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October 2007

October 30, 2007 9:44 PM

License to attack Clinton

UPDATED with Clinton's video response

Alien drivers license.bmp

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was in harm's way throughout Tuesday night's televised debate on MSNBC.

With her solid lead in the national polls, and her new front-runner status even in the first caucus state, Iowa, Clinton was sure to take plenty of fire from Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards.

And, guess what. She did.

Both men questioned her vote for a resolution that, they claim, gives President Bush too much leeway to confront Iran over nuclear weapons. Both men made hay of the attacks she gets from Republicans.

Obama conjured memories of past, partisan battles with Republicans. "That's a fight they're very comfortable having," Obama said, saying he's the candidate who wants to bring Republicans and Democrats together to solve problems.

Edwards was more blunt, telling Clinton about Republicans: "They may actually want to run against you..."

For the most part, Clinton shrugged off the jabs, even pointing to the attacks from Republicans as a badge of honor.

But in the closing segments of the debate -- when the candidates weren't being asked about UFOs or legalizing marijuana -- Clinton gave an answer to a question about driver's licenses for illegal immigrants that is sure to become fodder for rival Democrats, not to mention Republicans, for months to come.

She stuck by her recent statements that a New York plan to offer licenses to "undocumented" immigrants "makes a lot of sense," although she later backtracked and made it clear she was not endorsing the plan.

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza offers a good summary HERE:

"Tim Russert asked Clinton why she had told a New Hampshire newspaper that the plan 'makes a lot of sense.'"

"Clinton replied that Spitzer is 'trying to fill the vacuum left by the failure this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform.' After the interlude of a Dodd answer on the same subject Clinton added, 'I just want to add, I did not say it should be done, but I certainly understand why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it.'"

Clinton's rivals jumped on the comment, portraying it as a confusing waffle -- one that seemingly illustrated Edwards' theme challenging Clinton's "doubletalk."

On MSNBC, the post-debate analysis centered on the drivers license issue and the alleged "doubletalk." Since immigration is such a hot-button issue on the Republican side of the aisle, it's likely to give the GOP presidential contenders another talking point to attack Clinton -- and it's sure to resurface in the general election, and quite loudly.

But the real question in the next 65 days before the Iowa caucuses is whether this, Clinton's first perceived stumble in a nationally-televised debate, is going to give any of her leading rivals a significant boost. Or will it get lost in the muddle of candidates not named Clinton?

Check out our lively live-chat, just as it unfolded in real time in the COMMENTS section HERE. (Read from the bottom-up.)

The late drivers license question clearly changed the night's festivities. But has it also changed the traffic on the back roads to the White House?

* * *

UPDATED at the "Full entry" with Clinton's video response: "The Politics of Pile-On."

October 30, 2007 11:46 AM

Beggars' Night battle

GO TO COMMENTS to see how our spooky LIVE CHAT unfolded in real time.
(Read from the bottom-up.)

And for something completely different, check out this posting from ColoradoPols.com

GRAVEL won't go quietly.JPG

Tonight in Des Moines, Iowa, it's "Beggars' Night."

Since this is ground-zero in the frighteningly long race for the White House, it's somehow fitting that the local Halloween tradition reminds us of a presidential debate.

Here's how the Des Moines Register described it in a 2006 article:

"In most places, the Halloween tradition goes like this: The kid says, 'Trick-or-treat.' The homeowner gives him candy.

In Des Moines and surrounding suburbs, it's more like this: The kid says, 'Trick or treat.' The homeowner says 'What's your trick?' Then the kid tells a joke of the sort usually found on Bazooka gum wrappers.

Why didn't the skeleton cross the road?
He didn't have any guts.

Whether or not the homeowner is amused, the kid gets candy."

Yes, here in the home of the nation's first presidential caucuses, Iowans demand attempts at humor -- from helpless children and also hapless presidential candidates.

And so, we suggest that all the Democratic presidential contenders trot out their best, new material at tonight's televised debate from Pennsylvania.

It starts at 9 p.m. on MSNBC. HERE'S THE PREVIEW from NBC's "First Read."

HERE is a preview from one of tonight's live-blogging participants, Reid Wilson of RealClearPolitics.com

But lest you think this will be just another sugar-coated slug fest, there's a horror story developing on the Internet.

The ultimate long-shot, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, is seething over his exclusion. His fans have been haunting MSNBC's web site.

And, don't be afraid, but his campaign is even selling "Mike's Hellraiser Package" of campaign goodies HERE.

And tonight, when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and pals are exchanging Beggars Night jokes, tricks and treats, on television, Gravel's gang will be holding their own online event -- explained HERE.

This promises to be too much fun.

So at 9 p.m. Eastern Time -- that's 8 p.m. Iowa time or 7 p.m. in Colorado -- we'll be monitoring the Gravel festivities (HAPPENING HERE) and providing real-time updates in the COMMENTS section below.

We'll also keep an eye on the televised, MSNBC debate from the usual suspects, and would welcome your real-time commentary in the COMMENTS.

GRAVEL won't go quietly.JPG

(Read from the bottom-up and refresh your screen very often.)

October 29, 2007 1:11 PM

'Tancredo Watch' ends

TANCREDO WATCH was it mission accomplished.JPG

Rep. Tom Tancredo's most persistent, online critic is heralding the news of the congressman's looming retirement and signing off for good.

Check out the posting at "Tancredo Watch."

Meanwhile, the story is EVERYWHERE.

October 29, 2007 8:15 AM


HUCKABEE at the Surf Ballroom last week smmmmm.JPG
View larger poster

The old fashioned, paper version of the Rocky Mountain News has the story today about a Republican bass player trying to become a rock star. (See the story HERE, HERE, HERE.)

