IA-Gov: Roundup of recent news

It's been a while since I posted a diary here about the Iowa governor's race.

Follow me after the jump for more than you probably wanted to know.

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IA-Sen: Could Grassley face a primary challenge from the right?

Angry social conservatives are speculating that Senator Chuck Grassley could face a primary challenge in 2010. The religious right has been dissatisfied with Grassley for a long time (see here and here).

After the Iowa Supreme Court struck down the state's Defense of Marriage Act, Grassley issued a statement saying he supported "traditional marriage" and had backed federal legislation and a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. But when hundreds of marriage equality opponents rallied at the state capitol last Thursday, and Republicans tried to bring a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to the Iowa House floor, Grassley refused to say whether he supported their efforts to change Iowa's constitution:

"You better ask me in a month, after I've had a chance to think," Grassley, the state's senior Republican official, said after a health care forum in Mason City.

Wingnut Bill Salier, who almost won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 2002, says conservatives are becoming "more and more incensed [the] more they start to pay attention to how far [Grassley] has drifted."

Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn denies that party activists are unhappy with Grassley. I hope Salier is right and Grassley gets a primary challenge, for reasons I'll explain after the jump.

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Does it matter who ends up running the Republican Party?

As Jonathan noted yesterday, the Republican National Committee needs a new leader, with no front-runner emerging for that job. Meanwhile, a mini-scandal has erupted over one candidate's decision to give RNC members a CD including a song called "Barack the Magic Negro."

Since the election, the divided Republican Party of Iowa has also been preoccupied with the search for a new chair. The comment threads on the leadership contest at Iowa conservative blogs are nastier than anything I remember reading on Democratic blogs when Howard Dean was running for Democratic National Committee chairman in 2005.

I've been wondering how much these leadership contests matter.

Obviously some people will be better organizers or better fundraisers or better communicators than others, and for all I know some of the declared candidates are truly inept. But let's assume the Republicans find leaders with all the qualities on a party hack's wish list. Will they be able to turn things around for the GOP by raising more money and improving their campaign mechanics?

Commenting on plans to create a think tank within the RNC called the "Center for Republican Renewal,"Matthew Yglesias recently observed,

Ambitious people don't like the idea that their fate is out of their hands. But an opposition political party's fate is largely out of its hands. The Democratic Party's recovery from its low ebb in the winter of 2004-2005 had very little to do with Democratic policy innovation and a great deal to do with the fact that the objective situation facing the country got worse. The time for the GOP to improve, policy-wise, was back then. Had the Bush administration been animated by better ideas, Bush might not have led to declining incomes, rising inequality, and catastrophic military adventures. But since he did, the GOP lost. And now the reality is that it's the Democrats' turn to govern. If things work out poorly, the GOP will get back in whether or not they have an ideological renewal, and if things work out well the Republicans will stay locked out.

I suspect Yglesias is right. Republican conservatives want to "embrace their core principles and effectively communicate a compelling message of bold-color conservatism". Moderates want to do away with "litmus tests" and "recapture the broad base."

But the facts of life are these: in Iowa and at the federal level, voters have given Democrats control of the legislative and executive branches. Whether the Republicans bounce back in 2010 or 2012 will depend more on whether Democrats blow it than whether the RNC or the Iowa GOP State Central Committee chooses the right leader.

What do you think?

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American Future Fund getting involved in state legislative races

Cross-posted from Bleeding Heartland. The American Future Fund has been advertising in several competitive U.S. Senate races this year, so I thought the MyDD community would be interested to know that the group is also trying to influence state legislative races. Maybe they will expand into other states during the next election cycle.

On an unrelated note: you don't have to be from Iowa to enter Bleeding Heartland's election prediction contest.

The Des Moines-based American Future Fund is exploiting loopholes in rules governing political advocacy groups in order to run campaign advertising in targeted races without disclosing its donors.

The Des Moines Register provided the latest evidence in this article from Saturday's edition: "National group airs ads on Iowa House."

For background on the American Future Fund, a 510(c)4 organization "formed to provide Americans with a conservative and free market viewpoint," you can read this piece by Iowa Independent's Jason Hancock, this TPM Cafe story by Mrs. Panstreppon, or Paul Kiel's report for TPM Muckraker.

The American Future Fund is associated with heavy-hitters in the field of campaign advertising. Its media consultant is Larry McCarthy (creator of the 1988 Willie Horton ad), and its legal consultant is Ben Ginsberg (who was involved with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004).

Join me after the jump for more.

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