Thursday, April 30, 2009

Breaking: More Layoffs at Principal

Rumors have been swirling for weeks that Principal Financial Group, headquarters in Des Moines, would again lay off workers. We just received corporate confirmation that would be the case.

Statement from Susan Houser, the Principal Financial Group, April 30, 2009:

Market conditions continue to create pressure and challenges for all asset managers, including Principal Global Investors. We’ve adapted to changes as business opportunities have continued to decline over recent months. In response to the environment and to better align expenses and resources, we made the decision to eliminate approximately 75 positions in Principal Global Investors. Most of these positions are located in Des Moines.

RNC Wants Money to Stop Spending

Does this constitute "irony"...give money to stop spending? Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele criticized President Barack Obama's "100 Days of Reckless Spending". He says you can help stop this by spending your money.

Here's part of his email to supporters"

"These first 100 days of total Democrat control of the federal government provides a frightening glimpse of what a “changed America” has to look forward to: trillions in debt owed to foreign creditors like China, the nationalization of our banks and auto industry soon to be followed by the health care system, and individual liberties sacrificed at the altar of collectivism.
Republicans are determined to stop Obama and the Democrats’ dangerous liberal agenda -- but we need your assistance to succeed. Please help today by making a
secure online contribution of $25, $50, $100, $500 or $1,000 to support the RNC’s efforts to shine a light on the unsustainable path the Democrats are leading America down."

Gross Leads Republican Plan

Former Republican Gubernatorial candidate Doug Gross will lead a news conference Friday to lay out a plan for his party to find victory in next year's election. Gross ran for governor in 2002. He has said he is not planning to run in 2010, although, several Republicans have told me to not rule him out as a possibility. Here is a release from the Iowa First Foundation:


Press Advisory

On Friday, May 1, 2009 the Iowa First Foundation will be holding a press conference to announce an update on its project “Iowa Republicans: Building a Winning Coalition”. The press conference will be held at 9:00 A.M. at the Brown Winick Law Office, 666 Grand Avenue, Suite 2000, Ruan Center, Des Moines, Iowa.
At the press conference, Dr. David B. Hill of Hill Research Consultants (HRC) will discuss the findings in the Iowa Voter Opinion Survey he conducted March 29 –31, 2009. Dr. Hill will report that the Iowa Republican electoral base is large enough and cohesive enough to form the foundation for a winning electoral collation in Iowa in the 2010 election.
Doug Gross will discuss his views that Iowa Republican candidates will need to have a broad agenda to be successful in the 2010 elections. Richard Schwarm will report on the status of the Iowa First Foundation project.
Dr. David B. Hill founded HRC in 1988 and is the director of HRC. HRC conducts public-opinion surveys, focus groups, policy and background research on behalf of a nation-wide roster of political, corporate, public affairs and trade association clients. HRC has extensive Iowa experience.
Doug Gross is a prominent Republican leader and the GOP’s nominee for Governor in 2002. Richard Schwarm is the President of the Iowa First Foundation and a former GOP State Chair.
Iowa First Foundation is a Section 527 organization that works to advocate certain issues and influence the selection of candidates. It is working on a project to (1) develop profiles of winning Republican candidates, (2) develop issues and themes of a winning Republican coalition and (3) implement strategies for building a winning Republican coalition.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Positive Press for President

President Barack Obama is receiving far more positive press coverage than George W Bush and Bill Clinton, according to a new report released from the Pew Research Center.

Also, apparently, Americans are getting tired of all the stories about Michelle Obama's arms and dresses, the family dog, etc. Pew Research shows more than 50% of Americans say the press is doing too many stories on the personal lives of the Obamas.

Swine Flu or H1N1

Pork producers are worried. Cable news outfits have people whipped up into a frenzy. So should we all call this swine flu or H1N1? President Barack Obama, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Iowa Governor Chet Culver and Iowa Senator Tom Harkin have all started using the H1N1 term.

We've starting to get quite a few emails at our station about it.

Here are a few:

"It doesn't matter how many times you tell people pork is OK, if you're calling this flu "swine" that's all they're going to hear. Prove to me and all the other hard working people in this state that you are more responsible than this. There are a lot of ignorant people in the world. Look at Egypt! They've ordered every swine to be slaughtered. Media hype, perhaps?"

"If the Sec of Ag Vilsac suggests we should not use the term Swine Flu, why are you continuing to use the term knowing it is hurting Iowa swine producers."

"If you want to help the pork producers instead of writing a story about 'swine flu' call it what it is...the H1N1 virus as per Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack recommendation."

Letterman Jokes About Lt. Gov.'s Swine Flu Announcement

Fortunately, Iowa, so far, as avoided any confirmed cases of swine flu. But it didn't stop the state from getting some national attention about the issue. Monday, Lt. Governor Patty Judge had a coughing fit in the middle of the state's briefing about swine flu-fighting efforts in Iowa. She joked it wasn't swine flu. David Letterman made the coughing attack part of his monologue. He has some fun with the Lt. Gov and listen how he refers to Governor Culver.

Here's the video:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Harkin Won't Give Up Power to New Democrat Specter

Many of us wondered if Republican-turned-Democratic Senator Arlen Specter would gain some new power, as in the form of a new chairmanship. But Iowa's Democratic Senator Tom Harkin said Specter won't gain any power at his expense. A friend sent this article...

By Patrick Yoest
WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--It appears Sen. Arlen Specter's planned party switch will restore his electoral safety but won't, at least according to a Senate colleague, come with the trappings of a chairmanship.
Specter, R-Pa., who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee before Republicans lost control of Congress in 2007, will retain his seniority when he migrates from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. His nearly three decades in the Senate will catapult him above other Democrats on several committees.
But although that means he now has the seniority to chair the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, he apparently won't assume the subcommittee gavel.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who currently chairs the panel, said Tuesday that he has no plan to relinquish control. And he says he has the backing of party leadership.
"I talked to [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid], and he assured me that nothing's changed and I will continue to maintain my chairmanship," Harkin said.
Earlier in the day, Reid said that Specter "knows that no one will be dumped off of a full committee or a subcommittee, unless it's done on some voluntary basis," but noted that Democratic senators would have an opportunity to choose a new chair for the Appropriations panel if they maintain their majority in 2011.
But Harkin said he later received assurances from Reid that Specter's party change "would not jeopardize my position whatsoever," even in a new Congress.
When asked about the issue Tuesday, Specter said "we haven't worked that out yet."
Specter won't have an opportunity to regain the Judiciary chairmanship. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the current chairman of that committee, entered the Senate in 1975 - six years before Specter.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony

Once again, Iowa has found itself in the national spotlight. Monday morning, couples of the same sex lined up in counties recorder offices to apply for their marriage licenses. I followed a middle-aged couple from Urbandale, Denny Phillips and Patrick Schrock-Phillips. They were married in a religious ceremony three years ago at a Des Moines church. But that was, of course, before Iowa legally recognized same-sex marriage.

