Grassley Continues to Stand Firm

GRASSLEY FARMFloor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
The Pressure Strategy
Thursday, April 7, 2016

Mr. President,

We have a unique opportunity for the American people to have a voice in the direction of the Supreme Court.  The American people should be afforded the opportunity to weigh in on this matter.

Our side believes very strongly that the people deserve to be heard and they should be allowed to decide, through their vote for the next President, the type of person who should be on the Supreme Court.

As I’ve stated previously, this is a reasonable approach, it is a fair approach and it is the historical approach – one echoed by then-chairman Biden and Senators Schumer and other senators.

The other side has been talking a great deal about a so-called “pressure campaign” to try to get members to change positions.

It’s no secret that the White House strategy is to put pressure on me and other Republicans in the hopes that we can be worn down and ultimately agree to hold hearings on the nominee.

This “pressure campaign,” which is targeted at me and a handful of my colleagues, is based on the supposition that I will “crack” and move forward on consideration of President Obama’s pick.

This strategy has failed to recognize that I’m no stranger to political pressure and strong-arm tactics.  Not necessarily from Democrat presidents, probably more from Republican presidents.

When I make a decision based on sound principle, I’m not about to flip-flop because the left has organized a “pressure campaign.”

As many of my colleagues and constituents know, I’ve done battle with administrations of both parties.

I’ve fought over irresponsible budgets, waste and fraud, and policy disagreements.

I’ve made tough decisions, and stuck with them, regardless of whatever pressure was applied.

The so-called pressure being applied to me now is nothing compared to what I’ve withstood from heavy-handed White House political operations in the past.  Let me say, by the way, most of that has come from Republican White Houses.

Just to give you a few examples –

In 1981, as a new member of the Senate, I voted against some of President Reagan’s first budget proposals, because they failed to balance.

I recall very specifically a Budget Committee mark-up of President Reagan’s first budget in April of 1981.

I was one of three Republicans to vote against that resolution because it did not put us on a path to a balanced budget.

You can imagine when a budget has to come out on a party-line vote, you can’t lose three Republicans. And three Republicans who were elected in 1980 on a promise to balance the budget did not go along with it. And what a loss it was for this new President Reagan that his budget might not get adopted by the Budget Committee.

We were under immense pressure to act on the President’s budget, regardless of the deficits it would cause.  But, we stood on principle and didn’t succumb to the pressure.

Just as an example, right after that vote, when it wasn’t voted out of the Budget Committee, I was home on a spring recess.  I remember calls from the White House.  I remember threats from the Chamber of Commerce-even interrupting my town meetings.

I also led the charge to freeze spending and end the Reagan defense build-up as a way to get the federal budget deficit under control.

In 1984, I teamed up with Senator Biden and Senator Kassebaum of Kansas to propose a freeze of the defense budget that would have cut hundreds of billions of dollars from the annual deficits.

At the time, it was known as the Kassebaum, Grassley, Biden, or KGB defense freeze.

We were going to make sure that across the board the budget was defensible.

For months, I endured pressure from the Reagan administration and Republican colleagues that argued a freeze on defense spending would constitute unilateral disarmament.

President Reagan had put together a less-aggressive deficit reduction plan.  We didn’t think it went far enough.

My bipartisan plan was attacked for being dangerous and causing draconian cuts to the defense budget.

I knew it was realistic and responsible.

I didn’t back down.  We forced a vote in the Budget Committee and on May 2, 1984, we forced a vote on the Senate floor.

Although we weren’t successful, this effort required the Senate and the nation to have a debate about the growing defense budget, including waste and inefficiencies at the Pentagon, and the growing federal fiscal deficits.

Despite the weeks-long pressure from conservatives and the Reagan Administration, I did not back down, because I knew the policy was on my side.

In this process, I stood up to pressure from President Reagan, Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, Senator Barry Goldwater, Senator John Tower, and many others.

I remember a meeting at the White House where I reminded the President that he had been talking through the campaign about the Welfare queens fraudulently on the budget. It happens that I reminded him that there were Defense queens as well.

I started doing oversight of the Defense Department.  It wasn’t long before evidence of waste and fraud began appearing.

We uncovered contractors that billed the defense department $435 for a claw hammer, $750 for toilet seats, $695 for an ash tray.

We found coffee pots that cost $7,600.

I had no problem finding Democrats to join my oversight efforts back then.

But, it’s interesting how hard it is to find bipartisan help when doing oversight of the current Democrat administration.

Nevertheless, on May 2, 1985, after a year of work to make the case that the defense department needed structural reforms and slower spending growth, I was successful.

My amendment to freeze the defense budget and allow for increases based on inflation was agreed to when a motion to table failed by a 48-51 vote.

A majority of Republicans opposed me, and a majority of Democrats were with me.  That didn’t matter, because I knew we were doing the right thing.

I went against my own party, and my own President to hold the Pentagon accountable, and I never backed off.

I had a similar experience with President George H.W. Bush in 1991.

In January of 1991, the Senate debated a resolution to authorize the use of U.S. Armed Forces to remove Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait.

I opposed it because I felt the economic and diplomatic sanctions that I voted for should have been given more time to work.

I was not ready to give up on sanctions in favor of war.

In the end, I was one of just two Republicans, along with Senator Hatfield, who opposed the resolution.

I was under pressure from President Bush, Vice President Quayle and White House chief of staff John Sununu.

I was even pressured by Iowa’s Governor, Terry Branstad.

I heard from a lot of Iowans, particular Republicans, who were disappointed, and even angry with my position.

Some were even considering a public rebuke because of my vote.

Being one of just two Republicans, it was difficult to differ with a Republican President on such a major issue.

But, as I stated at the time, my decision was above any partisanship.

It was a decision of conscience rather than a matter of Republican versus Democrat.

After a tremendous amount of soul-searching, I did what I thought was right, regardless of the political pressure.

The same is true today with regard to the Supreme Court vacancy.

Under President George W. Bush, I faced another dilemma.

The President and the Republican congressional leadership determined that they wanted to provide $1.6 trillion in tax relief in 2001.

I was the chairman of the Finance Committee.  The problem is, we had a 50-50 Senate at the time. The parties’ numbers were equal in the Senate and on the Finance Committee.

I had two members on my side who were reluctant to support a huge tax cut because they had concerns about deficits and the debt.

And, as we saw a few years later, their concerns were not totally unwarranted.  But, at the time, the administration and leadership would have nothing to do with it.

Except that the President wanted $1.6 trillion of tax decreases.  But obviously the President and the White House weren’t thinking anything about what Republicans might vote against it. And when you have a 50-50 Senate, you can’t lose a lot of Republicans.

