February 28, 2015

In Iowa, Senator Sanders says U.S. needs ‘fundamental changes’ to help middle class

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is making another campaign-style trip through Iowa, with a book reading in Iowa City Thursday evening and a Friday night speech to members of the Iowa Citizens Action Network, a liberal activist group.

“Yes, of course, I am giving thought to running for president,” Sanders said during an appearance at Drake University earlier today.

With Hillary Clinton rumored to be delaying the official launch of her campaign ’til this summer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren still saying she’s not running, Sanders is drawing out some Iowa Democratic Party activists who are anxious to begin the next presidential campaign. Iowa Federation of Labor Ken Sagar said the party would be better off with a “competitive primary.”

“Having a primary brings out issues and people I think are connecting more with issues these days than with parties,” said Sagar, who has not publicly endorsed a candidate.

The 73-year-old Sanders, who is the longest-serving independent in congress, is tantalizing many in the Democratic Party’s progressive wing with his call for a “political revolution.”

“I think we need some fundamental changes in public policy so that the government of America begins to represent the middle class and working families and not just the billionaire class,” Sanders said Friday.

But since December Sanders has said he won’t run unless he senses a “grassroots movement” is brewing in all 50 states.

“If I were phenomenally successful in terms of fundraising and got, say, three million Americans to contribute $100 each, that is one-third of the amount of money that the Koch brothers themselves are going to spend,” Sanders said at Drake University Friday.

Sue Dinsdale, the Iowa Citizens Action Network’s executive director, said Sanders appeals to “left-leaning” Democrats who aren’t ready to back Clinton.

“If she does run, we need her to move to the left,” Dinsdale said shortly before Sanders arrived at her group’s event tonight. “We need her not to run as a far-right Democrat. We need someone who will work for the things that we all believe in.”

Chris Schwartz is the Iowa organizer of Americans for Democratic Action and he was even more blunt. Schwartz, who lives in Waterloo, faulted Clinton for failing to embrace the kind of “populist message” he’s hearing from Sanders.

“People have been turned off by what I would consider weak Democrats that are kind of ‘Corporate Lite,'” said Schwartz, who attended tonight’s ICAN event.

Yet a recent “Iowa Poll” conducted for Bloomberg Politics and The Des Moines Register found Clinton was viewed favorably by 84 percent of likely Iowa Caucus goers. Only one-third of those surveyed said they would favor an “anti-establishment” candidate in 2016 and a majority of poll respondents said they didn’t know enough about Sanders to even form an opinion about him.

Sanders plans to spend his Saturday in eastern Iowa, with speeches to two different audiences in Cedar Rapids before a mid-afternoon meeting with Cedar County Democrats at the courthouse in Tipton.

Former governor of Texas talks campaigning, border issues in Sioux City

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks at Morningside College in Sioux City.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks at Morningside College in Sioux City.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry sounded like a presidential candidate as he spoke Monday during a town hall meeting at Morningside College in Sioux City.

Perry is expected to run for president again in 2016 and says after finishing fifth in the Iowa Caucuses in the last Republican race, he regrets he didn’t campaign more in the state.

“You’ve got to spend some time up here. I will tell you, Iowans want to see their candidates, they want to see them often, they want to see them in town hall meetings,” Perry says. “I parachuted in here and didn’t give Iowans and opportunity to find out who I was and talk about the issues. I will not make that mistake again.”

Perry talked about the illegal immigration into the U.S., and says President Barrack Obama hasn’t properly placed border agents. “The 150-mile sector from Brownsville basically north, is where 54-percent of the apprehensions occur,” according to Perry. “When I met with the president in June, he was not aware that his policy was to have the border patrol 45 to 50 miles back away from the border in an apprehension mode, rather than in a prevention mode.”

He says the federal resources have to be used in the right way to stop the inflow of illegals. “Put the boots on the ground, put the personnel down there, have the strategic fencing in places, and then use the aviation assets with fast response teams. That’s the one thing that the federal government is really failing at,” Perry says. He says he doesn’t think “the president is really interested in securing the border,” as he says Obama did not take him up on his offer to fly down and look over what needs to be done.

Perry used the Texas National Guard to help secure the border with Mexico. He says the border has to be first be secured before we can have an effective national immigration policy.

(Story and picture by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)


2015 Iowa Straw Poll target date: Aug 8 — at one of four locations

Republican-logoThe Republican Party of Iowa has gotten bids from four different sites in central Iowa competing to be the host of the Iowa GOP’s Straw Poll this summer. Jeff Kaufmann, the Iowa GOP’s chairman, says the second Saturday in August is the likely date for the event.

“That’s one part of the tradition we’d like to keep in terms of having it in August, so August 8 is still our target date,” Kaufmann told Radio Iowa today. “…I can’t say absolutely that if there was once heck of a deal and a great site and they absolutely couldn’t do it on August 8, but my understanding is all of these facilities would be available at that time.”

