Some Pre-Election Thoughts

IowaPrimaryIt’s difficult to have a conversation with a friend, reporter, or activist without them asking what I think will happen on Tuesday.   I don’t like to make predictions. It’s easy to just say who you think is going to win, but I prefer to take the time to explain why I feel the way I feel about a particular race.

At this stage of the campaign, I think a lot of people are looking for reassurance that their candidate of choice is either going to win or has a chance of winning on election day. I love it when someone asks for my opinion and then looks disappointed when I explain what I think and why. Sorry, but I’m not cheerleader. I don’t look at races like an activist either. My aim is to figure out what is going on, and while I love a good Republican feel-good event like the next guy, I don’t think a partisan pep-rally is necessarily a representative sample of the electorate.

So here is what’s on my mind as Election Day nears.

Republican have not won a close statewide election in a long, LONG time.

Terry Branstad defeated incumbent Democrat Governor Chet Cluver in 2010 by ten points. The race was never close, even though polling showed Branstad with a bigger lead than he had when all the votes were counted.

The last new Republican member of congress is Steve King, who easily won his seat in 2002. King got over 60 percent of the vote. Tom Latham and Greg Ganske were both elected to congress in 1994. That year Latham won an open congressional seat with over 60 percent of the vote, while Ganske knocked off a Democrat incumbent by six points.

To find close Republican victories one has to go all the way back to the early 1980’s when Chuck Grassley knocked of incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator John Culver by seven points, or Terry Branstad’s six point victory over Roxanne Conlin in 1982, or his three point re-election victory in 1986.

Needless to say it’s been a long time since Iowa Republicans have won a big-time statewide election. Had Branstad not mounted his 2010 comeback, it may have been difficult to unseat Culver, despite his horrible record as governor.

So depending on how you look at things, either Republicans are due to win a close one, or their history of not winning close elections may foreshadow Tuesday’s results.

Early voting still favors the Democrats.

Iowa Republicans have made great gains when it comes to early voting, but by no means have they figured out the riddle to an issue that has pained them for so long. Democrats have requested more and returned more absentee ballots than Republicans. Nobody really talks about no-party absentee ballots because it’s impossible to know who they favor with any amount of certainty. That said, I think it’s safe to assume that Democrats have an edge when it comes to no-party absentees, and recent polling also supports that notion.

As of yesterday, Democrats have returned 3,412 more absentee ballots than Republicans. While Republicans had been leading in that department, the margin between the two parties is still negligible in a statewide election. Democrats have also requested 22,408 more absentee ballots than Republicans. In 2010 Democrats had a 28,970 advantage over Republicans. So it’s safe to say that we are on par with where we were at in 2010.

In 2010, Democrats returned 16,835 more absentee ballots than Republicans, so any thing less than that in 2014 is good for Republicans. Still, Democrats have the advantage when it comes to early voting.

There are some major difference between 2010 and 2014.

In 2010, the big news on election night wasn’t that Terry Branstad knocked off an incumbent Democrat, it was that voters threw out three Iowa Supreme Court Justices. The judicial retention elections provided an outlet for socially conservative voters to channel their frustrations. There isn’t anything like that going on this year.

The ever-popular Chuck Grassley was also up for re-election in 2010. While Governor Branstad does have wide appeal, Grassley is even more respected by voters across every spectrum.

Those are two big differences from the 2010 ballot.

Optimistic about Young’s Chances in Third District

David Young’s congressional campaign has been anything but smooth, but I like how things are looking just days before the election. The only thing Democrat Staci Appel has going for her is that her ads are good, otherwise she’s been an awful candidate. Young has scored the endorsement of the Des Moines Register and now the Omaha World Herald. That’s important in an open-seat contest. This is probably going to be a nail-biter on Tuesday night.

If there is one thing that makes me nervous, it’s all the negative mail Iowa Democrats are sending. The picture below is the mail that a registered Republican woman has received in the past two weeks. Yikes.

Anti-Young Mail

Bullish on Blum

I have repeatedly said that I’ve been impressed by Blum as a candidate and the staff he has assembled. Like Young, Blum has been endorsed by the two largest newspapers in the district. What I love is that there is always something going on with the Blum campaign. Of all the congressional candidates running in the state, it’s Blum who has done the best job of getting earned media.

Polls in the Senate Race

We have already had two U.S. Senate polls this week. One poll showed Braley leading by one (Loras), while the other showed Ernst with a four-point lead (Quinnipiac). By the time all things are said and done, we will probably have another three or four polls come out. I was fearful that the polls would show either a tied race or Braley with a tiny lead. The Quinnipiac poll showing Ernst with a lead was important for her campaign. This race is close, but the last thing I want to see happen is the media creating momentum for Braley because he either leads or is tied in the polls.

Speaking of the Loras Poll…

I know Republicans are discrediting the poll because it shows Braley leading by one and Miller-Meeks losing in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.

On the Senate race, we all acknowledge that the race is tight. I think there has only been one poll in the general election that showed a candidate ahead by more than the margin of error, but a week later the same organization released a new survey showing the race back within the margin of error. My point is that it’s not out of line to think that Braley could be up a point.

As for Miller-Meeks, I think the race is closer than the Loras poll showed. That said, she is running against an incumbent in the most Democratic district in the state. While she has run for Congress twice before, but half of the current district is new to her. Here’s the deal. If you believe the results of the Loras Poll when it comes to the Fourth District race, where Congressman King is leading Jim Mowrer by 12 points, then I think you have to give some credence to the Second District numbers.

