Political MoJo

Trump Accuses Cruz of Fraud in Iowa

| Wed Feb. 3, 2016 10:33 AM EST

After losing the Iowa Republican caucuses to Ted Cruz on Monday, Donald Trump was uncharacteristically gracious in conceding the contest. His cordiality didn't last long. 

In a series of more classically Trumpian tweets on Wednesday morning, Trump accused Cruz of using underhanded and fraudulent tactics to win in Iowa, and he called for Cruz's results to be nullified or a new election to be held.

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One Hospital in This City Gave Vulnerable Women an Option. Now It's Gone.

| Wed Feb. 3, 2016 6:00 AM EST

If a pregnant woman in the Greater Cincinnati area receives the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality such as Tay-Sachs disease or anencephaly—in which a major part of the fetus' brain does not develop—she is no longer able to terminate the pregnancy in a local hospital. 

The Christ Hospital in Mount Auburn was the last hospital in the city of more than 2 million to provide this service, but two months ago it enacted a new policy that prohibits physicians from performing abortions in fetal anomaly cases. The hospital will now only terminate pregnancies "in situations deemed to be a threat to the life of the mother," the new policy reads.

"The cases are highly emotional and tragic," Danielle Craig, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Under these circumstances, for many patients, an overnight stay in a hospital is better than an outpatient procedure, and women should have that option."

Comprehensive fetal testing, like ultrasounds of the heart and anatomical sonograms, are typically performed at around 20 weeks' gestation and can reveal a host of disorders, from genetic problems to fetal development gone awry. Late mid-term abortions are less common than first-trimester abortions, so this option is likely taken by women who are facing some kind of severe fetal birth defect.

For women in Cincinnati who decide to terminate their pregnancies after receiving this diagnosis, the only other option to get an abortion would be at the local Planned Parenthood affiliate. But if the abnormality comes with certain health risks that may complicate the procedure and endanger the life of the mother, the case would have to be referred back to a hospital outside the Greater Cincinnati area, according to Craig.

According to the Ohio Department of Health's annual report, only 84 of more than 21,000 abortions were performed in hospitals in 2014—merely 0.4 percent of all abortions statewide. Christ Hospital reported performing a total of 59 such abortions in the past five and a half years.

Ohio has several abortion restrictions in place, including requiring counseling with information to discourage abortions, a 24-hour waiting period between counseling and abortion, and the right for all medical professional and institutions to refuse to provide an abortion.

Bans on abortion because of fetal abnormalities are not common in the United States. Only North Dakota has a statewide ban. Arizona, Minnesota, and Oklahoma require counseling if a hospital abortion is sought because of a lethal fetal abnormality. And in some cases, as with the Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, a single hospital enacts the policy.

During the 2012 presidential race, candidate Rick Santorum declared that 90 percent of fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted, but no comprehensive data exists on how many women choose to abort after a fetal abnormality is detected. In early 2013, Americans United for Life put forth draft model legislation that aimed to end "discrimination based on genetic abnormalities," as AUL president and CEO Charmaine Yoest put it. The North Dakota ban was a result—Indiana and Missouri also picked it up, but the measures ultimately failed.

The Zika virus—a virus transmitted by both mosquitos and sexual encounters that may be linked to microcephaly—has focused attention on the issue of pregnancy termination in cases of fetal abnormalities. Women in El Salvador, Brazil, Honduras, and Colombia, where the virus is spreading, have been urged to avoid pregnancy. While the North American climate is inhospitable to the mosquito population that is responsible for the spread closer to the equator, the potential reach of the virus does include a small sliver of the southern United States, according to a map by the World Health Organization.

Should the virus spread in the United States, women who live where fetal abnormality abortions are prohibited may still have an option. In the 1960s, when the rubella pandemic hit, the virus caused birth defects such as blindness and deafness. Although abortion was illegal in the decade before Roe v. Wade, "therapeutic abortions"—meaning doctors verified that the procedure was medically necessary—were allowed.

The specifics of the Zika virus are still being determined by scientists and medical professionals, but if the connection between the virus and microcephaly is confirmed, it could have a powerful impact on reproductive policy in Latin America and the United States.

These Charts Show How the US Is Failing Syrian Refugees

| Tue Feb. 2, 2016 8:36 PM EST
Syrian women wait in line to receive winter aid at the Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, on January 20.

The United States and some other rich nations need to step up their game when it comes to helping millions of Syrians fleeing their country's brutal civil war, according to a new study released this week by international aid group Oxfam.

