Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fox's Brett Baier in Des Moines

BB: Des Moines gets a little more national face time tonight at 5pm central as Fox News Channel's Brett Baier's host his show live here. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad will join him live. Des Moines Register Political Columnist Kathie Obradovich, former columnist Dave Yepsen and I sat down for a discussion with him at Baby Boomers Cafe earlier in the day. You can see that on the show tonight, as well. We looked at the race for the White House in 2012.

It feels little...well, I guess "different" to talk all that Republican presidential politics at Baby Boomers. When the cafe was in its former location in downtown Des Moines, it stood next door to Barack Obama's Iowa campaign headquarters. The Obamas and some of their staffers became big fans of the menu, particularly the chocolate chip cookies. The Obamas even sent for more of those cookies once they moved to the White House. The rest, they say, is history. And, yes, the cookies are really good.

Even if you don't like Brett Baier or don't like politics or don't like Fox or don't like's one reason to watch...see if everyone melts! Seriously. They are doing the show live on the "porch" or "rooftop"...whatever they call it... at the State Historical Building. It's a great shot with the state capitol in the background. But it's nearly 100 degrees today and must be even hotter on that concrete. Never let' em see you sweat, Brett.

P.S. One more random fact...Brett Baier and I were born just 11 days apart.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bachmann and Palin in Iowa

One In, the Other?: This has definitely been quite a week for presidential politics in Iowa. Michele Bachmann, the native Iowan-turned Minnesota Congresswoman, used Iowa to launch her presidential campaign in her hometown of Waterloo on Monday. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, used Iowa to launch...well, I suppose, to launch the premiere of the pro-Palin movie, "The Undefeated". We don't yet know if there's more to it.

Bachmann: Her roll out went off with no apparent major problems. There was that comment to Fox news where she said John Wayne was also a Waterloo native. Oops. This one probably didn't get a lot of attention at first outside of the state, perhaps. But Iowans know Wayne is a Winterset, Iowa native, not Waterloo. Likely just a brain cramp. But the comment did feed into a national storyline that Bachmann is gaffe-prone. Once that storyline develops, whether accurate or inaccurate, it gets repeated both nationally and locally. It can be a tough one to shake.

Bachmann showed her comfort before the crowd the two events I watched, both her casual barbecue Sunday night and the official announcement Monday a.m. No teleprompter. And she joked she might get rid of the teleprompter President Barack Obama uses when she moves to the White House. I thought Bachmann's people took some risk for Monday's announcement. It was outdoors and was probably 250 feet or so from the highway, and about half that distance from a fairly busy road. Neither turned out to be much of a problem. The rain quit long before the announcement started and outside from one honking trucker passing by, the nearby noise didn't bring much of a problem. The bigger problem was the hot sun that moved most of her "1 on 1" post-announcement interviews inside. I had about 5 minutes with her. We didn't make much news, I didn't think from my interview. I guess you could say we did stump her with our final question: which state fair is best, Iowa's or Minnesota's? That's probably a question for which there is no good answer for a politician who grew up in Iowa and now lives in Minnesota. But it's a fun one to try! Here's our full interview:

Palin: When Sarah Palin comes to town, it is unique. It's like no other political visit we're seeing here these days. Maybe it's similar to when Barack Obama came in 2007 or 2008, especially after he really got rolling. But I don't think his visits fully compare to Palin. Palin brings out so much love and anti-love (I would rather not use the word "hate"). Palin and her husband came to Pella Tuesday night for the premiere of the adoring movie about her called "The Undefeated" (I don't really fully get the title, by the way, since she isn't undefeated after losing the presidential/vice-presidential race in 2008). We just happened to pass the Palins as they left Jaarsma Bakery in downtown Pella. It's the home of those famous Dutch letters, so it would seem to be a must stop. The bakers even made the letters in the form of "S" and "P" (I didn't realize you can get the pastries made into any letter you want. But they told me at the counter you can).

