A bunch of numbers

If you’re wondering what turnout may be like for today’s Primary election, here are some numbers to ponder:

In 1994, about 300,000 Iowans cast ballots in the Republican Primary.  That was the year Republican Congressman Fred Grandy challenged then-Governor Terry Branstad.  There was lots of cross-over voting, as Democrats became Republicans for a day to vote against Branstad in June rather than wait ’til November.  Grandy came within four percentage points of Branstad in that primary.

In 1998, Branstad was not seeking reelection and there were three Republicans running for governor.  The contest was among Jim Lightfoot, Paul Pate and David Oman and Lightfoot won the G.O.P.’s 1998 nomination for governor.  About 162,000 voters cast ballots in that Republican Primary. 

In 1998, Tom Vilsack and Mark McCormick competed in the Democratic Primary for their party’s gubernatorial nomination.  About 115,000 Democrats cast ballots for that contest, which Vilsack won en route to winning the governorship that fall.

In 2002, there were three Republicans seeking the G.O.P.’s nomination for governor.  About 199,000 Republicans voted in that Primary which Doug Gross won with 35.88 percent of the vote.  Steve Sukup was second with 32.37 percent and Bob Vander Plaats was third with 31.66 percent.

In 2006, there were three Democrats running for governor.  About 148,000 Democrats voted in that contest among Chet Culver, Mike Blouin and Ed Fallon.  Culver won the Primary — and the General Election.

On January 3, 2008, Iowa Republicans held Caucuses.  Below are the numbers that were released by the party that night (the numbers are the raw straw poll vote total for each candidate).  For comparison purposes, consider that Vander Plaats’s 2010 campaign has plugged into that Huckabee network and Branstad has many Romney-connected folks working on his 2010 campaign.

Mike Huckabee  40,841     
Mitt Romney  29,949 
Fred D. Thompson  15,904     
John McCain  15,559    
Ron Paul  11,817      
Rudolph W. Giuliani  4,097         
Duncan Hunter  524 
Tom Tancredo  5

Finally, at the close of business on Friday, Iowa Republicans had cast about 20,000 absentee ballots for today’s Primary compared to about 7,000 absentee ballots from Democrats.

Perry may have fueled rift with remarks in Iowa

The Texas Tribune has a story today which advances some theories about the rift between Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, and the folks associated with the Bush family.  Today, “41″ (that would be George Herbert Walker Bush) publicly endorsed Kay Bailey Hutchinson, the Republican who is challenging Perry in a primary.

The story includes a reference to Perry’s campaigning in Iowa in 2007 on behalf of Rudy Giuliani, a Republican presidential hopeful at the time.  Here’s a snippet from the story:

Then there was (Perry’s)  2007 appearance at an Iowa house party for Rudy Giuliani. Perry told a living room full of Iowa Republicans that the President (George W. Bush) was “never, ever” a fiscal conservative. “Wasn’t when he was in Texas … I mean, ’95, ’97, ’99, George Bush was spending money.”

He continued: “George was never a fiscal conservative. I think people thought he was.” 

The Nussle Group

Former Iowa Congressman/2006 GOP gubernatorial candidate/OMB chief for President George W. Bush Jim Nussle has formed a consulting group with two of his former staffers. The news release was just delivered to my inbox.  I've copied the body of the news release below.

    The Nussle Group is a multi-disciplined government relations and strategic consulting firm serving a wide range of clients across multiple sectors.
    We specialize in recruiting a talented team and developing creative solutions to assist clients in navigating the complicated and challenging intersections of public policy, government relations, public relations, international relations and politics. 
    For every client, and every project, we bring together a team of experts to custom design and implement a solution to achieve the results you desire. 
    Let us custom design and implement a solution for you!

The Nussle Group, according to the letterhead, is operating out of an office at 828 Slaters Lane, Suite 104, Alexandria, VA. Nussle's joined at the firm by Barbra Snitker (a long-time administrative assistant to Nussle when he was in congress and at OMB) and Chris Bliley (Bliley served as Nussle's chief of staff when Nussle was in congress).

