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Romney’s Project Orca: A Whale Of A Failure?

Romney’s Project Orca: A Whale Of A Failure?

In case anyone hasn’t seen this yet the article below is well worth giving a read.  It has been making the rounds recently (first saw on John Deethe’s blog), and is a stunning first-hand account of a Mitt Romney volunteers unfortunate experience on Election Tuesday.  I don’t have any reason to doubt this story, and perhaps some of the turnout failure for the Republican nominee can be explained by situations like this occuring across the country…

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(Via Website – Ace of Spades HQ)

November 08, 2012

The Unmitigated Disaster Known As Project ORCA

What is Project Orca? Well, this is what they told us:

Project ORCA is a massive undertaking – the Republican Party’s newest, unprecedented and most technologically advanced plan to win the 2012 presidential election.

Pretty much everything in that sentence is false. The “massive undertaking” is true, however. It would take a lot of planning, training and coordination to be done successfully (oh, we’ll get to that in a second). This wasn’t really the GOP’s effort, it was Team Romney’s. And perhaps “unprecedented” would fit if we’re discussing failure.

The entire purpose of this project was to digitize the decades-old practice of strike lists. The old way was to sit with your paper and mark off people that have voted and every hour or so, someone from the campaign would come get your list and take it back to local headquarters. Then, they’d begin contacting people that hadn’t voted yet and encourage them to head to the polls. It’s worked for years.

From the very start there were warning signs. After signing up, you were invited to take part in nightly conference calls. The calls were more of the slick marketing speech type than helpful training sessions. There was a lot of “rah-rahs” and lofty talk about how this would change the ballgame.

Working primarily as a web developer, I had some serious questions. Things like “Has this been stress tested?”, “Is there redundancy in place?” and “What steps have been taken to combat a coordinated DDOS attack or the like?”, among others. These types of questions were brushed aside (truth be told, they never took one of my questions). They assured us that the system had been relentlessly tested and would be a tremendous success.

On one of the last conference calls (I believe it was on Saturday night), they told us that our packets would be arriving shortly. Now, there seemed to be a fair amount of confusion about what they meant by “packet”. Some people on Twitter were wondering if that meant a packet in the mail or a pdf or what. Finally, my packet arrived at 4PM on Monday afternoon as an emailed 60 page pdf. Nothing came in the mail. Because I was out most of the day, I only got around to seeing it at around 10PM Monday night. So, I sat down and cursed as I would have to print out 60+ pages of instructions and voter rolls on my home printer. Naturally, for reasons I can’t begin to comprehend, my printer would not print in black and white with an empty magenta cartridge (No HP, I will never buy another one of your products ever again). So, at this point I became panicked. I was expected to be at the polls at 6:45AM and nothing was open. I was thankfully able to find a Kinko’s open until 11PM that was able to print it out and bind it for me, but this is not something I should have had to do. They expected 75-80 year old veteran volunteers to print out 60+ pages on their home computers? The night before election day? From what I hear, other people had similar experiences. In fact, many volunteers never received their packets at all.

At 6:30AM on Tuesday, I went to the polls. I was immediately turned away because I didn’t have my poll watcher certificate. Many, many people had this problem. The impression I got was this was taken care of because they had “registered me”. Others were as well. But apparently, I was supposed to go on my own to a Victory Center to pick it up, but that was never communicated properly. Outside of the technical problems, this was the single biggest failure of the operation. They simply didn’t inform people that this was a requirement. In fact, check out my “checklist” from my ORCA packet:

 

 

Notice anything missing? My guess is the second “Chair (if allowed)” was supposed to be “poll watcher certificate” but they put chair twice. This was an instruction packet that went out to 30,000+ people. Did no one proof-read it?

So, I headed back home to see if I could get my certificate. I called their official help line. It went unanswered. I tried their legal line. Same thing. I emailed them. No response. I continued to do this for six straight hours and never got a response. I even tried to call three local victory centers. All went straight to voicemail.

While I was home, I took to Twitter and the web to try to find some answers. From what I saw, these problems were widespread. People had been kicked from poll watching for having no certificate. Others never received their pdf packets. Some were sent the wrong packets from a different area. Some received their packet, but their usernames and passwords didn’t work.

