Friday, June 17, 2011

Newt's sinking ship

Newt Gingrich seems to be running a presidential campaign anchored in something other than reality. One of the staff members from Newt's  Iowa campaign, who quit en masse after he returned from a cruise of the Greek Isles, said it was the candidate's tactics that led to the departures. The cruise was apparently the dramatic last straw, criticized even by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. Had Newt and his wife planned their Greek cruise long before he was thinking seriously of getting into the race? If so, I'm betting presidential vacations in a Newt administration would make George W. Bush's visits to his Crawford, Texas, ranch and Camp David look like a real grind. If this vacation was something he hatched after planning to make a run, what was he thinking? But of course, it wasn't just him --- because they make their decisions as a couple. Perhaps Newt has finally figured out how to be part of a marriage. While that's generally good, manifesting it in this way isn't going to help his presidential aspirations. Even if wife Callista has equal input in planning Newt's schedule, that doesn't make those good decisions when you're running for president. Republican activists in Iowa and early primary states will likely have "fundamental strategic differences" with the campaigning couple. Newt's made enough lousy decisions that he can't even pay people in Iowa and the early primary states to work for him. Does Callista also get equal blame for sinking his presidential run?

Monday, June 6, 2011

The new sheriff rustles up a budget ... er, something ...

Gov. Terry Branstad exudes  confidence. Whether he's explaining how his policy prescriptions will transform Iowa's economy and grow jobs or insisting that the state's lawmakers will be able to come to agreement on the budget before it goes into effect July 1, Branstad seems quite certain things will work out. And it will all be done according to his vision of fiscal responsibility --- which he says has been lacking almost the entire time since he left office in 1999 after four terms as governor. After all, there's a new sheriff in town and he's not going to let lawmakers get away with this sloppy budgeting or excess spending any more. The budget deal seems elusive, though. With Democrats holding a slim majority in the Iowa Senate and Republicans solidly in control of the House, principles are at stake! Uncompromising Democrats have started a "countdown to shutdown," claiming the government is in danger of shutting down if Branstad and Republicans don't bend a little bit more their way. They are also arguing that Republicans have invented the budget crisis, saying the state's coffers will be overflowing with cash in the new fiscal year. As a result, more than a month after the rank-and-file have gone home, lawmakers like Democratic Senate Marjority Leader Mike Gronstal and Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen are still in the midst of negotiations. Much of the debate centers on the overall size of the state's budget, whether it will be a one- or two-year budget, property tax reform proposals, the amount of spending for K-12 education and the approach to providing state-funded preschool. Branstad and legislative leaders will say they're making progress and then we hear talks have broken down. Each side seems to regularly blast those on the other side of the political aisle. The full House is actually back in session today after putting together a bill including some key compromises with Democrats. Democrats, of course, have voiced skepticism that it can pass in the Senate. The new sheriff says there's plenty of time to negotiate a budget deal, that they've got this thing locked up tight. But where's that budget deal? And who exactly is locked up in the jail? Budget talks look promising and then they break down. The new sheriff talks tough, but he's been foiled more than once by those sneaky budget talks. I think I'll keep my eye on that shutdown clock.