"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Donald Trump And Chuck Grassley Look Doomed In Iowa”: No Republican Can Be A Legislator In This Day And Age

Looking at the internals of the Loras College Statewide Iowa Survey, it seems like it’s a pretty well put together poll. Comparing their sample to the latest Iowa registration numbers, it appears that Loras may have undersampled the NO Party/Independents, but they have about the right mix of Democrats and Republicans. And, in any case, an undersampling of independents probably skews the results towards Donald Trump and Chuck Grassley.

For example, Grassley has a net favorable/unfavorable rating of 48%/42% with independents, and is losing with them to Patty Judge by a 41.9%-48.0% margin. So, if you add more independents to the sample, he probably loses his overall 46% to 45% lead.

Likewise, Donald Trump is getting crushed 48%-34% (-14) in the poll, but among independents he’s losing by a mammoth 44.7%-23.5% (-21) margin.

The survey is made up of 35.0% Republicans, 33.0% Democrats, and 29.8% Independents, but according to the Secretary of State, there are now more independents (670,068) than Republicans (639,476) or Democrats (610,608) who are registered to vote in the Hawkeye State. Maybe the independents don’t turn out at the same rate as party members, so it’s possible that the sample is dead-on. What’s doubtful is that it is skewed toward the Democrats.

Either way, it shows that Donald Trump is not competitive and Chuck Grassley is in a dead-heat. It’d be tempting to blame Grassley’s woes on Trump’s unpopularity (54.7% of Iowans have a very unfavorable view of Trump, and 68.9% have an overall unfavorable view of him), but we know that Grassley has been in the news as the lead architect of the Senate’s refusal to hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, the president’s nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. It’s costing him because he’s historically been very popular but he now has a 41.4% unfavorable rating. That’s not terrible, but it’s far below where he’s been in the past. If he’s going to hold on, he’s going to need a lot of crossover votes, but less than a quarter of Democrats (24.8%) have a favorable view of him right now.

Now, Grassley has been in Congress since 1975 and a senator since 1981. He’ll be 83 years old on Election Day. I don’t know if this is really how he wants to go out. I am not even sure why he wants to continue in the job. He’s got to be frustrated. Just this week he had to announce that he almost definitely won’t be able to get his criminal justice reform bill through the Senate this year.

“I don’t see how it gets done before” July 15, Grassley said, referencing the day the senators depart from Washington and won’t return until after Labor Day. “It’s a real big disappointment to me because we’ve worked so hard to do what the leadership wanted to get out more Republican sponsors.”

The criminal justice reform bill was probably the best chance this Congress had to pass a meaningful bill and they can’t get it done. Unless Grassley just likes the prestige and lifestyle of being a senator, I see no reason for him to want to continue. He used to be a legislator, but no Republican can be a legislator in this day and age, and certainly not under a prospective President Hillary Clinton.

If I were him, I’d drop out before Patty Judge cleans his clock in November.


By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 1, 2016

July 3, 2016 Posted by | Chuck Grassley, Donald Trump, Patty Judge | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Familiar Premise Of Free-Market Conservatism”: Iowa’s Radical Privatization Of Medicaid Is Already Struggling

On Jan. 1, 31 days before Iowa caucus-goers cast the first votes of the 2016 presidential race, the state will gain another national distinction, but of a dubious variety: It plans to launch the most sweeping and radical privatization of Medicaid ever attempted.

In an extraordinary social policy experiment, Iowa’s Gov. Terry Branstad (R) is kicking about 560,000 of the state’s poorest residents out of the traditional Medicaid health-care program for the poor and forcing virtually all of them to sign up with private insurers. The trend toward managed care for Medicaid has been underway for decades and some 39 states do it to some extent. But experts inside and outside government say no state has tried to make such a wholesale change so quickly — in Iowa’s case, launching the program fewer than 90 days after signing contracts with private health-care companies.

Iowa is conducting an extreme test of a familiar premise of free-market conservatism: that the private sector is more efficient at management and service delivery than government. But the results so far should give pause to those who automatically make such assumptions. The transition of Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid program has made the rollout of look orderly.

An Iowa administrative law judge late last month recommended that Iowa throw out the contract it awarded to WellCare, one of the four companies hired to manage the new program, noting that the company failed to disclose details of its “integrity agreement” with the federal government after the 2014 convictions of three former executives involving the misuse of Medicaid money. In addition, WellCare had paid $138 million to resolve claims that it overbilled Medicare and Medicaid, and the firm had also hired two former Iowa legislators, who improperly communicated with the Branstad administration during the bidding process.

