Thursday, January 31, 2008

I.D., Please



Democrats and Republicans like to fight over whether it's better to force residents to prove who they are before they vote. Democrats have argued it discriminates against people who don't carry some type of photo identification (I don't believe I know anyone who doesn't have one). Republicans say showing i.d. will make the voting process more valid.

My alma mater did some research that showed showing your pic doesn't hurt turnout.






(Photo courtesy: Associated Press)

Tribute to former Missouri Tigers Head Football Coach Larry Smith

Rudy's "Lifestyle", "Grassley is a Moron"


"Hick Iowa senator says N.Y. attitude cost Rudy Giuliani; Apple strikes back"

That's a heckuva headline, huh? I found it on the New York Daily News. The article quotes Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley ripping on former Prez candidate Rudy Giuliani's New York "lifestyle." There are none too many kind words about Iowa's senior Senator...



Wednesday, January 30, 2008

So Long, John and Rudy

You're Out!!!
John Edwards is out of the race. Surprised? He stuck it out long enough to make it through Florida. Why? Would the bills have been too high with too little return for him to stay in the race to compete in Tsunami Tuesday on Feb. 5th.

Surely his endorsement will now be the most talked about/sought after voice of support around Democratic circles. It's difficult, dare I say, almost impossible, to see him endorsing Clinton. But will he go out in public to say he's an Obama guy now? If he doesn't, will that effectively help Clinton?

Edwards would never tell me he HAD to win the Iowa Caucuses. But I never bought it. He did knock off Clinton here. But with all the time and money he spent here in Iowa, it seemed like he HAD to win. He didn't, of course. He never won anywhere. And now he's out. What a two-person race this will be now!

Rudy Giuliani is out now, too. Is that even news? O.K., I'm being a bit sarcastic. O.K., more than just a bit sarcastic. Giuliani never turned out to be much of a factor. He skipped the Iowa Republican Party's Straw Poll, which ticked off Republicans here. He seemed to try in Iowa before the Caucues. Then, then he didn't. Then he did. Then he didn't. But some Republican activists told me they felt Giuliani conducted a stealth effort here, even when he physically wasn't here. He spent heavily on mailings and radio ads (he never did air tv commercials).

Insiders told me he really gunned to finish third here, so he could say he "did better than expected" on his way to New Hampshire. He campaigned pretty heavily in New Hampshire and spent heavily. But then, down the stretch, his campaign acted as if he didn't really try there. I don't see how you can say he "skipped" Iowa and New Hampshire. Sure, he didn't campaign as much as others. But does anyone actually believe Giuliani "tried" less in Iowa than, say, John McCain? Now, he's supporting McCain. Or at least it sounds like he will offically by tonight. Is McCain unstoppable now?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunny Sunday


Who would have thought the 40's could feel so good outside? But after -11 degrees Thursday morning in Des Moines, it sure feels like a heat wave.

Politically, that heat wave may be named Barack Obama. I can't find anyone who predicted such a domination like the one he put on Hillary Clinton and John Edwards Saturday in the South Carolina Primary. Clinton aides will earn their money trying to spin the results of this one.

What must Edwards be thinking this morning? He was born in South Carolina. He greatly outspent the other two in media buys. And he still finished a distant third. What scenario does he envision from here on out that will bring him a win? It's tough to find one, barring a near-miracle...or a near-collapse. Make that two near-collapses.

Meantime, Iowa Republicans have a new leader. Ray Hoffmann, got fired, uhmm, I mean, quit to go back home to run his restaurant. Stewart Iverson, the former Senate Majority Leader, takes over as party chair. Will he be able to reorganize and reshape the party in time to prevent further erosion in November?
etc.
Congrats to Jarrett Schneider. Jarrett's a Renwick, Iowa native, who graduated from Drake University last year. Jarrett, who served as our Web Producer for www.iowavotes2008.com (and helped us earn the honor of being displayed in the Library of Congress) has made his debut as a television reporter for WHO-TV. Fittingly, his first report focused on the rush to buy blue at his Alma mater.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Summit


Call Sir Edmund Hillary. The summit is on. Governor Chet Culver wants to meet with lawmakers on the economy, after all. Just a few days ago, his office said he would concentrate on talking with other Govs and members of Congress to make sure the federal economic stimulus plan best benefited Iowans. Friday, Culver's office let us know he would be meeting with leaders of both parties Monday around the noon hour.

Culver starts the day with a news conference on the economy. Then he holds a private meeting with leaders. Senate Republican Leader Ron Wieck had called for the "summit" to address what the state should do to help Iowans as the country heads (or may have already headed) into recession.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Steady hands


A crew from Dateline NBC has now packed up and left town. They interviewed one of our photojournalists, Lee Rouse (the pride of Grundy Center). Lee was interviewing an Urbandale firefighter when a power line exploded in the background. I don't know how, but Lee somehow kept his cool and his shot steady. Dateline is apparently working on a piece for the Spring to show incredible things captured on video. Props to Lee!


Not to be outdone, Lee's son, Dalton, has also made his way onto the YouTube world.

Can he top his old man?

Elephants in the Sunshine

Let the softballs fly (more on that later)...

As the days in the beautiful Florida sun get fewer for the Republicans, will they also serve as the last remaining days as Presidential candidates for a few? What did you make of Rudy Giuliani last night during the last debate before next Tuesday's Florida Republican Primary? Doesn't he HAVE to win that state? He didn't seem to be exuding the confidence of a man about to win. Will he drop out if he finishes in third-place as the polls have him now?

Mike Huckabee didn't seem to get the front runner treatment either last night. What little money he had, it seems, is disappearing as he makes budget cuts in his campaign. Would a fourth-place finish in Florida lead to his final sunset in this race? Or will he bask in his no-money-like-he-had-in-Iowa-ways and keep Chuckin' along.

