Republican “possibles” at Sac County GOP gathering

UPDATE:  Read the first Radio Iowa story about the event.  Or, listen to all the speeches.

The time is 8:28 a.m.  I am sitting in a lovely building on the Sac County Fairgrounds, an original  "Chautauqua" building that was constructed in the early 1900s.  This is the site of a Sac County GOP gathering that will feature four men who are considering the idea of running for governor.


Two of them are farther along in the process.  Both Bob Vander Plaats and Christopher Rants, both of Sioux City, have formed "exploratory committees."  Representative Rod Roberts of Carroll and Senator Jerry Behn (pronounced "BAYN") are in the contemplative phase.  Vander Plaats and Rants were first on the scene here, followed by Roberts and Behn,  They've been chatting individually with the folks who have been paying $10 per ticket to attend this breakfast event. 

At 8:33 a.m., a prayer was offered and immediately following the prayer folks started lining up for breakfast. The building is huge, with rows of painted benches as well as picnic tables.  "The media" is stationed at a picnic table near the middle of the hall, near an electrical outlet. In about 20 minutes — at 9 o'clock — each of the four potential candidates will be given a chance to speak (individually) to the crowd.  This is the first time all four have appeared, together.

According to Senator Steve Kettering, a Republican from nearby Lake View, Sac County is a "Republican county."  He says the Sac County GOP had a "pretty good hook" in pledging to share proceeds from the event if one of the four would "formally announce" they're running for governor at this event. 

Kettering, though, considers the 2010 race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination wide open at this point, with "a couple of hands full" of other candidates considering jumping into the race.  "In my judgment, the gubernatorial race has not started," Kettering said moments ago.  "…It's way too early.  Obviously, there are still a couple of hands full of people still talking about it."

There are over 60 people seated now at picnic tables covered by red and blue tablecloths.  They're enjoying a breakfast of egg casserole, fruit and cinnamon rolls. Senator Kettering just showcased his own plate of food for the reporters here, pointing out the cinnamon roll as the "little bit of fun" on his plate.

At 9:07 a.m. the Pledge is recited by the crowd, followed by introduction of county elected officials in the audience as well as GOP precinct chairs.  The emcee is Brian Krause, pastor of the Faith Bible Church in Sac City.  According to Krause, there are about 12,000 residents in Sac County and both Krause and Kettering estimate Republicans comprise about 60 percent of registered voters, with about 40 percent registered as Democrats. 

Krause, by the way, assured the crowd he is not related to Bob Krause, the Democrat who has emerged to challenge Republican US Senator Chuck Grassley's reelection.  "There is nobody in my gene pool who is challenging Chuck Grassley," Brian Krause said.

Senator Behn is first and, after starting a stop watch to adhere to the 15 minute time limit each candidate has been given, he beings with a pledge: "I would spend your money carefully, just like I'll spend your time carefully."

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Not Leach, but another Republican

President Obama is sending a Republican to China, but the next U.S. Ambassador to that foreign land won't be former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach, a Republican who endorsed Obama in August.   

Obama is sending Utah's governor to China.  Governor Jon Huntsman, a Republican who served as one of the co-chairman of John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, speaks Mandarin Chinese, by the way.  He's also been on many of the "lists" of potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates that people have begun assembling.

Chamber Alliance opposed to Democrats’ plan

The Iowa Chamber Alliance (comprised of the 16 largest chambers of commerce in the state) doesn't like the state tax break that folks around the statehouse call "federal deductibility." It allows Iowans to deduct their federal income tax bill from their income before they start calculating their state income taxes. Many economic development officials and business types say the tax break makes the top Iowa income tax rate look artificially high and uncompetitive compared to other states. During a news conference in December, the Chamber Alliance argued the tax break (federal deductibility) creates confusion since Iowa is only one of four states which offer it. 

This morning, Democrats in the legislature proposed doing away with this tax break and reducing the top income tax rate down to just under 7 percent (it's just under 9 percent now).  The Democrats' proposal would reduce taxes for most Iowans who earn less than $125,000 annually; they say two-thirds of Iowans will either get a tax break or will wind up paying the same level of taxes under their plan.  The Democrats also propose enhanced tax credits for children so Iowa parents (Democrats use the phrase "working families") will get another tax break.  (Sorry, single Iowans.  Nothing special for you.)

Here's the Radio Iowa story filed at 11:52 a.m.  Since the Chamber Alliance in December declared their dislike of the "federal deductibility" tax break because it creates confusion when Iowa's taxes are compared with other states, I included a sentence in the story mentioning the Chamber Alliance supports getting rid of this tax break. 

Now, at 7:05 p.m., Iowa Chamber Alliance executive director Dave Roederer sends me this statement, via email: "Our position is that if (federal deductibility is) eliminated every cent should go to lowering every tax payers income tax. We are opposed to the announced proposal raising taxes on over 80,000. Income tax reform is a priority of ours, but this does not reach the level of reform."

