Monday, September 29, 2008

McCain in Iowa; Angry Secret Service Agent

His public comments were quick. I'd love to know what he talked about in private. John McCain flew into Des Moines around 3pm. He shook a few hands at the airport, including those of former Iowa Gov. Bob Ray and former First Lady Billie. We were the pool television camera for the event. This helps with the crush of media that would normally cover a VIP visit such as this. As the tv pool camera, we shoot the event, without any other tv cameras around. Then, when it's finished, we share it with whatever station that wanted it. This day was far from routine.

Sunday night, McCain's advance team had scoped out WHO-TV's newsroom. The campaign wanted to do satellite interviews with other local tv stations across the country from our station. They had to check it all to make sure it worked for what they want. They showed up around 7pm and wanted answers now. Normally, we get far more advance of a request. Not this time.

Back to today...after McCain shook hands and smiled for a few minutes at the airport, they hurried him to his waiting entourage of vehicles. We were ushed to the press van (number 4, I believe). We were no longer headed to our station for those satellite interviews. I could tell as we turned right out of the airport parking lot, instead of the left turn that would have brought me back to my work. I learned we were off to West Des Moines. McCain was doing a "statement" there at his hotel to address the collapse of the bailout deal. I wondered what he would say.

After all, he had suspended his campaign last week and threatened to cancel his debate appearance if Congress didn't reach agreement. Now the deal had fallen through after leaders predicted it would pass. Inside the Marriott's Concourse B, McCain walked out to a room full of reporters and cameras. He didn't greet anyone. He just went to the podium. He used words like "crisis" and "grave". He blamed Obama and his democratic allies. Then he said we shouldn't "fix the blame". Three minutes and four seconds later, he was finished. He walked off. No answers for reporters.

The campaign rushed him off to WHO-TV for those satellite interviews. It's my understand the campaign canceled the interviews earlier in the day and then re-scheduled them. Chaos inside my station. We headed back to press van #4 in the parking lot of McCain's hotel. Press van #3 was no longer in the procession back my station as the secret service agent sitting in the van with us had not so politely pointed out to van's driver, Larry, a volunteer from West Des Moines who gave up two days for the campaign. The agent yelled at Larry to follow the van ahead of us. Our van wouldn't move. The agent yelled louder and longer. Our van still wouldn't move, despite Larry's best efforts. The agent yelled again. Larry implored her that it was the parking brake that was stuck. The van wouldn't move. We emptied out into another van. The agent yelled at Larry to hurry up and catch the procession. She yelled again as he slowed for the red light that would have stopped us outside the hotel. He kept going. The agent angrily asked if anyone knew how to get us to the station, since we had lost the procession. I reminded her I worked there. So I knew how to get there. She stopped yelling. Larry got us there safely (and quickly, I might add. No need for following the speed limit with a secret service agent yelling at you in the passenger seat beside you). I wonder if Larry will be back in the van Tuesday. I wonder if he even wants to be back. Good thing he really likes John McCain.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

McCain Obama Debate

Did you watch last night? There's a pretty good chance someone in your family did. Nielsen estimates about 57 million people tuned in. That is nearly one in every 5 Americans. Clearly, people are interested in this race. And this was a Friday night debate! Think of all the high school football games going on, movies, dinner dates, etc. and still 57 million watched. Of the country's largest cities, Nielsen claims more people in St. Louis watched the debate than anywhere else. 1 in every 2 people in that city watched. Incredible. Here's the full list.

A few random observations... did you notice how quickly McCain seemed to pull away from Obama at the beginning of the debate after they shook hands? Obama is quite a bit taller than McCain. I wonder if McCain's folks didn't want that visual of Obama towering over their man. During the debate, I don't know if McCain ever looked at Obama. What's that all about? And did you notice how many times Obama said "John is right" or "Senator McCain is right"? I wonder how quickly we'll see and hear those in a campaign commercial.
If 57 million watched, can you imagine how many will watch the V.P. debate next Thursday?

O.K., grab your red sharpie and tell us who won...Obama or McCain? Give them each a grade...A,B,C,D or F.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

McCain's Suspended Campaign?

