The Washington D.C. based organization tasked with electing Republicans to the United States Senate–the NationalÂ Republican Senatorial Committee–is taking a new and proactive approach in achieving their mission this cycle.Â Part of this strategy has included reaching out early to various political writers and thinkers in Senatorial battleground states–and you guessed it we qualify–to form relationships basedÂ on our shared cause.
Another element of this strategy is being visible early and often with what has become a hallmark of modern political messaging–the web ad.Â Below is an exclusive first look at what I’m being told will be a continuing series of web ads making the case for Republican principles.Â It is very well put together and offers some insight into what kinds of narratives we will see from Republicans not only here in IowaÂ next year–but in all the battleground states in 2014.
The young Republicans you will seeÂ do not appearÂ by chance.Â The Party has an incredible wealth of young talented leaders at the moment and these are the folks who are presently both framing the debate and effectively communicating the Conservative ideology nationwide.Â Â UndoubtedlyÂ this younger generation will exclusively be responsible for the Republican brandÂ over the next 15-20 years–and the RNSC is smart to start highlighting them early.
The potential field of candidates for Iowa’s open U.S Senate seat has further narrowed as current Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz has bowed out.
Tuesday he took to twitter to make the announcement and also sent an exclusive statement to The Iowa Republican.com–who have made a habit lately of further diminishing the Des Moines Register by breaking stories.Â The statement reads as follows:
Over the past few weeks I have been truly humbled by the encouragement I have received from Iowans to run for the U.S. Senate.
After many conversations with my family and friends about the U.S. Senate race, I keep coming back to the fact that I love serving Iowans as their Secretary of State.
In my first two years as Secretary of State we have worked to increase voter participation with our â€œHonor a Veteranâ€ program and our partnership with Rock the Vote to encourage young people to vote through Rock Iowa. We have made it easier to start a business in Iowa by streamlining the filing process, and we used technology to make voting easier by creating apps that allow voters to find their polling place and track their absentee ballots right from their cell phones. We have also created an electronic poll book, â€œExpress Voterâ€, to make voting easier on Election Day.
While I am proud of our achievements, there is more to accomplish. I will continue working to improve the business climate in Iowa and fighting for integrity in our elections. This is why I am going to run for re-election as Iowaâ€™s Secretary of State.
Schultz would certainly have been a serious candidate and his decision to sit this out surprised many.Â Â He flewÂ out to Washington D.C a few weeks ago for meetings, and I highly doubt they told him anything overly negative.Â The notion that Bruce Braley is an overwhelming favorite in the general is flat-out an illusion–he can be beat and I’m confident Schultz heard this in D.C.
As his statement suggests, a major factor was you get the sense he truly does–for now–Â love being Secretary of State.Â Having said that, I can’t help but think if the calendar had been kinder and he wouldn’t of had to give up his current job to put his name on a ballot–he would have done so.
Republicans will see Schultz plenty in the future, and the last hidden factor to consider is this–we have another Senate seat in the state;Â right now it’sÂ held by someone as old as the Republic, and that election falls in a S.O.S off-year.Â Additionally the next few years can be served raising his profile when he wants to, speaking at Republican events,Â and building a wide donor base.Â I bet all this added up to “Schultz for Senate 2016” having a better sounding ring to it.
Soon after the final votes of the Iowa legislative session were taken late last week, many legislators from both Parties took to multiple media platforms trumpeting the â€œhistoricâ€ and â€œsweepingâ€ positive reforms they had just passed.Â I would love to fully concurâ€”and if I happened to be a Democrat I certainly wouldâ€”but as a Conservative Republican I am less than impressed with some of these â€œachievementsâ€.
Of the three major compromises reached I believe, at the most, Conservatives should be â€œsomewhat satisfiedâ€ by the understandable terms reached on tax reform and health insurance coverage.Â However, I am deeply disappointed by what has passed as â€œreformâ€ in Iowaâ€™s K-12 education system.Â The following will focus on education reform and later in the week we will deal with the tax and health insurance issues.
Making Appropriate Distinctions
In general I believe House and Senate Republicans grossly misread and under-valued the strength of their handâ€”particularly in dealing with education reform.Â In all fairness, the tax reform and health insurance issues had different dynamics surrounding them and this criticism applies less in these areas.
The reason for the differing standard in my mind on the tax and health insurance issues was that in these two areas inaction would have resulted in direct negative consequences for Iowansâ€”higher taxes and un-insured citizens.Â However, when it came specifically to public education reform the status-quo would not have concretely damaged anyoneâ€”a point made more painful by the likelihood the reforms that were passed will have no positive impact.
