Romney/Branstad rally in CR (AUDIO)

Click here to read a Radio Iowa story and listen to the half-hour-long rally.  What follows is a live blog of the event.

The clock just struck 10 o’clock this morning. I’m sitting in a conference room at the Kirkwood Events Center in Cedar Rapids, waiting for former Goveror Mitt Romney and former Governor Terry Branstad (who’s running to return to the governor’s office in Iowa) to enter the room for a political rally.  Most of the crowd is chatting.  A woman has twice hooted, for lack of a better descriptive word, but the rally has yet to begin.

At about five ’til 10 Branstad walked in the back of the room, but a staff member escorted him back out.  A dark curtain is hanging along the east wall of the room, providing a backdrop for the stage and placement for the “Road to Victory: Branstad/Reynolds 2010” sign that hangs from it.  

Mariannette Miller-Meeks is first to speak to the crowd. “I thought I was having a bad hair day until I stepped out into the wind,” she said, as a sort of mistress of ceremonies.  “…This is a no-fly day.”

Miller-Meeks told the crowd her opponent, Congressman Dave Loebsack, “hadn’t expected much of a race,” then she said her husband had shared a quote from Will Rogers with her: “There’s two ways to argue with a woman.  Neither works.” 

The crowd cheered as a group of Iowa Republican candidates and the party’s chair entered the room. “Look what the bus brought in,” Miller-Meeks said, adding a few seconds later: “Boy, the Winnebago can bring in a lot of people.” She also joked with the crowd about Romney wearing jeans on the campaign trail.

Kim Reynolds, the nominee for lieutenant governor, is next to speak. “Oh, my gosh, what a phenomenal turn-out…Terry Branstad& I have each traveled to all 99 counties in the state of Iowa.”

The crowd cheered.  “And you know what we’ve seen are good, honest, hard-working people who want…stability returned to their government….These past four years have given Iowans whiplash…We have seen bloated spending…a film office scandal…promises of 30,000 jobs with an I-JOBS program that was administered so poorly that we’ve actually seen a loss of 20,000 jobs.”

Reynolds soons delivers the line Terry Branstad used thrice in his debate with Culver last week. “We know that Chet Culver loves Iowa and we know that he has tried really, really hard, but you know what?” Reynolds asked. “The results speak for themselves and the status quo is not acceptable anymore.  You know what I think?  I think it’s time to change course.  Help is on the way with Terry Branstad leading it.”

She was done speaking at 10:20 a.m., introducing a “great friend of Iowa…Mitt Romney.”

“Wow, what a welcome.  Thank you so much.  Thanks you guys.  Wow,what a welcome.  Thank you so much.  It’s a — thank you,” Romney said as the crowd of probably a little more than 200 cheered.

Romney cited a line from the theme song of the hit TV show Cheers. “It sure is nice to be in a place…where everybody knows your name,” Romney said.

Romney used the phrase “extraordinary team” to describe the roster of statewide candidates who were standing on stage, along with Miller-Meeks, a candidate in the congressional district that includes Cedar Rapids.  “What a difference these people will make for Iowa,” Romney told the crowd.

Romney said Iowans have an unsual opportunity to examine the two major party candidates for governor. “In this case,you’ve got two people who’ve both been governor and you can compare the records of the two people,” he said.

A few moments later, Romney made reference to the introduction of Kim Reynolds.  “When you said someone young, attractive and full of energy, I thought Terry Branstad,” Romney said and the crowd laughed and clapped.

Romney quickly referenced his travel schedule. “By November 2, I will have been in 25 states…and there’s something very powerful going on in the country.  There’s going to be a remarkable rejection of Obama/Pelosi/Reid and the liberal policies you see right here in Iowa.”

He mentioned some of the other gubernatorial candidates he’s been campaigning with over the past few months.

Romney said the federal economic stimulus hadn’t created private sector jobs, but instead had “protected government workers and unions.  It did not do what the economy needed….then we saw ObamaCare…cap and trade..and their card-check efforts.”

Romney returned to a theme he discussed during his spring-time book launch tour. Liberals “don’t fundamentally understand what makes America America,” according to Romney, who said liberals, “whether they’re in Washington or Des Moines” are trying to “smother that spirit” of America.

“No, we will not let you take over America,” Romney said.

Romney predicted Branstad would cruise to victory:  “Nov 2, about 10 seconds after the polls close, they’ll be calling the race.”

