Cruz Gets the Big Win He Desperately Needed

Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography. om

A win is a win. Wins in presidential campaigns are necessary, not just to garner the necessary delegates to capture the nomination of one of the two major political party’s, but they also provide the fuel for a campaign to continue on.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz needed a win in Wisconsin not just to further fuel his campaign, but to change the narrative of the Republican primary fight. Cruz needed to win in a rout over Trump. He was successful on Tuesday night, garnering 50 percent of the vote, but more importantly, he walked away with the lion’s share of the state’s 42 delegates.

While the win allows Cruz to begin closing the delegate gap between himself and Trump, the resounding victory is important because it makes it more likely that no candidate will win the 1237 delegates necessary to capture the Republican nomination outright. As it becomes more apparent that Trump win be unable to capture the nomination before the convention, Cruz will be seen as a stronger candidate in the remaining states.

Cruz benefited greatly from the “Never Trump” effort that spent millions of dollars attacking Trump in Wisconsin, and his win on Tuesday means that will likely continue. Another important factor on Cruz’s side is time. The Anti-Trump effort spent a lot of money in previous contests with little to show for it until Wisconsin.

What changed wasn’t the ads or avenue of attack, but the pace of race slowed considerably for the Easter holiday. Easter provided over two weeks for Cruz to campaign and for the Anti-Trump forces to attack the GOP frontrunner in advance of the vote in Wisconsin. It just so happens that there is another two-week period before the next contest in Trump’s home state of New York.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the Cruz campaign and the Anti-Trump crowd approach New York. Not only is it Trump’s home turf, but it will also be expensive to play to win there. Instead, they may choose to ignore New York and instead focus on Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Regardless of what they choose to do, the most important thing is that they have the time to conduct a thorough campaign.

Trump can survive the loss in Wisconsin, but it’s the campaign that is sure to follow that will cause him problems. Trump let many of the negative ads running against him in Wisconsin go unanswered. The decision to do so is probably rooted in the belief that the Anti-Trump movements had not been all that effective. Trump’s luck ran out as the campaign slowed down, and now if he doesn’t fund a paid media campaign to counter the negative campaign being run against him, he could suffer the same fate.

Cruz Needs to Own Wisconsin, Not Just Win

Cruz Flag
Photo by Dave Davidson –

It was never my intention to not publish a single word on this site last week. I didn’t go anywhere, but the mental week away was good for me. Like so many people, I too have had enough of the Republican presidential race. I’m glad that the two-week hiatus between contests is over. Tomorrow’s Wisconsin primary is incredibly important for all the candidates involved. Below are some brief thoughts.

  1. It’s not good enough for Texas Senator Ted Cruz to win Wisconsin. He needs to walk away with the bulk of the 42 delegates up for grabs. The Cruz campaign knows this, which is why they spent considerable time campaigning across the state. To keep delegates away from Donald Trump, they need to win the state AND win congressional districts. Trump has had an awful week and is not favored to win, but Cruz has yet to beat Trump in a primary contest outside of his home state of Texas and neighboring states.
  1. What does a win look like for Cruz? Anything that keeps the Trump under 50 percent of the available delegates. Still, a Cruz victory might be more symbolic as it will put the GOP in a defensive posture for the first time since the Iowa caucuses. The calendar favors Trump for the rest of the month, but as is always the case, a big win pumps new life into a campaign.
  1. The Democrat race is getting interesting, as Bernie Sanders has won five contests in a row and narrowed Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead. Sanders is leading Clinton in the Wisconsin polls by a narrow margin. Another Sanders win would not only keep his streak alive, but also underscore how his candidacy is a real threat to Clinton. Sanders is not just hanging on, he’s scoring real points.

On the home front:

My dire attitude towards presidential politics is matched by my opinion of local politics. Thank goodness local politicians don’t act like presidential candidates, but they do little to inspire me. That may seem harsh, and while I appreciate the work they do, much of which goes unnoticed, I’m looking for bold ideas. I understand they might not pass, but it seems like the greatest debate this legislative session was over firearm suppressors. I support the legislation, but rolled my eyes when it was reported that Iowa is the 42nd state to do legalize the sale of them. Can we lead or be innovative on something? Please?

My outlook improved when I read a heartfelt op-ed in the Des Moines written by Polk County Supervisor Robert Brownell on human trafficking. It was a powerful piece. I encourage you all to read it. Also deserving recognition on this issue is Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court Mark Cady, and State Representative Zach Nunn. Nunn’s legislation died in the legislative funnel. Go figure.

Worth reading:

Ron Brownstein of The Atlantic is one of the more intelligent reporters I’ve come across in my time doing this. I love it when he calls because I either learn something from our conversation or he makes me think about something in a way I have not done before. Last week, he wrote about how Trump’s general election path would rely heavily on the rust belt. It’s great stuff. Check it out.



