October 23, 2014

Ernst touts enthusiasm edge for GOP

Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Iowa’s U.S. Senate race could be headed for a “photo finish” with Republican Joni Ernst at 48 percent and Democrat Bruce Braley at 46. The survey shows Braley with a wide lead among early voters, as 58 percent of those who’ve already voted told the pollsters they voted for Braley, while 37 said they had voted for Ernst. Ernst says that’s not worrisome to her.

“We have got some great grassroots out there and so many supporters,” Ernst told reporters this morning. “A lot of Republican voters will typically go out to the polls on Election Day.”

Iowa Republicans announced Wednesday that for the first time, more Republicans than Democrats have voted early. Democrats argue they’re getting independents to cast a vote for the Democratic ticket. Ernst says Republicans have the enthusiasm edge.

“I guess last night over at the ‘Victory Office’ there were more volunteers than phones,” Ernst says. “People are so energized right now.”

Ernst spoke early this morning to the Greater Des Moines Partnership, a group representing 21 central Iowa chambers of commerce, and she repeatedly referred to her “opponent.”

“I don’t want to get his name wrong,” Ernst said, as the crowd of about 20 laughed. “Unfortunately, you know, it’s become a big joke and I’m afraid I’m actually going to call him the wrong name.”

Earlier this month First Lady Michelle Obama called Braley “Bailey” seven times before the crowd at Drake University corrected her. Obama was in Iowa City Tuesday and she joked that she often calls her daughters and the family dog by the wrong name, too.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is campaigning with Ernst today and he told the crowd it was out of “self-interest” because he’ll become a Senate subcommittee chairman if Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate.

“The best thing I can do for South Carolina, I think, is get the Senate under new management. It’s broken, fundamentally broken. I think she is the solution, not the problem” Graham told reporters. “…Her voice, the voice of a military commander — would be a welcome addition.”

Ernst is a battalion commander in the Iowa National Guard. Eighteen senators are military veterans, according to a Roll Call analysis, and Ernst would become a veteran if she’s elected. Ernst has said she’d have to resign her post in the Iowa National Guard if she wins this Senate race.


Michelle Obama in for Braley, Mike Huckabee in for Ernst today

First Lady Michele Obama returns to Iowa today to campaign for Democrat Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

First Lady Michele Obama returns to Iowa today to campaign for Democrat Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

Prominent party voices continue to stream into Iowa to campaign with the two major party candidates for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat.

First Lady Michelle Obama will headline a rally at the University of Iowa today with Democrat Bruce Braley. Last week Republican Joni Ernst’s campaign sent out video links of late-night comics who’ve made fun of the first lady for misstating Braley’s name seven times during an event at Drake University. Ernst herself brought it up with reporters on Monday.

“This is kind of her ‘Mulligan’ event, I think, to try and get things right after she messed up so badly the last time she was in town,” Ernst said.

On Wednesday evening, Ernst will be on the University of Iowa campus for a rally with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will make stops in Sioux City and Council Bluffs today with Ernst.

During her solo stops, Ernst is stressing her work as a Republican state senator. Braley’s been traveling the state focusing attention on issues like retirement security. On Sunday during a rally in Des Moines, Braley got a big crowd reaction with this statement: “Unlike Joni Ernst, I will never ever vote to privatize your Social Security.”

Ernst has said it might be an option for younger workers. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a rising populist voice in the Democratic Party, campaigned alongside Braley on Sunday. A dozen current members of the U.S. Senate have flown to Iowa this year to campaign on behalf of either Braley or Ernst and that pace will continue through Election Day.

Branstad punchline aimed at Braley (AUDIO)

State Representative Chip Baltimore listens as Governor Terry Branstad speaks.

State Representative Chip Baltimore (left) listens as Governor Terry Branstad speaks.

A state legislator from Boone and Governor Terry Branstad drew peals of laughter from a crowd in Boone today with a couple of quips aimed at Bruce Braley, the Democrat who is running for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat. State Representative Chip Baltimore, who is an attorney, got things started as he thanked the 50 Republicans in the room for showing up.

“I know there’s a lot of farmers in the field and I know that probably as you came in, you probably saw a few trial lawyers out there on combines, too,” Baltimore said.