Romney quickly wrapped up, speaking for a little more than seven-and-a-half minutes, then Branstad began speaking.  He began by touting the entire ticket.

“We’ve charted a path that’s taken us through all 99 counties,” Branstad said, then there was a pause before he continued. “What I’ve seen and what I’ve heard from you, the people of Iowa, is that we need to chart a new path…and we intend to do that.”

“…We must raise incomes, not propery taxes and debt in this state.”

“…Will you help this whole team win on November 2?” Branstad asked.  “Governor Romney’s not the first governor to come here to campaign for me, and he won’t be the last.”

Branstad goes on to talk about NJ Governor Chris Christie, who campaigned for Branstad earlier in the month.  Branstad (with Romney standing right there on the same stage!) told the crowd that, during Christie’s speech, he hadn’t been that inspired by a speaker since Ronald Reagan.

“The choir needs to sing,” Branstad said, winding down.  The crowd began to chant:  “Branstad.”

Romney shooks hands and posed for pictures before saying to three hovering reporters: “Gotta go, guys.”  He exited the room.

Third gubernatorial debate is history

Hello, sportsfans!  How many of you were able to catch today’s live broadcast of the third and final face-off between Terry Branstad and Chet Culver?  Maybe you’re going to pop some popcorn and hit the couch at eight o’clock tonight to watch the event on Iowa Public Television. 

I happened to be on the set, on a panel of journalists asking questions.  The two candidates walked into the IPTV studio at about 11:45 a.m., did the hand-shake for the cameras, and then exited to their respective locker rooms for a few more minutes before returning to the stage.

The candidates both spent the three minutes or so before air time standing behind the lecterns,  heads bowed, rather furiously writing notes on pieces of paper (at least I’m guessing they weren’t drawing cartoons).  Both men were wearing red ties.

As the debate began, Branstad did not look at Culver, but later Branstad began turning his whole body toward Culver as he launched his “you’ve tried hard, but…” lines at Culver. 

Just over two-dozen questions were asked during the hour-long debate.  A little over half-way through the “lightning round” began, and those questions and answers were probably the most interesting part of the debate.  Both men would sign a law banning smoking at the casinos.  Neither would sign a bill allowing the medicinal use of marijuana.  Neither would change the state’s non-partisan system for drawing congressional and legislative district lines according to the new census figures.

The two gave different answers when it came to key 2010 ballot issues.  Both were asked how they would vote on the constitutional amendment that may eventually dedicate money to land and water conservation.  Culver said he’d vote yes.  Branstad said it was up to the people and he wouldn’t disclose his opinion on the subject.

When the two were asked how they’d vote on the three Iowa Supreme Court justices who are on the ballot in a retention vote, here is how they answered:

“I think people should vote their own convictions on these issues,” Branstad said. “I’m not going to try to influence the way people vote on ballot issues.”

Culver answered: “Governors need to lead.  I will vote yes on retaining the justices.”

The candidates were asked: Beyond sorting out the legal fallout from the film tax credit scandal, should Iowa even have a film office?   Culver simply said: “no.”  Branstad said: “yes, we should have a film office, but what they did under Governor Culver’s watch was a disaster.”

Later, the two were given a chance to discuss the issue at length.

Another lightning round question:  Should the governor have the authority to choose whomever he wants to appoint as a judge in Iowa, just as a president does with the federal courts?

Branstad: “Yes, the present system is skewed because you have 12 Democrats and only 2 Republicans on the nominating committee.

Culver: “No, it worked great under Terry Branstad and Bob Ray for 30 years.  We shouldn’t change it now.”

Next question:  Is it right for churches to face a tax penalty if pastors tell their congregation how to vote?

Branstad: “No, No.  People should have the freedom to say what they want.”

Culver: “They need to follow to laws related to non-profits.” 

The final question of the debate came from Dean Borg of Iowa Public Radio & IPTV.  He asked what bugs them most about the way they’re portrayed or caricatured.  Culver began by talking about being a dad, bragging about his kids and his wife.

 “And I am like most Iowans. I’m hardworking. I’m honest and I’m committed to doing everything I can to make a difference,” Culver said. 

Borg interjected: “So, you like everything about yourself, then?” 

Culver responded: “No, I can’t control a lot of that, Dean, but what I can do is get the job done which is exactly what I’ve done for the last four years.” 

Borg redirected the same question to Branstad: “What caricature really gets under your skin?”

Branstad referred to a Des Moines cartoonist’s work: “Duffy always makes me look really, really short and, you know, I have a mustache, but now I’m nominated for a national award.” 

