Friday, November 30, 2007

Hmmm. Good Point.

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 416

The Quote of the Day today comes from Joe Biden, responding to a voter's question at a forum on Iraq in Portsmouth, New Hampshire:

"I know a lot of my opponents out there say I'd be a great secretary of state. Seriously, every one of them. Do you watch any of the debates? 'Joe's right, Joe's right, Joe's right.'

"I ask you a rhetorical question: Are you prepared to vote for anyone - at this moment in our history - as president who is not capable of being secretary of state? Who among my opponents would you consider appointing secretary of state? Seriously. Think about it."

New ARG Iowa Poll: Richardson Dropping Like a Stone

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 416

American Research Group is out with a new Iowa poll this morning that vividly illustrates how fluid the Democratic nomination race in Iowa is now that we're heading into the home stretch.

Of particular interest are the numbers for Bill Richardson. In the previous ARG Iowa survey, conducted November 10-14, Richardson was at 12%; in this latest poll, conducted between November 26-29, Richardson now has the support of just 4% of "Likely Democratic Caucus Goers." No, this is not a typo: Richardson's actual poll result is 4%. If accurate, this poll shows a dramatic collapse of Richardson's backing, with two out of three of the New Mexico Governor's supporters deserting him for other candidates.

Predictably, much of Richardson's lost support has accreted to the top tier, judging by the fact that Obama's support jumped 6 points and Edwards increased by 3 points. But the other surprise in these numbers is Joe Biden increasing from 5% to 8%, his first significant move in months. This is what every candidate prays for going into the climactic phase of the campaign in Iowa: a late surge. If Biden can hold these gains, and then build his numbers into double digits, he stands a serious chance of dramatically exceeding expectations on caucus night.

Overall results:

Nov 10-14 Nov 26-29
Biden 5% 8%
Clinton 27% 25%
Dodd 3% 3%
Edwards 20% 23%
Gravel - -
Kucinich 2% 2%
Obama 21% 27%
Richardson 12% 4%
Undecided 10% 8%

Other highlights:

* 33% of likely caucus participants are undecided (8%) or say that they could switch candidates between now and January 3 (25%).
* 80% of those saying they support Clinton say their support is definite.
* 57% of those saying they support Edwards say their support is definite.
* 75% of those saying they support Obama say their support is definite.
* Among men, Clinton is at 22%, Edwards 22%, and Obama 30%.
* Among women, Clinton is at 28%, Edwards 24%, and Obama 25%.

The soft support number shown for John Edwards is further bad news for his campaign, with 43% of his supporters indicating that they may still end up supporting someone else; this is worrying news for Edwards, even with the 3% gain noted above. Look for John Edwards to continue to weaken over the next few weeks.

Some facts about the poll's methodology:

Sample Size: 600 completed telephone interviews among a random sample of likely Democratic caucus goers living in Iowa (536 Democrats and 64 no party (independent) voters).

Sample Dates: November 26-29, 2007

Margin of Error: ± 4 percentage points, 95% of the time, on questions where opinion is evenly split.

Incidence of Likely Democratic Caucus Participation: 10.5% of Democratic and no party voters.

Question Wording:

If the 2008 Democratic presidential caucus were being held today between (names rotated) Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson, for whom would you vote?

Would you say that you definitely plan to participate in the 2008 Democratic presidential caucus, that you might participate in the 2008 Democratic presidential caucus, or that you will probably not participate in the 2008 Democratic presidential caucus?

Chasing Access

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 416

Today's Washington Post carries an interesting article on the trials and tribulations of reporters trying to penetrate the de-facto bubble of candidates' unbelievably demanding schedules and actually speak with those whom they seek to cover. The article focused on Hillary Clinton in particular, but noted the same issue, if to a lesser degree, also arises with Obama and Edwards.

I've been running around Iowa tailing candidates since January of this year, and know from experience that it has never been an easy matter to get face time with a candidate as a blogger, so the fact that the main stream media encounters the same problem doesn't surprise me. The plain fact is that candidates are on a mission to get their message out every single day, and, if the campaign doesn't see a way to make use of the access you're requesting to help them get their message of the moment out to voters, then they don't have time for you. This is sometimes especially true if you're [only] a local blogger.

Fortunately, as [only] a local blogger, I also have the luxury of setting that role aside at will, and showing up at candidate events as someone far more important: an actual voter. In this regard, I almost always have better luck in getting face time with the candidates. So I can attest to the fact that when campaigns push aside requests for access from the media so their candidate can spend time talking with voters, that is, while undeniably convenient for the campaigns, nonetheless very often true.

Granted, I often run right home and blog about what the candidates and I talk about on those occasions. I'm sure that some members of the mainstream media would call 'foul' on that, but there's no point in being a blogger - or a voter, for that matter - if it's the same as being reporter.