Perry’s Ride – A Post Memorial Day Round Up

taylor-morris-261It is often said that Labor Day signifies the point in a general election where voters really begin to focus on the upcoming election, and so the campaigns really seem to ratchet up. For Republican caucus campaigns in Iowa, I have always thought that Memorial Day signified the unofficial start of the campaigns. This has been especially true with the presence of the Republican Party of Iowa’s Straw Poll.

Even though there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the 2015 Straw Poll, you can definitely sense that things are beginning to pick up in Iowa. Campaigns are hiring staff, candidates are making frequent trips to the state, and voters are starting to form more solid opinions of the candidates.

Here is a list of a few things getting my attention.

Perry Continues to Impress Me

I feel like I’ve written the above title already a 1,000 times. Four years ago, it seemed like Texas Governor Rick Perry couldn’t do anything right, but now, he can’t do anything wrong.

With Perry’s formal announcement coming early in June, I’ve talked to a number of journalists about his 2016 candidacy. I tell them all the same thing. One, Perry is a much-improved candidate. Two, Perry has earned a second look from Iowa caucuses goers. And three, if one of the frontrunners stumbles, I think Perry is the candidate who is positioned to capitalize on the opportunity it would create.

After doing another interview about him on Tuesday afternoon, I hung up the phone with the reporter and thought to myself, “Man, I hope he’s doing as well as I think he is.” A few moments later, a RickPAC email hit my inbox, and after reading it, I was reassured that Perry really is currently hitting on all cylinders.

The email was a follow up about the military heroes that will be joining him on for his ride from Perry, Iowa to Boone for U.S. Senator Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride on June 6th. Much of the email confirmed what I had seen and reported on before. The new information was that the motorcycle Perry will be riding that day belongs to Taylor Morris, a Navy explosive ordinance disposal technician who, since being injured in Afghanistan, has not been able to ride his bike. Perry met with Morris, a Cedar Falls native, when he was in Iowa last week.

The RickPAC email included a link to a story about Perry’s recent visit with Morris. I don’t care who you are supporting or whether or not you are a fan of Perry’s, you need to take five minutes out of your day and read the article and view the pictures published by the photoblog,

As you have read in these pages before, I’m bullish on Rick Perry. If you want to understand why, read the article. Presidential caucus campaigns in Iowa are all about relationships and connecting with people. Perry is putting on a clinic on the subject. Near the end of Perry’s 2012 campaign in Iowa, I saw glimpses of the candidate who is now impressing me today. It just seems like he finally has it all put together. As they say, better late than never. If Perry keeps this up and is good in the early debates, he’s not going to be an underdog for very long.

Again, take five and check this out. If you don’t believe me let me entice you with a couple photos for the article.

Navy EOD tech Taylor Morris was leading a team of Army Special forces to a classified location when Taylor stepped on an IED. It exploded underneath him and blew off all four of his limbs Read more at


“Perry fired that thing up and took off,” Bob Haus told on Tuesday night. “I was worried he wasn’t coming back.” Haus, Perry’s top guy in Iowa, said of meeting Morris, “To meet him is to feel immediately insignificant and weak.”



Pizza Palace breakfast or whatever it is.”

That’s how Carly Fiorina referred to Pizza Ranch, an Iowa pizza chain that has become synonymous with campaigning in the state in advance of the Caucuses. Fiorina’s “Pizza Palace or whatever it is,” isn’t necessarily a political gaffe, but it does indicate that Fiorina might not be as well-versed in Iowa 101 as it once appeared. By the way, last month while she was in Iowa, she smartly tweeted that she was getting a slice of Pizza at Casey’s General Store. That, by the way, is the correct answer when it comes to speaking the language in Iowa about pizza.

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No Straw Poll for Rubio?

This past weekend, the Des Moines Register published a caucus campaign update that focused on how much time each candidate has spent in Iowa. Campaign stats don’t really make for an understanding of a particular campaign’s strategy, but there was this little nugget if you were paying attention.

Alex Conant, Marco Rubio’s spokesperson, was quoted saying, “Every dollar will likely go toward the caucuses and later primary votes.” Jennifer Jacobs wrote that the Rubio campaign was essentially skipping the Iowa GOP’s Straw Poll, and, knowing that she has a tendency to send drafts of her articles to the subjects she is writing about before publication, I’m pretty sure the Rubio campaign just announced that they too are passing on the Straw Poll.

Talk about burying the lead. Conant is probably wise to let Jacobs speculate on their plans rather than report on an actual decision. If the Straw Poll dies, it’s better to not be an accomplice in its demise.

Walker not Supporting Repeal of Prevailing Wage legislation in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker keeps confusing Iowa Republicans. Over the weekend, a very keyed-in Iowa Republican sent me a Facebook messaging asking the following question.   “Quick question you might have interest in, why is Walker – union busting Governor – not supporting prevailing wage repeal?”

This person is not affiliated with any presidential campaign to my knowledge. And frankly, when I got the message on Friday night, I instantly said to myself, “Oh, that can’t be right.”

