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News Analysis: February 8, 2008

posted on February 12, 2008 at 9:49 AM

Beck: We're going to turn to a couple of reporters who have been immersed in the Iowa campaigns and are now tied to the capitol. Kay Henderson is News Director for “Radio Iowa,” and David Pitt is with the “Associated Press.” Thank you for being here today.

Kay, let me begin with you. Good weekend for Obama, right?

Henderson: Indeed it was a good week for him with the Super Tuesday voting in which he won 18 states compared to Hillary Clinton’s 10, and he cleaned up over the weekend in mainly caucus states. If you look back to the Iowa caucuses, the Obama camp learned how to organize, organize, organize, and get hot at the end, and that’s what they’ve been doing in caucus states.

Nebraska, a neighboring state to Iowa, had their caucuses this past weekend, and Obama did very well there. But one interesting anecdote that I would like to bring up as a note of caution to the Obama folks who really feel the momentum building, if you will. We might remember that, sort of, provocative video starring Obama Girl, and we had Super Tuesday voting in New York, and she didn’t vote. So that shows you that some of the young people who have been very energized by the Obama campaign, they don’t have a history of voting.

So Hillary Clinton, by focusing on older voters, might have an edge there. She also has an edge with women, which we’ve seen to some extent here in Iowa, although Obama did very well with Iowa women.

I was chatting with a woman who voted in Little Rock. She is an Obama supporter, but when she went into the ballot box – the booth, she cast her vote for Clinton because she didn’t want Clinton to be embarrassed in a state in which she had lived.

Beck: Isn’t that interesting? And do you see anything – When you look at the tea leaves and the fact that she wins New York and California, some of these really large states, and he’s picking up these smaller states in between, is that important?

Henderson: It indeed is important that he’s doing so well in primarily smaller and caucus states, but he’s also doing well in places like California, because the democratic party allots delegates to the national convention based on an apportionment. So even though he didn’t win in California, he did well in some congressional districts, so he got some delegates and he really cleaned up in Illinois, his home state, and so he got an even larger proportion of delegates because of the way the Democrats allot their delegates. On the Republican side, it’s a winner-take-all situation, so McCain won New York and he won all of the delegates in New York.

Beck: I want to talk about McCain and Huckabee, but let me just ask one more question about Obama/Clinton. When we look at the states that Obama has won, if you look at Illinois, you look at Iowa, Ohio is coming up, is there something to be said for winning states that are battleground states? I mean, Iowa has gone both directions in recent years, and so if he wins – it’s no surprise when a Democrat wins New York, but if you can pick up some of these battleground states, is that good for you if you become the eventual nominee?

Henderson: It indeed is. This is sort of the off-Broadway version of the general election, if you will, because Ohio is a bellwether state. The person who becomes President always wins Ohio, and so Ohio is going to be key for both of those candidates, and they’re going to spend a lot of time there.

Texas is really interesting. People seem to think that Hillary Clinton has an edge there, but they allot their delegates in a really strange way that I don’t understand at all. So Obama has a chance of, you know, not winning the popular vote at all in Texas but actually picking up delegates there.

Beck: That’s interesting. And, Dave, they’re still fighting over what to do with delegates in Florida, right?

Pitt: Right, right. Well, I think, you know, some of the things that Kay is talking about obviously are pertinent, but it also shows, I think, Obama’s ability to be that orator that a lot of people are talking about. And when you get down to the small states and the ability – he can go to, you know, local restaurants and local places and really make that impression in person, this seems to go to the likeability factor, perhaps, of Barack Obama and the fact that people, when they see him – And, you know, we’ve all been in places when he was here in Iowa, and you can see the crowd actually really get into his ability to connect with him and to speak with him.

Beck: Let’s talk a little bit about the Republicans. John McCain is considered the eventual nominee, but Mike Huckabee is hanging in there. What’s the latest on that?