In an ideal world, everyone would be spoiled to the same extent that voters (and sometimes, even bloggers) in Iowa and New Hampshire are when it comes to up close and personal interaction with people who want to be our next president. And, setting Iowa voter smugness aside for a moment, I truly wish that were so. But, as the Post's article dramatizes, this is far from an ideal world. So, to the mainstream media frustrated by the often large gap between what they want from the campaigns versus what the campaigns are willing to give, all I can say is: welcome to the club, guys; we've got jackets.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Clinton Ad: "Strong"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 418

Hillary Clinton has released a new ad in Iowa. Titled "Strong," the 30-second spot intersperses footage of Hillary interacting with voters and shots of the candidate in an interview setting. The ad is aimed at playing up Clinton's experience and immediate readiness to govern.

The script for the spot is as follows:

CLINTON: “You know we have big economic problems ahead. The price of oil is going way up; the price of our homes is going down. The middle class is getting slammed.”

ANNOUNCER: If you want a strong economy, we need a strong President.

CLINTON: “I’ll start by taking away those tax breaks that the administration has lavished on big corporations and give you a break instead. I’ll create new jobs as we push for alternative energies and I’ll cut the deficit. A lot of people talk about America’s problems, but the next President has to be ready to solve them on day one.”

“I’m Hillary Clinton and I approved this message.”

And here's the video:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Richardson Ad: "Bold Plan"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 419

Bill Richardson has put up a new ad in Iowa. The 30 second spot, titled "Bold Plan," is themed around Richardson's education proposals.

Unlike many of his previous ads, in this new spot Bill Richardson does not address viewers directly. The new ad features a professional narrator and gaggles of cute, smart, happy public school students and their dedicated, competent teachers and administrators, all hard at work and occasionally interacting with the candidate. Here's the video:

The ad was produced by Steve Murphy and Mark Putnam of Murphy Putnam Media.

Monday, November 26, 2007

New Biden Print Ad: "Joe Is Right"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 420

Joe Biden has put up a new print ad in Iowa today. Titled, "Joe is Right," the ad stresses Biden's foreign policy credentials and plays up his electibility.

Here's an image of the ad, which is running today in the Des Moines Register, Cedar Rapids Gazette, Davenport Quad City Times, Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, Sioux City Journal, Dubuque Telegraph Herald, and Burlington Hawkeye:

New Edwards Ad: "Mess"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 420

John Edwards has put up a new ad in Iowa. The 30 second spot, titled "Mess," addresses the obligation to leave a better America to our children. Here's the script:

What we want to make certain is true is that our children have a better life than we've had. Twenty generations of Americans before us have ensured that that was true.

And if we want to do that, we're going to have to be willing to take on this corrupt system and change it. And if we're not going to do it, we're going to have to be willing to look our children in the eye and say we're going to leave this mess for you.

This is the great moral test of our generation, and we will meet that test.

I'm John Edwards and I approve this message.

Here's the video:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Messages from the Candidates

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 425

For those giving thanks that there are still (or only!) 42 days left before the caucuses, and that New Hampshire has finally settled on a date for its primary, the candidates evidently want to make sure that you know you - and your vote - are not forgotten just because today's a holiday. In that spirit, here are Thanksgiving messages from the Democratic field.

Joe Biden

Have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, the Bidens are celebrating a little bit differently than usual. My family and I will be in Des Moines celebrating our favorite American holiday. We're still grateful for the same things -- the health of our loved ones, the blessings of liberty. But this year we are keeping faith with our mission to spread our campaign gospel all across the Hawkeye state.

The spirit of Thanksgiving rests in our recognizing the blessings in our lives, and as we all take stock, I hope you will join me in expressing sincerest thanks to our soldiers serving in harm's way in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. May God bless you on this day of thanks, and may God protect our troops.

Joe Biden

Hillary Clinton

I hope that you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I love this holiday, and celebrating together with family and friends.
Thanksgiving is also a time to think of those in need. Every year I am inspired by the outpouring of generosity from all over the country. I hope that this year you'll share in that tradition, whether you volunteer your time or make a donation to help others.
At our campaign offices in California, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina as well as our headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, we're accepting donations of nonperishable food to help local efforts to fight hunger. If you're not near one of our offices in those states and would still like to give back this Thanksgiving, here are a few national organizations with information about how you can help.
America's Second Harvest
1 800 Volunteer
End Hunger Network
Hunger Free America
This year, I'm so thankful to have you with me working for change. From my family to yours, have a very happy Thanksgiving.

Chris Dodd

DES MOINES – In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Presidential Candidate Chris Dodd, his family, and his staff today expressed heartfelt gratitude for the hospitality and support they have received across the state of Iowa. Dodd and his family, who recently relocated to Des Moines, are spending Thanksgiving Day with a family in Monticello.