The Des Moines Register has reported that the four companies selected to operate the Iowa program have had more than 1,500 regulatory sanctions combined and have paid $10.2 million in fines over the past five years. These involved canceled appointments, privacy breaches, untimely processing and failure to obtain informed consent.

The Iowa rollout has been hampered by delays, and some beneficiaries of the program are only now getting their enrollment packets, though the deadline for signing up is Dec. 17. Health-care providers complain that they are being forced to sign incomplete contracts or face a penalty, and they complain that some contracts don’t cover services that had been covered under the existing Medicaid program.

Branstad’s administration has answered critics by saying the new program will save $51 million in its first six months. But he has been unable to come up with documentation to justify the cost savings for Iowa, which already has a low-cost Medicaid system.

Branstad had the authority to implement the new program without input from the state legislature. But officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) were in Iowa this week and will make a ruling next week on whether the plan can proceed.

“The rollout has been an absolute unmitigated disaster,” said Democratic Sen. Joe Bolkcom, the Iowa chamber’s majority whip. “CMS and the Obama administration need to protect vulnerable Iowans from this train wreck.”

Branstad has implicitly acknowledged some difficulty. This week he extended until April the “safe harbor” in which Medicaid providers will receive 100 percent reimbursement regardless of managed-care network.

In response to my inquiry, Branstad’s office sent me to the state’s Department of Human Services, where a spokeswoman, Amy Lorentzen McCoy, said all is well. The state, which now has 12 percent of Medicaid recipients in managed care, would have gone this way anyway, she said, but the urgency increased with the recent Medicaid expansion. (Branstad was one of the few Republican governors to accept the Obamacare expansion of the program.)

Now, as the nation’s attention turns to the Iowa caucuses, Iowans will likely be witnessing either a fight between Branstad and President Obama (if the federal government forces a delay in the Iowa program) or chaos (if the program is allowed to proceed). Other states, such as Kansas and Kentucky, have tried similar experiments, but they either moved more deliberately or didn’t extend the private program to vulnerable populations such as the disabled.

“A lot of issues have been raised with the pace of the rollout” in Iowa, said Julia Paradise, a Medicaid expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation. “The provider networks for the plans have not yet been established. There’s a lot of confusion among beneficiaries.”

Branstad could recognize this, and slow things down. In failing to do so, he’s relying more on dogma — faith that the private sector always does things better — than reality.


By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 11, 2015

December 14, 2015 Posted by | Free Markets, Medicaid Privatization, Terry Branstad | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Walking, Talking Outrage”: Why Even People Who Agree With Him Hate Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz is now ahead of Donald Trump in a GOP presidential poll of Iowa, where the Texas senator is campaigning hard. That leap-frogging is the likely reason that Trump insanely, desperately, and dangerously called Monday for a “complete shutdown” on Muslims entering the U.S.

But let’s move beyond the proto-fascist in the GOP ranks and talk about Ted Cruz. Like Mike Huckabee before him, Cruz has a political style that resonates with Iowa’s conservatives: emotional, low-church, slightly rebellious. Still, it is hard to predict Cruz’s path forward, because it is difficult to think of a major party candidate more hated by his own party, Donald Trump notwithstanding.

Past enfant terrible candidates are rarely hated in this way. Ron Paul was treated as a funny curio. Pat Buchanan’s revolt was partly mourned, as if he couldn’t help it. Trump’s has been greeted with consternation and some fear. But Cruz is greeted as a walking, talking outrage. He’s treated as an offense in himself. And, it should be said, he seems to relish it. “I welcome their hatred,” Franklin Roosevelt once said after being labeled a class traitor. It’s easy to imagine Cruz feeling the same way about his political enemies.

Cruz has chutzpah. At a recent Republican debate, he got applause for castigating the debate moderators for trying to divide Republicans. Republican senators on that stage must have gagged; Cruz’s whole career has been about dividing Republicans. He has spent the last several years trying to create a caucus in the House that is loyal to his school of high-risk, no-reward brinksmanship. He promises to defund ObamaCare when the Senate can do no such thing. Or argues that the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide did not really apply to the whole nation. This strategy burnishes Cruz’s reputation among the Republican base, but it creates headaches for senators and for the Republican House leadership.