Mitt Romney didn't seem to make any major gaffes last night. He did seem to be a bit awkward during that question about how much of his personal money he's used in Florida and elsewhere so far this campaign (published reports list his personal wealth at between $250 million and $500 million...wow). He also looked almost pained at times during the debate...did he have a hard time hearing...was it bad lights that blinded him...too much cheese?

John McCain did have that one moment that makes you wonder. Tim Russert questioned McCain on why he said he knows a lot more about national security than the economy. McCain said he didn't know where Russert got that quote. Maybe The Politico's Jonathan Martin does.

McCain, faced with his own past statements pooh-poohing his grasp of economic issues, said, "I don’t know where you got that quote from."Moderator Tim Russert probably got it from The Wall Street Journal."I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues," McCain told the paper's Steve Moore in 2005. "I still need to be educated."

Ron Paul held his tongue as he clearly didn't get the face time like the others. The way he raises money, does he just keep sticking this out 'til others start bailing out? Then he would get some more face time.

Interesting when McCain used some of his time to praise Giuliani. Could this be a scenario...Rudy fails in Florida, drops out, then McCain tries to woo the Rudy supporters in New York for tsunami Tuesday on Feb 5th? Just a thought...

Is the bad economy good for Romney? After all, he is the uber-successful biz guy who made a gazillion dollars. McCain has made so much of the war part of his campaign. Hmmm...

Very little fire, overall, last night. Is it because this debate aired both on cable and on many NBC affiliates in Florida, the first time, perhaps, many Floridians saw the candidates? Or did the Repubs see the Dems go too far during their debate earlier in the week?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Impeach Judge Hanson?

The group, Everyday America, presented state lawmakers with 6,100 signatures it claims call for them to impeach Polk County Judge Robert Hanson. Last August Hanson ruled two Polk County men should be allowed to marry. The Iowa Supreme Court is now reviewing that ruling.

Everyday America believes Hanson violated the state constitution by allowing the same sex marriage, so it is urging the Iowa House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings to remove Hanson from office (Democratic House Speaker Pat Murphy says he has no plans to do that. And since Democrats hold the majority in the house, they decide whether any proceedings would take place).

Ben Stone, the Executive Director of the ACLU of Iowa, says today's action is just meant to be a way to intimidate judges and lawmakers.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Farewell to Fred


(Image courtesy: chrisbishop.com)

"Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people."

--Fred Thompson, 1/22/08


(Image courtesy: wardsmythe.com/category/republicans)

Remember how people were waiting and waiting (o.k., maybe it was mostly just the media waiting) for Fred Thompson to finally come to Des Moines to say he was running for President? And then he came here for that much-awaited announcement last September at the Polk County Convention Complex. Was there anyone who thought his speech that day blew you away? The only real noise I remember from the crowd that day came from his staffers gathered near the stage. Well, there was one bit of excitement that I recall. That happened when a woman passed out in the back of the room.

On the campaign trail, Thompson hardly seemed to impress the masses. I remember the appearance in Marshalltown when Thompson finished his stump speech and then had to ask the crowd to applaud for him. I had never seen such a thing. And still haven't seen anything like that again.

Is it only fitting that with all the recent anticipation that he would drop out of the race because of his lackluster performances so far he would make his big announcement...with a short news release. No public appearance. No thank yous for all the people who devoted their lives to helping his failed cause. Just an email. Too bad Jack McCoy already took his old job.




Time to Summit?

While the Prez and Congress decides whether the fed needs to cut us a-don't-let-this-country-fall-into-a-recession-if-we-aren't-already-in-one-rebate-check, Iowa Republicans are thinking up their own ideas.

Senate Minority Leader Ron Wieck sent this out. (As of 6:33pm as I write this, no response from the Gov)...

Senate Minority Leader Calls for Economic Stimulus Summit
Bipartisan Meeting to Focus on Looming National Recession

DES MOINES – Today Senate Minority Leader Ron Wieck (R-Sioux City) sent the following letter to the Governor requesting a bipartisan bicameral workgroup on an economic stimulus package:

January 22, 2008

Honorable Chet Culver
Iowa Governor
Capitol BuildingDes Moines, IA 50319

Dear Governor Culver,

In light of the recent slowdown of the national economy it has been refreshing to see a bicameral bipartisan working relationship develop in Washington. This cooperation should serve as a reminder to all of us that in difficult times we must all pull together for the good of the country.

To that end, I suggest that the leadership of all four caucuses convene a meeting with you, yet this week, to discuss the current economic situation here in Iowa. It is well documented that Iowa is slower to react to the trends in the national economy, thus we must act now to soften any significant dip in our economy.

Thank you for your attention to this pressing need.

Sincerely,

Ron Wieck
Senate Minority Leader

CC: Honorable Mike Gronstal, Iowa Senate Majority Leader
Honorable Jack Kibbie, President of the Iowa Senate
Honorable Pat Murphy, Speaker of the Iowa House
Honorable Kevin McCarthy, Majority Leader of the Iowa House
Honorable Christopher Rants, Minority Leader of the Iowa House

Monday, January 21, 2008

How Do You Say His Name?

Iowa's U.S. Senator Tom Harkin has an opponent. Now, that opponent has a new Web site. How uphill will his battle be to unseat Harkin? It wasn't long ago I asked Iowa's other U.S. Senator Charles Grassley about him. Grassley wasn't even sure how to say Steve Rathje's name (btw, he pronounces it "RAHCH'-ee). Good thing the election is still ten months away.

Here's the release... (Oh, and just to be fair, Tom Harkin's Web site is http://www.tomharkin.com/)

Rathje Launches New Website

For Immediate Release:

Steve Rathje, Republican candidate for the United States Senate in 2008, has announced the launch of his new campaign website.