Now a note about the technology itself. For starters, this was billed as an “app” when it was actually a mobile-optimized website (or “web app”). For days I saw people on Twitter saying they couldn’t find the app on the Android Market or iTunes and couldn’t download it. Well, that’s because it didn’t exist. It was a website. This created a ton of confusion. Not to mention that they didn’t even “turn it on” until 6AM in the morning, so people couldn’t properly familiarize themselves with how it worked on their personal phone beforehand.

Next, and this part I find mind-boggingly absurd, the web address was located at “https://www.whateveritwas.com/orca“. Notice the “s” after http. This denotes it’s a secure connection, something that’s used for e-commerce and web-based email. So far, so good. The problem is that they didn’t auto-forward the regular “http” to “https” and as a result, many people got a blank page and thought the system was down. Setting up forwarding is the simplest thing in the world and only takes seconds, but they failed to do it. This is compounded by the fact that mobile browsers default to “http” when you just start with “www” (as 95% of the world does).

By 2PM, I had completely given up. I finally got ahold of someone at around 1PM and I never heard back. From what I understand, the entire system crashed at around 4PM. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I decided to wait for my wife to get home from work to vote, which meant going very late (around 6:15PM). Here’s the kicker, I never got a call to go out and vote. So, who the hell knows if that end of it was working either.

So, the end result was that 30,000+ of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help. Like driving people to the polls, phone-banking, walking door-to-door, etc. We lost by fairly small margins in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Colorado. If this had worked could it have closed the gap? I sure hope not for my sanity’s sake.

The bitter irony of this entire endeavor was that a supposedly small government candidate gutted the local structure of GOTV efforts in favor of a centralized, faceless organization in a far off place (in this case, their Boston headquarters). Wrap your head around that.

I’m on Twitter at @JohnEkdahl if you have any questions.

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How the Iowa Senate Was Lost: Part 1 of 2

How the Iowa Senate Was Lost: Part 1 of 2

The way TCR: Iowa set the table for the Iowa Senate’s 22 contested races was as follows: 9 races we predicted heavily favored one Party or the other, 8 races we predicted as leaning one way or the other, and 5 were deemed toss-ups.

The reason I was personally so bullish on a Senate takeover by Republicans was that if these predictions held Democrats would have had to run the table of the 5 toss-up races to keep control of the chamber.  In the end, and impressively I might add, this is pretty much what they did.  While most of my prognosticating here was accurate, they won victories in 4 of the 5 I deemed toss-ups and managed to flip one seat I had leaning Republican, the end result was not.

Looking For Answers

The best way to fix the problem the GOP had on Tuesday is to dissect what happened.  We will have much more on this next week, when I will post a data chart, but for now let’s take the birds-eye view of the facts in the 4 toss-up contests Republicans lost and the one race where a “lean” Republican incumbent was upset.

The spending numbers below represent the cumulative amounts of money that were spent in each race by each side in the last 3 ½ months of the campaigns (July 19 to November 2nd).  This includes the money the candidate raised and spent added to the number the Party spent for each ‘in-kind”.  Since it is common practice for both sides to have the candidate donate large portions of their funds to their Parties, to spend both on their individual behalf and on other candidates the leadership feels could use it, I have gone through all the reports to subtract out this number. The result gives an accurate view of the actual dollars spent on the race (trust me it wasn’t a barrel of fun).  Looking at the dollar amounts and the timing of ad buys for each side is very telling and we will break this down further later this week.  For now here is the general overview.

SD 49— Naeve (R) defeated by Hart (D)

This race was an open seat due to no incumbent residing in the newly drawn district.  It was a very tough district for Republicans but they had a great candidate who ran strong and should be commended.

Bottom Line= Naeve (R) was outspent by $84,000, faced a (D+3,721) registration deficit, and lost by 2,907 votes.  Despite being outspent he cut into the registration advantage by 800—he was the only Republican in this list to beat the numbers.

SD 46— Hamerlinck (R) defeated by Chris Brase (D)

This was an incumbent Republican seat that I wrongly had projected to lean Republican.  Republican Hamerlinck’s final report was not filed for some reason, but in the first filing he showed spending $30,000 on his own while the Party spent $30,000 for him.  On the other side Brase (D) spent $330,000 on the effort.  Very telling here is that of this total $259,000 in assistance came directly from the Democrat Party.