Today, they felt a bit like ping pongs. To apply for their newly-legalized marriage and the waiver they would need to avoid waiting three days before they could get married, they began in line at the Polk County Administration Building, went to the Polk Co. Courthouse, went back to the Admin Bldg, went to their church to get married and then returned to the Admin Bldg to turn in their signed certificate from their ceremony. They honeymooned after their religious ceremony three years ago to Montreal and Quebec. They pre-honeymooned last weekend to Boston. And to celebrate after their ceremony today...they planned to go to brunch and then go back to work.

Here's the raw video of their wedding today...

and the story I did for the Channel 13 News at 6.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

All Night at the Iowa Statehouse

At a few minutes past 6a.m. Sunday, the remaining Iowa lawmakers trickled out of the statehouse. They had just completed their second straight marathon session. They went until nearly 4:30 Saturday morning after their Friday session and then and came back to start again a few hours later at 10am. Democratic lawmakers were determined to end the session by the end of the week.

Representative Scott Raecker, an Urbandale Republican, posed a question to me as he was walking out of the house. He wanted to know if this all-night cram session (two of them actually) is really good for Iowa. He asked how good at my job I would be if I worked all night. Actually, I did work all night. And by the time I wrapped up my 18-hour day, I could have probably crawled into the wet bushes outside my house and slept I was so tired.

Raecker said he just didn't understand why the rush? Democratic lawmakers were already nearly a month past their deadline target they set at the beginning of the session (although technically, they were scheduled to adjourn May 1st. And they did vote to cut out about a week of per diem expenses to save some money during this recession.) Raecker points out to the high dollar decisions sleep-deprived legislators made in the wee hours. They agreed on a budget that spends more than $6 billion and another $715 million for the governor's I-JOBS bonding plan. He argues lawmakers can't possibly know what they're discussing when they're speeding through these high-dollar plans, especially when they are barely awake. Raecker said, "I've heard since I was a teenager from my father nothing good happens after midnight. I think Iowans would have been better off the last two nights if our teens and our legislators had been in bed before midnight."

What do you think of this? Does Raecker have a point? Or is this just how things are done at the Iowa Statehouse and it's up to the lawmakers to make sure they know what's before them?

Random Thoughts

It's doubtful that blogging right now makes any sense. It's doubtful that much of anything makes any sense right now. It's 3:14am. House Democrats are just coming back from another caucus. This latest gathering kept them behind closed doors for nearly two hours. As we wait to see what they've figured out, I thought I would share some random thoughts from what's become the second near all-nighter here at the Iowa Statehouse (although I must admit I'm fortunate I didn't work for the first one that lasted until 4:30 Saturday a.m. My brother was in town and I wrongly believed Democratic leaders who said they hoped to finish by the beginning of this month. So I didn't figure I would have a need to be at the statehouse the last few days. Oops.)

It's been lightning like crazy outside the building. And the rain is like a monsoon, not that I've ever been in a monsoon. The lights dimmed in the house chamber for nearly an hour. They are now back burning brightly, unlike many of the sleep-deprived people in this room. Me included.

There are bodies everywhere. Pages sleeping on the floor. Aides sleeping on benches. Lawmakers dozing at their desk. My pets' heads are falling off.

I got caught in a near-riot behind the house chamber around 9pm or so. Word circulated that the Dems' pizzas had arrived. Lawmakers had herded behind for their dinner, only to find out the pizza was no where to be found. The pizzas did arrive a short time later. They smelled great.

Speaking of food...a big thanks to Rep. Scott Raecker's wife, Martha, for the homemade chocolate chip cookies. She brought dozens of them up here. Scott let press row have some, as well. And they were still warm!

Rep. Christopher Rants just left the house around 3:40a.m. He said he had to drive back to Sioux City for his daughter's confirmation.

And apparently Bea Arthur died today. Or yesterday. Or maybe it was the day before. Thank you for being a friend, Dorothy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

President's Earth Day Stop Costs 9,116 gallons

Just how important are background and symbols to a president? President Barack Obama flew to Newton, Iowa, yesterday to talk about his alternative energy we need to be more green. He used a wind turbine tower manufacturer, Trinity Structural Towers, as his backdrop. The other backdrop was Earth Day. A CBS reporter tallied up the cost to the earth of this trip because of the president's travel and security requirements. His total: 9,116 gallons of fuel.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Vilsack Cancels Speech for Iowa

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack was supposed to headline a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. today. But he canceled so he could come to Iowa with President Obama. Here's what I found on the Press Club's site.

Event Name:
Thomas J. Vilsack
Event Date:
Apr. 22, 2009
Event Type:
NPC Luncheon
12:30 PM
Sponsored by:
Speakers Committee
Event Location:

President Obama has arrived. It's 12:46pm. He's early.

President Obama Arrives in Newton

12:28am It looks like President Obama's tour of Trinity Towers in Newton is about finished. The tour took place on the other side of the building from where we are, so we can't really see much. But some guys dressed in blue shirts with white hard hats have now entered our side of the room. And Tom Vilsack scurried past to find a seat. At last check President Obama's speech is scheduled to take place at 12:55.

I wonder if he will take questions from the media afterwards. There is a second area sectioned off to the side of the main platform where I assume someone will speak. But it's not the big of an area. So I really wonder if it's for the prez.

