Welcome to the Clubb house, Mr. President

At about 9:30 a.m. an organizer of today’s event picked up a microphone and address the crowd:  “Welcome to the Clubb house.”  See a slide show of photos from today’s event.  Read the Radio Iowa story.  What follows is a live blog of the event.

Jeff Clubb and his wife, Sandy Hatfield Clubb, are hosting one of President Obama’s “backyard conversations” in their backyard.  Their brick home faces the east. The backyard on the west side of their home stretches for a couple of lots in this northwest neighborhood of Des Moines called Beaverdale.

About 70 people — all invited guests — checked in around eight o’clock this morning just down the street. A Drake athlete was manning a clipboard to check the invitation list.  Sandy Hatfield Clubb is Drake University’s athletic director, so there’s a Drake contingent here today, including David Maxwell, the president of Drake University.

The bishop of the Des Moines Catholic Diocese is here as well.   The Clubbs are members of Holy Trininty, the Catholic church in the Beaverdale neighborhood and Jeff Clubb is a social studies teacher at Holy Trinity’s elementary school.  Some of the guests have connects to the school.  I chatted with a man who is both a neighbor down the street and the parent of a girl in one of Clubb’s classes.

The invited crowd was advised this was a casual event, so men in the crowd were encouraged to leave the neck ties and suit jackets at home.  The chairs for the crowd are spread out in a half-moon, under the canopy of the large trees that shade the Clubb’s backyard.

The couple’s garage has been converted into a media center.  Big screen televisions are set up so reporter who’ll be working inthat space can watch the event live, as they’ll be sitting indoors with their backs to the backyard.

Photo: Jennifer Jacobs of The Des Moines Register

I’m among a crew of reporters and photographers sitting in the driveway, with my laptop on a folding table.  The sun is now shining driectly on us, so I’ve flung my coat over the laptop and my head to create a shaded space so I can see what I’m typing.  Here’s a bit of a preview story, with comments from the crowd.

It’s now 9:54 a.m. and we just heard yelling from down the street.  It sounds like POTUS is in the neighborhood.  At about 10:05 p.m. Obama arrived and said: “Hello, everybody!”

He began by thanking the hosts.  “Since we are here, I should just say, ‘Go Bulldogs!’  — I know how to work a crowd,” Obama said, to laughter.

Obama recognized the elected officials in the crowd, then launched into his remarks. “I spent a few months here in Iowa a couple of years ago.  It is wonderfful to be back.  I am not going to give a long speech on the front end here.  What I really want to do is hear from you.”

“…There is an election coming up, although I’m going to try to avoid making just a straight political speech here.  When I started running for president back…in 2007 and 2008, the reason I was willing to go into the race even though Michelle was not crazya about politics and I have two young daughters who are the center of my world…and I was going to be away for quite a bit, was the feeling that the country was at a crossroads and we had decisions we’d been putting off for decades…but what concerned me most was the nature of our economy and how the American dream seemed as if it was slipping away from the American people…The middle class, which is the beating heart of our economy, and those aspiring to the middle class were finding it harder to get ahead.”

Without mentioning former President George W. Bush by name, he assailed a “set of policies” — namely tax cuts —  that “didn’t work,” according to Obama.

Obama on the economy: “I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve been able to keep the economy from going into a second Great Depression….The economy’s still not growing as fast as it needs to.”

The structural problems in the economy “still didn’t go away” according to Obama and the president said his administration is “not taking our eye off the ball.”

Obama, a few seconds later: “The challenges that the economy faces are still great…but we’re on the right path.”

Obama said the situation requires putting aside “politics as usual” and  “telling people things they don’twant to hear.”

Obama addressed the Republicans’ Pledge to America without saying the work Republican or the phrase Pledge to America.  “What it’s really offering is the same politics that from 2001 to 2009 put off hard problems and didn’t really speak honestly to the American people about how we’re going to get this country on track for the long term…Keep in mind we’re not going to be able to solve our big problems unless we’re able to honestly address them….We can’t pretend there are short cuts.”