Dodd issued the following statement of thanks:

“As families gather across the state of Iowa and the country on this Thanksgiving Day, I take a moment to remember how much I have to be grateful for. I want to express my sincere thanks for the following, all of which have made my experience in the Hawkeye State deeply enriching and inspiring:

My wife, Jackie, my two daughters, Grace and Christina, and my numerous other family members and friends who have offered their support every step of the way.

The people of Iowa, who have so graciously welcomed Jackie, the girls and me into their neighborhoods, homes, and schools so that we can be together.

The young servicemen and women from Iowa and across the nation, who sacrifice so much in order for us to gather safety and soundly in our homes on days like today.

The fire fighters and first responders in Iowa and elsewhere, who each and every day risk their lives for others.

Iowa's strong and dedicated Democrats, who are making a difference in this state from the local level all the way up to the State House and the Governor's Office.

The caucus process, for representing democracy at its very core, and for going above the power of money and celebrity in order to let each candidate be heard.

Our county chairs across Iowa who have worked tirelessly to reach out to caucus-goers, and share my passion for getting our country back on track.

The simple pleasures of life - coffee at the Ritual CafĂ© in Des Moines, the scenic beauty of Decorah in the fall and the Loess Hills at sunset, the stacked shelves at Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City, and the loose meat sandwiches at the Canteen in Ottumwa.”

John Edwards

At this time of year, it is very important that we take a moment and give thanks for all we have and all that is around us.

We are grateful to be spending this Thanksgiving with our family. We set aside this day to give thanks for all of our blessings - and for the time we have together. We are grateful for our family, our friends and to live in this great country.

Over the past few years, we have been blessed to have built friendships with so many wonderful Iowans. We wish you and your family a joyful Thanksgiving and hope you have the opportunity to treasure this day with those you love.

With warmest holiday wishes,

-John and Elizabeth Edwards

Barack Obama

"On this Thanksgiving, as we spend time with our family and friends, let's all reflect on what we're thankful for in our own lives. And let's remember those who cannot be with their loved ones because they're serving overseas. But let's also do our part to help those who have no place to go for a meal. Amid reports that more and more Americans are visiting food pantries at a time when those same pantries are less and less able to help them, I will be volunteering this week at the New Horizons food pantry in Manchester, New Hampshire. And I encourage all Americans to do what they can to help those in need -- because the best way to show our gratitude for what we have is by doing our part for those who have less."

Bill Richardson

"As we gather with our families this holiday, let us remember the troops serving abroad who cannot be with theirs. The military men and women risking their lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world reflect the best that America has to offer. We are all truly grateful for their courageous service."

"And as we gather in our homes, let us remember also our veterans here who have no home to go to. One in four homeless on our streets is a veteran, and tragically, a wave of homeless vets from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are expected in the coming years. We must act now to stop this. We must give these men and women the care, support, and respect that they have earned and deserve. We must do better by them."

And finally, from me, here's wishing you a day of thanks filled with the love of your family, friends, and neighbors. And, while you're on line, you might want to visit The Hunger Site, where a click of the mouse turns into a free donation of food for those in need.

Enjoy every bit of today.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Las Vegas Debate: Virtual Spin Room

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 430

[Updated with new content from the Biden campaign]

The morning after the debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, there is an almost eerie silence from some of the candidates. Usually, all of the campaigns waste no time in releasing statements arguing that their candidate wiped the floor with the others, but as of 8:00 CST this morning, only Clinton, Dodd and Richardson have shown up in my in box and/or issued statements on their campaign websites. Below are the statements made as of this initial posting; I will include updates if/when additional candidate statements are issued throughout the day.

Joe Biden

Following the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, Joe Biden's campaign has posted a spin video which, in a clever twist, lets the other candidates do the talking for them:

Hillary Clinton

Clinton Midwest Co-Chair and Former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell’s Statement on Tonight’s Debate

“Hillary Clinton was the clear winner of tonight’s debate. While her opponents stumbled over tough questions, and took pages from the Republican playbook of attack politics, she focused on her positive vision for change,” said Bonnie Campbell. “Time and time again, she took questions on tough issues from health care to immigration to protecting national security, and each time she showed her strength and experience. This debate demonstrated what so many Iowans already know — Hillary Clinton is a strong leader who will turn America around and restore its standing in the world.”

Chris Dodd


Experience, Leadership, Honesty Prove Dodd is Most Qualified, Electable Candidate

LAS VEGAS, NV – At tonight’s debate at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Presidential candidate Chris Dodd demonstrated his ability to lead and stood out as the most qualified and experienced candidate in the field. Dodd explained strongly and clearly his views and ideas on the issues most pressing to Nevadans and Americans such as immigration, education issues, and national security.

Dodd, who learned Spanish while in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, spoke in Spanish while answering a question about whether or not he believes fighting terrorism and slowing the flow of illegal immigration coming from our southern border as intrinsically related issues.