This begs the questions:

* One day, will someone in Congress propose a budget earmark for a museum commemorating his epic concert at the Surf Ballroom?

* And will an Arizona senator still be around to fight it?

October 28, 2007 11:38 PM

Wait 'til next year -- and Tancredo will retire

UPDATED: With Tancredo's note to his staff
TANCREDO in June 2007 campaigning outside Dubuque, Iowa sm.JPG
View file photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

By M.E. Sprengelmeyer

Even if he loses his long-shot bid for the White House, Rep. Tom Tancredo will be leaving the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of 2008.

Tancredo, 61 , waited until after the Colorado Rockies' last out of the World Series on Sunday night before announcing that he plans to retire from Congress at the end of this, his fifth term.

"It's the fact that I really believe I have done all I can do in the House, especially about the issue about which I care greatly (immigration)," Tancredo told the Rocky Mountain News in a telephone interview from a motel in rural Iowa.

See the "Full entry" for more -- including an unedited copy of Tancredo's note to his staff.

October 28, 2007 5:07 PM

Existential politics

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There was big news at the Iowa GOP's Reagan Dinner on Saturday night in Des Moines.

One of the Republican presidential candidates gave a somber concession speech, admitting he had no chance to win, and saying he was going home to focus on his businesses.

So, did the dozens of national news reporters swarm around him to get farewell interviews?

Not really. Most of them didn't even know or care that Illinois businessman John Cox was in the race.

Even so, we're nothing if not egalitarian here at "Back Roads to the White House," so we mounted a one-person media swarm and got the exclusive interview.

If you want to learn the frustrations of a man who concedes he will not be our 44th president, go to the "Full entry" below.

It turns out, Cox isn't throwing in the towel. Not quite.

October 26, 2007 9:45 AM

Immigration raid at hotel where Tancredo stayed

TANCREDO at a shooting range outside Muscatine, Iowa, on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007 sm.JPG
View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

By M.E. Sprengelmeyer

A federal immigration raid has shut down a Vermont hotel where Rep. Tom Tancredo, a hard-line opponent of illegal immigration, stayed during a recent campaign visit to neighboring New Hampshire.

Tancredo told reporters about the coincidence during a visit to Davenport, Iowa, on Thursday night, saying he was surprised to learn the news from his New Hampshire campaign staff.

According to the Associated Press, agents from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier this week searched two hotels in Brattleboro, Vermont -- a Hampton Inn and a Quality Inn -- for alleged hiring of illegal immigrants.

The hotels' Canadian owner, Gurdeep Nagra, 38, was arrested and charged with harboring and employing illegal aliens, and lying to authorities to gain his own authorization to live in the United States. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Tuesday in Burlington, Vt.

Fourteen hotel workers were arrested on suspected immigration violations, the Associated Press said.

"Today's enforcement action is part of ICE's continued efforts to investigate those who hire and facilitate the hiring of illegal workers," Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Boston, said in a statement. "No employer, regardless of size, industry or geographic location, is immune from complying with our nation's laws."

The investigation reportedly began about a year ago -- long before Tancredo's Sept. 22, 2007, stayed at the Hampton Inn.

Tancredo has made immigration the centerpiece of his long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination, and for several years he has been harshly critical of President Bush's administration for what he considers lax enforcement of immigration laws.

In Muscatine, Iowa, on Thursday night, he told a handful of supporters gathered in a mostly empty high school auditorium that aggressive enforcement of existing laws against businesses that employ illegal immigrants would shut off the jobs "magnet" that prompts people to enter the country illegally.

"It wouldn't be an issue if we would enforce the law," Tancredo said.

Although he has been known to prompt immigration authorities to investigate cases -- as he did last week when congressional colleagues invited illegal immigrants to a briefing at the U.S. Capitol -- Tancredo said he was unaware of the issues at the hotel until after the raids.

When his staff told him about the news, he said his first thought was about his life on the road during the campaign and "that I can't distinguish one Hampton Inn from another."

October 25, 2007 12:46 AM

Giuliani smacks a favorite punching bag -- Ouch!

Expanded from today's newspaper story
GIULIANI in Davenport by Jonathan D. Woods, special to Back Roads to the White House sm.JPG
View image Photo by Jonathan D. Woods

By M.E. Sprengelmeyer

- There was a big, imaginary bull's-eye covering the media section at former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's town hall meeting here Wednesday night.

For once, his attacks on Democrats were relatively mild compared with the incessant derision he aimed at a monster called "the liberal media."

During the gathering at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Giuliani cited an alleged media bias at least nine times, blaming it for everything from the struggles in the Iraq war to higher taxes.

"If I can't figure out there's a significant media bias against this war, then I shouldn't be running for president of the United States," he said at one point.

In talking about fiscal policy, he told the crowd of a couple hundred folks: "If you think deficit, the liberal media will immediately think higher taxes."

He took aim at newspaper editorial page writers with the same charge he often levels against Sen. Hillary Clinton and other top Democratic presidential contenders, saying they don't understand big executive decisions "because they've never run anything. This is all theory to them."

The beatings went on and on and on -- so much so that the folks in press row lost count of the "liberal media" references. But there is more -- LOTS MORE -- so keep reading at the "Full entry" below for an EXPANDED VERSION of a story that ran in today's shredable version of the Rocky Mountain News.

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View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

October 23, 2007 11:42 PM

The Hart of the matter: Is Clinton a drag?