Branstad has been nominated for the American Mustache Institute’s Robert Goulet Memorial “Mustached American of the Year” Award.  (That would be Robert “If Ever I Would Leave You” Goulet.)

Read this afternoon’s Radio Iowa story about the debate; it includes links to The Des Moines Register & Iowa Public Television which plan to post the video from the debate.

Tomorrow morning’s Radio Iowa story includes a long segment from the debate where Culver cites state-by-state rankings by magazines and Branstad disses the magazine published by Steve Forbes. (Branstad, by the way, backed Bob Dole, not Steve Forbes in 1996.)

Culver: “Forbes magazine just said that Des Moines, Iowa, is the best place in America to do business and we have the 4th best state in America to do business. Those jobs are coming to Iowa: Aviva, Google, Microsoft, IBM — good wages, good benefits. There’s not a state in the country that can compete with us right now and in my second term, we’re going to go from being the third-best-run state in America to the absolute best-run state.” 

Branstad replied:  “First of all, I don’t read all the Wall Street magazines and that sort of thing, but I can tell you I’ve been traveling all over the state of Iowa. I’ve been to all 99 counties and there are 114,000 people out of work. There are a lot people hurting in this state. I know we can do better. I will focus on it day in and day out, year in and year out — not just before the election.”

Before today’s noon-time debate Culver attended the unveiling of Aviva’s new facility in West Des Moines, telling the crowd it gave him time to practice his opening statement for the debate.  An Aviva official quipped that Culver wouldn’t have to face rebuttals at the event.

Todd Dorman of The Cedar Rapids Gazette blogged about the debate.  The Register’s Kathie Obradovich, moderator of today’s debate, blogged about the event late this afternoonThe Register’s Jennifer Jacobs wrote this summary of the debate’s high points. Here is the story Mike Glover of the Associated Press wrote. The Gazette’s Rod Boshart wrote this story.  Lynn Campbell of wrote this.

The Register had a blog post about the pre-debate hoopla outside Iowa Public Television’s studio.  As I walked into the building, the Black Eyed Peas song “I Gotta Feeling” was blasting from a boom box in the parking lot.  “Like, oh my God” was one of the last lines I heard as the door closed behind me.

Price tag for 2010 governor’s race: over $16 million

The two major party candidates issued news releases today about campaign fundraising.  

The campaign of  Republican gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad released the following information at 9:44 a.m. via email:

Branstad tops 13,000 contributors
Raises $2.1 million in latest report
Has over $842,000 in cash on hand heading into final two weeks

(URBANDALE) – The Governor Branstad 2010 campaign today announced that it has 13,189 contributors in the latest campaign finance disclosure report filed last Friday, October 15.

The report shows the Branstad 2010 campaign raising $2,083,515.89 from July 15- Oct. 14. Additionally, the campaign has a healthy $842,369.57 cash on hand as it enters the final two weeks.

“We are excited to have a broad base of overwhelming support throughout Iowa,” said Branstad 2010 campaign manager Jeff Boeyink. “Terry Branstad’s message of job creation and fixing Iowa government is clearly resonating with Iowans. This support, along with our continued fundraising efforts, will allow us to run a strong, robust campaign through election day.”

Thus far, the Branstad 2010 campaign has raised $7,641,775.77 in total campaign contributions for the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

“This level of support comes as a result of Terry Branstad’s commitment to visit every Iowa county, share his vision at colleges and universities across the state, and earn the support of thousands of Iowans across the state by sharing his positive message for job creation and education,” said Boeyink.

The campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver released the following information via email at 12:33 p.m.

Governor Culver Beats Branstad in Overall Fundraising
Culver raises $8 million during 2010 election cycle

DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver’s campaign has raised more than Terry Branstad’s during the 2010 election cycle, the Culver/Judge Campaign announced today. Governor Culver has raised more than $8 million this cycle.

“Governor Culver’s message of jobs, preschool and renewable energy has inspired Iowans, and so despite the pollsters and pundits, he has maintained his financial advantage over Terry Branstad,” said Culver Campaign Manager Donn Stanley. “The recent developments confirming a balanced state budget, a large surplus and a forecast of economic growth will put Governor Culver over the top.”

The Culver campaign began this reporting period (July 15-Oct. 14, 2010) with more cash on hand: $2.8 million to Branstad’s $1.5 million. Combining cash on hand available on July 14, 2010 and the money raised since then, the Culver campaign has outdistanced the Branstad campaign $4.1 million to $3.6 million.

