Iowa Public Television

 

Reporters' Roundtable

posted on December 28, 2007

>>

Borg: DETERMINING DESTINY. WITH THE WORLD WATCHING, IOWANS PONDER WHICH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES GET IOWA CAUCUS BOOSTS TOWARD THE WHITE HOUSE. IOWA POLITICAL JOURNALISTS GLANCE BACK AT 2007 AND INTO THE NEW YEAR, ON THIS EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.'

FUNDING FOR 'IOWA PRESS' WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY POLICY WORKS, A PUBLIC AND GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS FIRM OFFERING LOBBYING, GRASS-ROOTS, AND ADVOCACY SERVICES TO HELP YOU MEET YOUR STRATEGIC PUBLIC POLICY NEEDS. INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE ON THE WEB AT WWW.POLICYWORKSLLC.COM; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28 EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: WELL, IT'S A GREAT WAY TO OPEN THE NEW YEAR. ON JANUARY 3, IOWA'S PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE CAUCUSES WILL BE LAUNCHING SOME CANDIDATES WITH EXTRA MOMENTUM TO NEW HAMPSHIRE'S PRIMARY AND THEN ON DOWN THE CAMPAIGN ROAD TO EVENTUALLY BE THE PARTY'S PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEES. AS WE'RE LOOKING AT THE CAUCUSES, WE'RE CONSIDERING THE CAMPAIGNING THIS PAST YEAR AS IOWA'S TOP STORY. WE'LL BE HEARING FROM 'DES MOINES REGISTER' POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN, 'RADIO IOWA' NEWS DIRECTOR KAY HENDERSON, 'ASSOCIATED PRESS' SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER, AND 'LEE NEWSPAPERS' POLITICAL REPORTER CHARLOTTE EBY. AND, CHARLOTTE, IN THESE CLOSING DAYS, LESS THAN A WEEK NOW BEFORE IOWANS GO TO THE CAUCUS SITES, ABOUT 1,700 OF THEM OR SO ACROSS IOWA, IS THERE A CHANGE IN THE MESSAGE OR THE STYLE THAT YOU'RE NOTING?

Eby: SURE. YOU SEE THE CANDIDATES GOING TO THEIR CLOSING ARGUMENTS IN THESE FINAL DAYS. THEY'RE TRYING TO WIN OVER THOSE LAST UNDECIDED VOTERS AND ENERGIZE THE PEOPLE THAT ARE SUPPORTING THEM ENOUGH TO GET THEM OUT FOR SURE ON CAUCUS NIGHT. THEY'RE GOING BACK TO THE OVERARCHING MESSAGE TO THEIR CAMPAIGN, THE REASON WHY THEY'RE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT AND WHY THEY'D MAKE THE BEST GENERAL ELECTION CANDIDATE. AND THAT'S WHAT WE'RE SEEING OUT ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL IN THE FINAL DAYS.

Glover: IT'S NOT A CHANGE IN MESSAGE, DEAN, BUT CHARLOTTE IS RIGHT. WHAT THEY'RE DOING IS THEY'RE TAKING A VERY COMPLEX SET OF PROPOSALS THAT EVERYBODY HAS COME UP WITH, REALLY ALL OF THESE CANDIDATES HAVE TICKED OFF FOR MONTHS NOW, WHAT THEIR PROPOSAL IS FOR HEALTH CARE, WHAT THEIR PROPOSAL IS FOR IRAQ, WHAT THEIR PROPOSAL IS -- WHAT WE'RE DOING NOW IS WE'RE BOILING IT DOWN TO THAT ONE SOUND BITE THAT THE ACTIVIST CAN LOCK INTO THEIR MIND AND SAY, OKAY, AS I MAKE UP MY MIND, THAT'S THE SOUND BITE THAT CONVINCES ME. SO IT'S A BOILING DOWN TO THE ESSENCE, THE CORE OF THE CANDIDACY.

Borg: AND, KAY, NOT TAKING ANY CHANCES, I WOULDN'T THINK ANYWAY, BEING VERY CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT IS SAID SO AS NOT TO TRIP AT THE LAST MINUTE.

Henderson: EXACTLY. A STUMBLE IN THESE DAYS LEADING UP TO THE CAUCUSES WOULD BE QUITE FATAL FOR A CANDIDATE, AND SO THEY ARE VERY CAUTIOUS, AS ARE A LOT OF THEIR SUPPORTERS. CHARLOTTE IS RIGHT. THIS IS A TIME WHEN THESE CANDIDATES ARE REALLY FOCUSING ON THEIR CORE SUPPORTERS BECAUSE THEY KNOW THAT THOSE CORE SUPPORTERS ARE KEY IN THOSE CAUCUS ROOMS ON THE SECOND ROUND OF VOTING, ON THE PART OF THE THREE-TOP DEMOCRATS ON THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE.

