August 3, 2015

Focus in GOP race this week on first debate of season

l-r: Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum (photo by John Pemble)

Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum (L-R) (file photo by John Pemble)

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says the campaign dynamic in Iowa has changed since the Iowa GOP’s “Straw Poll” that had been scheduled for this month was cancelled.

“Instead of focused on Iowa, which is what four years ago was like, it’s more focused on national polls,” Santorum said this weekend. “I think that’s a disservice to Iowa. I think it’s a disservice to the candidates getting to Iowa and getting to New Hampshire and the early primary states and earning the votes of the people who are going to make the decision instead of earning the poll numbers that corporate executives in New York care about.”

FOX News will host the first debate of the presidential campaign season this Thursday, August 6. The 10 candidates with the highest ratings in recent national polls will be allowed on stage. Santorum will not be among them.

“Three or four candidates have spent millions of dollars to bump up their poll numbers so they could get in the debate,” Santorum said. “I mean, that’s great for FOX and they’re spending it all on FOX News. We’re not going to do that.”

Santorum campaigned in Humbolt, Jefferson and Menlo on Sunday.

“I’m not going to worry about national debates,” Santorum said. “I’m going to worry about the state of Iowa and the ability to get the message out.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is among the candidates who are “on the bubble” and are not assured of getting in Thursday’s nationally-televised debate. During an interview recorded in Dubuque for CNN’s “State of the Union” program, Christie expressed confidence he’ll make the cut, but Christie also suggested it’s time for everybody to “take a deep breath” and realize the polls at this point in the campaign don’t mean a whole lot.

“These folks in Iowa and New Hampshire particularly are notorious late deciders on what they’re going to do,” Christie said. “…They want to hear everybody. They want to see everybody. They want to digest all this stuff and then they’ll make decisions and I think when that time comes, the fact that we’ve been this specific for this long is really going to make it a benefit to us.”

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham will not make the prime time debate on FOX News this Thursday, but Graham and the others who don’t make the cut will get TV time on the cable channel a bit earlier.

“There’s the ‘happy hour’ debate at five and I’ll be in that,” Graham said. “But the bottom line is I think this idea of limiting entry into the debate based on national polls undercuts the Iowa Caucus, the early primaries and I think it’s a very bad idea.”

Five Republican candidates were in Iowa Friday to campaign. Scott Walker visited five counties in southwest Iowa and he describes it as groundwork for the 2016 General Election.

“We’re not just going to focus on the Caucus. We’re committed through November of 2016,” Walker said. “I firmly believe for a Republican to win the presidency, it’s got to come through the Midwest and so Iowa’s going to play a key role along with obviously my state of Wisconsin and neighbors Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.”

Walker will be among the 14 Republican candidates who’ll appear tonight at a forum in New Hampshire that will be televised nationally on C-SPAN. The two-hour forum is co-sponsored by newspapers in New Hampshire and South Carolina as well as The Cedar Rapids Gazette. It will air on KCRG TV in Cedar Rapids and KCCI in Des Moines. The broadcast is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Iowa time.

Late Sunday evening Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced it would begin airing TV ads in Iowa this month. Iowa television viewers have already been seeing ads for a few of the Republican candidates.

Senator Grassley, Congressman Loebsack call for multi-year transportation bill

Congressman Dave Loebsack.

Congressman Dave Loebsack.

Federal dollars for road work in Iowa and all other states will hit a dead end later this week without fast action in Congress. While the U.S. House has approved a 5-month extension of the current funding, the Senate is leaning toward a 6-year plan for the transportation bill.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, favors the long-term version and won’t try to predict what’s going to happen in either chamber. “We don’t know what the House will do until we pass a bill,” Grassley says. “This is what we can pass now and we’d better take advantage of bipartisan cooperation that we can get in the Senate, which you seldom get.”

The Senate held a rare Sunday session to pass its version of the transportation bill, which included an amendment to revive the Export-Import Bank, an issue that’s drawing opposition in the House. The Ex-Im, as it’s called, is a little-known federal agency that helps foreign customers buy things from U.S. businesses.

Grassley hopes all sides will reach agreement on the transportation bill — and soon. “The long-term bill is the best for the economy,” Grassley says. “It’s the best for highway construction, best for creating jobs, not only in construction but in the manufacture of this heavy equipment. People are more apt to buy it if they know there is a long-term commitment to funding the highway program.” The current transportation funding bill expires on Friday. The proposed 6-year measure is worth 350 billion dollars.

Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack, the only Democrat in the Iowa delegatin, is calling on House Republican leaders to bring a long-term highway bill up for a vote before adjourning for the August recess. Loebasck issued this statement on the bill:

“It is beyond irresponsible for Republican leaders in the House to go on recess without passing a long-term bill that invests in our nation’s infrastructure. A long-term transportation bill is necessary to address urgent transportation and infrastructure needs, create jobs for Iowans and is central to economic development across the country. It will also ensure businesses and farmers can transport their goods more efficiently to compete in the 21st Century economy. Another short-term, shortsighted extension will only cause more uncertainty, keeping state and local governments from being able to effectively plan for future projects. Congress should remain in session until a long-term plan is agreed to.”