UPDATE:  I went on the firm's website and found this more complete news release.

Former Budget Director Forms Consulting Firm

April 29, 2009

Washington, D.C. — Former Director of the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) and Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Jim Nussle, announced today the formation of a unique consulting firm that draws on his expertise in the federal government and budget process.

Nussle, who also served on the House Ways & Means Committee, has formed The Nussle Group, a multi-disciplined government relations and strategic consulting firm to serve a wide range of clients across multiple sectors.

Joining Nussle at the firm are Barbra Snitker and Christopher Bliley, two professionals with broad experience that served in senior positions for Nussle during his time on Capitol Hill. Snitker also served at OMB with Nussle, while Bliley served in the Administration at the Environmental Protection Agency.

“What’s unique about The Nussle Group’s approach”, Nussle noted, “is we bring together a talented team to create tailor-made solutions for our clients. I’m eager to put my public service experience to work to help my clients. And because of our size we are able to provide a more personal service for them.” The Nussle Group will assemble experienced teams on behalf of clients to compliment Nussle’s experience not only in the budget area, but also in fields such as health care, tax and finance, regulation, energy, higher education and non-profit, agriculture and rural development, telecommunications and technology and national security.

“I’ve met and worked with some very talented people throughout my career”, Nussle continued, “and I see an opportunity to bring some of them together at various times to custom design solutions to achieve results for people.”

The Nussle Group’s practice areas focus on government and regulations, fiscal and economic analysis, management and business development, strategic planning and politics.

“It’s great to be able to continue to work on the same issues I cared about during my time in public service”, Nussle said. “I’m looking forward to this opportunity to continue to serve in a new way.”

###

Jim Nussle was first elected to the House of Representatives from Northeast Iowa in 1990, and at the time was the youngest serving member of the House. In 2001 he was elected by his peers to chair the powerful House Budget Committee for three straight two year terms. In 2007 the U.S. Senate confirmed him as Director of the Office of Management & Budget after he was nominated by President George W. Bush. In addition to his current position of President & CEO of The Nussle Group, he also serves on the board of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and is a frequent guest on various cable news networks

UPDATE II:  Here's more background. 

In mid-February Nussle's wife, Karen, formed her own consulting group called Ripple Communications.

After Nussle's loss to Chet Culver in November, 2006, Nussle formed a consulting group called Navigating Strategies with Steve Greiner, another chief of staff in his congressional office. (Greiner left Nussle's office to become legal counsel for then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich.  Nussle also worked as an advisor to Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani in 2007, before leaving the firm and the campaign trail to become President George Bush's last budget director. 

In June of 2008 Nussle spoke with me by phone.  This blog post about our conversation includes a tidbit that suggests Nussle has a novel in mind — but it's not about the OMB — "but it's not ready for prime time yet."

Iowa gave you today’s candidates

Much has been made of Barack Obama's victory in the January 3, 2008 Iowa Caucuses.  The Reader's Digest Condensed Version:  Obama's victory dealt Hillary Clinton a loss that killed the idea she was the "inevitable" nominee.  In an interview with Radio Iowa this summer, Obama described Caucus Night as "lift-off" for his campaign.

While Clinton was focusing on experience, Obama (and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards) focused on the idea of building a movement. On the afternoon of the Iowa Democratic Party's 2007 Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, Obama outlined that "movement" idea for a crowd of his supporters.

"…It's with your power, it's with your voices that we're going to be able to make a difference," Obama todl the crowd that day in Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines. "…One voice can change a room and if it can change a room, it can change a city and if it can change a city, it can change a state and if it can change a state, it can change a nation.  If it can change a nation, it can change a world.  Your voice can change the world…Let's go change the world."