"I am very excited about the possibilities offered by this new website," Steve said. "I look forward to Iowans using the site to get more information about me and to learn about my candidacy. I am also happy with the opportunity the site affords me to hear from Iowans on issues of importance to them and open a dialog about the future of our state and country."

The Rathje campaign is encouraging all Iowans to visit
www.SteveRathje.com to learn more about the Cedar Rapids businessman in his bid to become Iowa's next United States Senator.

Everyone Likes Gambling?

Monday night, The Regency Companies officially releases its plan for a possible $100 million dollar casino-plus project in Newton, across the street from the Iowa Speedway. One thing I've noticed so far...no organized opposition.

Remember the Sink the Boat people? They received a lot of credit three years ago for helping to defeat that casino idea in Dallas County. They don't seem to be jumping into this fight in Newton. In fact, I can't find anyone who is. One person did tell me she heard from a staunch anti-gambling advocate who said there's no point in working on this, since the state will never grant it a license anyway (because it's so close to Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona).

etc.

My hometown St. Louis Cardinals have disappointed with their off-season activity. But at least they made a good move today. They've signed stud catcher, Yadier Molina, to a four-year, $15.5 million dollar contract.

And speaking of BAD moves...remember that FOX station in St. Louis that reported Albert Pujols would be named in the Mitchell Report? Oops! Pujols says the station will pay.


Bill Knapp who has made a kazillion dollars by, in part, always knowing where to buy land before the next big thing happens is selling off his company to his nephew and the company's president. Here's part of the release...

BILL KNAPP PASSES BATON
Knapp Properties Transitioned to Neugent and Bill Knapp II

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (January 21, 2008) — Knapp Properties Inc., the real estate management, brokerage and development company founded by real estate entrepreneur William C. Knapp, is being sold to its two top executives. William Knapp II and Gerard Neugent are acquiring 100 percent of KPI as well as a 20-percent stake in William C. Knapp LC (WCKLC), the primary holding company for Knapp family holdings and investments. In concert these Knapp entities own, operate and manage a large and diverse portfolio of real estate holdings.

WCKLC has direct ownership of office, retail and industrial buildings along with developed lots, farms and undeveloped land throughout Central Iowa and the state. The holding company has at least 20 investor partners involved in variety of projects in the metro area. Among the partners are several institutions including FBL Financial Group, NCMIC, Central Iowa Health and Wellmark Inc. as well as successful Iowa entrepreneurs James S. Cownie, Dennis Elwell, Gerald Kirke and William Krause.

The sale marks the culmination of several years of thoughtful succession planning by the Knapp family. Bill Knapp II is the nephew of William C. Knapp and has served as chairman of the company since 1999. Neugent has been president of the company since 1993.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Regency Wants to Develop Newton Casino

Regency Companies Partner Jamie Myers confirmed to me he hopes to be the guy to help bring a casino to Newton. Myers would put the project right across the street from the Iowa Speedway. He hopes each one feeds off the other and supports the other (The Newton City Council gets its first look at the plans Monday night. The Jasper County Board of Supervisors takes a look Tuesday a.m.).

Myers estimates the development somewhere between $60 and $100 million with hopes of employing up to 600 people one day. The idea is not just a casino. Myers envisions two hotels, restaurants, retail and camping...maybe more down the line sometime.

It's still very early. In fact, Myers joked that he doesn't really even have a name for the project yet. Meantime, casino supporters are already working on the plan. They're out collecting some of the 1,485 signatures they will need to put it on the ballot before Jasper county voters sometime this spring. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission would then have to grant a license to the project, even though Ottumwa and Fort Dodge have already convinced voters to support casinos in their town. And, of course, there's that little problem of Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino just twenty miles away in Altoona.

A top Republican leader told me, "remember that $30 million that Prairie Meadows loses on the racetrack?" He said, "they would love to use that kind of money to kill this project."

Might be a juicy fight, eh? Who said things would get boring here once the Presidential candidates moved out of town?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hoffmann Out Soon? McKibben to follow?


Just how bad are things getting for Iowa Republicans? A few factors...

Democrats attracted way more Caucus votes...
Prez Bush still isn't popular...
The Iraq War...well, it's still going...
Dems already control the Gov's Mansion, House and Senate...
Repubs seem to be running for the door (8 house members are quitting, 4 senators, too, so far)...

On WHO TV 13's "Insiders" program (taped on Friday afternoon, airs Sunday at 9:30am), Romney's State Chair and former Gov candidate Doug Gross said Ray Hoffmann is out as State Chair of the Republican Party. He says the State Central Committee will make it official at its meeting next weekend. Stewart Iverson (the former Senate Majority Leader) and Marlys Popma (former McCain advisor and Iowa GOP Exec Director) I'm told are interested.

Will Larry McKibben, the Repub State Senator from Marshalltown, be the next one to hit the door after his term is up? Senate Minority Leader Ron Wieck said he expected to hear early this coming week whether he needs to plan for at least the fifth senator from his party to say he's leaving (Angelo, Lundby, Putney, Gaskill). Repubs spent a ton of money (more than $400k, if my memory serves) to help him win re-election last time around.
Democratic House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy also on Insiders doesn't seem to be too jazzed about Governor Culver's bottle bill plan. The first plan, I mean. It sounds like the Gov's looking for a deal on this. Any deal.

Nevada and South Carolina

It's too cold to do much of anything, so I'm glued to the tv while I work on a little experiment in the crock pot.

Hillary Clinton won Nevada. So much for all the complaints by the Clinton supporters about letting the casino workers caucus in the casino. Doesn't look like it mattered much. But how much does Barack Obama want to win South Carolina now? He might want to figure out some kind of answer for that Ronald Reagan comment before then. Will that be a must win state for him now?

