September 1, 2015

O’Malley, on polls: ‘I’ve got them right where I want them’ (AUDIO)

Martin O'Malley takes selfies with Grinnell College students.

Martin O’Malley takes selfies with Grinnell College students.

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley campaigned on three Iowa college campuses this weekend. O’Malley spoke to nearly 400 people on the Grinnell College campus early this afternoon.

“This is the crush, right?” O’Malley said, shortly after stepping onto a soapbox so he could be seen more easily by the audience, some of whom were sitting on the floor. “You’ve just gotten back to school, have all sorts of stuff to do. You could be at other places, but you’ve chosen to come here, so thank you.”

O’Malley drew long bursts of applause from the Grinnell crowd with his call for a $15 minimum wage, his pledge to support campaign finance reform and his review of the gun control measures he approved when he was governor of Maryland.

“After the slaughter of the innocent in Newtown, Connecticut, we forged a new consensus and we passed comprehensive gun safety legislation banning assault weapons,” O’Malley said, adding he also supports backgrounds checks and had signed a law that forbids gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

At the end of his speech to the Grinnell crowd, O’Malley acknowledged he faces “long odds” in his White House quest.

Martin O'Malley speaks to a crowd of students at Grinnell College.

Martin O’Malley speaks to a crowd of students at Grinnell College.

“When I first got into this race, we were at one percent in Iowa, but then because of the discernment, the good judgement, the diligence of Iowans who take their voting responsibilities seriously…we moved to three percent,” O’Malley said. “And then after another 30 days, we moved to even percent in Iowa, so I’ve got them right where I want them.”

The crowd laughed, then applauded. A Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register “Iowa Poll” released this weekend showed Hillary Clinton is the “first choice” of 37 percent of Democrats who’re likely to attend the Caucuses, with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders just seven points behind at 30 percent. Vice President Joe Biden was the first choice for another 14 percent of those polled. even though he’s not yet running, and O’Malley was the first choice of just three percent.

Otto Hall of Grinnell said O’Malley looked and sounded “presidential” — but Hall is waiting to see what Biden does.

“Sometimes he puts his foot in his mouth,” said Hall, who supported Biden in 1987 before Biden dropped out of that race. “But I think genuinely he’s a very bright guy and I’m just very interested to see if he’s going to jump in because that’s just going to be a seismic shake-up for the Democratic candidates.”

Laforest Sherman of Grinnell also listened to O’Malley today, but he’s backing Sanders.

“Bernie Sanders is a long shot, but we said the same thing about Barack Obama,” Sherman said. “…Maybe we’re ready for the kind of political revolution that we need.”

Kelly Bennett of Newton has heard O’Malley four times before and today he signed up to caucus for O’Malley.

“I like his progressive agenda. I don’t that I heard anything today that I don’t agree with politically,” Bennett said. “And of course, with him, we don’t have to worry about him being indicted anytime soon.”

O’Malley did not mention Hillary Clinton by name during his remarks to the crowd, but later while talking with audience members individually O’Malley complained about how much attention’s being paid to Clinton’s use of a personal email server while she was secretary of state and the attention focused on the “horserace” rather than the ideas the candidates are talking about on the campaign trail.

O’Malley was at Iowa State University in Ames Saturday night and he visited the University of Iowa campus late this afternoon. He’s touting his promise to find ways to reduce student debt and O’Malley gets big applause from college town audiences when he says climate change offers great business and job creation opportunities. O’Malley has said the U.S. should have a 100 percent “clean” electric grid by 2050.

AUDIO of O’Malley’s appearance in Grinnell, 45:00

(Photos by Asya Akca)

Clinton: ‘change the formula’ for crop insurance, disaster aid to farmers (AUDIO)

Hillary Clinton speaks at DMACC's FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny.

Hillary Clinton speaks at DMACC’s FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton this afternoon unveiled a series of steps she says will help revitalize rural America. Standing in front of a John Deere tractor, Clinton spoke to a crowd of more than 250 at the Des Moines Area Community College campus in Ankeny.