I know Republicans don’t like some of the numbers, and it doesn’t match with Governor Branstad’s “we’re going to win everything” mantra, but I think those numbers make a lot of sense to me.

State Senate Math is Difficult 

Even if it is a wave election, I think it will be difficult for Republicans to win a majority in the chamber. The reason why it’s so difficult is because the three seats they need to hold are difficult to say the least.

In Senate District 7 where Rick Bertrand is seeking re-election, there are 2,464 more registered Democrats than Republicans. In Senate District 41 where Mark Chelgren is seeing re-election there are 2,085 more registered Democrats than Republicans. Senate District 39 is open following Sandy Greiner’s retirement. Republicans have a slim 274-registered voter advantage.

Before Senate Republicans gain seats, they first must hold on to those three. It’s not going to be easy, even with a wave election.

RPI Reagan Dinner Focuses on the Future

Regan DinnerIt was no surprise that Tuesday night’s Republican Party of Iowa Ronald Reagan Dinner was an optimistic and enthusiastic affair.   With the election just two weeks away, Iowa Republicans were in high spirits on Tuesday, but the unity on display in Des Moines last night wasn’t always a sure thing.

The leadership change at the Republican Party of Iowa that occurred four months ago has focused the party on its core mission of winning elections.  The leadership team of Chairman Jeff Kauffman and Cody Hoefert that promised to raise $300,000 by September announced that they have raised $500,000 since taking over.  More impressive is the Republican Party of Iowa’s early voting program this year.

Kaufmann announced last night that Republicans only trail Democrats in returned absentee ballots by 321.  That is an amazing development for a party that has struggled for years when it comes absentee and early voting.

Chairman Kaufman reminded attendees at the beginning of the event that last night’s dinner wasn’t about the Republican Party of Iowa, but about the future and the change that is coming on November 4th.  Later, Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen began his remarks by saying that the 2014 ticket is the finest statewide ballot he has ever run on.  Speaker after speaker last night confirmed Paulsen’s statement.

With so many speakers, it’s impossible to summarize everything that was said last night.  Every candidate who took the stage did a great job, but here are a few that stood out to me.

State Representative Pat Grassley:  Grassley introduced Chairman Kaufmann at the event and in that limited capacity didn’t say much.  Yet, putting Grassley in the spotlight will only help raise his stature beyond the Iowa Statehouse and his home district.  Grassley was relaxed and confident, which means many in attendance are probably wondering what his political future holds.

Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks:  Miller-Meeks provided what might be my favorite quote of the night.  “It’s the Republican Party that is the party of those who have been successful and those who want to be successful.”  That, my friends, is exactly what the Republican Party is about.  We need to talk more about it.

Secretary of State Matt Schultz:  He is on his way out as Iowa’s Secretary of State, but the always-energetic Schultz took the stage to promote the candidacy of Paul Pate.  Schultz also criticized Pate’s Democrat opponent, Brad Anderson, who served as President Obama’s 2012 campaign manager in Iowa.  Schultz also did Pate a favor by mentioning that it was one of Anderson’s employees who pled guilty to stealing his identity.  Schultz did a good job helping Iowa Republicans understand what’s on the line in the Secretary of State election.

Congressman Steve King:  Many of the candidates walked to the stage while one of their TV ads played on the big screen. In the past two election cycles, no candidate in Iowa has run better TV ads than Steve King has.

Congressman Tom Latham: Latham is the epitome of charm and class.  Latham opened with a few jokes.  His best was when he said that the happiest man in America today is Jimmy Carter, because President Obama is making him look good.  Latham then transitioned to a very heartfelt thank you to the Republican Party of Iowa and all the people who helped him over the years.

Latham recounted his path to congress, which began with him being a county central committee member, County Chairman, and then State Central Committee member.  Yet, the most poignant moment of his remarks was when he explained what the families of the candidates go through when their loved ones run for political office.

Senator Chuck Grassley:  Grassley used his time to explain to the crowd how the U.S. Senate will be different if Joni Ernst is a U.S. Senator.  Grassley talked about how, if the GOP takes control, any Senator, Republican or Democrats, will be allowed to file an amendment.  He talked about how Senator Reid is an autocrat, and why that’s bad for America.  Grassley explained how, when Joni Ernst is in the U.S. Senate, it will once again be a deliberative body that protects the minority party’s rights.

State Senator Joni Ernst:  Ernst talked about how her favorite thing to do is to travel the state and visit the farms, factories, and small towns across the state.  Ernst talked about “the Iowa way,” how Iowans acknowledge when there is a problem and then roll up their sleeves and work hard to find the proper solutions.







Happy Birthday, America

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Celebrating the 4th of July brings family, friends and neighbors together for backyard barbecues, pool parties and patriotic parades.  It’s also the time to reflect on the charter of freedom that immortalized our destiny for 238 years and counting.

In the months leading up to America’s historic Declaration of Independence, an influential 18th century political pundit named Thomas Paine observed that “the birthday of a new world is at hand.”  Our American identity has stood the test of time for more than two centuries.

Paine’s prolific writings in “Common Sense” resonated with 2.5 million colonists, building momentum for the sacrifices and struggles to secure liberty and independence.  Today, more than 300 million Americans remain united by the principles and ideals that launched a new nation on July 4, 1776.

Limited government, freedom, liberty and free enterprise served as the foundation for the future.  America’s institutions of government would be crafted to serve the public good, held accountable by a system of checks and balances and answerable to the electorate through representative government.  Allegiance to these patriotic principles helped cultivate national pride in the talent, ambition and self-reliance of people driven to work hard, take responsibility and sacrifice whatever it took to achieve the American Dream.  Generations of families have answered the call to take risks with an invention or start-up business, join the work force, volunteer, run for public office or serve in the Armed Forces.