On to the Republican side. Iowa Republicans tossed aside two party heavyweights in favor of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's populist message.  Huckabee, like Obama, was a "movement" candidate.  Huckabee's victory dealt a blow to the well-financed Mitt Romney who had hoped an opening victory in the Iowa Caucuses would propel him through the contests to come. The Iowa results also confirmed that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was not acceptable to a significant chunk of rank-and-file Republicans. 

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Absolutely, positively the end of “Rudy ’08″

Rudyt I flew out of the Des Moines International Airport last Thursday. After sailing through security, I popped into the Paradies gift shop to buy some gum when I spied a little "clearance" section featuring four sweatshirts embroidered with the word "Iowa" and about four dozen black t-shirts, marked $4.99.  I counted and discovered 42 of the t-shirts featured Rudy Giuliani’s smiling countenance, with an American flag which — were it a real life picture rather than silkscreen — seems to be tickling the back of Giuliani’s neck.  Hence the smile, perhaps.  The name Rudy is featured in bright red; 2008 is in bright blue and underneath are the words "Giuliani for President" in white script 

The other six t-shirts featured a smiling Mitt Romney.  I probably missed a marketing opportunity, as my flying destination was Utah and Romney saved the Salt Lake Olympics, you know.  When I returned to Des Moines on Tuesday evening, the gift shops in the airport were closed.

In a conversation today with the manager of the Paradies gift shop, I learned that six black t-shirt variations on this theme went on sale last fall at the DSM International.  Three of the shirts featured Republicans: the aforementioned Rudy and Romney — plus John McCain.  The gift shop manager told me they also sold three varieties which featured Democrats, but they sold out long ago.  One featured Barack Obama.  Another pictured Hillary Clinton.  But the surprise is that the third was a mug shot of Bill Clinton — "for first lady" as the gift shop manager described it today.

I went out to the airport this afternoon, and a nice person in the gift shop went downstairs and fished out four of the "Rudy 2008" shirts, which I purchased for the bargain price of $4.99 (down from the original $14.99!).  While the shirts were in clearance last week in the gift shop, this week there is no chance for the general flying public at DSM International to buy these Rudy shirts as they’ve been moved out to make room for more merchandise. One of the four shirts I bought has been promised to a certain Democratic operative who sees the shirt as a collector’s item. The other is bound for a certain person in New York City who is a big Rudy fan.  Who knows?  I might be persuaded to part with the other two.

Campaign activity

The following presidential campaigns are keeping in touch with this Iowa reporter (and I suspect others) via email — post-Caucuses:  Clinton, Giuliani, McCain, Obama, Paul, Richardson, Thompson.  (I did it in alphabetical order, not in order of frequency of email messaging.)  No incoming from Edwards or Romney anymore.

Three of the seven still send daily schedules, letting me know where the candidate will be in Florida or elsewhere.  The others have sent targeted messages to Iowa supporters, and emailed copies to reporters. 

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Mitt Romney on Iowa finish, ads

I had an opportunity to chat by phone with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney this afternoon as he rolled from one Iowa town to another in his campaign bus.

Henderson:  "Given the thrust and parry on the advertising front of late — what is the outcome of that?  Is this a voter-suppression effort?"

Romney:  "You know, the advertising on my part, of course, has gone on for a long, long time to introduce people to me.  I was not well known.  Frankly, I think people wondered about anybody coming from Massachusetts so I’ve had to overcome the perception of that liberal state and more recently talked about issues and I think issues are critical.  I think it’s been important for me to point out the differences on key issues between myself and, you know, the other leading contender here — Mike Huckabee, which is we have very differing views and track record as related to illegal immigration and to spending and taxation and those that will — of course also crime and pardons and commutations and those differences, I think, are important for people to understand."

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Congressman King endorses….Fred Thompson

All the Romney staff just arrived in the room where the announcement is to be made.  King is now in the house, at 9:06 a.m.  There are Thompson people here now, too.

King suggested it would have been a bit cowardly not to endorse after he’s had such access to the candidates.  “I just don’t think that’s the leadership that you’re asking for from me,” King said.  “…If I wait until January 3rd, there’s no impact there.  The responsibility is to step up to this now.”