Offer Hart-felt interpretations in COMMENTS.
GARY HART on Oct. 23, 2007, in Des Moines.JPG
View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

While Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was stumping in Colorado on Tuesday afternoon, a famous Colorado resident was in Des Moines, Iowa, pondering her potential effect on Democrats all the way down the 2008 ballot.

Former Sen. Gary Hart, 70, was in "The Dez" to talk foreign policy for the Center for U.S. Global Engagement. (HERE'S THAT STORY from Wednesday's old-fashioned, paper version of the Rocky Mountain News.)

Hart, known for his presidential bids in 1984 and 1988, has not yet endorsed anyone in the 2008 contest. But in an interview, we asked him to weigh in on a topic we sometimes hear (whispered) from Democrats back in Colorado.

* Because Sen. Clinton is such a polarizing figure, would her name at the top of the ticket make it more difficult for other down-ballot Democrats to win in Colorado in 2008?

Specifically, we asked Hart if he thought a Clinton nomination at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver would hurt the chances of Rep. Mark Udall in a U.S. Senate showdown with former Rep. Bob Schaffer, the likely Republican nominee.

Since Hart was in Iowa to talk about diplomacy, it's probably fitting that he gave us a diplomatic answer that imagined two scenarios.

We encourage folks to interpret his words in the COMMENTS section. Here's what Hart said:

"I think we'll know that by her performance in the early caucuses. I think in the primaries, if she has broad appeal, not only to women but to independents, to disaffected Republicans and so on, I think that concern goes away, including in, I guess purple states like Colorado."

"If, however, her base turns out to be narrower and she doesn't have broader appeal, I think it's a legitimate concern. In 1980 when I ran for re-election (to the U.S. Senate), I had to run 25 or 26 points ahead of (then-President) Jimmy Carter in Colorado to survive. So it's not easy."

GARY HART on the outside looking in.JPG
View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

Now, who wants to offer an interpretation?

EXTRA: Check out the sights and sounds of Clinton's visit to Denver from multi-talented friend of the blog, Judy DeHaas. And note Clinton's new look: autumn shades.

October 23, 2007 10:47 AM

Got a minute, Ronnie?


Iowa Republicans will honor former President Ronald Reagan on Saturday, with the annual "Reagan Dinner" in Des Moines.

The event will feature appearances by a gaggle of 2008 presidential contenders: former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado and former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

But before they get to the dinner, they'll have to get around a group of protesters from the Iowa Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, which is organizing a welcoming committee outside the Hy-Vee Hall event.

As the group's invitation says:

"...come and let them know how you feel about the border, illegal immigration, the North American Union and the NAFTA Super Highway..."

During the night's speeches, we're going to be listening to hear what the candidates say about Reagan. Afterall, he's not just a conservative icon. He's also the president who signed the immigration "amnesty" bill in 1986.

In this 2006 article, Reagan's former attorney general, Ed Meese III, compared the amnesty debates of then and now:

"The difference is that President Reagan called this what it was: amnesty. Indeed, look up the term 'amnesty' in Black's Law Dictionary, and you'll find it says, 'the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act provided amnesty for undocumented aliens already in the country.'"

Since the term "amnesty" has become such a hot-button in the GOP contest, it will be interesting to see what caveats the candidates add to their inevitable praise for the night's man of honor.

October 23, 2007 8:36 AM

Getting to know you

This got lost in the shuffle last week, but there were some fascinating statistics buried inside a new poll from the Des Moines Register.

43 percent of Iowans have attended a candidate's event.JPG

43 percent of Iowans have attended a presidential candidate's event.

25 percent of Iowans have personally met a candidate.JPG

25 percent of Iowans say they have personally met a candidate.

But our favorite statistic is this one:

7 percent.JPG

7 percent of Iowans say they've already been interviewed about the caucuses by members of the media.

That last one surprised us, because it sure feels like we've interviewed at least half the state's residents by now.

The folks in Iowa are so polite and used to media attention that we've yet to meet a person here who won't offer a few instant reviews of a candidate's appearance. Sometimes, they'll keep our business cards and call us up, months later, to tell us if they've changed their minds about a candidate.

At one of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's appearances in Cedar Rapids this month, as soon as the speech ended, a woman from the crowd stopped on her way out the door, turned back to the media riser and asked if there was anyone who needed to interview her. (Cynical, out-of-town reporters suspected that she was "a plant" from one of the rival campaigns, so we all smiled and gave her the rest of the day off.)

Still, this says something about the special attention that's part of what we call "The Iowa Entitlement."

So, how much is 7 percent?

Well, just imagine if a mob of reporters showed up at a Denver Broncos home game at Invesco Field at Mile High. By the end of the day, instead of just focusing on the game, those reporters would have to interview more than 5,400 fans to match the sort of attention that the resident experts of Iowa get.

Or, look at it this way.

In the picture below, from Sen. Barack Obama's Earth Day appearance at the University of Iowa, the area marked between the pink lines represents "The Quote Zone." That's roughly how many members of that crowd who are likely to have experienced their 15 minutes of media fame.

ILLUSTRATION 7 percent of Iowans have been interviewed by the media about the presidential contest med.JPG
View photo illustration larger

The next time the Des Moines Register conducts a telephone poll, we hope they ask this question:

Have you ever been contacted by a pollster?

October 22, 2007 8:36 AM

Can Democrats reclaim some rural turf?

EDWARDS makes a point inside a fire house in Rock Rapids, Iowa, on Oct. 17, 2007 sm.JPG
View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

By M.E. Sprengelmeyer

ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa -- Former Sen. John Edwards was midway through his speech inside a crowded firehouse here last week when audience member Eunice McCarty nudged the man sitting next to her.

