Listen to the 2010 Harkin Steak Fry

The 2010 Harkin Steak Fry — the 33rd annual — is history.  I wrote four blog posts from the afternoon, in this order:  one about the news conference before; two  about the first half of the program; and three about the last half of the program.

Here’s Radio Iowa’s story about the event, plus a story solely focused on Harkin’s half hour speech.  There were two quotes about rented mules during the afternoon and a reference to the “uber” rich.   Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin posted a photo gallery, then a columnThe Des Moines Register’s Jason Clayworth posted this.  Kathie Obradovich of The Register blogged this.  Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times posted this.

Here are the speeches, if you’d like to listen:

David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, and White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod: PlouffeAxelrodFry

Senator Tom Harkin: Harkin2010Fry

Governor Chet Culver & Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge: CulverJudge2010Fry

US Senate candidate Roxanne Conlin: ConlinFry2010

The two Davids @ the Steak Fry

David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, takes the stage at Senator Tom Harkin’s Steak Fry at 3:25 p.m. “My first Harkin Steak Fry was 1989.  I guess that would have been the 12th,” he began.

Plouffe described setting out bales of hay in rows on a farm not far from Indianola where the Steak Fry used to be held.  “We got worked like rented mules, senator,” Plouffe quipped, a reference to something Harkin had just said in his remarks.

Plouffe said Harkin was “my mentor in many ways.”  He mentioned the 1992 Harkin for President campaign slogan: “The courage of our convictions.”

Plouffe credited Harkin with teaching him some important campaign dynamics.  “He taught me the difference between a yarn sign and a barn sign,” Plouffe said.

Plouffe then launched into a sort of strategy session, outlining a path toward Democratic victories in November. “We’ve seen this movie before,” Plouffe said of undecided voters.  “….They’re gettable.  You’re got to go talk to them.  People do not want to go back.”

Plouffe said Obama and Democrats in congress had taken steps to ensure the economy is “most assuredly” in a better position than when Bush left office.

Plouffe got some sustained applause by saying Obama isn’t focused on the 24/7 news cycle or the next election.  “We have leadership focused on the next generation,” Plouffe said and it was at this point the crowd applauded.

Plouffe mentioned Sarah Palin’s upcoming visit to Iowa, calling her “the very best organizer and fundraiser for the Democratic Party.”

Plouffe said “the numbers are there” in Iowa for Democrats to win on November 2.

David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political consultant in ’08 and a senior White House advisor, gets on stage at 3:39.

Axelrod mentions Conlin at the onset, then he mentions the gubernatorial race.  “Nothing says the future like Terry Branstad, I guess,” Axelrod said, and there were waves of laughter from the other tent.

Axelrod said some nice things about Plouffe, then he started talking about Harkin.  “i’m also speaking as the father of an adult child with disabilities who is going to live a fuller life because of the fight Harkin waged,” Axelrod said.

Axelrod mentioned Obama’s keynote speech at the 2006 Harkin Steak Fry, describing it as a “seminal event in his thinking” about whether to run for president.

Axelrod mentioned the “83 magical days” Obama spent campaignning in Iowa in 2007, before the January 3, 2008 Iowa Caucuses.

Axelrod launched into a litany of issues he said had been tackled “because of you” — Iowa Democrats who’d believed in Obama’s candidacy when the “pundits and pollsters and purveyors of doom” had not.

Axelrod joked that soon after Obama’s economic team assembled and reviewed the “horrific” state of the economy in early 2009, they decided there was “no time for a recount” which drew some chuckles from teh crowd.

“People are frustrated and they have a right to be frustrated,” Axelrod said, setting out an argument that the 2010 election should not be a “referendum” on the economy.

The crowd applauded and cheered when Axelrod recited Biden’s line: “Don’t compare us to the alnmighty, compare us to the alternative.”

Axelrod said Iowans were “proficient” at turning out voters.  “

The Steak Fry Show begins

Roxanne Conlin, the Democratic candidate for the US Senate, was first to speak during the “main program” for Senator Tom Harkin’s Steak Fry fundraiser this afternoon.  She gave a short speech, making reference at one point to the “uber-rich” — promting a woman sitting in the front row of the tent watching Conlin’s speech to repeat “uber” with a sort of awestruck tone.

A man under the tent shouted “You won the debate!” as Conlin started speaking.  Conlin a few moments later mentioned her joint appearance on Iowa Press with Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and told the crowd she doubted Grassley would agree to a televised debate.