The first question came from a woman named Mary Stier, who retired in 2007 from her job as publisher of The Des Moines Register.  She asked a question on behalf of her 24-year-old son who campaigned for Obama and is  still struggling to find a full-time job.

The second question came from Bob Brammer, the recently-retired spokesman for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.  Brammer asked about the “enormous amount” spent in money and in human capital on the “decade-long” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama referenced a speech he made a West Point.  “I’m interested in nation building here at home,” Obama said.  “…I was opposed to the war in Iraq…We have now ended our combat mission in Iraq.”

The crowd applauded.  “Now Afghanistan was a war that most people right after 9/11 overwhelmingly understood was important and necessary…The situation there is very tough…We’re not going to get it perfect there…but I do think that what we are seeing is the possibility of…keeping pressure on al Qaeda so they’re not able to launch attacks.”

Next question came from a woman named Jeanette McKensey (guessing on the spelling).  She’s asking a question about her mother’s health.  “I have great concerns over my health bill,” McKensey said.  She’s talking about stories told to her by a British acquaintance. “I can’t fathom, now, how can you get excited in your youth when you have to save, save, save…”

Obama: “Let me ask you a question…Is your mom on Medicare?

McKensey: “Yes.”

Obama: “There’s nothing in our health reform bill that is going to impact whether your mom can get heart surgery if she needed it.  We didn’t change the core Medicare program…”

McKensey: “Medicare doesn’t start ’til you’re 65.  I’m talking about 50, 55 years old…”

Obama: “Do you have health insurance?

McKensey: “Yes, right now….”

Obama: “I just want to identify what your worry is…what is it you think might be impacted by health insurance reform?”

Obama starts with an explanation of the many facets of health care reform, and McKensey responds: “We all agree there needs to be health reform, OK?  We just moved out here a year ago from Las Vegas, OK?  There are illegal immigrants that are getting free health care right now, OK?”

Obama said there is “no doubt” there are hospitals and doctors giving a lot of uncompensated care to a lot of people, including undocumented workers.

“If there’s some child badly injured, sick, they’re not going to check on their immigration status…I think it is very important for us to make sure that we have compassion as part of our national character,” Obama said, and the crowd applauded.

“…There’s nothing in my health care plan that covers undocumented workers,” Obama said, adding undocumented workers” underutilize the health care system becuase, he said, they’re afraid they’ll get caught and deported.

Toward the end of his remarks on this topic, Obama added: “I understand why people are concerned.”

The next question came from a man who I don’t think identified his name, but shared he’s 53 and a Drake graduate.  (UPDATE: his name is Dave Greenspon.)  He’s talking about his business.  I think he’s headed toward a question about taxing what he described as “that elitist two percent.”  He gets to this, about the idea of not extending the Bush-era tax cuts to households with an annual income of over $250,000: “You’re sort of strangling the engine that does create jobs,” Greenspon told Obama of the prospect of NOT extending the Bush tax cuts to households with annual inocmes above $250,000.

Obama responded: “I’m thrilled that you’ve been able to build a business.  I have signed eight small business tax cuts since I came into office and the package tha twe signed this week cut taxes in eight more ways, so your taxes haven’t gone up in this administration,” Obama said, to applause.  “I just want to be clear about this…I just think the notion, well, he’s a Democrat so you’re taxes have gone up.  That’s just not true.”

Regarding the Bush tax cuts, Obama said:  “If you’re making $300,000, you’re still getting a tax break on the first $250,000 of income…The reason I think it’s important for us to do this is not because I’m not sympathetic to small businesses…but 98 percent of small businesses actually have a profit of less than $250,000.”

“…To say to the top two percent of businesses, which by the way includes hedge fund managers who set up an ‘S’ corporation and are pulling down $1 billion a year…to say to them, ‘You’ve got to pay a modestly higher amount to make sure our budget, over time, gets balanced’ — I think that’s a fair thing to do.  When I talk to a lot of businesses, they just don’t want super-high rates like those that existed before Ronald Reagan came to office…I would like to see a lower corporate tax rate.”