And yet, the flawed advance of big government threatens to rewire expectations for individual rights and personal responsibility.  Shifting expectations, redistributing wealth, growing debt, raising taxes and incentivizing dependency over self-sufficiency unravels centuries of American mindset.

The growing size and scope of the federal government poses a burden to the founding principles of limited government.  Overreaching regulatory regimes, overspending and onerous tax burdens are holding back prosperity, economic growth and job creation.  The economy contracted nearly three percent in the first quarter and consumer confidence is failing to gain traction.

Systemic abuses of law and power among a sprawling federal bureaucracy aren’t helping uphold the public trust.  Consider what happens when government services created for the public good go wrong.

·         Whistleblowers and investigators have exposed mismanagement and ineffective leadership at the Veterans Affairs Department, where wrongdoing at VA medical facilities has caused delayed patient care and deaths.

·         Arguably the most powerful and intrusive agency in the federal government is in hot water for targeting American taxpayers based on their political views.  The IRS’s blundering response to congressional investigators about the matter reflects an inexcusable model of mismanagement and/or malfeasance.

·         The Health and Human Services Department exhibited astonishing incompetency last fall in the disastrous launch of the website.  Consumer confidence plummeted further with broken promises about keeping one’s doctor and health insurance plans.

Trumping political agendas and reining in mismanagement of the federal bureaucracy requires robust checks and balances by the legislative and judicial branches.  As a champion for whistleblowers and good government watchdog on Capitol Hill, I’m not afraid to hound the White House or federal agencies to get to the truth.

Recent decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court have slapped the wrist of a heavy-handed government squeezing individual rights.  The high court protected the sacred protections of the First and Fourth Amendments in cases involving the rights of a limited number of corporations that are privately owned to exercise their religious freedoms and the privacy rights of cell phone users from warrantless searches by law enforcement.  The Supreme Court also ruled this summer that the President overstepped his constitutional authority by circumventing the U.S. Senate to make illegal recess appointments.

As our youngest generations enjoy sweet corn, sprinklers and sparklers, celebrate safely and remember the blessings of liberty and freedom on this 4th of July.  Our constitutional system of checks and balances, self-government and free enterprise will help ensure America’s best days are yet to come.

America’s 238th birthday is at hand.  Let’s also give a hand to the hometown heroes who have served our country in uniform so that we may live our way of life as a free people in a free society.


Grassley Targeted by IRS Might be a Bonus for Iowa GOP this Fall

The House Ways and Means Committee released documentation on Wednesday that shows that Lois Lerner, the former IRS Director of Exempt Organizations, sought to investigate Iowa’s own U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley in 2012.

Lerner is the key figure in the IRS scandal that targeted conservative and Tea Party organizations that were seeking tax-exempt status.  In May, the U.S. House of Representatives found Lerner to be in contempt of Congress.  Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment rights when she was called to testify in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Lerner has been back in the news recently as the IRS informed Congress that two years of Lerner’s emails are lost because the hard drive on her computer crashed.  House congressional investigators requested Lerner’s emails from 2009 to 2011, when the division she led began targeting Tea Party and other conservative nonprofits applying for tax-exempt status.  Just weeks before Lerner’s computer crashed, the IRS ended its contract with email-achiever Sonasoft.

The new revelation that Lerner had also targeted Grassley is yet another chapter in the IRS scandal.  Apparently, Lerner mistakenly received an invitation intended for Grassley. The sponsor of the even offered to pay for Grassley’s wife Barbara to attend, which led Lerner to email a colleague, “Perhaps we should refer to exam?”

“We have seen a lot of unbelievable things in this investigation, but the fact that Lois Lerner attempted to initiate an apparently baseless IRS examination against a sitting Republican United States Senator is shocking,” said Congressman Dave Camp, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.  “At every turn, Lerner was using the IRS as a tool for political purposes in defiance of taxpayer rights.  We may never know the full extent of the abuse since the IRS conveniently lost two years of Lerner emails, not to mention those of other key figures in this scandal.  The fact that DOJ refuses to investigate the IRS’s abuses or appoint a special counsel demonstrates, yet again, this Administration’s unwillingness to uphold the rule of law.”

While the revelation that Lerner sought to investigate Grassley pours gas on an already raging fire, it also may have a political impact on federal races here in Iowa.  The IRS scandal has already come into play in the open U.S. Senate race between Republican State Senator Joni Ernst and Democrat Congressman Bruce Braley.

Last week the Ernst campaign called out Braley for writing a letter to the IRS encouraging them to single out and investigate specific individuals and organizations seeking tax-exempt status.  Ernst has also criticized Braley for receiving $7,000 in campaign contributions from the IRS Employees Union for his U.S. Senate campaign.

Now the Ernst campaign is calling on Braley to return the campaign contributions.  “Braley needs to repudiate the IRS and apologize to Senator Chuck Grassley once again and turn over all correspondence he and his office have shared with the IRS, an Ernst spokesperson said. “While Lois Lerner’s email may have been ‘lost,’ surely the congressman’s have not.”

The widely respected Grassley has already become an issue in the U.S. Senate race.  This spring, video of Braley surfaced wherein he said disparaging things about Grassley in front of a room of trial lawyers from Texas.