“When you take the oath of office, you don’t swear to (only) uphold the Constitution or (only) protect the country. I believe by upholding our rights, we do protect the country. And the Administration has taken the opposite view. They are posing to us the false choice, the dichotomy that to be safer, we have to give up rights. I think that is so fundamentally flawed and fundamentally dangerous for the United States of America to embrace that idea,” Dodd said.

Highlighting his 26 years of work on children’s and education issues, including being named the Head Start Senator of the Decade, authoring legislation dealing with after-school programs, newborn screening, Autism awareness and founding the Children’s Caucus, Senator Dodd explained his position on merit pay for teachers, pointing to the way teachers should be judged at “excelling.”

“If you define excelling by teachers who will go into rural or poor, urban areas and make a difference, mentor children after school, put in extra time to make a difference, then I think that sort of merit pay has value,” said Dodd. “If you're judging excelling by determining whether or not that teacher has students who do better because they're in better neighborhoods or better schools, I'm totally opposed to that. We spend less than 5 percent of the national budget on elementary and secondary education. We need to fundamentally reform No Child Left Behind. No Child Left Behind is a disaster for most schools and most teachers. I've dedicated a good part of my public career to children and to education -- one-quarter of the population, but truly, 100 percent of our future. This is an issue that deserves far more attention.”

Dodd also emphasized the importance of choosing a candidate who is attractive to Democrats and represents the issues important to them, and who can win against the Republicans next November.

“There's a shrillness to the debate,” Dodd said. “The American people want results, they want the job done. But when people get up in the morning and go to work, they sit around and they worry about their jobs, their retirement, their healthcare, their kids' education, and they wonder if anybody in Washington is paying any attention to them and whether or not the job is being done on their behalf. And, frankly, when a campaign is about turning up the heat or who's angrier or who's yelling louder, the American people turn off. They want us to come together. They want a president that can lead the country. We want a Democratic candidate who can unite our party.”

“Chris Dodd was by far the most Presidential candidate on stage tonight,” said Nevada State Senator and Dodd supporter John Lee. “His long track record of getting results for the American people on everything from health care to workers' rights to the economy showed that he is ready to lead and, in fact, is already leading on every major issue of our day. I am confident that come caucus night, Nevadans will support the candidate that is best for our state and best for our country. That candidate is undoubtedly Chris Dodd.”
Also, here's the ever-popular and eminently useful "Dodd Clock":

Bill Richardson

Governor Richardson Demonstrates Bold Leadership at CNN Debate in Nevada

Richardson has strong performance on day he is nominated for fifth time for Nobel Peace Prize

LAS VEGAS, NV-- On his birthday and the day he was nominated for a fifth time for the Nobel Peace Prize, New Mexico Governor and Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Richardson established himself as the most experienced candidate at the CNN/Nevada Democratic Party Presidential Debate tonight.

Amid rising negativity on the campaign trail, Richardson asked his fellow candidates to stop the personal attacks and focus on the issues.

"You know, it seems that John wants to start a class war," Richardson said. "It seems that Barack wants to start a generational war. It seems that Senator Clinton, with all due respect on her plan on Iraq, does not have a plan to end the war. All I want to do is give peace a chance. I say that because these are the fundamental issues. Do our plans end the war? Do our plans make America energy independent? Do our plans give health care to every American? Are we creating jobs and economic growth? Are we resolving the real problems affecting this country? Let us stop this mudslinging. Let us stop going after one another on character and trust. Let us debate the issues that affect the American people, and let us be positive."

As the only major Democratic Presidential candidate to commit to getting all of our troops out of Iraq, Richardson dominated the discussion on the Iraq war.

"We should not be talking about body counts," Richardson said. "One American death is too many. The surge is not working. There is now less of a possibility of a political solution. Three out of the 18 benchmarks of the General Accounting Office have been fulfilled. Even for Republican math, that is a failing grade. The Iraqi people now say that it is okay to shoot an American soldier. Our troops are dying. Unlike my colleagues, my plan does not leave any forces behind. We should not just wave goodbye; we need a U.S.-led political compromise. The Sunni, Shia, and Kurds should share power and oil revenues. The European Union and rich Arab states should contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq. We have spent $500 billion on this war. Instead, this money should be used in America for health care, education, and on kids.

"I would pull out all of the contractors. I would get all of them out, just like I would get all of our troops out, including residual forces. I would do it within a year. What I believe we need to do is to reform our military. I would increase military pay, educational benefits, and create a new G.I. Bill for our military. With regard to our veterans and military families, I would have a Heroes Health Card for every military person in this country. That would mean that they could get health care, not just at the VA system, but anywhere they want. I would fully guarantee funding at the VA. Most importantly, the big challenge is mental health. We do not treat mental health with the parity that it deserves. For our troops coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a huge mental trauma burden. Our VA and mental health systems do not give veterans the coverage they deserve."

Richardson's strong debate performance illustrated that he is the candidate who best represents experience and change.

