Kasich gets his, but Trump begins to pull away

Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

While the news media continues to report on how Republicans can’t stomach Donald Trump, the New York billionaire continues to rack up wins and accumulate delegates. Reaching the necessary 1,237 delegates to claim the nomination may be difficult for Trump, but he is the only candidate with a reasonable shot at winning the nomination outright.

Trump won contests in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and the Northern Mariana Islands on Tuesday.  The only blemish on the night was Ohio, where John Kasich, the current governor of the state, won with 47 percent of the vote and took home all 66 delegates. Even still, Trump was able to hold the home state governor under 50 percent and garnered 36 percent of the vote for himself.

Kasich, who finally won a state on Tuesday, has no possible route to accumulate the necessary delegates to win the nomination. Regardless, by preventing Trump from getting Ohio’s 66 delegates, Kasich makes it more difficult for Trump to get the delegates he needs. The problem for Kasich is that he probably can’t post a win anywhere else. On Tuesday night, he announced he was headed to neighboring Pennsylvania. While the move makes plenty of sense, a quick look at the Ohio results map shows that Trump won counties all along the eastern portion of Ohio that borders Pennsylvania.

If Trump was again the big winner, Florida Senator Marco Rubio was the big loser. Rubio was trounced in his home state, losing to Trump by 19 points. In fact, Rubio only carried Miami-Dade County. It was evident that Rubio wasn’t surging in his home state, but such a lop-sided loss has to sting. Rubio clearly saw the writing on the wall and announced he was suspending his campaign early in the night.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz repeatedly says that he is the only credible alternative to Donald Trump in the Republican presidential race. He also likes to say that he is the only candidate who has “repeatedly” beaten Trump. While both statements are factual, Cruz continues to fall behind Trump in the delegate count, and there doesn’t appear to be a roadmap that would actually allow him to edge out the New York billionaire for Republican nomination. Once again, Cruz was competitive with Trump in states like Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina, but he failed to pull out an actual victory.

Despite not winning any state on Tuesday, Cruz will continue to accumulate delegates, but he needs to beat Trump in a primary contest if he ever hopes to derail Trump. The upcoming calendar also isn’t favorable to Cruz. His best chance to post a victory will be next Tuesday when Utah voters caucus, but Trump is expected to win Arizona. The month of April is comprised of only primaries and the friendliest turf for Cruz is Wisconsin.

Even though it currently appears possible to prevent Trump from getting the1237 delegates he needs, the pressure is still on Kasich and Cruz to find places to win. The month of April, in which New York, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin vote poses a difficult obstacle for the Cruz campaign to maneuver. With every win Trump gets, the more he is able to pull away from Cruz in the delegate count, and the more inevitable Trump becomes.

Kasich Makes His First Iowa Appearance


Rarely do I get nostalgic at a political event featuring a presidential hopeful in Iowa. I’ve been there and done that a thousand times. If anything, I try to remind myself to lighten up when covering a long shot or a candidate who’s making their first trip to Iowa. Yet, watching Ohio Governor John Kasich campaign in Iowa took me back to my senior year in college – the time I first knew I wanted to be involved in politics.

I love politics, and in college I loved political books. People often wonder how on earth someone like me was able to get a woman like my wife to marry me. The short answer is a book trick. At the time, the book Primary Colors was extremely popular. I bought it, and when the woman who is now my wife showed interest in reading the book, I insisted that she borrow it. I could have cared less if she actually read it, but it gave me an excuse to call her later and meet her to get the book back.

Vertically and horizontally challenged people need to think out of the box. It worked. And oh yeah, thanks, Bill Clinton!

How does this involve John Kasich? I was an early fan. I bought and read his book, Courage is Contagious and liked everything I read. Had I known how to contact Kasich’s campaign in 1999 or had I been offered a job, I would have jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t have much of a rolodex back then, and the only campaigns that I had any contact with were Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Dole. I went to work for Forbes, and the rest is history.

Despite my choice to go to work for Forbes, I did attend a campaign event for Kasich in Davenport at the home of Doc Sunderbruch (with my future wife). It was a small event held in a tent in a huge backyard in the middle of Davenport. At the time, I had grandiose images in my head about what campaigning for president would look like. I would soon learn it wasn’t as glamorous as the movies made it seem. I can’t recall what Kasich said those many years ago, but he was young and full of ideas.

