September 4, 2015

Sanders is ‘very gratified’ by ‘momentum’ behind his campaign


Bernie Sanders takes questions from reporters after the “Iowa Press” show taping today.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders this morning said even he has been surprised by the “momentum” behind his campaign and his dramatic rise in the polls. A recent Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register “Iowa Poll” found Sanders is the first choice of 30 percent of likely Iowa Democratic Party Caucus goers, just seven percentage points behind Hillary Clinton.

“We are feeling very good about the campaign. We’re feeling good about what’s happening here in Iowa,” Sanders said during a news conference in Johnston, Iowa. “When I began this campaign all of four months ago I think it’s fair to say that 80-90 percent of the American people did not know who Bernie Sanders was or what he stood for, the ideas that he was advancing. I think we’ve come a really long way.”

Sanders told reporters he’s “very gratified” by the crowds he’s attracting at campaign events here and elsewhere.

“We also understand that people coming out to a meeting or to a rally is not necessarily converted into votes,” Sanders said. “So what we’re doing right here in Iowa, we have put together dozens of folks. On the ground, right now, our people are out, knocking on doors, talking one-one-one.”

Vice President Joe Biden is considering a run for the White House in 2016 himself, but Biden is reportedly telling supporters he’d seek just one term as president, because of his age. Biden is about a year younger than Sanders, who will turn 74 on Tuesday.  During taping of the IPTV program “Iowa Press” earlier this morning, Sanders said he is “blessed with good health” and he isn’t making that kind of a pledge.

“I cannot remember the last day that I missed work because I was sick, thank God, so I think I am healthy. If we win the first term and it goes well, we’ll take a look a tthe second term,” Sanders said. “It’s a little bit too early to speculate on that.”

Sanders will hold town hall meetings in Grinnell this afternoon and in Burlington this evening, with a stop in Ottumwa between those two events for a campaign office opening in south central Iowa. Sanders said during the “Iowa Press” taping that he finds that Iowa Caucuses “unique”.

“You demand a lot more of people than do people in the primary states. You demand people to know my views, know Hillary Clinton’s views, know Trump’s views and actually go to a meeting and argue about these things,” Sanders said. “And I love that stuff.”

Sanders appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program will air Friday at 7:30 p.m. and be rebroadcast Sunday at noon.

(Photo by Asya Akca)

Democrats offer satellite locations for caucus participants

Andy McGuire (file photo)

Andy McGuire (file photo)

The Iowa Democratic Party is now accepting applications for “satellite” locations for the Iowa Democratic Party’s Caucuses on February 1, 2016.

“This is new,” says Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Andy McGuire, “and we’re trying to take steps to be more inclusive.”

These satellite locations will be in addition to the precinct level meetings Democrats will hold throughout the state.

These satellite “mini” caucuses are for Iowans who face some sort of hardship and cannot get to the precinct location for that evening’s party meeting. McGuire said the Democratic Party’s central committee will review the applications and grant those where a “sizeable number” of Democrats demonstrate a clear need for a “satellite” caucus location.

“Let’s say there’s 20 people who some are in walkers, some are in wheelchairs from a senior living facility on a February 1 night,” McGuire said. “That would make me think that’s a reasonable number.”

McGuire also expects workers in some Iowa businesses to ask for a “satellite” caucus location in their workplace because they don’t get enough time off during their shift to leave, participate in a precinct caucus and then get back to work.

“A break room might be a place where you can have that caucus,” she said.

Forms are now posted on the Iowa Democratic Party’s website for those who want to ask for a “satellite” caucus location.

To participants in previous Iowa Caucuses, Iowa Democrats and Republicans have had to attend a precinct meeting at sites designated by each party. The Republican Party of Iowa is not taking the same step Democrats are in offering satellite locations for participating in the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. The Caucuses are scheduled to start at 7 p.m. on February 1. Democrats at traditional precincts and at these “satellite” locations will all start the process of delegate selection at 7 p.m. that evening.

Democrats also plan to offer a new “tele-caucus” process for Iowa solders on active duty and Iowans who are living abroad. Details about how Democrats can qualify and participate in that electronic caucus will released in a few weeks.