Speaking of South Carolina, will that be the end of John Edwards? Will he really keep going on if he loses badly there, since, after all, he was born there?

Anybody see that speech by Fred Thompson long before the numbers came in? Some of the pundits wondered if he would drop out. But he didn't. Yet. He also didn't say he was going on.

Mitt Romney put his money in Nevada and chose the higher delegate count there than in South Carolina. Looks like that worked. How big is Florida now? What happens if Rudy Giuliani doesn't win? His strategy seems to bet it all there (well, after he went all out in New Hampshire and got creamed. I guess that was a different strategy)?

Surely, Mike Huckabee wanted (and needed?) to do better than second in South Carolina. Is he done now? Or will he wait until he loses in Florida?

This thing sure has been tough to predict, eh? I love watching the national folks squirm in their seats after their predictions don't turn out.

Something smells good here. My crock pot has done its job. Dinner's on.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Two Plans for Illegal Immigration

Illegal Immigration. We heard the words come up who knows how many times during the Presidential campaign in our state. Now, the words have made their way to the Iowa Statehouse. Today, Democrats and Republican told us of two far different ways to deal with the situation in our state.

Democrats say they're putting together legislation that would go after those who hire undocumented workers. Under HF2026, those employers who do "knowingly" hire illegals can be fined up to $10,000. It also prevents employers from firing a worker if they inform law enforcement officials of the hiring of illegal workers.

Republicans say the Democrats' ideas aren't the way to go. It's not right, they say, to go after bosses; they need to go after the people working here illegally. Republicans, instead, want to establish partnerships with the federal government. When local and state authorities apprehend illegal immigrants, they would work with the federal government on making sure those immigrants get deported (although local authorities have complained to us they already have problems with the feds actually showing up to take the immigrants once they have rounded them up). Republicans point to Oklahoma as proof partnerships work. They predict 25,000 illegal immigrants are already on their way out of that state.


Here's this afternoon's release from state Republicans announcing the formation of an illegal immigration task force...

Senate Republicans Appoint Task Force to Address Illegal Immigration
Democrats fail to lead yet again


DES MOINES – Today Senate Minority Leader Ron Wieck (R-Sioux City) announced the formation of a Senate Republican task force to address the issue of illegal immigration.

“Failure of the federal government to adequately address the illegal immigration problem has left it to the states to take control of the issue,” stated Wieck.

Senator Jeff Angelo (R-Creston), Senator Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) and Senator Steve Kettering (R-Lake View) have been appointed to the task force.

“The Democrats have failed yet again to lead on an issue that will affect Iowans in their communities,” said Wieck. “This session you will not see a comprehensive illegal immigration plan from the Democrat majority.”

The task force will forward a comprehensive package of reforms to the Republican caucus in the following weeks.

###


So, what do you think?

All's Not Wells Fargo


Look for layoff notices to come out of Wells Fargo this afternoon. I'm told it's more than 100 employees in the I.T. department. Sources tell me they will be offered the chance to pursue other employment in the company. What other jobs will those I.T. folks want/be able to do?


Updated...6:05pm


STATEMENT FROM LYNN GREENWOOD SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, COMMUNICATIONS WELLS FARGO HOME AND CONSUMER FINANCE GROUP

"Wells Fargo is reorganizing a large, multi-year technology project and today notified some Des Moines team members that their current positions would be eliminated. Those affected by this reorganization are being encouraged to apply for other open positions within the project and in other areas of the company. Currently, Wells Fargo has approximately 200 open positions in the Des Moines area.
"During a restructuring, it is Wells Fargo’s practice not to disclose the number of positions eliminated because many affected team members find positions within the company. Our goal is always to place as many team members as possible into open positions, and we will attempt to do so in this case.
"This change affects approximately 1 percent of the company’s total employment in Iowa. Currently, we have 12,900 team members in Iowa, the vast majority located in the Des Moines area.
"Affected team members have received 60-day notices and will be given preference for any open positions in the company. If the team members don't find another job within Wells Fargo, they are eligible to receive separation benefits including salary continuation based on years of service with the company."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More Leftovers

Governor Chet Culver must have changed his mind on how he would give his Condition of the State. Crews were out setting up the night before. They started assembling a Teleprompter. But then they took it down. Culver apparently didn't need it and didn't want it. He did use one last year, if you care.

The Gov put himself out there at one point. He's put on weight over the past few years (after losing a lot of weight on some liquid diet), and now he is promising to diet over the next 100 days to set a good image for Iowans. We, as a state, could use a little exercise. Although, Republicans argue, it's the state budget that needs a diet.

Catching Up on Last Night


What did you think of the Nevada debate last night? Since it's yesterday's news, I'll keep my thoughts short. And since my truck crapped out on my way to work today, my thoughts are a little disheveled anyway (looks like my battery went out).

My thoughts for what they're worth...(hopefully, at least $99.95 to make up for the tow and new battery)

Obama seemed off his game in the first round. His body language wasn't good. He leaned forward on the table on his hands. I used to do that a lot. And that's a no-no in television. It takes your energy away. He also looked like he was wearing his big brother's suit coat. Another thing we learn in our shallow world of television it to pull your suit down in the back and sit on "the tail". It makes the suit fit a lot better, or at least look like it does. After the first commercial break, Obama did sit up, fix his jacket and show more energy.

Clinton looked tired in the first round but seemed to have more force and energy behind her words, nonetheless. I may be crazy, but she seemed to gain makeup during the commercial break. She did seem to give Edwards a not-so-nice look during one of his comments. But it seemed she stayed "up" throughout the night.