Well I was wrong. A quick search found an article from last month in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that said otherwise.

Tension with Walker

In a fresh sign of the tension between Republican lawmakers and Walker as he travels out of state preparing for a likely presidential bid, Vos said Wednesday that the governor had done little to help pass a prevailing wage repeal.

“Governor Walker, even though I think he could support repeal of prevailing wage, hasn’t been out there, either. And on these topics if it’s hard to explain, a lot of times you really need the governor to step out there and help us with the message. And we haven’t gotten that,” Vos said.

The first attempt to pass the repeal of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law failed earlier this month. The movement got new life yesterday in Wisconsin’s House of Representatives. Walker’s inaction on the matter goes against how many Republican voters in Iowa perceive Walker. It will be interesting to see if Walker continues to sit on the sidelines as the repeal of a prominent piece of union legislation is being debated in his state.

Now That’s Cooking! Mike Whalen Getting a HondaJet

HondaJetNow, this doesn’t have anything to do with Iowa politics, except for the fact that Mike Whalen, the CEO of Heart of America Group, which owns the Iowa Machine Shed restaurants and a bunch of hotels across the Midwest, ran for congress in 2006.

Last week, I was reading a Wall Street Journal article about the new HondaJet that is about to come on the market. I’ve always been fascinated with airplanes, and Honda’s entry into the private jet business is just interesting. I also worked for the American Honda Motor Company throughout college, so there remains an interest in the company that helped me pay for college.

Anyway, as I got to the end of the article, it stated that Whalen hopes to get his own HondaJet next month.

Mike Whalen, CEO of hotel-and-restaurant company Heart of America Group DBA, ponied up a $75,000 deposit in 2007 for his HondaJet, which he initially expected to get in March 2012. He now hopes to get it in June.

Mr. Whalen’s business is expanding beyond its base in the Upper Midwest to states including Texas and Colorado. With limited air service from its Moline, Ill., headquarters, “going most places commercial can take all day,” said Mr. Whalen, who currently has a King Air propeller plane with lower speed and less range. The HondaJet is “a tool that’s going to allow us to go from a Midwestern company…past six or seven states.”


Photo by Tim Dodd  and

Scott Walker: More Than They Bargained For

When conservatives gathered in Washington D.C. earlier this month for the 50th Anniversary of the Conservative Political Action Conference, most of the potential 2016 presidential candidates were in attendance.  The most notable absence was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

By all accounts, Walker is focused on running his state and running for re-election in 2014.  Walker pops his head up from time-to-time, but lately he seems to be purposefully avoiding the national spotlight.  It’s a wise move.  While other potential 2016 candidates seem desperate for attention, Walker seems to understand that a defeat this November could easily derail any presidential ambitions he may or may not have.

Washington politicians and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie seem to have captured the national media’s attention as far as 2016 presidential candidates go, but it’s Walker who catches my eye.’s Patti Brown recently reviewed Jason Stein’s and Patrick Marley’s, More Than They Bargained For, which documented Wisconsin’s historic recall election of 2012.

The 2016 presidential race won’t start in earnest until after the 2014 election is in the books, but should Walker seek the Republican nomination in 2016, the irony is that it’s the recall election that Democrats used to try to get rid of Walker that made him a national figure and shaped him into a potential presidential candidate.

Below is Patti Brown’s review of More Than They Bargained For.

More Than They Bargained For, by Jason Stein and Patrick Marley. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2013, 350 pages. Amazon, soft cover $26.95; Kindle, $10.99
More Than They Bargained For, by Jason Stein and Patrick Marley. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2013, 350 pages. Amazon, soft cover $26.95; Kindle, $10.99

Journalism is the literature of politics, and veteran journalists Jason Stein and Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have written a thoroughly engaging, page-turning account of the political maelstrom that brought Wisconsin state government to the boiling point in 2011 and forced a gubernatorial recall vote in 2012.

More Than They Bargained For chronicles Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s tumultuous first 18 months in office, which began January 3, 2011. Walker immediately faced a short-term budget deficit of more than $100 million over the next six months and a biennial budget shortfall of more than $3 billion beginning July 1.

His solution was a budget-repair bill—“2011 Act 10—that would repeal collective bargaining for most public-sector unions in order to scale back bloated wage and benefit packages. Additionally Walker proposed making public-sector unions face annual recertification elections among all the workers in a workplace, not just for those who were union members, and to make union dues voluntary not compulsory.

Walker’s efforts met with fierce opposition in what became a perfect political storm. Elected in 2010 with 52 percent of the vote, the same year that the Tea Party came to the fore as a political movement of limited-government fiscal conservatives, he also came into office with new Republican majorities in both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature. Walker saw this as an opportunity to take bold measures to tackle the state’s budget problems.

Wisconsin, however, has a long history with labor unions and happens to be the birthplace of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Not only did the unions push back but the state capitol is also home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the state’s largest university and historically a seedbed of leftist politics. The UW-Madison student body provided a ready repertoire of protesters eager to reenact 1960s-styled protests.