"Tonight, we have talked about Iran, we have talked about Iraq, and we have talked about regimes that have not been friendly," Richardson said. "My policy would be diplomacy through negotiation. We would not be the world's policeman, but rather the world's conscience. All my life, as Ambassador to the United Nations, as a special envoy, through bipartisan solutions as a Governor, as a Congressman, and as Secretary of Energy, I have brought people together. Specifically on the Middle East, I would have a Middle East peace envoy. This President is the only President who has not had one. I would have protection for the security of Israel and a Palestinian state. I also would look at adjustments to the 1967 borders. I would look at dealing with Jerusalem effectively, efficiently, and fairly on the settlements issue. I would talk to Syria, and I would talk to Iran. That is called leadership and diplomacy. To take these steps, you have to be bold. We are talking about electing a President who will need to repair the enormous damage caused by this administration over the last eight years."

A former Secretary of Energy, Richardson also discussed his bold plan to solve the energy crisis.

"The future is renewable energy," Richardson said. "It is not oil, it is not coal, and it is not nuclear. We need an energy revolution in this country to shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources-- 50% by the year 2020. We need an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as a mandate. We need to have 30% of our electricity be renewable. It is also going to be the American people sacrificing a little bit when it comes to being part of an energy efficiency revolution."

Richardson proved that his experience as a border Governor has prepared him to achieve comprehensive immigration reform as President.

"I am a Governor-- I am in New Mexico, not Washington," Richardson said. "I am the only one who has dealt with the immigration issue directly. We need to talk about bringing this country together. A dysfunctional relationship exists between the President and Congress-- that needs to be corrected. Two years ago, I was the first Governor to declare a border emergency because the federal government was not doing its job in stopping the flow of drugs and people. We should stop demonizing immigrants. I am against the fence because it will not work. The Congress only funded half of the fence, and it is not American. I would do four things. First, we have to secure the border and double the number of border patrol agents. We need to keep the National Guard there longer and use detection equipment. Second, those that knowingly hire illegal workers should be punished. Third, we should have a relationship, called foreign policy, with Mexico. Mexico is our friend, but we should speak frankly to our friends. It should go something like this-- Mexico, give jobs to your people. At the very least, stop handing out maps on the easiest places to cross. Lastly, we need a legalization plan-- not amnesty, not citizenship, but a path to legalization that involves conditions, including learning English and paying back taxes."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gaskill Endorsement Makes a Baker's Dozen for Biden

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 432

Iowa State Representative Mary A. Gaskill of Ottumwa today became the thirteenth Iowa elected official to endorse Joe Biden for president. For those keeping track at home, here's an endorsement scorecard:
Hillary Clinton: 16
Barack Obama: 15
Joe Biden: 13

It's never clear how much weight these types of endorsements carry on caucus night. The potential is certainly there for a candidate to tap into the endorser's network of financial backers, staff and past volunteers to enhance their showing in the caucus, but I suspect this potential is rarely realized to its full extent.

That said, Biden's endorsement tally is impressive nonetheless, and will come as something of a shock to those who believe poll numbers and fundraising totals tell the whole story in the Iowa race. Few would be surprised to learn that Hillary or Obama have enlisted the support of a good number of elected officials here, but finding that Joe Biden is right on their heels in that category is something few would have predicted six or nine months ago. So Biden's endorsements raise a question, one that has gone largely overlooked so far: why is it that Joe Biden is garnering so much support among Iowa elected officials? Put another way, what do they know that so many others appear to not know, or at least to not notice?

Support for Biden's policy proposals, particularly with regard to Iraq, and appreciation for his experience in the the U.S. Senate have a lot to do with it, based on the statements issued by the legislators who have endorsed Biden so far. But there must be something more, and here's my take on what that might be: Iowa legislators know what it takes to win in Iowa, and they see a winner in Joe Biden. Saying that candidates with the celebrity status and bank accounts of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are solid bets to do well in Iowa is a no-brainer. But to say that Joe Biden, with none of the name recognition or financial advantages of Clinton and Obama, has the same winning potential, which is the message these endorsements carry, requires either a deep understanding of the dynamics of this race in Iowa and what it takes to do well here, or, frankly, a total and utter departure from reality. Since these legislators got to be legislators by winning elections in Iowa, the evidence is heavily in favor of the former explanation, rather than the latter.

Here's the press release announcing Gaskill's endorsement.



Des Moines, IA (November 14, 2007) – Today, Sen. Joe Biden received the endorsement of Iowa State Representative Mary A. Gaskill of Ottumwa. Rep. Gaskill becomes the thirteenth Iowa State Legislator to endorse Senator Biden.

Rep. Gaskill has dedicated a lifetime of service to Iowa. Prior to her service in the Iowa State House, Rep. Gaskill served six years as Clerk to the County Auditor and sixteen years as County Auditor in Wapello.

