overall take away from the poll according to the times was that, "Hillary Rodham Clinton is viewed more favorably than she was earlier in the year despite weeks of scrutiny about her ethics. Among Republicans, opinions are largely unformed, with many voters indicating openness to a variety of candidates in a large and still-growing field."

"Would NOT consider voting for" (45%). Marco Rubio had the highest "Would consider voting for" (37%).

Scott Walker had the highest score (21%) in a recent Quinnipiac Poll of likely Iowa caucus participants. .


Sunday, May 03, 2015

Maybe O'Malley Has a Second Life

Martin O'Malley was on the City Council of Baltimore, MD. Then he was mayor of Baltimore. Then Governor of Maryland.

This week being associated with Baltimore is a dubious political asset.

The death of a black youth, the rioting, looting, fires. The revelations of "rough rides" in police paddy wagons that are all steel and seem to have NO rider safety padding or airbags has jolted the nation.

O'Malley has been mentioned as a potential contender against Hillary Clinton for the 2016 race to the White House. It turns out that he was also the architect of a "zero tolerance" police policy when mayor of Baltimore. That policy, associated with Republican New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani, is now blamed for a sharply deteriorating community and police relations.

To be fair, this no tolerance approach to law enforcement was also pushed by President Bill Clinton. Lots of money for more cops and more law enforcement was pushed out from Washington during that time when crime in Baltimore and the United States was high and everyone wanted more law and order.

I wrote and said on several radio shows that O'Malley would now be toast because there is now a reassessment of the Giuliani law enforcement model. O'Malley would be blamed for the current crisis in Baltimore and liberals, Democrats, and Blacks would reject O'Malley as a viable contender.

Then several astute observers of the national political scene and former students of mine shared with me their analysis. No one likes urban riots regardless of how these are justified. No one likes a black man shooting a young undercover police officer in New York as happened just days after the Baltimore fiasco. In most American cities black crime is a real issue and "white flight" to the suburbs which we don't talk about much anymore is largely responsible for turning some neighborhoods in cities into truly neglected and poor minority residences.

O'Malley may be able to re-own his law-and-order role as mayor and make a case that high crime rates are an existential barrier to prosperity and a happy future for America's poor minority communities. If I were O'Malley I would do a "Full Bill Clinton" and put my head down, push forward with no apologies, and bite my lower lip feeling the pain" of the law abiding black citizens who live in these violent communities while at the same time condemning illegal and violent behavior by law enforcement.

There may be a second life for O'Malley after all if he plays the spin right.