Between mid-February and the end of March 2011, the Wisconsin State Capitol became the scene of demonstrations involving crowds estimated at times to be as large as 70,000, with as many as 24,000 inside the capitol building. The protestors took to shouting “this is what democracy looks like.” Hundreds of protesters refused to leave the building and wound up staging a camp-in that lasted for weeks. From February 17 to March 11, Senate Democrats eloped to Illinois in an attempt to prevent a necessary three-fifths quorum to vote on Walker’s budget-repair bill. The absent Senators, however, were found to be in contempt and the Senate Republicans adopted a bill that did not require a three-fifths quorum. The Senate bill then passed the Assembly and the governor signed it into law before the run-away Democrats returned to Madison.

More Than They Bargained For reads like a fast-paced historical novel with a myriad of plot twists including lawsuits and Supreme Court rulings, a John Doe¹ investigation into irregularities and illegal activities of several people involved in Walker’s campaign, and the recall elections of four Republican state senators, the governor and the lieutenant governor. For those who aren’t from Wisconsin or didn’t follow the events as they occurred, the authors have included a chronology table and a brief biography of the characters.

Great writing and attention to detail make the story lively and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. When the Senate Democrat went on the lam, one legislator had to contact a neighbor to go to his house and turn off a crock-pot that was cooking that night’s dinner. Two members of the state Supreme Court got into a bizarre physical altercation, each accusing the other of being the provocateur. The governor took a prank phone call from a man claiming to be billionaire David Koch, but who was in fact a left-wing blogger Ian Murphy seeking to embarrass Walker. Murphy released the recorded conversation to the chagrin of the governor and his staff. A handful of celebrities, the national media, social media, and even a camel—courtesy of The Daily Show in a ridiculous attempt to compare the protests in Madison to the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East— all played a role in the Wisconsin political theater.

Walker stood for recall in June 2012, a year and a half after being elected. Not only did he win, but he won by a slightly larger margin—53 percent—than he did in 2010. If Walker wins his 2014 reelection bid, he will be a formidable GOP presidential candidate should he decide to run in 2016. Not only did he take on the unions and win, but his reform measures turned Wisconsin’s statewide and local economic problems around, producing an estimated surplus of a half-billion dollars.

In anticipation of a possible presidential run, Walker has just released his own account of his experiences during his first term. Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge was written with Marc Thiessen, a former speech writer for George W. Bush. Unintimidated is written in the first person and blends Walker’s perspective on the events in Madison in 2011 and 2013 with a lot of horn blowing. But as the only governor in the country to win a recall vote and the first to win “twice in one term,” in addition to successfully scaling back the power of the public-sector unions in negotiating, Walker has some horn blowing to do.

Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge, by Scott Walker, with Marc Thiessen. New York: Sentinel, 2013, 278 pages. Amazon, hard cover, $28.95; Kindle, $11.99
Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge, by Scott Walker, with Marc Thiessen. New York: Sentinel, 2013, 278 pages. Amazon, hard cover, $28.95; Kindle, $11.99

Unintimidated provides Walker with a vehicle to lay out his political philosophy about limited government, fiscal restraint, and his belief that public-sector collective bargaining is “the enemy of good government.” In his inaugural address, Walker referenced the “Frugality Clause’ in the state’s constitution: “It is through frugality and moderation in government that we will see freedom and prosperity for our people.”

It is little wonder that his actions as the state’s executive would take the direction that they did.

Rather than to raise taxes, layoff thousands of public employees, or cut Medicaid—none of which he wanted to do— Walker set out to cut state aid to schools and local governments and to require most public workers to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries toward their pension and 12.6 percent towards their health insurance premiums. Base wages would still be subject to collective bargaining but capped at the Consumer Price Index. By eliminating the chokehold of collective bargaining schools and local governments would be empowered to find fiscally sound, frugal solutions that union contracts prevented. And to further help this plan along, Walker proposed making union membership optional for public sector employees, a move which would allow workers to realize more of their own money in their paychecks if they chose to no longer belong to the union.

That’s when Wisconsin liberals and union bosses threw a tantrum that almost brought the state’s government to a halt. The siege of the Wisconsin state capitol building brought a stench of “unwashed humanity” to the historic building which, according to an architect “who participated in the 2004 renovation” “experienced three to five years of wear within a two-week period.” The cost of security at the capitol alone during the protests cost more than $7.8 million.

Expletives were hurled, civility waned, and security for Walker and the members of the Wisconsin legislature became a serious issue. Death threats were made against the governor and his family members. One threat against Tonette Walker, the governor’s wife, suggested gutting “her like a deer.” Other threats spoke of following and hurting Walker’s sons or targeting his in-laws.  Based on the antics of the more extreme protestors, to echo their signature chant, “this is what democracy looks like.”