In this period alone, the Culver campaign has raised more than $1.3 million and has more than $500,000 cash on hand.

“The difference between our cash-on-hand number and Branstad’s is because by Oct. 14 our campaign had already purchased television advertising through the election, while the Branstad campaign had not, simply to bolster their cash-on-hand number for this report,” Stanley said. “This is more of the same dishonesty from the Branstad campaign. They are clearly playing shell games to try to appear financially stronger than they actually are.”

“Governor Culver is poised to finish the election strong,” Stanley continued. “We’ve closed the fundraising and polling gaps because there is no enthusiasm gap in Iowa. Governor Culver has the resources, he has the record, and he has the momentum to win this race.”

The 2010 Jefferson-Jackson Day program (Audio)

“We aren’t going back,” Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Sue Dvorsky just told the crowd as she concluded her opening remarks at 7:42 p.m.  There was a delay in the program’s launch this evening, due to a false alarm.  Party officials say 1400 tickets were sold for the 2010 Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner.  There are tables set for a little less than 1200, however.

The night’s cash haul?  “We have broken $300,00o,” Dvorsky announced to the crowd.

What follows is a live blog of the evening.

Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo) was the first elected official to speak.  I don’t recognize the music they played as Braley makes his way on stage.  (Braley staffer emailed to say it was “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” by the Beastie Boys.  Braley grew up in Brooklyn, Iowa.)  “In 2006, we gave them hope.  In 2008, we gave them change and in 2010 we’re going to give them hell.  We’re just going to speak truth to lies and speak truth to fear and they’re going to think it’s hell when they’re listening to it,” Braley said to open his remarks.

Braley next said the pundits who are predicting November 2 will be “doomsday for Democrats” are wrong.  “We are at our best when we are standing together, fighting for what we believe in…and that’s why Democrats are going to win all over this state on November 2.”

[Read more…]

The Cedar Rapids debate: gambling a key topic

The Cedar Rapids Gazette and KCRG-TV are hosting a debate this evening at Coe College in Cedar Rapids.  The “debaters” are Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat who is seeking a second term, and Terry Branstad, a Republican who was Iowa’s governor from January of 1983 through January of 1999 and who is seeking a fifth term.  What follows is a live blog of the event.  (UPDATE: The testiest exchange came after the question about gambling. I transcribed much of what the two men said during that portion of the debate.  Here’s the Radio Iowa story about tonight’s event.)

The first question:  how would you eliminate projected budget shortfall for FY12 and still provide essential services?

Branstad blamed Culver and Democratic legislators. “It was caused one-time money for on-going expenses,” he said.  Branstad pledged to “thoughtfully and sustematically reduce” the size of govt. He proposed selling the state vehicle fleet and leasing vehicles instead; combining state govt email systems into one; eliminating state govt positions funded, but not filled.

Culver said: “We will balance the budget just like we have for four years in a row…We have proven we can govern…during challenging times.”  Cited former Republican State Auditor Dick Johnson’s criticism of Branstad’s previous tenure as governor, adding there were “budget gaps” when Branstad was governor, too. 

Branstad said “you almost get a whip-lash” while listening to Culver talk about the state budget.  ” They passed the biggest budget in history, over the objections of Republicans in the legislature,” he said.  Branstad noted tomorrow is the anniversary of the day Culver ordered an across-the-board cut of 10 percent in the state budget.

Culver said Branstad “has broken his promise time and time again to Iowans by not telling the truth.”  Culver cited tax increases Branstad signed as governor and said Branstad continued to increase the state budget he was governor — “between 1990 and 1999 he added $1 billion in spending.”

[Read more…]

Biden to Iowa next week

Governor Chet Culver told reporters late this morning that Vice President Joe Biden will be visiting Iowa next week.  Culver didn’t say what Biden would be doing, but apparently Biden will be doing a private event for Congressman Leonard Boswell’s campaign that is closed to the press and public.

Here’s all of what Culver said today during a news conference. Scroll to the bottom of this Radio Iowa story to listen to it.  If you don’t have time, here’s the entire transcript:

Q: When is the president coming back?

Culver: “The vice president will be here next Tuesday and we expect we’ll continue to have members of the administration and hopefully the presient, certainly, before November 2.”