Edwards kept his cool, even though he didn't seem to get the face time the two others did. He did ditch the light blue tie (UNC Tar Heels?) he seemed to wear out in Iowa in favor of red stripes (does some team in South Carolina wear that shade of red?). His posture was upright throughout and kept his energy high. He did have one odd moment when he drummed on his mid-section a handful of times with his right hand while he tried to think of a word. And, now, a day later, I've forgotten what that word was. Hold on, let me beat on my chest for a while.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hillary and Tim

Anybody see Hillary Clinton for the full hour on Meet the Press with Tim Russert Sunday a.m.? Russert has tried to get her on the show for quite a while now. He's even mentioned on the air that she turned down the requests. Now, fresh after her New Hampshire win, she decides to talk to the media again. Yes, I know her campaign will say she has been doing interviews. Senator Clinton told me the same thing. But I think we can all agree she has been making herself more available to both reporters and potential voters after the Iowa Caucuses. Perhaps, a third place finish will do that.

BTW, what happens if Clinton wins the nomination? We all assume Iowa will again be a purple, swing state this fall. What will Iowans think after her campaign trash-talked the Caucuses?

Rollin' the Dice in Jasper

Yes, it's early. But it's quite ambitious. And contentious. A small of group of people in Jasper County (I'm told it's about 8 people in this group so far called the Jasper County Gaming Development Authority) are working on plans to bring a casino to the area near the Iowa Speedway. There's no question Newton's been kicked in the a$% in the past few years as Ralph Hake and his cronies with Maytag decided to leave town with untold millions and leave much of the town unemployed.

First, came the Iowa Speedway. The development brought some much-needed jobs and tourist money to town. But the knock against it is that it can't bring enough year-round, full-time jobs and, of course, it doesn't bring enough year-round tourists. They only come for race days.

A casino, supporters say, could help bring that year-round employment and tourist dollars the Speedway can't. It would help complement the Speedway and vice versa, they say. Then, if Rusty Wallace goes through with that other project to bring retail, restaurants, a hotel and water park to the same area...well, Newton could really have something (btw, that project doesn't seem to be moving along too quickly right now). And what if Cabella's sees all that (and ignores the Bass Pro Shop going up in Altoona) and changes its mind and comes to town in that area, too? But there are a lot of "IFS" to this story.

IF supporters can find the right place for this (Regency has a big area of land right across the street from the Speedway....hmmm...),

IF supporters can find an operator/owner/developer (Gary Kirke's named has been mentioned to me, but I've not heard Kirke say anything yet that he's interested in this),

IF the pro-casino groups can gather 1485 signatures to get the casino issue on the ballot for Jasper County voters,

IF county residents pass it (supporters are pushing for an April or May vote)... Newton might lean a little left, but rural parts lean conservative. Will residents who are only so-so on gambling decide to go for it in the wake of Maytag's departure?

IF The Iowa Racing and Gaming Association awards the project a license (The assn. looks to address more licenses at its March meeting),

IF the assn. ignores Governor Culver's recommendations that IF the state expands gambling, it should give preference to Ottumwa and Fort Dodge, where voters have already approved gambling for their towns,

IF Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino doesn't unite enough opposition... Altoona is only about 20 minutes away from Newton. Dennis Julius, the former Newton councilman, told me supporters have already talked with Prairie Meadows about some kind of way the two casinos could co-exists. He wouldn't say what has or will be discussed. However, Jack Bishop, who chairs P. Meadows' board told us there have been NO conversations so far. Interesting...

Then there could be one of the biggest IFS of them all...IF state lawmakers don't come in and decide the state has enough gambling and pass a moratorium on any new casinos. But trying to do so could open up a huge gambling debate that could go almost anywhere in what's supposed to be a shorter session in an election year (100 days instead of 110 days in off-year sessions).

Could be an interesting couple of months, huh?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Bye, Bye Bill

Losing His Grip on the White House


(Photo Courtesy: The Associated Press)

Bill Richardson looks to be taking his final bow in this Presidential race. Looks like he'll make it official Thursday in New Mexico. The obvious question...will he then endorse Hillary Clinton? He did, after all, work for Bill when he was President.

I wonder what Barack Obama thinks of the decision. Was Richardson taking some of the votes away from Clinton while he was in the race. You'd assume Obama would have liked John Edwards to bail out of the race after his third place finish in New Hampshire. But Edwards has pledged to stay in the race "until the convention." Edwards and Obama seem to fight for those "change-lovers". Oh, wait. Clinton is the change agent.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Looks Like We Have a Race



Do you hear that sound? C-C-R-R-A-A-C-C-K-K-K...That's the sound of eggs cracking all over the faces of so many in this country. So, who out there predicted a Hillary Clinton victory over Barack Obama in New Hampshire? No doubt Clinton's people did a great of lessening expectations. Clinton's campaign ripped on Iowa. Bill Clinton ripped on New Hampshire. And he ripped on the media. Hillary Clinton said she was hurt in the debate that New Hampshirites polled like Obama and Edwards more. She later cried, sort of. She cut her stump speeches short and took questions. Lots of them. Looks like Iowa keeps affecting this race days after the Caucuses are over.

How do you like your eggs?

New Hampshire, the Night Goes On


John Edwards just gave his speech. He's promised to keep going all the way until the Democratic National Convention. That can't make Barack Obama happy, can it? At least here in Iowa, they were the two original "change" candidates of the big three. When does Edwards think things will change for him? Polls numbers, from what I've seen, would have to change remarkably in South Carolina for him to get a victory.

Meantime, this Clinton/Obama battle keeps going on. The numbers don't seem to be changing much. Will Clinton be the "Comeback Kid", part II? If that happens, how could the polls that pointed to a big Obama win be so wrong?

John McCain is hoping his turnaround helps the bank account. Check out the release he has already sent out to supporters. Count the times he asks for cash...