Walker faced and won his 2012 recall election by framing it as a choice to “go backwards to the days of billion-dollar budget deficits, double-digit tax increases and record job losses. Or we could keep moving Wisconsin forward—balancing our budget without raising taxes or massive layoffs while creating tens of thousands of new jobs for the people of our state.”

Like many campaign book, Walker’s book provides the reader an opportunity to see events through a politician’s eyes. He uses the book as a platform to critique problems inherent in the public pension system, specifically targeting the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago as exemplars in need of adopting an “Act 10” to reign in debt.

Walker also uses his book to critique the GOP presidential campaign of 2012. While praising the person of Mitt Romney, Walker breaks Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment by saying Romney failed to distinguish himself as a reformer and to show himself as a candidate who cared about the people. “You can’t win the presidency when nearly two-thirds of the country thinks who don’t care about their struggles.” Walker characterizes Romney as tone deaf to the message of the Wisconsin reforms and to the vision of leadership laid out by Reagan, “We have to move ahead, but we’re not going to leave anyone behind.”

Walker’s potential as a 2016 GOP presidential candidate hinges first on winning a second term as Wisconsin’s governor and also successfully clearing a second John Doe investigation dealing with campaign finances. If he does that, Walker will be among the top tier of potential POTUS candidates. For anyone wanting to get to know him better, these two books provide an excellent introduction.


¹ In Wisconsin, a John Doe investigation is similar to a grand jury inquiry but the proceedings operate before a judge behind closed doors, and prosecutors have the ability to grant witnesses immunity in exchange for testimony. Over the past three years, two John Doe investigations have been pursued by a Democrat District Attorney from Milwaukee County aimed at Walker, his campaign staff, and his backers including Americans for Prosperity, Wisconsin Club for Growth, and the Republican Governors Association. The John Doe investigation has been referred to as “a taxpayer-funded, opposition-research campaign,” according to the Wisconsin Reporter.






Scott Walker Makes His 2016 Debut

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker made good use of his time in Des Monies on Thursday night.  In the span of a couple hours, he raised money for his 2014 re-election campaign at a private roundtable fundraiser that was organized by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, and then dipped his toes directly into Iowa’s presidential waters by speaking at a Polk County GOP fundraising dinner.

Some may think that speaking at a local GOP fundraising dinner is not that big of a deal, but in recent years, the Polk County GOP has surpassed the Republican Party of Iowa when it comes to pulling off high-profile, big dollar events.  For instance, the Republican Party of Iowa’s recent sold out event with Senator Rand Paul had fewer attendees and likely raised far less money.  The Polk County GOP sold over 800 tickets to Thursday’s dinner and raised over $100,000.

Walker’s speech wasn’t a barnburner like Sen. Rand Paul’s speech at a Republican Party of Iowa fundraiser earlier this month.  There were no jabs at Hillary Clinton and no real mention of the scandals that are rocking the Obama administration.  Instead, Walker offered attendees a serious speech void of clever one-liners that focused on what he believes Republican must do to be successful in future elections.

Walker’s speech focused three main points, optimism, relevance and courage.  “I think we need to be more optimistic. I think we need to speak in terms that are more relevant, and I think we need to be more courageous,” Walker told the crowd.  He then proceeded to provide examples of what he has accomplished in Wisconsin.

Of course Walker spoke about the recall election and the issues surrounding it, but he also spoke about entitlement reform and education.  While touting Wisconsin’s school voucher program, Walker suggested it was a key factor in his ability to reach out to Hispanic voters who just want to do what’s best for their kids.  Even though he didn’t whip the crowd into a frenzy, Walker’s speech on Thursday night hit all the right notes with caucus goers.

The first obstacle that Walker must overcome if he is indeed thinking about running for president in 2016 is winning re-election in Wisconsin.  Walker was elected governor in 2010 by defeating his Democrat opponent Tom Barrett by a 52 percent to 46 percent margin.  Barely into his first year in office, Wisconsin Democrats and public-sector unions collected enough signatures to force a recall election to be held in June of 2012.  Walker withstood the challenge and once again defeated his 2010 opponent Barrett by a 53 percent to 46 percent margin.

While the effort to recall Walker is obviously something that he would have preferred to avoid, it is also what makes him a top presidential contender in 2016 should he seek the Republican nomination.

Perhaps no other potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate has been vetted as thoroughly as Walker.  His 2012 recall election is also probably the closest thing to a presidential campaign that there is.  It also made him a nationally known figure with a national donor base.  And let’s not forget, Walker is a hero to Republican grassroots activists who in large part will select the nominee.

Besides being run through the gauntlet of a recall election, Walker also has other advantages over the potential 2016 Republican field.  First and foremost, he’s a governor of swing state, not a member of congress, a body that most people loathe.  As an executive of a state, Walker can effectively point to actual accomplishments while Republican Senators and Representatives will only be able to site the things that they opposed.

