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Civic Skinny

GOP looks for moderates, Dems look for Chet

Moderate Iowa Republicans, expecting a disaster in Tuesday’s elections, plan to fight back against the evangelicals and goofballs who have taken over the party. One goal: finding a moderate candidate who can beat Chet Culver in two years. [Skinny realizes “goofball” is a strong word for an alternative weekly like Cityview and considered putting in asterisks and writing it ‘g**fball,’ but that looks like f**king ‘golfball,’ and Skinny wants no confusion.]


1. Christopher Reed. Reed, Iowa’s version of Sarah Palin who used more than $600 of his tiny campaign fund to buy clothes and a few haircuts, the other day called his opponent — veteran Sen. and Navy veteran Tom Harkin — the “Tokyo Rose of al-Qaida and Middle Eastern terrorism.” He said Harkin has been “providing aid and comfort to the enemy.” In other words, he called Harkin a traitor.

2. Kim Lehman. Lehman is the newly elected Republican national committeewoman from Iowa. She is also executive director of the Iowa Right-to-Life Committee, and she seems to confuse her two positions. Some of her Republican colleagues accuse her of working against Republican candidates who are not sufficiently pro-life. The Muscatine County Republican Central Committee has even demanded that she be removed from her state and national party posts.

3. Rev. Arnold Conrad. Conrad is an Iowa minister who was warming up an audience in Davenport that was awaiting the appearance of John McCain. Conrad said: “There are millions of people around this world praying to their god — whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that [Obama] wins for a variety of reasons. … And Lord, I pray that you will guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their God is bigger than you, if that happens.”


It’s because of good folk like those three that a group of Republicans are talking about ways to return the party to those who are more like Bob Ray and Steve Roberts and the late Mary Louise Smith and even Terry Branstad (and folks who know that “Hindu” is not a god). These folks want candidates who can win, not those who can pass evangelical litmus tests, and they are particularly concerned that goofball Steve King will get the party’s nomination for governor in two years. They happen to think that 2010 will be a bad year for Democrats and that Culver can be beaten then. But not by King. Skinny is told that one person in the middle of all this is Doug Gross, who’s often in the middle of Republican doings, and they say he even has called a Democrat or two for advice. But Skinny is dubious. A few smart guys in Des Moines are no match for the fervor and zealotry of the evangelicals, who, after all, threw out Roberts. Still, it will be fun to watch.

Indeed, the Republicans won’t have much else to do the next couple of years. Skinny’s friends on both sides of the aisle expect a legislative rout. One reason: Iowa is one of 17 states that allow voters to check just one box and vote a straight ticket. Since there are no exciting statewide races — Becky Greenwald is fading in her race against Tom Latham, and the rest of the Washington incumbents have little real opposition — it’s likely that more people than ever will vote the straight ticket. The turnout next week is likely to be huge, and since Barack Obama is way ahead of McCain in the polls those straight-ticket voters will pull in some legislative candidates who wouldn’t win in a non-presidential year.

In 2004, 56 percent of all absentee voters in Polk County voted straight-party tickets — 22,710 Democrats and 13,777 Republicans, according to Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald. Among all Polk County voters, 44 percent cast straight-party ballots — 48,379 Democrats and 41,342 Republicans. None of that bodes well for Republicans.

While the Republicans are looking for someone to run against Culver, Democrats are looking for Culver himself. Last week, a Democrat sent Skinny this e-mail: “Is Skinny writing more about the whereabouts of Chet? Can top cop Gene Meyer give you Chet’s 10-20? He wasn’t at the opening of Honey Creek Resort, and Jim Larew ducked the question. He wasn’t at the World Food Prize where two of his father’s senate colleagues received the big award, and folks were too polite to ask his stand-in, the first lady. We know he’s not in [sunnier climes] because he doesn’t stay at friends’ condos anymore. So we know where he isn’t. Where is he?” Skinny will put its high-priced team of investigative reporters on it. We could buy an ad on the radio seeking information. That would be cheap. Skinny hears that advertising revenues at local radio stations are on a heavy decline, due primarily to a sharp decline in automotive advertising, and that stations are dealing in ways never seen before. “I’m buying Clear Channel spots for $10 now,” a local businesswoman says, leaving us wondering how those businesses paying the full advertising rate feel about this.. CV

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