Opinion

Kavanaugh still driving partisan feelings in Iowa

But Democrats embrace the 'full Grassley'

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is shown Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Sept. 5, the second day of his contentious confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill. That confirmation is showing up as an issue in both Democratic and Republican gatherings this year. (Reuters)
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is shown Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Sept. 5, the second day of his contentious confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill. That confirmation is showing up as an issue in both Democratic and Republican gatherings this year. (Reuters)
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Brett Kavanaugh has become a staple on the campaign trail in Iowa.

Ever since the contentious 2018 U.S. Senate hearings that led to his confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kavanaugh’s name and those hearings have become political red meat for both parties.

It started during the 2018 midterm elections. Even though he was not on the ticket, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley would regularly appear and speak at campaign events to support Republican candidates. Those introducing Grassley frequently mentioned his role, as then-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in overseeing Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.

Said introduction often came with a “Thank-you, Chuck Grassley!” followed by raucous applause.

While the 2018 elections have come and gone, Brett Kavanaugh as campaign rally fodder has proved to have staying power.

It’s now the Democrats who are talking about Kavanaugh at campaign events, especially those featuring presidential candidates, notably U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Booker and Harris are on the Judiciary Committee and took turns questioning Kavanaugh during the confirmation hearings.

Multiple times already on the Iowa caucus campaign trail, Democrats at town hall events have thanked Booker and Harris for their roles in the hearings. Their involvement has drawn significant applause from the crowds.

For those who managed to avoid the Kavanaugh confirmation, or for any who were able to suppress those memories, Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault and faced questions about the allegations during the Senate hearings.

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Democrats called for Republicans to stop Kavanaugh’s nomination, and Republicans accused Democrats of acting with political bias and defaming Kavanaugh.

Clearly, those partisan feelings remain strong. A year later, the Kavanaugh hearings are still reverberating through the presidential campaign visits to Iowa.

The full 50

Grassley’s Iowa campaign strategy is starting to catch on.

Two Democratic presidential candidates, Julian Castro and John Delaney, have pledged to visit all 50 U.S. states during their campaign.

It’s a page straight out of the Grassley playbook. He visits each of Iowa’s 99 counties every year and has for decades — an approach dubbed the “full Grassley.”

Delaney, a former U.S. representative from Maryland, already has visited all 99 Iowa counties since declaring his candidacy for president in 2017.

The all 50 states strategy — should we call it “The Full Fifty?” — is not new. Howard Dean launched a 50-state strategy when he became chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2005, hoping to improve the party’s infrastructure across the country.

Presidential candidates, however, typically focus on the early voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. California also is moving up its primary to “Super Tuesday,” on March 3, 2020, when 10 states will hold presidential primaries.

Castro and Delaney think there is a benefit to the 50-state strategy.

“Voters in every state should be a part of this primary,” Delaney said in a statement announcing his pledge. “Voters from Alaska to Puerto Rico should hear from the candidates asking for their vote and the candidates should hear from the people.

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“We’re all running to be the president of this great country, from coast to coast, from small towns to big cities. It is hard to fully understand the American experience, how it sets the backdrop for where we are as a nation, without being all of the places it has unfolded.”

Iowa influence

Iowa’s redistricting model is being pitched in a neighboring state.

Tony Evers, the Democrat who is Wisconsin’s new governor, last week proposed turning over the state’s redistricting process from legislators to a nonpartisan agency.

The proposal is modeled after Iowa’s redistricting process, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

In Iowa, new political boundaries, which are required every 10 years, are drawn by the state’s nonpartisan legal and fiscal services agency. Districts must have approximately the same population. The maps are then approved by state lawmakers, who can’t adjust them but can vote various plans up or down.

Wisconsin is one of multiple states where state legislators have been accused of gerrymandering — that is, drawing political boundaries in a way that benefits one political party over another.

l Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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