John McCain "suspended his campaign" according to him and to his campaign. What exactly did you think "suspended" means? He isn't holding rallies as he went to Washington to help solve the money crisis. However, he is still running commercials. I saw one during the 6pm news tonight (I think it was this ad). Does a suspended campaign keep running attack ads? I also received an email from McCain's Iowa press office. Is that what a suspended campaign does? Here's the release:

To Interested Parties:

To address our current financial crisis, John McCain suspended his campaign and returned to Washington, D.C., today to help build a bipartisan consensus for a proposal that would protect the American taxpayer.

Despite today's news reports, there never existed a "deal," but merely a proposal offered by a small, select group of Members of Congress. As of right now, there exists only a series of principles, including greater oversight and measures to address CEO pay. However, these principles do not enjoy a consensus in Congress.

At today's cabinet meeting, John McCain did not attack any proposal or endorse any plan. John McCain simply urged that for any proposal to enjoy the confidence of the American people, stressing that all sides would have to cooperate and build a bipartisan consensus for a solution that protects taxpayers.

However, the Democrats allowed Senator Obama to run their side of the meeting. That did not work as the meeting quickly devolved into a contentious shouting match that did not seek to craft a bipartisan solution.

At this moment, the plan that has been put forth by the Administration does not enjoy the confidence of the American people as it will not protect the taxpayers and will sacrifice Main Street in favor of Wall Street.

The bottom line is that as of tonight, there are not enough Republican or Democrat votes for the current plan. However, we are still optimistic that a bipartisan solution will be found. Republicans and Democrats want a deal that will protect the taxpayers.

Tomorrow, John McCain will return to Capitol Hill where he will work with all sides to build a bipartisan solution that protects taxpayers and keeps Americans in their homes.

Bill Clinton taught us to know what the definition of IS is. So what is the definition of SUSPEND? gave me 14 choices. McCain's critics questioning what his motives may be to suspend may chuckle at definition 3.

1. to hang by attachment to something above: to suspend a chandelier from the ceiling.
2. to attach so as to allow free movement: to suspend a door on a hinge.
3. to keep from falling, sinking, forming a deposit, etc., as if by hanging: to suspend solid particles in a liquid.
4. to hold or keep undetermined; refrain from forming or concluding definitely: to suspend one's judgment.
5. to defer or postpone: to suspend sentence on a convicted person.
6. to cause to cease or bring to a stop or stay, usually for a time: to suspend payment.
7. to cause to cease for a time from operation or effect, as a law, rule, privilege, service, or the like: to suspend ferry service.
8. to debar, usually for a limited time, from the exercise of an office or function or the enjoyment of a privilege: The student was suspended from school.
9. to keep in a mood or feeling of expectation or incompleteness; keep waiting in suspense: Finish the story; don't suspend us in midair.
10. Music. to prolong (a note or tone) into the next chord. –verb (used without object)
11. to come to a stop, usually temporarily; cease from operation for a time.
12. to stop payment; be unable to meet financial obligations.
13. to hang or be suspended, as from another object: The chandelier suspends from the ceiling. 14. to be suspended, as in a liquid, gas, etc.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Early Voting

We don't normally see people lining up in Iowa to vote early. This time around, Barack Obama's crew is holding "early voting" rallies Thursday morning, the first day Iowans can vote at their county auditor offices. I don't remember this happening in 2004. I haven't seen any indications John McCain's camp is planning on doing anything similar.

Today Iowa Sec of State Michael Mauro told us absentee ballot requests are down so far (nothing concrete really. Just anecdotal from talking with county auditors). But registered dems have requested more than three times as many absentee ballots as repubs.

Mauro is pushing for more Iowans to vote early. He predicts a crush of voters at the polls this November...perhaps, in light of heavy January caucus turnout, highly publicized presidential race, no incumbent prez/vice prez, unpopular current prez, war, bad economy, "change election" year. So Mauro wants to push early voting. He thinks absentees are already picking up quite a bit this month and will likely keep picking up. Satellite voting seems to have expanded. Wapello County Auditor Phyllis Dean told me she's setting up four satellite voting stations. She's never had any before. The Iowa Democratic Party petitioned for the satellites from her. From what I understand, you just need a petition of 100 people in a county to request a satellite voting station from an auditor (the time for this to happen has already passed).
After talking to auditors, it seems to me like the Dems/Obama campaign have asked for more of these than the Repubs/McCain. Perhaps, there's more of a targeted effort this year to go after voters, rather than a mass effort to blanket absentee potentials. At least that's what it feels like to me.

