Iowa

Some Business News (Mind the Gap)

This is just one of those bits of news that feels important:

ReutersWal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) is running a new price-comparison test in at least 1,200 U.S. stores and squeezing packaged goods suppliers in a bid to close a pricing gap with German-based discount grocery chain Aldi ALDIEI.UL and other U.S. rivals like Kroger Co (KR.N), according to four sources familiar with the moves.

Wal-Mart launched the price test across 11 Midwest and Southeastern states such as Iowa, Illinois and Florida, focusing on price competition in the grocery business that accounts for 56 percent of the company’s revenue, said vendor sources with direct knowledge of the matter who did not wish to be identified for fear of disrupting business relations with Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart’s tests are aimed at finding the right price point across a range of products that will attract more shoppers, and then adjusting prices as needed.

(Bose)

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Your Quote of the Day: The Donald Smart Show

Detail of photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters, 2016.

“People don’t know how great you are. People don’t know how smart you are. These are smart people. These are smart people. These are really the smart people. And they never like to say it. But I say it. And I’m a smart person. These are the smart. We have the smartest people. We have the smartest people. And they know it. And some say it. But they hate to say it. But we have the smartest people.”

Donald Trump

This is, according to msnbc producer Kyle Griffin, how Donald Trump explained to a Council Bluffs, Iowa audience last month just how smart they are.

____________________

Image note: Detail of photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters.

Griffin, Kyle. “Unedited”. Twitter. 28 September 2016.

The 2020 Republican Presidential Nomination Contest

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) flashes a thumbs up as he leaves the stage during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, 20 July 2016.  (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

We might reasonably propose that it bodes naught but ill for Republicans that we might consider the 2020 GOP presidential nomination contest already afoot. We might also wish to be joking about that, but this is your Republican Party after all.

Before Ted Cruz’s memorable remarks at the Republican National Convention last night, the Texas senator hosted an outdoor event with supporters in Cleveland yesterday afternoon. As luck would have it, Donald Trump’s plane flew overhead when Cruz said the party had a nominee―and his backers started booing.

And while the timing was notable, so too was the fact that Cruz’s supporters chanted “2020” during the event.

Steve Benen continues, noting, “as ridiculous as this may seem to Americans who are already tired of the 2016 presidential race, there is little doubt that Republican jostling is well underway―in the 2020 race.”

Nor is Mr. Benen joking.

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The Hook (Hillary Under the Sun)

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, June 14, 2015. (Detail of photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

And there is the hook:

Sen. Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack remain two of the leading contenders for Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential pick, but Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey is also under active consideration, according to a Democrat with knowledge of the process.

Booker, a freshman senator and former mayor of Newark, has drawn relatively little attention throughout Clinton’s vice-presidential selection process but remains a serious prospect. He was among the roughly half-dozen potential running mates who met with Clinton at her home in Washington on Friday, a fact first reported Thursday by Politico.

(Wagner and Gearan)

Please let this be the hook.

On Sen. Booker (D-NJ): It is easy enough to say if not Warren then Booker. But neither is Mr. Booker a second choice for lack of better. Nor, in that context, should we view Sen. Kaine (D-VA) or Sec. Vilsack (D-IA) so poorly. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Photo by Jake Rosenberg/The Coveteur. But in the case of the latter, Hillary Clinton can at least perceive the need for someone less institutionally ensconced than either of these stalwart political résumés offer the powerful left-flank movement asserting policy influence, a bloc whose votes and continued support she needs.

Sen. Warren (D-MA) seems the obvious choice, but truth told there is a fine argument for what she can do from the Senate, but this also presumes enough pressure on Democratic leadership in the Senate to buck future Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (NY) and Whip Richard Durbin (IL). It’s a tough proposition, but the Senate Democrats under Elizabeth Warren and Patty Murray (WA) or Amy Klobuchar (MN) would be a powerful majority caucus; as a minority, it seems an easy suggestion that they would be more effective than what Mr. Reid (NV) has managed in the face of Republican intransigence. It’s all speculation, though. The bottom line is determined by Hillary Clinton, this time; she can perceive the need, but how will she address and reconcile it?