Roederer's name may be familiar.  He was a longtime member of former Governor Terry Branstad's staff  (Yep, that would be the Terry Branstad who proposed getting rid of this tax break in 1986, but lost that battle.) Roederer was the chairman of George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign in Iowa. In the 2008 cycle, Roederer was among the first to back John McCain and he stayed with McCain throughout the entire campaign, ultimately serving as McCain's state chairman for the general election. (Readers of The Blog may recognize Roederer for his bursts of humor during the 2008 Republican National Convention.)

Iowan to RNC staff

Gentry Collins, a familiar name in Iowa Republican circles, is going to work for Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele. Collins has worked in a variety of political jobs. I believe I first met Collins when he worked as a legislative aide to State Representative Christopher Rants who, at the time, was the House Majoirty Leader.  Collins served as campaign manager for Doug Gross, the GOP's 2002 gubernatorial nominee. He helped manage Mitt Romney's 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign and he worked for John McCain in the 2008 general election. Read the RNC news release below about his latest job.

WASHINGTON – Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele continued to fill key staff positions by announcing the selection of Gentry Collins as the RNC’s Political Director.  

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Grassley bucks

According to Congress Daily, our very own Senator Chuck Grassley has a lot of money raised for his 2010 re-election campaign.  Among the Republican senators who are up in '10, Grassley ranks fourth in campaign cash. 

From one to Grassley, here are the top seven senators in terms of fundraising:  Shelby, Bayh, Schumer, Specter, Boxer, Thune and Grassley.  Shelby, Specter and Thune are Republicans, as is Grassley.  Grassley, by the way, has raised more than John McCain has raised for his re-election bid.  McCain is expected to run for another six-year term in the senate next year.

Iowans for Tax Relief lauds Obama today

Iowans for Tax Relief and a handful of Republican legislators today held a news conference to call for posting the state budget on-line, in a searchable database, so the public can review the records, see where/how their tax dollars are being spent and perhaps make suggestions for savings.  Click on this link to the Radio Iowa story and you can access the 12-minute-long mp3 of the news conference.

One wag (it wasn't ME) who read the Iowans for Tax Relief news release used the "text phrase" LOL to describe their reaction to how many times Barack Obama is mentioned. (LOL means Laughing Out Loud.)  If you read yesterday's blog post, you know that today's news conference in Des Moines happened while former state Senator Mary Lundby's funeral was being held in Cedar Rapids .  Todd Dorman, a columnist and blogger for The Cedar Rapids Gazette, headlined his post "Iowans for Questionable Timing."

Here is the ITR news release, with Obama's name highlighted so you can count the number of times his name is mentioned:

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Iowans for Tax Relief supports President Barack Obama's mission for a transparent government.

MUSCATINE, IA— Iowans for Tax Relief supports President Barack Obama's push for a transparent government, with legislation to implement a website providing transparency of taxing and spending by Iowa government.

In keeping with the spirit of a fully transparent government, members of the Iowa House and Senate introduced legislation today requiring the implementation of a website to provide true transparency of taxing and spending in Iowa government.

When in the United States Senate in 2006, then Senator Obama, sponsored legislation and successfully implemented a website providing Americans with a fee-free searchable database to see how our federal tax dollars are spent.

"I am very pleased President Obama is keeping his pledge to promote greater transparency in government. He sponsored legislation as a senator which increased transparency, and yesterday in his inaugural speech, President Obama made clear, accountability and transparency in government are part of his agenda for change," said Ed Failor, Jr., President of Iowans for Tax Relief.

Each year Iowans pay more than $4,700 per person in state and local taxes. The implementation of an Iowa Transparency website would likely have a limited price tag under $40,000. Software is available at no cost from the federal government and some states have partnered with private businesses to develop state websites.

Failor continued, "Iowans for Tax Relief agrees with President Obama and we endorse his call for change. The people are the consumer of government, and all Iowans should be able to find out exactly how their tax dollars are being spent. I want to thank the bill sponsors who are here today and ask all other Legislators to honor the agenda of our new President and support swift passage of this bill."
Currently there are nine states with government spending transparency websites, including our border state of Missouri (

The bill would require the Iowa Department of Management (the state budgeting office) to develop and operate a single searchable web site, by January 1, 2011, for Iowa taxpayers to see how and where their tax dollars are being spent. The legislation also requires the Iowa Department of Management along with the Department of Revenue to develop and operate a searchable database and clickable map of all the tax rates in the state for each taxing jurisdiction. The database shall also include a tax rate calculator for taxpayers to calculate their taxes or potential taxes.