The six previous Iowa Straw Polls have been held in Ames and the Iowa State Center has submitted a bid to host the 2015 event, but Drake University in Des Moines is now competing to play host. The two other prospective sites are The Iowa Speedway in Newton and the Central Iowa Expo site near Boone that hosts the Farm Progress Show.

Critics have complained the Straw Poll gives Iowa’s Republicans two chances to winnow the field of prospective candidates at the start of the presidential nominating season. Even Republican Governor Terry Branstad suggested it might be time to end the Straw Poll, but the party’s state central committee voted unanimously in January to hold it again and made clear the event might not be staged in Ames.

“We heard loud and clear from rank and file Republicans from all over the state and actually from a lot of people that aren’t even Republicans that enjoy Iowa traditions that they wanted the Straw Poll,” Kaufmann told Radio Iowa. “…I really believe this has made its way to become an Iowa tradition in the fullest sense of the word.”

A site selection committee that includes Kaufmann and six other members of the party’s governing board will meet tonight to begin reviewing the bids. The group will pare the list down to two and visit both sites. Kaufmann hopes to have the State Central Committee vote to ratify the site location at its next meeting in March.

Officials from the Amana Colonies and the University of Iowa reached out to Iowa GOP officials to ask about the process of submitting a bid to host the Straw Poll this summer, but ultimately chose not to do so.

Branstad and Biden discuss Ag Summit, China’s president

Vice President Joe Biden at DMACC.

Vice President Joe Biden at DMACC.

Republican Governor Terry Branstad and Vice President Joe Biden had a private meeting Thursday at the Des Moines Airport.

“First of all, I was honored that he invited me to come on Air Force II, not just meet the plane, but actually come on,” Branstad said this morning. “I had a very nice conversation with him. I invited him to come to the Ag Summit.”

That’s the March 7 event being organized by Bruce Rastetter, an agribusinessman who is the biggest contributor to Branstad’s past two campaigns. Branstad said Biden told him he’d give it “serious consideration.” Branstad also offered to help put out the welcome met for an international visitor from China.

“We talked about President Xi Jinping,” Branstad said. “He has gotten to know him quite well and met with him several times. They’ve announced he’ll be coming to America some time this year. The date has not been set. I pointed out — and the vice president knew this — that his first trip to America was to Iowa, that we’re old friends and I offered whatever help we can provide in hosting him, whether it’s as a state dinner in D.C. or something in Iowa.”

Branstad wound up getting a tour.

“He also said, ‘Well, why don’t you go up and meet the captain?'” Branstad said. “…So we went to the cockpit of the plane.”

Biden mentioned the visit during his speech about an hour later at Drake.

“The plane landed and the governor, Terry Branstad, a Republican who’s a friend of mine was there to greet me on the runway and to come up into Air Force II,” Biden said. “That’s how it used to be, I mean, for real. My closest friends for years and years in the United States Senate…are a lot of my Republicans colleagues . We disagree, but are never disagreeable and I might just note for the press that it was very gracious of the governor to come to welcome me back to Iowa and I appreciate it a great deal.”

Branstad, in turn, uses the word “gracious” to describe Biden.

“I was on Air Force I with Ronald Reagan in 1984, so this was a nice treat and I was very appreciative and he was very gracious,” Branstad said.

Branstad made his comments this morning during taping of the Iowa Public Television program, “Iowa Press” that will air this evening at 7:30.

Branstad has been making calls to Republican presidential candidates, too, inviting them to the upcoming Iowa Ag Summit and just this past Monday secured New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s attendance. Branstad said he’s doing it “because agriculture is very important to the state’s economy.”

Biden to make 2016 decision ‘by the end of the summer’

Vice President Biden talks with participants after speaking at DMACC.

Vice President Biden talks with participants after an event at DMACC.

Vice President Joe Biden says his decision about whether to run for president in 2016 will come several months from now.

“That’s a family, personal decision that I’m going to make sometime at the end of the summer,” Biden told reporters during a trip to Iowa yesterday.

Biden delivered a speech about economic policy at Drake University yesterday, criticizing Republican proposals and urging all Democrats to “stand up” and defend the Obama Administration’s record on economic issues in 2016. He visited Des Moines Area Community College late yesterday afternoon to talk with students and a few business leaders about the importance of job training programs. At both stops he touted the president’s proposal to have the federal government provide two years of free community college courses to “responsible” students.

“This is about convincing the public and, in turn, some of our Republican friends that what we’re proposing in the budget is a continuation of the stuff that works,” Biden said. “It actually works.”

Biden told reporters he was not here in Iowa to start organizing a campaign for 2016, but Biden did admit he was reconnecting with a group of “old friends” who had supported his previous presidential bids.


At Drake University, Biden focuses on partisan economic debates of past, future (AUDIO)

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Drake University.

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Drake University.

Vice President Joe Biden used a midday speech at Drake University today to rap the economic policies Republicans pursue, saying the real “job creators” in America are engineers and factory line workers who are in the middle class.

“Despite the clear evidence of the past few years, the fundamental economic debate between Democrats and Republicans in this country is not settled,” Biden said. “It goes on and we’re going to need to win it again and again in the days and month ahead.”