The distaste for Cruz goes far beyond just his divisive political strategy, or the perception that he says nothing, true or untrue, unless it is maximally self-serving. It goes to his oleaginous, hyper-moralizing personality, even the repulsively sentimentalized way he talks about the “Children of Reagan” who are taking over the Republican Party. Frank Bruni related in a column that veterans of the 2000 George W. Bush campaign learned to loathe Cruz, and that many of them would, under truth serum, admit to preferring Trump to him. Cruz’s college roommate Craig Mazin is dragged before media to give amusingly nasty assessments of Cruz’s character. “I did not like him at all in college,” Mazin said, “…And, you know, I want to be clear, because Ted Cruz is a nightmare of a human being. I have plenty of problems with his politics, but truthfully his personality is so awful that 99 percent of why I hate him is just his personality.”

Giving GOP leadership trouble normally doesn’t trouble me. And I’m tempted to agree with Cruz on some things, like the perfidy of the Republican donor class. But last fall, Cruz was invited to speak at an ecumenical gathering of Middle Eastern Christians who were lobbying for support from Washington to help their embattled flocks (some of which face genocidal violence.) For reasons I still can’t comprehend, Cruz decided to offer this tiny effort a political decapitation. He goaded the audience about its lack of support for the state of Israel and then accused them of being anti-Semites. And it is only more galling in that Ted Cruz knows the relevant history. And he knows that his evangelical audience in America is mostly ignorant of it. He knew how to get a rise out of both audiences, and raised his own profile doing it.

It was a moment so cynical and underhanded, I joined the unofficial anyone-but-Cruz caucus.

Still, as a pundit, I have to admit I’m intrigued by the premise of Ted Cruz. He is the embodiment of the GOP’s on-again, off-again populist rhetoric. He seems to be running his campaign on the false wisdom about 2012, that there were millions of voters who stayed home because Mitt Romney wasn’t conservative enough for them. This is a campaign that is aiming for glory or ignominy and won’t settle for anything in between.

For any conservative who has wanted to see the leadership of the Republican Party horse-whipped, Ted Cruz looks like a gnarly weapon at hand. He is the revenge they deserve.


By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, December 8, 2015

December 11, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, GOP Presidential Candidates, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Can Marco Rubio Even Win A Primary?”: The Rubio Problem No One Is Talking About—Yet

Everybody I know, I mean everybody, thinks Marco Rubio is the strongest Republican candidate. Yes, there’s a debate about how strong. Some say he’d beat Hillary Clinton, some say that what with some of the extreme positions he’s taken so far in this race, he’d be hard-pressed to do much better than Mitt Romney’s 206 electoral votes plus maybe his own Florida. So there’s a debate about that. But there ain’t much debate that he’s the, shall we say, least unelectable of the lot.

But here’s the thing. To win the general, he has to win the primary. And on this count, as things stand, he’s hurting. I mean he’s in big trouble. Ed Kilgore of New York magazine had a post about this earlier this week, but this is worth digging into in more detail.

Start with the first four big races—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Rubio is behind in all of them. In three of them, seemingly way behind.

How often does it happen that a presumed frontrunner can lose the first four contests and stay in the race? On the Republican side, it’s never happened. In 2012, Mitt Romney won New Hampshire, and with respect to Iowa, on the night itself, we all thought he’d won that (the state was called later for Rick Santorum, but Mittens got the mo). Romney also won Nevada. In 2008, John McCain took New Hampshire and walloped the competition in South Carolina. Before that, George W. Bush won early states, and Bob Dole (not New Hampshire, but Iowa), and Bush Sr., and so on.

The opposite—a presumed frontrunner blowing off or losing the first few because he’s going to make a roaring comeback starting in state X—never seems to work out. The obvious example here is Rudy Giuliani in 2008. He skipped the first primaries—even though he’d been running second in New Hampshire as late as early December—and bet everything on Florida. But, largely because he’d been such a zero in the early contests (he ended up a distant fourth in the Granite State), he tanked in Florida and withdrew.

In the modern primary era, which started in 1976, almost no one has won a major-party nomination without winning at least one early contest. The one partial exception here is Bill Clinton. But those were very specific circumstances.