Elevating Sen. Booker as her running mate is one of the things she can do. And should anyone find cause to doubt we are getting civil rights president out of this, selecting Mr. Booker would put that question to rest.

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Speculation on Murmur and Buzz (HRC Horizon Remix)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks to the General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church during their annual convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 8 July 2016. (Photo: Charles Mostoller/Reuters)

And yet this is all about me. Should I apologize, or can we just admit that’s an inherent aspect of this valence of the blogosphere?

Because the truth is that the great “candidate” post is something you always want to get around to but somehow gets put off because any starting point leads to seemingly daunting prospects.. Whether it’s Ezra Klein’s article about how, “It’s time to admit Hillary Clinton is an extraordinarily talented politician”―and it’s a very good article, but still you want to argue about what do you mean “it’s time”?―or perhaps reminding my Sanders-supporting neighbors why he’s endorsing Hillary Clinton, it’s actually a really big pitch; there’s a lot going on.

But the post need not be some grandiose presentation; nor is that a repudiation of the basic idea of pitching the campaign.

Let’s try it this way: Steve Benen considers the murmur and buzz around Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential shortlist, mainly reports that the leading contenders are Tom Vilsack, presently Secretary of Agriculture and formerly governor of Iowa; and Tim Kaine, presently the junior U.S. Senator from Virginia, previously serving as that state’s governor, and in between managing an overlapping gig as chairman of the Democratic National Committee:

Clinton seemed to tilt her hand a bit on Monday during an interview with Charlie Rose, which included the presumptive Democratic nominee emphasizing “experience” as the key factor. “I am afflicted with the responsibility gene,” she added.

The interview turned into a sort of word-association game. Asked about Kaine and his self-professed “boring” personality, Clinton said, “And I love that about him. I mean, he’s never lost an election. He was a world-class mayor, governor and senator, and is one of the most highly respected senators I know.”

Asked about Hickenlooper, Clinton said, “First class.” Asked about Warren, she added, “Amazing. I mean, what she has done in relatively few years to put the agenda of inequality front and center is something that I think we should all be grateful for.”

Sanders supporters, of course, will be disappointed; I would in turn suggest that hope is not yet lost. While it is true that on this occasion I can read the conventional wisdom as well as any other, it is similarly true that this is a year in which I presume the conventional wisdom unstable. To wit, while it is unlikely, Hillary Clinton is perfectly capable of turning the screw in order to mean the manner, relative dimension, and quality of experience, thus turning to the essential newcomer, Elizabeth Warren.

Yeah, it could happen.

(cough!)

(ahem!)

But there is a hidden gem, there.

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Republican Justice (Maybe Mix)

Contemplation of Justice

Steve Benen, after reviewing the appalling stupidity of the Republican pitch against confirming a Supreme Court nominee, including their reaction to the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, found himself adding a postscript:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who just last week explicitly urged Obama to nominate Garland, said in a statement this morning that Garland’s nomination “doesn’t in any way change current circumstances” – which is to say, Hatch still supports his party’s blockade.

However, Hatch also added this morning, “I’d probably be open to resolving this in the lame duck.” Keep a very close eye on this, because it may prove to be incredibly important. As things stand, Senate Republicans don’t intend to reject Garland, so much as they plan to ignore him. His nomination won’t be defeated; it’ll simply wither on the vine.

But if Republicans fare poorly in November’s elections, don’t be too surprised if GOP senators declare, “Well, now that voters have had their say, we’re prepared to confirm Garland after all.”

The msnbc producer and blogger advises readers to, “File this away for future reference”, and it behooves us to do so. One of the blessings facing pretty much any president seeking a new Supreme Court justice, and especially Democrats as such these days, is that there is a plethora of qualified candidates. In the end, given all else, one wonders if perhaps the “moderate, inoffensive, broadly respected, 63-year-old white guy” is actually the sacrificial lamb.

