November 26, 2015

New poll finds little change in Democratic presidential race in Iowa

Hillary Clinton (file photo)

Hillary Clinton (file photo)

A new Quinnipiac University poll finds the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in Iowa is “virtually unchanged” from October.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has the support of 51 percent of Iowa likely Democratic Caucus goers. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is nine points behind, at 42 percent.

“Not much has changed, but there’s news in that,” assistant poll director Peter Brown says. “Essentially Secretary Clinton has taken a solid, not overwhelming, but solid lead in the Caucuses and for her, that’s just fine.”

Brown says the only way Clinton will lose the nomination would be if Sanders is able to beat her in the early states of Iowa or New Hampshire.

“That might allow him to generate some momentum and perhaps, then, create some problems for Secretary Clinton,” Brown says. “But if she stays 10 points ahead of him, whether or not some pundit says: ‘Well that’s not a very big win,’ sometimes in politics, a win really is a win.”

Pollsters asked likely Iowa Caucus goers to rate which candidate they believe would best manage the economy.

“Historically, the candidate who is judged the best able to handle the economy generally always wins the Democratic nomination and yet we have here is a situation here where Senator Sanders is viewed as best able to handle the economy,” Brown says. “It doesn’t seem to be making a difference in the horse race numbers.”

The poll found Martin O’Malley, the other Democrat running for president, had the support of four percent of likely Iowa Caucus-goers.

Quinnipiac University conducted its poll from November 16th through the 20th and released the results for the Republican presidential race in Iowa yesterday. Likely participants in both party’s caucuses were asked about a key topic on the campaign trail.

“Eighty percent of Iowans who are going to vote in the Republican Caucuses say they don’t want any Syrian refugees allowed in the United States or Iowa,” Brown says. “Conversely, 80 percent of Democrats say: ‘Sure, we as a country should admit them.'”

Brown says it shows how strongly this issue splits along party lines.

“The question of whether the United States and Iowa should take in Syrian refugees is a great way to see the huge division among Iowans,” Brown says.

A national poll conducted last week by Bloomberg Politics found 53 percent of all Americans oppose admitting Syrian refugees and Brown says that shows independent voters are leaning against allowing refugees from Syrian into the U.S.

Iowa’s ‘Prince Farming’ is now ethanol pitchman

Chris Soules

Chris Soules

The Iowan nicknamed “Prince Farming” during his time on a reality TV show has stepped into the debate over the future of ethanol.

“To protect something that’s really important to my family’s farming operation as well as thousands of others,” says Chris Soules, who was the star of “The Bachelor” last spring.

This fall, he was a contestant on “Dancing With The Stars” and now Soules is featured in a pro-ethanol advertisement to counter ads being run by the oil industry.

“The truth is biofuels mean more jobs, less foreign oil and cleaner air,” Soules says in the ad. “Tell Washington politicians to support clean American biofuels.”

Soules grew up on a family farm near Arlington in Fayette County and graduated from Iowa State University. Growth Energy, the promotional arm of the ethanol industry, is running the ad starring Soules. During a telephone news conference to debut the ad, Soules told reporters ethanol has been an economic benefit not just to farmers, but to people in rural Iowa who’re employed in the ethanol industry.

“Given the things that have occurred recently with Paris, it’s been made very clear that we need to be able to secure our nation’s energy supply,” Soules said, “…and provide those jobs and that stability to the Midwest and to farmers all over.”

In his concluding episode as “The Bachelor” Soules was standing in a barn on his family farm when he proposed to a Chicago nurse. The pro-ethanol ad in which he now stars is airing in Iowa, Illnois, Indiana and Ohio.

There’s a November 30 deadline for federal regulators to announce three years worth of ethanol production guidelines, for ultimately blending ethanol into gasoline.

Trump gains 5 points, Cruz up 13 in new Quinnipiac University Poll

Ted Cruz (file photo)

Ted Cruz (file photo)

A new Quinnipiac University poll finds businessman Donald Trump has the support of 25 percent of likely Iowa Republican Caucus goers and Texas Senator Ted Cruz has 23 percent. Peter Brown, the assistant director of the poll, says support for Cruz has more than doubled in the past four weeks.