He was a Republican, and McCarty wanted him to know he had just been caught at a Democratic presidential candidate's event.

The man didn't applaud much, but at least he paid attention, she said.

"After all the things, they may be willing to listen at least," she figured.

In this far-flung, northwestern corner of Iowa, it's "almost kind of scary" to be anything but a Republican, she said.

Lyon County, which touches South Dakota and Minnesota, gave President Bush 78 percent of the vote in 2004. It's part of the big, red, rural block that Bush used to eke out the narrowest of victories in the Hawkeye State that year.

In these parts, "A lot of times you don't brag about being a Democrat," said McCarty, 72, of Larchwood, Iowa. "But it's getting better."

That could explain the elbow-to-elbow crowd that greeted Edwards at the firehouse -- and the grin Edwards had when he was talking to reporters afterwards.

"I do have to say, I was remembering the last time I was up here," Edwards said, thinking back to the 2004 campaign. "We had five, seven people..."

Times have changed.

Now, the Republican Party is saddled with an unpopular president with an unpopular war. And on top of that, the party's rural base now faces anxiety over home foreclosures, gas prices, job outsourcing, trade agreements, the growth of corporate agriculture and soaring health care costs.

Democrats see an opening. So they're trying to reconnect with working class folks in rural areas who, especially since the Reagan Administration, have been pulled into the Republican column over cultural issues.

"All that's happening is the 'Reagan Democrats' are starting to come home," said Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, the fast-drawling rural strategist who leads Edwards' drive to the countryside.

Edwards isn't the only one trying to bring rural voters -- including independents -- back into the Democratic fold.

For an EXPANDED VERSION of a story that appeared in Monday morning's finite, paper version of the Rocky Mountain News, see the "Full entry" below.

OBAMA holds a press conference on rural issues at a remote farm in Fairfax, Iowa, on Oct 16, 2007 med.JPG
View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

October 21, 2007 12:03 AM

Debate party at Huck's place

Who won? Add your thoughts to COMMENTS

HUCKABEE file photo from monitor during August interview.JPG
Mike Huckabee

Sure, you could have watched the baseball game, or the football game, or the falling of the leaves outside your window.

Or you could have joined us here instead, as we held a live, online chat during Sunday night's televised presidential debate on FoxNews.

We live-blogged from a debate-watching party at the Des Moines, Iowa, headquarters of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee

If ever there was a time for Huckabee to try to make a move, this is it.

One of his main, ideological rivals, fellow social conservative Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, just dropped out of the race on Friday.

Meanwhile, Huckabee just won a big show of support at a so-called "Values Voters Summit" in Washington, D.C., where he ran away with the on-site straw poll vote (with 51 percent of the vote), even as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney edged him when online votes were included. (For the complicated result, see HERE.)

Huckabee recently snuck into third place (ahead of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani) in the latest Iowa poll by the Des Moines Register.

And he did that with a rather underwhelming campaign warchest.

Now, when he's not trying to explain away one of his more off-color campaign trail quips, Huckabee is trying to make the case that he deserves being mentioned in the top tier of the contest.

He took a shot during Sunday night's debate, although he often tried to stay above the fray while rival candidates took part in what Huckabee called a "demolition derby."

Sunday's featured commenters included:

* Reid Wilson, associate editor of RealClearPolitics.com, author of the Politics Nation blog. Tonight, he’s in the media room at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in beautiful (and muggy) Orlando, Florida, and said he's thankful that he has not yet been dragged off by one of the car-sized mosquitoes.

* Andy Kopsa, a former Iowa newspaper editor we first introduced you to in April. (She has since relocated to New York.)

* Friend of the blog Elizabeth Blackney, host of the "Media Lizzy Show" on BlogTalkRadio.com.

See the "Full entry" for a bit more on the scene at Huckabee's Iowa headquarters. And then, to see how the commentary unfolded in real time, go to the COMMENTS section and READ FROM THE BOTTOM-UP.

HUCKABEE party watchers med.JPG

October 18, 2007 10:46 AM

Brownback out of ammo

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View image Photos by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

The Associated Press is reporting that Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas is expected to drop out of the 2008 Republican presidential contest on Friday, in part due to troubles raising campaign cash.

Brownback didn't go down without a fight.

He was a frequent visitor to Iowa, the first caucus state. He had a well-honed message mixing family values with his call for major tax reform and a bipartisan, federalist solution to the instability in Iraq. He had an aggressive campaign operation that picked fights with rivals up and down the candidate "tiers."

But he never caught on -- as his 2 percent showing in the latest USA Today/Gallup poll suggested.

We had a good time chasing Brownback down the "Back Roads to the White House." For some highlights, see the "Full entry."

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October 17, 2007 11:45 PM

"He's one of us, y'all"

View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

Politics doesn't get much more "back roads" than this.

We were driving down the Iowa campaign trail on Wednesday.

A fast-talking strategist named "Mudcat" was riding shotgun.

We were on our way to Sen. John Edwards' appearance at a hog barn.

And at a pit stop, we met this fellow named "Cooter" -- one of the most famous grease monkeys in American history -- and asked him to pose in front of a gas pump, just for old time's sake.

"Cooter" obliged and we headed back down the road.

Ben Jones as Cooter on Dukes of Hazzard 1979 to 1985 sm.JPG

Edwards brought some star power to rural Iowa on Wednesday. Joining him to stump at small towns in northwestern Iowa was actor and former congressman Ben Jones, who played mechanic "Cooter Davenport" from 1979 to 1985 of the back roads series "The Dukes of Hazzard."