"We all deserve to determine for ourselves if government is efficient and effective with our tax dollars. Taxpaying Iowans who pay the bills of government should be able to review how their hard earned tax dollars are spent. With true transparency every day Iowans, not just legislators and the budget managers, can find new ways to provide savings. We believe Iowans deserve to see how their tax dollars are spent and we are honored to be part of advancing President Obama's agenda for greater transparency in government," continued Ed Failor, Jr., President of Iowans for Tax Relief.

Iowans for Tax Relief is excited to support the goal of President Obama for a truly transparent government. We thank bill sponsors; Rep. Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner), Rep. Doug Struyk (R-Council Bluffs), Rep. Erik Helland (R-Grimes), Senator Kim Reynolds (R-Osceola) and Senator Shawn Hamerlinck (R-Davenport). We hope for swift passage of this bill through the Iowa Legislature and urge Governor Culver to sign the Iowa Transparency Act into law.

We ask all Iowa taxpayers to contact their state legislators by phone or email as soon as possible.
Iowa House Switchboard (515) 281-3221; Iowa Senate Switchboard (515) 281-3371; and visit our website if you need email addresses or you are unsure of your state legislators at
You can search federal government spending at 24-hours a day and 7-days a week.

(Editor's note:  by my count, that's eight direct Obama mentions, one indirect "our new president" mention…Of further note, Failor was among the consultants on John McCain's payroll until July, 2007.)

Braley aide back after Obama run

An update on Jeff Giertz, an aide to Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo).  As you may recall, Giertz was given a leave from his job with Braley to work on Obama's presidential campaign.  Giertz was dispatched to Alaska, as reported here earlier. 

Giertz just called the Radio Iowa newsroom to say he was back in D.C. working in Braley's office.  Giertz also shared that once Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was named John McCain's running mate, Giertz was redeployed from Alaska to Reno, Nevada.

"Did you win anything in Reno?" I asked during our telephone conversation.

"Obama won Nevada," was the reply from Giertz. 

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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Palin impersonator — “EvaDivaSuperstar”

Here's the latest on the 19-year-old University of Northern Iowa student who impersonated Sarah Palin on October 26 at a rally at UNI — as she stood behind John McCain.  She now calls herself "EvaDivaSuperstar" and, if you click on that link, you can listen to her new rap video.

Obama Halloween Day rally in Des Moines

What follows is a live blog of Obama's midday rally.  A text version of Obama's speech is at the very end.

It's a few minutes before 11 o'clock, central time, and retired opera star Simon Estes — a Centerville, Iowa, native — is singing the National Anthem.  The crowd cheered at the end.  Estes starts repeating Obama's name over and over, without syncopation.  The crowd finally gets into the three-syllable rhythm on its own: "Oh, Bahm,  Uh."  Estes chuckles.

Sources inside the Obama campaign report the butter bust of Obama is "on the scene."  As you may know, the woman who carves the "Butter Cow" at the Iowa State Fair endorsed Obama — and carved his likeness (at least the head and shoulders) out of butter in his honor.

Congressman Leonard Boswell was on stage a few moments ago, leading the crowd in the pledge.  At its conclusion, Boswell leaned into the microphone and simply said: "Obama."  The crowd cheered.

"Now, this is my idea of a surge," Senator Tom Harkin said to the crowd when he got to the microphone.  The setting for this event is a downtown park; the weather is incredible for the last day of October in Iowa — sunny, warm.  "Yes, we can.  Yes, we will.  Yes, we must," Harkin declared.  The park is festooned with huge flags, suspended in the air on one side with cranes.  There's a  backdrop of city buildings, along with the words "Iowa" and "Obama" — plus, the obligatory bales of hay are featured on stage for the camera shot.

A strong sun is shining down on the site, so much so that I have tossed by coat over the laptop and my head to create a curtain so that I can see my laptop screen.  Governor Chet Chulver, a Democrat who endorsed Obama shortly after the Caucuses, speaks next.  "Good morning, Iowa.  What a beautiful day….are we gonna win this thing November 4?" Culver said to begin.  "This started here in Iowa on a cold winter night and we are so honored that Barack Obama is going to join us here shortly."

The Des Moines Lincoln High School marching band is now performing for the crowd, something that sounds a bit familiar — a movie theme, perhaps?  Their second number is a familiar pep band song. 

There'a a brief lull and then Obama is introduced to the crowd at 11:30 a.m.  A Bruce Springsteen song is playing.  "Hello, Iowa!" Obama says to open. "Thank you everybody.  It's good to be back in Iowa."

The crowd cheers. Obama notes the sunny, balmy day.  "I don't know if you saw me standing in the rain in 30 degree weather earlier this week.  I'm still thawing out," Obama said.

Obama speaks directly to those who supported him in the Caucuses:  "This campaign began here.  You helped launch this campaign, so the people of Iowa — I will always be greatful to all of you."

"Iowa, I have just two words for ya:  four days," Obama said.  The campaign has provided a text of his remarks to follow.  I'll be back to post it.

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