Bottom Line= It’s hard to say much on the Republican side without the last report filed, but on the Democrat side the story is a lot of money poured in to facilitate this upset.  Between July 19th and October 19th Democrats spent $167,000 before throwing in an additional $157,000 in the final few weeks.  The result in ballots cast ended up being a D+409 advantage turned into a 1,954 Democratic victory.  Something tells me this ends up being a story of an incumbent hugely outspent and not being backed up with enough dollars from the Party.

SD 36— Jech (R) defeated by Sodders (D)

This was an uphill fight from the jump for Republicans, which many say started when Jech defeated former Senator Larry McKibben in the primary.  The conventional wisdom was the Tea Party candidate Jech, who had already lost two runs at a House seat, was a far less formidable candidate than the Branstad backed McKibben.  In the final 3 ½ months Jech impressively raised over a $100,000, but the GOP only threw in $46,000 total, including a miniscule $14,000 for the final push.  Conversely, Democrats did not take Jech lightly, giving Sodders $358,000 in the final months.

Bottom Line= In the end Jech was outspent by $206,000 in an R+121 district, and she lost by 2,263 votes.  There is a ton of interesting stuff going on here.  At first glance you could explain away the GOP only giving Jech $46,000 by assuming she was polling poorly.  The only problem with that is if she was there’s no way Democrats pump $224,000 to Sodders in the final two weeks.  Clearly one Party had a bad read on this race, and it’s likely it was the Democrats.  Since Sodders won by 2,263 votes it’s hard to believe he needed the near quarter-million dollars at the end.  I tend to agree with the establishment that this race became too heavy of a lift with Jech as a candidate—even though she was badly outspent, it is still pretty amazing to have a 121 voter registration advantage going in and lose the election by well over 2000 votes.

Part 2 Upcoming

Later this week we will look at the other two painful Senate loses (SD 30 and SD 26), document some trends occurring in these five races, and then, finally, make some judgements on what could have been done differently   The ultimate goal here is not to call any particular person or organization out—the goal here is to identify the shortcomings so they can be corrected.  Ironically it appears that two years from now Senate Republicans will be in the exact same spot of needing to flip two seats for control.

If a better effort and strategy are not employed—the brutal result will surely be the same.

((To Go Straight To Part 2 Click Here))

 

 

High Spirits, And A Sense Of Mission In Senate District 22

High Spirits, And A Sense Of Mission In Senate District 22

Charles Schneider, West Des Moines City Council, Senate District 22, IowaTonight was a night for Central Iowa Republicans to bounce back from Tuesday’s less than exciting election results.  Due to the passing of Pat Ward (whose loss was felt and reflected on tonight several times), Republicans needed to nominate a new candidate to run against Desmond Adams on December 11.

The special convention called to make the nomination select attorney and West Des Moines City Councilman Charles Schneider.

Six people ran.  The other five were Clive Mayor Scott Cirksena, Republican Activist Connie Schmett, Valley High School History Teacher Greg Hanson, Pat’s husband John who is an attorney, and former Waukee City Councilman Isaiah McGee.

You can see my twitter comments here.  Kevin Hall at TheIowaRepublican.com live blogged here.

The convention was a bit of a challenge from a vote counting standpoint because voting in these conventions is, according to state law, done proportionally based on the number of Republicans that voted in the last general election, which for this seat was in 2008.  Redistricting after the 2010 census created a situation where determining how those votes fell into the existing precincts would be impossible, so each precinct got a voting weight of 1. However, since each precinct had different numbers of delegates, one with 7 apparently, each delegate got a portion of the 1 vote for their precinct.  So the numbers in the first ballot had fractions, and the second had decimal points.

There was only one motion brought from the floor, which was a request before the balloting to disqualify both Schneider and Ward because (as I grasped the delegate’s comments) as lawyers they are beholden to the Iowa Supreme Court.  The specific section of the Iowa Constitution that he was referring to is Article III, section 22:

Disqualification. Section 22. No person holding any lucrative office under the United States, or this State, or any other power, shall be eligible to hold a seat in the General Assembly: but offices in the militia, to which there is attached no annual salary, or the office of justice of the peace, or postmaster whose compensation does not exceed one hundred dollars per annum, or notary public, shall not be deemed lucrative.