“Senator Cruz is the hot candidate in Iowa. There’s no doubt about that,” Brown says. “That’s a very big jump in just one month.”

Retired surgeon Ben Carson is in third place, but his support in Iowa dropped by 10 percent in the past month — while Cruz picked up 13 points. Brown says those trends are “mathematically linked.”

“Many of these are the same people,” Brown says. “Not all, necessarily, but many.”

The poll was taken from November 16th through the 20th — after the terrorist attacks in Paris — and only six percent of those surveyed gave Carson high marks on foreign policy experience, while Cruz topped the chart as the candidate judged “best able to handle” foreign affairs.

“Dr. Carson’s background which is relatively light on foreign policy experience and Senator Cruz’s relative depth, you know, it’s not terribly surprising there’s been this movement,” Brown says. “Also Senator Cruz seemed to get the best grades out of the last televised debate, so that’s helpful.”

Support for Florida Senator Marco Rubio held steady in the month-to-month comparison. Brown says the GOP candidates are now clearly separated into two tiers.

“There’s the first tier, which is made up of four candidates — two insiders, Senators Cruz and Rubio; and two outsiders, Dr. Carson and Mr. Trump — and everybody else is pretty far back,” Brown says. “This is Iowa, so anything’s possible, but for someone to move from that bottom tier into that top tier is going to take an awful lot of work and good luck.”

Thirty percent of likely Iowa Republican Caucus-goers listed “terrorism” and “foreign policy” as their top issues, while 24 percent said “jobs and the economy” are their number one concern.

Clergy group asks Governor Branstad to welcome Syrian refugees

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

A group of Iowa clergy has delivered a letter to Governor Terry Branstad, saying they’re praying he will “reject fear and cruelty” and welcome Syrian refugees into the state.

Branstad is one of 30 governors citing safety concerns and resisting Syrian refugee resettlement. Reverend Jessica Peterson of the Congregational United Church of Christ in Newton says she signed the letter because she believes turning away refugees is “not the American way.”

“As a follower of Jesus, a refugee himself, I am called to welcome the stranger,” she says, “to offer freedom and relief to those who are persecuted and those who are oppressed.” Alejandro Alfaro-Santiz, a United Methodist minister in Des Moines, also signed the letter drafted by a group called Faith in Public Life.

“We call our governor who self-identifies as Christian to follow Christ,” he says. “We call our governor to not turn away refugees because as we all know Iowa is welcoming.” Branstad says President Obama “is in denial” about the threat Syrian refugees pose.

“We understand that one of the people involved in the killings in Paris came in with the refugees,” Branstad says. “We don’t want that to happen here in Iowa or in America and so we think it would be wise to pause and make sure that the safety of our citizens is protected.”

A national group called “Faith in Public Life” has collected signatures from about 2,000 Christian, Jewish and Muslim clerics around the country, calling on Branstad and the other Republican governors to change their minds and open their states to Syrian refugees. Catholic bishops in Iowa and across the country issued statements last week, delivering the same message.


Governor pardons Spike the Turkey & Zoe the Turkey


Zoey the turkey.

Iowa’s governor has continued an annual Thanksgiving tradition.

“This has been a tough year for turkeys, so we’re going to give a couple of ’em a special pardon here today,” Governor Terry Branstad said.

Branstad and his wife, Chris, had five of their grandchildren in the backyard of Terrace Hill this morning as the governor spared a “tom” and a “hen”.

“Now therefore, I, Terry E. Branstad, governor of the State of Iowa, do hereby proudly proclaim ‘Zoe the Turkey’ and ‘Spike the Turkey’ free from the harm of carving knives and gravy this Thanksgiving Day,” Branstad said.

The two turkeys were transferred to their new home at Living History Farms.

“A lot of kids will get the enjoyment of seeing these turkeys survive,” Branstad says. “…They deserve it considering the year that turkeys have gone through.”

Governor Terry Branstad and first Lady Chris Branstad and their grandkids.

Governor Terry Branstad, first Lady Chris Branstad, and their grandkids.

Twenty-five percent of Iowa turkey operations were hit by the bird flu this spring. Iowa Turkey Federation president Ross Thoreson says all the turkey farmers affected should have turkeys back in their barns by the middle of December.