After very difficult negotiations, I finally rounded up enough votes to support $1.3 trillion in tax relief.

A hailstorm of criticism followed.  There were Republican House members who held press conferences denouncing the fact that we weren’t able to achieve the whole $1.6 trillion.

Now, those House members were more professional in their criticism than we witness almost every day from the current Minority Leader.

But, it was still a very contentious and difficult period that included both the budget and reconciliation process.

Minority Leader Reid has also recently brought up the pressure I came under in regard to Obamacare back in 2009.

Of course, his version is his usual attempt to rewrite the actual history.

As the Ranking Member of the Finance Committee at the time, I was involved in very in-depth negotiations to try to come up with a healthcare solution.

We started in November 2008. We had negotiations between three Republicans and three Democrats on the Finance Committee. We met hours and hours, almost totally time consuming. So we met in November 2008, through mid-September 2009, and then they decided that they — the other side — decided they ought to go political and not worry about Republicans.

The Minority Leader, in his usual inaccurate statement of the facts, has tried to say Republicans walked out of those negotiations.

The fact is, we were given a deadline and told if we didn’t agree to the latest draft of the bill, then the Democrats would have to move on.

And I would ask anybody in the Senate who wants some reference on this to talk to Senator Snowe or Senator Enzi.  I was the other Republican.  Talk to Senator Baucus. Talk to Senator Conrad. And the then-Senator from New Mexico. The President called six of us down to the White House in early August 2009.

The first question I got was, would you, Senator Grassley, be willing to go along with two or three Republicans to have a bipartisan bill with Obamacare.  And I said, Mr. President, the answer is no because, what do you think we have been working on for nine months?  We have been working trying to get a broad bipartisan agreement. It’s something like 70-75 votes that we’re trying to get if you really want to change social policy and have it stick. We didn’t abandon this until 2009, but my idea is that probably it was that meeting at the White House in early August 2009, where this President decided we don’t want to mess around with those Republicans any more, we’ve got 60 votes, we’re going to move ahead.

Well, that happened in September. The fact is we were given that deadline and we were shoved out of the room.

So, when we didn’t bow to this pressure and agree to their demands, it ended up being a partisan document, and that’s why it still doesn’t have majority support of the American people. I want the Minority Leader to know that’s what happened, not what he described a couple of weeks ago.

Eventually, as we all know, the former Majority Leader, now Minority Leader, had his staff rewrite the bill in secret in the backrooms of his leadership offices.

And, we ended up with the disaster called Obamacare we have today.

The Senate Minority leader also recently proclaimed that rather than follow Leader McConnell, “Republicans are sprinting in the opposite direction.”

He also wishfully claimed that the Republican façade was cracking on the issue.

Senator Schumer fancifully stated, “Because of the pressure, Republicans are beginning to change.”

You can almost hear the ruby slippers on the other side clicking while they wish this narrative were true.

The fact is, the pressure they’ve applied thus far has had no impact on this Senator’s principled position.

Our side knows and believes that what we’re doing is right, and when that’s the case, it’s not hard to withstand the outrage and pressure they’ve manufactured.

This pressure pales in comparison to what I’ve endured and withstood from both Democrats and Republicans in the past.

Senator Joni Ernst’s First 100 Days

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today marks the 100th day since U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) was sworn in to serve as Iowa’s newest Senator. In less than 3.5 months, Senator Ernst has worked tirelessly to meet with and represent the people of Iowa, visiting more than half of Iowa’s counties on her 99 county tour, meeting with more than 1,200 Iowans in D.C., and introducing her first piece of legislation to expand mental health care services for veterans.

Watch the video below for more on Senator Ernst’s work in her first 100 days.

Sen. Ernst’s First 100 Days of Legislative Activity

Major Official Speeches

Delivery of the Republican Address: Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) delivered the Republican Address to the country following the President’s State of the Union address. Senator Ernst laid out the new Republican Congress’ plans to get Washington back to work for Iowans and people across the country. 

Senator Ernst’s Maiden Speech: The Senator delivered her maiden speech on the Senate floor in March with a focus on military service, national security, and her first legislative proposal designed to increase mental health options for veterans.

Authored Legislation

Senator Ernst’s First Bill: The Senator’s first piece of legislation works to expand mental health services for veterans to ensure they are never forced to wait at the VA or get insufficient help.

Senator Ernst Introduced Four Senate Budget Resolution Amendments: The Senator introduced four amendments to the budget resolution:

  • Prohibiting use of taxpayer dollars for first class airplane travel by members of Congress
  • Improving mental health care services for veterans
  • Protecting taxpayers by reforming the allowance and perks available for former Presidents, and
  • Ensuring public comments are utilized more effectively in the federal rulemaking process.

Press Conferences

Members of SASC Urge Administration to Arm Ukraine: Senator Ernst joined a bipartisan group of Senate Armed Services Committee members in a press conference calling attention to the situation in Ukraine, a sovereign nation and friend of the United States. The bipartisan group of Senators urged President Obama to act with this united Congress to provide defensive weapons to Ukraine.

Human Trafficking Legislation: Senator Ernst participated in a press conference with several leaders of the Republican Party encouraging passage of legislation aimed at reducing human trafficking and discussing partisan obstructionism of the bill by Democrats.


LETTER – Arm Sales to Jordan: Senator Ernst signed a letter with all other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee urging expedited consideration of the cases associated with providing military assistance to Jordan.

LETTER – Sex Trafficking: Senator Ernst signed a letter sent by all women Senators to Senators Grassley and Leahy (Judiciary Committee Chairman/Ranking Member) urging them to hold hearings on the problem of sex trafficking in the United States. A hearing was subsequently held on the matter.

LETTER – VA 40-mile rule: Senator Ernst signed a letter asking the VA to review how it calculates the 40-mile rule regarding the Choice Card program. The VA originally calculated if you are within the 40-mile range by air/direct map calculation rather than by driving distance. The letter asked them to take into account driving distance to ensure veterans have greater access to services closer to home rather than being forced to drive great distances to VA facilities. The VA subsequently adopted the driving distance rule.

LETTER – CoOportunity: Senator Ernst signed a letter with Senators Grassley and Fischer regarding the situation with CoOportunity Health. The letter asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to review options for people negatively impacted by the collapse of the company. Specifically some people had paid out-of-pocket deductibles to CoOportunity already this year and will have to pay such deductibles entirely again to their new provider.