Loras College Poll shows Trump and Carson leading Republican presidential race

Donald Trump answers questions from reporters after arriving in his helicopter.

Donald Trump answers questions from reporters after arriving in his helicopter at the Iowa State Fair.

Billionaire real estate mogul and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, in recent campaign stops, has called this the “summer of Trump.” The latest Loras College Poll seems to confirm that statement here in Iowa.

Christopher Budzisz is director of the poll, which shows Trump and another unconventional candidate leading the pack. “The latest poll shows Donald Trump receives the support of 24.5 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers, while Ben Carson receives 18.1 percent,” Budzisz says. Jeb Bush is third in the poll with 10.4 percent.

No other Republican presidential hopeful has double-digit support as a first choice candidate in Iowa. While Trump is well-known as a reality TV star, Carson is a retired neurosurgeon. Budzisz says Iowa has historically been receptive to nontraditional candidates.

“Whether you’re talking about Pat Robertson or Pat Buchanan or individuals like that who’ve been able to use another base of support — whether it’s the popular appeal or to tap evangelical networks,” Budzisz says. “So, I think it is fertile ground for unconventional candidates.”

Ben Carson speaks to reporters at his campaign office in Urbandale.

Ben Carson speaks to reporters at his campaign office in Urbandale. (file photo)

The new poll is a good news / bad news situation for Trump and Carson, as history also shows candidates who’ve polled well in the summer are often in trouble by the time the Iowa Caucuses roll around.

“The good news is they’re in a strong position, but the bad news is that five months can be an eternity in caucus politics…just ask Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, or Newt Gingrich,” Budzisz says.

According to Budzisz, who’s an associate professor of politics at Loras College, the key for Trump and Carson to maintain their positions at the top of field is to avoid gaffs and stay on message.

“And another thing is to see where Super PAC money is targeted, as well as the efforts of other candidates. As we draw closer to that February 1st date, if we still see Trump and Carson in the lead, they’re going to come under increasing pressure by both external interest groups — Super PACs — but then also other candidates, who are going to spend their time and resources to target them,” Budzisz says. “It’s going to get pretty contentious, I imagine.”

The Loras College Poll released today involved 502 likely Republican caucus-goers polled statewide. The results differ greatly from a poll conducted back in April. Donald Trump had just 3.1 percent support at that time. In the April poll, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker had the lead with the support of 12.6 percent of likely Republican Iowa Caucus-goers. In this new poll, his support has dipped to 6.2 percent.


Santorum to complete his 99-county tour of Iowa today


Rick Santorum at a panel discussion in Newton.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum will visit Adams County in southwest Iowa early this morning and Lyon County in northwest Iowa this evening — completing his quest to visit each of Iowa’s 99 counties this year.

“We’re going out there and we’re laying the groundwork,” Santorum said Monday after a campaign event in Newton. “…One of the things I learned four years ago is that Iowans like to see you and touch you…and when they get a chance to meet you, we get people signed up and they speak for us at the Caucuses.”

Santorum completed a 99 county tour of the state in November of 2011. Santorum, who won the 2012 Iowa Caucuses, said while critics may dismiss the 99-county odessey as “crazy”, he knew he had to do it again.

“You take three years off from politics, which I did, you know, you’ve got to reintroduce yourself again and I knew if I got into this race I’d be starting from the back of the pack again because…I haven’t been in the senate, I haven’t been traveling the country doing politics and endorsing candidates and spreading money everywhere,” Santorum said. “…I knew it would be a hard road again, but I trusted the people of Iowa four years ago. I’ll trust them again this time.”

Santorum isn’t the only GOP candidate who’s promised to visit each one of Iowa’s 99 counties this year. Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal are on the statewide circuit, too. Santorum said after meeting face-to-face with small groups of Iowans, he’s been able to get committed supporters who won’t defect from his campaign.

“You develop some real connection with people that are not going to be changed by the next ad that comes on,” Santorum said, “or the next person who happens to be the next ‘star of the moment’ comes to the top of the pack.”