In small towns like Rock Rapids, Sidley, Estherville and Cylinder, he introduced himself as "the congressman from Hazzard County" -- a reference to the Capitol Hill career he launched after the television series went off the air.

And with a thick, back-country drawl he offered a simple message about Edwards:

"He's one of us, y'all."

Cooter kept telling folks that Edwards "comes from where I come from" -- meaning small-town America, not Hollywood.

And without naming any of the so-called "Big Three" candidates in the Democratic Party's presidential contest by name, he made it clear which one he thinks is right for the party for these times.

"I believe one of 'em belongs to our past. Another belongs to our future. We're talking about the present..."

The folks of rural America knew what he meant.

COOTER and Edwards.JPG
View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

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View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

Watch the Rocky Mountain News in coming days for more coverage of this week's long, long drive down some of the most remote stretches of the Iowa campaign trail.

October 16, 2007 7:17 PM

You can go home again

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View image Photos by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

Today, while beginning an 800-mile candidate chase, we popped in to Denver to join the "Purple Tuesday" festivities.

Let's just say that in Denver, Iowa, the celebration of the Colorado Rockies' National League Championship was a bit more subdued than it was in LoDo.

We interrupt the usual political coverage to give our Denver readers a peek into a parallel universe here in the Hawkeye State.

See the "Full entry" for another batch of still lifes from the Back Roads "Point-and-Shoot Nation."

October 15, 2007 11:57 PM

Sweep out the paperwork


The joyous clock-cleaning at Coors Field on Monday night inspired us to sweep out a bit of the presidential campaign paperwork that has been piling up for the past three and a half months.

With furious fingers and a pair of side-by-side laptop computers, we've sifted through the clutter of the candidates latest filings with the Federal Election Commission and figured out just how much the White House contenders have been getting from Colorado sources.

Not surprisingly, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois still leads the way among Democrats when it comes to raking up campaign cash from the Centennial State. But Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is picking up steam, nearly doubling what Obama raised in Colorado in the July 1 to Sept. 30 period.

On the Republican side, it's a closer dash for cash, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney still leading former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona. The native son, Rep. Tom Tancredo, is in fourth in Colorado's money race, and that could change if the new GOP entrant, former Sen. Fred Thompson, hits his stride in the Rockies, as he's trying to do nationally.

For everybody's latest numbers, plus a sampling of each one's Colorado contributors, look below.

Then print out the pages, rip them into pieces, throw them in the air and scream: GO ROCKIES!!!


P.S. Rockies fans in Iowa should contact SprengelmeyerM@SHNS.com for World Series parties at the Rocky Mountain News' "home office" in Des Moines! Candidates welcome -- ESPECIALLY JOHN "Diamondback" McCAIN!

October 15, 2007 12:49 AM

The surrogate's path

PENA BLVD sm from RockyMountainRoads com.JPG

If you think the campaign trail is all about banners and balloons and big, cheering crowds, you should have been in Perry, Iowa, one night earlier this month.

There, we got a lesson in political nitty-gritty watching former Denver Mayor and Clinton Administration cabinet member Federico Peña try to win supporters for Sen. Barack Obama practically one person at a time.

Our story in Monday morning's Rocky Mountain News has a little fun pointing out the two-person audience that initially greeted Peña at this stop.

But it really was a fascinating lesson on politics here in Iowa, where each potential caucus voter is so precious that they're worth all the one-on-one attention the campaigns can give them.

Check out the story HERE, HERE, HERE. And go to the "Full entry" to see what Obama told us Sunday about the namesake of Denver's airport road.

October 14, 2007 3:49 PM

Faith in the planet

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View NASA image

In American politics, we're used to hearing Republicans use the language of faith. And we're used to hearing Democrats talk tough on protecting the environment.

But this year, we're starting to notice candidates from both sides mixing the two, perhaps hoping that breaking that language barrier can win them cross-over support.

Will it work? See the "Full entry" and then let us know what you think.

October 12, 2007 3:43 PM

Me and my shadow

Here's the FULL STORY
BIDENBROWNBACK the shadow knows sm.JPG
View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

They're just friends, so don't get the wrong idea.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, and Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., won't be on any presidential ticket together in 2008.

They disagree on so many things, "Neither one of us would fit in the other's administration," a stern Biden tells inquiring minds.

But Friday was their day to suffer countless "odd couple" references as the two long-shot presidential contenders -- one Republican and one Democrat -- held a rare, joint campaign appearance at a Des Moines, Iowa, country club, hoping to draw attention to their bipartisan plan for resolving the conflict in Iraq.

CLICK HERE for the FULL STORY from friendly, bipartisan Rocky Mountain News.

BIDENBROWNBACK in Des Moines on Oct. 12, 2007 sm.JPG
View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

October 12, 2007 4:49 AM

Candidates Gored!

Vote in the COMMENTS section
AP photo, cropped slightly

Brace yourself, White House contenders.

It's going to be a gory day on the campaign trail now that Al Gore has won a share of the Nobel Peace Prize.

For at least one day, the Democratic presidential contenders could get distracted by the inevitable questions about whether Gore, the party's 2000 nominee and national popular-vote winner, should try to parlay his work on climate change into a late entry into the 2008 contest.

As unlikely as that might seem, it gives pundits something to talk about -- instead of, say, Sen. Joe Biden's attempts to draw attention to his Iraq partition plan today; Sen. Barack Obama's planned speech on the war, etc.

While it might be interesting to ponder Gore's potential effect if he mounted his own White House run, we're just as interested in what would happen if Gore decided to throw his newfound weight behind one of the candidates already in the race.

So, we'd like your thoughts.