The president's person assistant, Reggie Love, just placed his speech on the main podium. Crews have set up TelePrompTers also. The president didn't seem to rely on the TelePrompTers this much when he campaign here. Perhaps, things have changed. Love was always by the president's side in the two years before the Iowa caucus. I remember following him to a Des Moines high school several months before the caucuses. Love told about a dozen high school men's basketball players about the importance of playing as a team. Love played basketball and football for Duke and tried to make a go of it in the NFL for a while. He was (I assume still is) a regular player on the president's basketball games.

It's now 12:40pm. I'm really hungry. I remember seeing a table that said food for "Traveling Press only". We drove here from Des Moines. Does that count?

Waiting for President Obama in Newton

I just finished my live shot for our noon news. I would Say there are about 100 invited guests here behind me at the Trinity Structural Towers in Newton. I've seen about a half dozen state legislators (will the legislature accomplish much today or will the stalemate with the governor keep dragging on?), Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan, former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack (her husband, Tom, the U.S. Ag Sec will arrive with the president) and several dozen employees of Trinity.

12:10...Governor and First Lady Culver just arrived.

These towers Trinity make are huge. 30 feet tall, at least, I'd guess. These are the bases for the wind turbines. There are also dozens of bundled up packages holding the wires for the machines. They must be 25 feet long or more, as well. Maytag used to own this building. Several people inside here told me Maytag used to make sheet metal here. The building would seem to offer quite a symbol for Newton. Gone are the old manufacturing jobs from Maytag's washer and dryer operations. They have been replaced with these green jobs at Trinity.

12:18 Tom Vilsack just arrived. He is shaking hands. Drawing a little following as he works the room

Culver shaking hands with a few people about 15 feet. Vilsack just walked past Culver. No handshake.

Waiting for President Obama in Newton

We just arrived inside Trinity Structural Towers in Newton as we wait for President Obama to arrive. It's always an early start for these types of events. Our station had to "pre-set" our equipment at 7am, so the Secret Service could check it out, even though the president won't actually speak inside here until around 1pm. BTW, a big thanks to Radio Iowa's Kay Henderson. She gave me a lift here. That meant I didn't need to arrive until 9:30, instead of 7. Thanks for the extra sleep!

Our time in line was eventful. Two men held graphic pictures of abortions as they yelled at the media for not covering his protest. He said the bloody victims were screaming from the ground. His yelling probably went on about 20 minutes or so. Finally, a young woman walked behind him and set up a boom box (do they still call them "boom boxes"?) She started blaring U2's "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" to drown him out. He quit yelling.

Still two hours until we will hear from the president.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Paulsen Refutes Governor's Claim on Taxes

Yesterday, Governor Culver told me he is not to blame for defections on the Democratic tax bill plan. Last week, House Speaker Pat Murphy told us after Culver insisted more Iowans get tax cuts under the plan, he lost Democratic support. Murphy said, if that wouldn't have happened, he could have passed the plan two weeks (it would be three weeks ago now). The governor denied that. He said his changes actually ADDED legislative support. He said, "I think we've probably picked up some votes and maybe even a few Republican votes."

Today, House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen said there is no way the governor has picked up help from the Republicans. Here's his statement:

Paulsen Reacts to Governor's Statement on Federal Deductibility

(DES MOINES)—House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) today issued a statement in response to Gov. Culver’s recent claim to have picked up a few Republican votes for the Democrat plan to eliminate federal deductibility and raise taxes on Iowans.
“While the governor may be eager to raise taxes to support the most spending in the state’s history, he is in error that Republicans will help him with that task. There are no Republicans in the House that will vote to eliminate federal deductibility. House Republicans continue to stand firm with Iowans and will not support any attempts to raise taxes on Iowa’s families.”

Monday, April 20, 2009

Governor Disagrees That He's Hurting Tax Plan

Today, Iowa Governor Chet Culver told me he disagrees with House Speaker Pat Murphy that Culver is the reason Democrats are struggling to pass their major overhaul of the state's tax system. Last Tuesday, Representative Paul Shomshor, of Council Bluffs, said twice during a news conference that Democrats would pass the tax plan. But Democratic leadership never took a vote on the plan. Wednesday, Murphy conceded his party had only 50 votes on the idea, leaving it one vote short. And he blamed Culver. He said Culver pushed for more Iowans to get tax cuts under the plan, and that eroded Democratic support. Murphy said, "I think it slowed down the process or we would have had that bill two weeks ago."

Today, Culver told me he doesn't think his changes hurt his party's chances to pass the bill. He said, "I don't. In fact, the original bill only had 49% of Iowans getting a tax cut. We've now moved that to 60%. I think we've probably picked up some votes and maybe even a few Republican votes."

I haven't been able to find any of those "few Republican votes" to say publicly they will support the idea. Still no word on when, or if, house Democrats will bring up the tax plan for a final vote. But the governor didn't want us saying the idea is dead. "No. I don't", he said.

Attorney General on Sex Offender Law

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller weighed in before the public hearing tonight at the Iowa Statehouse on changing the sex offender laws. Here's the release:

We believe this legislation improves Iowa’s sex offender laws in several ways:

* First, the proposal moves Iowa closer to compliance with the registration requirements of the federal Adam Walsh Act and, in doing so, provides law enforcement with more tools to keep tabs on individuals who have proved by their past offenses to be a danger to others.

* Second, the proposal imposes more effective limits on the movement and location of sex offenders – maintaining the restrictions regarding where the most serious offenders can live, and adding exclusionary zones to regulate where all sex offenders who have committed crimes against children can move about during the day. We believe it makes more sense to focus resources on what sex offenders are doing while they are awake than on where they can sleep.

* Third, being more selective about which offenders are subject to the 2000-foot rule is likely to foster increased compliance with the registration requirements. Under the current law, many sex offenders have stopped reporting their location because it is so difficult to find housing that does not violate the residency requirements.

The Attorney General believes this legislation is a good step toward a more common-sense, workable solution to the great challenge of keeping all Iowans and especially our children safe from sexual predators.

We commend the bipartisan efforts of lawmakers who crafted this proposal.

There always is more work to do to prevent sex offenses. We will monitor the effectiveness of this statute if it is enacted. We will continue to review all our laws regarding sex offenders, and to advocate other proposals in this realm, including measures relating to child pornography, indecent exposure, and enticement of children for sexual exploitation.

