November 24, 2014

Iowa GOP leaders discussing “options” for the 2015 Straw Poll

Jeff Kaufman (file photo)

Jeff Kaufman (file photo)

Three of Iowa’s top Republicans met by phone this morning to talk about the future of the Iowa Straw Poll, an event in Ames that has been both party fundraiser and provided a snap shot of a presidential candidate’s organization in Iowa in the summer before the Iowa Caucuses.

“We are keeping our options open on where the Straw Poll might occur and what the Straw Poll may look like,” Kaufmann says. “There will be some kind of event in the summer of 2015.”

In December or January, a meeting will be set up so Kaufmann and other top party officials can meet with Governor Terry Branstad, Congressman King, Senator-elect Joni Ernst and Congressmen-elect Rod Blum and David Young to come up with a list of options for the event. The final decision will be made by the party’s state central committee.

“You know, I can’t even say for sure it will be called a Straw Poll,” Kaufmann says. “…We’re going to figure out together so we have agreement across the board on what this should look like and how we should conduct it.”

Kaufmann says making sure the event gets the blessing of the Republican National Committee is also key, since national party leaders have carved out an exception so Iowa’s precinct Caucuses can remain the first event on the presidential campaign calendar.

“We want to make sure that whatever event we have is nothing like our Caucus and doesn’t take the place of the Caucus, nor should we get two bites at the apple,” Kaufmann says.

Critics of the Straw Poll have complained it gives Iowa two “first” events in the presidential selection process, as candidates like Tim Pawlenty and Elizabeth Dole who have failed to place well in Straw Polls of the past have ended their campaigns right after the Straw Poll. Straw Poll defenders have argued it’s a way for candidates to do a test-run for the Caucuses, plus it’s a way for the Iowa GOP to raise money. Kaufmann says the fundraiser aspect is a “misnomer.”

“A long time ago, a decade ago, it was a fundraiser,” Kaufmann says. “Expenses have increased dramatically and, to be honest with you, we have to look at our dollars and cents in terms of our expenditures here because we certainly cannot lose money on event like that and it’s not as lucrative as anyone thinks.”

Kaufmann says, for him, the value of the event is the energy and enthusiasm it generates among Republicans for the campaign season ahead. Kaufmann talked about the future of the Straw Poll this morning with Governor Branstad and Congressman King, just moments before he spoke with Radio Iowa.

About a year ago Branstad suggested it may be best to consign the Straw Poll to history. The winner of the 2011 Straw Poll, Michele Bachmann, saw her campaign collapse in the final days of the 2012 campaign and she dropped out of the race the day after the Iowa Caucuses.

The first Straw Poll was held in 1979 and George H.W. Bush’s win in the balloting was seen as a signal missed by the Reagan campaign, as Bush went on to win Iowa’s Caucuses. The event has been held the summer preceding years in which Republicans have had a contest for the party’s presidential nomination. Televangelist Pat Roberts’ surprise showing in the 1987 Straw Poll was a harbinger of his second place finish in the Caucuses the following year.  George W. Bush is the last candidate to win the event en route to securing the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2000.  Mitt Romney won the Straw Poll in 2007, but finished second in the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. Romney did not participate in the 2011 Straw Poll.  Rudy Guiliani and John McCain also skipped the 2007 Straw Poll.

Biden says message of 2014 is that voters want action from congress (AUDIO)

Vice President Joe Biden. (file photo)

Vice President Joe Biden. (file photo)

Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Radio Iowa late this afternoon, with 10 hours of voting already done in Iowa and four hours yet to go, to make one last pitch for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

“It’s obviously close and it’s all about turnout and any chance I get to be on a radio show to say, ‘Go vote, there’s still a couple of hours,'” Biden said. “…It’s going to be close and it’s going to get down to who shows up.”

Democratic candidates like Braley have been running in a year when President Obama’s low popularity ratings have been a drag on their candidacies. Biden said he’s advised Braley and others to focus on economic issues and “talk about the things that people understand.”

“Overwhelmingly the American people and the people of Iowa support the position we have taken,” Biden says. “So my advice…having run for the senate seven times and won seven times is focus on the issues. Talk about the things that affect your state. The Republicans in the House won’t support infrastructure spending when that used to be a bipartisan Republican position…You know, the minimum wage used to be bipartisan. The last time it was raised it was led by Republicans in the Senate.”

