September 2, 2015

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)

Senator Grassley says Medicare reimbursement tilt leads to less psychiatrists

Senator Chuck Grassley.

Senator Chuck Grassley.

Last week’s rampage that saw a mentally-ill Virginia man fatally shoot two former co-workers on live TV is raising new calls for increased funding to identify and treat such people before they become killers. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says we can spend more money on mental health care but it doesn’t do any good if there aren’t professionals in place to deliver the help.

“We have a dearth of psychologists and psychiatrists,” Grassley says. “I think the reason we have that is because over the last three or for decades, we’ve tilted Medicare reimbursement to put more people into surgery and a lot of other specialties and people that normally would have gone into psychiatry aren’t going into it now.”

There are ways to fill the gaps, he says, and Iowa is seeing some success in making the most of emerging technology. “In Iowa, when you have a shortage of psychiatrists, we have found that telemedicine fills in some of the vacuum,” Grassley says. “A lot of people feel more comfortable talking to a psychiatrist telemedicine-wise, over TV, feeling less intimidated than when they’re right there in the room there with them.”

The Virginia shooter bought the gun used in the killings legally. There’s a federal database that lists people who are forbidden from buying firearms. Grassley says it’s clear there are many more people who should be on the list who aren’t, while others don’t deserve to be listed.

“In the Veterans Administration, somebody comes in with an issue like, maybe he needs somebody to manage his finances,” Grassley says. “Well, that’s considered by the VA a mental illness and his name ends up in the database, so he can’t buy a gun legally and his constitutional rights are violated.”

People are less likely to talk openly about mental illness in America, which Grassley says is also a big part of the problem. “It’s a sad situation,” he says.


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)

Branstad says a ‘fair process’ was used to pick firms to manage Iowa’s Medicaid program

Terry Branstad at his weekly news conference.

Terry Branstad at his weekly news conference.

Governor Terry Branstad is defending the way officials in his administration chose four companies to manage the state-run Medicaid program. Four other companies that submitted bids but were not chosen have sued, calling the selection process haphazard and raising questions about the past performance of the winning bidders.

“Obviously when there’s this much money at stake and you’re not one of the four successful ones, you’re going to be disappointed…but I think the process is fair,” Branstad said during his weekly news conference. “I feel confident that the Department of Human Services is approaching this in the correct way.”

Branstad told reporters he hopes the lawsuit doesn’t delay the shift to a “managed care” system for Medicaid patients in Iowa. Critics are also raising concerns about the four companies that won the bids to manage Iowa’s Medicaid program. Branstad acknowledges the companies have had problems “in the past” but Branstad said those problems “have been corrected.”

“If you look at the four companies, they’re all four very substantial companies that have had significant experience and I guess I’d challenge you to find any Medicaid provider of any magnitude that hasn’t had some issues in the past,” Branstad said. “That’s just kind of the nature of it.”

The companies selected have been accused of mismanagement of Medicaid programs in the past. Winning Iowa contractor UnitedHealthCare was fined $173 million for its work in California’s Medicaid program and the company has sued California over the dispute. Amerigroup, another contractor selected to manage Iowa’s Medicaid program, paid $225 million dollars after it was accused of fraud in the Illinois Medicaid program.

(Photo 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.

Influential Iowa GOP powerbroker David Stanley has died

David Stanley.

David Stanley during an appearance on Iowa Press on Iowa Public TV.

An influential Iowa Republican who founded a taxpayer rights group nearly four decades ago has died.

David Stanley of Muscatine was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 1958 and served 16 years in the state legislature. He ran two statewide campaigns for the U.S. Senate, losing to Harold Hughes in 1968 and John Culver in 1974.

In 1978 Stanley founded Iowans for Tax Relief, an organization that became an influential player in Republican Party politics. Stanley has served as chairman of the National Taxpayers Union as well.

Stanley, who was a lawyer, was 86 years old. His wife, Jean, died earlier this month, on August 4. Jean and David Stanley were high school sweethearts and their 67th wedding anniversary was in late June.

David Stanley’s father founded Stanley Consultants, one of the world’s largest engineering and construction companies, as well as HON Industries, the second-largest office furniture manufacturer in the world.

Iowans for Tax Relief released the following statement this afternoon:

David M. Stanley of Muscatine, Iowa passed away, August 26, 2015. Dave was involved in many organizations in Iowa and nationally.  Dave was Chairman of Iowans for Tax Relief, National Taxpayers Union, Public Interest Institute, New Hope Foundation, and previously served with his wife, Jeanie, as executive couple of United Marriage Encounter.

Dave served in the Iowa Legislature for 12 years and was House Ways and Means Chairman and Senate Majority Leader.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Saturday, September 26, 2015 at 11:00 AM at Wesley United Methodist Church, Muscatine, Iowa.  Dave’s wife Jeanie preceded him in death on August 4, 2015.  He is survived by his four children and ten grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to New Hope Foundation or United Marriage Encounter both at PO Box 209, Muscatine, Iowa 52761.