LETTER – Knoxville VA CBOC: Senator Ernst signed a letter with Senator Grassley and Representative Loebsack to Veterans Affairs Secretary McDonald and General Services Administration Chief Tangherlini regarding delays and unanswered questions about the Knoxville Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). Specifically there has been a delay in awarding a new CBOC lease and the city has been unsuccessful in getting satisfactory answers as to why. The VA responded via email indicating they are in the pre-award clearance process with an award expected in Summer 2015, which means they expect to be able to start seeing patients in the new facility in Summer/Fall 2017.

LETTER – Medicare Advantage Payments: Senator Ernst signed a letter with a group of 53 bi-partisan Senators (including Senator Grassley) urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services to maintain current payment levels to providers under the Medicare Advantage program. This program provides seniors a private sector alternative to the traditional Medicare program, and about 15% of Iowa seniors on Medicare choose this option. The letter was led by Senators Crapo and Schumer.

LETTER – Invitation for Afghan President Ghani to Speak: Senator Ernst signed a letter with a bi-partisan group of members of Congress urging House Speaker Boehner to invite Afghan President Ghani to address a joint session of Congress. The letter was led by Senator Graham. Subsequently the Speaker invited him and Ghani accepted.

LETTER – AR-15 Ammunition Ban: Senator Ernst signed a letter sent by Senator Grassley (and others) to the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives regarding a recent regulatory effort to ban certain types of ammunition that are extremely common. Shortly after the letter was sent, the agency backed down from its proposal.

LETTER – UN Arms Trade Treaty: Senator Ernst signed a letter with other freshman Senators opposing the United Nation’s Arms Trade Treaty. This comes on the heels of a letter last fall with a majority of all Senators opposing.

LETTER – Des Moines VA Mental health: Senator Ernst signed a letter to the VA Inspector General asking that it look into the mental health treatment practices of the VA Central Iowa Health Care System after the death of veteran Richard Miles.

LETTER – Iran: Senator Ernst signed a letter sent by nearly all Republican Senators to the leaders of Iran, articulating that Congress has the authority to weigh in on any Iran nuclear deal.

LETTER – Iraq Shia Militia: Senator Ernst signed a letter to President Obama calling for a detailed response regarding circumstances in which‎ equipment has potentially been provided to Iraqi Shia militia groups supported or controlled by Iran. The letter details Iran’s past efforts to undermine U.S. and Iraqi interests through their relationship with Iraqi Shia Militia groups, and urges the Obama Administration to increase its oversight to ensure Iranian supported Iraqi Shia Militia do not obtain U.S. military support or equipment.

LETTER – Turkish Media Crackdown: Senator Ernst signed a letter to Secretary Kerry regarding concerns about human rights violations in Turkey, specifically regarding a media crackdown in that country.

LETTER – Dietary Guidelines: Senator Ernst signed a letter regarding the recommendations to the USDA and HHS about updates to recommended dietary guidelines. The recommendations included taking into account sustainability of food sources as well as not appropriately considering the impact of lean red meat in diets.

LETTER – DoD Women’s History Month: Senator Ernst signed a letter sent by nearly all of the women in the Senate inviting their colleagues to attend a Department of Defense’s Women’s History Month event. Lieutenant General Flora Darpino, Army Judge Advocate General, delivered the keynote address discussing her personal experience as a senior female leader in the Army and how the achievements of women in the Armed Forces have helped break the military’s brass ceiling.

LETTER – Sex Trafficking Zero-Tolerance Policy: Senator Ernst signed a letter led by Senator Grassley and signed by many of her colleagues in Congress, urging the State Department to adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding employees who are found to have been involved with these types of situations.

LETTER – American Battle Monuments Commission: Senator Ernst signed a letter to the American Battle Monuments Commission regarding their Floral Fund Program which has provided floral and photography services to the families of our fallen, who are buried overseas.

LETTER – Labor Dispute Impacting Exports: Senator Ernst signed a letter sent by the entire Iowa Congressional delegation to President Obama regarding a labor dispute on the west coast which impacted agricultural exports. Specifically, the seven month dispute caused a backlog of shipments to Asia, hurting Iowa agricultural producers (especially pork producers) and caused slowdowns at food processing facilities. The dispute was eventually resolved.

LETTER – Renewable Fuel Standard: Senator Ernst signed a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding establishing biodiesel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). As many are aware, the EPA has yet to establish required levels for 2014 or 2015 which is causing great uncertainty in the marketplace. This is a bi-partisan letter led by Senators Blunt, Klobuchar, Grassley and Murray.


CO-SPONSOR – Workplace Advancement Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation regarding the prohibition of wage discrimination and prevention of retaliation from employers against employees who inquire, discuss or disclose compensation information.

CO-SPONSOR – 40-hour Work Week: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation which would change the definition of full-time work under Obamacare to 40-hours per week. Currently the law says it is 30-hours per week, which incentivizes employers to reduce hours to keep the number of “full-time” employees under certain thresholds.

CO-SPONSOR – Repeal IPAB: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation which would repeal the Independent Patient Advisory Board (IPAB) created under Obamacare. This board is made up of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats who are appointed by the president and are tasked with making substantial changes to Medicare—without full transparency and accountability to America’s seniors and their elected officials—based on arbitrary global budget targets.

CO-SPONSOR – NLRB Ambush Election Rule: Senator Ernst co-sponsored a resolution of disapproval against the National Labor Relations Board “ambush” election rule. The rule would shorten the time between a request to organize a labor union and the actual vote, putting businesses at an unfair advantage to make their case against unionization. This legislation was passed by the Senate, but ultimately rejected by President Obama.

CO-SPONSOR – Stop IRS Targeting: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2015. This bill seeks to prevent further IRS targeting of conservative groups by reverting IRS standards and definitions for tax-exempt social welfare organizations under Section 501(c)(4) to the standards and definition in place on January 1, 2010 – prior to the agency’s inappropriate targeting.

CO-SPONSOR – VA Accountability: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the Increasing VA Accountability to Veterans Act of 2015. This bill would grant the VA Secretary more authority to properly punish those senior executives who are found to have been involved in the wait list scandal which caused significant delays (and even deaths) within our VA system.

CO-SPONSOR – Welcoming Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu regarding a speech before Congress in March. This resolution reaffirms the Senate’s commitment to stand with Israel during times of uncertainty. It reaffirms this body’s strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself from threats to its very survival.

CO-SPONSOR – Iran Sanctions: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015. This legislation is sponsored by Senators Kirk and Menendez and would impose new sanctions on Iran if international negotiators fail to reach a final deal by June 30on Tehran’s nuclear program. This legislation is sponsored by half the Senate in a bi-partisan fashion.

CO-SPONSOR – LOCAL Level Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the LOCAL Level Act. This bill strictly forbids the federal government from intervening in a state’s education standards, curricula, and assessments through the use of incentives, mandates, grants, waivers or any other form of manipulation. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) is the lead sponsor of this bill.