McCain Suspends Campaign

Will Obama blink first on this? John McCain is "suspending" his campaign to go to Washington to focus on the mess on Wall Street. He wants to delay the first presidential debate schedule for this Friday. Will Obama go for that? Obama seems to be beating McCain in most of the polls I see when it comes to the economy by a decent amount, so why would he agree to delay the debate?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Perry School T-Shirt Audit

A Perry school employee may have been caught with her hand in the cookie jar or at least the t-shirt drawer.

Governor Culver's New Communications Director

Let's see what Governor Chet Culver's new Communications Director Phil Roeder can do for timely communications out of the office (he starts his new job October 3rd). Culver has been searching for months to replace Brad Anderson, who left, in part, to help lead Barack Obama's communications efforts in Iowa.

For as long as I've worked in Des Moines (since 2001), I would normally get an email from the governor's office (it started with Tom Vilsack) on Friday that would lay out the governor's public appearances for the coming week. Culver's office doesn't do that, especially this year. Most times, we will only get notice the day before, if not, that same day. That makes planning news coverage especially difficult. Let's hope Phil brings some form to this process, which will help us all...the media, and the viewers, listeners and readers who depend on information about their government and their government's leaders. has Phil's background.

Troy Price (no relation) has been doing it all in the office for the past few months. He now settles in as Culver's Press Secretary.

Marion County Murder

How much information is too much information? Better yet, how much information would hurt an investigation? Yesterday, Marion County Sheriff Ron Goematt announced he's arrested a Columbia man, Steven McGinnis, for killing another man, Robert Ohl, of Knoxville, at the r.v. where McGinnis lived. The sheriff won't tell us why. He won't say where it happened, even though we could see a chair in the "front yard" is covered in blood. He won't say who called 9-1-1 to tell authorities about the shooting death Sunday night. He won't say how the two men knew each other.

Since McGinnis has now been charged with murder in this case, what would it hurt to answer those other questions? Would those answers really damage the prosecution of this man? I don't understand it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Saturday Night Live and the Deaths

A murder in Des Moines. A murder in Fort Dodge. A stabbing in Ames. A police officer runs over a man with a knife in Nevada. A murder in Marion County. Wow. What the heck is going on? And that was just this weekend.

I need to get back to the calm, serene world of politics. I missed Saturday Night Live over the weekend. But friends at work showed me this link. It's a pretty funny take on the "civil discourse" we were supposed to see this election cycle with Obama and McCain. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bailing out Washington

President Bush wants 700 billion of your dollars to help fix the housing/financial market mess across our country. Supporters think if the feds don't do something, we could head toward a second Great Depression. Critics say we taxpayers are rewarding terrible decisions by some business leaders who greedily looked at making money rather than making good decisions. So what's the right thing to do here?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Iowa Election Poll: Obama beating McCain

For all the McPalin supporters pushing us to believe their team has found the big "mo"...well, our new poll doesn't seem to back that up. JoBama has opened up a double digit lead in Iowa. It's our station's first poll, so I don't have any comparisons to offer about who has the momentum right now. But the numbers favor Obama.

43% McCain (R)
54% Obama (D)
2% Other
2% Undecided

More specifics...Among women, Obama leads by 20 points; among men, Obama and McCain tie.

Among voters younger than Barack Obama, Obama leads by 15. Among voters older than John McCain, Obama leads by 9.

Among voters who are in-between the two candidates' ages, Obama leads by 7.

Among white voters -- 95% of Iowa's likely voters -- Obama leads by 8 points.

11% of Republicans cross over to vote for Obama; 8% of Democrats cross over to vote for McCain; Independents break for Obama by 9 points.

John McCain leads among Republicans, conservatives, those who attend church regularly, pro-life voters, those focused on terrorism, among the 16% of likely voters who say they may yet change their mind, and in Southwest Iowa.

Obama is slightly ahead in Northwest Iowa and leads by double digits in the northeast and southeast portions of the state.

