Amy Klobuchar's Winning with Moderate Republicans!

Got the annual holiday call from my republican brother from Iowa the other day, and he noted the vast choice of candidates he’d have at the caucuses this year. What? 

Yup, my brother, who unlike the rest of the family has been a republican all his adult life, is caucusing as a democrat! Heck, he’s even been a republican candidate and local party officer. In opinions he’s still pro-life and capitalist, but Amy Klobuchar has won him over. Like my brother, Amy wants a “public option” so everyone can afford health insurance. Like Amy, my brother believes in civility and decency. And my brother knows that Amy is our most electable candidate because she appeals to democrats, independents, and moderate republicans… and that’s why he’s supporting Amy!

And my brother ain’t the only republican following Amy- Who should I see at an Amy campaign stop in Esterville, Iowa than a well known republican party leader from my county? This is how Amy wins over all democrats, independents, and thoughtful republicans with policies that work for all of us and a campaign that welcomes everyone. This is how Amy has won landslide victories in Minnesota with more votes than any other statewide democratic candidate, winning in red districts where no other democrat can. This is how Amy will win the Iowa caucuses, our democratic party’s nomination, and the presidency!  

Amy's campaigning everywhere!

Amy visits every last Iowa county!

As a retired truck driver and now motorcycle tourist I’ve visited over a thousand counties… But I think Amy has me beat! Having already visited all of Minnesota’s 87 counties several times over, Amy’s talking to residents of every one of Iowa’s 99 counties. That’s what makes a great progressive democratic president- The tenacity to talk with and win over voters everywhere!

Amy started the day with county number 97, Emmet County, with a stop in Esterville. Amy -:30 and the place is packed. NBC network has a full crew here in a TV dead zone that is usually lucky to see a small market local affilliate. Amy’s gettin’ Big Mo!

Why "Medicare For All" Won't Work and "Demon" Tweaks Will..

Medicare is not one glorious socialist panacea, more correctly it’s a massive government/private insurance program that comes in a variety of flavors depending on what option the insured selects. And it doesn’t cover everything, in fact Medicare insureds are having the same problems with “surprise!” bills as everyone else. But Medicare is damn efficient, especially when it’s allowed to control prices. That said, Medicare can and has been ripped off for millions of $$$. Rapidly expanding Medicare would make these shortcomings even worse- Think of it as all the ACA rollout problems multiplied by most of our nations population. And even after a decade or so when those growing pains have gone away, with no remaining competition, what’s to keep Medicare from becoming a bloated overpriced insurer that we have no alternative to?

So clearly, a rapid transition to Medicare For All won’t solve the problem.

What can get us there is tweaks to the system, and not just ordinary tweaks, I mean “demon tweaks”. That’s a term invented by Brit car racers for small inexpensive “tweaks” that greatly increased the performance of a car. In government, many of the big changes for the better of us citizens came not from massive highly publicized legislation like Medicare For All, but instead from “demon tweaks” buried in bills hundreds of pages long. 

One of the best legislative “demon tweaks” ever was the language that made it easier for disabled adults over 50 to qualify for Social Security Disability. That change, passed during the last recession, allowed a lot of older workers for whom vocational rehabilitation and further education would be a poor investment to gracefully retire a few years early and open up jobs for younger workers. Our more thoughtful candidates for president are offering a similar “demon tweak”, a “Public Option” to provide access to affordable health insurance for millions who do not have the good fortune of having good insurance through work or other connections.

That’s just one of the “demon tweaks”  that can fix our health insurance system without too rapidly forcing everyone into Medicare- For example, Senator Amy Klobuchar is working on legislation that will reduce the minimum bed requirement for Critical Care Rural Hospitals so they don’t have to waste millions on oversized facilities that will never be used to capacity. Throw in some more just plain common sense tweaks like allowing small federal contractors and their employees to buy into the Federal Employee Health Benefit plans and a bunch of similar tweaks to allow all Americans to take advantage of the purchasing power of large health care purchasers and we provide the benefits of Medicare For All and then some while giving consumers more choices in programs that won’t take a decade or more to roll out.

Demon Tweaks… If I can tweak my car, why can’t we tweak our health care for the better?

Amy's polling in Double Digits!

Here’s the link

Being familiar with Amy Klobuchar as a Minnesotan, she was a natural first choice for me. As her campaign initially stumbled I supported Warren. But all along I knew if Amy broke 5% in the polls and made the November debates, I’d be back on board. She did both, so I decided if she broke 10% polling by January I’d keep backing Amy. Not even half way through december Amy has surged past 10% and qualified for the december debate. 

Here’s a link to more polling: link

Yup, those polls are old, from 2003-4. At this point in the race, december 16 years ago, John Kerry was polling at 9% in 3rd place behind Howard Dean at 26% and Dick Gephart at 22%. On caucus night Kerry won with 38% of the delegates with Edwards winning 32% and Dean 18%. Dean’s “Iowa Perfect Storm” was overhyped as many winter storms are, and Iowa democrats went for the moderate they trusted instead of Dean’s progressive promises.

