Mundt: With us now is Jeneane Beck. And also at the news desk is the managing editor of the Marshalltown Times-Republican, Ken Larson. Good evening to you both. Jeneane, first of all, an endorsement coming from "The Register," one that's been expected for a while. One for a Republican and one for a Democrat. Can you tell me a little bit about what "The Register" did and the response?
Beck: Well, they endorsed John McCain on the Republican side and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. And I think it will be yet to be seen what the response is. I think for John McCain, on one side it could be a boost for his candidacy because he's been lagging in the polls and he's not had a lot of resources, so he's not been in Iowa as much as maybe he'd like to.
On the other hand, a lot of Republicans feel "The Register" is weighted Democratic, so they might just think that's an excuse not to support John McCain, that if he picked an endorsement of what they think is a liberal newspaper, will they really put much weight in it.
For Hillary Clinton, I think it's probably a little bit of a boost, but she's got plenty of money and she's flying around in a helicopter, so I don't know if she needed it. But, you know, with the tight race with Barack Obama and John Edwards, it can't hurt.
Mundt: It's something that certainly her campaign I'm sure will be glad to talk about over the coming weeks.
Beck: And even if it doesn't change people's minds, what it does it gets you coverage. It gets your name mentioned on shows like this and on the radio and on other television programs for another day or two, so it gets you a media bomb.
Mundt: And, Ken, The Marshalltown Times-Republican is planning to endorse; is that correct?
Larson: Yes, we will.
Mundt: When are you going to do that?
Larson: Well, we'll actually come out on our Sunday edition on December 30.
Mundt: Are you going to pick one candidate?
Larson: Historically we've chosen one candidate. This year we've decided to go with two candidates. We'll actually endorse a Republican candidate and a Democrat.
Mundt: Why did you change from the last time around?
Larson: I think we decided that with our readership, it was time to give both sides the opportunity to decide which one was better, to take a look at both the Republicans and the Democrats.
Mundt: Since we have you here, I want to know how you do it. What are the factors you're considering in the newsroom as you're deciding how you might go about this decision?
Larson: We take a look at primarily five or six main issues that are running through right now. Health care is a big one. The war on Iraq is another big one. We take a look at those and try and see what is the most important thing that we feel each candidate should address. Then we sit down and if we can, we talk with the candidates directly. We ask them their feelings on each of those matters, and then we try and weigh them out with a giant marker board and pros and cons list until we come to a consensus.
Mundt: A difficult decision.
Larson: It is.
Mundt: Jeneane, lawmakers have announced that they want to begin cracking down on the issue of illegal immigration. Obviously we're going to spend some time talking on the show on this. But can you give us an update on that?
Beck: Well, the Democratic majority says that they'll come out with a plan at the start of the session to crack down on employers of illegal immigrants, not on the workers themselves, but on those who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, and also on those who contract with - Somebody might call themselves a special contractor and then they can hire someone and they say, well, they didn't know that they were illegal immigrant, so they would also have a fine or a penalty for that. It's been interesting, this is an issue in which Republicans say that Democrats are Johnny-come-lately, that they should have done this previously if they wanted to.
And Republicans in the past have offered legislation similar to what Democrats are talking about, but this issue cuts across party lines. It's difficult on both sides. There are Democrats that would rather not crack down and that would like to actually offer driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, things that they think would make it safer for them to be on the road and easier for them to be identified.
You also have, you know, a few Republicans, Jodi Tymeson from Winterset, who would like to do something called The Dream Act, which is allow for -for the illegal immigrants that have children in Iowa that are actually naturalized citizens to get in-state tuition - college tuition. So it's not cut or dried for either party.
Mundt: It's sounds like, then, that the politics of this is that both parties are looking at this and they're seeing there's still a lot of interest in Iowa in talking about this issue on a number of different crimes.
Beck: And the easy - The first layer off the onion is to go after the employers because it's a lot easier to go after an employer than to, say, that undocumented worker who might be trying to send money to a family member back home. The employer looks like the bad guy.
Mundt: Ken, what have the candidates been saying in Marshalltown when they - You know, they come and make their appearances in town. How do they talk about the raid and the issue of immigration?
Larson: Surprisingly very little. We hear very little out on the campaigns about the issue of immigration. They seem very willing to talk about immigration in towns around us, Des Moines, trips into Cedar Rapids, Waterloo. But when they actually show up in Marshalltown, very few of them will address that issue.
Mundt: Why do you think that is?
Larson: We're not really sure. It's such a tough issues that they may be afraid to offend voters, that they want as many votes as they can. It may be that it's such a tough issue that even they don't have the answer. But for the most part, they are very silent on it.
Mundt: Jeneane, Work Force Development Summit is taking place tomorrow. The Governor is going to be there. Are there some things that we should be watching coming out of this plan, having to do with proving the state's work force, getting more people here for jobs?
Beck: I think it will be interesting to see if there's broad consensus to do something about community college tuition, because I know that when some of the employers came to a committee that was studying this - a legislative committee that was put together over the interim to look at this, one of the things that they heard from these employers was we need a new technology based work force, and the community colleges can help us retrain older workers, help us retrain those workers that maybe aren't going to go on to a four-year institution and they said they need more money. So I think it will be interesting to see if there's a recommendation, I think, for community colleges.
Mundt: And then the issue of illegal immigration, probably, that is a part of this whole matrix so that probably is likely to come up, I would imagine.
Beck: It may come up because there are jobs in Iowa that there aren't a lot of people that want to do besides illegal immigrants, and they do make up a part of the job force in Marshalltown in particular.
Mundt: Ken, are folks in Marshalltown, whether its citizens in the community or business leaders, looking at tomorrow's summit and, you know, seeing that as an opportunity or an area to begin this discussion about work force?
Larson: We haven't seen a whole lot of that. A lot of people seem to shy away from the discussions surrounding immigration and work force and how we're going to deal with the large percentage of our work force that is Hispanic or any other population group. We have a tendency to not want to talk about that, it seems. Instead of discussing the issue and how we're going to deal with it and why we have such a high amount of people in our community that are one race or another race, we tend to just close our eyes and pretend it's not there.
Mundt: Well, hopefully the discussion we have here gets things rolling a little bit. Thank you, Ken.
Larson: Thank you.
Mundt: Jeneane, thank you very much.