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Dems show about to open

BY QUENTIN MISIAG AND REBECCA MORIN | JUNE 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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Hundreds of Iowa Democrats will congregate in Iowa’s capital city for a turn in the political limelight, a full week after a pack of high-caliber Republican leaders from across the nation took to the 2014 Iowa GOP state convention, also in Des Moines.

Much of the venues will be the same, centering on the state’s largest cluster of event space — the Iowa Events Center — but the focus on Friday and Saturday will have stark differences from the Republican gatherings, according to state political experts.

Steffen Schmidt, a political-science professor at Iowa State University, said visitors, reporters, and party members should expect a good degree of handwringing by Iowa Democratic Party organizers.

“While the Republicans last weekend focused on protecting a top-down economy that works for big corporations and the wealthy even at the expense of the middle class, Democrats are fighting to build an economy that rewards hard work and responsibility with good, secure jobs and makes sure all Iowans have the opportunities they need to get ahead,” wrote Christina Freundlich, the spokeswomen for the Iowa Democratic Party, in an email.

However, today Republicans nationally will continue to try to stay on top with the leadership elections.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California is set to win election as House majority leader today when Republicans will vote in the wake of Eric Cantors, surprising primary defeat, as reported by the Associated Press.

But many have noted that the divided Republican Party is in need of garnering a more diversified following.

Timothy Hagle, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science, said Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s comments made last weekend at the 2014 Iowa GOP Convention about appealing to younger voters — including those in historically liberal and African-American pockets of the United States — are right to a certain degree for the need to reach out to new demographics.

Democrats will work to familiarize those in attendance with the newly formed Jack Hatch and Monica Vernon gubernatorial ticket, Schmidt said.

“Jack Hatch is not that well-known, and he has had some serious glitches and embarrassments,” Schmidt said, calling attention to the most recent political sabotage by Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration.

Branstad’s five-term career as Iowa governor and the potential for a sixth term offers up a “pretty substantial incumbency advantage,” said Mack Shelley, an ISU professor of political science.

However, Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University, said Republicans across the country are faced with declining demographics that once swung in their favor: older white males who live in rural environments in the South.

But the same is true with Democrats, who are losing voters in the working-class white areas of the United States.

“The groups that are increasingly larger portion of the voter turnout, tend to vote Democrat,” Goldford said, noting increasing numbers of Latino populations specifically.

 Freundlich said keynote speaker Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will kick off general-elections season by advocating electing Hatch as governor, Bruce Braley to the Senate, as well as joining former state Sen. Staci Appel’s “fight to break the glass ceiling and become the first woman elected to federal office from Iowa.“

As the Hatch-Vernon campaign heads attempts to tout Vernon as business savvy and a “vibrant” rival to Reynolds — Branstad’s second in command — Shelley said it’s important to remember that both Hatch and Vernon are new to the state’s political hotbed culture.

Expect glitzy videos and ads to pump the Hatch-Vernon ticket throughout the weekend’s convention, while post-event efforts will be marked with a “troops on the ground” mentality with plenty of door knocking, Shelley said.

Another highlight to watch for is Appel and her campaign, which hopes to grab the 3rd Congressional District seat, Shelley said.

Appel, who ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination, is vying for the seat of Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, who announced his retirement in December 2013.

One unexpected outcome that is now confronting Iowa Democrats, according to Shelley is “building up” Bruce Braley, the incumbent U.S. representative who has been pitted up against the GOP’s rising “It Girl,” Joni Ernst.

Ernst has spent months trotting alongside some of the nation’s most distinguishable Republican figureheads and political-action committees from the likes of Sarah Palin, the National Rifle Association, Mitt Romney, and Marco Rubio.


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