October 25, 2014

Ernst declines invitation from Des Moines Register editorial board

Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, has so far declined invitations to speak with a handful of Iowa newspaper editorial boards, information that became public Thursday morning after The Des Moines Register revealed Ernst had cancelled a Thursday appointment with the paper’s editorial writers.

Sarah Benzing is the campaign manager for Bruce Braley — Ernst’s Democratic opponent — and Benzing spoke during a conference call arranged by the campaign Thursday afternoon.

“We don’t hide from questions or fail to have an open and honest debate,” Benzing said. “We talk about the issues, we lay out where we stand and that’s exactly what voters deserve from Joni Ernst and Bruce Braley.”

Braley’s campaign manager suggested Ernst is trying to avoid unscripted moments.

“It’s one thing to stick to talking points at events,” Benzing said. “It’s another to sit down with an ed board and answer tough questions.”

Ernst answered the questions of reports from Radio Iowa and other media outlets, including The Register, twice this week after campaign events in Boone and Des Moines. The Ernst campaign said this morning it is “still in the process” of scheduling some of the meetings between the candidate and newspaper editorial boards. But Ernst campaign spokesperson Gretchen Hamel says “recent editorials in The Des Moines Register make their position in this race perfectly clear” and the Ernst campaign decided with less than 12 days to go, Ernst “wants to spend every minute talking to undecided voters.”

Ernst also had invitations to meet with editorial writers for The Cedar Rapids Gazette, The Dubuque Telegraph Herald, The Quad-City Times and The Waterloo Courier. She met earlier this week with the editorial boards of The Sioux City Journal and The Omaha World Herald.

Ernst won The Des Moines Register’s endorsement during the Republican Primary in June, but the Ernst campaign cites five recent editorials in the newspaper that criticized Ernst’s past statements or positions on issues for leading to the campaign’s decision to cancel a meeting with the paper’s editorial board.

The Des Moines Register endorsed Mitt Romney late in the 2012 campaign after Romney met with the paper’s editorial writers in a barn on a farm near Adel. President Obama had granted the paper an off-the-record interview that became public after the paper’s lead editor concluded Obama’s statements about his post-election agenda were newsworthy and merited publication.

(This story was updated at 10:04 a.m. with additional information.)

King, Mowrer engage in feisty debate

The two major party candidates in Iowa’s fourth congressional district engaged in a bit of verbal combat tonight during a televised debate held at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake. Democrat Jim Mowrer of Boone criticized Congressman Steve King of Kiron for suggesting the American soldiers being sent into west Africa to deal with the Ebola epidemic should be volunteers, since Ebola is a “silent killer.”

“As a soldier I understand that you volunteer when you raise your right hand and you’re willing to sacrifice everything for this country. Soldiers follow orders. This is a job that needs to be done. That’s why Congressman King never volunteered for the military,” Mowrer said.

As many in the audience murmured, King responded: “I think that this judgement to do this debate should speak for itself.”

After the debate, King told reporters Mowrer’s remark was an act of “desperation.”

“I think what’s going to happen is that people review this debate and they’ll go back and look at the facts and they’ll find out that we had a really good debate tonight and he had a really bad night of desperation,” King said.

Mowrer accused King of inciting panic about Ebola.

“We need to confront this outbreak in a calm, concise, deliberate way. We need to stop it from spreading here in the United States,” Mowrer said. “We need to confront it at the source in Africa…but Congressman King again has a TV ad up on the air telling people that they should be afraid.”

King, meanwhile, challenged claims in one of Mowrer’s ads that King had voted to raise his own pay “by $20,000 a year.”

“If you do the calculation on his rational, it comes to $2610, not $20,000 and my pay again has been frozen since 2009, so many of those statements are completely, blatantly, fabricated-from-thin-air false,” King said.

Tonight’s debate aired live on Iowa Public Television and is the only face-to-face meeting scheduled between these two candidates this election season. The fourth district is the state’s largest, geographically, covering 39 counties in northwest and north central Iowa.

 

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.