CO-SPONSOR – Small Business Tax Credit: Senator Ernst is the lead Republican co-sponsor on legislation extending the small business tax credit given to employers who pay differential pay to Guard and Reservists called to active duty.

CO-SPONSOR – Iran Nuclear Deal Approval:  Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation by Senators Corker and Menendez that requires Congressional approval of any nuclear agreement with Iran.

CO-SPONSOR – Boys Town Commemorative Coin: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation providing a commemorative coin (at no cost to taxpayers) for the 100th anniversary of Boys Town. This legislation was subsequently passed by the Senate.

CO-SPONSOR – Federal Vehicle Repair Cost Savings Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation by Senators Peters and Lankford requiring the federal government to use parts on its own vehicle fleet that are equal in safety, but cheaper than, certain on the shelf parts. The goal of the legislation is to ensure taxpayers are saving more money and that the government is not unnecessarily wasting money on parts.

CO-SPONSOR – Inspector General Empowerment Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation by Senator Grassley regarding the powers of inspectors general within various federal agencies. It most notably would increase their subpoena power to help better ensure they can do their work effectively. 

CO-SPONSOR – Balanced Budget Amendment: Senator Ernst co-sponsored Senator Hatch’s Balanced Budget Amendment to the US Constitution. This legislation would require the federal government to have a balanced budget, in addition to other requirements such as a 2/3 vote to increase taxes to ensure that Congress simply does not (easily) choose to raise taxes to balance the budget, and a limitation on spending.

CO-SPONSOR – REINS Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation that requires Congressional review/approval of costly/impactful regulations. This legislation is designed to exert more control over the regulatory process.

CO-SPONSOR – Community Provider Readiness Recognition Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation that would develop a special designation for providers that demonstrate strong knowledge of military culture and of medical treatments focused on the needs of troops and veterans. It would create a joint, searchable online registry of providers that earn this designation and update all DOD and VA online provider lists to indicate providers that have gained this voluntary designation.

CO-SPONSOR – Guantanamo Bay Recidivism Prevention Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation to prevent recidivism by encouraging foreign countries to properly monitor former detainees. Specifically, it prohibits foreign assistance provided under the Foreign Assistance Act or Arms Export Control Act to a country if a detainee subsequently appear on the Administration’s detainee recidivist report.

CO-SPONSOR – Campus Accountability and Safety Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation by Senator Gillibrand regarding sexual assault prevention on university campuses. This bill works to improve campus prevention, training, and support for situations surrounding campus sexual assaults.


APPOINTMENT – West Point Board of Visitors: Senator Ernst was appointed by Chairman McCain to serve on the West Point Board of Visitors which reports to the President of the United States on recommendations relating to all aspects of the United States Military Academy at West Point.  These can include: morale and discipline, curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods, and any other matters relating to the Academy that the Board decides to consider.

Unsolicited Advice: Let it rip Joni!

JoniTuesday night’s State of the Union address by President Obama will likely be the most watched State of the Union address in the state of Iowa – not because Iowans are interested in all of the government handouts the President is proposing, but because Iowa’s newest U.S. Senator, Joni Ernst, has been selected to give the Republican response.

Ernst’s selection to give the response is not just a huge honor, but another indication that her national prominence could not be any higher than it is right now.  Ernst’s meteoric rise from a rural southwest Iowa state senator to a United States Senator, who after two weeks on the job will deliver the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, is nothing short than amazing.

However, there is a catch.  While being selected to give your political party’s response to the State of the Union is a huge honor, it is also been the most difficult speech for politicians to deliver.

Need proof?  Name one lawmaker who has given the response that benefited from it politically or professionally. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan and Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers have been the most successful lawmakers of late, but their speeches were not all that memorable.

It’s the bad speeches that are memorable.  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s 2009 response to President Obama’s first appearance in front of Congress knocked the shine right off of Jindal, who was, at the time, one of the brightest stars in the Republican Party.  In 2013, Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s message was good, but the delivery and awkward gulp of water was all that is remembered.

So, as Senator Ernst prepares to address the nation tomorrow night, it is my hope that she just lets it rip.  Here’s what I mean.

First, accept the fact that you are not on equal footing with President Obama.  He gets to speak live in front of every member of congress, his cabinet, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  Not only does he get to speak from the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives, but he gets an introduction that is second to none.

Second, don’t feel that you must deliver a policy address like President is required to give.  One of the reasons that responses to the President’s State of the Union fail is because they never stack up to the speech people just watched.  Furthermore, most people are not all that interested in policy.  What they are interested in is politics.

There are a number of reason’s why Senator Ernst was selected to give the response.  She’s a fresh face, she’s female, she has a military background, she won a seat many thought was unwinnable for Republicans, but mostly people just relate to her.  The decision regarding who should give the response is a political one, and perhaps the speech that is to be delivered should also be political in nature.

I think the worst thing Ernst could do is deliver the same old speech where she basically rolls out the Republican priorities for the next year.  Instead she should give the viewers what they want – a political response to President Obama.

President Obama has already shown his hand.  His plan to deal with the Republican controlled congress is to propose a bunch of new government entitlements like “free” sick leave, “free” community college, “free” broadband, and  “free” child care.  It’s clear that President Obama is once again attempting to pit the American people against Republican by labeling the GOP as the party of no.

Ernst is the perfect person to call out President Obama for his wanting to increase the size of government and spend money we simply don’t have.  On the campaign trail, Ernst often talked about the sacrifices her family had to make because she grew up poor.  She simply needs to explain that the President is so out of touch that he thinks what this country needs is more spending and higher taxes.

Obama is behaving like an estranged parent who thinks he can make up for it by lavishing expensive gifts on his children despite the fact that he can’t afford them.  Off course there are plenty of Americas who would love some of the benefits that the President has proposed in the past week, but our government can’t even afford all the entitlement programs it’s already promised to people.

Ernst and Republicans need to deliver a dose of realty to the American people tomorrow night.  It might not be exciting or fun to tell people that he need to set priorities, spend wisely, and tighten our belts, but it is exactly the type of message that is necessary to hear.  More than anything, Ernst needs to be herself tomorrow night.  So many politicians try to do too much in these types of situations.  If Ernst is herself, she will be just fine.

I also wouldn’t mind it if Ernst finds away to tell the American people that this was the second to last State of the Union address that President Obama will give.  Talk about giving people hope!


Rand Paul Shows Weakness in Announcing Re-Election Bid for his U.S. Senate Race

Rand PaulOn Monday, Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul announced his intention to run for a second term in the United States Senate. Paul was elected to the Senate in 2010, but his meteoric rise to national prominence turned the first term Senator into a prospective 2016 presidential candidate as soon as Mitt Romney lost to President Obama in 2012.