* Should Gore run?

* Will Gore run?

* If he decides to endorse somebody (in the next three months when it would matter), who should it be?

And here's another question. How long do you think it took each of the Democratic presidential contenders to call and congratulate Gore this morning? (UPDATE: The press releases have started flying. See the "Full entry.")

October 11, 2007 2:21 PM

Blog cites Obama-drama over Michigan

Liberal blogger Lynda Waddington reports today on some alleged, behind-the-scenes drama behind the decision by several Democratic presidential contenders to pull their names off the ballot for the upcoming Michigan primary.


Or keep reading the "Full entry" for a summary.

October 11, 2007 1:50 PM

McCain's Blake Street bomb

UPDATE: Rockies 4, McCain 0 -- Sweeeeeeeep!
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Sen. John McCain is a man of firm convictions. And that could cost him some votes in Colorado.

Tonight, his home town baseball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, squares off against the upstart Colorado Rockies in the first game of the National League Championship Series.

But since Colorado is one of the sleeper battlefields in the Republican presidential contest -- a place where former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigned just yesterday -- we thought we'd give McCain a chance to win some Colorado votes by switching his baseball allegiance.

"I think we know who I'm supporting," McCain said.

But we pushed the issue.

BACK ROADS: "So, you're not going to support the Rockies and try to win Colorado?"

MCCAIN: "I've been known to pander, but that's a depth to which I won't sink."

Perhaps Colorado Republicans can discuss this tonight at their baseball-watching parties.

MCCAIN coming up roses Oct 11, 2007, in Des Moines, Iowa med sm.JPG
View image Photos by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

There's more -- LOTS MORE -- so keep reading at the "Full entry" below.

October 11, 2007 7:30 AM

Tough crowd

Romney in Denver on Wednesday PHOTO BY KEN PAPALEO.bmp
Photo by Ken Papaleo, The Rocky

Don't let the smiles fool you.

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney faced a tough crowd during his pop-in visit to the University of Denver on Wednesday, reports The Rocky's David Montero.

Check out the FULL STORY HERE.

At a town hall meeting, he got some pointed questions about gay rights, and during an exchange about his opposition to same-sex marriage he was accused of playing "the gay friend card" -- for bragging that he had put a gay person in his cabinet.

Colorado doesn't get many candidate visits overall, but it's a sleeper battleground in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Romney has locked up one faction of the state GOP establishment -- with endorsements of Sen. Wayne Allard, former Gov. Bill Owens, former Rep. Bob Beauprez, former state GOP chairman Bruce Benson and others.

But former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani isn't conceding the Centennial State. A host committee for a Giuliani fundraiser earlier this year included the state's most popular Republican, former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, plus former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and others. (The original event was postponed because of the shootings at Virginia Tech.)

Meanwhile, the state is home to one of the most prominent undecided voters in the country: Dr. James Dobson, founder of the Colorado Springs-based evangelical Christian media empire, Focus on the Family. Dobson recently issued a warning at Republicans, saying he and a group of allies will throw their weight behind a third-party contender if the GOP nominates a pro-abortion, pro-gay rights candidate (conceivably meaning Giuliani or others).

As Montero reports, Romney, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is holding out hope that he can win that support.

Romney told reporters about a meeting earlier this year with Dobson and his wife:

"I respect him for the work that he does for Americans' families. I was encouraged by the fact that he said he could not support Mayor Giuliani, that he could not support Sen. McCain and that he could not support Sen. Thompson. But he is keeping the door open to supporting me. Well, that's about as good as it gets at this stage."

Still, even one of Romney's Colorado supporters said it's still an unknown whether evangelical Christian voters are ready to support a Mormon for president.

Said Beauprez:

"That's the elephant in the room."

October 10, 2007 9:29 AM

LIVE-CHAT free-for-all

I participated in a live, UNMODERATED web chat today over at Rocky Talk Live with Mark Wolf. For the transcript, CLICK HERE.

October 9, 2007 4:45 PM

Distraction? Shoe enough

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View image Photos by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

There are very few guarantees in politics. But one of them is this.

No matter how hard a presidential candidate tries to act serious by rolling out a heavy, new policy proposal, he or SHE still is in danger of having happenstance step on the message.

And so it was at a community center in Webster City, Iowa, on Tuesday, when an audience member's insistence that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton tie her shoes caused an amusing distraction that nearly overshadowed the weighty retirement accounts plan Clinton was there to unveil.

See the "Full entry" to hear about Clinton's plan and the loose laces that caused the bemused media mob to go into a frenzy.

hCLINTON ties her moccasins after an audience member insisted in Webster City, Iowa, Oct 9 2007 sm.JPG
Click here for a better view

October 9, 2007 12:07 PM

Raise the curtain: Thompson's premier

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Former Sen. Fred Thompson faced a welcoming committee today in Dearborn, Mich., where he made his premier appearance in a Republican presidential debate on CNBC.

The debate re-airs in prime time tonight on MSNBC, starting at 9 p.m. Eastern time -- 7 p.m. in Colorado.

Go to the bottom of the COMMENTS section to see how our real-time commentary unfolded here at "Back Roads to the White House."

And then let us know what you think.

Did Thompson gain ground, lose ground or put people to sleep?

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October 8, 2007 8:56 PM

The faces of Hillary

Watch for a new story in Tuesday's paper.
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View: "Making a Point"

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View: "Feeling Your Pain"

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View: "The Stare-Down"
All photos by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

In the race for the White House, nobody inspires powerful emotions like Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

For proof, just check out the rowdy discussion at Rocky Talk Live with Mark Wolf about the "electability" question she faces. (Click HERE.)