Kasich told the media before his noontime speech at the 2016 Iowa Caucus Consortium at the State Historical Building in Des Moines that the message he got from Iowans when he briefly ran for president in 1999 was to come back when he was a little more experienced. It’s been 16 years, and instead of being a fresh-faced 47 year-old congressman, Kasich is the 63 year-old governor of one of the most electorally significant swing-states in the country.

Kasich is not only more experienced, but he also has a long list of accomplishment to tout. Under Kasich’s watch, Ohio has eliminated the death tax, reduced personal income taxes by 10 percent, and cut business taxes in half. Kasich has accomplished all of that while transforming an $8 billion deficit into a $2 billion surplus. The Ohio economy, which lost over 350,000 jobs under the previous administration of Ted Strickland, has bounced back under Kasich.

Kasich won re-election in 2014 by a landslide, carrying 86 of 88 counties in the state. Kasich defeated his Democrat opponent by over 936,000 votes. Impressive stuff. Even though Kasich sailed to victory in 2014, he wasn’t always so popular. In his speech in Des Moines, he noted that at one point in his first term, his approval rating stood at just 28 percent.

Kasich joked, “You have to work hard to be that unpopular.” He explained that his early approval numbers are the result of him being a change agent. Whether it was as a young Ohio State Senator, a member of Congress, or Governor, Kasich said, “When you see a problem, go and fix it.”

Kasich told his Iowa audience of about 200 that he approaches government and life with a five-pronged philosophy of personal responsibility, resilience, teamwork, faith, and family. In addition to sharing his political background, beginning with meeting the President of Ohio State University, which ended up getting him a personal meeting with President Richard Nixon in the Oval office, Kasich touted his accomplishments in balancing the federal budget and his accomplishments as governor.

Kasich was peppered with questions from the media before making his remarks, and then he took a handful of questions from the event sponsors and members of the audience. Regardless of the question, Kasich seemed eager to answer, typically by explaining how he handled similar issues in Ohio.

Should Kasich decide to run, competing for space in a 16-person field will be difficult. Complicating matters is the fact that Kasich would be competing for a share of the caucus electorate against mainstream Republican candidates like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and Scott Walker. Kasich might not be as well-known or as popular as some of his direct competition, but his fix-it mentality and his accomplishments as governor give him a good foundation on which to build a presidential campaign.

Kasich also has his critics. As governor, he implemented Obamacare in his state, and he is a vocal supporter of Common Core state education standards. While those issues are incredibly unpopular with the grassroots conservatives who will make up the base of the caucus electorate, he’s not the only candidate with that baggage. Those wanting an ideologically pure candidate are not going to find it in Kasich, but for those wanting a candidate who is willing to tackle the bloated budget, reduce the deficit, and cut entitlement spending, may find it difficult to find a candidate with a better track record than him.

Time will tell if Kasich actually runs for president, and if he does, how aggressively he will campaign in Iowa. Kasich seemed surprised at the positive reception he received in Iowa on Wednesday. Much has changed since he last ran for president, but one thing about Iowa remains constant – if you want Iowans to take you seriously, you need to take the caucuses seriously. The ball is in his court.


Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

Campaign 2012: The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

By Craig Robinson

It seems only appropriate that the 2012 presidential race could very well end where it all began – the state of Iowa.  Obviously, Iowa isn’t the only battleground state.  A handful of other states are also worthy of the designation, but Iowa is more important than it has ever been in terms of determining the outcome of the presidential election.  Ohio might be the biggest prize tonight, but Iowa is likely to play a critical role no matter who wins the Buckeye state.

Iowa is the state that launched Obama when he shocked many by winning the Iowa Caucuses in 2008.  Romney finished in second place in consecutive caucuses, but while he’s never tasted an Iowa victory, he began cultivating relationships in the state even before George W. Bush won re-election in 2004.  Despite the fact that Iowans catapulted the first African-American into the presidency, and despite the effort that Romney has put into this state over the years, Iowa is by every definition a swing state.