“I believe that Sen. Joe Biden has the breadth of experience on foreign policy and record of bipartisan leadership on domestic issues our country so desperately needs,” said Rep. Gaskill. “From the Biden exit plan for Iraq to his landmark Violence Against Women Act, Sen. Biden has proven he can build bipartisan consensus on the most important challenges facing our country. He is sincere, authentic and I believe he is the best candidate the democrats have -- and that is why I am supporting him.”

Sen. Biden noted, “Rep. Gaskill has dedicated a life of service to the people of Wapello County. Like many Iowans, she is concerned about the course America is on and knows the next president will need the experience to restore our reputation internationally and put an end to the gridlock in Washington. I am proud that Rep. Gaskill believes I am that candidate and has pledged her support to my campaign.”

Rep. Gaskill is currently serving her second term as the Iowa State Representative for the 93rd District, which includes Ottumwa in Wapello County. She serves on several committees in the Iowa House: the Environmental Protection Committee, the State Government Committee, the Transportation Committee, and as the Chairwoman of the Local Government Committee. She also serves on the Administration and Regulation Appropriations Subcommittee.

Rep. Gaskill joins an impressive group of Iowa state legislators who have endorsed Senator Biden including: State Sen. Joe Seng (Davenport), House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Des Moines), Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Polly Butka (Clinton), Rep. John Whitaker (Hillsboro), Rep. Doris Kelley (Waterloo), Rep. Lisa Heddens (Ames), Rep. Jim Lykam (Davenport), Rep. Mike Reasoner (Creston), Rep. Dick Taylor (Cedar Rapids), Rep. Roger Thomas (Elkader), Rep. McKinley Bailey (Webster City), and State Senator Herman C. Quirmbach (Ames).


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Edwards Ad in Iowa: "Health Care"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 433

John Edwards has put up a second ad in Iowa. The 30 second spot, titled "Health Care," runs as follows:

“When I’m president I’m going to say to members of Congress and members of my administration, including my cabinet: I’m glad that you have health care coverage and your family has health care coverage. But if you don’t pass universal health care by July of 2009 – in six months – I’m going to use my power as president to take your health care away from you. [Applause] There’s no excuse for politicians in Washington having health care when you don’t have health care. I’m John Edwards and I approve this message.”

The rhetoric and tone of the ad are vintage John Edwards. But I have questions. For instance, where the ad states "I’m going to use my power as president to take your health care away from you," what does that mean, exactly? What powers, specifically? A press release issued by the Edwards campaign today says, in part, "On the first day of Edwards’ administration, he will submit legislation that ends health care coverage for the president, all members of Congress, and all senior political appointees in the legislative and executive branches of government on July 20th, 2009 -- unless Congress has enacted universal health care reform.[emphasis added]" If John Edwards is planning to make good on his threat to end health care coverage for Congress by introducing legislation, isn't he forgetting that legislation is passed by Congress? I mean, Edwards does know that, doesn't he? Does John Edwards really expect the Legislative Branch, the castigation of which has become his main campaign theme, to suddenly change from the hopelessly corrupt institution he's been saying it is, and pass legislation that eliminates health care coverage for its own members? The bill would be dead on arrival, and its introduction would do nothing but irreparably poison from the outset Edwards' chances of achieving anything with Congress. Including, of course, universal health care.

If not legislation, what then? Executive order? Not likely. Presidents don't get to rule by fiat, no matter what George W. Bush and Dick Cheney would have us believe. Any attempt by the Executive Branch to eliminate health care for the Legislative Branch with a stroke of the presidential pen would face immediate challenge in the courts as a violation of Constitutional separation of powers. The likelihood of the order being upheld in the courts is remote, at best.

So what is John Edwards getting at here? If the answer is that John Edwards is the voice of the common American in this election, and this latest ad continues that strategy, then is it likely that this will win him any votes he doesn't already have? If it does, and this strategy ultimately delivers the White House to John Edwards, what will become of his ability to govern once he has tried, and likely failed, to achieve his objectives through unilateral application of presidential power?

Like so much about John Edwards, this latest salvo over health care, and the ad promoting it, just doesn't stand up to examination. The tragedy of John Edwards in this campaign cycle is that the approach he advocates to achieve the change that so many good people cry out for is so inherently flawed that it simply cannot succeed. Those who look to Edwards to deliver on his rhetoric will be sorely disappointed in the lack of results, leading to further disaffection of citizens from their government and the perpetuation of the apathy that is killing our democracy.