Next question comes from Marti Anderson, head of the state’s Crime Victim Services agency (she supported Hillary Clinton during the Caucuses and she’s married to the aforementioned Bob Brammer, by the way). “My question is about the poverty rate….One out seven people are in poverty…What are you going to do to help?”

Obama:  “It’s a profound question….It’s unacceptably high.  The single most improtant thing I can do to drive the poverty rate down is to grow the economy.  What has really increased poverty is folks losing their jobs and being much more vulnerable….The second most important thing I can do to reduce the poverty rate is to improve our education system….Right now, too many of our schools are failing.”

Obama tells the crowd he is “getting the sign. One more question.  I’m going to have to call on the guy with the collar.”

It is Father Michael Amadeo of the neighborhood’s Holy Trinity Church and school.

“Thank you for your leadership,” the priest begins. ” These are very tough economic times, tough times for our men and women being deployed.”

He asked a question on behalf of a member of his church who has been unemployed “for a year, plus.”

Obama:  “Obviously that story is duplicated all across the country.”

Obama talked about the 40,000 letters & email messages he receives daily at the White House.  His staff selects 10 for him to read at the end of each day.  “I know this is a representative sampling because about half the letters call me an idiot,” Obama joked.

Obama told the crowd many of the letters are from the unemployed and the children of the unemployed.

Obama touted the small business tax cuts and changes in tax policy to try to get businesses to start investing their profits again as things that will help “immediately.”  He also mentioned clean energy jobs.

“That parishoner is probably going to have to update some of their skills,” Obama said — if that parishoner worked in the manufacturing sector.  “…They’re probably going to need to work a computer better.”

Obama starts winding down. “This has bene terrific.  I am so grateful to all of you for being here.  As I listen to the questions, it’s a good reminder we’ve got a long way to go, but I do want everybody to feel encouraged about our future…America is still the wealthiest country on Earth.  We have the best colleges and universities on Earth….We’ve got the most productive workers of just about any advanced nation…Billions of people around the world would still love the chance to be here.”

He talked about the “tough, necessary adjustments” that are necessary to put the county on the right path.  He stopped speaking at 11: 21 a.m., then shook hands and posed for pictures with the crowd for another 15 minutes before leaving.

Bubba for Bos

Former President Bill Clinton will be helping Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-Des Moines, Iowa) raise campaign cash this weekend.  Clinton will headline a $250-per-person fundraiser for Boswell Sunday in rural Norwalk at the home of a construction company owner.  It will be a two-hour tour as  Clinton’s scheduled to be in Iowa for just a couple of hours (Norwalk’s VERY close to the Des Moines Airport). 

There’s nothing on Boswell’s campaign website about the event which is closed to the public and the press.  As you may remember, Boswell endorsed Hillary Clinton’s 2008 bid for the White House in the middle of December, 2007 — just before Iowa’s Caucuses.

Bill Clinton, others eulogize Ed Campbell

Long-time Iowa Democratic Party stalwart Ed Campbell died last week.  His funeral was held today in Des Moines.  Here’s the Radio Iowa story, with links at the bottom to each of the eulogies which were delivered, including the last one which came from former President Bill Clinton.

Here’s a partial text of Clinton’s remarks:  “It was a fortunate day for me, and later for Hillary, when we met Edward Campbell, just as it was for all of you.  He loved politics.

“…There’s something else we ought to say.  I know that God decides in his own good time when all of us are going home…Ed Campbell never quit when the going got tough, otherwise this service could have occurred decades ago…and I think it’s worth remembering at a time when sometimes people in politics seem to feel sorry for themselves that he suited up every single day of his life and he played the game, just the way you’re supposed to.

“…I know that Hillary and I were very fortunate to have his support through our campaigns and all the ups and downs in between…He really was a political genius and he had a gift that is too often underappreciated in politics today…Almost the whole time I was in politics we debated two things:  what are you going to do and how much money are you going to spend on it?

“…He was a genius at figuring out how to do things and he thought it was a noble thing because it had a higher purpose.  It was rooted in other people’s lives.  I think it’s well to remember when we’re going through tough times that this is the longest-lasting free government in human history because we had a few people with the kind of gifts Ed Campbell had and who realized there was nothing bad about politics…It was an honorable way to live life and we were fortunate to be able to do it.  I like that.

