Prepping for Round II

A new group called Focus on Iowa’s Future has formed.  It’s made up of people who were on the losing side of last year’s judicial retention vote.  The group has just posted a video online.  It features Bob Vander Plaats, the man who spearheaded the successful campaign to oust the three Iowa Supreme Court Justices who were up for retention last fall.  The opening headline: “extremists are attacking our court system.”   If you watch, you’ll hear the name “Newt Gingrich” a lot from Vander Plaats.

Unpaid lawyer asks judge to excuse him from case

George Jones, a lawyer from Lamoni, Iowa, was assigned to represent a client who has been charged with a crime but could not afford his own attorney.  The state, as you may know, hasn’t been paying attorneys, court reporters and investigators who work on cases for indigent clients.  The money for the state’s indigent defense program ran out weeks ago. Legislators and the governor have been unable to strike a deal to pay the overdue legal bills because the issue is tied up with another, unrelated matter — a “Taxpayers Relief Fund” that Republicans want.

Jones filed the motion below, asking to be relieved of his duty in the case because the state hasn’t paid his bills. (The name of his client has been redacted, as have a few other items that would identify the case or witnesses).  Jones indicated in an email to Rep. Kurt Swaim (D-Bloomfield) that similar motions were filed in South Carolina a few years ago when a similar situation cropped up in that state.  

[Read more…]

Branstad to host presidential candidate forum 11.1.11

The National Association of Manufacturers plans to host a candidate forum on 11.1.11 in Pella, Iowa, the home to Vermeer Manufacturing.  Vermeer’s president & CEO  is Mary Andringa.  Andringa is currently the board chair of the National Association of Manufacturers.  (Republicans who eventually convinced Terry Branstad to seek a fifth term as governor in 2010 had tried to get Andringa to run for governor.  She was among the advisors to Branstad’s 2010 campaign.)  Now, the question:  which candidates will agree to participate?

Washington, D.C., 04/13/11 –  The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and its Board Chair Mary Andringa will host a forum for the 2012 Republican presidential candidates in Pella, Iowa, on Nov. 1, 2011. The forum will be moderated by Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad.

Vermeer Corporation’s headquarters will be the site for this important discussion. Vermeer is a family-owned manufacturing company that produces construction, agricultural and environmental equipment. Its products are used on job sites in more than 60 nations around the globe. Vermeer Corporation also operates sales manufacturing facilities in several countries and employs more than 2,400 people worldwide.  Mary Andringa is Vermeer’s president and CEO and also serves as chair of the NAM Board of Directors.

“Manufacturing is vital to the American economy, and we expect issues that affect manufacturers – from tax reform to energy security to job growth – to play a central role in the presidential election,” said Vermeer Corporation President Mary Andringa. “We look forward to welcoming the candidates to Vermeer and learning about their visions for keeping manufacturing in America strong.” 

“I am pleased to have been asked to participate in Vermeer Corporation and the National Association of Manufacturers’ Republican presidential candidate forum,” said Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad. “This is an excellent opportunity for all of the candidates to discuss manufacturing, trade, tax reform and other issues that are critically important to the state of Iowa and the United States’ economic prosperity.”

The forum will provide an opportunity for the candidates to talk with manufacturers about their positions on critical issues. The NAM’s comprehensive “Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America” outlines three goals to keep manufacturing in America competitive which include making the United States: the best country in the world to headquarter a company and attract foreign direct investment; the best country in the world to innovate, performing the bulk of a company’s research and development; and a great place to manufacture, both to meet the needs of the American market and serve as an export platform for the world.

“In today’s global economy, manufacturers are facing unprecedented challenges and costs imposed from Washington that hurt their ability to compete,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “We are excited to have the opportunity to discuss our goals for policies on taxes, trade and regulations that will promote sustained economic growth and job creation here in the United States.”

The major Republican candidates running for President in 2012 will be invited to participate in the forum. The NAM will also extend an invitation to President Obama to meet with manufacturers to discuss issues critical to manufacturing competitiveness.

The United States is the world’s largest manufacturing economy, producing 21 percent of global manufactured products. Nearly 12 million Americans are employed directly in manufacturing. Manufacturing in Iowa employs more than 200,000 people and accounts for more than 20 percent of Iowa’s economy.    

Won’t go there, they say

There will not be a state government shut-down if the top two leaders in the Iowa Legislature have their way, they say.  (But there is the possibility of a shutdown of state operations if Governor Terry Branstad follows through on his threat to veto budget bills the legislature may send him over and over and over until he gets what he wants.)

The legislature’s top two leaders appear together on this weekend’s edition of “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television.  The two offer their predictions about the prospect the redistricting plan will pass the legislature next week (probably will) and whether Branstad’s proposed double-digit increase in the state tax on casinos will pass (probably won’t).  A wide range of other topics, including a discussion of prospects for property tax relief were discussed.  Watch it tonight at 7:30 on IPTV or watch it online here.

Rand Paul makes first trip to Iowa

U.S. Senator Rand Paul, the son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, is in Iowa today — a trip that is nearly four years after his father’s first trip to Iowa on April 11, 2007. 