There always will be new challenges in this realm, especially with changing Internet technology, social networking, and other new situations. We look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature on ways to prevent sex offenses in Iowa.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Vander Plaats Ad on Drudge

Last week three-time Iowa Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats challenged Governor Chet Culver to issue an executive order staying the Iowa Supreme Court's permitting same sex marriage. Culver's office scoffed at the idea, saying that a governor doesn't have the ability. Drake University Constitutional Law Center Director Mark Kende agreed that Culver couldn't issue the order even if he wanted to do it. Well, he could. But it wouldn't be legally valid.
Today, I found the ad above that Vander Plaats' campaign put on "The Drudge Report" this weekend. When you click on it and vote, you get directed to Team VP's fundraising link.

Cael Sanderson Denies New Job About Money

Iowa State's former Head Wrestling Coach Cael Sanderson says his decision to leave is not about the money. He said it's not true that he will make oodles of cash by leaving to go to Penn State. Sanderson says it's less than a 10% bump in his salary. He also seems to take a little shot at ISU Athletics Director Jamie Pollard, who he writes may have taken a little shot at him. Sanderson posted the comments on his blog Sunday.

Check it out for yourself on Sanderson's blog on his website.

This is likely the part Sanderson's talking about from Pollard's statement he released Friday:

“During the last week, Cael and I talked numerous times and we had several in-depth and personal discussions about this decision. Those talks included me asking what, if anything, could we do to keep him at Iowa State. I also asked President (Gregory) Geoffroy, Bill Fennelly and Greg McDermott to reach out to Cael and they all did so. In the end, Cael said that he appreciated everything Iowa State and our fans had done for him but he believes winning a national championship will be easier at Penn State. He said the high school talent in Pennsylvania and surrounding states is the best in the country and the kids in that area grow up wanting to wrestle for the Nittany Lions. He also said their overall athletics department resources are the best in the country.”

Here are Pollard's full comments.

John Rich Video Unrealistic?

Country fans, have you seen the new video by John Rich? It's called "Shuttin' Detroit Down (with heavy emphasis on "DE" in Detroit:). Actor Mickey Rourke is in it, looking a lot less buff than he did in that movie, "The Wrestler". The movie seems to be a statement about how the government is bailing out Wall Street and ignoring the regular Joe's, who are losing their jobs in this recession. Rich actually performed the song during one of the tea parties in Atlanta on tax day.

I'll stay clear of the politics of this, as I always try to do, but I do wonder how realistic this video is. Kris Kristofferson plays the long-time factory guy who gets canned by his boss because of the economy. The same day his family gets tossed from the house. Sure, the scenario is becoming far too common right now. But in the context of this story, it seems there's a little artistic liberty taken...first he gets the bad news at work...then, while he's knocking back a few cold ones in the bar afterwards, he gets the call deputies are evicting him. Seems a little fast. Maybe I'm just overthinking it...

Here's the video. Watch for the eviction at the end...

Here is Rich singing the song during the Atlanta tea party:

Friday, April 17, 2009

More Iowans Lose Jobs

Another 6,000 Iowans have lost their jobs within the past month, according to new figures released by the Iowa Workforce Development. Here's the IWD release:

Iowa Unemployment Rate at 5.2 Percent

DES MOINES, IOWA – Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 5.2 percent in March from 4.9 percent in February. The statewide jobless rate was reported at 3.9 percent one year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate increased to 8.5 percent in March from 8.1 percent in February, and from 5.1 percent one year ago.

“The sharp drop in March payrolls underscores the current weakness in Iowa’s job market,” said Elisabeth Buck, director of Iowa Workforce Development. “In March, job losses were broad-based, and suggested that a significant turnaround in the state’s employment situation is not likely to occur in the near future.”

The total number of working Iowans showed only slight change at 1,587,400 in March compared to 1,587,000 in February. The current level of employed persons is 22,200 lower than the year ago figure of 1,609,600.

The statewide estimate of unemployed persons rose to 87,800 in March from 81,900 in February. One year ago, the number of unemployed state residents was reported at 66,100.

Seasonally Adjusted Nonfarm Employment

Statewide nonfarm employment contracted by 10,700 in March, bringing the new total nonfarm employment down to 1,493,400. Most of the state’s industries experienced job cuts during the month, with the exception of finance and government.

Construction shed the largest number of jobs in March at 2,900. The weak demand in housing and construction has taken a heavy toll on the industry. Professional and business services decreased by 2,700; as both professional and temporary help services continued to cut payrolls. Other substantial losses were posted for leisure and hospitality (-1,700), trade and transportation (-1,400), other services (-1,100) and manufacturing (-900).

Compared to March of last year, Iowa has lost 32,400 jobs. Education and health services has remained resilient, adding 3,900, mostly in health-related services. Retail trade has advanced by 1,900 over the year, and local government has increased by 1,200. On the other hand, manufacturing has lost 20,400 jobs; 17,500 of the loss was concentrated in durable goods production. Professional and business services has dropped by 10,500, and construction has experienced a smaller drop of 3,700.

Fallon vs. Culver, Part 2

The feud between former Iowa Democratic gubernatorial foes continues to fester. Former Democratic lawmaker Ed Fallon complained Governor Chet Culver's office doesn't respond to his phone calls. Culver's office responded with a statement that said Fallon is just mad because Culver won't give him a job. Today, Fallon said he wasn't looking for a job. He already has one, he said. Fallon sent out a message to his followers, which he says includes dozens of emails from supporters who also rip on Culver. Here are some of those comments.