I know the line "greeted like a rock star" gets overused. But, I think it fits in this case. That's what it felt like watching the crowd as the Palins slowly made their way about half a block to the front door of the Pella Opera House. People screamed and strained to get close to them as they walked by. It's not your typical politician's visit. Standing there, you can't help but wonder if you're getting used in all of this. Palin regularly criticizes the media (she had a short career as a tv sports anchor in Alaska) but media keep her in the news as she continues to sell books. I must say I didn't expect her to talk to reporters during her Pella stop. She did, just in a different way than others do. She didn't stand before a microphone and take our questions. Instead, she would occasionally answer a question from a reporter as she walked the "rope line" on her way to the private barbecue with supporters after she had the private movie screening with supporters. I can't say we learned much with her answers. She supposedly still hasn't made up her mind about running for president. And why would she? She gets plenty of free exposure from the media and doesn't ever really have to address serious questions about issues facing the country or events of the day.

Bob Vander Plaats, the three-time failed Republican candidate for governor in Iowa, key leader in Mike Huckabee's 2008 winning Iowa Caucus campaign and now head of the social conservative group, The Family Leader, told me Palin still has time. He thinks Palin is a unique potential candidate in the race. He thinks her star power and name i.d. mean she could skip the Republican Party of Iowa's Straw Poll in August and then possibly enter the race after Labor Day. That would make for a fascinating move, if she does. Most of the most talented Iowa staffers and advisers would be taken by that time. But who knows? Maybe some other candidates will have already pulled out of the race by then, freeing up some staffers?

A couple other random observations from the Palin event...I'm told that organizers had to begin planning the movie premiere without knowing Palin would show up. The locals didn't find out until Saturday, the day after the announcement that the movie would come to Pella. Also, on a blazing hot summer day for the movie premiere, the air conditioning went out in the opera house. Not good timing for that. But hopefully, all the attention this event received does put some focus on the historic building. It really is a cool place.

I was a bit blown away by watching the movie's staff/production crew/whoever they were ordering everyone around...spectators, reporters, the police. I would like to remind them when you hold your event on a public street and a public plaza...well, it's public.

Having said that I must say a public "thanks" to the Pella police. They kept everything under control and kept that "comedian" from Jimmy Kimmel's show from completely ruining our live shots.

One more thing...Shane Vander Hart, of Pleasant Hill, was one of the 300 or so Iowans invited for the movie showing. He has the only video I know about from Palin's private speech to the moviegoers inside the opera house.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Des Moines Register Poll

Surprise, Surprise: The Des Moines Register sure just made some news with its first poll of likely Republican caucus goers for 2012. It was our understanding the poll would go up live on the Register's site at 9pm central, but it's already all over the internet about an hour early.

Nevertheless, here's my take, along with the results:

Mitt Romney: 23%. I feel surprised and not surprised by Romney's place. He's not showing Iowans much love so far this cycle but spent a bunch of time and dough in the state for 2008. So his name i.d. remains high. I wondered if more Iowans would "punish" him for skipping the state for the most part this cycle. But that doesn't really seem to be the case, at least not yet. What will this news do for the Romney camp? Will he skip the Republican Party of Iowa Straw Poll and then pick up the pace in the state after that if his poll standing stays high? Or does he think this poll shows he will do pretty well, even without spending much time here in the next 7 months, so he can save his time and money for New Hampshire and other states?

Michele Bachmann: 22%. She has to be the biggest positive surprise of the poll. And it could make for a nice weekend for her as she gets set to announce her campaign in her hometown of Waterloo in northeastern Iowa. O.K., it's really her "re-announcement" since she already announced during the CNN debate this month. Either way, this has to give her supporters a big lift. Will her campaign now show the organization and discipline it needs to carry through with a strong straw poll finish in August? And can she handle the raised expectations that will now follow thanks to this strong showing? She recently faced more "quiet" talk in Iowa that she could be one of the frontrunners. But this poll will now only intensify that talk. But it sure looks like she found a way to get back some of the attention Sarah Palin's Iowa visit this Tuesday threatened to take away, huh?

Herman Cain: 10%. I'm a bit surprised by this. He has been campaigning all over the state but I didn't know if enough Iowans knew him yet. I guess they do. I'm sure not what kind of campaign organization he has. He has some strength with the tea partiers and he knows how to fire up a crowd. I guess we'll find out in the next 7 weeks for the straw poll. But Cain has apparently made a name for himself so far. As a top 3 guy now in this poll, we will see how he faces the media scrutinty that could follow.

Newt Gingrich: 7%. I guess it's safe to say Iowa staffers aren't jumping up and down with this finish. Of course, he no longer has any paid Iowa staffers. Gingrich surely has some solid name recognition from his time in office. And this poll could show he has just a bit to go to find a top three finish. But will this month's implosion of his campaign push him down, especially since he didn't secure a site in the straw poll? And this poll was still interviewing caucus goers before his implosion had actually finished. So does it really reflect the state's full feelings toward him now? Or is this whole struggling campaign storyline overblown?

Ron Paul: 7%. I thought Paul might fare a little better. I thought he would come ahead of Cain and Gingrich. Paul has said his ideas are more mainstream this campaign, more so than the previous two times he's run for president. This poll shows he has a ways to go to find a strong showing. The straw poll could be a big test for his organizational strength to push him into the top tier.

Tim Pawlenty: 6%. Ouch. What more can you say? Pawlenty is essentially all in for Iowa. He has hired a big staff. But this poll doesn't show that he's connecting with people. He faces a TON of pressure in the next 7 weeks to up his standing for the straw poll. Does he have to shake up his staff? Does he have to change his message? Does he have to be more aggressive in his words and demeanor? What's next for him? If he doesn't pick it up, will he be done after the straw poll?

Rick Santorum: 4%. Santorum started out being not very well-known. This poll shows he has a long way to go to make a name for himself. He has spent as much time here as just about any other candidate. But it's not translating into supporters. If he finishes about this low in the straw poll, is his campaign finished?

McCotter Coming to Iowa

Another Candidate?: Michigan Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter has been making some news in Iowa. Did any of the politicos think he'd have someone put a bid in this past week for him to get one of the prized spots at the Republican Party of Iowa's Straw Poll in August? If they did, I never talked to them. The New York Times reported McCotter was the second highest bidder. Who knew? McCotter himself will be on his way to Iowa, according to former Iowa Speaker of the House Chris Rants. Rants told me tonight he isn't part of McCotter's presidential campaign, because there isn't a campaign. He said he will just "introduce him to some folks" in Iowa on Monday. McCotter will also headline the Iowa Tea Party bus tour's event in Ottumwa. The tour's website says the event will start at 5:30 pm at Central Park in front of the public library.

Rants said he hasn't actually met McCotter face-to-face, so it's premature to say he has any type of role in a possible campaign (Rants served on Mitt Romney's Iowa leadership team for 2008). What is McCotter up to in Iowa? Good question. His bid for the straw poll is a bit curious since the poll is now just seven weeks away. And with no campaign announcement yet and no Iowa organization to speak of, what kind of presence could McCotter show at the straw poll?

Sure is an interesting pre-caucus campaign in this state so far, isn't it?

Palin Coming

Palin Back: So, this makes things a little more interesting. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, are scheduled to come to Pella Tuesday for the premiere of the pro-Palin movie. Palin hasn't been in Iowa since she headlined the Republican Party of Iowa's Ronald Reagan Day Dinner last September. (updated: Oops. Sorry, I forgot about her book tour last November that brought her to West Des Moines) This will only fuel speculation about a presidential run, although I don't know of any attempts by Palin to form an infrastructure to compete in the Iowa Caucuses next February. Palin did not bid on a spot for the Iowa Straw Poll in August either.

Let's see what she has to say Tuesday, providing she talks to the media.

Here's the release about her appearance:


SANTA MONICA, Calif. (June 25, 2011)– Victory Film Group ( and ARC Entertainment announced today that Governor Sarah Palin and her husband Todd will attend the premiere of The Undefeated at the historic Pella Opera House on Tuesday June 28 at 5pm Central Time in Pella, Iowa. Immediately after the showing, Victory Film Group and ARC Entertainment will host a traditional Iowa cookout to thank the Pella Opera House and the people of Pella.

In accepting the invitation to attend the premiere, Sarah Palin stated, “We are very excited to visit historic Pella and its opera house and look forward to seeing the finished film for the first time with fellow Americans from the heartland.”

Responding to the Palin’s announcement that they will attend the Iowa premiere, Larry Peterson, Chairman of the Board of the Pella Opera House said, “We look forward to hosting Governor Palin and her husband, Todd, at our beloved opera house as we welcome them to our community.”

“We are incredibly excited about Governor Palin and her husband Todd’s attendance at a location that speaks to the basic core values of The Undefeated,” said Stephen K. Bannon, the writer and director of the film.