“I’m glad you saw it,” Conlin said to people in the crowd who had yelled that they’d seen Iowa Press this weekend, “because as far as I know, he’s not coming out of his house again.”

Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge spoke briefly, introducing Governor Chet Culver who said: “People say it’s do or die time.  I say it’s do time…People wonder whether (Democrats) are up to the challenge….I’m telling you we are up to it…Stand with me.”

Harkin’s wife, Ruth, was next to speak, telling the crowd what’s upu with the two Harkin daughters.  Then Harkin was on.  Harkin quipped he’d asked Glenn Beck to estimate the size of the Steak Fry crowd. “He says there are at least 500,000 people here today,” Harkin said.

Harkin then said he’d asked Sarah Palin for a crowd assessment. “She said it’s so big she can see it from Wasilla,” Harkin said.

Harkin said Americans are “fed up with all this right wing…fear mongering.”  Harkin said: “They want to distract people so they’ll forget what happened last time they were in charge.”

Harkin put the 2010 choice for voters this way: “The elephants want to take us back. It’s either the clean up crew or the wrecking crew.”

Harkin offered a prediction on the governor’s race: “Chet Culver is going to beat Terry Branstad like a rented mule.”

Harkin offered a few words for Roxanne Conlin, saying Iowa would “make a little history,” as no woman has ever been elected in Iowa as a governor or member of congress.

Harkin seems to be wrapping up:  “I’m fed up with people sitting around and gazing at their navels and asking what it’s going to take to fire up…Winning campaigns are not about magic, or mood control…It’s about getting down to work…so friends, enjoy the festivities today.  Tomorrow, we’ve got to go to work.”

“…This is Obama country and we’re going to let him know it by our election this November.”  At about 3:25 Harkin introduced the two Davids — Axelrod & Plouffe.

Grilling time with Plouffe, Axelrod

The two Davids who were central to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign are back in Iowa today for Senator Tom Harkin’s annual Steak Fry. The duo stood next to a huge charcoal grill positioned on a slab of concrete outside a Morton Building on the Warren County Fairgrounds and answered questions from the media throng gathered for the steak-flipping photo op.

After Harkin, Axelrod & Plouffe answered a few questions from the assembled media throng, they walked off the concrete slab toward the restricted area for the big time guests and staff.  But as Plouffe was walking away, he pointed his right arm toward Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times who was standing beside me.

“You’re going to be here in Iowa next weekend,” Plouffe said as he gestured toward Zeleny.  It was not a question, but a sort of exhortation. Plouffe was referring to Sarah Palin, the former Alaska Governor who will be headlining an Iowa GOP fundraiser in Des Moines next weekend.

“She’s our best fundraiser and organizer,” Plouffe said as he walked away to catch up with the other VIPs.

During the meeting with the media, Axelrod repeated some of the things he said in our conversation Friday evening.  Plouffe addressed the idea Democrats aren’t as “energized” as Republicans in 2010.

“Generally, the Republicans do coalesce a little bit earlier in terms of turn out.  Our turn out tends to happen a little bit later,” Plouffe said of Democrats.  We’ve just got a lot more voters and a lot of voters who don’t follow politics as a practice and so we have to go out there and remind them there’s an election, what’s at stake and the choice here is unacceptable to them and their family.

“And a lot of these voters do need to be talked to, one-on-one….We got almost 20 million new voters in ’08…Obviously, Barack Obama inspired a lot of them, but so many of them voted because some one else in their community or their family was going to vote…I think we can make a big improvement over the coming weeks and I think you’re already starting to see that.”

Pre-Steak Fry conversation with Axelrod

David Axelrod, Senior Advisor to President Obama, is one of two Davids who will be speaking this Sunday at Senator Tom Harkin’s annual “Steak Fry” in Indianola.  (The other David scheduled to be there is David Plouffe.)

Axelrod spoke, by phone, with Radio Iowa late this afternoon.  

Henderson: “Let’s talk about what’s happening on the ground in Iowa first.  Chet Culver is trailing.  Iowa’s three Democratic incumbent congressmen by no means have a cake-walk to November.  How and why have the fortunes of Iowa Democrats changed from 2008 to now?”

