December 18, 2014

‘Draft Warren’ movement holding rally in Iowa tonight

warrenA gathering is planned tonight in Des Moines by a group that’s urging Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to run for president. Victoria Kaplan is with, the group making plans to open offices in Iowa and hire staff here for its “Draft Wareen” movement.

“To demonstrate to Elizabeth Warren that she has the support here to run for president and win,” Kaplan says.

Warren has repeatedly said: “I am not running for president,” and some Democrats view the MoveOn campaign as wasted effort. Kaplan, though, is among those who view Warren’s statement as a commentary about the present, leaving the door open to a run in the future. Kaplan also cites the successful “draft” movement that encouraged Warren to run for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

“I think we’re seeing an even bigger moment right now where her brand of leadership, her history of fighting for working families, of standing up to Wall Street — this really is Elizabeth Warren’s moment,” Kaplan says. has been aggressively reaching out to Democratic activists in Iowa to invite them to this evening’s event which will be held in a downtown Des Moines coffeehouse, a relatively small venue for a rally. If this “draft” movement is unsuccessful and Warren still remains on the sidelines in 2016, Kaplan is reluctant to say whether progressives in the party will support Hillary Clinton instead.

“One of the beautiful things about inspirational figures in this country is that they really do inspire people to advocate and participate in our democracy and that the energy that we’re seeeing to call on Elizabeth Warren to run for president I think will translate into a more engaged and energized base that will do great things for the state of Iowa and for the country,” Kaplan says.

Warren campaigned with U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley in Iowa City and Des Moines in the run up to the November election. She was a leading critic of the spending deal that passed congress last week for a provision that rolls back some of the banking reforms enacted after the meltdown of U.S. financial markets in 2008.

Sanders sees ‘enthusiasm’ in Iowa for his message

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders says he senses “a lot of enthusiasm” in Iowa for his message as he ponders the idea of launching an independent bid for the White House, or perhaps switching to the Democratic Party and seeking its presidential nomination in 2016.

“As I go around the state, we seem to be attracting large numbers of people who understand that we cannot sustain a situation where the middle class continues to decline and 95 percent of all new income goes to the top one percent,” Sanders said this morning. “People want a change.”

Sanders has just wrapped up a two-day visit to Iowa which included a town hall meeting in an Ames church on Tuesday that attracted over 200 people. Sanders is telling audience here and elsewhere that he needs to sense that a “political revolution” is brewing in America before he’d run for president.

“If I run for president, I want to do it well and to do it well means to say you need a strong, grassroots movement from people from 50 states in this country,” the 73-year-old Sanders said today in Johnston, “and I have to determine and will determine whether there is that type of support for a campaign against sthe billionaire class.”

The Sanders agenda includes extending Medicare coverage to all Americans. He says climate change is real and it’s time to transition away from the use of fossil fuels. He’s also calling for breaking up the biggest banks in the country.

“You have six financial on Wall Street that have assets equivalent to 60 percent of the GDP of the United States of America. They are not only too big to fail, they are too big to jail. There are a bunch of crooks who run those institutions,” Sanders said. “They have got to be broken up.”

Addressing income equality is the nation’s biggest challenge, according to Sanders, who holds the record as the longest serving independent in congress. He made his comments this morning during taping of the Iowa Public Television program, “Iowa Press” which will air next week.

Ernst to welcome all 2016 GOP presidential candidates to Iowa, but won’t endorse before Caucuses

Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst

This past year Senator-elect Joni Ernst got campaign help from most of the Republicans who plan to run for the White House in 2016, but she plans to welcome all presidential hopefuls to Iowa and will not publicly pick a favorite in the 2016 race before Iowa’s Caucuses.

“I do not intend to endorse anyone,” Ernst told Radio Iowa during a recent interview. “I would love to welcome anybody that like want to put their name out there.”

The list of possible presidential candidates who campaigned with and for Ernst before November’s election includes former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who hosted a fundraiser for Ernst in Florida. Florida Senator Marco Rubio campaigned with her in Iowa twice, donated $10,000 to the Ernst campaign and paid for commercials touting her candidacy.

In October, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee campaigned with Ernst in western Iowa and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul headlined a rally with Ernst in Iowa City. Ernst said she’ll throw the welcome mat out to all the Republicans who jump into the next presidential race.

“We’ll have a lot of visitors coming to Iowa and I’m so excited about that,” Ernst said. “Iowa is a great agricultural state, a great manufacturing state with great financial institutions here and I am going to have a wonderful time sharing Iowa experiences with them and showing them how wonderful our people are.”

Ernst did publicly endorse Mitt Romney’s bid for the White House in 2008 and Romney returned the favor this past spring with his endorsement of her when she faced five Republican competitors in the June Primary.

“I am going to be a welcomer to the state of Iowa,” Ernst said of her role in 2015 and early 2016. “I welcome anybody that’s choosing to place themselves out there and seek the nomination.”

Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s Republican governor, is among those considering a bid for the presidency and he was the keynote speaker last night for the Polk County Republican Party’s holiday party in Des Moines. In October Jindal met with Iowa voters at one of Ernst’s campaign offices, but Ernst was not there.

In June, right after her GOP Primary victory, Texas Senator Ted Cruz endorsed Ernst on his Facebook page and urged his supporters to make a contribution to her campaign. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin endorsed Ernst in March, right after the debut of the campaign ad in which Ernst talked about castrating pigs and promised to cut pork in Washington.

Jeb Bush ‘actively exploring’ run for White House in 2016

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has revealed he’s going to “actively explore” a run for the job his father and his brother have both held. Bush posted a holiday message on his Facebook page, saying he had talked with his family over the Thanksgiving holiday about seeking the presidency. Governor Terry Branstad said this morning that he’s surprised Bush is making his intentions this clear this early.

“We’ve been hearing rumors for some time that he was seriously thinking about it and it sounds like he’s made some progress with his mother, at least from what I heard on the news this morning,” Branstad said, adding with a laugh: “I had that issue with my wife, so I know how those things go.”

Former First Lady Barbara Bush said in 2013 that while her son, Jeb, was the “most qualified” to be the next president, the country had “had enough Bushes” in the White House. Bush, who is 64 years old, said on his Facebook post that he hoped to travel the country in 2015 and “have a conservation about restoring the promise of America.” Bush held a fundraiser for Branstad in Florida this fall, but Branstad said they did not discuss the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I have a lot of respect for him and the job that he did as governor, but, you know, I also have a lot of respect for Governor Christie and Governor Jindal and former Governor Huckabee and the governor of Texas, Governor Perry,” Branstad told reporters today.

Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana, is due in Iowa this evening as the keynote speaker at the Polk County GOP’s holiday get-together. As of Monday, about 150 tickets were sold for the event and organizers expect about 200 to be there tonight.

Jeb Bush served two terms as Florida’s governor and revealed recently that he will release two-hundred-thousands emails from that period for public scrutiny. In addition, Bush is writing a soon-to-be-released E-book” about his time as governor, so he’ll join the long list of presidential candidates who release a book before launching a bid for the White House.

Branstad says ‘big event’ this summer for presidential prospects would be fine, without Straw Poll

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad says he’d like to see the Iowa GOP hold an event this summer to showcase all the party’s presidential candidates — but the party should not conduct a Straw Poll. An Iowa Straw Poll has been held in Ames since 1979 in each summer before the GOP has had a contest for its presidential nomination.

“I think a lot of people like the idea of having an event like we’ve had in Ames for many years, but I believe a number of the candidates have chosen not to participate because they don’t think it’s necessarily representative,” Branstad says. “The most important thing is to keep the Iowa Caucuses first in the nation and the first real test of candidates.”

George W. Bush won the Iowa Straw Poll in 1999 and went on to win the Iowa Caucuses as well as the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2000. Neither of the Iowa Straw Poll winners since won the Caucuses or the party’s presidential nod. In fact, John McCain skipped the Straw Poll in 2007 and Mitt Romney did not participate in 2011. Branstad says a “fun, summertime event” could be staged and give all the candidates “an opportunity to be exposed to Iowa voters.”

“And obviously this is a decision to be made by the Republican State Central Committee, not me,” Branstad says. “But I think that we want to be welcoming to all candidates. I want to encourage ‘em all to come and participate and I think you could have an event like that without actually taking a Straw Poll.”

Branstad has said before that the Straw Poll has “outlived its usefulness,” and he proposed a series of regional events for candidates, but is now expressing support for a “big event” for all the candidates this summer. Branstad says holding the Straw Poll could conflict with recent changes in Republican National Committee rules for state-level voting contests in 2016 that determine how many delegates a state gets to send to the party’s national convention.

Branstad made his comments during his weekly statehouse news conference.

AUDIO of news conference poised to open Iowa office for Draft Warren movement

Two liberal-leaning groups are urging Democratic activists to go online and support a draft campaign to get a Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to run for president. started online in 1998 with a petition asking congress to merely censure rather than impeach President Clinton. Since then the group has financially backed “progressive” Democratic candidates and claims to have eight million members.

MoveOn’s leaders call Warren a “leading champion for working families and the middle class.” Their online survey asks whether it’s time to launch a draft movement to get Warren to run for president. is poised to open offices in Iowa and New Hampshire and spend up to a million dollars to lay the groundwork for a Warren for President campaign.

Another liberal group, Democracy for America, this morning asked its members to vote on whether they want Warren to run.

Some in the Democratic Party’s most liberal wing question Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street and praise Warren’s efforts to crack down on Wall Street activities that led to the last recession. Warren, who is entering her third year in the U.S. Senate, has repeatedly said she will not run for president.