First of all, an Iowan was in the race, Tom Harkin, so Clinton and the other Democrats didn’t even bother to compete there, and Harkin won 77 percent of the vote. Second, Paul Tsongas was almost a favorite son in New Hampshire, since he was from Lowell, Massachusetts, right on the border. Third, Clinton was enduring his Gennifer Flowers-draft dodger baptism of fire at the time of New Hampshire, so when he finished a strong second, that was under the circumstances just about as good as a win and enabled him to carry on, arguing that he’d endured the bad press and came out alive. Fourth, Clinton led in most of the national polls then, so he was more able to absorb an early blow or two than Rubio, who is tied for a pretty distant third  in national polls. And fifth, everyone knew then that the Southern states, where Clinton was going to romp and rack up delegates, were just around the corner.

So there is basically no precedent for losing a bunch of early primaries and carrying on, let alone winning the nomination. Now, let’s look at some of Rubio’s numbers.

In Iowa today, he’s a distant fourth,  with around 12 percent to Donald Trump’s 27 percent. New Hampshire is the one early state where he’s not off the boards completely, but even there he’s not in great shape: He’s second with 12.5 percent to Trump’s 26 percent. In South Carolina, he’s basically tied for third with Cruz,  but again, both have less than half of Trump’s 29 percent. Nevada is less obsessively polled than the first three, but the latest one, from mid-October, has Trump miles ahead with 38 percent. Rubio is at 7.

So that’s the big four. If anything, after that, it gets worse for Rubio. Here is the official GOP primary schedule. Here is the most comprehensive list of polling from every state that I’ve seen. Match them up against each other and see for yourself. But because I’m a nice guy, I’ll give you a little taste for free.

After Nevada comes the big date of March 1, Super Tuesday, when 12 states have primaries or caucuses. Most of the big ones are in the South—Texas, Georgia, Virginia. In Georgia, Rubio is right now a distant fourth. He’s also a distant fourth in Texas, where Trump and Cruz are tied for first. In Virginia, things look better: He’s only a distant third.

As for the other nine March 1 states, Rubio leads in none of them and looks to be better positioned in only two, Massachusetts and Colorado. Vermont Republicans are also voting that day, and I could find no polling of Vermont Republicans at all (but they’re so crucial!). So according to today’s polling, the best—best!—Rubio can hope for coming out of Super Tuesday is three wins in the first 16 contests. And two of those wins would be in Massachusetts and Vermont, two states where he or any Republican is going to lose next November by at least 25 points. If you’re trying to tell conservatives in the South and Midwest that you’re their man, it’s literally better to lose those two states. Colorado would be the one state that Rubio could claim as actually meaning something, but even if he overtook Trump there, he’d be 1-13 (tossing out the deep blue states). In the real red states—Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Idaho—as of now, Trump is the guy who’s killing it.

You might be thinking three things. First, well, how good is that polling? All right—some of it is old. October, September, in a few cases even earlier. Ben Carson is still holding his own in some of these state polls, and presumably he’s slipped. But the thing about Carson’s slippage is that we don’t have any reason to think Carson defectors are transferring to Rubio. They’re probably moving to Trump and Cruz at least as much as to Rubio.

And you might also be thinking, well, what about the delegate count, because it all comes down to delegates? OK then, here is a little info on each state’s delegate allocation process. Most states have proportional allocation according to vote share, or they’re proportional with a complicated trigger, or they’re a hybrid. It’s all complex, but the long and short of it is that you can’t keep finishing fourth with 7 percent and expect to be collecting enough delegates to give you any leverage or juice.

And this leads us into the third thought you might be thinking, which is what about Florida? Here’s where Rubio has a reed of a chance to save his skin. Florida votes on March 15. So does Ohio. Interestingly, both are winner-take-all delegate allocation. If somehow Rubio were to win both of those, that’s 165 delegates in one night (1,237 are needed to win), and a huge dose of momentum.

But but but…26 states vote before those two. That’s an awfully long time to expect to be hanging around if you keep finishing third and fourth. And, oh, here’s the current polling in Florida and Ohio: In Florida, Trump leads Rubio by 36 to 18 percent, and in the most recent Ohio poll, Rubio’s in sixth place at 7 percent.