Filtering: SurveyUSA interviewed 900 Iowa adults 09/17/08 through 09/18/08. Interviews were conducted during a time of exceptional financial turbulence, coinciding with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the federal rescue of AIG insurance company, and immediately following the federal takeover of Fannie Mae. Of the registered voters, 840 were registered to vote. Of the registered voters, 702 were determined by SurveyUSA to be likely voters in the 11/04/08 general election. Iowa has 7 Electoral College votes. George Bush carried Iowa by two-thirds of a point in 2004; Al Gore carried Iowa by one-third of a point in 2000.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Scared in Springville

Anything to prove a point or crossing the line? The Iowa Dept of Public Health is at it again trying to scare Iowans away from lighting up. It's posted a new video on YouTube. Think Blair Witch Project. Does it make you think "don't smoke"?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Carly Coming Later?

(Photo courtesy: Washington Times)

One of John McCain's top advisers was scheduled to come to Ames; the campaigns says she's needed elsewhere. Carly Fiorina is taking a rain check to check the mess on Wall Street. Here's the release from Iowa State:

Carly Fiorina appearance at Iowa State postponed

AMES, Iowa -- Carly Fiorina's Iowa State University appearance as the Fall 2008 Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics -- originally scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 16 -- has been postponed. Fiorina's lecture will be rescheduled for a later date (to be announced).Fiorina is the Republican National Committee's Victory '08 chairman, senior economic advisor to Republican presidential candidate John McCain, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO. Schedulers for Fiorina said she'd been asked to stay in Washington, D.C., with other McCain advisors as a result of serious economic developments on Wall Street over the weekend."We are pleased that Ms. Fiorina still plans to come to Iowa State, most likely after the election, to accept the Mary Louise Smith Chair honor and speak about women and leadership," said Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, which hosts the Smith Chair event.Fiorina is the 18th prominent woman leader to visit Iowa State under sponsorship of the Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics, which was established in 1995 to honor the Iowa native and longtime political leader. Smith was the only woman to chair the Republican National Party (1974-1977).

Congrats to my Mizzouri Tigers....ranked 5th this week in the Associated Press Top 25!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cold Steak

(Remember when this photo from Tom Harkin's steak fry stirred up all the Obama-haters last year because Obama didn't have his hand on his heart for the pledge of allegiance?)

The crowd that did show up in Indianola today must have thought it was caucus time again. Temperatures in the 50s and a wind that didn't want to quit. It was hardly the crowd I remember seeing the past half dozen years for Iowa Senator Tom Harkin's annual steak fry. Last year's crowd approached 15,000. Of course, last year some of the biggest names of the party showed up, too....Edwards, Biden, Clinton, Richardson, Obama, Dodd.

Saturday, a Harkinite told me to expect about 2,000 supporters. A crowd probably less than half that showed up. No doubt the weather kept some away. But you wonder why ticket sales were so small. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer headlined the event this tie. The Gov earned himself some accolades for his speech in Denver at the convention. But apparently, the bolo doesn't tie in the crowds that it used to.

Anyone notice how late the notice went out about Schweitzer coming? It went out September 6th, just eight days before the steak fry. Was Schweitzer really that hard to pin down? Or was Harkin trying to go for a better-known name to help him raise cash for his race against a still largely unknown Republican challenger, Chris Reed?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Obama Is Coming or Maybe It's Biden

Apparently, at least half the O'Biden or Jobama ticket is getting ready for a trip to Iowa. The campaign sent out an email to supporters saying one of the two men is coming to Iowa in the next two weeks. It didn't say which one. Although, Biden just came to Des Moines on Monday. Should we assume we get Obama this time? The top five volunteers who agree to call the most undecided Iowans get to meet which Jobama man comes here.

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin will make her Iowa debut. She and John McCain will hold a rally at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids next Thursday at 10am. You do need tickets to attend.

But neither O'Biden or McPalin is the most important news of the day. This is... The Tampa Bay Rays just called up David Price. He and I are practically the same person. Except that he's lefthanded, black, 6'5" and, now, very rich. Other than that, we could be separated at birth.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Day

Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, both here in one day. Sure, it doesn't sound like it should be tough for a reporter, right? Pelosi's "tour" of the Birdland area was first scheduled to take place at noon. Then, we received a press release to say it had been moved up to 11:45am. Problem was, Biden's event was scheduled to start at 3:15 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Big deal, right? "Pre-set" for us was between 11:30 and noon. "Pre-set" is what we call it when we have to drop off our gear (camera, tripod, tapes, batteries, lights, cases,etc.) so the secret service can check them all out.