“…I like the fact that he had a good time doing it.  I am so sick and tired of people acting like public service is a burden, politics is this terrible load you carry around.  Do you realize that most people who ever lived had absolutely no choice over what they did for a living?  In the whole history of the world, most people just had to get up and trudge along and do whatever was before them just to put food on the table and take care of their children. 

“Ed Campbell never felt sorry for himself that he had to ‘do’ politics and he knew you couldn’t win all the time.  I had to go all the way to Washington before I realized politics was a dreary power struggle that we were supposed to be miserable about.  Maybe guys like us are passing from the scene, but I hope not.  I hope all the young people whose lives he touched in this church and far beyond these four walls will remember what joy it gave him.

“…Life is fleeting and if you get the gift of being able to choose what you do and if you’re as good at it as he was, it should be fun…If heaven is a place for imperfect but profoundly good people, he is right at home now.”

Again, click here and go to the very bottom for a 10-minute-long mp3 of Clinton’s remarks.

In Memoriam: Ed Campbell

“When his friends get to heaven, Ed will have the joint organized and it won’t take us long to get through security.”  — Ned Chiodo, long-time friend of the late Ed Campbell.

Ed Campbell, a fixture in Iowa politics for decades, died late Thursday, just before midnight.  He was 75.  I just spoke with his long-time friend, Ned Chiodo, who described Campbell as a “giant among giants” when it came to politics.  

The Iowa Democratic Party just issued a statement:

DES MOINES, IA – Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan released the statement below following the passing of former Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ed Campbell:

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Edward Campbell. He was a talented campaigner and advocate, a dedicated public servant, a mentor, and simply a great friend to so many.

“Ed Campbell believed in building a better future for all Iowans. We are so grateful for his years of service in the U.S. Army, the Governor’s office, Senator John Culver’s office and as Chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party which were spent in that effort.

“As Chairman and for years beyond, Ed was a passionate advocate for Democrats and our causes.

“Our thoughts and our prayers are with his wife Bonnie and their family.  We will all miss our friend.”

I’ve known Ed Campbell for years.  He had keen political instincts.  It was almost as if he were prescient. He picked presidential contenders Michael Dukakis in 1988 and Bill Clinton in 1992, long before either was considered anything more than a long-shot.  Walter Mondale once joked that having Ed around was like having polling data at your fingertips, without having to pay for a poll.

Chiodo said everybody who was anybody in the political world knew Ed Campbell.  He was the Madonna or Cher of Iowa politics.  “When somebody asked, “How’s Ed?’ everybody knew who they were talking about,” Chiodo said.

Campbell, a native of Fort Dodge, Iowa, was chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party from 1977 ’til 1982.  Before that, in 1965, he went to work as an aide to Governor Harold Hughes and Campbell followed Hughes to Washington when Hughes became a senator.  In 1974, Campbell came back to Iowa and ran John Culver’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. 

After his stint as party chairman, Campbell ran for governor in 1982, losing in the Democratic primary to eventual party nominee Roxanne Conlin. 

Campbell met his future wife, Bonnie, when they were both working for U.S. senators in Washington, D.C.  Later, Bonnie Campbell also served as Iowa Democratic Party chair, during the 1988 Caucuses.  She was elected Iowa’s attorney general in 1990.  In 1994, Bonnie Campbell was the Democratic nominee for governor.

Des Moines clothier Bill Reichardt challenged Bonnie Campbell in a party primary in 1994.  There is one memorable moment from that campaign for me.  Ed Campbell was so incensed about something Reichardt said that he called the Radio Iowa newsroom and wanted to speak on behalf of his wife’s campaign.  When the tape was rolling, an angry Ed Campbell said this of his wife’s opponent:  “People who live in glass houses should look in the mirror.”

Campbell was a statehouse lobbyist when I first started covering the Iowa legislature in the mid-1980s.  One of his lobbying assistants was Chet Culver, son of Campbell’s old boss, who is now Iowa’s governor.  Chiodo, a former state legislator who had represented the south side of Des Moines, was Campbell’s lobbying partner.  Chiodo described Campbell as indefatigable. “I don’t remember in all the years that we worked together that Edward ever went to bed before I did or got up after I did,” Chiodo said.

