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“Showing Up At Events Doesn’t Mean Showing Up To Vote”: Do Trump Voters Really Exist? How Both Parties Botched Iowa

If the major political parties had some trick up their sleeves to get more voters registered ahead of the Iowa caucus, it hasn’t happened yet.

With under a week left until people vote for the first time in 2016, the number of registered Democrats and Republicans has remained fairly static in the last six months. So the big crowds at rallies for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump—where they boast of attracting new caucus goers in droves—hasn’t translated into big gains when it comes to registered support.

At least not yet.

According to statistics from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, the number of registered Republicans has decreased from January 2015 until January 2016. The same can be said for Democrats. The number can typically fluctuate as registered members of either party do not participate in a given cycle and the actual number of participants who register on the actual caucus night will not be finally tallied until months later, after auditors extensively pour over the numbers.

What can be said about this cycle is that there is a surprisingly small change in the number of registered voters in the latter half of 2015. For instance, compared to the lead-up to 2008’s Iowa Caucus, where Barack Obama pulled off a surprise win against Hillary Clinton, the number of registered Democrats skyrocketed. In June 2007, there were 596,259 registered Democrats in the state, according to statistics from the Iowa Secretary of State. By the time that number was tallied in January 2008, it was 606,209. Looking at the same window for Democrats, this cycle, the number has gone from 584,737 to 584,111, essentially flatlining.

“It’s a little surprising,” University of Iowa political science professor Timothy Hagle told The Daily Beast. He said that sometimes the assumption among campaigns is “If you’re showing up at their events, you’re showing up to vote.”

“That’s not always the case,” Hagle added.

This could explain why Bernie Sanders is hedging his bets slightly even as he has drawn closer to, and in some cases, overtaken Clinton’s lead in the state.

Sanders told reporters in Iowa on Tuesday that he doesn’t anticipate the campaign being able to get the monstrous turnout Obama’s 2008 bid elicited.

“The turnout was so extraordinary, nobody expected it,” Sanders said. “Do I think in this campaign that we are going to match that? I would love to see us do that, I hope we can.”

“Frankly, I don’t think we can,” he added. “What Obama did in 2008 is extraordinary.”

This of course remains to be seen until caucus night but that doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. The Sanders campaign did not respond to a question about their analysis of registered voters.

Clinton’s camp, which has experience on their side, for whatever that’s worth, did not comment on the state of their outreach efforts. However, on Tuesday the campaign announced a Digital Commitment Cards initiative allowing “voters to build a personalized, digital card expressing their commitment to vote for Hillary Clinton in their state’s primary or caucus,” according to the press release. The information, accessible in a Commit to Caucus app, also gives prospective voters information on polling locations and the caucusing process.

On the Republican side, also a neck and neck race at this point between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, the spectre of doubt has been raised about the latter’s ability to win because of an ill-organized ground game.

Despite that, Trump has gained all the momentum in recent weeks leading to Cruz’s campaign trying to pivot to “underdog” status. While the big unknown for Trump is whether his rabid fan base will actually understand and participate in the caucus process—his website recently included an added link to Iowa caucus locations—Cruz’s camp continues to rely on its strong organizational structure as an indicator of likely victory.

“If Trump is truly attracting new voters as the establishment in Washington is now claiming, you would expect to see it in Iowa voter registration, but the number[s] are just not there,” Rick Tyler, Cruz’s communications director told The Daily Beast. “Perhaps reality is about to hit the reality star. We will see on Monday.”

Republicans overall have seen only a marginal increase in registered voters between June 2015 and January of this year, rising from 609,020 to 612,112. When asked if the campaign had taken into account this small rise when considering its own ground game, Tyler said that the religious base in the state would help Cruz pull out a win.

“Iowa evangelicals have a good turnout record for the caucuses and our support among them is strong,” he said.

The Secretary of State’s office will release the most newly updated figures on Thursday, which could indicate marginal last-minute shifts in the final days before the caucus. But the stasis in the numbers over the past year has been noticeable, according to communications director Kevin Hall.

“With 2008, the Democratic numbers reflected the excitement around Obama,” Hall told The Daily Beast. He added that in 2012, there was a measurable spike on the Republican side based on their caucus as well, something that hasn’t been seen this time around.