Without mentioning Hillary Clinton by name or indicating he planned to run for president himself, Biden also addressed the idea that electing a Democrat in 2016 would be like giving President Obama a “third term.”

“I call it sticking with what works,” Biden said, “and what we ought to do.”

Biden chastised people in his own Democratic Party who’ve tried to “distance themselves” from Obama Administration policies.

“In my view those seeking to lead the nation should protect and defend and run, yes, run on what we’ve done, own what we have done, stand for what we have done, acknowledge what we have done and be judged on what (we have) done if we have any chance of a resurgence in 2016,” Biden said.

Biden did not name any of Republicans who have indicated they’re mulling a bid for the White House in 2016. Instead, Biden dropped names like Mitt Romney and Pat Ryan into his speech and lamented the growing income inequality in America. He called standing up for the middle class the “single challenge of our time” and argued the trickle down economics Republicans advocate is part of the problem.

“It used to be that everyone understood that the ‘job creators’ were the engineers, the scienitsts, the folks working on the line, the folks like my dad who sold the product that was made,” Biden said, “not just the shareholders.”

Biden spoke to over 800 Drake University students and staff, along with a few Iowa Democratic Party leaders, like former Congressman Neal Smith. The vice president spent more than half of his speech reviewing the past six years and briefly touched on the specific proposals President Obama is asking congress to embrace this year. He touted the idea of the federal government providing two years of free community college for “responsible” students.

“What allowed us to lead the world from the late 1890s to today? We’re the first nation in the world to have universal education, free education for 12 years,” Biden said. “Does anybody think that’s enough?”

Biden is due to hold a roundtable discussion with students at Des Moines Area Community College later this afternoon.

AUDIO of Biden’s speech at Drake, 55:00

Photo courtesy of John Pemble, Iowa Public Radio

Rubio in Iowa Friday for first stop of ‘American Dreams’ book tour (AUDIO)

Rubio-bookFlorida Senator Marco Rubio will be at a West Des Moines bookstore Friday to sign copies of his new book, American Dreams. Rubio, a potential competitor for the GOP’s next presidential nomination, outlines a series of policy proposals in the book to address “structural changes” that he says are preventing Americans from being upwardly mobile.

“They keep reading in the newspaper how well the economy’s doing, but they’re not feeling it in their own lives,” Rubio said today during an interview with Radio Iowa. “Their paychecks are still stagnant. The cost of everything keeps going up and every single day the government seems to be passing a new rule, a new regulation, proposing a new tax that makes their life harder, not easier.”

Rubio’s 208-page book includes a chapter outlining his ideas for reforming the nation’s immigration system. Some Republicans who oppose what they call “amnesty” have been critical of Rubio’s role in crafting an immigration reform bill that passed the U.S. Senate in 2013 and Rubio said he doesn’t know whether the book will change their opinions.

“I imagine for some it will not, but for others, perhaps it will would sense. I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s what I believe,” Rubio told Radio Iowa. “The chapter basically says that we have an issue that we have to deal with. We have immigration laws which we have a right to enforce…but we don’t have the mechanics in place to fully enforce them, so that’s the first step that we have to do is build an enforcement mechanism that works and I believe until we do that, we’re not going to be able to make progress on any other aspects of immigration.”

Rubio offers some other ideas in the book, like increasing the child tax credit and creating a federal block grant or “Flex Fund” as he calls it for each state that would be used to run welfare programs as the states wish. Rubio also suggests the federal government needs to play a role in changing the higher education system by directing more support toward vocational education and technical training because the “four-year-college-route” isn’t for everyone.

“We can’t continue to lose money on student loans to pay for degrees that do not lead to jobs,” Rubio said.

In the book, Rubio outlined a new idea for financing a college education in the book, too. He’d let a future employer pay a future worker’s tuition bill and, in return, the business would get to keep a portion of that worker’s wages for a decade.

Rubio was in Iowa last spring to endorse Joni Ernst before she won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate and he returned last fall to campaign with her. Rubio’s not yet decided whether to run for president in 2016.

“I’m not prepared to make an announcement or a decision today, but I can tell you that we’re getting closer to making that decision,” Rubio told Radio Iowa, “and I anticipate that at some point this spring we’ll have a firm decision to make and then look forward to moving in that direction.”

Rubio was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010. Florida law prohibits Rubio from running for president and for reelection to a second term in the Senate at the same time. The widely discussed moves former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has made for the 2016 presidential race complicate Rubio’s decision, but Rubio has taken steps to hire a prominent fundraiser himself and he’s not only visiting Iowa on his book tour, he’ll stop in other early voting states as well.

“As I’ve said before, if he runs I think he’ll be a very well-funded, credible candidate,” Rubio said. “I don’t believe that his running will have an impact on my ability to run and be successful.”

Rubio will be at the Barnes and Noble on University Avenue in West Des Moines from noon to 2 p.m. this Friday to sign copies of his book. Details are here.

AUDIO of Rubio speaking with Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson, 8:30