Braley told the group, “You may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice, someone’s who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way on the Senate Judiciary Committee.Or you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Lerner’s targeting of Grassley might also become a factor in the open Third Congressional District race.  David Young, the newly minted Republican nominee, recently served seven years as Grassley’s Chief of Staff.  Young has made oversight and investigations a focus in his campaign, and he will surely seize on this latest controversy when out on the campaign trail.

“It’s unacceptable the IRS has been targeting Americans for their political beliefs, and it’s disturbing they blatantly attacked our friends Barbara Grassley and Senator Chuck Grassley who have honorably served Iowa,” Young told The Iowa Republican.  “They, or anyone else, do not deserve these threats or acts of government intimidation and intervention. When I am elected to Congress, I will not rest until all Americans are able to express themselves without the fear of being treated unfairly by the federal government.”

Lerner’s targeting of Grassley not only adds another disappointing chapter to the ever growing IRS scandal, but now the scandal has a local angle to it which could hurt Braley and other Democrats this fall.  Grassley, who stayed neutral in the U.S. Senate and congressional primaries, has indicated that he’s eager to get out on the campaign trail and support Young and the rest of the Republican ticket.

Grassley was already going to be an asset for Republicans on the campaign trail, but the news that Lerner sought to investigate him only makes him a stronger advocate for the Republicans for which he chooses to campaign.  Grassley might not be on the ballot in 2014, but I don’t be surprised when he begins to appear in mailboxes and TV screens this fall.



BUSTED: Out of State Trial Lawyers Fund Pro-Farmer Ad In Effort to Save Braley

The Des Moines Register is reporting that the American Association for Justice PAC, the political arm for trial lawyers, gave $200,000 to the Senate Majority PAC in the first quarter of 2014.  The Senate Majority PAC is the organization that began running pro-farmer ads on behalf of Democrat Congressman Bruce Braley after he was caught on tape disparaging U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley and Iowa farmers.

Braley, the trial lawyers, and the former aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who now run the Senate Majority PAC, insist that there was no coordination.  That may be true, but a person living in a cave for the past six months could have figured out what the trial lawyers wanted done with that money.

While the pro-farmer ad was intended to help save Braley from himself, the revelation that the same trial lawyer buddies could have funded the ad only extends the controversy for Braley.

Below is a press release the Ernst campaign sent out this morning on the issue:

A Disturbing Tale About Bruce Braley, Harry Reid and Texas Trial Lawyers

April 21, 2014… In response to today’s disturbing Des Moines Register story about the six-figure support the trial lawyers’ lobby funneled through Harry Reid’s Senate Majority PAC to try to prop up Bruce Braley, Team Joni issued the following statement:

“As a sitting U.S. Congressman who cosponsored efforts to increase transparency in the political process and rallied against the use of outside “secret cash,” and an experienced trial lawyer himself, Bruce Braley should know better than to engage in dark-money games like this. He should immediately tell Harry Reid to return the fat cat trial lawyers’ $100,000 and publicly apologize for being a part of this organized and sophisticated money scam. The trial lawyer lobby may want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to give Braley cover for his attacks on Senator Grassley and Iowa farmers, but they should stand up and do it publicly and transparently. Iowa voters shouldn’t have to navigate a complicated shell game to figure out which bank account Bruce Braley, Harry Reid, and the trial lawyers are using to hide their money and fund their large ad campaigns.

This is especially true when Bruce Braley has spent the last few years rallying against the use of so-called “dark money” in campaigns and has cosponsored the DISCLOSE Act to force donor disclosure for outside spending. In fact, in 2012 during a televised interview with liberal cohort Rachel Maddow, Braley said, “we can see that very powerful moneyed interests are trying to buy the government they want and have no restrictions—literally—on what they can spend.” Braley himself went on to implore Americans to demand greater transparency. “And that’s why Americans have to wake up and realize they need to ask the tough questions when they see these ads on TV and they have innocuous names…”.

Watch Bruce Braley express outrage at “dark money” secret donors HERE.

Unfortunately, Braley’s Democrat double-talk seems to have no bounds.  In the race for U.S. Senate, Lt. Colonel Joni Ernst stands ready to expose Trial Lawyer Bruce Braley for what he is – another hypocritical Washington politician.”

The Facts As We See Them:

The video of Bruce Braley insulting Senator Grassley and Iowa farmers is made public on March 25, 2014, and within days the trial lawyers band together and come to his aid with $100,000. These lawyers knew, however, how bad it would look for the trial lawyer lobby itself to be the ones defending Braley. So what do these trial lawyers do?  They funnel the money through Harry’s Reid’s political organization to pay for statewide ads, which went on the air around April 7th. Most ironically of all, to try to save Braley from himself, the trial lawyers pay for ads that feature “farmers” defending Braley from his anti-farming comments he made to trial lawyers.

First Quarter Fundraising Will Provide Clues to June Third Primary – The Weekly Round Up

The first quarter fundraising period closed on March 31st for candidates seeking federal office.  Candidates can still count contributions dated on March 31st, so it usually takes five days to a week before the campaigns begin to roll out their fundraising numbers.  The information will be made public on the 15th of the month.

Quarterly fundraising reports are always informative, but the first quarter in an election years is perhaps the most telling report for candidate who are competing in contested primaries.  The amount of money that a campaign has in the bank to spend will provide us with a good idea of what a campaign will and will not be able to do in the final three months of the campaign.

It’s put up or shut up time, and with some high-profile Republican primaries, there is a lot to look for.  The following are just some of the things that are on my radar.