When considering these figures, Hall referenced the question that has been the elephant in the room for months: whether Trump’s rock-star level fan base will actually get him the victory on Monday.

“It remains to be seen,” he said. “I’m sure some of them will turn out.”

Trump’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

For Trump, and perhaps Sanders, a victory on Monday night will be hinged on bringing new people to the table who have never participated in the caucus before. Trump leads Cruz 38 to 25 among potential first-timers, according to a Quinnipiac poll released on Tuesday.

Now the only question left is will these people actually show up.


By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast, January 27, 2016

January 31, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Iowa Caucuses | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Much ‘Free Speech’ Can You Buy?”: Citizens United Produced A Platinum Class Of Mega-Donors And Corporate Super PACs

In today’s so-called “democratic” election process, Big Money doesn’t talk, it roars — usually drowning out the people’s voice.

Bizarrely, the Supreme Court decreed in its 2010 Citizens United ruling that money is a form of “free speech.” Thus, declared the learned justices, people and corporations are henceforth allowed to spend unlimited sums of their money to “speak” in election campaigns. But wait — if political speech is measured by money then by definition speech is not free. It can be bought, thereby giving the most speech to the few with the most money. That’s plutocracy, not democracy.

Sure enough, in the first six months of this presidential election cycle, more than half of the record-setting $300 million given to the various candidates came from only 358 mega-rich families and the corporations they control. The top 158 of them totaled $176 million in political spending, meaning that, on average, each one of them bought more than a million dollars’ worth of “free” speech.

Nearly all of their money is backing Republican presidential hopefuls who promise: (1) to cut taxes on the rich; (2) cut regulations that protect us from corporate pollution and other abuses of the common good; and (3) to cut Social Security, food stamps and other safety-net programs that we un-rich people need. The great majority of Americans adamantly oppose all of those cuts — but none of us has a million bucks to buy an equivalent amount of political “free” speech.

It’s not just cuts to taxes, regulations and some good public programs that are endangered by the Court’s ridiculous ruling, but democracy itself. That’s why a new poll by Bloomberg Politics found that 78 percent of the American people — including 80 percent of Republicans — want to overturn Citizens United. But those 358 families, corporations and Big Money politicos will have none of it. In fact, America’s inane, Big Money politics have become so prevalent in this election cycle that — believe it or not — candidates have found a need for yet another campaign consultant.

Already, candidates are walled off from people, reality and any honesty about themselves by a battalion of highly specialized consultants controlling everything from stances to hairstyle. But now comes a whole new category of staff to add to the menagerie: “donor maintenance manager.”

The Supreme Court’s malevolent Citizens United decision has produced an insidious platinum class of mega-donors and corporate super PACs, each pumping $500,000, $5 million, $50 million — or even more — into campaigns. These elites are not silent donors, but boisterous, very special interests who are playing in the new, Court-created political money game for their own gain. Having paid to play, they feel entitled to tell candidates what to say and do, what to support and oppose. A Jeb Bush insider confirms that mega-donors have this attitude: “Donors consider a contribution like, ‘Well, wait, I just invested in you. Now I need to have my say; you need to answer to me.’”

Thus, campaigns are assigning donor maintenance managers to be personal concierges to meet every need and whim of these special ones. This subservience institutionalizes the plutocratic corruption of our democratic elections, allowing a handful of super-rich interests to buy positions of overbearing influence directly inside campaigns.

Donors at the million-dollar-and-up level are expecting much more than a tote bag for their “generous gifts” of “free speech.” Of course, candidates piously proclaim, “I’m not for sale.” But politicians are just the delivery service. The actual products being bought through the Supreme Court’s Money-O-Rama political bazaar are our government’s policies, tax breaks and other goodies — as well as the integrity of America’s democratic process. To help fight the injustice of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and get Big Money out of our political system, go to


By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, October 28, 2015

October 29, 2015 Posted by | Citizens United, Corporations, Democracy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Illusions Of Grandeur’: The Richly Earned Humiliation Of Newt Gingrich

If his goal when he officially launched his presidential candidacy last month was to inflict a massive amount of humiliation on himself in as short a time as possible, then Newt Gingrich has succeeded spectacularly.