Warren campaigned with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley on October 19, giving speeches in Iowa City and Des Moines, but she did not speak with Iowa reporters.

Harkin: no regrets about retirement, but ‘Steak Fry’ might be revived

Tom Harkin, Hilliary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Ruth Harkin (R-L) Photo by Debbie Noe.

Tom Harkin, Hilliary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Ruth Harkin at this year’s Steak Fry. (R-L) Photo by Debbie Noe.

As congress faces a Thursday deadline to pass a federal budget plan, Senator Tom Harkin is in the middle of the negotiations, focused on health-care-related spending, but he’s not regretting his decision to retire at year’s end.

“Yeah, I’m going to miss it, sure, because I enjoy this. I enjoy being a enator. I love the senate, It’s dented a little bit, banged up a ittle bit, but it’s still functional,” Harkin said during an interview Friday on IPTV. “…But, again, it’s time for me to move on. It’s time for me to retire. It’s time for young people and new people to come in.”

The current federal spending plan expires this Thursday, December 11. Harkin thinks congress may vote for a one-week delay that keeps the current spending levels in place, then vote next week on a long-term, comprehensive spending plan.

Harkin’s voluntary exit from the senate comes 42 years after he first sought to enter congress. Harkin ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972, but lost. He ran again in 1974 and won.

“In my first political campaign I spent $20,000. Now that was kind of a wave year. That was an anti-McGovern wave year. Two years later the wave went the other way with Watergate. I think in that year I spent a little over $100,000 in winning a congressional seat,” Harkin said. “Think about that compared to today.”

Nearly $62 million was spent on this year’s battle between Joni Ernst and Bruce Braley to claim Harkin’s seat. After 10 years in the U.S. House, Harkin won the Iowa senate seat in 1984 and defeated three Republican congressman along the way to stay in the senate. He’s served as chairman of the Ag Committee and lead drafting the Farm Bill and he’s currently chairman of the committee that helped draft the Affordable Care Act, but Harkin called passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act the “premiere” accomplishment of his political career.

“I’ve been very blessed and the people of Iowa have given me the opportunity to stay there long enough to see what it has done to this country,” Harkin said. “It’s amazing the changes that have been made.”

Harkin plans to take a two-month-long vacation, then return to Iowa in March for work at the Harkin Institute which was established at Drake University last year.

“The Institute at Drake is totally bipartisan. We have a bipartisan board. In fact, I have a former chair of the Iowa Republican Party on the board. I have Republicans on the board,” Harkin said. “I want it to be a totally non-partisan entity and Drake has set it up that way.”

One of the Harkin Institute’s panel discussions this past summer featured both Harkin and Republican Governor Terry Branstad. Archivists from Drake University and the U.S. Senate have been working in Harkin’s office over the past few months, starting the process of converting Harkin’s work papers from 40 years in congress to a digital forum.

“Once in a while they come across some very interesting tidbits, shall we say, of legislationa nnd letters and things like that that I had forgotten about long, long ago,” Harkin said. “I’m sure there’ll be some surprises.”

All that material will be stored at Drake and a semi will transport between 400 and 500 boxes of documents from D.C. to Drake at the end of this year. The Iowa Democratic Party faces big decisions after election losses last month, but Harkin — who has been the party’s top elected official — plans to focus on what he calls the “bipartisan” work at the Harkin Institute rather than steer selection of a new party chairman in January.


“I am a Democrat and I love my party and I want them to have good policies and good candidates, so I hope to be supportive in some way, but I don’t intend to be any kind of ‘godfather’ or something like that,” Harkin said.

Harkin’s annual “Steak Fry” fundraiser has been a launching pad for Democratic presidential candidates over the years. Bill and Hillary Clinton were the speakers this past September at what was billed at the time as the final Harkin Steak Fry.

“People are talking to me about maybe revisiting that, ‘Never again,'” Harkin said, laughing. “…Stay tuned on that one.”

If Hillary Clinton runs for president in 2016, Harkin believes she’ll have competition from people like former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. Harkin’s wife, Ruth, endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2008 and Harkin has offered Clinton some advice about running in the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.

“I said: ‘Don’t just go to Des Moines or Waterloo or Cedar Rapids or Dubuque. Go to the rural areas. Start out in smaller communities in Iowa,'” Harkin said. “‘Let them know you care about rural America and small towns and communities. You can get to the cities later on, but plant your flag in rural Iowa.'”

Harkin ran for president himself in 1992. The experience taught him what a “complex country” we live in and it made him a “better senator.”

“Honestly, I really wasn’t prepared to run for president. I hadn’t really spent a lot of time thinking about it before. I’d thought about being a senator or being a congressman and I was really just focused on Iowa,” Harkin said. “…I think I could have been a pretty decent president, but I wouldn’t have had another happy day in my life.”

Video of Harkin’s weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program is posted here.