With Election Day upon us, the difference between registered Republicans and registered Democrats in the state has been whittled down to just a 1,400-voter advantage in favor of the GOP.  In June of this year, Iowa Republicans enjoyed a 21,000-voter advantage over Democrats, but the Obama campaign’s relentless pursuit of registering voters and attempting to get them to vote early has wiped that advantage away.

Republicans shouldn’t be too upset about the new voter registration numbers.  They still have a lead, and let’s not forget that they trailed Democrats by over 111,000 following the 2008 campaign, meaning they are still 90,000 registered voters ahead of where they were four years ago.  The recent registered voter gains by Democrats have also come from just four counties, Johnson, Linn, Polk, and Story.  While significant, it’s safe to assume that some of these new registrants were more of a result of seeing Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen than the president’s policies.

Even still, the tightening of the registered voter numbers only confirms what we already know – Iowa is a battleground state.  In years like 2006 and 2008, Democrats dominated up and down the ballot.  Likewise in a Republican year like 2010, the GOP made significant gains.

The question that’s on everyone’s mind as we wait for the results is, what kind of year will 2012 be?

In some respects, I expect this to be a continuation of the 2010 election, however the presidential election at the top of the ballot makes it more difficult to project.  In September of 2008, we already knew that Barak Obama would be the 44th President of the United States.  We also knew that Terry Branstad would return to the Governor’s office long before Election Day in 2010.   We don’t have that luxury this cycle.

What makes this election so interesting is that we don’t know what’s going to happen.  Even more frustrating is that we might not know who the President will be or who will control the Iowa Senate until the wee hours of Wednesday morning.  It seems like a sinister trick to play on Iowans who have had a front-row seat to the 2012 election for over two years to have to wait past the ten o’clock news to see the results.

As Tom Petty once aptly put it, “The waiting is the hardest part.” So, if you are like me and need something to occupy your mind while the results begin to trickle in, you can look for some trends that might give us an indication of what way Iowa will go tonight.  Here is what I’m going to be watching once the polls close at 9 p.m.

Polk County Results

Not only is Polk County the largest county in the state, but it’s also one of the fastest in posting election results.  Polk County is not a barometer for the entire state, but there are a number of things we can glean from Polk County soon after the polls close.

Latham/Boswell Race: If Congressman Leonard Boswell has any chance of defeating Congressman Tom Latham, he needs a healthy margin in Polk County.  There are 20,000 more registered Democrats in Polk County than Republicans.  Boswell will need all of that and more to win.

Polk County might also give us a glimpse of how well President Obama performs in urban areas.  Obama garnered 121,000 votes in 2008, and the county gave him a 31,000 margin over John McCain.

Iowa House Snapshot: There are a number of Iowa House races in Polk County, and a few of them might set the tone on election night.  The three races to watch are House Districts 30, 39, and 40.  All three of these seats are currently held by Republicans, but two retirements and one primary defeat leave these seats without a Republican incumbent.

Democrats have recruited pro-business candidates with strong ties to the community in each of these seats.  Good recruiting combined with the Democrats’ early voting prowess have made these races more competitive than they really should be.  It also might be wise to keep an eye on Rep. Chris Hagenow in District 43 for the same reason.  Hagenow is expected to win, and he won election for the first time in 2008 in a much worse political environment.

Other Urban Areas

In addition to Polk County, the state’s other urban areas are also home to several Iowa House races and a few Iowa Senate races that could go a long way in shaping the Iowa Legislature.

Cedar Rapids: There are a couple Iowa House seats to watch in Cedar Rapids.  Republican incumbents Rep. Renee Schulte and Rep. Nick Wagner are seeking re-election.  Schulte’s opponent is the Democrat she narrowly defeated in 2008.   Shulte and Wagner are both outstanding campaigners.  Proof of that is their ability to win in 2008, even if by small margins.  Still, Cedar Rapids isn’t very hospitable to Republicans.

Council Bluffs:  The big race to watch in Council Bluffs is the contest between Democrat Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstanl and Republican Al Ringgenberg.  Knocking off Gronstal would give Republicans a lot of joy and satisfaction, but more importantly, it would get them one step closer to a majority in the Iowa Senate.  It would also be wise to keep an eye on the two House seats that make up Gronstal’s Senate District.  Republican incumbents Rep. Mark Brandenburg and Rep. MaryAnn Hanusa currently hold those seats.