After an epically botched campaign roll-out — which included accusations of ideological treason from influential conservatives and a nationally televised exchange with an Iowa voter who called him “an embarrassment to our party” and urged him to quit the race “before you make a bigger fool of yourself” — Gingrich was left struggling to explain how he and his wife racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges at Tiffany’s jewelers. Then he randomly took off on a vacation (a lavish Greek cruise, it turned out), and now he’s returned to find that virtually his entire staff has quit.

Does this latest development change the presidential race in any significant way? Not really. Since even before his month from hell, Gingrich had no realistic chance of winning the GOP nomination, and not since the 1990s has he been a significant force on the right. Most conservative activists and opinion-shapers long ago tuned him out.

But much of the political media world never quite figured this out, instead treating Gingrich for the last decade as an enduring relevant national leader. The instinct was understandable: The celebrity (and notoriety) he attained during his mid-’90s stint as House Speaker never fully faded, and he could always be counted on for a lively, provocative quote or two.

This is the promise of Gingrich’s amazing crash-and-burn as a White House candidate (I know, he says he’s staying in despite the staff defections): that it might compel the political media to realize that the emperor has no clothes.

The reality is that Gingrich’s serious career in elected politics lasted for 20 years and ended in 1998.

He spent the first 16 of those years clawing his way through his party’s House ranks, finally reaching the top spot just as the ideal circumstances — complete Democratic control of Washington for the first time since the Carter administration, a profoundly unpopular president, and a ton of low-hanging fruit in the South — presented themselves for a Republican takeover of the House. The midterm election of 1994 made Gingrich Speaker of the House.

The tactics he employed during that rise could be devious. Early on, he formed the Conservative Opportunity Society with about a dozen fellow far-right GOP members. They pushed their party’s leadership toward a more confrontational posture and engaged in harsh and highly personal attacks on their Democratic colleagues.

In one episode in 1984, Gingrich used an after-hours “special orders” speech on the House floor to read off the names of ten Democrats who had written a letter to Daniel Ortega, whose Sandinistas had seized control of the country in 1979, urging him to hold democratic elections and to allow expatriates to return to vote. The ten, Gingrich said, had “undercut and crippled” U.S. foreign policy; he suggested they be prosecuted under the Logan Act of 1798, which gives the president the right to conduct foreign policy. Upon learning of this, Speaker Tip O’Neill confronted Gingrich on the floor, calling his attack “the lowest thing I’ve seen in my 32 years in Congress.”

In 1989, Gingrich edged out Edward Madigan, the candidate preferred by Robert Michel, the pragmatic House GOP leader, to become minority whip, then the No. 2 position on the Republican side. Four years later, in the run-up to the 1994 election, Michel announced that he’d retire. Officially, it was his decision, but Gingrich was breathing down his neck. The GOP conference was increasingly filled with confrontational conservatives who preferred Gingrich’s style.

His four-year run as Speaker proved disastrous, for Gingrich personally and for his party. His own obnoxious style — when a South Carolina woman drowned her children in a horrifying late 1994 incident, Gingrich called it a sign of society’s breakdown and proof that people needed to vote Republican — alienated all but the most hardcore Republicans. And his eagerness to force a government shutdown over a GOP plan to slash Medicare spending gave President Clinton and Democrats a winning issue in 1996, when nearly 20 Republican incumbents lost their seats and the GOP barely held the House. Shortly after that, Gingrich held off an attempted coup from a band of frustrated but incompetent House Republicans. Then he made things worse for his party by leading an impeachment drive against Clinton in 1998 (even, as we later learned, while engaging in an extramarital affair himself), which backfired and led to shocking Democratic gains in that year’s midterms.

It was then that Gingrich took his massive unpopularity and walked off the political stage, knowing that his party was ready to throw him off if he didn’t make the first move. From that moment on, the party’s elites — elected officials, activists, interest group leaders, and opinion-shaping commentators — have had little use for him. But the media has been a different story. A few years after his demise as Speaker, Gingrich reemerged and was quickly welcomed back into every green room in America. Convinced he’d been rehabilitated, he began making noise about seeking the presidency, first in the run-up to the 2008 race and then again this time. His taste for ugly, personalized attacks hadn’t faded, either, something he’s shown over and over during the Obama presidency.

But the idea that he was a real player in politics was an illusion, something that’s become clear during the month-long Gingrich candidacy. Most of the important figures in the Republican Party never had any interest in seeing him run for president. There have been few endorsements, donors have shunned him, and conservative activists and commentators have amplified every one of his embarrassments.