Just to be clear, I am making a key distinction between the public education reforms and the home schooling reforms contained in the bill.Â I strongly support any action that makes it easier for homeschoolers to operate and expandâ€”and I do not necessarily begrudge them for supporting this reform as a means to achieve it.Â The real tragedy here is the sad construct in which this group has to â€œbuyâ€ these reforms by supporting increased money for an ever-expanding and shamefully ineffective education leviathan.Â The truth is the vast majority of home schooling families pay taxes to support a system which they often-wisely opt out ofâ€”and then ironically proceed to outperform while simultaneously funding.
Public Education Reform
The best way to go about exposing this bill as the completely ineffective piece of legislation I believe it to be is by asking 6 simple questions.Â Since we as taxpayers will be spending an additional $160 million dollars a year, answering these questions shouldnâ€™t be too much to askâ€”unfortunately I have a strong suspicion that even those who voted for it canâ€™t provide many answers.
1.Â How and when will we know this reform has worked?
By this I mean what specific metric or metrics can be looked at to prove this reform has or hasnâ€™t worked?Â Additionally what date on the calendar will we be able to make this assessment?Â At a minimum Republicans should of asked these questions and demandedÂ the answers be written into the bill.Â Surely this isnâ€™t too much to ask for.
2. Why didnâ€™t the 35.4% increase in K-12 education spending (an additional $650 million) that we have had since 2002 produce any positive results?
A seemingly common-sense question to ask I would say.Â It would be one thing if this reform came on the heels of us having starved the system of money for decadesâ€”but this simply isnâ€™t the case.Â What specifically did this massive increase (including 4% allowable growth every year under Gov. Culver) in spending since 2002 go to?Â Was it supposed to raise test scores?â€”I hope not because if so it clearly didnâ€™t.
3. Are we to honestly believe that every member of the Iowa House (91-0) and 80% of the Iowa Senate (40-10) looked at this legislation and all independently concluded it would deliver fantastic results?Â And further that these results would justify spending an additional $160 million a year?
I fully understand the concept of compromising, and that doing so will deliver a more bi-partisan roll callâ€”but letâ€™s be serious here.Â Anytime Ako Abdul-Samad and Tom Shaw are voting together on a major reform that spends hundreds of millions of dollars and affects every child in Iowa we have to be skeptical.Â Unless Iâ€™m missing something I see only two possible reasons for thisâ€”and neither are good.Â One is that many out of town members just wanted to go home (which I doubt), and two is that so many random offerings were made by both sides it was just palpable enough for each caucus to vote for (which I believe).Â If so, this approach will never result in a meaningful, affordable, and wise solution.
4. Why does it continue to be acceptable not to evaluate teachers, at least in part, by the actual results they achieve in a classroom over the course of a school year?Â And what kind of people refuse to stop the practice of passing 3rd graders on to the next grade when they canâ€™t even read?Â And whose interest are they honestly serving in doing so?
The answers in order are: the teachers union, disgraceful ones, and their own.Â This is where true education reform lies and the fact Republicans can only get a â€œstudy councilâ€ on teacher evaluation is absurdâ€”too mad to expound on any further.
5. How were teachers able to have such high-performance in the late 1980â€™s and mid-90â€™s and not in the 2000â€™s and beyond?
In the early 90â€™s Iowa led the nation in reading and math scoresâ€”but those days are long gone.Â Today we face disturbing realities like this oneâ€”only 3 other states in the nation (2 of which are in the Deep South) have less 8th graders enrolled in some form of advanced math by grade 8.Â Furthermore, the performance of minority students in math at this level is alarmingly low and trials other students by up to 30%.
During this debate we have heard a lot about starting teacher pay in Iowa.Â While this is an important number, lost in shuffle is the fact that the average teacher salary in Iowa has increased from $36,480 in 2001 to $49,622 in 2010.Â The teachers union will say this steep increase was due to the fact Iowa teachers were among the lowest paid in the late 90â€™s-early 2000â€™s and this in part is true.Â But then I ask: if they were among the lowest paid and salary equates to performanceâ€”how could they possibly have had Iowa kids achieving at such a high level?Â Also, the fact remains they saw a large increase in pay and responded with flat-lining and worsening performance.Â By the way, if the teacher’s union is ready to start blaming the kids or their parents for worsening test scores Iâ€™m ready to listen.