“What you are saying out loud and in public is the same that I have been hearing said in private and off the record conversations. Trust me, you are not alone in your opinion of Mr. Culver.”
“I understand what you’re talking about. Yesterday, I sent a letter to the State Democratic Party saying that I will not vote for Culver again or any state Democrat until they start following the platform. I know a lot of people who feel the same way.”
“Thanks for putting in writing what many have been thinking/feeling since his administration began. It is nice to have an advocate for the voting public.”
“I so agree with Governor Culver being inaccessible. He needs to listen and work on what is important to Iowans.”
“I've been profoundly disappointed in Governor Culver. All too often, he appears to be governing from a ‘status quo’ vantage point, or at best from a ‘how can I generate the least opposition’ vantage point.”
“I'll vote for Culver if he's the only one running against a Republican. But he's playing in the middle of the road too much of late, trying to have his cake and eat it too.”
“We're among those highly disappointed by his behavior since gaining the office of governor.”
“I hope I don't have to vote for a Republican at the next election, but I will not vote for Culver. What a disappointment! (And my expectations were already very low.)”
“I know that I have written to you about my disappointment in Culver, and with his lame response on the Supreme Court's decision on equality for marriage it has deepened.”
“I don't have much hope of Culver being re-elected, even though it might mean some really bad-policy Republican like King or Rants replacing him. I think he's made so many enemies, esp. on the liberal Dem side, including labor, environmentalists, and folks like me, along with losing the enthusiasm of the gay community and activist groups like CCI, that while he may not get active opposition from them or even a serious primary opponent, his Dem base will be so disenchanted he'll never get the turnout he needs to win.”
“I know you are not planning on running for governor as many will suspect with this public confrontation with our sitting governor but something has to be done to get him to move on his promises to work with you.”
“Thanks for your activist approach regarding this situation with Governor Culver's office. I think too many times citizens find that they are not treated with respect or equal rights. You present a positive model of challenge. Good luck with your efforts. I support you.”
“I agree totally with you. I have lost interest in the Democratic Party elections because I don't want Culver or Boswell to rerun.”
“Did you really expect any different Ed? You know what kind of politician he is. With him the interests of big donors will always trump those of his actual constituents.”
“Speaking ill of Culver isn't criticizing a fellow Democrat. Culver lost that credibility long ago and in our opinion should be contested. It's likely neither of us will vote for either of the next gubernatorial candidates, and I'll bet we're not alone.”
“I've decided that I just cannot vote for the "lesser of two evils." If we get a Republican governor because people won't vote for Culver than that should be a wake-up call to Iowa Democrats.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fallon Criticizes Culver

Fallon: Culver inaccessible, unresponsive, reneges on promises

That's Ed Fallon's headline for Governor Chet Culver. It's safe to say Fallon isn't too thrilled with Culver. Maybe I should say he is still not too thrilled with Culver. Fallon served 7 terms in the Iowa legislature before he ran unsuccessfully against Culver in the Democratic primary in 2006. Fallon pledged to support Culver during the rest of that race for governor. But Fallon has had his issues with Culver since then. Today, Fallon sent an email through his advocacy business complaining Culver's office hasn't been responding to his phone calls.

It looks like her fans still like talking about Jeanette Trompeter, even after her company dumped her to save money in Minneapolis. She filled in on WCCO radio. You'll remember WCCO-TV cut her. Apparently, fans of hers let it be known loudly and clearly her old tv station made a mistake. And according to a column in the Twin Cities, her old boss wasn't too pleased.

Chris Duncan has no business playing in the outfield for the St. Louis Cardinals. I realize he is hitting much better than he has been in the last few years. But his defensive skills make Cards' fans puke their overpriced brats.

No Tax Debate Today

(Updated: Thanks to Dean Fiihr from the Iowa house Democrats...

The tax bill is not on today's agenda at the Iowa Statehouse. It is on the debate calendar for Friday. But Dean tells me there are no plans to debate the bill tomorrow. He said the Dems still have only 50 members who agree with the plan.)

Iowa Democrats have re-re-re-re-rescheduled the tax bill that eliminates federal deductibility for the debate calendar Friday. I'm not sure I've given this enough "re-'s", but I gave it my best shot. Debate calendars have indicated the house could debate this every day this week. But each time, the issue gets pushed aside.

A few final thoughts on that anti-tea tax party at the Iowa Statehouse yesterday. State troopers estimated the crowd at nearly 3,000, in case you were wondering how we determined our estimate. The event began with a comment that this was a non-partisan event. Speakers, however, at this anti-tax rally, also criticized the same sex marriage decision and a woman's right to choose abortion.

Also, while I appreciate the organizer thanking me publicly to the crowd for my "support" of this event (I did a story a few weeks ago when I learned there would be dueling tea parties in Des Moines), especially after other speakers ripped on the media, I must remind everyone, as a reporter, I can't "support" any type of political or pseudo-political event. About the only thing I unabashedly publicly support is my St. Louis Cardinals:) But thanks for the kind words.

Organizers are working on another tea party for the 4th of July.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sex Offender Punishment to Change

Iowa legislative leaders and Governor Culver's office are working this afternoon to schedule a public hearing next week that could lead to changes in the 2000 foot rule for sex offenders. Right now sex offenders can't live within 2000 feet of schools, etc. New restrictions would stop them from even stepping foot in places where there are a lot of kids like schools, day cares, swimming pools, etc. Another provision would allow the least serious offenders to be taken off the sex offender registry if all parties agree, including the victim.

The final product (or at least the hope here) is that this would be a bipartisan effort that won't be bogged down with party fighting that could destroy the efforts.

It's also sounding more and more like that movement to overhaul the state's tax system and eliminate federal deductibility is falling apart. House Speaker Pat Murphy said he has only 50 Democratic votes right now. He said the missing 6 Democratic votes are not the so-called "six-pack" of Democrats who helped bring down a labor bill earlier this session that lead to that infamous weekend "sit-in" at the statehouse. Murphy said he isn't giving up. He blamed Governor Culver for losing Democratic support on this. Culver, he said, insisted on cutting taxes for more Iowans as part of the plan. Murphy said that's what hurt the efforts.

Interestingly enough, the apparent demise of the tax bill comes on the day between 2 and 3,000 Iowans held a tea party protest rally on the front lawn of the Iowa Statehouse to oppose all the money the government has been spending. And who said this legislative session wasn't going to be interesting?:)

No Tax Vote Today

Every day this week, we've expected to watch a tough vote in the Iowa house about whether Democrats can find the support to overhaul the state's tax system by eliminating federal deductibility. And each day so far this week, we've learned we will have to wait until the next day. That's the case again. An email from house Democrats this morning confirms the tax bill has been taken off the daily debate calendar. It's now put on Thursday's calendar. Will it actually happen then?