Even with his staff quitting on him, Gingrich insists he’ll stay in the race. We’ll see how long that lasts. One way or the other, he’ll soon be taking the same walk of shame off the political stage that he took 13 years ago. This time, let’s hope it’s for good.

By: Steve Kornacki, News Editor, Salon, June 10, 2011

June 10, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Media, Newt Gingrich, Politics, Press, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Person, One Vote? Not Exactly

Two economists, Brian Knight and Nathan Schiff, set out a few years ago to determine how much Iowa, New Hampshire and other early-voting states affected presidential nominations.

Mr. Knight and Mr. Schiff analyzed daily polls in other states before and after an early state had held a contest. The polls tended to change immediately after the contest, and the changes tended to last, which suggested that the early states were even more important than many people realized. The economists estimated that an Iowa or New Hampshire voter had the same impact as five Super Tuesday voters put together.

This system, the two men drily noted in a Journal of Political Economy paper, “represents a deviation from the democratic ideal of ‘one person, one vote.’ ”

A presidential campaign is once again upon us, and Iowa and New Hampshire are again at the center of it all. On Thursday, Mitt Romney will announce his candidacy in Stratham, N.H. Last week, Tim Pawlenty opened his campaign in Des Moines. The two states have dominated the nominating process for so long that it’s easy to think of their role as natural.

But it is not natural. It’s undemocratic, in fact. It is unfair to voters in the other 48 states. And it distorts economic policy in several damaging ways.

Most obviously, the federal government has lavished subsidies on ethanol, even though those subsidies drive up food prices and do little to solve the climate problem, partly because candidates pander to the Iowa corn industry. (Mr. Pawlenty, who now says the subsidies must end, is an admirable exception.) Beyond ethanol, a recent peer-reviewed study found that early-voting states received more federal dollars after a competitive election — so long as they supported the winning candidate.

Pork is hardly the only problem with the voting calendar. In the long run-up to the first votes, Iowa and New Hampshire also distort the national conversation because they are so unrepresentative. They are not better or worse than other states, to be clear. But they are different.

Their populations are growing more slowly than the rest of the country’s. Residents of Iowa and New Hampshire are more likely to have health insurance. They are older than average. They are more likely to work in manufacturing.

Above all, Iowa and New Hampshire lack a single big city, at a time when large metropolitan areas are crucial to lifting economic growth. Big metro areas are where big ideas most often take shape and great new companies are most often born. The country’s 25 largest areas are responsible for 52 percent of the country’s economic output, according to the Brookings Institution, and are home to 42 percent of the population.

Yet metro areas are also struggling with major problems. The quality of schools is spotty. Commutes last longer than ever. Roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems are aging.

You don’t hear much about these issues in the first year of a presidential campaign, though. No wonder. Iowa, New Hampshire and the next two states to vote, Nevada and South Carolina, do not have a single city among the country’s 25 largest. Las Vegas, the 30th-largest metro area, and the Boston suburbs that stretch into New Hampshire are the closest these states come.

So the presidential calendar becomes another cause of what Edward Glaeser, a conservative-leaning Harvard economist, calls our “anti-urban policy bias.” Suburbs and rural areas receive vastly more per-person federal largess than cities. One big reason, of course, is the structure of the Senate: the 12 million residents of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina have eight United States senators among them, while the 81 million residents of California, New York and Texas have only six.

Bruce Katz, a Brookings vice president and veteran of Democratic administrations, points out that the world’s other economic powers take their cities more seriously. China, in particular, has made urban planning a central part of its economic strategy.

“The United States stands apart as an anti-urban nation in an urbanizing world,” Mr. Katz told me. “Our political tilt toward small states and small towns, in presidential campaigns and the governing that follows, is not only a quaint relic of an earlier era but a dangerous distraction at a time when national prosperity depends on urban prosperity.”

The typical defense from Iowa and New Hampshire is that they care more about politics than the rest of us and therefore do a better job vetting candidates. But the intense 2008 race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton showed that if Iowa and New Hampshire care more, it’s only because of their privileged status. In 2008, turnout soared in states that finally had a primary that mattered, be it Indiana or Texas, North Carolina or Rhode Island.