"We are delighted that Governor Palin and her husband Todd have accepted our invitation to join us at the Iowa premiere of what we believe is a truly moving and extraordinary film,” said Trevor Drinkwater, CEO of ARC Entertainment, the film’s worldwide distributor.

The film begins its national rollout exclusively in AMC Theatres in 10 cities the week of July 15th. The film will debut in Dallas, Denver, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Atlanta, Orange County, Phoenix, Houston, Indianapolis, and Kansas City, with plans to take it nationwide in additional markets thereafter.

The Undefeated features leading prominent political commentators Mark Levin, Tammy Bruce and Andrew Breitbart as well as conservative activists Kate Obenshein, Sonnie Johnson and Jamie Radtke. Additionally, the film features interviews with Alaskan civil servants, elected officials and advisors who were involved in Alaskan politics during Governor Palin’s tenure.

The Undefeated, which was written and directed by Stephen K. Bannon and produced by Bannon and Victory Film Group co-founder Glenn Bracken Evans and Dan Fleuette, chronicles Sarah Palin’s rise from obscurity to national prominence.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Palin Movie Coming

Ready, Set, Action: But exactly what type of action can we expect from the movie showcasing Sarah Palin's brief time as Alaska's governor? A firm doing the publicity for the movie said the film will make its debut in the historic Pella Opera House next Tuesday evening. It's the same day President Barack Obama comes to eastern Iowa to tour the Alcoa plant there, by the way.

Will Palin herself sneak into the back of the theater to watch? Will she bring her bus tour here? That would make for a nice Iowa showdown, wouldn't it? The president on one side of Interstate 80 and Palin on another?

Or will her fans just have to make do with watching her on the big screen?

What do you think of the movie? Will you go? Will they have moose-flavored popcorn? Do you care?

The movie hasn't made its way onto the opera house's website yet. But if you want to see "Camp Creamery, the Legend of Blackbeard's Gold", you are in luck. And if you need a job, the opera house is looking for a new executive director.

Here's the release about the Palin movie:


Documentary about Gov. Sarah Palin will be shown at 111-year-old historic Midwestern landmark

SANTA MONICA – Victory Film Group ( and ARC Entertainment announced today the premier of The Undefeated at the Pella Opera House in Pella, Iowa on Tuesday June 28, at 5 p.m. Central.

The Undefeated, which was written and directed by Stephen K. Bannon and produced by Bannon and Victory Film Group co-founder Glenn Bracken Evans and Dan Fleuette, chronicles Sarah Palin’s rise from obscurity to national prominence. ARC Entertainment is the film’s worldwide distributor.

“The community of Pella encapsulates what Iowa and the Heartland are all about. Steve Bannon certainly found a location that has the ‘Iowa-ness’ he was searching for,” stated Craig Robinson, editor-in-chief of

Built in 1900, the Pella Opera House is presently a non-profit founded by area leaders committed to bringing the finest performances to the venue. During the preceding 111 years, the Pella Opera House building has served many functions including headquarters for the Women’s Federated Club, as well as showing the country’s first silent movies at the beginning of the motion picture industry.

Larry Peterson, Chairman of the Pella Opera House stated, “The building is the heart and center of the hard-working family-oriented people in our community. For over 100 years it has served as a symbol that has exemplified American values and continuation of our city’s Dutch heritage.”

Mr. Peterson continued, “The Pella Opera House is excited to be selected as the venue for the premier showing of the film about Governor Sarah Palin. As the premier performance center for the region, the Pella Opera House has traditionally followed its mission of presenting quality entertainment. From children's theater performances, holiday and Branson-style variety shows to cutting edge concerts and musical events, the patrons of the Pella Opera House consistently praise the Opera House for its creative presentation and support of the values that are important to so many people of this region.”

The Undefeated features leading prominent political commentators Mark Levin, Tammy Bruce and Andrew Breitbart as well as conservative activists Kate Obenshein, Sonnie Johnson and Jamie Radtke. Additionally, the film features interviews with Alaskan civil servants, elected officials and advisors who were involved in Alaskan politics during Governor Palin’s tenure.

The film begins its national rollout exclusively in AMC Theatres in 10 cities the week of July 15th. The film will debut in Dallas, Denver, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Atlanta, Orange County, Phoenix, Houston, Indianapolis, and Kansas City, with plans to take it nationwide in additional markets thereafter.