There is just one slight problem for Paul – Kentucky law does not allow for one person to be on the ballot twice, meaning that he would have to pick between running for President in 2016 or running for a second term in the U.S. Senate. Paul, who is still actively pursuing a 2016 presidential run, is also trying to change the Kentucky law that could very well throw a wrench in his presidential plans according to CNN.

CNN reported on Tuesday that Kentucky’s May 17th primary day would pose the first challenge to Paul should he decide to run for president and for re-election to the Senate in the same year. With the Iowa caucuses slated to be later than they have been in years, it is possible that the Republican nominee won’t be determined before the Kentucky primary.

Needless to say, Paul’s presidential ambitions have created a mess for the Kentucky Senator. Paul, a staunch supporter of state’s rights, was recently asked by Salon how this situation should be handled. He stated, “I think making the playing field equal for people across the United States.” Paul went on to explain that the Constitution sets the requirements for eligibility for office, not the states. That’s true, but Kentucky’s state law does nothing to determine a candidate’s eligibility, it simply states that someone’s name can’t appear on the same ballot for two different offices.

The Kentucky law is similar to laws in other states, and most people don’t have a problem with them. I’m sure the Paul supporters in Iowa would have freaked out had Terry Branstad chose to run for Governor and U.S. Senator in 2014. Can you imagine the mess that would create in a state? The reason that laws like these are on the books is so that voters can choose who they want to represent them instead of a candidate choosing which office he prefers.

Paul’s legal problem isn’t some constitutional crisis. This is a crisis created by an ambitious politician who wants to have his cake and eat it too. Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who like Paul was also elected in 2010, would have to make a similar decision should he run for president in 2016. This is also why most Senators ultimately decide to run for president in years when they are not up for re-election.

When I saw the first article Monday night announcing that Paul was planning to seek re-election to his Senate seat, I viewed it as a sign of weakness. If Paul really believes that he’s a formidable presidential contender, he should have no problems walking away from his Senate seat to run for president. The fact that he is so insistent on making sure he will still have his Senate seat to fall back on does nothing to display confidence in his own presidential prospects.

To be honest, I would prefer Paul to stay in the U.S. Senate, and the same goes with Marco Rubio. After winning control of the Senate in November, holding control is going to be difficult in 2016. There are a lot of difficult states for Republicans to hold. There’s Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Rob Portman in Ohio, and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. If a Paul or Rubio chooses to run for President it just makes the Republicans’ job of holding the U.S. Senate that much more difficult.

I’m also not convinced that Rand Paul has the makings of a top tier presidential candidate. In a trip to Iowa earlier this year, Paul was hounded by the media in regards to inconsistencies between his current and past statements on critical issues. While Paul is treated like a rock star by some, his speaking style is lethargic and doesn’t have the gravitas that many expect from someone running for president.

While the recent articles about how the Kentucky law are giving Paul’s presidential plans fits, he also needs to worry about what a presidential campaign could do to his re-election campaign in Kentucky. Anyone who seeks his or her party’s nomination for president will come under intense scrutiny. Even though the campaign may be waged in states thousands of miles away from Kentucky, the voters there will still see and hear those criticisms. Running for president while seeking re-election to the Senate may seem like a good idea, but a candidate could easily find himself being attacked by a Democrat at home and a slew of Republicans on the road. That’s a recipe for disaster if you ask me.

I understand the predicament that Senator Paul finds himself in, but at age 51, it’s not like it’s 2016 or bust for him as far as a presidential run is concerned. In 2020, Paul will be four years into his second term in the U.S. Senate, and could run for president without having to give up his Senate seat. If a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, Paul could possibly run for the president in 2024, when he would be two years into a third term. In fact, the problem of being on the ballot for two offices won’t be a problem for Paul until 2028. Even then, he will only be 65 years old, hardly at the end of his political career so long as he stays in elected office.

Paul currently employs a number of Iowans, a clear sign to many that he’s serious about a presidential run in 2016. However, by announcing that he’s also focused on keeping his seat in the U.S. Senate he is basically telegraphing that he’s not all that confident of success if he does run for president in 2016. With that being the case, it probably makes more sense for Paul to focus on his work in the United States Senate and in his home state of Kentucky rather than Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

Mid-Week Roundup


Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Shown the Door

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is leaving the Obama administration after less than two years on the job amid concerns that he wasn’t up to the job of leading the Pentagon during its escalating war with the Islamic State,” reported Foreign Policy magazine.

You have to be kidding right?  The reason why 41 Republicans in the U.S. Senate opposed his nomination to the post two years ago was because he was too cozy with anti-Jewish powers in the Middle East.

I guess ads like this one where pretty spot on.

Ernst tabs Sutton to be her State Director.

Senator-Elect Joni Ernst has been relatively quiet since winning Iowa’s coveted U.S. Senate seat on November 4th.  Yesterday, news broke that Ernst has hired Cam Sutton to be her State Director.

Sutton, who’s mostly known as being a retired insurance executive and major Republican donor in the state, will now be responsible for overseeing Iowa staff and political activities in the state.  While Sutton might not have any government experience, he should exceed at managing a staff, handling complex issues, and representing Ernst.

The selection of Sutton to be Ernst’s State Director indicates that she wants Iowans to hold the key positions in her office and that the search for these individuals expands far beyond the typical sources.  Very interesting stuff.

Pate selects Mark Snell to lead his transition team.

Pate press release:

(Cedar Rapids, IA) – Iowa Secretary of State-elect Paul D. Pate has announced that Mark H. Snell will guide his transition effort and lead his new administration.

Mark Snell was named as Chairman of the transition team and designated by Secretary – elect Pate as his new administration’s Chief of Staff.

Snell, 53, is a longtime Iowa community leader serving as chief executive for several chambers of commerce and non-profit organizations in Clear Lake, Ames and Des Moines.  He also served as vice president of the Ames Board of Education and gubernatorial appointments director for Governor Branstad.

“Iowans expect us to move forward with our transition plans showing that we will be prepared to continue delivering quality services to Iowa businesses and citizens,” Pate said.  “Mark is an experienced leader who will assist me in building a dedicated team to maintain the integrity of our election processes and modernization of business services.”

Ferguson Decision

The grand jury in the Michael Brown case did not indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.  The decision came more than six hours after it was originally scheduled to be released at about 8:15 p.m. on Monday night.

A protest in Des Moines was already scheduled before the decision came down.  Organizers have been planning a protest at the Polk County courthouse at 5 p.m. the day following the grand jury’s decision.