“I wanted to emphasize the changing face of rural Iowa and rural America,” Clinton said. “Education, innovation, technology — Iowans are in the future business. That’s what all Americans should be in.”

AUDIO of remarks from US Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and Clinton

Clinton’s is calling for boosting the Renewable Fuels Standard and a new national infrastructure bank that would make loans to expand broadband in rural America. She also promised to recalibrate key federal farm programs.

“As president, I’ll make sure that federal resources like disaster assistance and crop insurance go to farmers and ranches who need it the most, not those who have the biggest businesses or the best connections,” We will change the formula.”


Hillary Clinton in Ankeny.

Clinton said quality child care, preschool and health care are too scarce in rural America and she praised Planned Parenthood as a key provider of reproductive health services in rural America.

“This shouldn’t have to be said, but how can anyone be advocating for denying women access to health care?” Clinton asked and the crowd applauded. “That may be good politics in a Republican primary, but it is terrible policy in the real world. It’s wrong and it should stop.”

During a news conference after the event, Clinton told reporters she is not speaking “behind the scenes” with Vice President Joe Biden as he considers running against her.

Hillary Clinton's event in the John Deer Exhibition Hall in Ankeny.

Hillary Clinton’s event in the John Deer Exhibition Hall in Ankeny.

“I think he has to make what is a very difficult decision for himself and his family and he should have the space and the opportunity to decide what he wants to do,” Clinton said.

The last question of the news conference was about this morning’s murders of two TV journalists in Virginia.

“I want to reiterate how important it is we not let yet another terrible instance go by without trying to do something more to prevent this incredible killing that is stalking our country,” Clinton said.

Clinton called gun violence  a “very political, difficult issue in America” — but Clinton said she believes there’s a way to balance “legitimate” second amendment rights with preventive control measures.

AUDIO of Clinton’s news conference

(Photos by Asya Akca)


Vilsack says ‘no one…tougher and more tested’ than Clinton

Tom Vilsack introduces Hillary Clinton and comments on his recent endorsement at her event in Ankeny.

Tom Vilsack introduces Hillary Clinton and comments on his recent endorsement at her event in Ankeny.

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack — the current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture — walked onto a stage in Ankeny this afternoon with Hillary Clinton and explained to the crowd why he has endorsed her bid for the White House.

“I know of no one in America today who is tougher and more tested,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack traced his connection to Clinton back to the 1970s, when Clinton shared an office with Vilsack’s late brother-in-law, Tom Bell. Bell and Clinton worked for the Watergate Committee in congress. Vilsack called Clinton supremely loyal, and credited her for campaigning for him in 1998 when he was 23 points behind in his race he ultimately won to become Iowa’s first Democratic governor in three decades.

“You don’t have to wonder, you don’t have to ask yourself, you don’t have to worry whether she’s tough enough to handle trumped-up charges,” Vilsack said, Clinton laughed and the crowd cheered.

This is the second time Vilsack has thrown his support behind a Hillary Clinton for president campaign. Vilsack endorsed Clinton in the spring of 2007, a couple of months after ending his own presidential campaign.

“This is a woman who will listen to us, who will fight for us, who will make sure that we win this election and when she does, she will deliver for us,” Vilsack said. “She will make us proud.”

Vilsack later told reporters there was no specific reason for the timing of his endorsement, other than he’s just back from a vacation. Vilsack endorsed Joe Biden’s first bid for the White House nearly 30 years ago. Vilsack called Biden a wonderful man, but Vilsack says his endorsement of Clinton was a personal decision based on the decades of friendship among him, his wife, Christie and the Clintons. Clinton was in Ankeny this afternoon to unveil a series of ideas she says will revitalize rural America. Check back here soon for more details.

(Photo by Asya Akca)

Protests over pigs, debates and citizenship confront candidates at the State Fair


Protestors shouted “citizenship now” at both Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal’s Soap Box appearances.

Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie used all of his 20 minutes on The Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox today to take 16 questions from the State Fair crowd.

And Christie employed his trademark combative style to swat back at a few protesters, including animal rights activists who tried to disrupt his appearance.