Since 2011, about 250,000 people have been killed and 11 million more have fled from their homes amid fighting between the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the country's rebel groups. On Thursday, the United Nations is co-hosting a conference in London to raise money for Syrians who have been affected by the crisis.

Ahead of that conference, Oxfam crunched some data to figure out how much the United States and other rich countries donated in 2015—and whether, based on the relative size of their economies, they gave their "fair share" of the $8.9 billion total that Oxfam says was needed. For many of the countries, Oxfam found, the answer to that second question was a resounding no. The United States, for example, donated $1.56 billion in aid last year, more than any other country. But with the world's biggest economy, its "fair share" contribution should have been more than $2 billion, according to Oxfam—and it only gave 76 percent of that. Russia and France, which have also been deeply involved in Syria's civil war, were relatively stingy, too. By contrast, Kuwait, a smaller country, gave 554 percent of its fair share by donating $313 million in aid.


Oxfam also evaluated whether countries have pledged to take in their fair share of Syrian refugees—again, based on the size of their economies. Oxfam has called on rich countries to resettle at least one-tenth of refugees living in Syria's neighboring countries—about 460,000 people—by the end of 2016, but notes that to date they have only collectively offered to resettle 128,612 people. Since 2013, the United States has agreed to take in only 7 percent of what Oxfam deems to be the country's fair share of refugees.

Ted Cruz Took a Position on Fireworks Legalization in Iowa to Win 60 Votes

| Tue Feb. 2, 2016 3:56 PM EST

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?

Then you probably voted for Ted Cruz. Bloomberg's Sasha Issenberg has the most intriguing analysis of the Texas senator's victory in last night's Iowa caucuses, explaining how Chris Wilson, the Cruz campaign's pollster and director of analytics, carved up the state's eligible voters into 150 different categories with a borderline spooky precision. No issue was too small for the Cruz campaign—not even the legalization of fireworks sales, which are currently illegal in Iowa:

When there was no way that a segment could be rolled up into a larger universe, as was the case with the sixty Iowans who were expected to make a priority of fireworks reform, Cruz's volunteers would see the message reflected in the scripts they read from phone banks, adjusted to the expected profile of the listener. A Stoic Traditionalist would hear that "an arbitrary ban of this kind is infringing on liberty," as a messaging plan prepared by Cambridge Analytica put it, while Relaxed Leaders are "likely to enjoy parties and community celebrations, such as the 4th of July, and thus a fun-killing measure of this kind is unlikely to sit well with them."

But here's the best part:

Unlike most of his opponents, Cruz has put a voter-contact specialist in charge of his operation, and it shows in nearly every aspect of the campaign he has run thus far and intends to sustain through a long primary season. Cruz, it should be noted, had no public position on Iowa's fireworks law until his analysts identified sixty votes that could potentially be swayed because of it.

And it's true—fireworks reform might not be a big issue among Iowa voters, but it does look like a real pain to celebrate America's independence if you live in Des Moines, a healthy two-hour drive from the nearest place to purchase fireworks legally. If you didn't know what Iowa looked like, you could draw a near-perfect outline of the state just by connecting the dots of all the fireworks retailers on its borders seeking business from Hawkeye State fireworks enthusiasts:

Google Maps

The reasons why Cruz prevailed go well beyond his campaign's microtargeting. Maybe Trump should have considered spending real money, or investing in a better ground game himself, or—I'm reaching here—conducting his life in a way that didn't thoroughly alienate the evangelical voters who comprised two-thirds of the electorate. But Cruz has proven that he's a candidate who knows what he's doing.

Ted Cruz's College Roommate Can't Stop Talking Smack About Him

| Tue Feb. 2, 2016 3:45 PM EST
Ted Cruz celebrates his Iowa victory.

Craig Mazin is on a Twitter roll.

His antipathy for his former Princeton roommate, Ted Cruz, has made him a public sounding board for Cruz haters and fun seekers, and a target for the senator's supporters. "I would rather have anybody else be the president of the United States," Mazin told the Daily Beast. "Anyone. I would rather pick somebody from the phone book."

Plenty of Cruz fans tweet at Mazin to take issue with his mini-diatribes or, since Monday, to gloat over their candidate's victory in Iowa. But Mazin politely gives as good as he gets. Here are his relevant exchanges from the past 48 hours or so. (Click the links for more context.)

Meet the Only Jeb Bush Supporter at His Caucus

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 11:24 PM EST
Jeb Bush supporter Kramer Howell, left, and John Kasich supporter Collin Stephens. After voting for Bush and Kasich at a caucus at Drake University in Des Moines, the two headed over to Hillary Clinton's rally on the campus.

