Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bayh plans 500-mile odyssey across Iowa next week

Bayh plans 500-mile odyssey across Iowa next week

For Howey Political Report June 29, 2006

Next Thursday Evan Bayh will launch a 500-mile odyssey to convince Democratic voters in Iowa that his centrist brand will best represent their party in the next presidential election.

It will be the senator's second trip to the Hawkeye State in seven weeks and his fifth in the past 12 months. More are expected in anticipation of the state's Democratic caucuses in January 2008.

Since Jimmy Carter's initial caucus victory in 1976, Iowa has been a key state in the race for the Democratic nomination, according to Wikipedia, which notes "[t]he national and international media give Iowa (and New Hampshire) about half of all the attention accorded the national candidate selection process, which gives [Iowa's] voters enormous leverage."

Poor showing can mean disaster

Of the past nine candidates to run for president under the Democratic banner, six were winners in Iowa, including incumbents Clinton (unopposed in 1996) and Carter (who defeated Ted Kennedy in 1980). Other than in 1992, when Iowa's own Tom Harkin won the state in a bid that was largely unchallenged, a poor showing in the caucuses has spelled disaster for aspiring campaigns. That same year Bill Clinton eventually secured his first nomination despite earning only three percent of the Iowa vote. In 1988, Michael Dukakis finished third with a respectable 22 percent and in 1972 George McGovern finished second with 23 percent.

If a recent poll conducted by the Des Moines Register is any indication, the senator has yet to connect with the state's voters. On June 11, the Register reported Bayh's supporters amounted to only two percent of Iowans who say they are likely to take part in the caucuses. John Edwards finished first at 30 percent, besting Hillary Clinton by four points. "None of these/other" notched three percent and "Not sure" received six percent (see HPR Daily Wire, June 12).

Edwards' showing created a stir because Hillary is often mentioned as the party's leading presidential contender. But pundits were otherwise hesitant to give much weight to a survey so far ahead of the election. However, one aspect of the poll may inspire Bayh to step up his appearances and work harder to deliver an evocative message - more than two-thirds (68 percent) of Iowa's probable Democratic voters indicated they were unsure about Bayh, the highest number of the nine potential candidates tested.

Connecting with voters

To succeed in Iowa, the senator will have to identify and understand what motivates the state's persuadable voters.

According to the Pew Research Center, "Democratic registered voters in Iowa and New Hampshire...are much less racially and ethnically diverse than the party as a whole, and may be slightly less conservative. But they are similar to Democrats nationally in terms of labor union affiliation, religion, age, and education."

Veteran Iowa political reporter Ed Tibbetts offered another perspective. "Ever since the 2004 presidential election, the 'values voter' has been much coveted," he wrote in a Quad-City Times article published prior to the state's June 6 primary. In the report on one of the most hotly contested congressional seats in the nation, Iowa's 1st CD, Tibbitt said he expects values voters to be critical in this year's midterms.

During his three day, eight-city tour next week, Sen. Bayh will have an opportunity to appeal to 1st CD voters at a stop in the Quad-Cities. On July 7, he is slated to boost the campaign of Democratic hopeful Bruce Braley, who is battling the GOP's Mike Whalen for the seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle, the Republican now running for governor.

Iowa, Indiana share values

The last time Bayh was in Iowa - only seven weeks ago - he assured a crowd of Polk County Democrats that he shared their values.

"I love coming back to Iowa," Bayh said at a fundraiser. "It’s so much like my home state. You’ve got the same values, the same dreams, the same kind of economy. I just feel right at home."

Bayh often refers to faith when giving public speeches. At the Georgia state Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in March (see HPR, March 16) he said Democrats "need to remind [voters] that we share their values, the great American values, of hope and opportunity and patriotism and faith. We take a second place to no one when it comes to that kind of thing, and in fact, we have more in common with people of faith than they’ve been led to believe."

Indiana's former governor, an Episcopalian, was even more forthright as featured speaker at the national conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C., in March (see HPR, March 9).

"I believe, deep in my heart, that the United States and Israel are exceptional nations; and, have been placed upon this earth to achieve humanity’s highest aspirations. And if we do not tire, if we do not cease, if we carry on with our labors through thick and thin, it is my deepest conviction that one day we will know the blessing of a benevolent God, known by many names in many faiths and many traditions."

Supported flag amendment

Earlier this week Sen. Bayh voted in support of Senate legislation which called for a constitutional amendment banning desecration of the American flag. The proposal was defeated when it fell one vote short of the necessary 67 required to advance. Of the 16 Democrats who supported the amendment, Bayh was the only one currently considered a presidential contender. The five Democratic senators thought to be in competition with Bayh were opposed.

"This is an important issue, and I understand how people have differences of opinion on it," he said. "I support giving the flag special protection because it is the symbol of our country and out of respect for the sacrifice of our servicemen and women."

In other legislative news from the past week, the senator's office noted:

• The Senate passed a Defense Authorization bill that included an amendment authored by Bayh;

• Bayh joined 25 colleagues in a letter urging the Senate to "secure $8 million to triple the number of E-85 pumps available at gas stations nationwide";

• The senator also joined an effort supported by 57 senators to urge "the Bush Administration to defend U.S. access to foreign agriculture markets during World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations";

• He co-sponsored two bills to provide greater identity theft protection for veterans and active duty military personnel; and,

• Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy (VT) and Ted Kennedy (MA) have signed on in support of Bayh's hallmark energy legislation, the Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act, bringing the number of co-sponsors to 28.

Iowa schedule

July 6: Des Moines event honoring Iowa Democratic State House and Senate Campaign Committees; and, Dallas County event with Selden Spencer, 4th CD candidate.

July 7: Clinton event with State Sen. Roger Stewart and Rep. Polly Bukta; and, Scott County event with Bruce Braley, 1st CD candidate.

July 8: Muscatine event with State Rep. Nathan Reichert; Burlington event with State Sen. Tom Courtney; Iowa City event with Dave Loebsack, 2nd CD candidate; and, Cedar Rapids event to honor Democratic State House challengers.


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