It was clearly a stretch understanding of the text, and the chairman quickly ruled the motion out of order.

Each ballot took about 25 minutes between voting and counting.  I was expecting to have at least 3 ballots before having a winner declared.  All six candidates are highly qualified and are well respected in the community.  Reaching a decision in two ballots was both a surprise and a relief … wrapping up by 9:00 PM meant I could get home at a decent hour!

The most encouraging part of the evening was listening to everyone with a positive attitude about moving on from Tuesday’s losses.  Although winning Senate District 22 will not swing the balance of power to Republicans in the Iowa Senate, it does move the party one step in the direction of building a majority in 2014.  If Republicans are successful at winning this seat, it has the potential to create long-term momentum.

This will be a hard race.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the Democratic opponent, Desmond Adams, is a strong personality and tells a compelling story.  Look for Desmond to work this campaign from a moderate position.

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As an aside, I met Charles Schneider while I was working in my garden one summer’s day in 2007.  He was walking the ward to introduce himself as a candidate.  He impressed me that day, and I’ve spoken with him a number of times since and have sought his help on a few city related issues.  He’s always had time for me, always friendly and does everything he can to ensure his constituents are getting the level of attention they need.  He has a lot of people’s respect in West Des Moines, and I hope he does well in the special election on December 11.

It was good to see and chat with Kevin Hall from TheIowaRepublican.com, Gary Barrett from WHO Radio, and Bill Petroski from The Des Moines Register.  Bill will be covering the Iowa Senate this coming session.

I also got to spend some time with former Polk County Republican Party Chairmen John Bloom and Ted Sporer, David Fischer from the Campaign for Liberty, my Statehouse Representative Chris Hagenow, State Senator Jack Whitver, Republican Activist Kathy Ford, Scott Cirksena’s wife Julie and his mother (I’m embarrassed that I’ve forgotten her name), and Ryan Keller who is the Polk County Republican Party Executive Director.  Everyone I talked to was very upbeat about the future of the Republican Party.

The Day After Reveals Terrible Night For Republicans In and Out of Iowa

The Day After Reveals Terrible Night For Republicans In and Out of Iowa

There are plenty of numbers to sift through in the coming days, and trust me I have a lot to say about the things that caused last night to be so unnecessarily disappointing.  For now here are just a few quick reads–the total postmortem is certainly pending.

1)  Final Results in Iowa are: Congressional Victors= King, Latham, Braley, and Loebsack.  Iowa Republicans hold the House but lose seven seats (53-47), and Democrats hold the Senate 26-23 with a special convention in SD 22 upcoming.

2)  The lack of money, and the allocation of the relatively little money Senate Republicans did have, surely ended up costing control of the Senate.  On the flip-side the Democrat strategy that we talked about leading up to last night proved to be brilliant.  There is no doubt that they out-raised Republicans financially and then outplayed them tactically.  There is some fascinating stuff going on in this area that we will be laying out in the coming days.

3)  Close races in the Senate and the House were plentiful.  In these cases Democrats being able to harness their union machine to turn out the vote often can eat up and then surpass small Republican voter registration advantages–on the surface it looks like that is exactly what happened in many races.

4)  Having studied the crucial Senate races very closely the last few months, there is no excuse at the State Party level for that poor of a showing by Republicans.  Having such a robust Iowa Caucus earlier this year with a huge slate of candidates, combined with other external forces, should have guaranteed at the minimum a good night for Republicans that had a chance to be great.  The fact that this did not happen will cause even more upheavals between Iowa Republicans and RPI.

5)  The number one excuse you will hear from vested Republicans statewide is that “it was a bad night nationally for nearly all Republicans and that explains our poor showing here”.  That is not going to cut it for me–and I doubt it will for many.

6)  Proof of the terrible night Republicans had nationwide was that Rep. Allen West of Florida was defeated last night.  This is a large blow to the Tea Party as Mr. West, though he has a penchant for pushing the envelope too much with his mouth, was a fantastic voice on fiscal and military issues.