Politics was the sport Campbell loved best, according to Chiodo.  “He understood the dynamics of people better than anybody I ever ran across in the political world and he did it just in the normal course of his everyday life,” Chiodo said. “You could never have a better friend in a political sense, or a worse enemy, than Ed Campbell.”

Chiodo shared a few stories of when he saw Campbell “go to the matt” for someone, even a few of his political foes.   “Nobody can imagine the people he has helped with their burden and they would be shocked if they did,” Chiodo said.  “A more kind-hearted soul you’d never find.”

Then Chiodo added what you saw as the opening quote in this post: “When his friends get to heaven, Ed will have the joint organized and it won’t take us long to get through security.”

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Weekend update: “incarcerate, educate & medicate”

‘Tis the season to post on the blog sporadically.  Below are some of the top Iowa political stories of the past few days (you have to scroll all the way to the bottom for an explanation of that headline!).

In case you were making a list and checking it twice, there is another potential candidate for governor.  Jonathan Narcisse, a former Des Moines School Board member who went on a speaking tour with Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Rants earlier this month, is “exploring” a run for governor.  Narcisse is a registered Democrat, but Narcisse says he’ll consider the idea of running as an Independent as well as the idea of running against  Democrat Chet Culver, the current governor, in a primary.  Narcisse sent reporters an advisory at 4 p.m. on 12/23/09 and held a news conference at 8:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve.   (I didn’t “work” on Christmas Eve; I hosted dinner for 16 at my house instead.)

As expected, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) voted “yes” and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) voted “no” on the health care reform bill on Christmas Eve.  The White House released a list of people President Obama called after the vote; it included Senator Harkin. Read statements from Iowa’s two senators below.

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Gephardt on this weekend’s “Iowa Press”

Former Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt is the guest on this weekend’s edition of “Iowa Press.”  Here’s the Radio Iowa story, about his appearance today at a forum in Des Moines to talk about the work of the Council for American Medical Innovation.  As you may remember, Gephardt won the 1988 Iowa Democratic Party Caucuses and finished fourth in the 2004 Iowa Caucuses and he campaigned here in 2007 on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, so he is a well-known figure in Iowa.

During the taping of the IPTV program (which airs tonight at 7:30), Gephardt talked about his reaction when the U.S. House passed a health care reform package earlier this month: 

“I was elated.  In fact, I called Speaker Pelosi and Stenny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn, the whip, and I congratulated them and I was thrilled that they were able to get this done and being in that spot 20 years ago and seeing failure,  I know how hard this is to do and let me tell you the leaders and the members who got this done did a magnificent job on a very tough set of issues.”

Gephardt also offered his prediction of “if” and “when” a final bill may land on President Obama’s desk. 

“I’m optimistic that it will.  It may be early next year, but I think in this period of time, it will be done. In 1993 when I was the leader in the House, with the Clinton health care plan, I couldn’t get it out of committee, so the House has now passed a bill and the Senate is trying to pass.  If they can do that by the end of the year I think they can get a conference together and come up with a bill.

“And I think the president has done a really good job of, you know, staying out of congress’ way, giving them general direction, not being highly specific and also getting some of the big stakeholders like the doctors, like the hospitals, like the pharmaceutical companies to be supporters this time when last time they were all against it.”

Next, here’s a transcript of the portion of the program in which Gephardt addressed some of the criticism leveled at him for his work in the private sector.

Mike Glover of The Associated Press“Congressman, since you left congress you’ve become something of a Washington insider, done a lot of lobbying in congress and there are those who are critical of some of the clients you’ve represented.  You’ve signed up PhRMA chemicals, some other clients, anti-labor clients.  How do you respond to those criticisms?”

Gephardt:  “First of all, the criticisms are not all are accurate.  I have been working in government relations.  I have taken on clients to help them with their efforts.  I don’t take on anyone who is anti-labor, I can tell you that.  That’s not accurate. But I try to get involved in the same kind of issues I was involved in when I was in congress. 