Obviously, I couldn't be at two places at once. So two photographers brought all our stuff to the fairgrounds, while a third photographer and I headed to North High School to cover Pelosi. So much for the early start time. It started 13 minutes late, not exactly what I needed on a busy day. One thing I noticed...this was hardly a bi-partisan tour. Pelosi sat along with Iowa's Democratic Governor Chet Culver and the state's 3 Democratic members of Congress. Obviously, all 3 don't represent the Birdland area. Only Leonard Boswell does. But they were all there.

BTW, to my knowledge Pelosi never did take the tour of Birdland.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Big Bucks for Biden

Looks like Governor Culver is taking a break from flood recovery to try to help bring in a flood of dough for his party. Better bring your checkbooks. Of course, a little earlier on Monday you can hear Biden for free at the Knapp Animal Learning Center at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines at 3:15pm.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The First

Either way, our country will make history in two months. We've never had an African American president. We've never had a female vice president. Something has to give here one way or the other. Electing Barack Obama makes history. Electing Sarah Palin makes history. But does history matter to you?

How much does "the first factor" have on your vote? Would you vote for Obama just because he's black. Would you vote for Palin just because she's a woman? What is it that earns your vote?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Palin Brings Heat; Biden Coming

So what did you think of Sarah Palin? Safe to say, she didn't hold back. problem for her. She's clearly a lot more at ease than John McCain in that setting. But what about the humor and sarcasm she pulled out against Obama time after time? The Republican crowd hungrily ate up plate after plate of that red meat dish. But what about the undecideds, independents, "soft" Republicans and soft Democrats? Will the sarcasm will them over or turn them away?

No word on a Palin to Iowa trip yet. But Obama's camp says Joe Biden is coming to Des Moines next Monday. No details on the trip yet.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

No Private Palin Time

Iowa's Republican delegates at the convention in the Twin Cities got plenty of attention today. Sure, McCain Iowa Chair Dave Roederer could have been spinning me, I suppose. But he says he "had a good feeling" about the long list of familiar faces who stopped by to chat with Iowa's group. It's a good sign, he told me, that the campaign will come to play in this state before the election.

Below is the list he gave me...(btw, no private face to face time with Sarah Palin. Roederer told me he's working hard with Palin's peeps to get her to Iowa soon. No specifics on a visit yet though).

Roberta McCain (the nominee's 95 year old mom, of course)
John Kyle, Arizona Senator
Colonel Bud Day, McCain's POW cell mate(btw, he has his
own web site. Who knew? )
Jon Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Charlie Black, McCain advisor
Michael Steele, Maryland Lt. Gov/GOPAC Chairman
Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Rep.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Tune in to Palin TV

In case you didn't know, John McCain's number 2 used to be in the tv biz. She did sports for KTUU, the NBC station in Anchorage in the late 1980s. Big hair and shoulder pads...enjoy!

Palin/McCain's problem?

Sarah Palin's soon-to-be son-in-law, Levi Johnston
Courtesy: Associated Press

Hurricane Gustav may have threatened to knock the Republicans right off the news this week, but it was nothing that a pregnant 17 year old daughter can't shove aside. So Sarah Palin's daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. It sounds like the internet poop-disturbers circled some rumors that pushed this news out. The rumors claimed Bristol had already given birth to a different child, the five month old boy with Down's Syndrome named Trig, but Sarah pretended SHE is the one who gave birth to the child (I'm pretty sure I may have already seen this on an episode of Desperate Housewives. My wife makes we watch. No, really she does).

Something doesn't add up here. The big problem to me would that Bristol is now five months pregnant. I don't quite know how she could have given birth to a different child five months ago. That's some fuzzy math.

The cable talking heads are wondering whether John McCain's peeps vetted Palin enough. Did McCain know about the pregnancy when he picked her? McCain's campaign says he did. The bigger question to me is this...does this even matter? Should Palin's daughter be this much of a news story? A 17 year old daughter. Does this mean Palin is less of a Christian (she's apparently a big supporter of abstinence education) or a failure as a Christian just because her unwed teen got pregnant by a teen hockey player? Are candidates' children and the lives and choice they make important to you--should they be a factor when you decide whether to vote for their parent?