“It’s been a tough year for turkey farmers,” he says, “and we’re just looking forward to getting back to normal and doing things that they love and that’s just raising turkeys and providing safe, nutritious food for Iowa and the world.”

Thoreson does not raise turkeys. His family operates an animal health supply company in Ellsworth. Thoreson says turkey production levels should get back to normal in Iowa by the first quarter of 2016. Branstad says that shows the “resiliency” of the industry.

“I think we learned a lot,” Branstad says. “Hopefully we can prevent this kind of tragedy from happening in the future.”

According to the National Turkey Federation, Americans will “gobble up” 46 million turkeys this Thanksgiving. That amounts to about three pounds of turkey per person. Iowa ranks number nine in turkey production.

Rubio is pressing for changes in work visa program

Marco Rubio (file photo)

Marco Rubio (file photo)

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio is calling for new limits in the program that allows U.S. companies to get work visas for foreigners.

“The H1B program is a program designed to allow American companies to hire foreigners with special skills when they cannot find an American to do the job,” Rubio said. “And the problem today is that the program is being abused.”

It is illegal for a U.S. company to replace a worker with a foreigner who holds an H1B work visa, but Rubio said U.S. firms are contracting with companies based in India who then hire foreigners, then get those foreigners visas and transfer them to work in the United States.

“Under this program, you are supposed to attest, sign a piece of paper, that says: ‘We tried to hire Americans to do this work, but we couldn’t find anybody and so therefore we hired this foreigner,'” Rubio said. “…Even if you could improve the company’s not telling the truth, no one is enforcing it.”

According to Rubio, all too often American workers who are being laid off have to train the foreign workers being brought in through the visa program.

“What’s it’s being used for, in essence, is a run around way of replacing American workers,” Rubio said.

Rubio said it’s time to limit the number of visas that can be held by American companies seeking to out-source operations. Rubio is in the midst of a five-day campaign swing through Iowa, his most extensive visit to the state since he started his campaign. Rubio, who is a Florida senator, joked about the snow during a visit to Oskaloosa this weekend.

“Thank you so much for being here today,” Rubio said. “…I know how hard it is. I know every time we get these snow storms in Miami, it’s hard to get to where we’re going.”

Rubio is casting the 2016 election as a “generational choice” and he’s warning the next president must address the ballooning federal debt.

“The cause of our debt is not foreign aid. I know a lot of people point to that,” Rubio said in Oskaloosa. “Foreign aid is less than one percent of our budget. The causes of our debt are the way Social Security and Medicaid are structured for future generations.”

Rubio campaigned in Carroll this morning. He’ll be in Council Bluffs over the noon hour. Tomorrow, Rubio will hold a town hall meeting in Grinnell.

(Reporting by Kyler Meyers, KBOE, Oskaloosa; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)

Clinton touts $6,000 federal tax credit for family caregivers

Hillary Clinton (file photo)

Hillary Clinton (file photo)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says it’s time to pay more attention to the “caring economy.”

She is proposing a new federal tax credit that would offset some of what people spend to care for an elderly or disabled relative.

“The bottom line for me is caregiving takes a lot of love,” Clinton says, “and a lot of challenging experiences that often test one’s emotional and physical well-being.”

Clinton also is proposing a recalculation of Social Security benefits for caregivers.

“All the time that people take out of paid work to care for a family member can end up putting a big dent in their retirement benefits,” Clinton says.

Clinton says it is predominantly women who leave the workforce to care for a spouse or a parent.

“I want to expand Social Security by taking into account the often overlooked and undervalued work of family caregivers,” Clinton says.

Clinton made her comments during a town hall meeting in Clinton, Iowa, today. About 400 people attended and Clinton told them her husband is a “fanatic” football fan who’s been following the Iowa Hawkeye’s winning season.

“Three weeks ago he goes: ‘You know, I think Iowa is really for real.’ And I said: ‘Yeah, it looks like it.’…And he goes: I’m wondering whether I can get there before the season’s over,'” Clinton said, laughing along with the crowd “And I said: ‘Well, let’s try to figure that out.'”

Iowa played its final home game this past Saturday. The undefeated Hawkeyes play their final regular season game at Nebraska on Friday.

(Reporting by Dave Vickers, KROS, Clinton; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)