“I have to tell you the truth when something like that happens and I’m here in Iowa, man, I feel right at home. It feels like I’m back in Jersey for a couple of minutes, so thank you, Iowa, for doing that,” Christie said to cheers from the crowd.

Christie also took a swipe at some of his competitors for changing their positions on the Renewable Fuels Standard.

“Here’s what I say to the other candidates: Make up your mind,” Christie said. “Don’t say one thing in Iowa and say something different in New Hampshire and something different in South Carolina. You’ve got a position. Tell the people of the country what your position is…I’m for the Renewable Fuels Standard and that won’t change and when I’m president, we will enforce the law that’s on the books — all the laws that are on the books.”

Animal rights activists storm the stage as Chris Christie was speaking.

Animal rights activists storm the stage as Chris Christie was speaking.

A group of protesters standing at the back of the crowd chanted “Citizenship now!” throughout Christie’s appearance. The majority of the crowd cheered this declaration from Christie: “Well, if I’m president of the United States, I don’t think anybody who knowingly came here illegally should become a citizen. I just don’t believe they should become a citizen.”

The same group of protesters chanted an hour later during GOP candidate Bobby Jindal’s turn on the Soapbox stage. Jindal at three different points in his speech addressed the protesters directly,

“If you want to come to our country, come legally, learn English, adopt our values,” Jindal said to cheers. “And when you get here, roll up your sleeves and get to work.”

Jindal accused “big business” of sending the protesters and he told the crowd his parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from India, did it “the right way” and became naturalized citizens.

Earlier in the morning, a smaller group of protesters at the State Fair tried to confront the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, arguing the party should have more debates featuring the candidates vying for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. The group was in place well before DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz arrived at The Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox.

Protestors calling for more debates.

Protestors calling for more debates.

“Hi, we’re collecting signatures to pressure the Democratic National Committee to allow more debates. They’re only hosting six debates in this election cycle and candidates are restricted from attending any outside debates,” one of the protesters repeated to passersby.

Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was greeted with cheers and some boos when she began speaking — and when she ended.

“We want debates,” the protesters shouted over and over.

Kim Frederick of Houston shouted back: “We want you guys to shut up.”

Frederick periodically yelled out criticism during former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s speech at the Fair earlier in the week. On Saturday, Frederick said she didn’t try to “shut down” Perry’s whole speech.

“I didn’t do that,” she said, in reference to the “Allow Debates” protesters. “That’s inappropriate.”

Wasserman-Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, has been chair of the Democratic National Committee since December of 2011. This is the first time during her tenure that Democrats have had a competitive presidential race and the party has sanctioned six debates among the 2016 candidates.

(Photos by Asya Akca)

Cruz says policy fair game, keeps attack on ‘feckless’ Jimmy Carter in State Fair speech

Ted Cruz speaking at the Des Moines Register's Soap Box.

Ted Cruz speaking at the Des Moines Register’s Soap Box.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is keeping his critique of the Jimmy Carter era in his stump speech, despite the former president’s revelation yesterday that he’s undergoing treatment for brain cancer.

During a speech this morning at The Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox at the State Fair, Cruz talked about what he sees as “uncanny” parallels between President Obama and President Carter.

“Same failed domestic policy; same misery, stagnation and malaise; same feckless and naive foreign policy; in fact, the exact same countries — Russia and Iran — openly laughing at and mocking the president of the United States. Now why is it that this story gives me so much hope and encouragement?” Cruz asked and the crowd laughed. “Because we know how that story ended.”

And it ended, Cruz explains in his stump speech, with the election of Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980. Late this morning, Cruz told reporters at the State Fair that Carter’s policies are fair game.

“At this point I’m visiting with grassroots activists,” Cruz said, “and what I commented on was the public policy of the Carter Administration in the 1970s and it didn’t work, millions of people hurt and, as a result, it sparked a grassroots movement to turn this country around.”

Cruz will be hosting a rally this evening in downtown Des Moines featuring people he calls “hero” business owners who have been sued for refusing to serve same-sex couples who are getting married.

