Reynolds in trouble



The gold standard of political polling in the United States — The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll — finds Democrat Fred Hubbell with a two-point lead over incumbent Republican Kim Reynolds in the governor’s race. That’s an enviable position for a challenger, even if Reynolds ascended to Terrace Hill by Gov. Terry Branstad’s departure for China. Further, Reynolds’ approval rating is underwater — below 50% — among likely voters this November. That is near-fatal news for her. Her numbers are softening while Hubbell appears to be gaining name recognition and approval. Each candidate is spending a ton of money on TV, and the poll would indicate that Hubbell has made the better pitch so far.

Reynolds’ handling of mental health and Medicaid issues is of great concern to 70%. Hubbell is hammering her on the privatization of Medicaid, its drain on the treasury and its denial of service to the most vulnerable Iowans. The poll indicates that Hubbell’s refusal to make public his income tax returns is a concern to a third of voters, but is of great concern to only about 10%. His income-tax returns are a matter to concern among 57% of his supporters but not enough to queer the deal. His support is baked-in. But a third of his support is soft and could shift. And that’s where the tax returns could hurt him in a dead-even race.

Hubbell is making a calculation that holding back won’t harm him as much as disclosing his full financial picture. It didn’t hurt Donald Trump, after all. But for a person who is campaigning on honesty and sound management, Hubbell’s lack of candor about his personal finances raises an eyebrow even among those who will vote for him no matter what. No doubt there is something embarrassing in there. He is as much as admitting it. Reynolds has released her tax returns, but she has always been on the government payroll so there is nothing much to see.

Hubbell is betting that the embarrassment in his income flow — an investment in some socially unconscious concern — is nothing compared to the embarrassment that Iowa state government has become under full Republican control.

Sexual harassment is the order of the day in the Senate. The Iowa Finance Authority is a sordid mess. Iowa State University is being purchased on annual payments from the Koch Brothers. North Lake Manor is closed because of Medicaid reform. The state is losing more than $100 million per year because of it. Our rivers are polluted and our schools are falling behind.

We assume that politicians of either party will take care of their donors and the powerful. That is the first rule of survival. Take Hubbell’s lack of transparency as part of that cold fact. But at least he has enough money to tell the Koch Brothers where to go, and he won’t tolerate the hothouse that is the Senate, and he will straighten out our budget and get school appropriations growing again. We know that. And, we know that Kim Reynolds will do whatever she is told by the people who own her. And that she will continue to make a hash of things in the Statehouse. That’s why Hubbell holds a lead, however slim. People will always wonder what he didn’t want us to see, but what we can see of state government in the here and now makes that wonder pale.

Chuck Grassley’s legacy

Chuck Grassley playing the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week would have been good for a slapstick laugh among the fumbling, mumbling, fidgeting and getting played by a witness. Except, it really is serious business. There is justice in that the Iowa Republican’s craven quest for power, now realized, meets him with humiliation as he defends a process meant to ramrod through an ideologue put up by a corrupt administration. Grassley used to be a better politician than this.

If Grassley had insisted on a full vetting, all the ugliness now popping up about Judge Kavanaugh might have been avoided. Instead, the senator refused to consider requests for full documents and, finally, for an FBI investigation about sexual assault claims against the nominee. A second accuser has come forward with more allegations about sexual assault or harassment while Kavanaugh was at Yale, to complement the earlier claims from his days at Georgetown Prep School.

Grassley continues to stand by Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, waiting for instructions. They say full speed ahead. This isn’t at all about justice. It’s about power politics, and it will one day consume Grassley. This is his legacy. This is what he will be remembered for from an otherwise unremarkable career.