The decision not to indict Wilson means that there was not probable cause to charge him with any one of five crimes, ranging from involuntary manslaughter to first-degree murder.  President Obama, in an address to the nation, echoed the Brown family’s appeal to protesters not to resort to violence when voicing their displeasure with the decision.


Did Bruce Braley Run the Worst Campaign in Iowa History?

Braley IRSLong before the results of Tuesday’s U.S. Senate race were known, it was widely accepted that Democrat Bruce Braley was running an awful general election campaign.  It wasn’t just Republicans that where chiding Braley and his campaign, so was the liberal media that once was his biggest ally.

Even with Braley’s lackluster campaign, the polls indicated that the race would go down to the wire, and most observers of the race believe the same.  In the end, the race wasn’t really that close at all.  Republican Joni Ernst crushed Braley by almost 100,000 votes.  Ernst defeated Braley 52 percent to 44 percent, and in doing so, she captured the most sought after elected office in the past 30 years.

On election night, I was prepared for a long, drawn out affair.  With every indication that this was going to be a close race, I assembled a spreadsheet with data from the 2000 presidential race between Al Gore and George W. Bush.  I also included results from the 2010 gubernatorial race between Terry Branstad and Chet Culver.

I had thought that I was creating a spreadsheet that would help me determine which counties to look for if the race was tight, but what I ended up getting is a spreadsheet that showed the similarities between the losers of the past three mid-term elections, Jim Nussle in 2006, Chet Culver in 2010, and Bruce Braley in 2014.

All three are shockingly similar.  Nussle, a sitting congressman running for governor, received 44.1 percent of the vote.  Culver, an incumbent governor running for re-election, received 42.7 percent of the vote.  Braley, a sitting congressman running for the U.S. Senate, received 43.7 percent of the vote.

The similarities don’t stop there.  Nussle won 36 counties, but only two from the District he represented in Congress.  Braley won 14 counties last week, but won only five of the counties that he represented.  Culver won just eight counties in 2010.  In 2006, Democrats won the governor’s office and picked up two congressional seats.  On Tuesday, Republicans won the U.S. Senate race and scored victories in two open congressional seats.

While many have compared the 2014 mid-terms to the 2010 election that was fantastic for Republicans, I think it’s more reminiscent to 2006 when the party that held the White House was shellacked at the ballot box.  In 2006, Iowa Republicans saw their bench decimated by their loses.  The same happened to Democrats on Tuesday.

Back in March, as the media was basically anointing Braley as Iowa’s next U.S. Senator, I wrote an article entitled, “Deja-vu: Is Bruce Braley Following in Jim Nussle’s Footsteps?”  Here were my conclusions from that article.

The minute the Democrat primary for governor was in the books in 2006, the race completely changed.  The same is likely to happen in the U.S. Senate race this year.  While Braley currently enjoys better name I.D. across the state, that advantage evaporates as soon as the Republican primary ends on June 3rd.  Braley’s fundraising advantage will also likely erode once the primary is over as well.

Braley may look like a clear frontrunner today, but I can’t help but think of the 2006 Nussle campaign when I look at Braley.  Everything went right for Nussle in 2005 and early 2006, but when the general election campaign began, Chet Culver was a far more formidable candidate than anyone saw coming.

They say history repeats itself, but this time I think the shoe is on the other foot.  Braley has had a phenomenal 2013 and early 2014, but the only thing that really matters is how he does in the general election.  All the signs in this year’s general election are not currently pointing in Braley’s favor.

That analysis of the U.S. Senate race is pretty spot on for being written over seven months ago.  A lot of people have weighed in on what some of the major moments of the campaign were, but I think too much has been made of the TV ads and gaffes.  Here is where I think the Braley campaign got off track.

If I had a list of campaign commandments the first would be, “Thou shall respect their opponent.” The biggest fault of the Braley campaign was that, deep down, they never really respected Ernst.   While they may have acknowledged her ability to win, I doubt they ever really respected her as an individual.  That’s a huge mistake.  Never underestimate your opponent.

Braley’s campaign consultants were quick to make fun of the campaign Mark Jacobs’s ran against Ernst in the primary.  At one point, Jeff Link tweeted that the Jacobs campaign was the worst campaign in the history of Iowa campaigns.  Let’s be honest, both campaigns didn’t respect Ernst, got caught being flat footed, and found her extremely difficult to attack.

I think it’s safe to say that both campaigns were frustrated that their attacks on Ernst’s record never really mattered to voters.  Many thought that Ernst’s pig ad was what created her, and it did get her a ton of attention, but it was her position in the Iowa National Guard that gave her instant credibility with voters, and thus, she was almost impossible to attack.

Ernst also had a cozy relationship with the Des Moines Register.  Yes, the paper lashed out after she refused to sit down with it’s editorial board in the final weeks of the campaign, but Jennifer Jacobs’ cozy relationship with Ernst strategist David Kochel paid huge dividends in the primary and general election.  Had Jason Clayworth been covering the U.S. Senate race, I have no doubt that the tone and tenor of the Register’s coverage of the race would have been completely different.

The Braley campaign had a lot more issues than just their relationship with the Des Moines Register.  When you look at the county-by-county results, it’s clear that the Braley campaign found no need to implement a ground game outside of the counties where Democrats already run strong.  Braley actually performed better than Culver did in six of the eight counties that Democrats win in most elections.  However, Braley fell apart in the 31 counties that are up for grabs in elections.

Braley and his third party backers hit Ernst early and often, but while the subject matter of those attacks were sure to get liberals worked up into a frenzy, the ads were obviously less effective with independent voters.  As expected, Braley and the Democrats focused their attacks on abortion rights, Ernst’s connection to the Koch brothers, and Social Security.

The Ernst campaign did a fantastic job responding to the attacks on Social Security.  Ernst spoke right into the camera and explained that she wanted to honor the promises that have been made to seniors like her own parents.  The Ernst campaign chose not to directly respond to the attacks on her pro-life record, and the multitude of other attacks.  Had Braley and his allies better focused their attacks on Ernst, perhaps they would have been more effective.

Braley was also poorly served by his own media team.  Not until the final week of the campaign did his team put an ad on TV that talked about Braley in a positive light.  His “bridges” ad should have been the major theme of his campaign, not just the final ad of his campaign.  Similarly, Braley didn’t roll out his “work boots” theme until the campaign was basically decided.

Instead of running populist TV ads, Braley’s own image and voice was used to attack Ernst directly.  In a political era where third party groups exist almost entirely for the purpose of attacking their favored candidate’s opponent, Braley attacking his opponent himself was a mistake.