Findley gets NRA backing

On Monday, the National Rifle Association announced it has endorsed Democrat Chet Culver’s bid for reelection as governor.  On Wednesday, the group announced it has endorsed Republican Brenna Findley’s bid to oust Democrat Tom Miller, the state’s attorney general.  Read the Findley campaign announcement below.

NRA Endorses Brenna Findley for Iowa’s Attorney General

Brenna Findley, Republican candidate for Iowa Attorney General, has earned the endorsement of the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF).
Said Chris Cox, NRA-PVF Chairman, “Gun owners and hunters in Iowa can trust Brenna Findley to fight for their Second Amendment rights.”

In stark contrast Findley’s opponent, Attorney General Tom Miller, has earned an “F” rating from the NRA-PVF for refusing to stand with an overwhelming majority of state attorneys general who signed pro-Second Amendment “friend of the court” briefs in the landmark Supreme Court cases of Heller and McDonald. Additionally, Miller’s office issued interpretations of Iowa’s firearms preemption statute and right-to-carry law that took an extremely narrow view of the rights of Iowa gun owners.

Said Cox, “Brenna Findley’s support for individual gun ownership rights has earned her an “A+” rating and endorsement from the NRA-PVF. We ask all Iowa gun owners, hunters and NRA members to vote for Brenna Findley for Attorney General on November 2.”

When learning of the endorsement Findley said, “I am committed to upholding and defending our Second Amendment rights. I appreciate the support of Iowa’s gun owners, hunters and sportsmen.”

Culver releases I-JOBS data for July

According to the Culver administration, 7502 people were working on I-JOBS-financed projects in July.  Read the news release from the governor’s office below.

Governor Culver: New I-JOBS Report Shows Continued Growth

In less than 12 months, program makes huge strides

DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver today hailed July’s I-JOBS report, which shows the program is continuing to expand as more projects come on line.

“It’s just been 12 months since the first I-JOBS applications started coming in,” Culver said. “And look at the progress we have made in less than a year. This underscores the need that Iowa has had for the program since the floods of 2008.”

The report shows that in the month of July:

[Read more…]

Teamsters endorse Culver

The Teamsters have endorsed Chet Culver’s bid for reelection.  There are about 12,000 active Teamsters and another 6000 retired Teamsters in Iowa.  Read the story and listen to the Teamsters news conference here. Culver wore a t-shirt with the familiar Teamster’s logo on the back for the event.

A Teamsters leader addressed the tention between Culver and unions after Culver vetoed a bill that would have expanded the subjects upon which unions may bargain during contract talks.

“We’re not going to get everything that we desire, but it’s certainly more favorable for working-class people in this state with Governor Culver in charge,” said Gary Dunham, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 238 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

[Read more…]

NRA endorses Culver; DMPD group backs Branstad

There were dueling news releases from the campaigns of Chet Culver and Terry Branstad, touting “major endorsements” this morning. 

Culver’s was first, at 9 a.m.  The National Rifle Association endorsed Culver.  Culver showed up in a camouflage jacket for the outdoor event, held at the Izaak Walton League’s lodge in Des Moines.  Read about the event and listen to it here.  After the announcement, someone (I didn’t see who) handed out brown caps with “Sportsmen for Culver” printed on the front in blaze orange, of course. 

Branstad’s event started at 10 a.m.  It was in Pleasant Hill, which seems an odd location to hold an event at which the political action committee representing about 600 current and retire officers from the Des Moines Police Department endorsed Branstad.  The group had endorsed Culver in 2006. 

A reporter asked: Why endorse Branstad this time around?

DMPD Sergeant Dave Murillo:  “Those of you who know me, I’m a straight shooter.  I call it like I see it. When Chet Culver ran for governor, he made a promise to organized labor in this state that anything crossing his desk relative to collective bargaining he would support.  When an enhancement bill to Chapter 20 came across his desk, he voted it, then was conspicious to his absence to all labor leaders as to why he vetoed that bill.”

Reporter: So is Governor Branstad promising to sign that legislation?

Murillo: “No legislation like that, of course, has crossed Branstad’s desk because he’s not governor yet.”

Reporter: But Terry Branstad opposes the legislation you support.

Murillo: “I’d let the governor answer that.”

Branstad: “Yeah, I don’t support expanding the collective bargaining law, but I do support law enforcement and public safety and I do — I won’t promise something and then renig on it.” 

Unions representing police officers support the bill Culver vetoed and Branstad opposes.  Police argue they need greater authority to bargain over whether things like protective armor will be part of their benefit package.