Change, in so many areas, simply must be achieved in this country. And sincerity, dedication, good intentions and even fiery rhetoric will all be necessary to make it happen. But they will not be enough, in themselves, to finally deliver results. That will require statecraft, and it will demand compromise. Ultimately, it will depend on the ability of the President of the United States to persuade people of all political viewpoints of the rightness of his/her cause, rather than merely exacting pain in consequence of defiance. Increasingly, John Edwards is demonstrating that he does not possess, or cares not to use, that ability. Whatever gifts and assets John Edwards may possess as a candidate, the fact that he no longer even feigns interest in the essential work of bringing people together to produce results for the American people makes him a very poor choice for our next president.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Updated: Caucus Pledge Targets Out-of-State Campaign Volunteers, Staff

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 438

[original post updated with response from the Richardson campaign]

Chris Dodd's campaign, alarmed by the reported influx of Clinton supporters from outside Iowa brought in to attend Hillary rallies and activities in advance of Saturday's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, today sent a pledge to the other Democratic campaigns asking them to commit that "none of their staff or volunteers who have come from out-of-state to work in Iowa will attempt to caucus or be counted as a caucus-goer on January 3rd."

The pledge, while sent by Dodd's Iowa campaign director Julie Andreeff Jensen to her opposite numbers in the Biden, Clinton, Edwards, Obama and Richardson campaigns, is clearly aimed at Clinton. Here's the press release and accompanying pledge:

"On the eve of the Jefferson Jackson Dinner weekend, Presidential candidate Chris Dodd’s Iowa State Director Julie Andreeff Jensen today sent a letter to the State Directors of the other Democratic campaigns in Iowa, calling for each to sign a pledge stating that none of their staff or volunteers who have come from out-of-state to work in Iowa will attempt to caucus or be counted as a caucus-goer on January 3rd.

Reports that some campaigns will have thousands of people flooding into Iowa to fill out crowds at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Dinner highlights the potential for risk to the integrity of the caucus process.

“I’m sure we can all agree that the Iowa caucuses are unique and belong to the people of Iowa. As staff, we are fortunate to be a part of the process but should not interfere with the process itself,” said Andreeff Jensen in the letter. “Therefore, I ask that each of you sign this pledge in good faith on behalf of your campaign to preserve the integrity of the Iowa caucus process and to ensure that caucus night truly reflects the decisions made by Iowans and not people from out-of-state.”

All of the presidential campaigns in 2004 signed a similar pledge. The full text of Andreeff Jensen’s letter and the pledge are copied below.


November 8, 2007

Dear Colleague –

I am writing to you today on behalf of the Chris Dodd for President Campaign. It has come to my attention that thousands of out-of-state volunteers are coming into Iowa this weekend for the Jefferson Jackson Dinner. This influx of out-of-state volunteers has raised concerns that I am sure we all share leading up to caucus day.

As many of you may remember from the caucuses in 2004, all of the presidential campaigns agreed to sign a pledge to ensure a fair caucus process by prohibiting any staff or out-of-state volunteers from participating in the caucuses.

Therefore, I am making a commitment to you all that Chris Dodd’s campaign pledges that no campaign staff or out-of-state volunteers will caucus or be counted as a caucus goer on January 3rd and I ask that you sign this pledge and do the same.

I’m sure we can all agree that the Iowa caucuses are unique and belong to the people of Iowa. As staff, we are fortunate to be a part of the process but should not interfere with the process itself. Therefore, I ask that each of you sign this pledge in good faith on behalf of your campaign to preserve the integrity of the Iowa caucus process and to ensure that caucus night truly reflects the decisions made by Iowans and not people from out-of-state.

Thank you for your consideration and please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Julie Andreeff Jensen
State Director
Chris Dodd for President

To ensure that caucus night truly reflects the decisions made by Iowans and not people from out-of-state;

WE THE UNDERSIGNED CAMPAIGNS, to ensure a fair caucus process AND MAINTAIN THE INTEGRITY OF IOWA’S FIRST IN THE NATION CAUCUS, pledge that no campaign staff or out-of-state volunteers will be allowed to caucus or be counted as a caucus-goer on January 3rd.

Julie Andreeff Jensen

Paul Tewes, Obama Campaign

Teresa Vilmain, Clinton Campaign

Danny O’Brien, Biden Campaign

Jennifer O’Malley, Dillon Edwards Campaign

Rob Becker, Richardson Campaign"

Shortly after the Dodd campaign sent out its press release quoted above, the Bill Richardson campaign fired back:

RichardsonIowaCaucus Director Blasts Dodd Proposal to Disenfranchise Iowans from Caucus

DES MOINES, IA--- Shari Fitzgerald, Presidential Candidate Bill Richardson’s Iowa Caucus Director, today issued the following statement:

“I have participated in every Presidential caucus since 1972 and refuse to be bound not to caucus for the candidate of my choice by any candidate or their campaign—ever. I am an Iowan and it is not just my right, but my duty as a citizen to participate in my caucus. It is unfair to try to disenfranchise any Iowan from this critical process.”