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The Donald Trump Show (Denial)

Donald Trump speaks at the John Wayne Museum, in Winterset, Iowa, 19 January 2016. (Detail of undated photo by Tannen Maury/epa/Corbis.)

A note from last month:

Last week, presidential candidate Donald Trump caused a minor stir by retweeting someone with the Twitter handle @whitegenocideTM, which some saw as making explicit the connection between Trump and American white supremacists. But that’s just one data point, right? A one-off thing that could have been an intern’s mistake? Unfortunately, no: the data shows that 62 percent of the accounts Trump has retweeted recently have white-supremacist connections.

Marshall Kirkpatrick, of social-media analytics company Little Bird, took a look at the 21 people the Donald has blessed with his fantastic, luxurious retweets this week, and discovered that six of them follow major white-nationalist accounts, and 13 of them follow multiple accounts that have used the #whitegenocide hashtag.

Conclusion? “It turns out that Donald Trump mostly retweets white supremacists saying nice things about him.”

(Hathaway)

This is not surprising.

Unfortunately, that point comes with something of a sickening explanation.

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The Marco Rubio Show (Second Thoughts)

Sen. Marco Rubio addresses a crowd in Las Vegas, Nevada, 20 December 2015. (Photo: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

A murmur arises, via the New York Times:

Inexperience and inattention to detail on the ground can have a tangible cost. Melody Slater is a former Lee County chairwoman for the now-defunct presidential campaign of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Shortly after Mr. Walker dropped out, Mr. Rubio’s campaign announced that Ms. Slater was one of several of Mr. Walker’s backers who had signed on with them.

But now she says she is having second thoughts. “I had three campaigns call me that day―Huckabee, Cruz and Rubio,” Ms. Slater said in an interview, explaining that she agreed to endorse Mr. Rubio only at his campaign’s request. She said she still liked Mr. Rubio and may indeed caucus for him.

But she cautioned that she was also drawn to Mr. Cruz’s Christian values.

“You’ve got to be careful about what you say, don’t you?” Ms. Slater mused.

(Peters)

Madness reigns? Chaos? Something about inexperience, and maybe the bauble of an innovative Iowa ground strategy that has the convenience of being really, really easy for the candidate and also happens to be less expensive?

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A Clown Car Presentation: Insurevirentaderble

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

Never read too much into any one poll, but the lede from Associated Press is nonetheless troubling:

Republican voters view Donald Trump as their strongest general election candidate, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that highlights the sharp contrast between the party’s voters and its top professionals regarding the billionaire businessman’s ultimate political strength.

But wait, there’s more:

Seven in 10 Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters say Trump could win in November 2016 if he is nominated, and that’s the most who say so of any candidate. By comparison, 6 in 10 say the same for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who, like Trump, has tapped into the powerful wave of antiestablishment anger defining the early phases of the 2016 contest.

And then there is the reality check: “Trump and Carson are considered among the least electable general election candidates by the Republican Party’s professionals, those who are in the business of helping candidates run campaigns and win elections”, explain Steve Peoples and Emily Swanson, and in truth one need not be a political professional to figure that out. Still, though, how superstitious do we really wish to be?

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The Hawkeye Sideshow

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

This is important:

Trump’s recent comments about President Obama waging a war on Christianity don’t hurt him much with the GOP base. 69% agree with the sentiment that the President has waged a war on Christianity, with only 17% disagreeing. Trump’s probably not hurting himself too much with his negativity toward Muslims either―only 49% of Republicans think the religion of Islam should even be legal in the United States with 30% saying it shouldn’t be and 21% not sure. Among Trump voters there is almost even division with 38% thinking Islam should be allowed and 36% that it should not.

(Jensen; boldface accent added)

The 2016 Republican presidential nomination contest is already strange enough. The numbers from the latest Public Poilcy Polling survey of Iowa paint a striking picture.

Ben Carson is by far and away the most well liked of the Republican candidates in Iowa. 77% view him favorably to only 11% with an unfavorable opinion, with the next most popular GOP hopeful having only a 62% favorability. He has just continued to get more popular after posting a 69/10 favorability last month, and his support for the nomination is up from 12% to 17%.

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