As the crowd laughed at Baltimore’s reference to Braley’s remark about Senator Grassley’s status as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school,” Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and several people in the crowd yelled out “Bailey.” First Lady Michelle Obama’ called Braley “Bailey” seven times during a recent rally in Des Moines before the crowd corrected her.

Then, Governor Branstad, who also holds a law degree but describes himself as a “recovering” lawyer, closed the Boone event with this.

“Since you talked about lawyers and combines, do you know how many lawyers it takes to grease a combine?” Only one, but you’ve got to feed him in real slow,” Branstad said, as the crowd hooted and applauded.

Braley opponent Joni Ernst was there as well and, while she laughed, she did not add her own joke to the mix. Ernst had earlier promised the crowd she’d visit all 99 counties each year if she’s elected, just like Senator Chuck Grassley does. Ernst is in the midst of a 99-county tour of the state, with 49 counties to go before Election Day.

AUDIO of Baltimore, Reynolds, Branstad and crowd in Boone, 2:00

Branstad’s ‘IowaNEXT’ board to cement his ‘legacy’ (AUDIO)

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad is unveiling his “legacy” vision for Iowa — a new state board that would coordinate and accelerate state government efforts to improve Iowa’s quality of life. Branstad said today that if he’s reelected to a sixth term next month, he’ll find new ways to pay to improve parks, “cultural hubs” and historic sites around the state.

“Improving these areas is not only good for our overall quality of life, it is also good for our economic growth,” Branstad said.

Branstad would dismantle the legacy of a previous Democratic governor to enact his plan, though, by getting rid of the “Vision Iowa” Board created by former Governor Tom Vilsack. The Vision Iowa board helped direct significant state investment in large-scale community projects like the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, the National Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque, the River View Center in Ottumwa and the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs. The “Vision Iowa” board continues to hand out grants for community attractions, but Branstad would replace it with what he’s calling the “IowaNEXT” Board. The directors of four state agencies would serve on Branstad’s new board, along with seven citizen members.

“As Iowa grows and changes for a brighter future, it’s critical that our state build a living, lasting legacy of quality of life enhancements,” Branstad said today during a news conference in Boone. “We want to give Iowans an unmatched quality of life and have a state that is the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

Branstad said he’d “repurpose” some state spending and seek out private funding to accomplish those goals.

“State government spends tens of millions of dollars each year on a variety of quality of life efforts, but we lack an overall vision for the totality of Iowa’s efforts and oversight,” Branstad said.

One of the governor’s ideas is to “transform” the State Historical Building into what Branstad is calling the “iowa Cultural Center.”

AUDIO of event featuring State Rep. Chip Baltimore of Boone, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Gov. Terry Branstad & Iowa GOP U.S. Sen. nominee Joni Ernst, 34:00

Branstad will campaign in Carroll, Harlan and Greenfield today as well. Jack Hatch, Branstad’s Democratic opponent, says Branstad’s “final campaign tour is the capstone on a career misleading Iowans and pulling voters’ attention away from his dismal record of mismanagement, scandal and terrible decision-making.”

Polarized political climate leads to more ‘straight ticket’ voting

vote-002Iowa is one of just is one of just 14 states that allow “straight ticket” voting — letting Iowans check a single box on the ballot to cast a vote for every candidate from one party. Drake University political science professor Arthur Sanders suggests the option fits with voting trends.

“As our political system has become more polarized, we find less split ticket voting,” Sanders says. “People are much more likely now to be consistently Republican or consistently Democratic.”

According to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, for example, 43 percent of the ballots cast in Linn County two years ago were “straight ticket” voters. Data isn’t available for all 99 counties, but for the 81 counties that did, about one-quarter of the ballots in the 2014 General Election in those counties came from “straight ticket” voters.

Sanders says incumbency is a major factor that leads to “split ticket” voting. For example, in 1990 Republican Governor Terry Branstad beat his Democratic opponent by 22 points, while Democratic Senator Tom Harkin won reelection that same year by nine points. Since there’s an open Senate race in Iowa in 2014, Sanders says a decisive Branstad win “could” help the Republican candidate, Joni Ernst.