Biden said 2016 is “light-years away” and there’s “plenty of time for anyone contemplating” a run for the White House to jump in the race by “early” next summer.

“But in the meantime there’s an awful lot to get done,” Biden said. “No matter who controls the senate, the president and I are determined to continue to build on education, job training, infrastructure — just creating jobs.”

Biden said a Republican senator from a southern state called him today to set up a private meeting once the election is over with Biden and four Republican senators.

“Because the one message everybody’s gotten, whether they’re a Democrat or a Republican, is they don’t want people going to congress who are refusing to get anything done,” Biden said. “And so I think that message is coming across that no matter what the outcome of the election of the senate is, there are going to be a lot of people ready to actually compromise and deal with the things that affect the economy.”

AUDIO of Biden’s interview with Radio Iowa, 6:00


Professor says despite 2014 outcome, Iowa will be ‘purple all the way’ in 2016


Political signs in yards across Iowa tout the various candidates.

Two Iowa political scientists say Iowa has “unique” split-ticket voting patterns.

Iowa State University political science professor Dave Andersen explains. “I’m new to Iowa and I grew up in New Jersey and in the northeast, where I’m used to seeing states track to one party or the other and Iowa is unique that you can have the same electorate look at the governor’s race and say by a 20-point margin, ‘We are going to keep our incumbent governor,’ and then look at the senate race and say , ‘We’re really not decided.'”

Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s election, Anderson says Iowa will still be “purple all the way” and considered a toss-up for either party in the 2016 presidential election.

“I think Iowans are able to uniquely able to kind of move back and forth between the parties, as an aggregate and I think they listen to both sides,” Andersen says. “Iowan voters, as a whole, I don’t think have chosen on party over another. I think they are able to make a distinction race by race, candidate by candidate.”

Loras College political science professor Christopher Budzisz agrees.

“It’s a competitive state,” Budzisz says. “…Senator Ernst, if you look at the polling averages, is up roughly two percent and then the same electorate is choosing Governor Branstad by 20 percent. There’s incumbency in that, but there is also an element to the state itself as a balanced state.”

Budzisz and Andersen made their comments during taping of the “Iowa Press” program that airs tonight on Iowa Public Television.

Hillary Clinton rallies with Braley backers in eastern Iowa (AUDIO)

Hillary Clinton campaigning with Bruce Braley.

Hillary Clinton campaigning with Bruce Braley.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton campaigned for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley in Cedar Rapids this afternoon, speaking to about 400 supporters crowded into a union hall.

“This race comes down to one question about all others: Who’s on your side?'” Clinton said, and people in the crowd responded: “Bruce.”

Clinton continued: “That’s the right answer. Now you just have to get out there and convince everybody else that’s the right answer.”

Clinton acknowledged she was “talking to the choir” about Braley’s candidacy and she urged the crowd to do everything they could in the next six days to help Braley win a six-year term in the Senate.

“You never worried where Tom Harkin stood. He was a fighter for Iowa,” Clinton said. “You will never worry where Bruce Braley stands. He’s a fighter for Iowa.”

Braley is in a tight race with Republican Joni Ernst and Clinton criticized Ernst’s economic plans, including her opposition to a federal minimum wage, and Ernst’s willingness to consider privatizing Social Security.

“Why is the race so close and why are we here, getting everybody ginned up to go out and work?” Clinton said. “Well, because you know there is a flood of unaccountable outside money trying to muddy the waters here in Iowa and drown out your voices.”

Bruce Braley presented Hillary Clinton with a Hawkeye outfit for her grandbaby.

Bruce Braley presented Hillary Clinton with a Hawkeye outfit for her grandbaby.

Ernst would be the first woman elected to congress from Iowa, but Clinton suggested Ernst’s stand on certain issues, like abortion, put her out of step with the mainstream.

“It’s not enough to be a woman. You have to be committed to expand rights and opportunities for all women,” Clinton said, to extended cheers and applause from the crowd.

And Clinton criticized Ernst for not being willing to “answer the tough questions” from editorial writers for The Cedar Rapids Gazette, The Dubuque Telegraph Herald and The Des Moines Register.