A more democratic system would allow more voters to see the candidates up close for months at a time. The early states could rotate each year, so that all kinds — big states and small, younger and older, rural and urban — had a turn. In 2016, the first wave could include states that have voted near the end recently, like Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon and South Dakota.

A rotation along these lines would enliven the political debate. Investments in science and education, which are the lifeblood of future economic growth, might play a bigger role in the campaign. You could even imagine — optimistically, I know — that the deficit might prove easier to address if Medicare and Social Security recipients did not make up such a disproportionate share of early voters.

The issues particular to small-town America would still receive extra attention because so many of the 50 states are rural and sparsely populated. It’s just that Iowa and New Hampshire would no longer receive the extreme special treatment they now do.

And that special treatment is a nice thing, indeed. It focuses the entire country, and its next leader, on the concerns of only 1 percent of the population, as if democracy were supposed to work that way.

At a recent candidates’ forum in Des Moines, The Wall Street Journal reported, the moderator did something that seemed perfectly normal: She chided Mr. Romney for not having spent enough time in Iowa lately. “Where have you been?” she asked.

How do you think the rest of us feel?


By: David Leonhardt, Economic Scene, The New York Times, May 31, 2011

June 4, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Democracy, Elections, Government, Health Care, Iowa Caucuses, Medicare, Politics, Social Security, States, Voters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Course Newt Gingrich Supported A Health Care Mandate

Mitt Romney continues to face all kinds of heat over his support for a health care mandate, in large part because he continues to defend it. But Sam Stein notes this week that disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Romney rival for the Republican presidential nomination, was just as ardent an advocate of the idea.

In his post-congressional life, Gingrich has been a vocal champion for mandated insurance coverage — the very provision of President Obama’s health care legislation that the Republican Party now decries as fundamentally unconstitutional.

This mandate was hardly some little-discussed aspect of Gingrich’s plan for health care reform. In the mid-2000s, he partnered with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to promote a centrist solution to fixing the nation’s health care system. A July 22, 2005, Hotline article on one of the duo’s events described the former speaker as endorsing not just state-based mandates (the linchpin of Romney’s Massachusetts law) but “some federal mandates” as well. A New York Sun writeup of what appears to be the same event noted that “both politicians appeared to endorse proposals to require all individuals to have some form of health coverage.”

Neera Tanden, an aide to Clinton at the time who went on to help craft President Obama’s law, said she couldn’t recall exact speeches, but “strongly” believed that the both Clinton and Gingrich backed the individual mandate. Either way, she added, “Gingrich has been known as a supporter” of the idea for some time.

A simple newspaper archive search bears this out.

Gingrich endorsed the individual health care mandate over and over again, in public remarks, in media interviews, and in policy proposals. Ironically, he even explained the importance of the mandate in a book entitled, “Winning the Future.” Gingrich didn’t just grudgingly go along with the measure as part of some kind of compromise; he actively touted it as a good idea.

And he was right.

But that was before President Obama decided he also agreed with the idea, at which point the mandate became poisonous in Republican circles.

The point to keep in mind, though, is that Gingrich’s support for the idea isn’t at all surprising. Indeed, it would have been odd if Gingrich didn’t endorse the mandate.

For those who’ve forgotten, this was a Republican idea in the first place. Nixon embraced it in the 1970s, and George H.W. Bush supported the idea in the 1980s. When Dole endorsed the mandate in 1994, it was in keeping with the party’s prevailing attitudes at the time. Romney embraced the mandate as governor and it was largely ignored during the ‘08 campaign, since it was in keeping with the GOP mainstream.

In recent years, the mandate has also been embraced by the likes of John McCain, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Bob Bennett, Tommy Thompson, Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Scott Brown, and Judd Gregg, among many others. Indeed, several of them not only endorsed the policy, they literally co-sponsored legislation that included a mandate.

During the fight over Obama’s reform proposal, Grassley told Fox News, of all outlets, “I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have an individual mandate” — and there was no pushback from party leaders. This isn’t ancient history; it was a year and a half ago.

Newt Gingrich touted the same idea? Well, sure, of course he did.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, The Washington Monthly, May 13, 2011

May 13, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Congress, Conservatives, GOP, Government, Health Care, Health Reform, Ideologues, Ideology, Individual Mandate, Insurance Companies, Mitt Romney, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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