Johnson Boyle: We’ll get into the nuts and bolts of the issue a little bit later on in the program, but for now we’ll turn to Jeneane Beck of Iowa Public Radio, who is perched on the edge of the news. Jeneane, welcome.
Beck: Thank you.
Johnson Boyle: What's making headlines today, need I ask?
Beck: Shockingly, the caucuses and who is in the lead and the jockeying for first place. The big story yesterday was, of course, "The Des Moines Register" poll, which said that Mike Huckabee had supplanted Mitt Romney as the Republican leader in Iowa. And, boy, could you tell it today on the campaign trail.
The last time I was with Mike Huckabee, it was myself sitting across the table from him and one lone journalist, a television reporter from Arkansas who was trailing him. Today when I went to cover him, the crush of national media, you could barely see him as the throng surrounded him. So definitely that first place in "The Des Moines Register" poll has made a difference.
There's also the same poll for Democrats, of course. It shows that Barack Obama still with a slight edge over Hillary Clinton, 28 to 25 percent. John Edwards with 23 percent. Now, today there's a new poll out from Iowa State University, and what's interesting is it shows Hillary Clinton in the lead with 30 percent, John Edwards at second with 24 percent, and Barack Obama with 20 percent.
The real big story -- I mean Hillary might like to point that she's leading in that -- is when you look at who's the second place choice of Democrats -- and the reason that's important is because if your candidate is not viable at your particular precinct, you've got to pick someone else -- the second place choice among Democrats is Edwards. So that says, okay, well, if you're a Biden supporter and he's not viable, are you going to go for Hillary or Barack? No, apparently 22 percent say they'll go with Edwards. That's bad news for her. She's only the second choice of 13 percent. So that could be tough for her on caucus night.
Johnson Boyle: What about on the Republican side for caucus goers?
Beck: Well, you know, they don't have that same sort of mechanics to their caucus. It's more like a straw poll, so whoever finishes first in that particular caucus wins. And Mitt Romney holds the lead in that Iowa State poll. He's 25 percent. Mike Huckabee is 22 percent. And in both cases, "The Des Moines Register" and the Iowa State poll, Giuliani is in third place with 13 to 15 percent.
Johnson Boyle: Well, it's hard to imagine, but there is other news going on in the state. And we're a little over a month away from the start of the legislative session, and perhaps you can give us a preview of that.
Beck: Well, in fact, legislative Democrats, who hold the majority in both chambers and the governor's seat, met today. They caucused, is their term for it, to talk about what they want to do in the upcoming session.
And what was interesting to reporters was they're talking about the need for new revenue for roads and infrastructure repair to the bridges and roads across iowa. They're saying there may need to be an increase in the gas tax, but the governor is say that he won't support that. So we'll possibly see a little in fighting among Democrats about how do they address this $200-million shortfall in the road fund.
Johnson Boyle: What about bonding for roads?
Beck: Well, they don't usually pay for that. I mean the bonding we're going to look at for the next session will probably be for a new prison. So they don't want a bond for roads; they want that to come out of the gas tax we pay, maybe a new higher rate for registration for pickup trucks. And possibly a new, what they call, the sales tax or vehicle use tax, that might go up as well.
Johnson Boyle: So what about the new prison you mentioned?
Beck: There's a proposal for an $80-million new prison in Fort Madison to replace the supermax that was there. There was an escape from that about two years ago. Two men escaped and that has just put all eyes and focus on whether we need a new supermax. Also, repairs to the -- or expansion to the prison in Newton and the women's correctional facility in Mitchelville. So I think there will be a plan in place to bond for those plans.
Johnson Boyle: Between the caucuses and the start of the legislative session, Jeneane, you are busy, I gather.
Beck: It's a busy time.
Johnson Boyle: Jeneane Beck from Iowa Public Radio, thanks so much for joining us.
Beck: Thank you.