Third District Congressional Race

State Senator Brad Zaun is the frontrunner in the 3rd District Congressional race, and Secretary of State Matt Schultz is probably Zaun’s main opposition.  Zaun and Schultz find themselves in the top tier of the 3rd District race because they are each well-known, elected office holders, and in Zaun’s case, he’s been a fixture in Polk County politics for years and was the Republican nominee for Congress in 2010.

What I find interesting about this race is that it’s not the two frontrunners making noise in the primary, it’s the undercard.  Des Moines businessman Robert Cramer has been on TV now for a couple of weeks.  In addition to that, he is traveling the district holding town hall meetings.  Monte Shaw just started running radio ads across the district, and has assembled an impressive and diverse coalition of supporters.

It is entirely possible that either Shaw or Cramer could outraise Zaun and Schultz in the first reporting fundraising period.  One also can’t overlook David Young when it comes to fundraising.  Even though Young struggled to catch on in the U.S. Senate race, his fundraising numbers were always strong.  If Cramer, Shaw, or Young are able to put up better fundraising numbers that Zaun or Schultz, the dynamics of the 3rd District race will be altered.

Perception is a powerful thing in politics.  While Zaun and Schultz enjoy solid name identification and have shown a great ability to connect with Republican activists, they each must also prove that they have what it takes to win in the general election.  And like it or not, that’s when a candidate’s fundraising ability comes into play.

If Zaun and Schultz are able to match or exceed the money raised by candidates like Cramer, Shaw, and Young, the race will likely remain a two-man race between Zaun and Schultz.  The fact that neither of the frontrunners is currently on TV or radio suggests that their campaigns may not be flush with cash.

If Cramer, Shaw, and Young are able to post better fundraising numbers than the two frontrunners in the race, Zaun and Schultz will be weakened.  This is particularly problematic for Schultz because it seems more likely that Shaw and Cramer would cut into his vote share based on their rural and social conservative appeal.

This scenario would also make it more likely that the 3rd District race could be decided at convention.  A nominating convention is more likely when you have a number of solid candidates, each getting a decent chunk of the vote.

Needless to say, there is an awful lot riding on the 3rd District fundraising reports.

Miller-Meeks raised $115,000, has $110,000 Cash-on-Hand

Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks has only been an official candidate in the 2nd Congressional District for a month or so, but she has already raised more money than State Representative Mark Lofgren raised all of last year.

Miller-Meeks is an excellent campaigner, and she is the clear favorite to win the Republican nomination in the 2nd Congressional District.   While her fundraising number isn’t overly impressive, it’s a good start, and she has twice the amount of money she had in the bank at this time when she ran for Congress in 2008, and in that year she ran against and defeated a well known businessman from Cedar Rapids.

Looking ahead, Miller-Meeks’ fundraising is going to be compared to Congressman Dave Loebsack, who she is running against for the third time.  While some may question why Miller-Meeks in challenging Loebsack a third time, the District she is running in this time, while still difficult, is much friendlier than the district she ran against him in 2008 and 2010.

I’m Bullish on Blum

Rod Blum has a primary opponent in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, but like Miller-Meeks, he’s the odds on favorite to win the Republican nomination in June.  Blum as a general election candidate excites me.  He’s intelligent, a good campaigner, and isn’t about to take a backseat to whoever the Democrats nominate.

It will be interesting to see if Blum’s fundraising has ticked up after State Representative Walt Rogers ended his run for the seat.  While Blum needs to take care of business in the primary, it would be silly for him not to start thinking about the general election.

Blum needs to buckle down and focus on fundraising and prove that he’s a legitimate contender in the 1st District.  He’s on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s radar, but he needs to do something to get himself noticed in the eyes of the NRCC leadership, and it also wouldn’t hurt if the powers that be in Des Moines started singing his praises when asked about his campaign either.

I can see the Democrats in the 1st District nominating a weak general election candidate.  I really like how Blum stacks up against most of their primary field.

Is Ernst happier than a pig in slop?

It will be interesting to see if State Senator Joni Ernst viral TV spot helped her campaign rake in some money in the final week of the first quarter.  Ernst’s ad was everywhere last week, which means it may have helped her raise a few last minute dollars, especially from out-of-state donors that got a kick from the ad.

The fundraising reports in the U.S. Senate race are not as mysterious as those in the 3rd District race.  We all know that Mark Jacobs is spending a lot of money.  We all know that Sam Clovis and Matt Whitaker have struggled to raise significant money.  Which means the only wild card is Ernst.

National observers of the Iowa U.S. Senate race have been unimpressed by Ernst’s fundraising totals, but in her defense, while they have not been spectacular, they have been solid.  The issue for Ernst is that she needs enough money in the final three months of the campaign to fund TV ads.  If she can put the kind of money together to fund a statewide TV effort, we will have a campaign on our hands.  If not the race really doesn’t change much.

You know what’s cool?

When Senator Ted Cruz’s staff contact you about running a op-ed on your website.

If you are a Republican interested in running for president and want to know how to approach Iowa, there are two individuals you should be watching.  One is Cruz, and the other is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.  These two guys are using two very different approaches, but both seem to be savvy political operators.  I’m looking forward to 2016. 

Braley continues his apology tour. 

Congressman Bruce Braley met with Iowa reporters this week and said that his comment about Senator Chuck Grassley not being qualified to serve as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee was a mistake.

Hog manure!

You’re a fool if you think that the only time Braley disparaged Senator Grassley was when someone had the video rolling.  I’ll say it before, and I’ll say it again – Braley’s statement about Grassley being a poor hick farmer who doesn’t understand the law is Braley’s fundraising pitch to trail lawyers. He didn’t say this just once and get caught.  I bet he’s said it hundreds of times to raise millions of dollars.