Another advantage for Walker that shouldn’t be overlooked is his proximity to Iowa, which would allow him to easily travel in and out of the state, as well as his cozy relationship with Branstad.  As mentioned earlier, Branstad organized a fundraiser for Walker in Des Moines while he was in town on Thursday.  It’s not the first time Branstad has lent a helping hand to Walker, as he also helped raise money for Walker’s recall campaign.  Walker returned the favor by headlining a fundraiser for Branstad in Cedar Rapids before the 2012 general election.  The two governors also traveled to China together on a trade mission last month.

It’s not a potential Branstad endorsement that is so valuable to presidential candidates, it’s the access to someone who understands the ins and outs of Iowa politics like no other.  In recent elections, Branstad has generously offered his advice and counsel to the likes of Texas Governor Rick Perry in the 2012 caucuses and Mitt Romney in the general election.  Sadly, neither really followed through on Branstad’s advice.  Walker would be wise to heed any advice that Branstad gives him when it comes to how to campaign in Iowa.

By all accounts, Governor Walker’s 2016 debut was a good one.  Regardless of how one feels about Walker’s presidential aspirations, every Republican respects him for what he has endured and overcome.  On Thursday night, Walker proved himself to be a thoughtful and serious Republican leader with an eye towards the future.  The 2016 race is a still a long ways away, but Walker hit the right note on Thursday night.

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Romney and Santorum Need Wisconsin for Different Reasons

The Republican presidential primary contest today in Wisconsin is fascinating for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, a strong Wisconsin victory by Romney could put the Republican nomination fight on ice. For almost a month now, establishment Republicans, the media, and the Romney campaign have tried to make the case the primary is effectively over.   Romney and his allies have had success in making the argument, but Rick Santorum’s ability to produce wins on Super Tuesday and in four other states that have followed has limited the impact of the argument substantially.

Romney’s delegate lead and other advantages have had a significant impact.  One only needs to look at the string of endorsements Romney has received over the last seven days, which include two big endorsements from Wisconsin in Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Ron Johnson.  Still, the only way for Romney to bring the primary to a close is for him to have a convincing win in Wisconsin tonight.

A number of polls indicate that Romney should win in Wisconsin tonight, but his seven-point advantage over Santorum is not as strong as the 15-point advantage he had in Illinois.  Santorum has also shown a propensity for out performing his poll numbers.  The most recent example of Santorum out performing his poll numbers was in Alabama and Mississippi, but that was also the case in Colorado and Wisconsin’s neighbor to the west, Minnesota.

While Romney needs a win to basically put an end to the primary, Santorum needs a win to give his campaign a boost in order to make it to the May contests, which are very favorable for him.  Santorum last won a contest on March 24th, so if he loses Wisconsin, a month will have passed without a victory leading into the April 24th primary in his home state of Pennsylvania.  If Romney is unable to seal the deal in Wisconsin tonight, it’s very unlikely that we’ll see Santorum getting out of the race before the primary contests come to an end.

Another fascinating aspect of the Wisconsin primary is that it’s being overshadowed by the June recall election.  Republican activists in Wisconsin are paying more attention to the recall election of Governor Scott Walker than the presidential race.  For the first time in the 2012 campaign, the presidential primary is not the only circus in town.  All of the presidential ads that are being run in the state don’t just have to compete with their opponents’ ads, but also the ads that are running in advance of the June recall.

The focus on the recall election could significantly hamper turnout for the presidential primary.  It’s hard to tell who benefits more from a low turnout, Romney or Santorum.  Romney has been making the case that the primary is basically over.  That’s a good narrative to push with national media, but it could also mean that his supporters might not be apt to go to the polls.  Santorum’s supporters have been passionate, but with the narrative that he can’t win coupled with Congressman Ryan and Senator Johnson’s recent endorsements of Romney, they could say to themselves, “why bother.”  You could easily say that it’s a toss-up as to who’s supporters are more likely to go to the polls today, but Santorum’s advantage with social conservatives could give him an edge.

Tonight’s results in Wisconsin will answer a lot of questions.  Has Romney essentially wrapped up the Republican nomination, or does Santorum have license to keep forging ahead?  In addition to that, Wisconsin will also tell us whether voters are as ready for the Republican primary to be over as they media and the Republican establishment are.  The answer is anyone’s guess.  Polls close at 8:00 p.m. tonight.

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University of Iowa Professor Tells College Republicans to “F” Off

By Craig Robinson

A University of Iowa professor felt the need to reply to a blast email by the College Republicans on Monday morning. Ellen Lewin, a professor of Anthropology and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies in the Department of Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies, sent a vulgar response to a College Republican email about the group’s, “Conservative Coming Out Week.”

The College Republican email, which was sent to the entire University of Iowa Community, had been approved by a number of university officials before being sent out.

Lewin responded to email by writing, “#*@% [F-Word] YOU, REPUBLICANS” from her official university email account.