During an interview this morning in Ames, I asked him which Paul is going to run for president in 2012?

“We really haven’t talked about it that much, to tell you the truth. I think that the signs I see of his travel and where he’s going and how much he has been going lead me to think he might be interested in running again,” Rand Paul said. “…I’ve told people that the only decision I’ve made is that I wouldn’t run against him…And even if he does, I want to be part of the process in some way.”

Were you to run, how would you avoid the criticism Republicans made of Obama in 2007 & 2008, that he lacked the experience to be president?

“Didn’t see to hurt him, did it?” Rand Paul said, chuckling.  “I think it’s interesting, you know, people want to complain about it, but, you know, Lincoln was elected with two years of experience as a congressman 15 years before he ran for president. Obama, I think, announced he was running 43 days into his term…I don’t know. I think people can make any criticism they want and whether it’s valid or not, I think that’s the winnowing process that goes through a primary and that’s what we decide.  We decide who best can articulate our vision.”

(A note: Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate in November of 2004, became a senator in January of 2005 and announced he was running for president in February of 2007.)

You have to be motivated to run.  Do you feel that passion?

“I feel the passion to try to fix the problems in our country before it’s too late…To many who say, ‘Why don’t you just sit on the back bench and when your time has come in 12 or 15 or 20 years, then you come forward?’ I see a shorter time line, not just for me, but I see a shorter time line for the country….There’s no money left…within a decade because we are showing just absolutely no restraint,” Rand Paul said. “…Is it just good for a country to continually spend beyond their means? And I see as it not just a Democrat/Republican problem.  I think Republicans are part of the problem as well…The entitlement program for prescription drugs is bigger than ObamaCare. Republicans are 100 percent against ObamaCare, but the vast majority of them voted for the prescription drug program.”

Paul said his book was an attempt to put the tenants of the Tea Party movement down on paper, and he suggested the Tea Party will play a major role in deciding who the GOP nominates in 2012.

David Fischer, a Republican from Ivy, Iowa, who supported Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential bid, and Fischer wants to see “one of the Pauls” run for president in 2012.

“They have a unique message,” Fischer says. “…They fill a void in the discourse.  There’s a genuine message common to both of them of promoting freedom and shrinking the size and scope of government…and a more rational foreign policy you’ll hear only coming from the Pauls.  That’s something that needs to be heard right now because we don’t have a rational foreign policy right now.”

Fischer, a 43-year-old engineering consultant, is a member of the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee.   He just finished Rand Paul’s book last night and had the senator sign it this morning.  Fischer is one of the small troupe of people guiding Paul through Iowa this weekend.

Paul is holding two book-signing events today in Iowa.  The first is in Ames at the University Book Store on the Iowa State University campus; the second is in metro Des Moines.  Paul was in Iowa City, on the University of Iowa campus last night.  Paul will also speak to Iowa College Republicans late this morning and he’ll meet with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, a Republican, early this afternoon before headlining an Iowa GOP fundraiser this evening in Des Moines.

Before I forget, an odd moment…

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour visited with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad in Branstad’s office in February.  Branstad’s staff (not Barbour’s) invited Iowa reporters into the room, and the two governors talked briefly with reporters.  At the end of the event, after reporters had asked their questions and Branstad communications director Tim Albrecht had said, “Thank you, everybody” to signal the end of the Q&A, Branstad made a bit of small talk.

“John Deere makes cotton pickers right here in Ankeny,” Branstad said to Barbour.

“Good for him,” Barbour replied, not immediately realizing Branstad was talking about the company, not a person.  Barbour caught himself seconds later, though, and said:  “Good for them.”

Gingrich on “Iowa Press” tonight

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the guest on this weekend’s edition of “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television.  It airs at 7:30 tonight and 11:30 a.m. Sunday.  After the show, Gingrich addressed the charge that he’s flip-flopped on Libya.  (P.S. There’s audio there if you follow that link, so you can listen to NG himself.)

During the program, Gingrich presented himself as the candidate of ideas who can best match wits with President Obama in the presidential debates of October, 2012.  (See more about that below) Gingrich suggested he hadn’t been ready to run in ’08 because his idea factory hadn’t churned up enough stuff, but he hinted he’s poised to make a “positive announcement” about his presidential aspirations in four or five weeks.  Gingrich mentioned recent visits to states like South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa — which hold the first contests in the 2012 primary election cycle — “basically testing the waters…and so far the waters are pretty warm.  I feel pretty good about this…I think it’s fair to say that we’re a lot closer to running than not running at this stage.”

Gingrich also addressed the topic of his marital history. 

AP reporter Mike Glover: “You’ve been married three times. You’ve had messy divorces.  You’re campaigning in a state where the Republican Party is dominated by Christian conservatives. How do you get past that?”

Gingrich: “I think you don’t get past that.  I think you tell the truth and I think you share your life’s experiences and you admit that you’ve had weaknesses and that you’ve had failures and you’ve gone to God to seek forgiveness and to seek reconciliation and then people make a decision. And they look at the totality of my life. I’m 67.  Callista and I have a great marriage. We have two wonderful daughters. We have two grandchildren who are terrific and people have to decide, on balance, am I a person that they would respect and trust in the White House.”