Santorum spoke with reporters Monday afternoon in Newton, after he held an hour-long discussion about the economy with a couple of businessmen, an educator and the local hospital’s CEO.

“Unlike a lot of campaigns that are going out there trying to figure out how you can separate yourself out and create your own little wedge issues, I’ve really worked on trying a campaign that says: ‘Are there some issues…that actually will unite us…so when we get to Washington, D.C. we can actually get something done?” Santorum asked as he opened the discussion.

Santorum suggests getting rid of all tax loopholes and simply charging a flat 20 percent income tax rate on corporations and individuals — which Republicans support — and also raising the minimum wage — which Democrats support. It’s a deal that would get bipartisan support in congress, according to Santorum.

(Photo by Asya Akca)

Branstad will meet with ‘old friend’ Xi Jinping in Seattle in September


Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds at the news conference this morning.

Iowa’s governor says he disagrees with Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker’s call for canceling the state dinner at the White House for China’s president that’s planned for late September. Governor Terry Branstad says he doesn’t get involved in foreign policy.

“I understand there are some issues right now with China with what’s happened with the devaluation of the currency, some of the issues with cyber security and whatever,” Branstad says. “But as you know the state of Iowa has had a long-standing friendship with our sister state Hebei and with Xi Jinping and I’m proud that he calls me an old friend.”

China’s president first visited Iowa in 1985 when he was a low-level agricultural official in a Chinese province. Branstad threw a state dinner for Xi at the state capitol in Des Moines in February of 2012, just before Xi became China’s president. Branstad has met face-to-face with Xi five times. That includes a trade trip to China in 2013 that included Walker, who is Wisconsin’s governor. Walker has said President Obama should not honor China’s president with a state dinner when he visits the U.S. this fall because the Chinese government was behind a cyber attack on the U.S. government. Branstad, meanwhile, plans to fly to Seattle to see Xi during his trip to the U.S.

“Would have preferred to have that in Iowa,” Branstad told reporters this morning, with a laugh, “but we got that last time and so I guess we can’t have it every time.”

Branstad said he “respects” the fact Walker is now looking at foreign policy issues with China now that Walker’s running for president. Branstad says when he meets with China’s president he’ll encourage China to import more Iowa-grown soybeans and Iowa-raised pork.

(Photo by Asya Akca)

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)

Walker quizzed about Renewable Fuels Standard

Scott Walker meets with supporters at the Corner Coffee Shop in Greenfield.

Scott Walker meets with supporters at the Corner Coffee Shop in Greenfield.

About 40 people gathered in a Greenfield coffee shop this morning to see and hear Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker and the first question from the crowd was about corn-based ethanol fuel.

A local businessman who supplies fertilizer to farmers asked Walker why he supports phasing out the Renewable Fuels Standard. Walker said he does not support a “permanent” ethanol mandate and it’s “logical” to end it.

“A good number of candidates have a position like mine. For example, people like Senator Ted Cruz wants it gone right away. I haven’t advocated for that,” Walker said. “…I don’t think you can just wipe it out all at once.”

Walker’s time frame? Get rid of the Renewable Fuels Standard in “a couple of years.” Walker said there should be some way to “ensure market access” for ethanol.

“My state’s gone ahead with some of the grants that help gas stations get blenders at the station because, really, in the end, if you truly have market access, then it should be up to the consumer,” Walker said. “Consumers can choose not only whether they want to have an ethanol blend or not, but at what levels out there. To me, as long as you have an adequate ability to do that, the market’s going to do well.”

Doug Holliday of Greenfield, a local farmer, was listening closely.

“He skirts it with a two-year phase out rather than saying, ‘I’m for the RFS. I’m for Iowa,'” Holliday said. “The ethanol plants as they have come in, look at what it’s done to the economy in Iowa.”

Holliday is evaluating where all the candidates stand on the ethanol issue, but it will not be the only criteria he uses to make his voting decision.

AUDIO of Walker’s remarks, then Q& A in Greenfield, 36:00

Scott Walker spoke to the entire group of supporters after his"meet and greet."

Scott Walker spoke to the crowd after he shook hands and chatted with the Greenfield group.