Braley can apologize all he wants, but the damage is done.  When he loses in November, people will look back at this moment and say this is where Braley lost the race.

Grassley Office Responds to Braley’s Comment about Farmers

A Grassley spokesperson has responded to regarding the Braley video that surfaced today. At a fundraising event for is campaign for the U.S. Senate, Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley told an audience of trial lawyers:

To put this in stark contrast, if you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice. Someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years, in a visible and public way, on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Or, you might have a farmer from Iowa, who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A Grassley spokesperson told, “By the logic expressed on this recording a trial lawyer shouldn’t be involved in policy making about agriculture, or energy, or health care.”

The aide went on to say, “Sen. Grassley has served on the Judiciary Committee since he was first elected to the Senate, and he’s got a strong record on the committee. Grassley-authored amendments to the False Claims Act have recovered nearly $40 billion for taxpayers that would otherwise be lost to fraud. He’s the co-author of laws to curb class-action lawsuit abuse and to reform the bankruptcy code. Sen. Grassley is unmatched in his legislative and oversight work to protect whistleblowers, both in and out of government, who speak up about wrong-doing for the public good. He coauthored the Whistleblower Protection Act and numerous updates to laws protecting whistleblowers, including national security and on Wall Street. Sen. Grassley’s work on the Judiciary Committee exposed the illegal gun-trafficking operation known as Operation Fast and Furious. It was Sen. Grassley’s persistence that pressured the current administration to provide Congress with the legal rationale for using drones on American citizens.”

“Alongside that, Sen. Grassley’s one of only two working family farmers in the United States Senate, where he brings Iowa common sense to work for ag, anti-trust, transportation, environmental, energy, trade, health care, communications, national security, and tax policy that works for all of America,” the Grassley spokesperson concluded.

Braley Blasts Grassley as a “Farmer Who’s Never Gone to Law School”

Democrat Congressman Bruce Braley maybe running for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat, but he’s campaigning against U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley.

At a recent fundraising event with his trial lawyer colleagues, Braley told the audience that if he is elected to the U.S. Senate, they will have a U.S. Senator who has fought tort reform for the past 30 years.  Braley then said the alternative is that they might have, “a farmer from Iowa, who never went to law school, never practiced law serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Mark Jacobs has already responded to Braley’s comments:

“Bruce Braley’s ignorant remarks are yet another reminder that he only aims to serve one group: trial lawyers nationwide; not Iowans. To insinuate that someone like Chuck Grassley, who has served this state so honorably, is not fit to be a Committee Chair – because he is a just ” a farmer from Iowa” is offensive. Agriculture is the backbone of who we are as a people. I’ll take Senator Grassley’s commonsense over Bruce Braley’s expertise in suing people any day.”

Joni Ernst response:

In response to the breaking news that Congressman Bruce Braley insulted Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and all Iowa farmers at a Texas fundraiser, Iowa State Senator and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Joni Ernst offered the following statement:

“Bruce Braley thinks the way to suck up to Texas trial lawyers is by bashing Iowa farmers. How out of touch with Iowa can you be? I call on Braley to immediately apologize to Senator Grassley, and every other farmer in Iowa.

On a day when we here in Iowa are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Iowa’s own Norman Borlaug’s birth, and on National Agriculture Day itself, Braley’s comments are stunningly offensive. As an Iowa farm girl myself, I find it amusing that Braley thinks what Iowans need is yet another trial lawyer or outside Texas influences…what we need are simply more good old Iowa values.”

Matt Whitaker response:

“Bruce Braley apparently thinks he was sent to Washington to fight for tort reform. He is out of step with Iowans and his remarks about Senator Grassley are elitist and condescending.

This fall, Iowans will have a choice. We can choose someone who will be a check on the last two years of the Obama administration or we can choose someone who thinks that Iowa farmers are a punch line.”

Clovis response:

Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, spoke up in defense of Senator Chuck Grassley today. “It will be my honor to serve with Chuck Grassley in the U.S. Senate promoting Iowa values,” said Clovis. These comments come after disparaging remarks Bruce Braley made against Iowa’s senior Senator. “Maybe if Braley did a fraction of the town halls in Iowa that Chuck Grassley does, he’d know better how Iowans feel about condescending politicians.”

“How dare Bruce Braley attack Iowans for not being trial lawyers,” stated Clovis. “Bruce Braley prefers to side with trial lawyers over the economic and moral well-being of America. Bruce Braley’s votes in the U.S. House prove that he will stand for laws that are unjust and wrong for Iowans.”

Sam Clovis is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Senator Tom Harkin. Sen. Harkin has announced that he will retire at the end of this Congressional session.

“Chuck Grassley’s service in the United States Senate are a testament to his integrity and hard work for Iowans. His background, knowledge and dedication to public service go above and beyond what Bruce Braley will ever do for Iowans.”

h/t America Rising

Zaun 2.0 > Zaun 1.0 – The Weekly Round Up

Voters, especially activists, can be hard on political candidates that run for political office a second or third time.  The “you already had your shot” mentality of some voters is understandable, but running for office, especially something like Congress or Governor, can be an eye opening experience.  While we all would like to see fresh faces running for public office, we should never write someone off just because they have a failed campaign in their past.