Davenport: Two races to watch in the Quad City area are House District 92, where Ross Paustian is seeking re-election, and Senate District 46.  These seats are not as urban as the others listed here, but this area can be difficult in a presidential cycle.  If Republicans hold both of these seats they will feel really good tonight.  State Senator Shawn Hamerlinck is in a tight battle with Democrat Chris Brace.  Again, Mississippi river counties in a presidential cycle are always tough.

Sioux City: The only member/member matchup in the Iowa House takes place in Sioux City.  Redistricting has put two freshman legislators in the same House district for 2012.  Republican Rep. Jerry Taylor is facing off against Rep. Chris Hall in a district that favors Democrats in terms of voter registration, but voted for Governor Terry Branstad and Congressman Steve King in the last election.

Waterloo: Matt Reisetter is challenging Democrat State Senator Jeff Danielson in Senate District 30.  This has been a spirited race that has gotten more negative as the election neared.  The district has a Republican registered voter advantage, but knocking off an incumbent is always difficult.  If Republicans win here, they are likely to be in the majority in the senate come January.  The Waterloo/Cedar Falls area also has some Iowa House seats to watch.

The Other Statewide Race

Outside of the presidential race, the judicial retention of Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins is the only other statewide race.  Other justices are up for retention, but Wiggins is the judge who’s fighting for his life.  Over half of the votes against the three Iowa Supreme Court Justices that were ousted in 2010 came from western Iowa.  That might not surprise you, but it’s not the most populated half of the state.  It might take a while for all the results to come in, but once a decent percentage of the precincts are in, we should have a good idea if he stays or if he goes.

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Proposed RNC Rule Change Would Wreak Havoc On Nominating System

By Craig Robinson

The boys over at Buzz Feed got my attention with a headline that reads, “Republicans Plot Assault On Iowa Caucuses.”  The article focuses on a proposed RNC rule change that will be debated in Tampa on Friday.  What the boys at Buzz Feed forgot to mention in their headline is that the rule change will effect more than the Iowa Caucuses and other caucus states if adopted.  In fact, at least 36 states would be substantially affected by the proposed rule change

The rule change being proposed by Ohio GOP Chairman Bob Bennett reads as follows.

Proposed Change to Rule 15(c)7

Any process authorized or implemented by a state Republican Party for selecting delegates and alternate delegates or for binding the presidential preference of such delegates shall use every means practicable to guarantee the right of active duty military personnel, and individuals unable to attend meetings due to injuries suffered in military service the opportunity to exercise their right to vote in that process.

A couple things to note:

1. The phrase, “shall use every means practicable” is not as forceful as a simple compulsory statement such as “must” or “shall.”  This means this rule would be up to much interpretation.  Who decides what is “practicable”?  What if there isn’t a “practicable” way to accomplish this?  This rule could be interpreted to have no teeth whatsoever, in which case, it is simply a political ploy to make caucus states look bad by voting against something that is perceived to be pro-military.

2. The proposed rule change has nothing to do with directly voting for a presidential candidate.  It only deals with military personnel being able to vote in delegate selection.  That means a caucus state like Iowa doesn’t have to make absentee ballots available in its presidential preference poll, only in the selection of delegates, which happens in most states after the primary or caucus.

Only six states and territories would be totally unaffected by the rule change.  Ten other states would have to make slight changes in how they select alternate delegates.  Thirty-six states would have to make major changes in how they elect delegates and alternate delegates.  Since the only way to comply with the new rule would be to put slates of delegates on a primary ballot, this also means it would cost states a substantial amount of money.  In essence, it would be an unfunded mandate from the Republican National Committee.

The Buzz Feed article makes it seem like Iowa is the main target of the rule change, but primary states like Texas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Oregon, and Washington would be impacted as much as Iowa.  If this is an “assault” on Iowa and other caucus states, it sure creates a lot of other casualties.