6. Why does â€œreformâ€ always mean spending more money?Â Why canâ€™t it ever be spending the same amount of money but in a smarter wayâ€”or even (gasp) spending less?
Maybe someday we will try it…I bet it would be just as effective if not more so.
Though controlling only the Senate and not having the House or the Governorâ€™s officeâ€”Democrats got well over half of what they were after with this bill and have to be privately ecstatic.Â They managed to get additional money both for 1st year and veteran teachers, 4% allowable growth this year and next, and have again avoided being evaluated on their actual results.Â Republicans should and couldÂ have done much betterâ€”and if they couldnâ€™t they should have done nothing.
And the final insultâ€”I canâ€™t be the only one who sees the irony that we apparently have to create â€œcareer pathwaysâ€ with increased pay for our not-so-good teachers to be taught by other teachers how to teach betterâ€¦and this is after the not-so-good teacher already graduated from a college that apparently did a not-so-good job teaching them how to teach in the first place.Â A sign of the times I guess…
One of my favorite self-coined terms is “legi-saurs”.Â As you may guess it refers to politicians at all levels of government who get elected–and then never go away.
Like many on the right I am convinced this semi-permanent presence in the halls of power is a destructiveÂ one in politics.Â These careers start innocently enough.Â The member actually has a job in the private sector, lives as a normal citizen, and regardless of ideology brings fresh ideas and solutions to the table.Â Â But in most cases, over time, theyÂ eventually detach from the economyÂ by not working Â outside the Capitol, they develop grudgesÂ against their colleages,Â their ideas and thinking become stale, and they learn to play the legislative process like a game.
Here in Iowa
This happens at all levels in both Parties and unsurprisingly Iowa is not immune.Â Our current six Federal representatives have an average of 19 1/2 years in office, with both our Senators having 39 years each.Â While on average the Iowa Legislature isn’t as bad, looking through our current Senate reveals several examples ofÂ a certain timeless creature…legi-saurs.Â For whatever reason this phenomenon in Iowa is more popular among Democrats, with the longest serving Republicans being elected in 1993 (Hubert Houser and Sandy Greiner).Â This doesn’t hold a candle to the imperial reign of the 5 longest serving Iowa Democrats–one of which who has been serving for 40 years.Â Here’s theÂ list:
Bob Dvorsky – since 1987
Jack Hatch – since 1985 (out of officeÂ 93′ to 01′)
Mike Gronstal – since 1983
Dennis Black – since 1983
Wally Horn – since 1973!
I’m notÂ going to go throughÂ all the arguments and counter-arguments for term limits here– I think we all know them (for=incumbency offers name ID, party infrastructure, media coverage, a donor base, special interest moneyÂ etc. and against=”we have term limits…they areÂ called elections”).Â I will say however that the best question to ask someone who opposes term limits is, “SoÂ you support removingÂ them for Presidency I assume?”–I’ve yet to hear anybody ever answer “yes”.
Below is a proposal released last week and co-written by both a current Republican and a Democrat serving in the U.S. House.Â It is meant to be applied at the Federal level, but it would essentially work the same here in Iowa.Â It is superbly well thought out, simple in nature,Â plainly written, makes the case for why term limits are needed, and offers aÂ realistic way to make it happen.
I vote Yes!
Finally, A Bi-Partisan Solution on Term Limits
Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) written with Congressman Beto Oâ€™Roarke (D-TX)
Many in our country and in the districts we represent feel that Congress is out of touch and that members are more focused on re-election than on providing real solutions to our nationâ€™s biggest challenges. We hear from constituents all the time that there is a lack of urgency and focus when it comes to solving our countryâ€™s toughest issues like tackling the deficit and putting policies in place that will lead to economic growth.
The two of us, freshman members from different parties with divergent views on many issues, have come together because we believe a healthy debate is warranted on how we best serve the American people and whether, in a time of enormous powers of incumbency and multi-million dollar campaigns for Congress, we can be better public servants and curb the corrupting influence of money and power by limiting a memberâ€™s term in office.
Public opinion in favor of term limits for members of Congress is unquestionable. A Gallup poll released this past January reflects the same trend seen year after year from countless reputable research firms. Overall, 75 percent of American adults responding to the survey were in favor of implementing term limits and the support is unanimous across party lines.
That support stands in stark contrast to the overall approval rating of Congress, which hovers somewhere around 15 percent. Despite the unpopularity of Congress as a whole, sitting members still win re-election about 90 percent of the time due to the overwhelming benefits of incumbency. A system that rewards poor performance with job security is clearly in need of a shake-up. Congressional term limits could be the change needed to steer the institution back in the right direction.