For such a good general election candidate, Rubio is looking like a pretty lousy primary candidate! How can he survive this? He probably can’t. He needs a couple sugar daddies to keep him alive, who don’t mind underwriting a series of out-of-the-money finishes. And what he really needs is for Trump to collapse. If Trump falls apart, Rubio is in the game. If he doesn’t, it’s very hard to see Rubio’s numbers changing much, and if they don’t, it’s just not in the cards for someone finishing third and fourth repeatedly to hang in for that long.

Should make for an interesting January between those two.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, December 4, 2015

December 5, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Donald Trump Vs. Ben Carson; Something Very Ugly Here”: Violent Criminal? Or Pathological Liar? We Don’t Need Either As President

Donald Trump is not being at all subtle in his latest wave of attacks on his current main opponent, Dr. Ben Carson, and it’s triggered yet another round of pundits wondering if The Donald has finally gone too far and crashed his campaign. But recall what has happened every other time people said Trump went overboard, whether he was tearing down Mexican immigrants, John McCain and POWs, or Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly: No matter what, he just keeps rising in the polls.

Carson has built up a following among conservative, evangelical Christian (and largely white) voters in Iowa with his tales of moral redemption from a violent childhood, and The Donald is now setting out to depict Carson as dangerous — and maybe even inhuman.

Carson’s violent behavior in his adolescence is key to the salvation element so integral to his narrative — though lately the press has been inquiring whether the doctor may have fabricated or at least somewhat exaggerated those anecdotes. So it probably helps Trump that Carson has already spiked the ball for him, by putting himself in the uncomfortable position of insisting to the media that, yes, he was prone to violence as a youth.

Thus, Trump sees Carson in the predicament of being either a serial fabulist — and Trump has enjoyed playing up this possibility, too — or the violent menace that Trump wants to paint him as.

So, from that candidate who first made his political mark broadcasting conspiracy theories regarding President Obama’s birthplace, and kicked off his campaign by railing against immigrants, here is the message in brief: Ben Carson isn’t one of the good ones.

“He’s said in the book — and I haven’t seen it — I know it’s in the book that he’s got a pathological temper or temperament. That’s a big problem, because you don’t cure that,” Trump said during an interview Thursday on CNN. “That ‘s like — you know, I could say, as an example: child molester. You don’t cure these people. You don’t cure a child molester. There’s no cure for it. ‘Pathological,’ there’s no cure for that. Now I didn’t say it — he said it in his book.”

The Donald wasn’t done yet, though — far from it. At his rally Thursday night in Iowa, during an epic 90-plus-minute stump speech, Trump upped the ante on grotesque sexual imagery, when he hinted at a literal castration of awful people like Carson.

“If you’re pathological, there’s no cure for that, folks. Okay? There’s no cure for that. And I did one of the shows today, and I don’t want to say what I said — but I’ll tell you, anyway. I said that if you’re a child molester, a sick puppy, you’re a child molester, there’s no cure for that. There’s only one cure, we don’t want to talk about that cure — that’s the ultimate cure. No, there’s two — there’s death, and the other thing.”

Initially, Carson tried to take the high road while speaking to reporters Friday morning, during an appearance at Bob Jones University, a center of religious-right politics. (Note: Bob Jones University did not admit African-American students until the 1970s, as they felt the squeeze of the new civil rights laws — but then prohibited any interracial dating, until changing that policy under political pressure during the 2000 presidential campaign.)

“Now that he’s completed his gratuitous attack, why don’t we press on and deal with the real issues. You know, the reason that I”m in this race is because there are some real, profound issues that affect the trajectory of our country right now. That is what the American people are concerned about,” Carson said.

But then when he did attempt any substantive rebuttal, Carson fell utterly flat.

“I’m hopeful that maybe his advisors will help him to understand the word ‘pathological,’” Carson said, “and recognize that does not denote ‘incurable’ — it’s not the same. It simply is an adjective that describes something that is highly abnormal, and something that fortunately I’ve been able to delivered from for a half a century now.”

In sum, Carson’s response to Trump saying that the doctor is incurably “pathological” was to didactically explain that such a person could be cured!

It wasn’t exactly the kind of response that would make Trump back down. Later on Friday, Trump’s campaign posted a Friday the 13th-themed horror-movie video about Carson, and the stories concerning whether or not Carson was really as angry a young man as he’s made himself out to be.

“Violent criminal? Or pathological liar? We don’t need either as president.”


By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, November 13, 2015

November 14, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Evangelicals | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: