Hawkeye Lounge

Iowa News, Iowa Politics and Hawkeye Sports

Saturday night was the Republican Party of Iowa's annual Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines. Over 1000 in attendance at the Convention Center in Des Moines. The event was a big success for the party, and most of the Presidential candidates were on hand. The notable absences were Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee.

The biggest winner of the night was the event time keeper, who turned off the microphone on several speeches at a 10 minute hard cut-off. These cattle call events can drag on forever, but this actually ended a few minutes ahead of schedule.

There were no bad speeches, and all the candidates were well received by the crowd. While this crowd was more urban and less stridently conservative than some sectors of the party, it still represented a good cross-section of caucus-going Republicans.

Most of the campaigns hosted hospitality rooms after the event, mostly for photos. The activity in each room was a good chance to gauge the level of excitement around the candidate.


Carly Fiorina. Fiorina was the biggest winner of the night, delivering the best speech and surprising many. Her comments were heavy on foreign policy. Most of the others stuck to vague discussion of radical islam, but Carly got into details of the situation in Eastern Europe. The crowd actually booed when her microphone got cut off. This speech is where Fiorina made the step from novelty candidate, to one that will be taken seriously going forward. She had one of the longest lines for photos after the event. For the first time, I could see a scenario where Fiorina becomes viable after the Iowa Caucuses.

Jeb Bush. Included because it was a chance for him and the media to see that he can play in Iowa. He still has a big hill to climb with the conservative base, but he helped himself a lot. He delivered a good speech on substance, but needs to tighten up his delivery. Had a lot of activity in his suite afterwards.

Rick Perry. Had the most upbeat speech, and easily the most enthusiastic. People still really like Rick Perry, and this was a good next step in his long march toward a second chance.

There really weren't any losers on the night, but it seemed clear that there was little excitement around Rick Santorum. His speech was fine, but nothing that people hadn't heard before. His room was the lightest attended, with the possible exception of Lindsey Graham's (although to be fair, most people have met Santorum several times before, and this was the first chance to see other candidates).

Ben Carson was also forgettable, and still doesn't seem to convey much enthusiasm in his speeches. If he doesn't get excited, how can he expect anyone else?

Scott Walker did well, but there was nothing memorable about the speech. Lots of buzz in his room afterwards, with several Iowa legislators serving ice cream. Walker still has a lot of support in Iowa, but he's going to have to improve on the stump and start dealing in more policy specifics.
He raked "Clinton Cash" author Peter Schweitzer over the coals, all but calling him a liar, while stating on air during the Schweitzer interview last week that there was "no evidence of wrongdoing" involving the Clinton Foundation. Former Clinton operative Stephanopoulos also said, "ABC's investigation has not turned up any wrongdoing" on the part of the Clintons or the Foundation.

Then it was learned that Steponallofus gave $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation, a figure that has now grown to $75,000. He donated this money long before the Schweitzer interview, but failed to disclose it. Now he is saying it was an honest mistake, and ABC is defending him.

Objective journalism? Yeah, right.

Fifty years ago, GS would never have been hired as a hard news guy in the first place because of his ties to the Democrat Party and the Clintons. And fifty years ago, he would've been fired for failing to disclose his connection to the Clinton Foundation prior to the Schweitzer interview.

Times have changed.

(Anxiously awaiting a clever response from fab, and a cartoon from moby.)
The Republican Party of Iowa announced it's changes to the straw poll today.

I always enjoyed the old straw poll, but it had become too big and done more harm than good. While it was a great fundraiser for the party, serious candidates were skipping it, and allowing second-tier candidates to get an unhelpful boost (e.g. Bachmann, Michele). It also gave Iowa too much attention in the primary calendar, and added to arguments that Iowa shouldn't be first in the nation.

I would be skeptical of all of these changes, if the party didn't have such a strong team right now. If nothing else, we have a state chairman that uses terms like "culinary brinkmanship."

Major changes:

1. No auctioning for candidate space.
2. No ticket sales by campaigns
3. Food vendors onsite, not provided by campaigns.
New WSJ/NBC poll numbers.

The good: HRC still has strong support among many democrats and women.

The bad: Her negatives are getting higher. She now gets 43% of voters rating her "very poor" in terms of honesty (up from 29% last year). Only 42% of voters overall view her positively, with only 34% of independents having that view.

Here it is, back by less than popular demand. Again, this is where I believe these candidates stand in their chances of winning the Iowa Caucuses, not the nomination. Also, this is not necessarily where they stand today, but where I think they will end up based on where their campaigns stand now.

Most of the candidates have either now announced, or will announce in the near future. Many are beginning to add staff, and some have released their first round of endorsements.