States that would not be largely impacted by the rule change include:

District of Columbia*
New Hampshire*
New Jersey
New York*
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island
West Virginia

*State committee selects a portion or all the alternate delegates, which would not be allowed under the proposed rule change.

The following states would have to make wholesale changes in how they select delegates and alternate delegates:

New Mexico
North Carolina
North Dakota
South Carolina
South Dakota

Allowing active duty military personnel to participate in the presidential nominating process is a noble and worthwhile goal.  The problem is that this proposal doesn’t ensure that they can vote for their candidate of choice.  Instead, it focuses on allowing them to vote for delegates.

There are other ways to make sure that active duty military personnel can participate in the process.  In regards to delegate selection, states can and should take steps to ensure that the caucus or primary results are reflected in their delegate selection process.

There is simply no way to allow an absent individual the opportunity to vote on delegates in states that use a convention process.  Moving to an Ohio system where people must run campaigns to become delegates does nothing to make the system more accessible, accountable, and open.  Instead it would increase the cost of being a delegate to a point where only someone of means or high name ID could participate.

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Romney’s Not So Super Tuesday

Mitt Romney came into Super Tuesday on a five state winning streak, rising poll numbers, and a growing sense that he would be the eventual Republican nominee. While Romney was trending upward, his prime opponent, Rick Santorum, appeared to be trending downward.

Making matters worse for Santorum was that he and his Super PAC lacked the financial resources to compete with Romney after going for broke in Romney’s home state of Michigan.  Not only was Santorum outspent by Romney in every Super Tuesday contest, Newt Gingrich also outspent him in every state except for Ohio.  Still, Santorum managed to overcome those obstacles and perform well.

Romney posted quick wins in the three states he was expected to win, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia. He would later add a victory in Idaho  and ultimately Ohio to his tally.  Gingrich also posted a victory in his home state of Georgia, but failed to reach the 50 percent threshold that he predicted earlier in the week.  Santorum reeled off big victories in North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and basically fought Romney to a tie in Ohio.

While Romney will promote the number of delegates he was able to add to his lead, he did not look like a candidate who was in the process of putting the nomination away.  Unlike the contests in Arizona and Michigan, Santorum’s ability to get into the win column in multiple states helps him create momentum at the time when Romney needs him to go away.

Five Takeaways from Super Tuesday

Romney Wins Ohio but Shutout in the South

Romney’s wins in Idaho, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia could have been predicted months ago.  His narrow victory in Ohio staved off an embarrassing loss to Santorum after drowning the former Pennsylvania Senator in negative ads, but did nothing to show strength.  More damaging for Romney is his inability to win in the south where the race heads next week.    A Republican nominee who struggles in the south will be worrisome for GOP operatives.  Romney needs a win where he is not expected to do well, something he has yet to do in this cycle.

Gingrich Wins Georgia but Nothing Else

If you watched Gingrich’s speech last night you might have thought he won five or six contests, he didn’t.  Gingrich and his Super PAC spent a lot of money and a ton of time campaigning in his home state of Georgia.  He won, but it was expected.  In the other states he finished in either third or fourth place.  In fact, his third place finishes in and Oklahoma and Tennessee don’t give much credence to the idea that he is the strongest candidate in the south.

Rumors of Ron Paul’s Strength Are Overstated

The media keeps talking about the states that Ron Paul is expected to win, but it never materializes.  Political pundits expected Paul to win in North Dakota or Idaho, but he got routed in both.  His most impressive finish on Super Tuesday was in Virginia, where he got 41 percent of the vote.  It’s important to note that neither Gingrich nor Santorum were on the ballot there.

Santorum Wins Despite Disadvantages and Recent Stumbles

Super Tuesday could have been a disaster for Santorum, but he was able to post three impressive wins despite being outspent and beat up by negative campaign ads.  More importantly, Santorum won Oklahoma and Tennessee in a big way.  By limiting Gingrich to a victory only in his home state, Santorum remains the conservative alternative to Romney.  The Gingrich comeback is nothing more than wishful thinking.

Trouble Ahead for Romney

The calendar does not favor Romney in the days ahead.  With contests in Alabama and Mississippi next week, the Romney opposition could get big wins that will generate momentum and campaign contributions.  That spells trouble for Romney moving forward.


Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

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