9:02 p.m. - Nashua, New Hampshire
My Friends -
It's happened again! With your incredible support John McCain has won the New Hampshire primary!
And as we know, it's not over yet - the toughest times are ahead of us.
Enjoy the victory with us tonight, but we need you to do two things before you head to bed this evening.
Make a Donation. We have a lot of campaigning to do in Michigan, South Carolina, Nevada, Florida, and beyond.
After you've made your donation, please
send this letter to three of your friends or family and ask them to get on board too.
We've been in this together since the beginning and we can't move forward without your help.
Many thanks, Rick Davis Campaign Manager
PS.
Donate tonight before you go to bed and then send this letter to three of your friends and family to tell them why you are supporting the next President of the United States, John McCain!

New Hampshire

It's 8:27 pm as I write this. I will save this big egg as is for now. If these numbers hold true, this egg will soon be on a lot of people's faces. Hillary Clinton is not getting trounced as so many people predicted. I mean we were even reading stories about pressure for her to quit the race if she gets clobbered. But she's not getting clobbered. She's not even losing. She's winning. Stay tuned.

What will happen with John Edwards? What does a third place finish do for him in his birth state of South Carolina? He won in 2004 there. But he isn't doing well in the polls right now. Should he even stay in the race or will he run in South Carolina and then quit? Will he stick it out and hope for, well, hope?


Bill Richardson is doing nothing in New Hampshire. He's doing even less than Edwards in South Carolina. Will he just keep trudging along and getting pounded? Will he hope Edwards drops out and he'll stay in as an alternative, especially as the race moves out West?


The Republicans...

John McCain kept his campaign alive with his win. But what was up with that victory speech? He stumbled numerous times. I heard the New Hampshire crowds could be tough. But McCain's own crowd kept interrupting him. And not just the normal "we love you" kind of interruptions. It really, at times, seemed to throw him out of his rhythm.

Mitt Romney said he'd keep going on. Surely, after all the money and time he has spent in New Hampshire (again, just like Iowa), he has to be disappointed (again, just like Iowa). But he still has money. A lot of it.

Mike Huckabee gave his own version of a victory speech. He didn't spend the time and money Romney did in New Hampshire. So he's claiming a win by finishing third. He's moving onto Michigan with the rest, but you'd assume he's more optimistic about his chances in South Carolina (Fred Thompson's already working the ground there).

Rudy Giuliani--as I write this, he's fighting off Ron Paul for fourth. How will his campaign spin this one? He did spend something like 40 days in New Hampshire. With all those Independents there, can he really spin that he did just fine? Florida sure does look important, don't ya' think?

Ed vs. Leonard


Republicans can't seem to find a candidate to take on Iowa's Third District Congressman Leonard Boswell. But Boswell's own party has. Ed Fallon has filed papers to run against him in the June primary. Fallon gave up his Iowa Statehouse seat in 2006 to run for Governor. I'm told he carried the Third District in that race, for what that's worth. Fallon had been helping out John Edwards' Iowa campaign.

The dollars are stacked up against him so far. The Federal Election Commission shows through the third reporting quarter (the four quarter hasn't come out yet), Boswell raised about $600,000.

Last year, word was that Jeff Lamberti, Bob Brownell and Mike Mahaffey all had interest in running for Republicans. But they've all seemed to back off. Makes you wonder what Republicans think of their party's chances in November.

New Hampshirites


I'm looking for a little help. Any former New Hampshirites living in the metro here in Iowa now? Please email us at news@whotv.com. Thanks.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Attention, "Duncaneers"?

This is Sam Hunter, 2012 Olympic gymnastic hopeful. Duncan Hunter is a 2008 Presidential hopeful. Duncan's son's name is Sam. This Sam is not Duncan's son.

Duncan Hunter, remember him? He made just a few trips through Iowa, at least only a few I ever heard about. I remember him walking around the Iowa State Fair on a 90-plus degree day wearing a suit. So did his son, Sam. They both, I believe wore the same suits they wore the day before when I saw them at a gun range in Waukee to show he was pro-guns. He forgot to bring a gun to the event. Luckily, a campaign friend brought one to him.

Anyway, I just received this email from his campaign. First, it lays out Hunter's strategy to win...the Presidency. And for 25 bucks, you can give him a ride to the White House. Fill 'er up.

Duncan Hunter Wins 3rd in Wyoming;
Endorsed by Nevada Republican Assembly!

Fellow Duncaneers, we told you of the Hunter campaign's "below the radar" strategy of targeting Wyoming, Nevada, and Michigan.

Now see the results!

Duncan Hunter just came in a close third place behind Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney in the second national primary in Wyoming!

He beat Huckabee . . .
He beat Giuliani . . .
He beat McCain . . .
He beat Paul . . .

With only two primaries finished, there's plenty of time left to pick up steam!

This is huge!

Fellow Patriots, do you know what this means?

Huckabee won in Iowa . . .
Romney won in Wyoming . . .
and McCain is poised to win in New Hampshire . . .

This election is WIDE OPEN!

With New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina, Nevada, and Florida left, anything can happen.

That's why Duncan needs your help now!
Help us win Nevada with a contribution now!

Folks, there have been doubters, but let us put all doubt asunder. If we win or place well in one more early primary . . .

. . . the White House is within our grasp.

Just yesterday the Nevada Republican Assembly, the largest concentration of Reagan Republicans in Nevada, endorsed Duncan Hunter with over two-thirds of the vote!

That means that the folks most actively watching the race and participating in Republican politics will show up at the Nevada caucus to vote for Hunter!

That's why we need your help ASAP!

We absolutely MUST capitalize on this momentum NOW!