(previous ranking in parentheses)

1. Scott Walker (1) - Although still not officially in the race, Walker is leading in the most recent Iowa polls. Walker is the front-runner in the establishment-but-not-jeb bush primary. His campaign message is still focused on his accomplishments against the public employee unions, and surviving the recall election. Walker seems to be drawing support from both fiscal conservatives and some in the evangelical community. Recently had a very successful trip to NW Iowa, and is making inroads with voters in that part of the state who often move more as a bloc than voters in other parts of the state.

2. Marco Rubio (7) - Had a very strong trip to Iowa last weekend, his first as an announced candidate. Pulled in well over 100 people to a house party for Sen. Jack Whitver, which got a lot of media coverage. There is a lot of interest in Rubio among all sectors of the party, but also a fair amount of skepticism. He is seen not only as the best chance to win over hispanic voters, but also as a generational shift in the party. Still, many wonder if the first-term Senator is the "Republican Obama." It remains to be seen if Iowa Republicans will forgive Rubio for his immigration reform efforts. Rubio probably has a higher ceiling than anyone in the race.

3. Jeb Bush (8) - Lots of money, and almost 100% name ID. So far, it looks like Bush is running the Romney 2012 playbook for Iowa, with a handful of appearances and spending enough money to save face. Amazingly, many still believe Bush is the most electable candidate in the field. Already has a few key endorsements, including Amb. Chuck Larson Jr., State Sen. Charles Schneider and Rep. Ken Rizer.

4. Mike Huckabee (3) - Announcement tour coming this week. Although Huckabee has lost some of his support from 2008 to Cruz and Santorum, most of the core will be back. I suspect that as the campaign progresses, some of the early Ted Cruz support will slide back home to Huckabee, who is much more affable, and can articulate social conservatism much more effectively. One has to think that after 8 years, Huckabee will have a stronger fundraising effort than before.

5. Ted Cruz (2) - Still the farthest right in the race, and with legitimate money, means he will always have a strong base to work from. However, Cruz seems to have lost some momentum, which was probably to be expected after getting a bump from his initial rollout. He's running the Bachmann playbook, but doing so with much more money, and a lot better head on his shoulders. Will be interesting to watch what happens with the other campaigns and the Republican establishment start to tear into him. Recently named former Secretary of State Matt Schultz as his state chair. Yawn.

6. Rand Paul (4) - Doing very little to build out the campaign beyond the traditional liberty coalition. Paul got the endorsement of Craig Lang, former chair of the Board of Regents and Iowa Farm Bureau, which will help. I still think Paul ends up shifting gears and focusing on his Senate re-election very shortly after the caucuses.

7. Rick Perry (6) - Still a lot of goodwill for Governor Perry, who might be the best retail politician in the race. Probably has a better record to run on that anyone else in the race. On the other hand, he's one gaffe away from cratering. He's still the only veteran in the race, and probably best situated to make a play for second amendment voters.

8. Rick Santorum (10) - Well received on the campaign trail, but there isn't much left from 2012 besides Rep. Walt Rogers. Trying to focus on foreign policy, but still tough to see that being enough. What in the world was he thinking coming out in favor of raising the minimum wage?

9. Bobby Jindal (9) - Had a good trip to Iowa last weekend. Seems to want to play for social conservatives, but that is a crowded space.

10. Chris Christie (5) - Spiraling. I'm still not convinced that he's going to run.

Carly Fiorina - Continues to get good reviews, and landed the support (or has hired?) former Speaker of the House Chris Rants.
John Kasich - GTFO
Donald Trump - He can show off his plane all he wants, no one is taking him seriously
Ben Carson - Go run for a Senate seat somewhere
Lindsey Graham - Seriously?
Largely confirming the earlier PPP release, with a less eye-popping number for Scott Walker:

Scott Walker 12.6%
Marco Rubio 10.0%
Jeb Bush 9.6%
Mike Huckabee 8.6%
Ted Cruz 6.5%
Ben Carson 6.3%
Rand Paul 6.3%
Chris Christie 5.1%
Rick Santorum 3.5%
Donald Trump 3.1%
Rick Perry 2.6%
Carly Fiorina 1.0%
Bobby Jindal 1.0%
John Kasich 1.0%
Lindsay Graham 0
Undecided 22.8%
People forget that prior to Obama, GWB had the most effective (and massive) GOTV machine known to man. Apparently lil' bro is upping the game.

His candidacy is still an affront to democracy and any poster here is forbidden from supporting him in the primaries.

That said, he don't play, and I suspect that were he to get the nomination, his organization would be massive and ruthlessly efficient.

Here's the first installment of my Iowa Caucus Power Rankings. This is not the candidate's strength or chanced of winning the nomination, this is limited to Iowa. The main factors considered are name ID, fundraising potential, organizational strength and grassroots appeal.