Our proposal is a simple constitutional amendment. It does not prescribe the number of terms a member can serve; rather, it gives Congress the constitutional authority to pass and implement term limits. The reason for this structure is that by taking away the details from the amendment process, the likelihood of passage increases. We believe that even members who are philosophically opposed to term limits would support a constitutional amendment providing the legislative branch with the ability to debate and vote on the issue.
Despite widespread popularity, congressional term limits are incredibly difficult to implement because doing so requires a constitutional amendment with two-thirds of both chambers as well as ratification by three-fourths of Americaâ€™s state legislatures. Having super majorities agree on the details of term limits, including the exact number of terms, is nearly impossible. Since 1995, there have been several attempts to move specific term limits amendments, but all have ended right where they began by being voted down in the House.
Previous term limit efforts have also failed because the only people who can begin the process to impose term limits are those who will be most affected â€“ incumbent members of Congress. By voting in favor of, or even publicly supporting a term limits amendment, a member of Congress can be exposed to charges of hypocrisy or disingenuousness if they donâ€™t also voluntarily limit their term of service. This has a chilling effect on those who would otherwise support term limit efforts.
Congress owes the American people action on term limits, including a new approach that actually stands a chance of becoming law. Our approach provides the flexibility needed to enact term limit laws by a simple majority and to allow future generations to decide the term limit law that works best for them through the regular legislative process.
For far too long, Congress has failed to give the people what they clearly want. We should pass this amendment and finally put that power in their hands.
Jim Bridenstine represents the First District of Oklahoma
Yesterday the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted once again to repeal Obamacare in fullâ€”a vote that passed 229-115 on party-lines besides two democrats who crossed over.Â Not the least bit surprising was that Rep. Bruce Braley once again voted in favor of Obamacareâ€”but my how much different this must have felt than his first vote for it three years ago.
A Different Landscape
Besides the obvious fact that Braley is now a U.S. Senate candidate, a variety of things made yesterdayâ€™s vote a much bigger political gamble.
Consider this, on the day the Senate passed Obamacare through the Reconciliation processâ€”March 25th 2010â€”the Real Clear Politics approval rating for Congress was a shocking 17.4% approve to 77% disapprove.Â As bad as that seems, at that time in 2010 there was still a residue of â€œchangeâ€ excitement in the air, theÂ Tea Party wasÂ only just forming, Democrats had not yet lost theÂ House,Â and President Obama could still credibly make the argument (especially to Independents) that he had successful solutions to the nationâ€™s problem.
Since that day however the absolute failure of the trillion-dollar Stimulus Bill has been fully revealed, the implementation of Obamacare has been continually problematic, the economy has not recovered, and the national debt has further ballooned.Â And this is not even to mention the numerous scandals and mini-scandals that have surrounded the administration for the past week and a half.
Perhaps even more troubling for Braleyâ€™s Senate candidacy is that the mood of the public is remarkably similar to the grim view they had the day Obamacare passed.Â The following are the RCP polling averages from then and now: Congressional approval on March 25th 2010 wasÂ 17.4% approve to 77% disapproveâ€”Congressional approval from 5 days ago on May 9thÂ stood atÂ 16.8% approve to 76% disapprove.Â Public approval of the Obamacare legislation one day after it passed on March 26th 2010 was 50.7% oppose to 39.4% support–and 8 days ago on May 9thÂ it was 49.8% oppose to only 39% who support.
For Braleyâ€™s purposes what perhaps will be the biggest difference from then and now is he has left the friendly confines of Iowaâ€™s 1st Congressional district (D+ 27,356) and has entered a statewide contest (D+ 4,952).Â On top of this he has just voted in favor of one of the largest and most expensive initiatives in American historyâ€”oneÂ which onlyÂ 39% of the public currently support.Â
Braley no doubt believes in this legislation to his core and will neverÂ vote against it.Â Nevertheless itâ€™s a safe bet that as he pushed the â€œnayâ€ button yesterdayÂ he was keenly aware that the circumstances had changed drastically since his first vote on the legislation.Â What has transpired since then has not been kind to the bill nor to any purple stateÂ legislators voting for it.Â
Though President Obama and many Congressional Democrats were not heldÂ accountable forÂ their economic and policy failures in 2012, at some point their luck will run out.Â IfÂ in November 2014 Obamacare still can’t even muster 40% support and implementation keeps getting more and more messy–the RepublicanÂ who emerges to challenge Braley will need less and less luck.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â