Axelrod:  “I’d say a few things about the governor’s race.  I can only tell you I’m a veteran of the Vilsack campaigns and in 1998, a little later than this in September, the headline in The Des Moines Register was ‘Experts: Vilsack has no chance’ and we were 20 points behind so I’m always reluctant to draw too many conclusions, but I also think it’s true that Iowa is not immune to the same forces that are animating politics everywhere. You know, we’ve had a difficult couple of years.  We inherited an unholy mess when we walked in the door and, more than us, the American people have been through a difficult couple of years after a decade in which most middle class people were treading water or falling behind so you know that puts pressure on the incumbent party.  We may not have created the mess, but, you know, we’re responsible for cleaning it up and while we’ve made some good progress from the time we arrived when the…last month of the Bush Administration we lost 800,000 jobs, we’ve had eight straight months of private sector job growth and we’re getting stronger but not fast enough for anyone’s liking, particularly when we lost eight million jobs during that recession and that has an impact and, you know, there’s no two ways about it.

“But ultimately these elections are about choices.  There’s not referendums on either a party or on the state of the economy, they’re a choice between candidates and governing philosophies and the Republican Party’s made it clear, the chairman of the Republican Campaign Committee said, ‘Our goal is to go back to the very same agenda we had before this president took office.’  The other day Mr. Boehner said, ‘Let’s go back to the 2008 Bush budget.’  They want to go back to the situation where interest groups, big corporate interest groups and Wall Street — essentially — got to regulate themselves and write their own rules and the kind of policies that caused the $237 billion surplus that Bill Clinton left to become a $1.3 trillion deficit that we were handed from George Bush — nobody wants to go back to those policies.

“And I think when people focus on the choice, then, you know, you’re going to be a little surprised at the result.  We Obama people, perhaps more than any, appreciate that the conventional wisdom is often wrong.”

Henderson: “You brought up Tom Vilsack.  If Mr. Emanuel leaves the White House to run for mayor, would Tom Vilsack made a good chief of staff?”

[Read more…]

King says no to debating Campbell

Bret Hayworth of The Sioux City Journal has the story.  Congressman Steve King (R-Kiron) will not debate Matt Campbell of Manning, the Democratic candidate in Iowa’s fifth congressional district.  Campbell confronted King at an event in Sioux City, asking if he’d debate.  King told Campbell: “You have not earned it.”

A check of King’s Twitter account shows he has posted nothing about the episode.  His last tweet was last Tuesday. UPDATE:  King issued a brief statement late this afternoon:

King Statement:

“I have long said I will debate if my opponent develops an issues based campaign.  Clearly he has not and his most recent ‘fraternity prank’ at Western Iowa Tech Community College is conclusive.  Any discussion in favor of a debate is therefore concluded.  There will be no debate.  I will continue to take my message to Iowans and make myself available to them for an honest and open exchange of opinions.”

Here’s a news release from Campbell’s campaign.

Tea Party member says Steve King should debate Campbell –King looks to avoid formal debate for 8th year in office
[SIOUX CITY, IA]—Matt Campbell earlier today asked Steve King at a town hall meeting at Western Iowa Tech in Sioux City whether he intends to participate in a live television debate for the first time since being elected to Congress.  Steve King has never formally debated an opponent since being elected and says Campbell has not “earned the right.”  Campbell is the Democratic nominee from Manning, Iowa who won a competitive June 8th primary by a convincing 76% to 24% margin.

[Read more…]

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty visits Iowa State Fair

In the top photo, Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey (a Republican) walks/talks with Pawlenty as the two stroll down the Grand Concourse of the Iowa State Fair. 

The bottom photo shows the duo at the grill in the Iowa Pork Producers stand at the Iowa State Fair.  This is a rite of passage for political candidates.  U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) was manning the same grill about 45 minutes later.  Harkin, who is not seeking reelection and didn’t really “broadcast” his events on the fairgrouds this year, chatted and flipped chops for about 20 minutes before pouring water for people who’d paid for a pork chop dinner and were sitting under the Pork Producers tent.

Pawlenty chatted with me briefly after he had donned an apron and the preparations were being made for his State Fair grilling experience.

He wisely didn’t declare a winner in the Iowa State Fair versus the Minnesota State Fair competition. 

“My first impression is this is a fabulous state fair and I think Iowa and Minnesota have two of the best state fairs in the country,” Pawlenty said, “so we’re proud of both.”

I asked him about the results of this past week’s primaries.

“The way I look at it is there’s a little bit of a mixed story.  Different states had a little different results, but each state is different.  It has its own culture and tradition, it’s own perspective on the direction of the party.

“But I think the consistent theme is the Republican Party remains a conservative party and you’ve got people who are very concerned about the direction of their states who have stepped forward and it’s good to get these primaries…done so that we can focus on the real battle which is growing jobs and growing the economy and hopefully getting Republicans back in control in the Iowa legislature and Minnesota and elsewhere.”