King then goes down the list of candidates, revealing that when he does the Internet match-up quizzes, he’s usually matched with Duncan Hunter.  “I wish he had more traction,” King said. “He does not.  Another person who I have profound respect for….a very, very close friend…is Tom Tancredo….and we have talked and he understands that I am going to make an announcement today…but he’s won.  He’s won this immigration issue…and I want to congratulate him for that….I also serve with Ron Paul and he is a strict constitutionalist and I great admire the positions he has taken….We differ on the issues of trade and isolationism….He’s quite a phenomenon.”

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Final GOP candidate debate before Iowa Caucuses

What follows is a live blog of today’s Des Moines Register "debate" among the Republican presidential candidates.  It is being broadcast live on Iowa Public Television; it will be re-broadcast at 7 p.m. (On an odd note, the lead-in program for the 1 p.m. live airing was "Big Comfy Couch" — a children’s program that at one point featured a huge talking flower.)

"We won’t talk a lot about issues like Iraq or immigration….Iowans say they know where the candidates stand," Carolyn Washburn, the DMR’s managing editor just told viewers, promising a few moments later not to "be a Grinch" about the time constraints, but vowing to cut the candidates off.

First question is about the nation’s "tsunami" of debt and whether it’s a threat to national security. 

"It’s a major problem," Giuliani says, calling for reduction in government spending and tax cuts.

Hunter says two debts are threat to national security, adding "trade loss" to the equation.  Hits at China.

Paul says it’s "absolutely a threat to our national security," warning the nation’s currency will soon be destroyed.  Warns US can’t afford Iraq war.

Tancredo also mentions trade imbalance, suggests oil imports held fuel terrorists.

Thompson says the debt is "bankrupting next generation," and squeezing military spending below traditional levels. 

Romney says "overspending" and "overpromises" in DC bad, but strikes optimistic cord about "politicies that promote" economic growth.  "if you want to see a strong America, you don’t look to Washington."

Huckabee says it is "most certainly" a national security threat.  Talks about a country’s need to feed, fuel and defend itself, warning that countries which "start outsourcing everything" lead to a country which is "enslaved."

McCain says military strength linked to a nation’s economic strength, mentions taxes, oil imports.  "We will in five years become oil independent," McCain promises if he’s elected.

Keyes calls for "cutting off the spigot" and abolishing the income tax, replacing with naitonal sales tax.

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Iowa Democrats’ Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tonight’s emcee, was introduced to the crowd at 7:40 p.m. and then a few moments later the candidates walked into the hall.  John Edwards was first.  His backers clanged their noise-makers and made a ruckus.  Bill Richardson walked out — and was seen on the screen — but there was no announcement over the loud speakers to indicate his entrance as there had been for Edwards.  Joe Biden came next, followed by Dodd.  Dodd’s supporters chanted the letters of his name in a rolling cadence which sounded like D-D-D-OHHHH-D-D-D.  Next, Hillary Clinton strolled in and her supporters waved their signs and cheered.  But it was the entrance of Barack Obama which drew the loudest and most organized response from the crowd.  Obama backers on one side of the hall chanted "Fired up" and then his backers on the other side yelled "Ready to go."  It appears clear Obama has the most supporters in the hall.  Obama aides claim to have at least 3000 here; Clinton aides put their tally at 2000.

The candidates and (most of) their spouses stood together on stage as the Pledge was said and the National Anthem was sung, followed by a rendition of God Bless America.  Both songs were sung by Simon Estes, the Iowa-born opera singer.  Then, United Methodist minister Barbara Dinnen took the mic, told a story and offered the invocation.    

Scott Brennan, the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, was the first to have an extended time on the stage, which is set up in a sort of theater-in-the-round way.

Nancy Pelosi was next:  "All of the eyes of the world are on this dinner tonight because they know they’re going to hear from the next president of the United States."

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