 

Much more will be  coming in the following days…a tough night for the cause to be sure, but with the election now over we must stay tuned into the issues that will be shaped by them.  Let us not forget that first and foremost politics is about issues–not elections.

Final Results In–Republicans Fail

Larry Kruse was just declared to have been beaten by around 1,400 (via his campaign chair Matt Green who came from the auditors office).  Therefore Democrats will control the Senate and have a 26-23 majority going into the Special Election in SD 22.

Tough night all around….signing off.

Update–One more seat decided

Just crossing the wire, SD 30 race called for Democrat Jeff Danielson over Republican Matt Reisetter.

This is a big blow to Republicans as Reisetter was a rising star in the GOP and the Republicans are now painted into a corner.  Simply put–they need to Larry Kruse to hold onto the lead he has in SD 42 and for Dennis Guth to hold his lead in SD 4.

At this point Republicans need these two things to happen just to reach a tie if they are able to win the Special Election in SD 22.

Iowa Senate Races Turn Into Mini-Florida 2000

Closing in on 2 a.m and the Secretary of State Site still not posting 100% of precinct results…and things couldn’t be tighter.

Here Is Where We Stand

You can tell by looking at the Live Senate Tracker Post below that all the verdicts are in except for 3 seats.  Republican hopes of gaining control are resting on Larry Kruse in Senate 42 and Matt Reisetter in SD 30.  If both of these seats go Democrat Republicans will not take control of the Senate.  For control Republicans need to bank for certain SD 4 (which I think they will), which will bring them to 23 seats and get either SD 42 or SD 30 and add it to Pat Ward’s former seat in SD 22 in the following weeks.

Will update as soon as possible, but it is looking like the final tally may not come until the morning.

TCR’s Live Iowa Senate Tracker

TCR’s Live Iowa Senate Tracker

**Secretary Of State website is having technical issues and therefore the results we are waiting on coming in slowly. Senate Control still in the balance….most recent info in blue below**

Sec. of State site still not posting full results (only at 97.57%)…As of 1:30 am here is where we stand.  The count is Democrats with 24 seats and Republicans with 22 seats.  Still yet to come in is SD 42, SD 4 (likely Republican), and SD 30.  These numbers will add up to 49 when they come in pending the SD 22 Pat Ward special election.

As the results come in we will update the chart below untill control of the chamber is determined.

Iowa Senate Tracker

Keeping in mind Republicans hold a 13 to 11 advantage in holdover seats as the evening began, and that there are 4 Republican seats going unnopposed, we are tracking 22 races in total.  They are in three categories, 1) heavily favored by one party or the other, 2) seats leaning tp one Party or the other, and 3) the 5 crucial toss-ups.

TCR’s Heavily Favored Projections

Republicans                                                                                      Democrats

SD 40 - Projection holds, Repub. wins                                         SD 50 -  Projection holds, Dem. wins.

SD 28  -  Projection holds, Repub. wins                                       SD 34 -  Projection holds, Dem. wins

SD 6    - Projection holds, Repub. wins                                         SD 32 -  Projection holds, Dem. wins

SD 4    - Projection holds, Repub. wins.                                        SD 18 -  Projection holds, Dem. wins

——————————————–                                            SD 16 -Projection holds, Dem. wins.

TCR Leaners Projections

Republicans                                                                                  Democrats

SD 46 -  Projection wrong, Dem. Brase Wins                        SD 44 -  Projection holds, Courtney wins.

SD 38 -  Projection holds, Repub. wins .                                SD 42 -  Projection wrong, Rep. Kruse wins.

SD 24  -  Projection holds, Repub. wins.                                SD 8 -  Projection holds, Gronstal wins.

SD 22 -  (Pending Special Election)

SD 14 – Projection holds, Repub. wins.

TCR’s 5 Critical Toss-ups

SD 49 -  Democrat Hart wins.

SD 48 -  Republican Dan Zumbach wins.

SD 36 -  Democrat Sodders wins.

SD 30 -  Democrat Danielson wins.

SD 26 -  Democrat Mary Jo Wilhelm wins (120 vote margin-recount likely).

If TCR Iowa’s Projections of likely and leaner seat above are correct, Republicans will need just 2 of the 5 toss-ups.

