Primary Thoughts

It seems like I've been primarily focused on local issues lately, so this year's primary elections across Iowa haven't received my undivided attention. Divided, even. But on the morning after, I'm catching up.

LINN AUDITOR -- I did weigh in Sunday on the three-way Democratic primary for auditor in Linn County. And in the end, Auditor Joel Miller won easily over former county supervisor Jim Houser and deputy treasurer Brian Gradoville. Houser said in the paper this morning that he figured the race would be tighter, as did I. But it was a blowout, with Miller's vote tally besting second-place Houser's two to one. Turnout, however, was low. Shock.

So I guess the few local Dems who bothered to show appreciate Miller's Maverickyness. And after sticking up for Miller Sunday, I was glad to see him win. After backing Polk Elementary, now closed, and First Christian Church, now demolished, I was beginning to think I'd become some sort of opinion page grim reaper. "Oh no, Dorman supports us. We're doomed!" Maybe not. (And now a word from our sponsors)

(And we're back) CONGRESS -- In two scintillating races between Republican congressional hopefuls who have virtually identical stances on issues, Independence attorney Ben Lange won a rematch with U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley in District 1, and Bettendorf attorney John Archer gets to take on U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack in District 2.

General election, short version. "You're just like Obama. Am not. You're an extremist who would gut Medicare. Am not. Cue the super PACs"

Loebsack "survived" a primary "challenge" from state Sen. Joe Seng, D-Davenport. Seng may have carried the Fibbin' Fisherman Lounge in Corydon, but the tavern was, apparently, not a bellweather.

Radio Iowa has a nice roundup. 

LEGISLATURE -- There were several hot Republican legislative primaries, with severe conservatives challenging staunch conservatives over which one took which procedural vote, which may or may not have helped pave a path to hell fire and/or tyranny.

It got so hot that even Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds took the unusual step of stepping in to make endorsements. And that didn't turn out so hot.

As The Des Moines Register's Kathie Obradovich points out, Team Branstad won just three of seven races it played in. Compare that to The Family Leader, led by Branstad nemesis Bob Vander Plaats, which won seven of nine races where it issued endorsements.

Branstad's side did win one of the highest profile races of the night, with Sen. Pat Ward of West Des Moines defeating ultra-conservative Waukee Pastor Jeff Mullin after a very nasty campaign where the righteous fought hard to unseat a so-called RINO.

But the Family Leader prevailed in Marshalltown, where substitute teacher and minister's wife Jane Jench bested former state Sen. Larry McKibben, who was backed by Branstad. That could be good news for the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Steve Sodders, and maybe for state Democrats holding on to the Senate by their well-bitten fingernails.

Although endorsements aren't really all that, it's lousy news for Branstad. Last fall, he backed Mary Rathje to get the GOP nod in Senate District 18's special election, only to watch Cindy Golding beat her handily at the district convention.

And these results are more evidence that the potential Republican legislative majority Branstad could get next January may not be all that eager to follow his game plan on education reform and other big issues. They've got other ideas. And it also doesn't seem like a party that's eager to slam dunk his bid for a sixth term, should he decide to seek it.

Evangelicals and Paulites and a fading establishment, oh my.

WISKY -- Wisconsin's melodrama finally ended Tuesday night, with Gov. Scott Walker fighting off recall. There were cheers and tears, likely falling into Wisconsin's ample stockpile of beers.

My favorite tidbit of news from Tuesday's drama was exit polling that showed President Obama leading Mitt Romney among recall voters 52-43, even as Walker was winning 53-46.

Republicans say the initial read on the polls is wrong. Arguing that Obama's lead is more of a poll quirk than reality.

I like it not because it's good news for the president or really means all that much. Miles to go before November. But it's because it confounds a political class that can't get its head around the notion that not every voter sees politics as the rigid, ideological, win-at-all-cost, give-no-quarter-ever warfare that dominates media coverage.

About 18 percent of cheese heads who voted for Walker support Obama. Minds blown. How can that be? Surely if you back the president, you must see all Republicans as the enemy. Surely if you back Walker, you must recognize that the president and his socialist allies are seeking to destroy the country. To the ramparts!

Nah. People vote the way they do for all sorts of reasons. And just because they deliver a verdict that looks crazy to the punditry, it doesn't necessarily mean they're uniformed or don't get it. They simply don't see the world through the refracted hyperbolic lenses of the cable-news-blog-o-nuclear political industrial complex. Thank God. Outside the trenches, away from the fever swamp, there are all sorts of folks wandering in no man's land just looking for somebody decent to vote for, who might solve a problem or two, who gets the challenges they face. Strange.

Apparently one factor in the Walker-Obama overlap is distaste among Wisconsin voters with the whole idea of recall, yanking a duly elected governor out of office in the middle of his term. I can see that.

I'm of two minds about recall. I think it can be a valuable tool at the local government level, where the possibility of a truly inept, possibly even harmful, candidate winning an important but low-profile race is much higher. Candidates at the local level don't get a lot of attention, and low-turnout elections can yield regrettable results.

That's a lot less likely at the state level, especially at the gubernatorial level, where candidates get poked and dented and tested plenty. And at the state level, especially in this day and age, it's much more likely that recall will get used as a weapon of political mass destruction, rather than a needed check on official malfeasance. So not a fan.

But I can also understand some of the anger that prompted it. I think the most legitimate charge against Walker was that he campaigned for governor in 2010 without clearly telling voters that he planned to move aggressively against public sector unions. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which endorsed Walker in the recall, could not find a single instance where he publicly outlined his objectives during the campaign.

That's no small omission. And despite his win Tuesday, I hope Iowa Republicans running this fall practice more candor. There's almost no doubt that a GOP Legislature and governor will attempt to make significant changes in bargaining rights and other aspects of government. Voters deserve a clear explanation of those plans, so they can vote accordingly.On to the general. Thoughts?

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