Imagine this likely primary scenario:

STATE WINNER
Iowa Huckabee
Wyoming Romney
New Hampshire McCain
Michigan Huckabee or Romney
South Carolina Thompson or Hunter
Nevada Hunter
Florida Giuliani

Come Super Tuesday on February 5th, the race for the White House is still a toss up!

What's more, reports have indicated that one or more of the candidates will have likely dropped before then.

Remember, Hunter tied for first place in the first and biggest straw poll in South Carolina, won the straw poll in the largest county in Arizona (in McCain's own backyard), and won the entire Texas State Republican Straw Poll.

Been wondering what Hunter has been doing? Here's your answer!

But, with so much at stake,
he can't do it alone.

This MUST be a team effort!

To win Nevada, we'll have to continue organizing key events and running critical radio spots.

But, as you know, this election is already the most expensive in history!

So, if you're truly committed to helping the best man get to the White House . . .

. . . Then now's the time to make it count!

Here's what your contribution will do for Hunter:

$25 will pay for the gas to drive him to an event
$50 will buy a full tank of gas for a day's drive
$75 will buy 5 seconds of a critical radio ad
$150 will buy 10 seconds of a critical radio ad
$250 will buy a full radio ad
$500 will buy two ads
$1,000 will pay for 4 ads, a week's worth of gas, or two plane tickets!

We're running a lean machine to the White House, so every SINGLE dollar counts!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

New Hampshire Debates

The New Hampshire Presidential Debates are underway. Finally, a format that will make some news. I doubt the national writers will rip on this one the way they complained on the format the Des Moines Register mandated for the last one. That said, my impressions...

The Republicans

John McCain--sat quietly for much of the beginning. Hesitant to make a mistake? Or content to watch while the others beat up on Romney? He did land a few zingers on Romney, one of which was that Romney could spend his whole fortune on negative ads and it wouldn't change the facts. Ouch.

Fred Thompson--seemed like he had his friend, McCain's back. Is Thompson about ready to bail out of this race yet? He seemed to give rather odd comments on his future behind the Caucuses ended, particularly one interview I saw with NBC's Tim Russert.

Ron Paul--felt the heat from nearly everyone on stage at one point or another, particularly on monetary and foreign policy matters. He compared himself to Obama on how he brings out young people to this race.

Mitt Romney--hope he has a soft chair on which to sit tonight, because the others sure seemed to try to kick his butt throughout. Are they trying to knock him out for good, hoping he'll drop out with a second or worse finish in New Hampshire Tuesday? He looked visibly uncomfortable when others came hard after him.

Mike Huckabee--definitely did not seem to have a target on his forehead as the front runner after his Iowa Caucus win. Perhaps, that's because he's way down in the polls in New Hampshire. Notice how he stuck up for change (and complemented Obama). Is Huckabee trying to be the Obama equivalent for his party? Does this show that more Republicans are down on the President than the Party wants to admit?

Rudy Giuliani--not nearly as active in the discussion as some others. Seems content to not do much in New Hampshire, as he did during the latter part of Iowa. Florida is a ways away. Good luck with that strategy, Mr. Mayor.

Pretty cool moment to have the candidates from both parties take the stage together between the Republican half of the debate and the Democratic half. It made for good tv. This is a good debate so far.

The Democrats

John Edwards--looks tired, at least at the beginning. Talked about being the change guy, along with Obama. Came after Clinton. Seems to be very friendly with Obama. Is he content with a second place finish in New Hampshire, as long as Clinton is third? Again.

Barack Obama--looks rested, albeit hoarse. Stumbled when Charlie Gibson tells him lobbyists can buy meals for members of Congress as long as they're standing up.

Bill Richardson--can a man be called "frumpy"? He always seems to be a bit askew. This time it's his tie. Urged the others to keep this positive. Talked about that when New Mexican service people die in war, he puts flags at "half mast". I'm assuming he means "half staff", unless he only drops the flags on boats.

Hillary Clinton--looks tired. I see Chelsea in the crowd. Why is Bill not there? Is this part of the new strategy to show "change"? No more shots on stage of Hillary with Bill and Madeleine Albright and others from the past. Looked genuinely hurt when the New Hampshire reporter told her that people like Edwards and Obama more. She seemed like it knocked her off her game for a bit. She looked mad a few times (I suppose her supporters would say "passionate").

Good show. And good night.

The Caucus Campaign

In so many ways, it's hard to believe it's over. I've had the great fortune (thanks to my bosses) to cover the lead up to the Iowa Caucuses nearly full-time for more than a year. I've been able to talk with every major Democratic and Republican candidate over that time period. I'm very fortunate and very thankful.

I wanted to wait a bit before thinking back to the campaign. I wanted time to let things settle in. And, yes, I wanted to take a nap.

Turnout has to be one of the biggest themes of this campaign. Who would have guessed so many Iowans would come out? What a statement to make amidst all this talk that this could be the state's final time to hold the first contest. What a statement.

The passion and interest of Iowans are truly remarkable to me. I can't believe how many people are willing to get up early in the morning, wait in lines in the rain and cold or give up part of their weekend to hear a Presidential candidate. I don't think enough people outside this state truly understand Iowans' devotion to this process.

Months back, it seemed as if Hillary Clinton would walk right through this process on her way to the nomination. That's the feel I believe we reporters got from her campaign. We had by far the least access to her than any other Democratic candidate. She rarely made herself available for questions and answers with the media as a whole. She almost never made herself available for 1 on 1 interviews, except for the campaign's final week when it was increasingly evident her campaign was in trouble.