The third party attack ads against Ernst also missed the mark.  Tying Ernst to the Koch brothers must poll well, but Democrats spent millions of dollars on anti-Koch ads was ineffective.  In doing so, they ignored other areas where Ernst could have been attacked.  Furthermore, these groups could have hit the Ernst campaign in the final days of the campaign on coordination allegations, but they either didn’t know how to make it a campaign issue, or they chose to ignore it.

Needless to say, the Braley campaign was a mess.  If it was not the worst major Iowa campaign in recent memory, it was pretty close.  Losing the first open U.S. Senate race in Iowa in 40 years is going to be a thorn in the side of Democrats for a long, long time.


Is The Des Moines Register Poll an Outlier? – The Weekend Roundup

JoniFor months, Iowa’s U.S. Senate race has been a toss up as poll after poll showed Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley locked in a dead heat. The final week of the general election was much like the past three months. Poll after poll showed a tight race. Then the Des Moines Register released its final Iowa Poll on Saturday night, which showed Ernst up by seven.

Braley’s campaign was quick to call the Register’s final U.S. Senate poll an outlier.

Sarah Benzing, Braley’s campaign manager issued the following statement. “With the exception of today’s outlier, every single poll of Iowa voters in the last few days has shown this race to be a dead heat heading into Election Day with clear movement in Bruce’s direction.” Chuck Todd of Meet the Press also quipped, “Neither side believes [Ernst is up 7 points].”

Even though the Register’s Iowa Poll is the only poll in the last week that shows Ernst with a substantial lead, I’m not willing to write it off like it never happened either. This is the second time the Register Poll showed Ernst with a sizable lead. Back in September the poll showed Ernst by six.

Merriam-Webster defines an outlier as, “a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample.” So, while Ernst having a seven-point lead in the Register poll is markedly different than the other polls that show the race being a tied or a one-point race, it’s not an outlier when you consider that every poll conducted last week had Ernst leading Braley.

While Braley’s campaign wants to label the Register’s poll as the outlier, perhaps the outliers are the Loras College poll and the YouGov polls that show Braley with a one-point lead over Ernst.

I also think it’s important to note that while Ernst became the favorite to win the Republican U.S. Senate Primary, no poll captured the level of support she received on primary day when she secured the Republican nomination with 56 percent of the vote. Maybe it’s just me, but I think Ernst having a seven-point lead over Braley is easer to rationalize than her only being up one point.

Down Ballot Democrats Need to Worry

Without a legitimate gubernatorial candidate on the ballot and with a floundering U.S. Senate candidate, other Democrats who are sharing the ballot with Jack Hatch and Bruce Braley have every right to be concerned that they are going to get dragged down by their high-profile counterparts. The most susceptible Democrats are the ones running for congress, especially Pat Murphy and Staci Appel, who are running in open congressional seats.

The success of Brad Anderson, the Democrat candidate for Secretary of State, is also tied to how the Democrat ballot preforms on Tuesday. The Register poll showed Republican Paul Pate leading by three points. If Ernst beats Braley, I don’t see how Anderson can out-preform the top of ballot.

What I’m really curious to see is what impact will all of this have on the legislative races. House Republicans already have a majority, and they’re clearly on offense this cycle. If there is a Republican wave in Iowa, I expect House Republicans to build on their majority. A strong Republican election will help Senate Republicans, but the top priority of Senate Republicans is to hold on to difficult seats held by Mark Chelgren and Rick Bertrand, and to hold on to the seat that Sandy Griener is vacating. Senate Republicans are also on offense, but not in as many districts as House Republicans are.

Des Moines Register: Missing Out On Iowa History?

I think it’s somewhat ironic in a year where it seems almost certain that Iowa will elect it’s first woman to Congress, the Des Moines Register failed to endorse one female candidate this cycle.

Either Hillary and Bill Clinton’s Allure is Fading or Braley isn’t Exciting Democrats

It was a big deal when Hillary and Bill Clinton headlined the Harkin Steak Fry in the summer. It was reported that over 6,000 people paid to see them at the premier Democratic event of the summer. Yet, just days before the November election and with music legend James Taylor in tow, only 400 to 500 people attended Braley’s free rally in Des Moines this past weekend.

Democrats blamed the weather and said that all their people were working on voter turnout, among other excuses. As I pointed out in my Twitter feed, Bill Clinton drew 1,500 people for Christie Vilsack is Sioux City before the 2012 election. I expected a lot more for Clinton in Des Moines just days before the 2014 election. I’m sure the Braley campaign did too. But then again, the problem isn’t Bill Clinton, it’s Bruce Braley.



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.

Enthusiastic Crowd Greets Ernst in Braley’s Hometown

Ernst BrooklynDuring my brief time as a political staffer, I quickly learned that it’s a good sign when people start arriving to a political event early.  When I learned last week that Joni Ernst would be holding a campaign event in Congressman Bruce Braley’s hometown of Brooklyn, I immediately made up my mind to attend.

In addition to Brooklyn being Braley’s hometown, it’s also a town that I called home for eight years.  Brooklyn is the place my wife and I called home after we were married.  It’s the town where we bought our first home.   We moved away a little more than four years ago, but it still feels like home when we visit.

I didn’t really know what to expect of Ernst’s visit to the little town of 1,400 in eastern Poweshiek County.  While Brooklyn is Braley’s hometown, the rural Poweshiek County is predominantly Republican.  I had no clue as to how many people would show up to see Ernst on a Tuesday morning, but when I walked in to the community center 45 minutes before the event was set to begin and saw 20 or so people milling around, I knew she was going to generate a good crowd.

Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio joined Ernst on the campaign trail after the Brooklyn stop.  The media was obviously was more interested in covering Ernst’s stops with Rubio instead of her appearances.  Yet, I think one gleans more information attending an event without a headliner.  The 75 people who attended the Brooklyn event came to see her, not some other politician they might be interested in.

There was excitement in the room as Ernst arrived, and it wasn’t necessary for someone to shout out, “she’s here!” to realize it.  As Ernst entered the room, people stood and clapped.  She walked the crowd, shook hands, and hugged the people standing along the back wall, myself included.

The turnout for Ernst’s event was fantastic, but the candidate was also on point Tuesday morning.  Ernst took her time and pushed familiar themes in her 15-minute speech.  Ernst contrasted her involvement in helping turn around Iowa’s budget mess under Governor Chet Culver to Braley’s votes for increased spending, higher taxes, and bigger government. Ernst then transitioned to agricultural issues before talking ending with foreign policy and military affairs.  Ernst provided those in attendance with a good contrast between herself and Braley.