We found more opinions on Monday in Marshalltown, Iowa, where Clinton arrived in her "Middle Class Express" bus and was met by a crowd of adoring fans, angry anti-abortion protesters and some polite but skeptical curiosity-seekers.

Go to the "Full entry" for some samples.

And in the COMMENTS section, we invite you to write captions for any of the photographs above.

Meanwhile, check out Tuesday's emotion-packed edition of the Rocky Mountain News for THIS NEW STORY on how Clinton's husband, what's-his-name, is not always seen but is never forgotten as Clinton makes her way down the back roads to the White House.

October 7, 2007 12:49 PM

McGovern: "Ladies first"

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View photo by Michal Czerwonka

By M.E. Sprengelmeyer

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Irony followed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to a show barn at the Johnson County fairgrounds on Saturday night.

She made a big splash at the local Democratic Party's fall barbecue when she led 85-year-old George McGovern to the stage to give her a rousing endorsement there among the hay bales.

"I hope I live long enough to see a black president in the White House," McGovern told the crowd, alluding to Clinton's leading rival, Sen. Barack Obama. But McGovern quickly added: "We have an old rule of courtesy in the United States: Ladies first!"

McGovern's crackling voice brought the house down, because he's a progressive movement icon, fondly remembered in this crowd for his anti-Vietnam War stands and for taking on one of the most reviled Republicans, former President Richard Nixon, in the 1972 presidential contest.

But some also remember that in that election McGovern suffered one of the most lopsided defeats in U.S. history, leaving Nixon in the White House and Democrats demoralized.

His appearance with Clinton was ironic, because it came shortly after four of her Democratic competitors had taken to the same stage, some offering veiled warnings about the single biggest question that keeps hanging over her front-running candidacy.

Can Clinton win?

For the REST OF THE STORY, see Monday morning's unisex paper edition of the Rocky Mountain News and Scripps Howard News Service.

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View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

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View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

October 6, 2007 11:48 PM

Edwards in peril?

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View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

For most of this year, former Sen. John Edwards has led the Democratic field here in Iowa, building expectations that are both a blessing as a curse.

His chance of winning in the first-caucus state has kept Edwards mentioned as one of the Democratic presidential field's "Big Three," even when he has lagged in national surveys.

But it also has created the expectation that he must win in Iowa or become immediately irrelevant.

UPDATED: Recent Iowa polls have shown the race for the January 2008 caucuses as a tough, three-way race among Edwards, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama. A new Des Moines Register poll released Sunday morning shows Clinton has opened up a six-point lead in Iowa: Clinton, 29 percent; Edwards 23 percent; Obama 22 percent.

Meanwhile, with Clinton dominating the national polls, we've detected something else at Edwards' recent events, including one at a school in Waterloo, Iowa, on Saturday (pictured above).

In his presentations, Edwards focuses his attention on Clinton, trying to draw distinctions over the war in Iraq, U.S. diplomatic posture toward Iran, health care and other issues. But in his audiences, it's hard to find folks who are considering Clinton. More often, as on Saturday, reporters find people trying to decide between Edwards and Obama as the alternative to Clinton.

So in Waterloo, we asked Edwards why he wasn't trying to draw distictions with Obama. Here's what he said:

"Honestly, the big distinctions that I see on Iraq, on Iran, are between myself and Sen. Clinton... And on universal health care, taking on drug companies and insurance companies for that purpose. That's the reason I draw the distinctions. There are differences between Sen. Obama and myself. I'm sure those will get talked about by me and others as we go through the campaign..."

And if audience members are still trying to distinguish between the two professed "change" alternatives to Clinton? "That's my responsibility," Edwards added.

Saturday was a very, very busy day. Clinton and Edwards were among five candidates who appeared at a lively Johnson County Democratic Party event in Iowa City -- the heart of Iowa's bluest country.

Watch Monday's Rocky Mountain News for details on the event and the unsettled question of which man will emerge as the clear, Democratic alternative to what some analysts are starting to call the Clinton juggernaut.

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View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

October 5, 2007 3:38 PM

Keep on Tanc'in'

Rep. Tom Tancredo is at or near the bottom of most Republican presidential polls. He might not have a whole lot of campaign cash to go forward.

But at least the Colorado longshot has some of the most enthusiastic slogan writers on his side.

We met one on Friday morning, before Tancredo's press conference on the steps of the Iowa Statehouse in Des Moines.

Click the "Full entry" for her ideas -- including one that might unite Tancredo's fans and foes.

And then add your own bumper sticker ideas to the COMMENTS section.

October 5, 2007 3:02 PM

Tancredo talks marriage

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View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

A gay rights backer briefly interrupted Rep. Tom Tancredo's press conference on the steps of the Iowa Statehouse on Friday, questioning his call for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Tancredo shrugged it off and finished his remarks, saying there was new urgency to amend the U.S. Constitution because of an Iowa judge's recent decision that temporarily cleared the way for gay marriage in the state.

For the rest of the story, see the "Full entry."

October 5, 2007 7:17 AM

A page out of the 1990s

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There's a bit of nostalgia in the threat hanging over the Republican presidential field these days.

See what we mean at the "Full entry."

October 4, 2007 1:00 PM

Show Joe the money

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View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

By M.E. Sprengelmeyer

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A couple months after he apologized to supporters for his sluggish fundraising machine, Sen. Joe Biden conceded Thursday that he raised even less money for the third quarter of the year.

Biden told reporters outside East High School in Des Moines that he's still confident he can find a late breakthrough in the Democratic presidential contest.