As Pawlenty stepped toward the high heat of the charcoal grills, I stepped to the side and asked one of the pork producers who’s been working the grill if he’d given up his post reluctantly or with gusto. “It’s all right!” said the pork producer, who is from Cass County, Iowa, and stood aside as Pawlenty manned a spatula.  “I don’t have to do it, and I can get cool.”

Axelrod, Plouffe to headline Harkin steak fry

It’s going to be the Axelrod/Plouffe show at this year’s Harkin Steak Fry on September 12.  The annual event (this will be #33) has been a launching pad for certain politicians.  Barack Obama, for example, was the keynote speaker/main draw at the 2006 Harkin Steak Fry.

David Axelrod is senior advisor to President Obama and the political consultant who helped guide Obama’s 2008 campaign.  David Plouffe was Obama’s 2008 campaign manager.  Plouffe wrote The Audacity to Win about the experience.  Plouffe is now an outside advisor to the Obama Administration.

Both Davids have connections to Harkin. Plouffe worked on Senator Harkin’s 1990 reelection campaign.  He also worked on Harkin’s 1992 presidential campaign.  Axelrod has been Harkin’s political consultant. A long-time Harkin insider says Axelrod did not work on Harkin’s 1990 or ’92 campaigns as previously reported.

The Harkin Steak Fry has attracted headliners ranging from Sheryl Crowe to James Carville.  The 2007 Harkin Steak Fry featured six of the Democrats competing for their party’s presidential nomination.  Minnesota Senator Al Franken was last year’s speaker.

UPDATE:  Read the news release below.

[Read more…]

Conlin, IDP weigh in on Kagan confirmation

Roxanne Conlin, the Des Moines attorney who is challenging Republican Senator Chuck Grassley’s reelection, issued a statement after the U.S. Senate confirmed the newest justice for the U.S. Supreme Court on a 63-37 vote.

(DES MOINES)–Today Senator Charles Grassley voted against the confirmation of Elena Kagan to the United States Supreme Court, below is a statement from Democratic candidate Roxanne Conlin;
“Senator Grassley’s vote against Elena Kagan is proof that Washington is broken, and any bipartisanship in the Senate is on the verge of extinction.  Senator Grassley has chosen to vote against two talented, qualified women nominated to the Supreme Court, by a Democratic president, after decades of support for past nominations. This is an incredibly dangerous and disturbing precedent.  Voting on a Supreme Court nominee is a serious responsibility and Iowans deserve much better than childish, partisan games.”

The Iowa Democratic Party’s chair issued a statement, too.

DES MOINES – Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky today congratulated Solicitor General Elena Kagan on her confirmation to the United States Supreme Court:

“I know I join many Iowans in congratulating Elena Kagan on her confirmation to the Supreme Court, she will be a great asset as she upholds the constitutional promise of equal justice under the law. Her forthrightness with Senators from both parties and her informed and intelligent answers to the toughest legal questions facing our nation is proof that she will be a strong and fair voice. Kagan’s professional career and dedication to public service will serve her well as she takes her seat on the bench.

“While I am glad to see bipartisan support for her nomination it is troubling that Senator Grassley chose to stand in opposition, guided by nothing more than blind partisanship. His vote is unsurprising given his recent opposition to everything except extending tax cuts for the rich.”

Kagan was confirmed Thursday with a vote of 63-37. Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin voted in favor, while Republican Senator Chuck Grassley voted against. Earlier this week Grassley revealed just how partisan he has become by saying, “We should be cautious in deferring to President Obama’s choices for the judicial bench.”

Read Grassley’s floor statement on the subject.

Hot, hot, hot! Feels like 111 degrees

According to KCCI-TV’s website, it is currently 93 degrees in Des Moines, Iowa, but the “heat index” or “feels like” temperature is 111 degrees.  I am quite content inside my air conditioned, windowless Radio Iowa office as I type this at 2 p.m.

A variety of political stories has cropped up over the past few days.  

  • Tea Party tempest: a billboard goes up in Mason City; then it gets papered over.  Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo, Iowa) is scheduled to be on The Ed Show on MSNBC this afternoon to talk about it.
  • Financial reform bill:  Grassley said Tuesday he doesn’t know how he’ll vote, then today Grassley announced he’ll vote no on financial reform.

Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley  

I’ll vote against the conference report because of concerns about changes made to the Senate bill, which I supported.

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