Scott Conroy of RealClearPolitics called the film a “sweeping epic;” Jan Crawford of CBS News said, “Sarah Palin is either running for President or she should be: That's the takeaway from ‘The Undefeated,’ a new movie about Palin's life and leadership set to hit theaters next month;” Michael Falcone of ABC News noted, “The film’s re-telling of her accomplishments as mayor of Wasilla and Governor of Alaska portrays her as a courageous and unconventional figure willing to take on the political establishment -- even in those early years. … She eschews the ‘smoke filled rooms’ of deal-making and comes across as a fighter for the people;” and Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller wrote, “If enough people see the film it could be a real game-changer for Palin’s presidential chances.”

Trevor Drinkwater, CEO of ARC Entertainment, added, “We are pleased to present this highly anticipated controversial film and couldn’t imagine a more appropriate setting that captures the spirit and messaging of the film.”

Co-founder of Victory Film Group Glenn Bracken Evans stated, “We are very grateful to the city of Pella and the Opera House for providing the perfect venue for our film.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What a Break

Hello, Again: Wow, it's been a while. Sorry. Some very busy days sandwiched around an awesome family vacation to my wife's home state of Florida. We took our almost 11-month-old son Hayden to Anna Maria Island, south of Tampa. We had him baptized on the same beach where we got engaged. Pretty cool. Actually, the weather had been hot. But, yes, it was VERY cool.

Back to the News: My sympathies to the 13 employees of the Des Moines Register and their families who found out today they are part of the 700 layoffs nationwide by their parent company, Gannett. Some very talented people who now have to figure out, "what's next"?

So, let's catch up...

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Iowa Budget

June 6th: It looks like Monday should be a big news day in a whole bunch of ways.

Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds heads off on a trade mission trip to Asia. Governor Terry Branstad was supposed to lead that trip but since he and Democrats can't seem to agree on a budget, he will have to stay behind. And, yes, we are still talking about the fiscal year 2012 budget for the year that begins July 1st. When people first speculated about a government shutdown in April, it seemed very unlikely, didn't it? We are now less than 4 weeks away and it's difficult to envision an agreement this week. Why?

At 10am Monday, the Governor begins a 43-city tour of the state his office calls "Working Together for a Better Future". The first stop is scheduled for Ankeny. The governor is supposed to talk about his budget plans. We assume it's essentially the same budget plans he released in January.

Also, at 10am, Senate Democrats begin what they say will be budget hearings. They'll spend their first day talking about education during the hearing at the statehouse. They'll work their way onto other issues as the week progresses.

So if the governor is traveling the state this week and Democrats are busy with budget hearings, how will they ever reach an agreement on this? Am I missing something?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Christie "Thinking About It", according to Iowa Donor

Courting Christie: One of the leaders of those 7 Republicans who flew to New Jersey Tuesday afternoon to court Governor Chris Christie to change his mind and run for president thinks the group definitely made some progress. West Des Moines businessman Gary Kirke lead the trip along with Hardin County businessman Bruce Rastetter and Ankeny's Denny Elwell. All are major Iowa Republican political donors. Kirke said, "Did we do our job as a salesperson? Yes, we did. We made our point very clearly. And he got it and everybody in the room got it."

Kirke added, "I would say he's thinking about it (running for president). But he didn't make any commitment by any stretch. But he's coming to Iowa in July and I think that's a good sign." "We definitely have his attention. I think we've got him thinking about it like he's never thought about it before."

Kirke said Christie told the group he would come to Iowa to take part in Iowa Governor Terry Branstad's Iowa Education Summit in July. Branstad's office had not announced that yet.

Kirke said his group isn't actively talking to any other person about possibly running for president and plans on continuing the dialogue with Christie. He didn't elaborate about what that dialogue would include. But he said the group would "take a step at a time" to make sure to "keep the fire burning".

Kirke said his group met for nearly three hours with Christie, Christie's wife and main political staff and advisers (about 21 total people at the dinner, he recalls) at the New Jersey's governor's mansion Tuesday night over dinner. He characterized the meeting as, "it was cordial. It was unbelievable. It was like old home week." However, Kirke pointed out several times Christie is concerned about fulfilling his obligations to New Jersey residents as governor and he is concerned about his wife and 4 children and what running for president would mean for them. So he wanted to make sure we understand Christie did NOT say he would run. But Kirke's impression is he is now definitely seriously considering it.