Kay Henderson has been tracking a number of stories including a debate that has just taken place that for a long time didn’t look like it was going to be a debate.
First let's talk about some breaking news that you’ve been uncovering, and that is, apparently, a decision from the Democrats on a date for the caucuses.
Henderson: Right. When I did this story, the Beatles' song "Come Together" ran through my mind because it appears the Democrats and Republicans are going to come together and hold their caucuses on the same evening, Thursday, January 3.
Of course, many of your viewers may remember that Republicans, a few days ago, took that step, their state central committee set January 3. And it appears that on Sunday night, Democrats, their state central committee will take the same step.
Mundt: How likely was it that they would have decided on a different date than the Republicans had?
Henderson: Well, there were serious discussions about having it on a different day. I think the tradition of holding them on the same days, the inability to find places to hold caucuses, precinct meetings, neighborhood gatherings on a Saturday might have run them into some problems. So I think the Thursday night option was the one they finally settled on for a number of reasons, one of them being tradition.
Mundt: I would think, too, it would be very confusing -- I guess I would know if I was going to go to the Democratic or the Republican caucus, but I could choose the wrong night. If it's on the one night, everybody knows what they're supposed to do.
Henderson: And if they had been on dueling nights, there was the prospect that someone could go to the Republican caucus on Thursday night and then, horror of horrors, go to the Saturday caucus for Democrats.
Mundt: We don’t take names, I guess. I have two questions before we move to other things, and it's all wrapped around this idea, the importance of the Iowa caucuses and maintaining that first-in-the-nation status. It appears in four years this may be in question. But would it have been more in question if, in fact, the caucuses were divided up this time around?
Henderson: I think more of a factor is this push that other states are making to be first. The Michigan movement, the movement on the part of Florida and some other states. I think that will play more of a role because of the bullet, one after another, the nature of the calendar, the presidential selection process in 2008.
I think the key will be who the next president is, because the next president is pretty much going to run the table. They're going to decide what they would like their renomination plan to be.
And so it's going to be very key for Iowa Democrats and Republicans to have a relationship with whomever the next President of the United States will be.
Mundt: To this debate, which turned out to be a debate ending just a few moments ago tonight, a number of the candidates didn't show up. Two did; Mike Huckabee was there and John McCain also was there. Our own Dean Borg was there moderating this. Was there any particular reason beyond scheduling issues why the other candidates didn't show up for that?
Henderson: Well, there is a bit of debate fatigue on the part of the candidates and their handlers. Anytime you step on a stage, there's a possibility that you can say something really stupid, and that could happen to me in just a few seconds. So for a presidential candidate who doesn't want to stumble this close to when the actual voting starts happening, it could be rife with problems.
But this event turned out to be quite interesting because you had two candidates who are on really interesting paths right now in the whole campaign picture.
You have Mike Huckabee who did incredibly well at a Value Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., that was people by Christian conservatives, social conservatives and the Republican party. When he gave a speech to a room of people who had made a pilgrimage, if you will, to Washington, D.C., he won half of the votes of the people in that room. He is incredibly compelling and so people in Sioux City tonight got to see a little bit of what Huckabee is in person.
And McCain, too, you know, had that horrible, horrible summer where he was besieged by question after question about his tepid fund-raising numbers, to put it politely. And he has since had a couple of really good moments.
In the past week, some of your viewers may have watched the Democratic debate that was held in which he made that quip about the Hillary Clinton push to get a museum for Woodstock in New York state. And he actually got a standing ovation from people in the room at the debate for his little quip, and he's made it into a campaign ad that folks in New Hampshire are watching on their television screens, perhaps even as we speak.
Mundt: We'll watch how both of those candidates do as a result, maybe, of what we see coming out of tonight.
We only have just a few seconds left, and I want to touch on a couple of issues with you. You were with us a few weeks ago talking about an issue involving some soldiers and full benefits that weren't available to them because of the way their time essentially in service was calculated. An update on that?
Henderson: There is now going to be a Congressional investigation. Presidential candidates are being asked questions about this situation, and it appears that the orders for those soldiers that we talked about last week will actually be rewritten.
Mundt: All right. And Maytag, originally the closing was supposed to be tomorrow that took place today. I understand that's not entirely unusual.
Henderson: Right. And this is sort of a bygone era. This is a town that new itself by Maytag. Maytag was at the heart of that community. In fact, Newton a century ago was making washers for companies with other names.
So this was a machine washing making town, and the character of that town has completely changed. They've known for over a year that this was going to happen, so today was not that much of a surprise. Perhaps the surprise is how Newton is moving on.
Mundt: And expressions of anger as we saw on the screen, the shoes thrown over. Kay, thank you very much.
Mundt: Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa with us.