Outside the Iowa Statehouse on this tax day, protesters will hold Des Moines' second tea party in less than a week. This one is one of a handful in Iowa today and one of hundreds across the country.

Ousted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich hopes a judge will let him take part in a reality show in Costa Rica for a new show on NBC. The former gov reportedly needs the cash, which could be as much as $80,000 per episode, to pay for his legal bills. Could that famous hairdo of his really survive a Survivor-like reality show in the wild?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

No Tax Debate Wednesday?

Will Iowa Democrats in the house take up the federal deductibility Wednesday? It's been the daily question this week at the Iowa Statehouse. Tuesday, Council Bluffs Rep. Paul Shomshor said his fellow Democrats would pass the bill this week. The tax bill has been on the daily debate calendar several times now, only to see Democrats not take it up.

Ed Failor, Jr., President of Iowans for Tax Relief, said if Democrats really do have the votes, they are breaking what he calls "Legislator 101". He said when a party has the votes to pass a controversial bill, "you run it." So far, no running in the house. An earlier email sent Tuesday morning from house Democrats includes the tax bill on Wednesday's daily debate calendar. But an email sent late Tuesday night entitled "On Tap Tomorrow" does not include anything about the tax bill. Stay tuned...

It looks like the "Goateed Guru" is about to get a little more face time. MSNBC is reportedly putting together a weekend political show for NBC's Chuck Todd.

Des Moines hosts one of 10 tea parties in Iowa Wednesday a.m. at the Iowa Statehouse.

Hatch Calls Gessow Vote Most Important in Decade

Iowa lawmakers vote on issues like where sex offenders should live, how to better children's education, equal rights, disaster recovery, etc. Today, Democratic Senator Jack Hatch, of Des Moines, said none of those are as important as the nomination of Gene Gessow to head the Department of Human Services. Hatch said, "I dare say it's the most important vote we will take in the next ten years."

As of 7pm Tuesday, the state senate has not taken up that vote. Gessow, DHS's interim director, would have to be confirmed by the senate by Wednesday at midnight to get the permanent position. If the senate fails to confirm him, Governor Culver could re-appoint him or appoint someone else on an interim basis until lawmakers meet again in session in 2010. Culver Tuesday said he would not rule out re-nominating Gessow if the senate fails to confirm him by Wednesday.

Vander Plaats Condemns McCoy Death Threats

Likely (probably more than just "likely") Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Bob Vander Plaats just sent out a release condemning the death threats against the Iowa legislature's only openly gay lawmaker. Here it is...


DES MOINES – Bob Vander Plaats released the following statement today in response to a report that state Sen. Matt McCoy, an advocate of same-sex marriages, received a death threat on Monday:

“Matt McCoy and I fundamentally disagree on the same-sex marriage issue and other issues, but I deplore anyone who would make a death threat against him or anyone else under any circumstance. Such action is morally wrong and, in fact, illegal. The same-sex marriage issue is probably the most emotionally charged public policy issue in the past 40 years but threats against any individual or group are absolutely the wrong way to express opposition to it or the Iowa Supreme Court’s April 3 opinion. I want to make it clear in the strongest possible language that I will never condone threats of violence against another person. Anyone make such a threat such be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

No Tax Debate Today

Iowa Democrats will not debate that federal deductibility bill today.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Red Shirts at Statehouse Tuesday

It looks like we should expect to see a lot of these on Tuesday...

Iowans for Tax Relief plans on bringing out the masses again to fight the Democrats' attempts to overhaul the state tax system on Tuesday. But will there actually be a Tuesday showdown on this issue? On Monday morning, Democrats sent out a schedule that shows the tax bill on the debate calendar. But Speaker of the House Pat Murphy was away from the capitol tending to a family health matter. No one could tell me if he would be back at the statehouse Tuesday.

Monday evening, Democrats sent out a news release saying they would hold a press conference on the tax bill Tuesday morning. Would they be doing this if they actually planned on voting on the bill the same day or have they already planned on pushing debate back later in the week in the hopes Murphy will be back to the capitol? As I write this at midnight on Tuesday a.m., I haven't heard back from Democratic staff on confirmation of the Tuesday plans yet.

In the meantime, here's part of the message ITR shows on its website about Tuesday's plan...

Friends we need your help again. Please join us at the Iowa Capitol on Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at 10:00am in the Capitol Cafeteria. The bill which repeals federal deductibility and forces you to pay a tax on a tax is on the debate calendar for tomorrow (Tuesday, April 14, 2009) and we need to be present to make sure our voice is heard. Our message is, "We oppose the repeal of federal deductibility and just say NO Tax on a Tax!" Join us starting at 10:00am and be there for a couple of hours, or the whole day. Bring your family, friends, and neighbors. We need your voice! Remember just two weeks ago over 650 Iowans were kicked out of the Iowa House during the public hearing and escorted out by Iowa State Troopers. Then when the public was removed from the public hearing, it continued without the public. Let's take back OUR house.

Anti-Same Sex Rally, Rants Tax Plan

More than 200 Iowans rallied in the rain at the Iowa Statehouse against the Iowa Supreme Court's recent ruling that permitted same sex marriage in the state. The conservative group, Everyday America, sponsored the gathering. During the rally, Bob Vander Plaats, a likely Republican candidate for governor in 2010, challenged Governor Chet Culver to issue an executive order that would stay the court's ruling. Vander Plaats wants Culver to delay implementation of same sex marriages until Iowans have a chance to vote on a constitutional amendment that would ban same sex marriages. Vander Plaats told the crowd, "On my first day in office (if he is elected governor), I will issue an executive order that puts a stay on same sex marriages until the people of Iowa vote."

Vander Plaats also mentioned his mother told him his dying father's only regret last week was that same sex marriage is now permitted in the state. He said that's not what his father, who was a World War II veteran, fought for years ago.

Governor Chet Culver's office says he will not issue an executive order on the matter of same sex marriages. Culver's spokesman, Troy Price, issued a statement. It said, "Governors in Iowa do not have the ability to prevent or overturn a decision of the Supreme Court through an executive order. It's disappointing that some people, especially politicians who should know better, would try to mislead the public into thinking that Governors do have such power."