Natalie Ginty, a University of Iowa Student and Chairwoman of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans, demanded an apology from Lewin’s supervisors.  “We understand that as a faculty member she has the right to express her political opinion, but by leaving her credentials at the bottom of the email she was representing the University of Iowa, not herself alone,” Ginty wrote to James Enloe, the head of the Department of Anthropology.

“Vile responses like Ellen’s need to end. Demonizing the other party through name-calling only further entrenches feelings of disdain for the other side. I am sure you understand that nothing is ever accomplished by aimless screams of attack,” Ginty concluded.

In an email to the College Republicans, Professor Lewin wrote, “This is a time when political passions are inflamed, and when I received your unsolicited email, I had just finished reading some newspaper accounts of fresh outrages committed by Republicans in government.  I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone’s delicate sensibilities.  I would really appreciate your not sending blanket emails to everyone on campus, especially in these difficult times.”

Lewin sent that email at 10:51 a.m.

Lewin’s response is as inappropriate than her choice of language in her first email. At the bottom of the original mass email, a University of Iowa disclaimer reads, “Distribution of this message was approved by the VP for Student Services. Neither your name nor e-mail address was released to the sender. The policy and guidelines for the UI Mass Mail service, including information on how to filter messages, are available at:”  The College Republicans didn’t even know who all would be receiving the message.

At 11:06 a.m. on Tuesday, Professor Lewin sent another email saying:

I should note that several things in the original message were extremely offensive, nearly rising to the level of obscenity.  Despite the Republicans’ general disdain for LGBT rights you called your upcoming event “conservative coming out day,” appropriating the language of the LGBT right movement.   Your reference to the Wisconsin protests suggested that they were frivolous attempts to avoid work.  And the “Animal Rights BBQ” is extremely insensitive to those who consider animal rights an important cause.  Then, in the email that Ms. Ginty sent complaining about my language, she referred to me as Ellen, not Professor Lewin, which is the correct way for a student to address a faculty member, or indeed, for anyone to refer to an adult with whom they are not acquainted.  I do apologize for my intemperate language, but the message you all sent out was extremely disturbing and offensive.

It’s strange that Professor Lewin is upset with a student for calling her by her first name AFTER she told them to “$%@& [F Word] OFF.”  Quite honestly, Lewin’s continued attacks make it seem like more serious punishment of the professor is called for rather just than the public apology that the College Republicans are demanding.

Professor Tim Hagel, the faculty advisor for the University of Iowa College Republicans, also interjected on behalf of the group.

The issue isn’t whether you found something in the message sent by the College Republicans to have been offensive, but how you chose to express yourself.  Although some would disagree with the reasons in the message immediately below, there would have been a more appropriate way for you to have expressed yourself.  Your initial apology, though qualified, was at least a step in the right direction.  The “additional note” only served to retract the apology and was an apparent attempt to justify your initial response.

It’s not my place at this point to debate the merits of whether the CR message was offense, but let me remind you that they have First Amendment rights as much as you do and that their message was approved for mass distribution by the VP for Student Services, as was indicated at the bottom of the original message.

Let me also note that I found your complaint about Ms. Ginty’s use of your first name to be rather ironic.  As much as I agree with you that it would have been better for her to have shown the respect for your position by referring to you as “Professor,” respect is a two way street and you clearly did not show respect for the College Republicans in your initial response.


Tim Hagle

Associate Professor

UICR Faculty Advisor

Update :University of Iowa President Sally Mason has responded to the incident by sending out a blast email.  Mason’s response was “spurred” by’s story about the incident.

Dear Members of the University Community:

The University of Iowa encourages freedom of expression, opposing viewpoints, and civil debate about those opposing viewpoints.  This is clearly articulated in our core values of Diversity and Respect.  Because diversity, broadly defined, advances its mission of teaching, research, and service, the University is dedicated to an inclusive community in which people of different cultural, national, individual, and academic backgrounds encounter one another in a spirit of cooperation, openness, and shared appreciation.

The University also strongly encourages student engagement in such discussions and supports students acting on their viewpoints.  Student organizations are sometimes formed along political lines and act on their political beliefs.  Even if we personally disagree with those viewpoints, we must be respectful of those viewpoints in every way.  Intolerant and disrespectful discord is not acceptable behavior.

Sally Mason

Below is the original email that includes Lewin’s response.

In 2010, Lewin’s salary from the University of Iowa was $94,800.00 plus benefits.  In her spare time, Professor Lewin was written books entitled, Inventing Lesbian Cultures in America, and Gay Fatherhood: Narratives of Family and Citizenship in America.

Iowa’s Government Employees Being Disrespected? Hardly

More than 500 union members rallied outside the Iowa State Capitol yesterday.  They gathered to show unity for their counterparts in Wisconsin who took to the streets and the statehouse in opposition to legislation that would make Wisconsin a “right-to-work” state.  If the law is passed, workers in Wisconsin could opt out of paying union dues even if their place if work is unionized.

