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Never too early to mingle in Iowa

November 30, 2008|Andrew Malcolm | Malcolm is a Times staff writer.

Hard to believe this much time has passed already since the 2008 presidential election. But here we are only 37 months away from the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

And only 32 months until the Ames straw poll.

And here goes Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal speaking at a fundraiser for the Iowa Family Policy Center (you remember them) at that familiar Sheraton Hotel in West Des Moines.

The 37-year-old Jindal made light of the occasion, of course, joking to some 800 curious listeners that it was way too soon to be making political speeches. "You might want to consider getting involved in some kind of recovery program," he suggested to a receptive audience on his first trip to the Hawkeye State, as noted by MSNBC's political blog First Read.

But, of course, that's exactly what he was doing anyway in the form of speaking about family. "As a parent," said Jindal, knowing his conservative audience had precisely the same feelings, "I'm acutely aware of the overall coarsening of our culture in many ways."

Jindal took the tack that many non-Washington Republicans instinctively know is the right one nowadays, giving the president-elect some time and room to succeed or fail on his own without the constant carping that hurt Republicans more on Nov. 4.

"Whether you voted for him or not," Jindal said of the new president, "whether you supported the new leaders of Congress or not -- they're our president, they're our Congress. They need our prayers. They need our support."

Then he proceeded to talk about his chief executive work back home in Louisiana. It was a kind of political introduction, with plenty of mingling with the audience, who may remember he was there come 2011. Jindal will be back. Same for Mike Huckabee. Probably Mitt Romney. Sarah Palin will pack them in sometime down the road.

Not so much because any of them have decided what they're going to do come the next leap year. But because they and their strategists want to be ready just in case.

You can bet the bayou that Jindal went home with a pocketful of names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. His staff will fire off "thank you" messages to those folks. And they'll stay in touch.

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Race hangs on Minnesota dolts

Even with Florida 2000 in our memories, maybe you too couldn't understand what's the big deal about ballots still being counted three full weeks after election day.

Thanks to Minnesota Public Radio, we can all at least partly understand the predicament of the poor election judges trying to decipher what in the world many Minnesota voters had in mind -- or if they had one when they voted.

You'd think with millions of votes, a few dozen knuckleheads wouldn't matter much one way or the other.

But it appears these dimwits could actually be the deciding factor in determining not only the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota but also whether the Democrats achieve their coveted Republican-proof majority of 60 seats.

Professional comedian Al Franken, the Democrat, and professional politician Norm Coleman, the Republican incumbent, are separated by a very few votes.

The deciding challenged votes could include:

* A ballot with the circle properly filled in but a thumbprint on another candidate's name, possibly interpreted as an identifying imprint that would disqualify the vote.

* A ballot with "No" written by one name and another marked in.

* A ballot with one name marked but a little arrow pointing up to another candidate.

No wonder the Lakers left.

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A perfect storm for the GOP

To many people, being at the helm of the Republican Party at this point in history is at best a dubious distinction.

The GOP lost both houses of Congress by even more this year than in 2006 and lost the White House in a pretty good thrashing, with the nation's first African American president and his attractive family building a head of steam in hope and public goodwill.

But just as awful hurricanes create awesome opportunities for roofing salesmen, political devastation opens new avenues of advancement for others to launch the laborious political rebuilding process that typically follows such democratic cleansing.

So competitors are starting to strut forward for chairmanship of the Republican National Committee.

With no president in the White House to spot his own pick at party HQ, the RNC's state membership will select the new chair come January.

The latest to offer himself is Katon Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina party. Last summer, Dawson called Mike Huckabee one of the "nicest and kindest" politicians around.

More recently, post-election, Dawson spoke up in defense of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and criticized the anonymous aides of John McCain who spread stories about her personality and ignorance, while her former running mate remained silent.

In his defense of Palin, Dawson, who earned rave reviews for erasing his state party's debt in recent years, perhaps gave an inkling of the platform for his campaign as party chairman.

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