Also notable is Warren’s drop in the polls… Perhaps Iowa democrats flirt with the progressives, then vote for the moderate candidates?

In the Field in Iowa 4: MIA and ghost campaigns and good news…

Iowa’s 4th congressional district AKA Northwest Iowa and then some is a field operations nightmare with barely 118 thousand registered democrats in a district a couple hundred miles across that is darn near half of Iowa. To put that in perspective, there’s damn near as many registered democrats, 116 thousand, in just Polk County AKA Des Moines. And while parts of the district get as far blue as purple, this is the white homeland of neo-nazi congressmen Steve King, though democratic opponent J.D. Sholten is doing his best to retire him. For democratic presidential field operations, this is one of their toughest challenges.

So it was that I wandered to Sioux City in search of some “ground truth” as to just what was happening on the ground in Iowa 4. ’Twas perfect weather for doorknockin’, with no snow and temps into the 50s, and the Amy Klobuchar campaign was taking advantage of it as at least 15 staffers and volunteers feasted on pizza before heading out to knock some turf, A good sign for a campaign getting off to a slow start.  

Cross the street and round the corner I checked in with the Bernie campaign where a couple staffers kept the place alive while doorknockers were out in the streets. They’re tightly targeting to voters that have responded to previous contacts and events, suggesting Bernie’s campaign is looking to stay alive and win some delegates in Iowa rather than an outright win. They talked of 4 thousand contacts by noon and 35 thousand next weekend- Respectable numbers, but there are over six hundred thousand registered democrats in Iowa. Nice folks, and thanks for the donation of some Bernie lawn signs which will raise funds for our local democratic party units.

Next up was Pete’s campaign office, nice and neat inside with a couple cars parked out front and a closed sign on the door… At 1pm on a beautiful Saturday not even two months away from the caucuses? Ditto at the Warren campaign office, but not a single car out front. Checked the listed Steyer campaign office around the corner, and no sign of human habitation- not a single sign out front and blackness inside. Would one expect any less from a campaign where “cutting turf” probably means deciding what TV markets to saturate?

Biden’s campaign office was in a bit more upmarket ‘hood in a strip mall, but there were signs of life at least- One staffer present, some moderate clutter, and they wouldn’t let me smuggle any of their nice 3 by 5 lawn signs back to Minnesota in deference to their Iowa needs. Got some more background on the heckler that harassed Joe the other day from an eyewitness- Good to see Joe make an example of that indecent Trumpster. As I suspected, Joe’s choice to confront such harassment is playing well in rural Iowa.

Checked Liz and Pete’s campaign offices again, still MIA… If someone had to close up while they ran an errand, they’d be back by now. So what the heck is going on with half the major candidate’s offices in a county with 17,380 registered democrats being closed? A messy campaign office is a sign of a winning campaign, and looks like Pete and Liz’s campaign offices are too tidy. Both campaigns may simply be overextended- That day Pete’s campaign had eight “flights” of doorknockers heading our of four northwest Iowa locations, But Liz’s campaign only had three flights out of that sole Sioux City office in northwest Iowa.  Closing the campaign office to send every last person out door knocking is a desperation move, like pulling your goalie in hockey. So while Pete’s campaign may be just spread too thin which is not always a bad thing in rural areas, Liz’s MIA campaign staff is ground truth to my suspicions that her campaign has stalled. Steyer is clearly running a ghost campaign that only appears in 2D. Joe’s campaign is clearly hitting on at least a couple cylinders. And Amy’s. campaign is  “punching above their weight” , exceeding expectations as she’s moving up into the top tier.

Finally, every campaign trying to meet Iowa’s 600,000+ registered democrats at their front doors at a rate of maybe 20 per doorknocker on a good day has my utmost respect!

Introducing the Swing Voter Index (SVI)

Introducing the SVI- Swing Voter Index

OK, we’re all familiar with PVI, that magic index of the partisan lean of a geopolitical division that tells us, on “average”, the party lean of said geopolitical divison. A useful figure, but PVI leaves a lot unexplained. Let’s look at my home state of Minnesota’s statewide and congressional district (CD) PVIs for a start:

CD     PVI

1         R+5

2         R+2

3         D+1

4         D+14

5         D+26

6         R+12

7         R+12

8         R+4

State  D+1

Conventional wisdom tells us that anything beyond an R+5 is a lost cause, so most Democratic Party leaders write off CD6 and CD7 and consider CD1 and CD4 long shots. But every single one of these CDs was won by at least one democrat in 2018! WTH? So lets add some more data, the worst and best percentages of the vote earned by a statewide candidate for each party in 2018 and the swing vote in each CD:

CD   PVI  Dem Range  Rep Range  Swing Voter %

1       R+5  42%-54%     42%-52%    16%

2       R+2  46%-59%    38%-48%    16%

3       D+1   50%-63%    35%-45%    15%

4       D+14  61%-71%    25%-33%    14%

5       D+26  73%-82%   15%-20%    12%

6       R+12   36%-48%   48%-58%  16%

7.       R+12  36%-48%   48%-59%   16%

8        R+4    43%-54%   43%-51%    14%

State D+1     49%-60%   36%-45%  15%

First, some cautions about the data- PVI is an average of the last two presidential election results, giving us a sample of two and we did a lot better in 2012. The 2018 election in Minnesota gave us a sample of six statewide races, and more data is usually better. Looking at the low end of each party’s percentage of the vote gives us a fair measure of each party’s base. Our democratic base exceeds 50% in CD3, and even more so in CD4 and CD5, suggesting that CD3 has shifted democratic while CD4 and CD5 have been safe democratic districts for decades. Despite have double digit R+ PVIs, CD6 and CD7 are winnable by democrats, proven by Amy Klobuchar winning both and Collin Peterson winning CD8. And despite many pundits having put CD1 and CD8 into the “lean republican” category, both parties have almost identical base votes in the 42-43% range. 

Adding together each party’s base vote and subtracting from 100% gives the “swing” vote and our Swing Voter index. As expected, the Swing Voter Index shows the lowest percentage of swing voters in the strongest democratic CDs and the highest percentage of swing voters in the more republican leaning but still competitive CDs. 

I’m still developing this Swing Voter Index (SVI) and debating how much more data to add from congressional races and 2016 and maybe earlier results to hopefully more accurately gauge the size of the swing vote, and I want to scale down to legislative districts too. So comments are welcome, even if you think me the fool… 

When a Campaign Becomes a Cult…

I liked my first candidate’s authenticy, though she was maybe a bit too far left for my moderate to progressive liking. I supported her in the caucuses as did many in my district of moderate democrats, heck even our alleged “DINO” Congresswoman supported her. Even the “conservadems” admired her honesty and steady positions on the issues regardless of the current political winds. So like many supporters I joined her social media supporters and got involved in the campaign. But after initially being welcomed, I found my moderate views increasingly questioned by the candidates hard core supporters. It got worse- As the campaign failed to thrive and couldn’t grow beyond the core of supporters, that core of “true believers” advanced some wacko conspiracy theories to try to explain their candidate’s losses and personally attacked moderate supporters such as myself. It got to the point where Orders for Protection from at least one of the more extreme supporters were considered, and I unfollowed the candidates increasingly toxic social media.

So I found a new kinder gentler progressive candidate to support. Progressive on the issues, but he’s enough of a policy geek to give us moderates some buy-in on his platform. And as a rural democrat and Farmers Union member he rung all my bells on farm policy despite being from an urban district. So I joined the campaign, even made a couple trips to Iowa to campaign for him. But I slowly found that while this candidate strongly advocates for farmers, many of his supporters outright hate farmers. When I suggested there would be problems implementing the candidates health care plan, while he made adjustments to his plan that were responsive to my concerns, I was criticized in the campaigns online groups for my concerns. When I suggested that we really need some resources to get the campaign going in my Super Tuesday state which has early voting before Iowa, I was told to buy overpriced campaign materials from the campaign’s web store and finance the local campaign myself. When I pointed out that another candidate had an active campaign here and was winning over our supporters, I was accused of supporting that candidate. Today I have all but been thrown out of the campaign, even though the candidate is still my first choice on the issues.

My first candidate peaked back last spring, though she’s still polling in double digits. While her true believers still rabidly support her, they do a great job of purging the more moderate supporters the campaign needs to grow. The campaigns social media festers with conspiracy theories trying to explain  the candidate’s dropping popularity. My second candidate peaked this fall but he’s still in double digits too, and as enthusiasm in the campaign has waned the true believers are taking over as the purges begin.

Not quite two months out from the Iowa caucus the highest polling candidate has not even 25% support while three others are above the 15% viability threshold for receiving delegates. My first and second candidates are polling just above that viability threshold, and fully a quarter of the potential caucus goers are supporting candidates who not only miss the viability threshold but are polling in single digits.   

On caucus night that quarter of Iowa democrats whose candidates don’t have that 15% support will have to pick a new candidate to support. They’re not going to support the campaign whose cultist followers question their absolute political correctness, those diverse democrats are going to support the candidate whose campaign welcomes them into their coalition. To win the party endorsement the candidate will have to persuade other candidates delegates to join their coalition to win over at least 50% of the delegates. To wage an effective general election campaign they have to build the traditional “big tent” coalition of all democrats. And to win the general election, our candidate has to win over and welcome not only all democrats but independents and dissident republicans too.    

We build our winning democratic coalition by welcoming our fellow democrats and independents and even republicans with respect for them and their diverse views rather than political purity tests administered by self appointed campaign PC Police. Cult campaigns may work for Trump, but they don’t work for democrats!