Gingrich said you don’t have to be likeable to win the presidency — he cited Nixon as an example– and when questioned about what qualifies one to be president, he cited Lincoln and Eisenhower as examples of successful presidents because they had, in Gingrich’s assessment, core beliefs.

He restated his support of corn-based ethanol fuel toward the end of the show and said there were no strings attached to his six-figure contribution to last fall’s effort to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices in the 2010 judicial retention election.  Gingrich added he would be willing to support an effort to oust the four justices who remain on the court who joined in the unanimous 2009 opinion which legalized gay marriage in Iowa.

At the beginning of the show, Gingrich addressed the idea voters may be looking for a “fresh face” in 2012.  Neat the end, he addressed this:

Radio Iowa news director O. Kay Henderson (me): “Given the propensity of Americans to like to promote a state-leve chief executive — a governor, given the desire of some part in your party to nominate a business person or someone with a business background, is it wise to nominate a former professor who ‘s an author to run against a former professor who’s an author?”

Gingrich: “Well, it depends on whether or not you think winning the debates in October matters.  I mean it strikes me that going up against Barack Obama is going to come down to what Margaret Thatcher used to say when she said that, ‘First you win the argument, then you win the vote.” 

Gingrich continued that thought, saying the GOP has to nominate someone who “philosophically and practically can be on the same stage” with Obama.  “I think you could see a Gingrich versus Obama range of choices that would be very wide,” he said.

Listen to Cain, Bachmann, Paul in Iowa (AUDIO)

Three potential 2012 presidential candidates spoke over the noon-hour at a rally on the steps of the Iowa statehouse.  The crowd of home-schooling parents and their children cheered the trio, despite the chilly weather.

Listen to former Godfather’s CEO Herman Cain, who spoke first.

Listen to Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who spoke second.

Listen to Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who spoke last.

Cain was brief, speaking for about four minutes and promising the crowd he’d tell the rest of the story at an event later this afternoon.  Bachmann spoke for 25 minutes, stressing her Iowa roots.  “It’s great to be in Iowa.  Is there any other place?” Bachmann said at the beginning, laughing.  “…I come to you, first of all, as an Iowan….I’m a seventh-generation Iowan…What I love about Iowans is that we’re fighters.  We’re fighters.  We don’t take no for an answer.”  She was the only one of the three to specifically mention last fall’s judicial retention vote in which three Iowa Supreme Court Justices were voted off the bench.

Bachmann stressed her background as a home-schooling mom. Paul also talked extensively about home-schooling.  “The public school now is a propaganda machine. They start with our kids even in kindergarten, teaching ’em about family values, sexual education, gun rights, environmentalism, and they condition them to believe in so much that is totally un-American,” Paul said during his 11-minute speech.

UPDATE:  here’s the Radio Iowa story about this event.

Something to listen for Wednesday

Three potential GOP candidates for president will speak to a gathering of the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators on Wednesday and it will be interesting to see if/how they compare with the candidates who spoke to this group last year.

On March 16 of last year, three Iowa Republicans were vying for their party’s gubernatorial nomination.  One of them — Terry Branstad — was a former governor.  Another — Bob Vander Plaats — had campaigned extensively with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in the run-up to the 2008 Iowa Caucuses and home schoolers had been an important part of Huckabee’s network.  The third candidate — Rod Roberts — is, like Huckabee, an ordained minister.

Both Roberts and Vander Plaats spoke about faith during their remarks to the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators.  As he often did during the 2010 campaign, Vander Plaats told the crowd:  “I know who I am and I know whose I am.”  Roberts quoted from Genesis and the New Testament, and credited Joseph & Mary — the parents of Jesus Christ — for helping Jesus grow in stature in the same way home schooling parents help their children.

Branstad was the odd man out that day.  He didn’t quote the Bible or make any reference to his own faith in the way the two other candidates had.  His speech fell flat in the room.

The Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators will be holding an outdoor event at noon tomorrow on the steps of the statehouse. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former Godfather’s CEO Herman Cain and Texas Congressman Ron Paul will speak briefly there. Another event will be held indoors at a hotel down the street in the early afternoon where the three will speak as well.

Chief of Huckabee ’08 in Iowa a T-Pawer in ’12

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee chose a rent street level space in downtown Des Moines for his 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign headquarters.  I often drove by at night and through the large windows that faced Locust Street I could see a solitary figure — Eric Woolson — sitting inside, banging away on a keyboard or talking on the phone.  Woolson did communications and coordination, organizing and strategizing — and he is generally referred to as the “manager” of Huckabee’s Caucus effort. 

Woolson had worked on George W. Bush’s Iowa campaign.  And he was press secretary for Governor Terry Branstad in the final phases of Branstad’s fourth term in office.  In 2010, Woolson did not work for Branstad, however.  He was with BVP2010 (Bob Vander Plaats, the second place finisher in the GOP gubernatorial primary), then Woolson worked on Senator Chuck Grassley’s general election campaign. 

Now, The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza reports Woolson will back former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty in 2012.  Pawlenty has already drawn some key McCainiacs & Bushies and now adds a Huckabee-er to the mix.