After the event, I chatted with a few folks at the grocery store next door before taking a quick drive around town.  What struck me during my trip to Brooklyn yesterday is that for all the times that Braley mentions his hometown in speeches and TV ads, one wouldn’t know it was his hometown if you visited it.

One would think that Braley’s purple and white signs would be proudly displayed up and down the streets, yet there are as many Joni Ernst signs in Brooklyn as there are Braley signs.  I had thought that Ernst holding a campaign event in Braley’s hometown might have been a risky move.  Instead, I think Ernst was wise to campaign in her opponent’s hometown.  Not only was there a lot of interest, there was plenty of excitement.


Final U.S. Senate Debate – The Weekly Roundup

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 11.56.56 PMNothing signals that Election Day is near like when you start talking about the final debate between two candidates.  Republican State Senator Joni Ernst and Democrat Congressman Bruce Braley will debate for a final time tonight in Sioux City.  Ernst easily won the first meeting of the candidates, but Braley responded by winning the second debate in Davenport last weekend.

Both candidates have now seen each other at their best, so the third and final debate will likely been a barnburner.  Even though Ernst and Braley would love nothing more than to beat the other up, they shouldn’t forget that coming off as a reasonable and likeable person is also incredibly important.

Ernst should have a friendly crowd with the debate being in northwest Iowa, but that also could invite a questioning on social issues like gay marriage and abortion.  With the “Standing for the American Family” bus tour by the Family Research Council and The FAMiLY Leader concluding in Sioux City tomorrow, I’d be shocked if there is a not some discussion on those issues.

Steve Siegel is a Disgusting Democrat

There are 3,000 more registered Democrats in the Senate District represented by State Senator Mark Chelgren than Republicans.  Needless to say, he’s in the midst of a difficult re-election campaign.  Chelgren’s opponent this year is Wapello County Supervisor Steve Siegel.

Siegel finds himself in hot water after Chelgren used Siegel’s responses to a 2010 constituent survey in recent campaign advertisements.  In 2010, Siegel responded to a question that asked whether he was pro-life, pro-choice, or undecided on the issue of abortion.  Siegel, who held elected office at the time, responded, “Kill them all & let God sort it out.”

Not only does Chelgren’s ads about Siegel clearly show how little he values life, but it shows what type of person he really is.  I thought Chelgren’s comments about the statement that appeared in the Ottumwa newspaper were excellent.

“When you look at this decision by Steve Siegel to send this information, whether you believe his responses or not, what you really have to question is his decision making capabilities. I think it was a poor choice on his part to send the information and if it’s truly how he believes, I’m disappointed,” said Sen. Chelgren.

“I have no idea why he said the things that he did, but as somebody who lives in Wapello County I was quite disappointed that my county supervisor would respond in that way,” said Chelgren. “He trivialized the issue by saying, ‘Kill them all and let God sort it out,’ I don’t think that he gets how important that this issue is to people; whichever side of the political spectrum they are from.”

Polls, Polls, Polls

There has been no shortage of U.S Senate polls.  It seems like there is new polling being released everyday.  Lately the Des Moines Register has been releasing different polls in conjunction with different partners.  There goes the credibility of their vaunted “Iowa Poll.”

USA Today/Suffolk – 47 Ernst, 43 Braley – Ernst +4
Quinnipiac – 47 Ernst, 45 Braley – Ernst +2
Rasmussen – 48 Ernst, 45 Braley – Ernst +3
Des Moines Register – 47 Ernst, 46 Braley – Ernst +1

Here is my thought on all these polls:

1. We all know this is going to be a close race, but it’s a good sign for Ernst that she repeatedly leads in the polls regardless of who conducts the poll.

2. Braley has only led in five polls during the general election, Ernst has now led eleven.

3. If I were Braley, I’d be nervous seeing Ernst consistently come in at 47 or 48 percent.  There is no margin for error if Braley wants to pass Ernst in the polls in the final weeks of the campaign.

4. Recent polls have shown that Ernst has a positive favorable/unfavorable rating, while Braley is under water.  It’s amazing how well Ernst has withstood the onslaught of negative ads that Democrats have run against her.  It’s also clear that Braley’s repeated gaffes continue to dog him, plus he’s just not a likeable person.

Money, Money, Money

First Congressional District

Rod Blum – Republican
$297,979.71 raised.
$244,345.55 spent in last three months.
$226,842.20 cash on hand.

Blum has loaned his campaign $100,000.  The First District race is getting a lot of late action.  Blum has a real chance, and he is probably running the best congressional campaign in the state.  His campaign team is excellent, and there is always a ton of activity.

Pat Murphy – Democrat
$357,746.95 raised.
$309,071.72 spent in last three months.
$179,414.06 cash on hand.

Second Congressional District

Mariannette Miller-Meeks – Republican
$361,528.45 raised.
$498,917.66 spent in last three months.
$142,088.80 cash on hand.

Miller-Meeks is a excellent candidate, but running against an incumbent is always difficult.  As I watched her debate Loebsack last Saturday two things came to mind.  First, Miller-Meeks has made Loebsack a much better politician.  Her campaigns against him in 2008 and 2010 really made his raise his game.  Second, if Miller-Meeks were the incumbent, I don’t think Loebsack would have what it takes to unseat her.  Unfortunately, Loebsack is the incumbent, and he is going to be difficult to knock off.

Dave Loebsack – Democrat Incumbent
$373,433.03 raised.
$478,426.98 spent in last three months.
$604,427.80 cash on hand.

Third Congressional District

David Young – Republican
$794,838.55 raised.
$591,410.54 spent in the past three months.
$295,193.91 cash on hand.

Staci Appel – Democrat
$592,685.02 raised.
$947,648.54 spent in the last three months.
$369,055.22 cash on hand.

Appel is outspending Young by a substantial amount, and her TV ads do a good job of making her come across as a likeable and normal individual.  The NRCC has spent a lot of money on this race, which means Young’s still in it.  Early voting numbers look good for Republicans in the district, so if Young can keep the air wars competitive, he can hold on to this seat for Republicans.

Fourth Congressional District

Steve King – Republican Incumbent
$601,478.90 raised.
$302,770.63 spent in the past three months.
$736,871.19 cash on hand.

Jim Mowrer – Democrat
$704,669.73 raised
$1,070,317.16 spent in past three months.
$242,752.09 cash on hand.

Mowrer continues to be a good fundraiser, however the number to look at in the Fourth District is the difference between how much they spent, not how much they raised.  No congressional candidate in Iowa has spent more than Mowrer, yet the NDCC decided to cut bait on the race last week.  King might not be a prolific fundraiser, but he campaigns hard and represents the most Republican district in the state.  Democrats have thrown everything they’ve got at this guy, and you know what?  He will still be standing after Election Day.