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ERIN MURPHY: Brett Kavanaugh continues to drive partisan feelings in Iowa

March 2, 2019 GMT

Brett Kavanaugh has become a staple on the campaign trail in Iowa.

Ever since the contentious 2018 U.S. Senate hearings that led to his confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kavanaugh’s name and those hearings have become political red meat for both parties.

It started during the 2018 midterm elections. Even though he was not on the ticket, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley would regularly appear and speak at campaign events to support Republican candidates. Whomever introduced Grassley would frequently mention his role, as then-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in overseeing Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.

Said introduction often came with a “Thank you, Chuck Grassley!” followed by raucous applause.

Now, while the 2018 elections have come and gone, Brett Kavanaugh as campaign rally fodder has proven to have staying power.

It’s now the Democrats who are talking about Kavanaugh at campaign events, especially those featuring presidential candidates, notably U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Booker and Harris are on the Judiciary Committee and took turns questioning Kavanaugh during the confirmation hearings.

Multiple times already on the Iowa caucus campaign trail, Democrats at town hall events have thanked Booker and Harris for their roles in the Kavanaugh hearings. That has also drawn significant applause from the crowds.

For those who managed to avoid the Kavanaugh confirmation, or for any who were able to suppress those memories, Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault and faced questions about the allegations during the Senate hearings.

Democrats called for Republicans to stop Kavanaugh’s nomination, and Republicans accused Democrats of acting with political bias and besmirching Kavanaugh.

Clearly those partisan feelings remain strong. A year later, the Kavanaugh hearings are still reverberating through the Iowa caucuses.

The full 50

Grassley’s Iowa-canvassing strategy is really starting to catch on.

Two Democratic presidential candidates, Julian Castro and John Delaney, have pledged to visit all 50 U.S. states during their campaign.

It’s a page straight out of the Grassley playbook. He visits each of Iowa’s 99 counties every year.

Delaney, by the way, has already done that since declaring his candidacy for president in 2017.

The all-50-states strategy -- should we call it “The Full Fifty?” -- is not exactly new. Howard Dean launched a 50-state strategy when he became DNC chair in 2005, hoping to improve the party’s infrastructure across the country.

However, candidates typically focus on the early voting states.

Castro and Delaney think there is a benefit to expanding the map.

“Voters in every state should be a part of this primary. Voters from Alaska to Puerto Rico should hear from the candidates asking for their vote and the candidates should hear from the people,” Delaney said in a statement announcing his pledge. “We’re all running to be the president of this great country, from coast to coast, from small towns to big cities. It is hard to fully understand the American experience, how it sets the backdrop for where we are as a nation, without being all of the places it has unfolded.”

Iowa’s influence

Iowa’s redistricting model is being pitched in a neighboring state.

New Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers this week proposed turning the state’s redistricting process over from legislators to a nonpartisan agency.

The proposal is modeled after Iowa’s redistricting process, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

In Iowa, new political boundaries, which are required every 10 years, are drawn by the state’s nonpartisan legal and fiscal services agency. The maps are then approved by state lawmakers, who can’t adjust them but have to give an up or down vote.

Wisconsin is one of multiple states where state legislators have been accused of gerrymandering - that is, drawing political boundaries in a way that benefits one political party.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.