I get the Richardson campaign's point: the actual text of the pledge makes no distinction among campaign staff who are Iowa residents and those who came to the state expressly to work on the campaign. This appears at variance with the statement from Dodd's state director announcing the pledge:


"sign a pledge stating that none of their staff or volunteers who have come from out-of-state to work in Iowa will attempt to caucus or be counted as a caucus-goer on January 3rd." (emphasis added)


"pledge that no campaign staff or out-of-state volunteers will be allowed to caucus or be counted as a caucus-goer on January 3rd." (emphasis added)

The difference is subtle, amounting almost to hair-splitting. But politics being what it is, the moreso in the climactic phase of this year's crucial race here in Iowa, it isn't surprising that opponents seeing such seemingly small distinctions are inclined to smell a rat; this is true even when, as I believe to be the case here, there really isn't one.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Smartest Candidate Websites

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 438

I came across this ultrakewl website that rates websites by reading level: grade school, college, etc. (a big tip o' the hat to Thoughts from the Oasis amidst the Corn for this!) I like it so much that I added it as a widget on this space.

And, because I'm, y'know, me, I immediately wondered how the candidate's websites stack up against each other on reading level. Here are the results!

Joe Biden:

Hillary Clinton:

Chris Dodd:

John Edwards:

Barack Obama:

Bill Richardson:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Progress Abounds in Iraq: 2007 Already Deadliest Year for US Troops

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 440

Tragically and unforgivably, as of yesterday 851 United States troops have died in Iraq so far this year. This total is already higher than the 849 troop fatalities suffered by US forces in all of 2004, which, up until now, had held the record as the deadliest year of the war.

Compounding the senselessness of it all is this quote from today's New York Times:

"Military officials attribute the rise this year to an expanded troop presence during the so-called surge, which brought more than 165,000 troops to Iraq, and sent units out of large bases and into more dangerous communities."

So the surge, which was supposed to usher in a new era of stability in Iraq, has only resulted in increasing the number of US troops killed there.

These casualties make it only more pressing that Democratic members of the House and Senate finally act to restrain the Bush administration's folly in their conduct of the Iraq war. Many proposals have been advanced during the past five years, but the time has come to pass measures carrying the force of law to require the administration to change course in Iraq and produce either a political solution or redeployment of US combat forces. The current strategy, or, rather, lack thereof, is not worth continuing at the cost of a single additional American casualty.

Monday, November 5, 2007

"Piling On" And The Gender Card

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 441

The New York Times is running a fascinating article today on the dynamics of gender in the race for the Democratic nomination for president. The focus is on last week's Drexel debate and the - ahem - vigorous questioning directed at Hillary Clinton, mainly by John Edwards, and, to a lesser degree, Barack Obama.

One of the most telling points in the article is that both supporters and opponents of Senator Clinton accuse each other of playing "the gender card;" supporters say that Edwards and others are sexist when "piling on" Clinton because she's the lone woman in an otherwise all-male field of candidates, and opponents claim that Hillary herself is playing the gender card by invoking charges of sexism in response to the questioning at the debate.

The article's best quote, illustrating how convoluted the entire argument is on both sides, comes from 1984 vice-president nominee Geraladine Ferraro:

“We can’t let them do this in a presidential race,” she said. “They say we’re playing the gender card. We are not. We are not. We have got to stand up. It’s discrimination against her as a candidate because she is a woman.”

As it happens, I saw the NYT article after trading some emails over the weekend with a senior aide to one of Clinton's Democratic rivals regarding last week's debate.

"Apparently, the Clinton campaign can't even get its story straight on 'piling on,'" one email began. "As with everything else, they're trying to have it both ways.

"'Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday her status as the Democratic presidential front-runner - not her gender - has led her male primary rivals to intensify their criticism of her.' [AP, 11/2/07]

"'Hillary Rodham Clinton played the gender card Thursday after the worst stumble of her campaign, suggesting she's being singled out as the lone woman in an all-male presidential field.' [Newsday, 11/1/07]"

Interesting, I thought. I wrote back, "So, in your view, which is the real reason: that she's the frontrunner, or that she's a woman?"

The senior aide's answer: "Neither, as I don't think anyone was 'picking' on her. There were critical issues raised during the debate that deserved to be answered. In order to meet the challenges we face as a nation, the next president is going have to provide principled leadership and speak with clarity if he or she expects to bring people together to produce results for the American people. Unfortunately, Senator Clinton, when asked direct questions, didn't answer quite as directly."

I find myself inclined to agree with this view. No one is exempt - nor should be - from being pressed to provide specific answers to direct questions regarding the issues at stake in this campaign. The next president will come into office under the harshest and most skeptical gaze ever directed toward this country and its leadership, both at home and around the world. Crying "foul," on any basis, simply won't meet the requirements of the office in our time.

The irony of all this is that Hillary Clinton has, throughout her public life, proven herself tougher in the face of criticism than any of her contemporaries of either gender. To have Clinton's campaign and supporters raise gender now as a defense after a poor performance in a single debate ill-serves both the candidate and the progress she embodies.

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