Good morning readers! Starting Line is back after a couple days off for the Thanksgiving holiday and to attend to newly-arrived Baby Starting Line. We’re now looking at the final two month sprint heading to the Iowa Caucus on February 1st. In these next two months, Starting Line will be getting back to some basics that served us well early on. I’ll be posting Sunday Grab Bags and Monday Power Rankings on a regular basis once again. I’d gotten away from the power rankings for a few months as there simply weren’t enough races with new developments that often to keep up with it. And returning to the Grab Bag posts will be a nice way to squeeze all the random topics that happen in these busy final weeks that don’t make it into a full post.

Planned Parenthood Shooting

It was another depressing day in America this Friday as a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs was attacked by a gunman, adding a physical assault to the political one that the women’s healthcare provider has been under this year. I’m hesitant to write too specifically about what it means going forward, as the details of the shooter are still sketchy. The police and eyewitnesses suggest he made some statements about Planned Parenthood, including saying “no more baby parts,” so the motive seems to be what one would expect of a killer who attacks a Planned Parenthood clinic. If that’s the case, this clearly is a domestic terror incident, one which the Republican presidential candidates were conspicuously quiet on for some time, especially considering how quick they are to denounce an attack when a Muslim is involved.

In a broad sense, politicians, specifically Republicans, need to take a serious look at what type of consequences their words on the campaign trail are having. As we’ve written before, charged rhetoric in campaigns have real impacts in people’s lives. Yes, many of the people involved in mass shootings have some sort of mental health issue. But something directs their attention to hatred and eventual violence. An unstable person doesn’t just choose to shoot up a Planned Parenthood clinic on a whim – they’re drawn to that action somehow.

You don’t have to be radicalized in a mosque or church, or even as a result of a direct effort to do so. Some radicalization occurs on its own, with weird, violent loners that take action upon themselves. That’s a real threat to the homeland – we’ll see if the Republicans treat it as such.

Decision Time in Iowa

There are but a mere nine weeks left until the February 1st Iowa Caucus. In campaign reality, it’s a little less than that, as voters will be distracted by the holiday season. It’s won’t be nearly as bad as 2008, when the caucus was held nine days after Christmas. And as we’ve seen, a month can be an awfully long time in politics this year.

Still, we’re getting to decision time with Iowa voters. Expect candidates to increasingly lock in support during December. Whoever goes into the Christmas weekend with the lead in Iowa will be tough to overcome, barring a major implosion. Someone could still come up at the end and surprise people, but when you look at the field on both sides, that just doesn’t seem as likely this time (there’s no John Kerry or Rick Santorum-like candidate positioned to surge at the end).

On the Democratic side, if O’Malley doesn’t somehow break out in the next few weeks, there simply won’t be enough time to organize newfound support. With the Republicans, Jeb Bush desperately needs a big moment here fast before he gets relegated to a disappointing fifth or sixth place showing on caucus night. We’ll do a full Republican Power Ranking tomorrow morning to look at this closer.

Dave Loebsack’s Refugee Vote

Democrats’ sole remaining federally elected official in Iowa clearly felt the heat from constituents over his vote with Congressional Republicans to effectively halt the intake of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Loebsack pushed back with a defense of his vote in a piece in the Des Moines Register. He claims the bill wouldn’t actually block or delay the process, that he was simply voting for more security checks and that he rejects the idea of a religious test.

Meh, I don’t buy it. America already conducts extensive background checks on all refugees, with Syrians getting extra scrutiny, and the process can take years. There are plenty of easier ways for terrorists to enter the country, so focusing on this avenue is short-sighted at best. Also, it appears unlikely Syrian refugees or even Syrian nationals were involved in the Paris attack. Not to mention this entire vote came about from racial and anti-Islamic fear-mongering perpetrated by leading Republican members of Congress and presidential candidates. Joining in with their lot validates their disgusting rhetoric, while the bill itself provides no real improved security. But that’s not the point I’ll add to this already lengthy discussion.

Here’s what I’ll contribute to this conversation: You do realize it’s possible to both disagree with this one vote he took and still think he’s a good Democrat and Congressman who shouldn’t face a primary, right? Or are we too knee-jerk as Democrats now that one bad vote is enough to hate someone forever? Yeah, Loebsack has a history of breaking with the party from time to time on certain votes, which frustrates some in Iowa who think his lean-Democrat seat should allow him to be more bold. But the idea that a Democrat should primary him right now from his left is silly, especially when there’s no one of impressive talent expressing interest in doing so.

What’s getting tiring is the ridiculous “Loebsack can do no wrong” versus “Loebsack must go” debate that breaks out every time he casts a vote that doesn’t perfectly align with progressive priorities. Who cares. I personally have no strong feelings one way or the other toward Loebsack. I think he is a good member of Congress and good Democrat who I wish would vote differently on a small handful of issues. Unfortunately, the reality of the matter is that Congressional Democrats can get so little done in the minority that it’s just not worth getting worked up over.

So… Does Anyone Have A Plan?

I may do a more in-depth piece at some point of how very few of the candidates actually have presented a real, credible plan to combat ISIS, but you can learn all you need to in Marco Rubio’s first Iowa ad. It’s about ISIS or “A Civilizational Struggle” or something, I guess. Rubio – who apparently shot this ad in a pitch-black basement with a single dangling light bulb, it’s so dark – says absolutely nothing of substance in this 30-second ad. Watch it. There’s literally nothing in there. But I guess he looks and sounds nice and strong. Which is essentially the Rubio candidacy in a nutshell:

The Week Ahead

Hey, it’s going to be December already. How’d that happen? Anyway, Ted Cruz continues an extremely extensive 3-day, 14-stop trip all across Iowa. Unlike other dumber candidates, Cruz actually knows how to take advantage of momentum, and is hitting up smaller counties across Iowa, including Adams, Decatur and Tama, to seal the deal with interested Iowans. He’s already apparently drawing large crowds during his Southwest Iowa swing.

John Kasich returns to Iowa this week in Cedar Rapids and Ames. Why, I don’t know. Kasich has no shot of turning in a respectable percentage in the Iowa Caucus. We always appreciate it when candidates visit our state, but from a strategic standpoint, Kasich ought to be spending every day he can in New Hampshire right now. If he’s going to compete for Iowa, he should have gone all-in earlier on. He didn’t and still isn’t – little one-off Iowa visits won’t do him any good.

Next Saturday Rod Blum holds his own presidential candidate forum in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, because that’s just what you do if you’re an Iowa office-holder. Carson, Fiorina, Santorum, Cruz and Paul are slated to attend. The event is named “Rising Tide Summit.” Perhaps someone should inform Blum that Iowa has no coastline that produces tides.

And a reminder: Starting Line is happily accepting guest posts on a wide variety of political and Iowa topics. It helps me considerably in writing more interesting, in-depth pieces when I don’t have to worry about pumping out a post to keep the website updated every single day.

 

by Pat Rynard
Posted 11/29/15

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