“It truly seems like it should be disqualifying in Iowa, of all states, to avoid answering questions,” Clinton said.

According to Clinton, Braley has withstood “a withering barrage of negative ads and innuendo” from outside groups supporting Ernst.

“Don’t let anybody hide behind outside money and negative ads,” Clinton said.

AUDIO of Clinton’s remarks, 24:00

Clinton is campaigning with Braley in Davenport this evening. A spokesman for the Iowa Republican Party dismissed Clinton as “out of touch” with small business owners and entrepreneurs for suggesting earlier this week that corporations and businesses don’t create jobs, while the Iowa GOP spokesman stressed that Ernst supports “pro-growth” policies that help “job creators.”

Ernst is campaigning with Arizona Senator John McCain today.


Rubio says ‘new American century’ can’t start with Obama in White House

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, is campaigning with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst today.

“We desperately need people not just in the Senate, but in our party who understand how a strong America makes the world a better place,” Rubio said during remarks to a crowd of about 100 in Pella.

According to Rubio, America is poised to dominate another century, but Rubio told the crowd Democrat Harry Reid, the majority leader in the U.S. Senate, is an impediment.

“We can’t start that new American century as long as people like Barack Obama occupy the highest office in the land and that’s why these election’s matter,” Rubio said. “Not only is the person running for the U.S. Senate here, Joni Ernst, a spectacular and special candidate, but the vote here for the senate isn’t just a vote for senator, it’s a vote on who is going to be the next majority leader of the United States Senate.”

Rubio is the keynote speaker this evening for the Scott County Republican Party’s fall fundraising banquet in Bettendorf.

Huckabee campaigns for Republican Senate candidate Ernst

Joni Ernst and Mike Huckabee in Sioux City.

Joni Ernst and Mike Huckabee in Sioux City.

The winner of the 2008 Iowa Republican Caucuses was in Iowa Tuesday campaigning for US. Senate candidate Joni Ernst.

Former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee campaigned in Sioux City, where he says electing Ernst to the Senate is not only important for Iowa, but also for the whole nation.

“She’ll be the first woman to be elected as any member of the Congressional delegation in all of Iowa. But it’s not just because she is a female that she deserves to be elected,” Huckabee says. “That’s important, I think women should have far greater representation in the House and Senate and executive offices across the land. This isn’t about electing her just because of her gender. This is about electing her because of her superior ideas and qualifications.”

Huckabee says if Republicans gain control of the Senate that means legislation will actually make it through congress. “Harry Reed has created nothing less than the Roach Motel of the U.S. Senate, where bills go in but they never come out,” Huckabee says. He says some 360 bills have passed, but they have never left Reed’s office for discussion, debate or a vote.

It was the first of two stops for Huckabee and Ernst, as they also campaigned in Council Bluffs. Ernst is running against Democrat Bruce Braley.

(Reporting and photo by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)


Michelle Obama in for Braley, Mike Huckabee in for Ernst today

First Lady Michele Obama returns to Iowa today to campaign for Democrat Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

First Lady Michele Obama returns to Iowa today to campaign for Democrat Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

Prominent party voices continue to stream into Iowa to campaign with the two major party candidates for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat.

First Lady Michelle Obama will headline a rally at the University of Iowa today with Democrat Bruce Braley. Last week Republican Joni Ernst’s campaign sent out video links of late-night comics who’ve made fun of the first lady for misstating Braley’s name seven times during an event at Drake University. Ernst herself brought it up with reporters on Monday.

“This is kind of her ‘Mulligan’ event, I think, to try and get things right after she messed up so badly the last time she was in town,” Ernst said.

On Wednesday evening, Ernst will be on the University of Iowa campus for a rally with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will make stops in Sioux City and Council Bluffs today with Ernst.

During her solo stops, Ernst is stressing her work as a Republican state senator. Braley’s been traveling the state focusing attention on issues like retirement security. On Sunday during a rally in Des Moines, Braley got a big crowd reaction with this statement: “Unlike Joni Ernst, I will never ever vote to privatize your Social Security.”

Ernst has said it might be an option for younger workers. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a rising populist voice in the Democratic Party, campaigned alongside Braley on Sunday. A dozen current members of the U.S. Senate have flown to Iowa this year to campaign on behalf of either Braley or Ernst and that pace will continue through Election Day.