An assortment of possible Republican presidential candidates were in Iowa Saturday, trying to appeal to conservative activists at a Des Moines forum sponsored by U.S. Rep. Steve King.
Jan Mickelson, a conservative talk radio host, succintly summed up what was in store for several hundred conservative activists gathered Saturday for a forum that saw a baker's dozen of Republican presidential contenders line up to seek favor. "Let the pandering begin," Mickelson said.
Pander they did. Over nearly nine hours, high-profile Republicans that included Sen. Ted Cruz, governors like Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Chris Christie of Texas and Rick Perry, and media-driven stars like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump took turns ridiculing President Obama, sounding alarms about the country's future and promising a sharply conservative change in direction.
The Iowa Freedom Summit served as unofficial kick-off to the year's worth of politicking that will lead up to the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses in January or early February of 2016. That contest has been both launching bad and burial ground for presidential contenders: in 2008, then Sen. Barack Obama pulled an upset win over Hillary Clinton and put himself on a trajectory to the White House.
"Do you believe the next president of the United States is going to be speaking to you from this stage today?" asked U.S. Congressman Steve King, who co-sponsored the event. As the crowd applauded in agreement, King said, "As do I."
King, who represents northwestern Iowa including about half the counties along the Minnesota border, is a high-profile conservative with a penchant for generating controversy. His harsh critiques of illegal immigrants, in particular, have drawn derision from critics; the forum was interrupted several times by protests from supporters of the so-called DREAM Act, which grants citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants if they make certain educational achievements.
Walker, recently re-elected despite a tumultous first term where he survived a recall attempt, was something of a breakout star at the forum. He came onstage without a jacket, his sleeves rolled up, and delivered an energetic speech that leaned heavily on his successful effort to strip collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin public workers.
"We weren't afraid to go big and go bold," Walker said. "Maybe that's why I won the race for governor three times in four years, in a state that voted for Democrats for president every four years ever since I was in high school."
Cruz, who got a rock star-like welcome, delivering a rousing, deeply religious speech. Christie, seen as perhaps too moderate for Iowa's conservative Republican base, nonetheless seemed to win over many with a thoughtful speech and a touching story about his late mother.
But the event was nearly as notable for those Republican contenders who didn't show up, namely former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the party's nominee in 2012. For their absence and their perceived roles as establishment candidates, both men earned some scorn from the stage.
"We lose when we nominate RINOs," said New Hampshire state Rep. William O'Brien, another hero to conservatives (RINO is a conservative slur, directed at moderate Republicans, that stands for "Republicans In Name Only").
While the Republican field is wide and active, the Democratic contest is shaping up more slowly. Prominent Iowa Democrats said numerous potential candidates are in a holding pattern until Clinton decides whether to make another go of it, as most expect she will. Her decision is expected by April.
Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday told a group of education and child advocacy groups gathered for a conference that he plans to spend half of the state's $1-billion surplus on education and policies benefiting children.
The DFL governor is set to release his full budget proposal Tuesday, and in recent days has released partial details on proposals that include expanding a child-care tax credit and investing $30 million in the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Dayton on Friday said he would allocate $516 million for children. Of that, $372 million would go toward education, $44 million for human services and $100 million for the child-care tax credits.
The money would pay for programs such as early childhood education and support for families in need.
WASHINGTON -- St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is talking up the city's paid leave policy at the White House Friday -- an idea generating popularity nationally and touted by President Barack Obama in this week's State of the Union address.
St. Paul started giving opportunities for its 2,700 employees to take paid paternity as of Jan. 1. Non-birth parents get two weeks and birth parents get four weeks. St. Paul was among the first cities nationally to adopt the plan.
The policy will cost the city about $200,000 annually, though Coleman says he expects to make that back in retaining talented staffers amid the state's booming economy.
Coleman says it helps the city stay competitive with the private sector.
"Everyone says you should run government like a business," he said. "We'll never be able to offer the benefits that Google does ... but this helps."
On Tuesday's State of the Union address, Obama touted the plan.
"Today, we're the only advanced country on Earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers ... And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I'll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own."
Coleman shares a panel with the mayors of Knoxville, Tenn and Atlanta, Georgia. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez will also be there.
Bribes, booze and baiting
I don’t ask much from this life. Only that Minnesota be blessed with the kind of political corruption roiling the waters around Manhattan this week, as Sheldon Silver, speaker of the New York Assembly since 1994 (!), was arrested and charged by tough guy prosecutor Preet Bharara for allegedly racking up millions in bribes and kickbacks.
The best we can do is the mayor of Stillwater.
Meanwhile, in the land of good government…
High of 36 today and no legislative activities, but a busy news day, so let’s get to it.
Gov. Mark Dayton is at the 2015 Children and Youth Briefing (Crowne Plaza Riverfront Hotel, Great River Ballroom, Saint Paul at 9). Open press. He’s with Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, commissioners, legislators, and staff throughout the day. Closed press. In the evening, he’ll drop the puck at the North Star College Cup game between the U and Minnesota State University Mankato (Xcel Energy Center.) Open press. Smith has no public events.
Liquor and learning
The push for Sunday liquor sales has a new intensity, Abby Simons reports.
Tribal school, in need of fixing, caught between state and federal efforts to fix it, reports Ricardo Lopez.
The deal on the renovated Capitol is in place, with the Senate giving up a lot, Pat Condon reports. Sen. Tom Bakk used the occasion to give a full-throated defense of the new Senate office building.
This is shaping up to be a higher ed session, reports MinnPost’s Briana Biersbach.
AP on a police/privacy question: More debate over license plate readers, usually mounted on police squad cars, that automatically scan license plates on the road and check them against a database of wanted vehicles. Debate over how long police can keep the data. Senate panel says 90 days.
AP: Abortion opponents in Minnesota want some help from GOP lawmakers, even if legislation isn’t going anywhere with Dayton as governor.
Related: Interesting story yesterday from Jen Brooks on a Minnesota abortion clinic that draws women far and wide from states with significant restrictions and no access to abortion.
Story on how House Republicans in Washington failed on their ambitious abortion agenda.
Things getting a little salty, and we’re only a couple weeks in: More fun on the House floor yesterday as Minority Leader Paul Thissen inquired as to the whereabouts of Speaker Daudt. Daudt’s signature was needed on the tax conformity bill that sped through the Legislature to extend tax breaks to Minnesotans this tax season. Daudt is in Texas at a conference of new speakers and will sign the bill when he returns Saturday. House Republicans were a bit incredulous and the DFL baiting and countered that they passed the bill last week and that it was DFL-controlled Senate that held the bill up into this week.
Rep. Keith Ellison always good material.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins claims there are “no-go zones” for non-Muslims in Minneapolis. Ellison invites him to visit.
Ellison also tweeted this:
@keithellison: What if Ds take House, but lose presidency to Rs. D Speaker of House invites Raul Castro to address Congress w/ NO consultation w/ WH?
In this analogy, Israel is like Cuba.
MPR: U.S. Senate rewriting No Child Left Behind for less federally mandated testing. Minnesota Rep. John Kline will be in the middle of this on the House side.
The Times on Rep. Steve King’s upcoming Iowa Freedom Summit. The staunchly conservative King wants to play kingmaker in Iowa.
King Abdullah, who reshaped Saudi Arabia and was a huge player on the world stage, has died. The Times obit.
Really interesting piece in Politico (can’t believe I just wrote that) on predictions on the world in 2030.
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