Brad Zaun’s campaign for Congress is still in its infancy, but I have been impressed by him thus far.  In chatting with him over email the other night, I couldn’t help but notice that he is far better prepared for the 2014 congressional campaign than he was for his 2010 campaign.  It’s not just knowing what you need in terms of staff and consultants that makes a difference, but Zaun himself seems to be more mentally prepared for taking on another congressional campaign.

Two things Zaun did this week really impressed me.

First, Zaun’s campaign released a campaign video that was filmed at his announcement last week. The sixty-second video could find it’s way on to TV when and if the campaign has the financial backing to do so.  Zaun’s video is simple, straight forward, and most importantly, looks very professional.  One of the most important things a web video or TV ad needs to do is convey the candidate’s personality and positive attributes.  Zaun’s video did just that.

Zaun told that Josh Robinson (no relation) and his company, RedPrint Media did the ad.  Personally, I think the spot is better than anything Zaun ran in his 2010 congressional primary or general election.  If Zaun is able to put ads like that on TV, he’s going to be incredibly difficult to beat.

Second, Zaun told that he has paid off all his old campaign debts and is, “ready to roll.”  That means Zaun has paid off $22,987.69 from his 2010 campaign.  Most of that was owed to Victory Enterprises, an Iowa-based political firm, for polling, consulting, and miscellaneous things.  Getting his debt cleared up quickly was a good first step for Zaun.  Now he can keep his eyes focused on what is ahead of him and not what’s in the rear view mirror.

Here is Zaun’s Campaign Video:

Did Sen. Chuck Grassley Inspire the DOT’s New Tow Plow?
tow plow

I was driving from downtown Des Moines to Ankeny on Tuesday afternoon and saw this enormous two-lane snow plow on Interstate 235.  It’s actually a regular snowplow with a trailer that hydraulically angles into the other lane when engaged.  It’s massive, and pretty cool.  Especially since it’s cheaper than the DOT buying another truck.  As I’m watching this thing do its work I couldn’t help but think of that Grassley TV ad that showed him towing two push mowers with his riding mower.  Apparently someone saw it and came up with the tow-plow idea.

Cramer Makes A Hard Right

Robert Cramer’s campaign announcement was clearly designed to appeal to socially conservative voters.   While many have questioned his decision to put the spotlight on radio talk show host Steve Deace, making a play for social conservatives makes plenty of sense.  Cramer’s close association with Bob Vander Plaats and the FAMiLY Leader should help his campaign, but I don’t think any one candidate in the race is going to own the social conservative vote.

Brad Zaun, Matt Schultz, and Monte Shaw all will appeal to social conservatives.  Zaun is popular with the more libertarian voters and tea party activists, Schultz has been endorsed by Rick Santorum and is already liked by the Republican base, and Shaw is strong on social issues as well and may be the candidate who can best articulate the socially conservative message to voters.  It also doesn’t hurt that Shaw sports “Choose Life” license plates on his Chevy pick-up.

Having been the Chairman-of-the-Board of the largest social conservative organization in the state will help Cramer, but he’s going to have to compete with the other candidates to earn activists’ support.

How Would You Rank the Iowa Primary Races?

Here is my list of major primaries from most interesting to least interesting.

1. Third District Congressional Race
2. U.S. Senate Race
3. First District Congressional Race – Democrat
4. First District Congressional Race – Republican
5. Iowa Senate District 15
6. Second Congressional District

Judicial Frustration

A Polk County judge ruled that Governor Branstad overstepped his authority when he closed the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo earlier this year.

Polk County District Judge Scott Rosenberg wrote in his decision, “No one person under our form of government, unless duly authorized by that form of government through our Constitution can exercise a power not delegated to it or in contravention of the government itself and the laws duly enacted.”

Rosenberg added, “If the Governor of the State of Iowa decided that the Toledo Home should not operate, he had the opportunity to end its operation when the appropriations bill was placed upon his desk for signature.  At the point the Governor could have vetoed the bill.”

I agree with the court’s ruling, but I also understand why Branstad closed the home following the abuse of some of the kids under the state’s care.  Look, at the end of the day, this must be about what’s in the best interest of the kids, not the labor unions.

I’m glad that Judge Rosenberg acknowledges the separation of powers.  Where was this sort of opinion, one that respects the proper role of the three branches of government, when the Iowa Supreme Court issued its ruling on gay marriage in Iowa?  The court had the right to void Iowa’s Defense of Marriage law, but only the legislature has the ability to legalize gay marriages, not the court.




Cash Is King – The Weekly Round Up

It’s been quite the week for Iowa Politics, but the story that got everyone and their brother worked up into a tizzy was the Iowa State Fair’s decision to no longer accept cash for food, beverages, and rides.

The last thing I want to do is carry around fist full of 50-cent tickets.  Can you imagine going to the Beef Quarters and paying for a meal with gobs of tickets?  Not only would it have been inconvenient, it would have hurt business.  Ask my wife, I’m known for changing my mind at the last minute, but if we only have 10 bucks in tickets, we are not about to jump out of the food line to get in another line so we can buy more tickets, to only get back in line at the Beef Quarters.

Look, I was this close to starting an official boycott of the Iowa State Fair.  This is America.  I should be able to buy fried cheese curds or a corn dog with gold or American currency.  If you think it would be inconvenient for the average fairgoer, think about all the families and professional horse people who basically live on the fair grounds for days at a time.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and drinks all would require tickets.  It’s outrageous.

Thankfully, the Iowa State Fair Board came to its senses and scrapped the idea.  While the outrage could be seen everywhere, the plan was doomed when Governor Terry Branstad issued a statement asking the Fair board to reconsider.