Drake University's Constitutional Law Center Director Mark Kende agreed that even if Culver wanted to issue that order, he "doesn't have that authority." Kende compared the matter to the fight in the 1960s when southern governors tried to stop segregation efforts. He said the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against them.

The same sex marriage debate could also get infused into Iowa Democrats' efforts to overhaul the state's tax system. Democrats are working on a proposal that would eliminate federal tax deductibility. They say they would use the additional state revenue to lower the overall income tax rates of Iowans. The proposal would lower taxes on some Iowans and raise taxes on others. Monday afternoon, Christopher Rants, a Republican state representative from Sioux City (and possible GOP candidate for governor next year), offered an amendment that aims to lead to a debate on same sex marriage. Rants believes if lawmakers debate changes to Iowa's tax system, then they will have to debate the legal definition of "husband" and "wife". Rants said, "Sort of marry the issues together (tax changes and same sex marriage). If we're going to give a tax benefit to married husbands and wives that are filing their tax returns...I think we need to define what is a husband, what is a wife, what constitutes married persons for the purpose of the iowa code."

Iowa house Democrats had no immediate reaction to Rants' amendment Monday afternoon. Earlier in the day, they had scheduled debate on federal deductibility changes for Tuesday afternoon. But aides say Speaker of the House Pat Murphy is out of town tending to a family matter. As of 7pm Monday, it was uncertain whether he would be in Des Moines to preside over debate on tax changes. Aides say it is possible debate could be delayed until later in the week. Iowans for Tax Relief has already announced it plans to bring members to the Iowa statehouse Tuesday to lobby lawmakbers to oppose the tax changes.

Patty Judge Look-a-Like Gets Black Belt

A 70-year-old Des Moines woman earned her recommended black belt and is now on her way to her full black belt. The story of this "elderly" woman (isn't that a terrible word?) is interesting enough. But Mary Lange also happens to work at the Iowa Statehouse. She also happens to be a dead ringer for Iowa Lt. Governor Patty Judge. See your yourself.

Here's the story:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Senator Grassley Injured in Brush Fire

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley says he was injured when the wind blew a brush fire out of control on his farm near New Hartford in northeastern Iowa. How did we find out? From the Twittering senator, of course. Grassley sent out this "tweet" to followers:

Work on farm Fri. Burning piles of brush WindyFire got out of control. Thank God for good naber He help get undr control PantsBurnLegWound

Tonight, Communications Director Beth Levine told me the senator suffered a small burn on his leg from the fire. And he has "a little bandage" on it. She said he didn't go to the doctor. The senator's tweets sure must make his communication staff's lives interesting:)

Iowans Hope in Government

Saturday, several hundred Iowans tea partied to protest that their government is overstepping its bounds and spending too much money (more specifically, the Democrats in charge of the federal and state governments.) Sunday seems like a theme of hope in so many ways. For Christians, Easter Sunday is likely the most hopeful day of the year. Barack Obama used the campaign message of hope throughout. But Iowans, according to a new poll in the Easter Sunday edition of the Des Moines Register, don't seem to have all that much hope in the President's signature issue so far, his economic stimulus package. Nearly 70% of Iowans, according to the poll, are skeptical. That's more than two out of three Iowans with doubts about trillions of dollars in spending. At one point will that show of hope need to be stronger so that voters don't lose hope in Iowa Democratic candidates next year at the poll?


I heard the country song "Commitment" by LeAnn Rimes on the radio today. Would that song be ironic for a married singer who's now been busted by the tabloids for cheating on her husband with her television co-star? Maybe the word, commitment, had a different meaning to her when she sang it at 16.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mike Huckabee coming to Iowa

I'm just getting back to town after a week away, so forgive me, if this is already out there... But apparently, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is making a return trip to Iowa. He came back a few weeks after last November's election as part of his nationwide book-signing tour. But he talked very little with the media. This was quite a change from the caucus season where he was very giving with his time for interviews. Huckabee is scheduled to speak before the ABI convention in Okoboji this June.

Do you think Huckabee is thinking about running for president again? Or will book tours, the speaking circuit and his show on FOX prove too lucrative to give up for the grind of the campaign again?

Krusty Targets Gay Reporter

Krusty Konservative who now blogs for the Republican on-line information source,, outs Des Moines Register political reporter, Jason Clayworth. Krusty writes that he doesn't think Clayworth, who recently announced his engagement to his partner on the social-networking site, Facebook, should be allowed to report on issues that directly affect homosexuals, like gay marriage. He also claims Clayworth supports the on-line support group on Facebook “I Support The Unanimous Iowa Supreme Court Ruling - Gay Marriage”. However, I could not find anything that links Clayworth to that group.

I'd be curious what Clayworth's bosses think if he did belong to that Facebook group. Is that appropriate? It seems many employers are becoming more and more concerned with journalists (or any employees for that matter) participation on social networking sites. Journalists at work aren't usually allowed to express opinion. Many don't want to see journalists express opinions on a social-networking site either.

If Clayworth did/does not belong to that pro-gay marriage group, then is there really a conflict here? If a reporter opposes racism, should he not be able to cover the Ku Klux Klan? Should an atheist cover a religious matter? How far should this go? What do you think?


Chris Carpenter looked incredible for my St. Louis Cardinals. I only hope this, and his arm, can keep going.
I never knew I had any allergies. But the last two times I've been to Tampa this year, I'm getting hit by something. It has been really dry there, so pollen is extra high. I'm blaming the pollen.
"Friday Night Lights" on NBC had yet another great episode last night. It was the finale for this season, which went by way too quickly. I'm so glad the show is coming back for at least two more years. I really don't know why more people aren't watching it though. Although, I admit, it's a stretch at times to watch these actors who are pushing 30 pretend like they are still in high school.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Iowa Supreme Court Background

Sorry, this is a few days late. Actually, more than a few days. I'm just getting back into town after a family visit in Tampa. But in case you were wondering about any political affiliations of Iowa's Supreme Court justices in the midst of this landmark decision about same sex marriage, I asked the Iowa Secretary of State's office for their registration information. Here's what the office gave me (keep in mind, of course, the "no party" people may not actually be independents, they may just not list a declared party preference, much like journalists do). I listed the info according to the justices order in the picture above...