(Additional reporting & photos by Asya Akca)

Ted Cruz: ‘We win this race running a populist campaign’

Ted Cruz speaks to reporters after his Soap Box speech.

Ted Cruz speaks to reporters after his Soap Box speech.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz says he’s running a “populist” campaign that will be the GOP’s best shot at winning the White House in 2016.

“If you see a candidate who Washington embraces, run and hide!” Cruz said this morning.

Cruz spoke from The Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair this morning. He’s promising to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, junk the income tax code and impose a “simple, flat tax” instead. Cruz is calling for an end to sanctuary cities which refuse to deport undocumented immigrants and he’s blasting what he calls the “persecution” of American businesses that refuse to participate in same-sex weddings.

“How do we win this race? We win this race running a populist campaign of hard-working men and women against the bipartisan corruption of Washington, D.C.,” Cruz said and the audience applauded before he added: “that Hillary Clinton embodies.”

Cruz never mentioned any of his GOP rivals by name during his 20-minute speech at the fair, but he repeatedly tweaked Clinton. Cruz joked about why Clinton and the other Democratic candidates have yet to participate in a televised debate.

“It’s not widely know that the Democrats actually planned to have an earlier debate. The problem was the debate invitation was emailed to Hillary,” Cruz said, to laughter from the crowd.

The news media was a target for Cruz, too, as he talked about his goals for two terms as the country’s president.

“By the end of eight years, there are going to be an awful lot of newspaper editors and reporters and journalists who’ve checked themselves into therapy,” Cruz said, to laughter and applause.

Cruz invited the crowd to his rally this evening in Des Moines that will feature business owners who’ve been sued for refusing to serve same-sex couples who are getting married.

AUDIO of Ted Cruz’s Soap Box speech, 20:00

(Additional reporting & Photo by Asya Akca)

Kasich: ‘One party can’t do it all’ because politics requires ‘teamwork’ (AUDIO)

John Kasich at the Des Moines Register's Soap Box, which was moved inside because of the weather.

John Kasich at the Des Moines Register’s Soap Box, which was moved inside because of the rain.

Republican presidential candidate John Kasich stressed “the value of teamwork” during an appearance at the Iowa State Fair today.

“You want to fix the fence, you want to deal with immigration, you want to balance a budget, you want to deal with entitlements, you want to do any of those things, you’ve got to do it as a team. One party can’t do it all because while we may be Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, above all we’re Americans,” Kasich said. “This is not a game we play in public life. The purpose of it is to give people an opportunity to be lifted.”

Kasich, the governor of Ohio, touted his 18-year career in congress which culminated with a balanced federal budget.

“This notion that government can’t work is baloney,” Kasich said. “Just treat it like a business. Fix it.”

AUDIO of Kasich’s appearance at the state fair

Kasich told the crowd of his start in politics which involved a letter to President Nixon and a visit to the Oval Office and Kasich said he feels “an obligation” to use his God-given skills in the political realm.

“When people say, ‘What about these other candidates?…I do want to thank Donald Trump because he got 24 million people to watch the debate. That was good,” Kasich said, and the audience laughed. “But you know why don’t we just as people running for office or holding office commit ourselves to doing the right thing?”

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley and John Kasich walk the fair.

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley and John Kasich walk the fair.

Trump’s release of a six-page immigration plan on Sunday has put the issue at the fore during candidate appearanace at the fair. Kasich told reporters he hasn’t seen Trump’s plan, but agrees that the wall along the southern border should be finished.

“All the fighting and yelling and screaming and ideology and partisanship means the wall doesn’t go up, so more people come in,” Kasich said. “I think what I’m talking about is something that can unite.”

Kasich has been expressing support for a guest worker program as well as a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants who have not committed crimes.

Kasich was the second candidate to speak on The Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox today. The crowd gathered to hear Marco Rubio this morning was drenched by a downpour and as rain continued in the afternoon on the fairgrounds, organizers moved Kasich’s appearance indoors. Then, the sun came out at about the same time Kasich took the microphone inside.

(Photo by Asya Akca)