Clinton to call for ‘cease fire’ with GOP on climate change; blasts Huckabee for ‘oven’ comment (AUDIO)

Hillary Clinton at the DART Central Station in Des Moines.

Hillary Clinton at the DART Central Station in Des Moines.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton visited the hub for the bus system in Des Moines this morning to highlight the climate change action plan she released last night.

Clinton touted the facility’s solar panels and rainwater collection system and then told reporters she’d be able to convince reluctant Republicans to respond to climate change.

“Making this a central issue in my campaign, I hope, will give me the momentum to be able to go to th congress and say, ‘Look, cease fire. We need to make the transition and we can do it and save money at the same time and create millions of new jobs and businesses that will be to the benefit of our country, so stay tuned,” Clinton said, chuckling.

Clinton suggested she’d use executive orders and federal agency directives to accmoplish some of her goals, but she’s promising to roll back some of the tax advantages for the “fossil fuel” industry. That would take an act of congress where Republicans are likely to at least control the debate agenda in the House, if not the Senate, in 2017. Clinton told reporters she would not comment on the process of reviewing the proposed XL Pipeline, since that process was started when she was secretary of state.

In response to a reporter’s question during her news conference, Clinton rebuked Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee for suggesting President Obama’s Iran deal would march Israelis to the “door of the oven.”

“Comments like these are offensive and they have no place in our political dialogue,” Clinton said.

Clinton told reporters she’s “disappointed” and “personally” offended by Huckabee’s remark.

“I know Governor Huckabee. I have a cordial relationship with him. He served as the governor of Arkansas, but I find this kind of inflammatory rhetoric totally unacceptable,” Clinton said.

The “particulars” of the Iran deal are “fair game” for criticism, according to Clinton,

“But this steps over the line and it should be repudiated by every person of good faith and concern about the necessity to keep our political dialogue with the facts and suitable boundaries,” Clinton said.

AUDIO of Clinton’s appearance in Des Moines, 20:00

On Sunday during a speech in Ames, Clinton said as secretary of state she worked for 18 months to lay the ground work that ultimately led to the negotiations her successor concluded this summer with Iran and other key world powers.

(Photo by Asya Akca)

‘We need to set high goals again,’ Clinton says, releasing ideas to combat climate change

Hillary Clinton in Ames, IA.

Hillary Clinton in Ames, IA.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton today said it’s time to “get serious” about climate change and build a “clean energy economy” in the U.S.

“I know that if we start addressing it, we’re going to actually be creating jobs and new businesses,” Clinton said in Ames this afternoon.

Clinton released a video message early this evening, calling for a dramatic, nationwide shift to power sources like solar panels and wind turbines, so that “every home in America” would get its electricity from “clean renewable energy” within a decade of her taking office. During a speech a few hours earlier in Ames, Clinton gave a sneak peek of some of her prescriptions.

“I want more wind, more solar, more advanced biofuels, more energy efficiency,” Clinton said, to applause and cheers. “And I’ve got to tell you, people who argue against this are just not paying attention.”

Clinton praised the State of Iowa for being “ahead of the curve” in promoting not only wind energy and advanced biofuels, but establishing state tax rebates for installing solar panels in their homes and businesses.

“I think that’s pretty smart and the projections about what that will mean for Iowa are really positive,” Clinton said in Ames. “So other states could follow Iowa’s lead.”

At the federal level, Clinton would support continuing the wind production tax credit along with a recalibration of other tax incentives that are “too heavily weighted…toward fossil fuels.”

“We can do this. We need to set high goals again,” Clinton said. “…I’m setting some really high goals that we’re going to meet when I’m president.”

Clinton denounced the Republican field of presidential candidates for their responses on the issue.

“They will answer any question about climate change by saying: ‘I’m not a scientist.’ Well, I’m not a scientist either. I’m just a grandmother with two eyes and a brain and I know we’re facing a huge problem from climate change,” Clinton said, to cheers from the audience.

AUDIO of Clinton’s appearance in Ames, 52:00

Carol Williams of Ames said as she was leaving the event that it’s refreshing to have a candidate say climate change is “real” and “let’s do something about it.”

“I’m a park ranger, so I got into being a park ranger because I care about the environment,” Williams said, “so the idea that we’re ignoring it completely is appalling to me. We’re so far behind already. We have to get on the bandwagon.”

Williams went to see Clinton on today, but she also saw Clinton competitor Bernie Sanders when he was in Ames. Williams said Clinton’s appearance, though, went “a long ways” toward convincing her to vote for Clinton in the Caucuses.

 (Photo by Asya Akca)

Johnson County officials to seek $10.10 minimum wage in county


Mike Carberry

Johnson County supervisors plan to move ahead with plans to require a higher minimum wage in the Iowa City area. The state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour was set in 2007.

The supervisors plan to propose raising the minimum wage in Johnson County in increments, so by 2017 it would be $10.10 an hour. Mike Carberry, a member of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, says it’s about creating a “living wage.”