1. Scott Walker - Walker's first major trip to Iowa for the Steve King Freedom Summit was a big success, and a part of his big bump in early 2016 polls nationwide. Walker has the early help of David Polyanski, who was the chief strategist for Joni Ernst's U.S. Senate campaign. Halo Politics has also learned that Walker is being helped by State Senator and former congressional candidate Brad Zaun of Urbandale. Bridging the gap between mainstream conservatives and business moderates, Scott Walker would come out on top if the caucuses were held today.

2. Ted Cruz - Still the darling of many movement conservatives, Cruz is making a major push to win over some in the liberty movement, who are disappointed in Rand Paul. Rumor has it that Cruz has the unannounced support of radio host Steve Deace. Halo Politics has also heard rumblings that there is dissension in the ranks of Cruz's leadership team nationally, which is hindering his efforts. Questions of electability surround Cruz more than anyone else in the field. Cruz could become this year's Mike Huckabee, or could completely fall apart.

3. Mike Huckabee - The 2008 winner is back courting his core supporters from eight years ago, but it remains to be seen how many of them come back. Most of the Santorum 2012 supporters will come come to Huckabee, but not all. Huckabee is also bleeding support to Ted Cruz. Unless something changes, it is presumed that Huckabee will ultimately win the support of Bob Vander Plaats and the Family Leader.

4. Rand Paul - Despite disappointing many liberty activists, Paul can still count on a solid base of support left over from his father's past campaigns. Former state party chairman A.J. Spiker will help mobilize the grassroots liberty activists, but is still deeply unpopular with the rest of the party. Paul is attempting to reach out to others in the party by hiring Victory Enterprises of Davenport, and recently won the endorsement of former State Representative and 2002 gubernatorial candidate Steve Sukup.

5. Chris Christie - As much as the national media continues to discount Christie, he is quietly putting together a serious campaign in Iowa. Christie has the support of former Branstad chief of staff Jeff Boeyink and recently hired Phil Valenziano, a veteran of Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign and Terry Branstad's 2014 reelection effort. Iowa is filled with veteran campaign operatives that bring modest benefit to a campaign, but Valenziano is exceptionally talented and hard working. If Christie can raise the money, he can be a formidable Iowa candidate.

6. Rick Perry - There is a lot of goodwill in Iowa for Rick Perry, but he is still fighting questions about his ability to be a national candidate. Iowa activists still fear that he is one public gaffe away from imploding. That having been said, Perry is in a great spot on the ideological spectrum to do well in Iowa, and has shown a much stronger grasp of the issues this time around. Perry will be able to raise enough to get himself to January, but can he make a serious push? Perry recently announced his first round of Iowa field staff to go along with veteran strategist Bob Haus.

7. Marco Rubio - Rubio has spent a fair amount of time in the state, and was one of the most vocal endorsers of Joni Ernst, but still hasn't made it clear that he intends to run. Questions about immigration continue to dog Rubio, and he will have to have a better answer if he wants to make a play for Iowa conservatives. Still, there is a lot of interest in Rubio, and could be a dark horse if he wants to commit to Iowa.

8. Jeb Bush - No one is particularly excited about Jeb Bush, but he is going to be able to flood the race with money, and that matters. There are still some in Iowa that revere the Bush family, but is it enough to get a good result. It still remains to be seen if Bush will play in Iowa at all.

9. Bobby Jindal - Like Perry, Jindal has a lot of goodwill among Iowa activists, but so far doesn't seem to be putting the pieces together. Until Jindal starts putting together an Iowa team and spending more time in the state, he will remain a long shot to get to climb this list.

10. Rick Santorum - Santorum still has a small team, but is struggling to put together many of his 2012 core supporters. Much of Santorum's 2012 support was never more than a placeholder for Huckabee supports that didn't have anywhere else to land. In a wide-open field with several other reliably conservative choices, it is difficult to see a path for Santorum this time around.

11. Ben Carson - Made an early splash in Iowa, but any early buzz has quickly quieted down. Insiders quietly question some of Carson's early decisions in assembling his Iowa team.

Not making the cut: Mike Pence, John Kasich, Lindsay Graham, Sarah Palin, Bob Ehrlich, Rob Portman
Should be a great afternoon sold out crowd at Carver Hawkeye for this one. It is the last chance during the regular season to pick up a signature win.

Maryland has great guards, but they have struggled on the road and the last 4 games overall against varying competition at home as well.

The last 2 road games have been blowout losses @Indiana by 19 points and @Ohio State by 24 points. Their last 2 home games have been near loses with a 1 point win where Northwestern collapsed and against Penn State that was a one possession game with 23 seconds left.