Brent Appel: No Party
David Wiggins: Democrat
Mark Cady: No Party
Chief Justice Marsha Ternus: No Party
Michael Streit: Democrat
Daryl Hecht: Democrat
David Baker: No Party

Culver to Masters

Many weekends, Governor Chet Culver's office sends out some type of congratulatory statement about an event/success/nice try for an Iowa sports team. This weekend, the Gov could deliver the message from the road in person. He is headed to the Masters in August, Georgia. At least two other prominent (or in one case, soon-to-be-prominent) Iowans will also be there. As Iowa lawmakers work on the final days of the budget/legislative session, you'll notice the last line in the release from the Gov's office...


Governor Attends DGA Event this Weekend in Augusta

DES MOINES – Iowa’s Governor will also be the number one fan of two Iowans playing in this year’s Masters golf tournament, as Chet Culver travels to Augusta this weekend. Iowans Zach Johnson and Jack Newman are in the field for the 2009 Masters.

Governor Culver will be in Georgia for an event sponsored by the Democratic Governors Association.

“From the success of our college student-athletes to our Olympians to now having two Iowans compete in the Masters, the past year has been a great time for Iowa sports fans,” said Governor Culver. “I am looking forward to being a part of the galleries following Zach and Jack at Augusta National this weekend.”

Zach Johnson is the 2007 Masters champion. He is a graduate of Drake University in Des Moines and Regis High School in Cedar Rapids, alma mater of First Lady Mari Culver.

Jack Newman is the reigning U.S. Amateur Public Links champion. He is a student at Michigan State University and a graduate of Hoover High School in Des Moines, where Governor Culver formerly taught.

Governor Culver is leaving for Georgia this afternoon and returning to Iowa on Monday as the legislature resumes. The trip is being paid for with campaign funds, not tax dollars.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Gay Marriage, etc.

Good afternoon from rainy Tampa, Florida. I sure have a way of going out of town when big news hits Iowa. Last summer, it was the awful floods. Now, it's the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage. It was interesting to watch the coverage of the ruling down here. It received a prominent story in both the Tampa Tribune and the St. Pete Times. It was also one of the first stories on the local tv news I watched, not to mention all the coverage on the national news. One of the first things I thought about (beside the fact that I was out of town during another big news day) was something from a few years ago. Statehouse Republicans were talking about pushing for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Some Democrats said that was unnecessary and that the law already banned them. Oops. It will now be interesting to see when Republicans push for this again next year what Democrats will do. I don't recall, for example, Iowa Governor Chet Culver of Iowa Senator Tom Harkin ever saying the wanted gay marriages. So will they now oppose an amendment banning them?

Random Florida observations...
Poinsettias are blooming at my in-laws. I'm pretty sure I've only previously seen the flowers in a pot during the holidays. Although, with this latest "winter" storm, Iowans may be thinking Christmas is already here
I heard a news anchor in Tampa say something like, "It's spring now, but it sure will feel like winter." Tomorrow, the high is ONLY 65 degrees. Sorry, Iowans.
I had something called crab white bellies for lunch today. Not sure exactly what they were. But there were great.
I'm amazed how my 17-month-old nephew, Ian, can "push the buttons" of his 2 1/2-plus-year-old brother. He really knows what he is doing:)
My runs along Bayshore have really struggled in 85 degrees and 85% humidity. I sure hope the Principal Riverwalk can offer something even a fraction of the beauty you see running along the bay in Tampa.

We're headed to a bar to watch my beloved St. Louis Cardinals home opener this afternoon, provided the snow, wind and freezing temps don't push back the game.
Here are my predictions for the National League Central:

Chicago Cubs--too much talent. If they can't win it this year, their curse may be permanent.
St. Louis Cards--could be better than some fans fear. But Schumacker needs to at least be average at second, Carpenter needs to come back strong, Ludwick and Ankiel need to keep developing and Pujols needs to be Pujols.
Cincinnati Reds--seem to be improving. Could surprise with a .500 finish or even a little better with an improved offense and bounce back years from Arroyo and Harang.
Milwaukee Brewers--without C.C. and Sheets, I don't see how they can repeat last year, no matter how many steak Fielder trades in for tofu this season.
Houston Astros--too much cost-cutting decisions. Oswalt, Lee and Bergman should make them competitive, but there's just not enough offense and starting five to go around.
Pittsburgh Pirates--seriously. They're the Pirates. They always suck. Sorry, Tom Vilsack.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

No Federal Deductability Debate for Thursday

They jeered. They cheered. They cussed. They threw gum. Did they win? 500 or so people filled the house galleries Tuesday night. Most opposed the proposal to eliminate federal deductability and they let Iowa lawmakers know it. And hear it. That's until House Speaker Pat Murphy kicked them out for disrupting the public hearing. House Democrats originally scheduled debate on the bill for Thursday. But apparently, the plan has now been pulled from the debate schedule. Word all over the capitol building is there aren't enough "yes" Democratic votes to pass the idea. At least not definite yes votes.

Did the protest Tuesday have anything to do with this or is this just a coincidence? Either way, as it sounds right now, don't expect a juicy debate on this Thursday. Unless it changes:)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Culver Will Run for Re-Election

O.K., I guess this doesn't count as breaking news. But... I was talking to Governor Chet Culver about all that happened last night at the Iowa Statehouse when House Speaker Pat Murphy evicted about 500 people. Most of them were fired up about the plan to change the state's tax laws, eliminating federal deductability, raising taxes for some and lowering them for some (yes, I know "fired up" may not be strong enough for some of the cussing, pushing and gum-throwing witnesses have described to me). BTW, as I read the tax charts, I still can't figure out if I would pay lower taxes or higher taxes. How do you figure it out?

Anyway, the Governor told us Republicans deserve some of the blame for what happened last night since they helped bring some of the people there. He said they need to realize the election ended last November. But then he told me this (I think this is the first time he has really said this publicly) ...

"Well have a very spirited election next year. In fact, I'll be on the ballot. I look forward to getting out there myself next year. For now, we gotta take care of the people's business and lower the tone and focus more on solving problems."

I assume his "official" re-election announcement will come with a little more fanfare:)