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Democrats highlight GOP candidate dispute over gas tax

The Iowa Democratic Party has posted video of a GOP event in eastern Iowa this past weekend.  It was an event at which State Representative Chris Rants of Sioux City, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, said he’d been accosted (verbally) by a group of road builders.  According to Rants account of the accosting, the road builders say former Governor Terry Branstad has told them he’d support raising the state tax on motor fuel if he’s elected governor (again) in 2010.  Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat who intends to seek reelection in 2010, has repeatedly said he opposes a gas tax increase.

The news release from the Iowa Democratic Party — courtesy of Ali Glisson, the new IDP communications director — is below.  A few lines about her are below as well.

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“Iowa Poll” sparks discussion in GOP

One thing candidates do in order to woo voters is lay out their “vision” for the country, the state, the city, or the district they hope to be given the chance to govern.  It’s sort of a “to do” list and sometimes it includes a “not to do” list or a “I shall undo” list as well.

But another, equally important thing candidates do is try to convince voters they can win.  They do this in a number of ways.  For example, some candidates try to create an air of invincibility.  This worked well for George W. Bush in 2000 when he wrapped up the money game early and had the trappings of office that helped him look like a president even though he actually was the governor of Texas (those Texas Rangers looked and acted a lot like a Secret Service detail).  Hillary Clinton tried that invincibility argument eight years later, but Iowa Democrats helped dent that by giving Barack Obama the first win in the ’08 presidential sweepstakes.  

In the “convincing voters they can win” category, we have exhibits one and two today in the 2010 campaign for governor.  These G.O.P. contestants cite The Des Moines Register “Iowa Poll” which was conducted last week and released this past weekend as evidence of their ability to win in a race against Democratic incumbent, Chet Culver.

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Conlin files paperwork for US Senate bid

A news release was just issued this morning, confirming Des Moines attorney Roxanne Conlin will run for the Democraticy Party’s 2010 U.S. Senate nomination. Conlin has recorded a video that’s posted online to announce her move — something Hillary Clinton did in January of 2007 to announce her bid for the White House.  But Conlin’s video has a music “bed” so it’s not just a video statement as it’s loaded with images to illustrate her words.  It’s also a bit “son of a millworker” (that’s a reference to John Edwards) in that Conlin stresses that it’s time to take on the special interests and talks about her humble beginnings in a family that lived “paycheck to paycheck.”

Conlin joins Democrats Bob Krause of Fairfield and Tom Fiegan of Clarence in the race for the party’s nomination and a change to face-off against Republican Chuck Grassley next November.  Grassley intends to seek a sixth term in office.

Read Conlin’s release below:

Roxanne Conlin Files for US Senate
Activist and Advocate to Challenge Grassley
Des Moines, IA – Today, Roxanne Conlin filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission to enter the race for U.S. Senate and released a video to Iowans.  The video can be viewed at
http://www.roxanneforiowa.com/  The text of the video follows:
Iowa, a place of quiet resolve.  In tough times, overcoming the odds with strength and independence.  But somewhere along the way, career politicians in Washington lost theirs.
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Pawlenty @ Iowa GOP event

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty

The crowd is entering a meeting hall on the Iowa State Fairgrounds at this hour.  Each ticket holder paid $25.  What do they get for $25?  A hot dog, a bag of chips, a cookie & a couple of hours-worth of political speeches.  Keynoter tonight is Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty who spent his morning (and perhaps part of the afternoon) hunting as it’s the opening weekend of deer season in Minnesota.  Sources say the governor “grazed” a deer, but he did not “bag” one (“bag” a deer, one of my male friends tells me, is the proper way to refer to the act).

It’s 5:35 p.m. and people are milling about, chatting.  Most of the chatting is about the gubernatorial campaign, as former Governor Terry Branstad will be making his first appearance on stage with the other men who’ve been campaigning for the GOP’s 2010 gubernatorial nomination for months.  That gubernatorial cattle call may upstage Pawlenty in terms of the Iowa audience.

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