“Coattails? The best political science evidence we have is that coattails can matter under certain kinds of elections under certain kinds of circumstances,” Sanders says, with a laugh.

Democrats like Bruce Braley are counting on the Democratic Party’s effort to get Iowans who are less inclined to vote in non-presidential elections to cast a ballot this year. Democrats have 35 “field offices” around the state for their outreach to prospective voters. Republicans have 13, aided by the outside group “Americans for Prosperity” which has five other offices around the state from which it is deploying vote-seekers.

First district candidates debate for final time

The Democrat running for Iowa’s first district congressional seat is calling for an increase in federal spending on public health initiatives to respond to Ebola, while his Republican opponent says more money isn’t the answer. During a debate Saturday night, Democrat Pat Murphy said mandatory federal budget cuts have reduced the government’s ability to respond.

“We actually have had a 10 percent in the Centers for Disease Control on their actual funding,” Murphy said. “It’s important to make sure they have the tools that they need so they can educate our health care workers that are on the front line.”

Rod Blum — Murphy’s Republican opponent — scoffed.

“Spoken like a true career politician. We never have enough money in government,” Blum said. “In fact, in the budget that the GOP submitted, they put more money in that budget, Pat, than President Obama requested for the CDC.”

The two candidates debated one another for an hour Saturday night on KWWL TV in Waterloo. Blum repeatedly called Murphy a “career politician” while stressing his own background as both a businessman and a political novice.

“I don’t want to go to Washington, D.C. to be important,” Blum said. “I want to go to Washington, D.C. to do something that’s important and that is get this country back on track.”

Murphy suggested his 25 years of experience in the state legislature gives him a realistic view of what can be accomplished.

“As a legislator, I understand that quite frankly you’re not going to go in and change the world, but the most important part is figuring out those things that you can work on to both improve your country as well as your district or your state,” Murphy said.

Both candidates are from Dubuque. They’re seeking the seat in the U.S. House that has been held by Democrat Bruce Braley, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

Elizabeth Warren urges Iowa Democrats to ‘fight back’ in 2014 (AUDIO)

Democrat Bruce Braley, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Democrat Senate candidate Bruce Braley, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren headlined rallies in Iowa City and Des Moines for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley this afternoon.

“Republicans, man, they ought to be wearing a t-shirt…The t-shirt should say: ‘I got mine. The rest of you are on your own,'” Warren said during a later afternoon event at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. “…We can hang back, we can whine about what the Republicans have done…or we can fight back. Me, I’m fighting back!”

Warren delivered a populist message, ridiculing what she called the “plumbing theory” of “trickle down economics” and pumping her fists in the air as the crowd cheered her statements.

“The Republicans have made clear…their vision is that government should work for those at the top. Our vision, Bruce Braley’s vision, my vision is that we make government work for the people. That’s what this election is about,” Warren said, as the crowd applauded.

Elizabeth Warren poses for pictures after speaking in Des Moines.

Elizabeth Warren poses for pictures after speaking in Des Moines.

She praised Depression-era steps that reigned in excesses on Wall Street and government investments in education, infrastructure and education. And, according to Warren, priority number one for Republicans will be to “cut the regulations on Wall Street” if Republicans win a majority of seats in the U.S. Senate this year.

“The issue in this race…is a question of who does this government work for,” Warren said, as a man in the crowd shouted: “Us!” and others murmured: “You’re right.”

Warren continued: “Does it work just for the millionaires, just for the billionaires just for those who have armies of lobbyists and lawyers or does it work for the people? That’s the question in this race.”

AUDIO of Des Moines event, 49:00

Warren has been traveling the country for Democratic candidates this year and this weekend she has campaigned for Democratic senators seeking reelection in Colorado and Minnesota as well as for Braley. She’s seen as a motivator for liberal Democrats and for union activists who tend to vote in presidential years, but not in mid-term elections like 2014.

This marked Warren’s first visit to Iowa. Some of those who shook her hand and snapped pictures with her along the rope lines at rallies in Iowa City and Des Moines urged her to run for president in 2016. Warren used part of her speech to talk about her own biography, but she did not address the White House speculation during her visit. Warren has said elsewhere that she will not run.