But with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton beginning to widen her lead both in polls and in the campaign money chase, lower-tier candidates like Biden increasingly must fight to remain viable and relevant.

"I'm satisfied," Biden said of the nearly $2 million he raised in the third quarter of the year.

In July, when his campaign raised nearly $2.5 million -- a fraction of the $33 million raised that quarter by Sen. Barack Obama and also less than Clinton and three other candidates -- Biden apologized to supporters at an IowaPolitics.com forum in Des Moines.

"Look, I've got to admit to you one thing," Biden said at the time. "I thought a lot more about what I would do as president than how to get elected president. I'm trying like the devil to change that."

Although his revamped fundraising operation raised even less this quarter, Biden said his campaign remains on track.

"We've raised close to $2 million. That's all we need to be able to do what we're doing in the early states," Biden said on Thursday. "The bad news is the good news. The good news is that our focus is on the first four early states. If we do well there, we're gonna win this thing. If we don't do well there, we're gone. But then again, those with $75 million, if they don't do well there, too, they're gone. So we feel good about it."

There's more -- LOTS MORE -- including the money quote from Biden, so continue reading at the "Full entry."

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View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

October 3, 2007 8:09 AM

Dennis' turn


On Tuesday, Sen. Barack Obama got a chance to mark the five-year anniversary of his speech opposing the war in Iraq before it began. He got widespread national media coverage, and you can see the full story from your Rocky Mountain News Des Moines bureau HERE

Today, it's Rep. Dennis Kucinich's turn to remind Democrats of his pre-war warnings five years ago today.

Since we're not expecting wall-to-wall coverage on cable news today, we tracked down his speech, starting on page H7010 of the Congressional Record.

It's very, very long. But for some key excerpts, go to the "Full entry."

October 2, 2007 7:12 AM

"Told Ya So" Tuesday

We're running a contest today to mark "Told Ya So Tuesday." UPDATE: So far, there are two entries. See the "Full entry" for details, including an EVENING BULLETIN.

October 1, 2007 8:08 PM

Saddle up for the 2008 celebrity shoot-out

UPDATED Oct. 6, 2007
FRED'S secret weapon  John Rich of Big & Rich in Newton, Iowa, Oct 1 2007.JPG
Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

"Well, I walk into the room

Passing out hundred dollar bills

And it kills and it thrills like the horns on my Silverado grill

And I buy the bar a double round of crown

And everybody's getting down

An' this town ain't never gonna be the same."

-- Big & Rich,
"Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy"

So maybe his entry into the diner in small town Newton, Iowa, was not quite that flashy.

But it was clear that the man in the black hat and shiny velvet coat was not your usual backer of Republican presidential candidate, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.

John Rich, half of the rockin' country duo "Big & Rich," joined Thompson stumping across central Iowa on Monday.

He told us this was all his idea. At age 33, he had never lifted a finger in politics. But he made a whole bunch of phone calls trying to volunteer his services because, well, he's sick of music industry folks and Hollywood types from the other side of the political divide getting all the attention for their causes.

"Fred is the only consistent conservative in this entire race, and it really has bothered me over the years that the only entertainers I ever hear really barking loud about a candidate were always on the left.

I never hear anybody barking about a conservative candidate -- ever -- not in my recollection. I can't remember one that really stepped up for anybody big time on the conservative side."

Indeed, we're in the portion of the election calendar when candidates are trotting out all the big-name celebrities that they can.

James Denton, Desperate Housewives superhunk, stumping for former Sen. John Edwards on Sept 29, 2007.jpg
View Associated Press photo by the ever-present Charlie Neibergall.

Just this weekend in Iowa, former Sen. John Edwards -- one of the top-tier Democrats in the race -- dispatched "Desperate Housewives" superhunk James Denton to the Iowa campaign trail.

And really, we're expecting a sort of my-friends-are-more-famous-than-your-friends arms race to begin accelerating in the final three-month sprint to the Iowa caucuses.

You can learn a lot about the kinds of voters these candidates are courting by looking at the types of celebrities they dispatch to make their pitches.

In this case, Thompson must be trying to woo amorous animal rights activists, because...

P.S. CLICK HERE for our continuing coverage of Thompson's latest Iowa barnstorming in Tuesday's big and news-rich paper edition of the Rocky Mountain News.

October 1, 2007 12:21 AM

"Skeptical is a word..."

State-Iowa.gif200th BACK ROADS posting

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View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer

Our 200th posting here at "Back Roads to the White House" features a new kid on the (Iowa) block:

Former Sen. Fred Thompson

With his late entry into the presidential contest, he has so many hands to shake and so little time to go before the first votes are cast in January's Iowa caucuses.

He got a start over the weekend, when he prayed with members of the Iowa Christian Alliance and then shook hands with hundreds of people as they waited in line for broasted chicken and mashed potatoes.

But, as we note in an expanded story in Monday's ink-stained version of the Rocky Mountain News, Thompson still faces skepticism from religious conservatives. And if anyone thought he would immediately galvanize folks wary of "Rudy McRomney," that hasn't happened quite yet.

"He's going to be given a good reception. He's a candidate with credibility," said one of the night's hosts, Iowa Christian Alliance chairman of the board, Morris Hurd.

Credibility on which issues?

"We don't know," Hurd admitted. "Skeptical is a word that also would describe our crowd here. I think we're skeptical - on all the issues. We don't know where he stands yet. We haven't seen him taking any strong stands yet."


And see the "Full entry" for more on Thompson's efforts to become "Big & Rich" -- or at least just big -- in Iowa this week.


Check out the special commemorative front page celebrating the 200th "Back Roads to the White House" blog posting!