I understand that the fair wants to make sure that the vendors are paying them their 17.5 percent on revenues, but there has got to be a better way.  Maybe instead of using tickets, encourage vendors to accept credit and debit cards, which makes it impossible for them to fudge their numbers.  Better yet, the Fair could encourage fairgoers to use special state fair debit cards by giving people a free five dollars to spend at the fair if they use the card.  Maybe that’s a crazy idea, but it’s a heck of a lot better than making me carry around a ton ticket in my pocket.

Speaking of Cash – Mark Jacobs has a lot of it.

In the span of six weeks, U.S. Senate Candidate Mark Jacobs raised over $400,000.  That a lot more than anyone else seeking for the Republican U.S. Senate candidate has raised thus far.  Everyone expected Jacobs to spend a lot of his own money, but not many thought he would jump into the race and show off his fundraising skills.

Why is Joni Ernst Angry All the Time?

While Joni Ernst was campaigning in Eastern Iowa on Thursday, a reporter inquired about her fundraising numbers since Jacobs had just released his numbers.  Ernst lashed out and said, “Money can’t buy Iowa values.”   Ernst has repeatedly attacked Jacobs for not being Iowan enough since he officially entered the race.

As I have written before, Ernst’s critique of Jacobs is weak, especially considering that Ernst herself spent a number of years living outside of Iowa before returning to quickly run for political office.

It’s not like Mark Jacobs is out there attacking Joni Ernst about anything.  In fact, no body is attacking Ernst at the moment, which makes it even more disturbing that she is becoming an angry candidate.  If you can’t handle someone getting into the race and raising a lot of money, how on earth are you going to hold up in a general election fight with Bruce Braley?

It doesn’t matter who you are.  It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor.  Running for public office requires a lot of hard work.  It’s not easy for anyone to do.  That is especially true in a U.S. Senate race.  Running for office also requires thick skin, and it’s becoming apparent that Ernst lacks that trait.

Ernst’s reaction to Jacobs fundraising number is also a sign that her second quarter numbers aren’t as good as her first, other wise she would be spinning her number instead of attacking her opponent.

An Enthusiastic Matt Schultz Running for Congress

Matt Schultz impressed me in Council Bluffs on Thursday.  The room was packed, his speech was solid, and it never hurts to walk around holding one of your young children in your arms.  What impressed me the most about Schultz yesterday was the fire and passion he had in running for Congress.

This was evident while taking questions from local media.  I have observed Schultz as Secretary of State for three years now, and while he has is always optimistic and willing to go toe to toe with his political opponents, I’ve never seen him this excited.    I’ve got some great video that shows this on my phone, I just have to figure out how to down load it.  If you see it below, please know I must have found someone to help me.

David Young Makes a Shrewd Political Move

Third District Republican Congressional candidate David Young showed he knows how to get some earned media this week.  Young was featured in a story about Iowa Radiology’s used of 3D mammograms.  A great new technology, and one they want to spread the word about.  Talk about a good way to court the female vote!;;playerWidth=630;playerHeight=355;isShowIcon=true;clipId=9710932;flvUri=;partnerclipid=;adTag=News;advertisingZone=;enableAds=true;landingPage=;islandingPageoverride=false;playerType=STANDARD_EMBEDDEDscript;controlsType=overlayABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Braley’s D.C. Mouthpiece

Jeff Giertz, Congressman Bruce Braley’s spokesperson for his U.S. Senate campaign, told the Des Moines Register on Tuesday, “Washington Republicans don’t know what’s going on here in Iowa, so they’re starting the new year the same way they ended the last: by attacking health care reform and trying to completely repeal it.”

Giertz was commenting on a new RNC radio ad in Iowa that beats up Braley for lying to Iowans when he said that if you liked your current insurance, you could keep it under Obamacare.  Giertz should take a look in the mirror.  He might be railing against Washington Republicans, but he is a Washington Democrat since he lives there and not in Iowa.  Thus, he is the last person who should be providing comment on how things are playing in Iowa.  Oh, Jeff, you might want to look at Braley’s pathetic poll numbers, he’s got a lot of work to do.

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 4.52.25 PM

If I was…

The following is list of random things I would be thinking if I were in someone else’s shoes.

If I was… Sen. Chuck Grassley, I wouldn’t want David Oman to run for Congress in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District.  People have just forgotten about the mess that was the Iowa Indoor Rain Forest.  It is best to let sleeping dogs lie!

If I was… interested in running for Secretary of State, Paul Pate’s presence in the race would give me pause.  Yes, Pate hasn’t occupied the Secretary of State’s office since 1999, but its not the former title that makes him a legitimate candidate, it’s his ability to change the narrative of the entire campaign.  It will be impossible for Brad Anderson to attack Pate like he has attacked Schultz.

If I was… interested in running for Congress in Iowa’s 3rd District, I would only run if I thought I could raise enough money to saturate the air waves with my message for the primary.  Matt Schultz and Brad Zaun are going to own the activists in the district, and that means the only other route for success is being the media campaign.  Frankly, I don’t see many people out there who are capable of being that candidate.

If I was… Governor Terry Branstad, I would call us Rick Green at the Des Moines Register and ask him if he’s been following the Chris Christie traffic scandal.  THAT’s what a real scandal looks like, not the lead-footed trooper driving the Governor on rural stretches of interstate.

If I was… the Des Moines Register, I would be embarrassed that my political reporters get leads for stories by reading this blog.  I never imagined that TIR would be providing a paint-by-number picture of Iowa politics for the Register’s staff.

The End.

Have a great weekend.