Barack Obama and John Edwards convinced Iowans they were the candidates for change. Clinton belatedly tried to make change a primary message in her campaign. It didn't work. Obviously. I am appreciative of the access Obama and Edwards gave. I believe that access helps us in the media to better understand a candidate as a person and provide a better way to get follow up conversations on a candidate's statements and ideas. Edwards, at times, gave me the impression he was doing an interview because he felt he should, not because he wanted to. But more often than not, he could be very enjoyable. And I might chalk up his irritability those few times to everything that was going on in his life.

Obama rarely gave me the impression he didn't want to talk. He seemed very comfortable explaining his positions. He could also easily b.s. about other topics, something I never felt comfortable doing with my few times with Clinton. Obama became the one candidate who best attracted young people and supporters of other parties to his cause. I don't think any other candidate electrified a room like he did.

Joe Biden, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd were also generous with their time. Richardson had a few prickly moments with our photographers, either because of technical problems or his tardiness for interviews. But overall, he was typically pleasant enough with us.

Dodd seemed to stay positive with us, despite the fact he never got the coverage in the media that the top three Democrats received. He did seem to struggle to break out of that "Senate-ise" way of speaking with which some longtime members of Congress seem to struggle. But having said that, he could be quite pleasant. I remember one moment during an interview, a light stand fell on him. His jokes cracked us all up and made us feel better that we didn't hurt him!

Biden, along with Obama, I believe was the most-liked of our photographers because of the way he treated us. Biden has a way of dropping a word here and there that we can't put on television that puts us at ease. I remember covering him on Thanksgiving where he and his family served meals at the Machine Shed Restaurant. I will not forget the obvious bond he has with his family, especially his granddaughters. I don't think you can fake that.

On the Republican side, most of my interaction took place with Romney and Huckabee. Both men were also generous with their time. Romney never seemed to sweat or get rattled. For a man who has been heavily criticized with changing positions, he did seem to have an answer for each decision. Whether you believe those answers are genuine is up to you. Huckabee seemed to base much of his campaign on the media. I rarely covered him at traditional events. It seemed most of our interaction took place with interviews. He also was extremely comfortable in interview settings.

Tom Tancredo wasn't in the metro as much, but he was always accessible and pleasant. So was Duncan Hunter. I won't forget when we covered Hunter at a shooting range to show he's a gun rights guy. He forgot to bring a gun. Misfire.

Rudy Giuliani talked to us when he wanted to, which wasn't often. Same for Fred Thompson, although he seemed to do more media availabilities down the stretch.

John McCain always seems to be a media favorite. For a guy with a much-written about hot temper, he never showed it to me. It seemed money and/or strategy kept him away from Iowa much of the time in the final half of the campaign though. He always seemed willing to handle critical questions.

Ron Paul may have set the Internet ablaze. But he rarely held events in our area. That makes it pretty tough to find out what he is all about.

Overall, again I have to say, what an amazing experience. Thanks especially to all the people you never seen on tv...the underpaid, overworked campaign staff members and volunteers who really do give up their lives for candidates they believe in. You truly deserve whatever comes next in your life. Thank you.

I'm thinking about writing a book about it all. I'm thinking about it, at least. As we say in tv, stay tuned.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Don't Go There


The numbers are almost even as I write this for the dems at 8:05pm...a three-way tie at the top. I tried to go from our room to the cocktail room to get a sense of the feel of the Clinton supporters. Two people stopped me, one apparently a secret service agent. Apparently we media types can't mingle with the select guests here. Disappointing. Very tightly controlled, even on the final night.


Waiting for the Numbers

I'm sitting here at the Hotel Ft. Des Moines in Des Moines, the site of Hillary Clinton's party. By the numbers, it's way too early to say whether this will be a victory party. In the past two weeks or so, especially the past week, it seems Clinton's people are trying to lower expectations.

Clinton's side clearly wants a victory. But it feels like it would still count a victory (with a small "v" in that victory) if Clinton beats Obama, even if that means Edwards takes first place here.

Not sure what this means for sure, but this room where the Senator is supposed to speak isn't anywhere as big as the one Obama booked for tonight. It's obviously a lot easier to make a smaller room look crowded.

I'm getting calls from friends that turnout is really high. If that's the case (unless the bulk of this turnout is women over 50) this may not add up well for Clinton.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Fred Courts Iowa Democrats

Fred Thompson apparently isn't just trying to rope in Republicans during the final hours. On his website, he asks disappointed Democrats to join him. It's on www.fred08.com. But I'll warn you, it's about 11 minutes or so into his "message." Grab some coffee.

The Last Night with Obama


Barack Obama's campaign claimed 1,800 people at Des Moines' Hoover High School for a 10pm rally Wednesday night. Obama was horse, but energetic, as he spoke for about half an hour. He made his final pitch to convince the room to caucus for him. "This is our chance," he told them.

More than a few heads on press row were craning to get a glimpse of Scarlett Johansson. They didn't see her. She supposedly came out in the gym, dressed in a gray sweater. But a campaign staffer told me she may have stayed behind the backdrop.

Superman did show himself. The latest Superman, that is. Brandon Routh, who is a Norwalk, Iowa, native talked with the crowd after the event.
A lot of energy in that room.

I'm Dennis Kucinich. Caucus for Barack Obama


I just got back to my desk here at the station. And I noticed my red light was on. A message. I figured it might be a call from a Prez campaign. It was. Sort of. Actually, it came from Dennis Kucinich. He wanted me to caucus for him...or someone else.

I taped the message...


Mr. Obama, Meet Miss Scarlett



If you're headed out to see Barack Obama in Iowa, check through the crowd. You may see Scarlett Johansson. Although, the campaign is not confirming it. She's been a supporter of Obama. And apparently, she has found her way to Iowa.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Forget Iowa. It's M-I-Z-Z-O-U!


Congrats to my beloved Missouri Tigers who just clobbered the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Cotton Bowl 38-7. Mizzooourahh!