Henderson: He shows no intention of dropping out and even has thrown a couple of punches at McCain in the past twenty-four hours. I think the most fascinating thing to me about this race is that McCain, if you’ll flip the argument that you make, McCain has won in places that Republicans don’t win in the general election, and so to some, his coronation is by no means assured, because Huckabee is actually able to win in states that Republicans do carry in November. He’s won in the Deep South, which is really Republican territory.

Beck: And Huckabee really owes this all to Iowa. If he hadn’t won Iowa, would he still be in it today, Dave?

Pitt: Well, it sure seems like it propelled him and it gave people, I think, a lot more knowledge about what he stands for and who he is as a person. He’s, again, another person in a room when you hear him speak. He can draw people into his message.

It seemed over the weekend – or in the last few days, a lot of people have been basically writing his candidacy off, though, because if you look at the delegate count, McCain obviously has that advantage. There’s a lot of speculation about why he is still in the race, whether he’s running for VP really, but he’s certainly discounted that over the weekend on some of the television shows he appeared on. He says he’s really in this thing to the end and perhaps use the delegates that he has racked up by the time they go to convention to manipulate that into some power.

I don’t know, maybe Kay knows more about what he can do with those delegates and exactly what --

Henderson: Well, you know, he believes in miracles.

Pitt: He does, that’s right. So I don’t know if there’s a scenario which anyone can in the far reaches of imagination finding him doing something, but he’s certainly in the race, he says.

Beck: Well, it seems to me that on both sides, this will be the most fun convention for both parties in a while, and you’ll get to go.

Henderson: Indeed I will.

Beck: Well, Dave, let’s also talk about what’s going on in the Iowa legislature. It’s a smaller venue but important, nonetheless, to Iowans. A couple of things on the agenda this week, and sort of some big-ticket items.

Pitt: Right. It looks like the smoking ban seems to be getting some interest here, because it was something that seems like it rather snowballed. It started out as an idea. Let’s pass a bill giving local governments an opportunity to decide whether or not they wanted to ban smoking in public places. But now this bill has surfaced that seems to be getting a lot of interest. It passed committee and it looks like it’s going to be debated in the House, I believe, this week. And that’s a statewide ban and it’s much more far reaching than I think people had initially thought this bill would look like.

Beck: Doesn’t it seem, Kay, when you look at this – because I did not expect a statewide ban to have such favor up there, but when I looked at this, it does seem like casino interests are driving a lot of this. That might have been the argument against a local ban, because then they had to get their own local cities to exempt casinos; whereas if they have a statewide ban and they get that exemption, they’re a little more comfortable with that.

Henderson: Indeed. This reminds me a lot of the Touch Play debate that we had that was very passionate, because once the bill that would ban Touch Play machines cleared committee, boom, it caught fire. There was really no way of stopping it once a committee had approved it, and I think it’s the same way with the statewide smoking ban. Once that committee passed that bill, it really caught fire, so to speak, no pun intended on a smoking related issue.

Beck: All right. And we might see something on transportation funding this week, or at least they’re going to work on that?

Pitt: It’s a possibility, and the issue there is, you know, how do we raise enough money to take care of the state’s roads and bridges? I think it’s a survey or study over the interim before this session – before they came back into session, indicated something like $200 million a year in shortfall, what it would take to maintain our roads and bridges appropriately.

So they’re looking at ways to try to come up with that money, and one of the ideas is to increase the amount of money we pay when we buy a new car and we have to pay to get that little sticker we stick on our license plates, the registration fee. There are some who believe --

Beck: Our birthday present. [ laughter ]

Pitt: Right, exactly. And there are some who believe that probably a fairer way to do it would be to increase the gas tax, but, of course, with gas prices already the way we are, I think there’s little interest in going back and then jacking up the price of gas even more through taxes. So that looks like that’s kind of where they’re headed now.

The only problem with that is, as Kay was talking earlier, that only restricts the payments for the roads and bridges from the people who live in Iowa and buy their cars in Iowa. The truck traffic and people who travel from outside the state will not be contributing toward the cost of maintaining the roads.

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