Twenty-two states already have a right-to-work law on the books.  Iowa is one of those states, and it has been that way for more than 63 years.   It’s hard to believe that hundreds of people came to capitol because they oppose a law that says you cannot force someone to join a labor union as a condition of their employment.

One would think that freedom-loving Iowans would be taking to the streets for the opposite reason.  The idea that someone can be forced to join or financially support a union, as a condition of their employment is about as un-American as you can get.  However, I’ll freely admit that it’s difficult for me to understand the current agenda of the big labor unions.

After standing in the middle of the rally for over an hour yesterday, I couldn’t help but sense that these people believe that their government totally disrespects them and is unappreciative of the service that they provide.  While there is no doubt that the labor unions use this kind of rhetoric to motivate their members, public sector employees are far from being disrespected or unappreciated by state and local government.

A study done by the Public Interest Institute in 2009 shows that the average wage paid to state government employees was $51,688, while the average pay for private sector employees was $35,256.  The disparity between the two is even greater when benefits are added into the equation.

The Public Interest Institute has also done a study that takes into account wages plus benefits.  Those results showed that state government employees were compensated on average at the rate of $39.60 per every hour worked, while private sector employees were compensated $29.37 on average for every hour worked.

Do those numbers indicate that state employees are being disrespected?  Is asking these workers to make a contribution for their healthcare benefits out of line?  Of course not.   The proposals floating around the state capitol are reasonable.  If contributing a small amount for their healthcare benefits is going to thrust these employees into financial hardship maybe they should reconsider paying their union dues and use that money to pay for their healthcare costs.



It was also interesting to observe the dynamic between some of the union members and members of the tea party movement.  As one of the tea party activists was speaking at the tea party rally, a union member, who was making his way to the union rally, thought it was appropriate to hurl some insults towards the gathering.  This individual was so focused on what he was shouting he missed a step and fell on the stairs, much to the delight of many tea partiers.  Embarrassed, the man got up and flipped the tea party gathering the bird.

While incidents like that are bound to happen, what surprised me was how obsessed the union members were over the rather small contingent of tea party activists who were gathered a half-block away.  At one point in the rally, I overheard one union member say to another that he would like to “shoot them.”  The “them” he was referring to was the tea party members. Realizing that he said this in earshot of the media, he laughed and said that he didn’t really mean what he had just said.

While the tea party rally was dwarfed in comparison to the union rally, it was a success for the mere fact that it provided balance to the reporting of the union rally.  It also provided a chance for Republican lawmakers to discuss the labor issues that are currently in front of the legislature.

Representative Tom Shaw and Representative Dwayne Alons briefly addressed the tea party gathering.  Other lawmakers like Rep. Kim Pearson and Rep. Jason Schultz also made their way outside to show their appreciation of the tea party event.

The union turnout at the capitol was impressive, but it was aided by the fact that a number of union members were transported to the rally by tour busses and offered a free lunch.  To say that the union rally was organic would be a huge stretch.

While the debate captured the attention of the media for a day, the debate about the collective bargaining agreement that Governor Culver accepted as he was in the final days of his term is at the crux on this debate.

It is almost impossible for the state of Iowa to get its fiscal house in order if state employees refuse to make any concessions.  Asking them to pay as little as $50 a month for their healthcare benefits should not be seen as an insult or an assault on the middle class, but a necessary and appropriate adjustment with which private sector employees have had to deal for years.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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Scheffler Backs Reince Priebus for RNC Chair

Iowa’s Republican National Committeeman, Steve Scheffler, has told that he is supporting Reince Priebus to be the next chairman of the Republican National Committee. Not only is Scheffler supporting Priebus, but he has agreed to serve in Priebus’ “kitchen cabinet.”

Priebus, who currently is the chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, oversaw sweeping wins in his state in the last election. Wisconsin Republicans elected a new Republican Governor, defeated a powerful incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator, added two congressional seats, and elected Republican majorities in both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature.

Preibus won Scheffler’s support by being a strong defender of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status, having a strong stance on social issues, and pledging to run a tight ship if elected to lead the RNC.

Scheffler’s support of Priebus is also a blow to Gentry Collins’ bid to be RNC chairman. Collins, an Iowan, has spent years working in Iowa politics. His inability to secure the support of all three Iowa RNC members will likely be a red flag to other members of the committee. Collins officially announced his candidacy yesterday, despite filing the necessary paperwork while he was still employed as Steele’s Political Director.

Last night, current RNC Chairman Michael Steele announced that he would seek another term. After participating in a conference call with Steele, Scheffler told, “I’m surprised with all the drama leading up to this that he is running for a second term. His tenure as chairman has been a disaster. For the sake of our Republic, we must elect a chairman who can help carry us to victory in 2012 to defeat the Obama socialist agenda.”

The election for Chairman will take place January 15 at the RNC’s winter meeting.

Below is YouTube video from the Priebus for RNC Chairman Campaign.