“Johnson County has the highest cost of living in the state,” Carberry says.

And Carberry says 18 percent of the those who live in Johnson County live below the poverty line.

“No one can survive in $7.25,” Carberry says.

The board will vote on the proposal at meetings during the month of August. State officials have said it is unconstitutional for a county to set its own minimum wage that’s different from the state minimum wage and Carberry says it’s a “worthy” and “moral” fight to take to the courts.

Polling data and the ‘fluidity’ of the Iowa Caucus electorate

You’ve heard about all the polls showing which candidate is up and which is down, but many of the Iowans planning to attend the February 1, 2016 Iowa Caucuses haven’t made up their minds yet.

The pollsters are asking likely Iowa Caucus-goers: who’s your first choice, if the Caucuses were held today? And today’s top choice may not be their top choice on Caucus Night. For example, Jerry Donovan of Des Moines went to last Friday’s Iowa Democratic Party gathering in Cedar Rapids to cheer for Bernie Sanders.

“I’ve made my choice, but everything is subject to change in life, you know that,” said Donovan, smiling.

Charles Crowley of Cedar Rapids is married to a Hillary Clinton supporter and he’s leaning toward supporting Clinton, too, but he’s not yet ready to commit.

“I guess at this point I just want to see what the others have to say,” Crowley said as he waited in line to buy a beverage at last weekend’s Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame dinner. “I’ve heard Bernie Sanders. I like him. I like his positions, but I don’t think he’s got the charisma to carry it off.”

Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Andy McGuire said all five competitors for her party’s nomination are getting a “fair shot” in Iowa.

“I’ve heard a lot of people who they might be leaning one way or learning another, but they’re listening to everyone,” McGuire said during an interview before the banquet began. “…It’s everybody’s game right now.”

Turning to the Republican contest, John Stineman — an Iowa-based consultant who is not affiliated with any of the GOP candidates — said during an appearance last weekend on Iowa Public Television that many Christian conservative who make up a significant segment of his party tend to make their voting decision just before the Caucuses.

“That fluidity within the Republican Caucus-going voting block, that’s around the low 20s, that breaks very, very late in the game,” Steinman said. “And where are they going to be?”

Steinman pointed to the late surge of support from Christian conservatives that carried Mike Huckabee to victory in Iowa’s 2008 Caucuses and Rick Santorum into first place in 2012.

According to Barb Schulz of Fort Dodge, it’s difficult to decide because there are so many Republicans in the race.

“I plan to think and pray on it,” Schulz said during an interview with Radio Iowa last Saturday. “And listen.”

Schulz and her husband attended Saturday’s Family Leadership Summit in Ames. Pat Mincer of Iowa City was there, too, to listen to the 10 candidates.

“You take a little bit out of each one and you just kind of put it in your think tank here and try to sort it all out,” Mincer said.

Mincer is shooting to make her decision by the end of the year.

The Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register “Iowa Poll” conducted two months ago found 11 percent of likely Republican Caucus-goers said they were uncommitted or not sure which candidate was their first choice if they had to vote now. Among likely Democratic Caucus-goers, 14 percent were in the uncommitted or not sure categories.

Pat Murphy to make second try in first congressional district

Pat Murphy

Pat Murphy

The Democrat who lost to Republican Congressman Rod Blum in 2014 is trying for a rematch in 2016. Pat Murphy of Dubuque posted a 10-second video on Twitter this morning.

“The truck’s up and running and so am I,” Murphy says in the video.

It’s a used, 18-year-old white Chevy pick-up that was featured in a 2014 Murphy campaign ad.

“Everybody else that’s in this race, they can self-fund…I’m truly a middle class person,” Murphy told Radio Iowa this morning. “I’ll not be able to put large amounts of money into the race and quite frankly my career has been focused raising the minimum wage, pay equiaty for women…and making sure we protect civil rights for all Iowans.”

Two other Democrats have already been running in the first congressional district. Monica Vernon, a Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman, has been raising money and collecting public endorsements from Democratic Party leaders like Democratic Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack since January. Vernon finished second to Murphy in last year’s Democratic Primary in the district. Gary Kroeger, a Saturday Night Live alum who now works in a Cedar Falls ad agency, is also running in the Democratic primary. Murphy lost the 2014 congressional race to Blum by about 7000 votes.

“I performed the best of any Democrat in the first district except for Tom Miller and Mike Fitzgerald,” Murphy said, referencing the Democratic attorney general and state treasurer who won reelection in 2014. “…It was a very bad year for Democrats, but I learned a lot from that experience. That’s why I feel like I’m the best candidate this time around. I won 18 of the 22 countes in the primary and so we fell real good about our chances in the primary and making sure that we hold Rod Blum more accountable when we get in the fall election.”

Murphy is former state legislator who once served as speaker of the Iowa House. The first congressional district covers 22 counties in northeast Iowa and includes the cities of Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Dubuque and Decorah.

(This story was updated at 11:32 a.m. with additional information)