Kramer Howell was the only voter in his precinct to caucus for Jeb Bush Monday night.  

"I'm the lone Jeb supporter," said Howell, a senior at Drake University who voted in Republican precinct caucus 45, located on his campus in Des Moines, Iowa. "I was the only one."

That means the woman who spoke on Jeb's behalf did not even vote for him. "Her pitch was basically, 'He's a good guy,'" Howell said. "It was like the least rousing speech I've ever heard." No one even spoke on behalf of Trump or Kasich.

In all, 47 voters showed up at this caucus, with Marco Rubio dominating and Ted Cruz coming in second.

Oddly, the person who spoke on behalf of Ben Carson kept referring to him as Bernie Sanders. "He went on this really incoherent tangent about gay marriage," said Howell. "He didn't seem like the brightest guy."

 

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Watch Donald Trump's Concession Speech After Losing the GOP Iowa Caucus to Ted Cruz

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 11:21 PM EST

Ted Cruz defeated Donald Trump in the Republican Iowa caucus tonight. Cruz's victory comes as a major surprise, as the final two polls preceding Monday's caucus projected a clear win for Trump.

Below is Trump's unusually humble concession speech, which even included a rare congratulatory message for the Texas senator.

Let These Legos Explain How the Iowa Democratic Caucus Works

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 3:21 PM EST

Today, the state of Iowa reasserts its outsize importance in American politics with the official start of the presidential primary season, the Iowa caucus. For the huge amount of attention the Iowa caucus draws, there's also a ton of confusion about what exactly happens during it. Republicans gather and cast secret ballots, but Democrats get together and do...what? Whether you're in need of a quick refresher or new to the game, let this brilliant video produced by the folks at Vermont Public Radio outline what's taking place today when the Democratic Party holds their caucuses.

For more of an in-depth look at Iowa and beyond, check out our up-to-the-minute political coverage here.

Trump's Iowa Campaign Gets Hit With a Sex Discrimination Complaint

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 1:35 PM EST

A Donald Trump field organizer who was fired in January has filed a sex discrimination complaint against Trump's campaign.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Elizabeth Mae Davidson, a 26-year-old field organizer for the Trump campaign in Davenport, Iowa, filed  the complaint last Thursday with the Davenport Civil Rights Commission alleging that men who were doing the same work earned more money, were given more responsibility, and were treated more leniently in the campaign. 

Davidson recruited organizers for most of her region's 63 precincts and also opened the Trump campaign's second field office in Iowa. She was fired on January 14, the day after she was quoted in a different New York Times article about problems with the campaign in Iowa. The quotes attributed to her were about the process of recruiting volunteers and said nothing disparaging about the campaign. Davidson told the Times in an interview for Sunday's story that she was paid $2,000 a month, while several men with her same title—district representative—were paid between $3,500 and $4,000 per month. 

In her complaint, Davidson alleges that male district representatives have been quoted in the media without getting fired, and that her male peers were given the opportunity to organize and speak at rallies while her requests to do this work were ignored. Her complaint also alleges that when she and another female volunteer met Trump at a rally last summer, the presidential hopeful said, in reference to their appearance, "You guys could do a lot of damage."

In an interview with the Times, Trump denied making this comment and did not address the other allegations. He also explained that his staff had told him that Davidson "did a terrible job," and he criticized the paper for publishing this story the day before the Iowa caucuses. "A story like this," he said, "could damage my chances."

Guess Where Jeb Bush Is Spending Iowa Caucus Night? (Hint: Not in Iowa.)

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 11:50 AM EST

As the campaigns of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and even Rand Paul—and their Democratic counterparts—prepare big parties Monday night to celebrate the Iowa caucuses, Jeb Bush supporters will have nowhere obvious to go. Because instead of spending the caucus night in Iowa, Bush will be in New Hampshire.

The mammoth super-PAC backing Bush has spent more than any other on ads in the state, pouring $15 million into Iowa. When you ask Iowans about the direct mail flooding their mailboxes, they often cite Bush as the candidate they get the most mail about. Bush was never as good a fit in the socially conservative Iowa Republican race as he hopes to be in New Hampshire. But Mitt Romney came in a close second in Iowa in 2012, proving that there is space for an establishment-style candidate to do well in Iowa if the state's more moderate Republicans can rally around one person.

In 2016, that person is not Bush. When the highly anticipated Des Moines Register poll came out Saturday night, Bush was at just 2 percent. Time to move on to more promising territory, even if his superior poll numbers in New Hampshire still put him in a distant fourth place, with less than a third of the support enjoyed by the front-runner, Trump.