 

Final Thoughts, What To Watch For, and Predictions

Final Thoughts, What To Watch For, and Predictions

Final Thoughts

Setting The Senate Table– Here is the link to our Iowa Senate overview.  Remember that as tonight starts Democrats already have 13 seats to the Republicans 11.  Factoring in uncontested races and races heavily favored to one party or the other the tally is R’s-19 and D’s 18.  Further adding in the 8 seats I see leaning one way or another leaves the count at R’s-24 and D’s21–with 5 seats as complete toss-ups.

A Blown Opportunity—The Republican Party of Iowa has done a great job this cycle by getting a candidate on the ballot in every Senate district statewide.  That said, regardless of how things turn out tonight, if they fail to take the majority a big lost opportunity will be in Senate District 34.  It is fair to note the Party really had nothing to do with this debacle and nobody could have predicted Randi Shannon’s melt down, which was the most embarassing episode in Iowa politcs in the last 10 years.  However you feel about the Ron Paul movement afoot here in Iowa, the Liberty PAC endorsed and supported Shannon and must take a ton of blame here.  This type of scenario playing out is absolutely unacceptable—if Republicans fall one seat short…this will prove haunting.

Differing Campaign Strategies—As we have discussed here before, one of the interesting things about the hotly contested Iowa Senate races is the opposite ways in which the two Parties have distributed money and resources.

While the Republican Party chose to spread their money around relatively evenly, the Democrats have staked out three races that they deem unacceptable to lose.  In these three races, combining the October 19th and the just released November 2nd reports, the Democrats have spent $1.01 million dollars.  The numbers are $381,000 in SD 26, $358,000 in SD 36, and $277,000 in SD 48.

If they don’t win these three seats, and lose a few other close ones they chose not to invest heavily in, this strategy will have been a disaster.

Time For RPI To Deliver—With the changing face of the RPI and the well documented upheavals along the way, perhaps no one has more on the line here in Iowa than the new leadership.  Many of these new folks have heavy Ron Paul ties and have impressive political accomplishments in the past—these include Ron Paul finishing a very close 3rd in the Iowa Caucuses and winning numerous Straw Polls in several states.  Winning elections is far different.

If Republican candidates do well this group can cement themselves, if they do not the battle to remove them will begin in earnest.  I for one am pulling for them to succeed—a leadership that knows how to win elections is never a bad thing.  If it turns out they can win elections, something tells me that compromising on both sides and co-existing is a real possibility.

What To Watch For

• If Ben Lange beats Bruce Braley or even runs within a few points of him, I believe there is over an 80% chance Republicans take the majority in the Iowa Senate.

• If Tom Latham is able to carry Polk County—and Romney is able to put up a good showing here—even if Romney loses Iowa I predict he will win the Presidency.

• If Tom Latham carries Polk County, 90% chance Dan Charleston is the new sheriff in town.

• Any of the following candidates winning will be the sign of a major Republican wave in Iowa—and likely nationally.  The following are all great candidates and good people who are running in heavily Democratic districts:  Dave Edwards (SD 16), Vicki Stogdill (SD 18), and Patti Branco (HD 34).

Predictions

President—  Mitt Romney wins.  Besides the enthusiam advantage, this prediction is based on the fact that no president in the history of our Country has been re-elected with economic numbers this bad and a set of “accomplishments” this unpopular.  If he wins tonight then a shift has occured in America where results and actual achievements do not matter–I am cynical in general…but don’t believe we’ve reached this point yet.

Iowa Senate—  Republicans win majority.  Final count R’s-27 and D’s-23 (Note=this is counting Pat Ward’s Senate 22 seat as a Republican eventuality)

Iowa House—  Republicans hold majority.  R’s-57 and D’s-43

Iowa Congressional Delegation—  Victors= King, Latham, Loebsack, and in an upset Lange just beats Braley in the state’s closest contest.  Lange has a 25,000 voter registration deficit to make up here, but the district has seen him run both now and in 2010 and I think this history gets him over the hump this time.  25,000 is a big number to make up for sure, but keep in mind that he has a pool of 187,000 active Non-party voters to make it up in.

 

Thanks for following us in the lead-up to tonight, and be sure to check back in the following days for the breakdown of what happened here in Iowa and what it all means for the future of our great state!

 

 

 

 

 

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