Yepsen: THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF PAPER IN IOWA POLITICS TODAY -- IN AMERICAN POLITICS TODAY IS CALLED A SUPPORTER CARD. AND IT'S A LITTLE THING EVERYBODY FILLS OUT AT THE END, AND YOU'VE GOT FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES BILL CLINTON STANDING UP ASKING PEOPLE TO SIGN THEM.

Borg: HOW ARE THEY USED, DAVE?

Yepsen: WELL, THE CAMPAIGNS COLLECT THESE AND THEY THEN HAVE A WAY OF GETTING BACK TO PEOPLE, SENDING THEM NEW INFORMATION. I'VE TALKED TO SEVERAL CAMPAIGNS WHO HAVE SAID THEIR HARVEST RATIO, YOU GO INTO A CROWD OF A THOUSAND PEOPLE, THEY'RE GETTING MORE AND MORE SUPPORTER CARDS BECAUSE IN FACT IOWANS ARE FINALLY STARTING TO DECIDE.

Borg: WE HAD ONE EVENT -- TALKING ABOUT BEING CAREFUL NOT TO STUMBLE, BUT IT'S EVENTS LIKE THE EVENT OF THE ASSIGNATION OF THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN PAKISTAN, BHUTTO, THIS PAST WEEK THAT REALLY CAUSED SOME PEOPLE TO HAVE TO COMMENT ON A WORLD EVENT AND DO IT EXTEMPORANEOUSLY, KAY.

Henderson: WELL, MANY OF THESE CANDIDATES WANTED TO COMMENT ON THIS EVENT. ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE, WE HAVE JOHN MCCAIN THAT USED IT TO MAKE A DISTINCTION WITH HIMSELF AND GOVERNOR HUCKABEE, POINTING OUT THAT GOVERNOR HUCKABEE DOESN'T HAVE THE FOREIGN POLICY CREDENTIALS, AND THE EXPERIENCE THAT JOHN MCCAIN ARGUES HE HAS IN THAT NECK OF THE WOODS. ON THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE, YOU HAVE JOE BIDEN, WHO IS THE CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE, TALKING ABOUT THE DEATH OF THIS CANDIDATE FOR PRIME MINISTER IN PAKISTAN. IT CHANGED THE CAMPAIGN DEBATE FOR A DAY, BUT I THINK WE'VE ALL SEEN THAT THE POLLING NOW SHOWS THAT IOWA DEMOCRATS AND IOWA REPUBLICANS CONSIDER THE ECONOMY TO BE BUBBLING UP AS A TOP BURNER ISSUE. SO HEADING INTO THE FINAL DAYS, I THINK THIS DISCUSSION ABOUT FOREIGN POLICY IS LIKELY TO FADE UNLESS THERE'S SOME OTHER EVENT, BUT I THINK YOU'RE GOING TO SEE THESE CANDIDATES FOCUSING ON THEIR ECONOMIC MESSAGES HEADING INTO THE CAUCUSES.

Glover: IT WAS STRIKING HOW QUICKLY ALL THE CANDIDATES SEIZED UPON THIS TO TRY TO TURN IT TO SOME KIND OF AN ADVANTAGE. HILLARY CLINTON HAD A VERY SOMBER RIFF THAT SHE WENT THROUGH, GRIEVING FOR BENAZIR BHUTTO, AND TRANSITIONING INTO WHY UNEXPECTED THINGS HAPPEN IN FOREIGN POLICY AND WHY WE HAVE TO -- INEXPERIENCED CANDIDATES. THEY ALL TRIED TO USE THIS TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEIR OWN SITUATION FOR A 24-HOUR PERIOD, BUT IT IS A 24-HOUR STORY. KAY IS RIGHT.

Yepsen: ONE EXAMPLE, THOUGH, OF THE LAST-MINUTE MISTAKES THAT THE THINGS CAN CAUSE -- THAT CAN HAPPEN IN A CAMPAIGN WAS DAVID AXELROD, WHO IS BARACK OBAMA'S TOP POLITICAL CONSULTANT, GETS UP AFTER AN EVENT AND SORT OF POPS OFF ABOUT HOW HILLARY CLINTON VOTED FOR THE WAR AND THIS IS -- IMPLIED THAT THIS MIGHT NOT HAVE HAPPENED. WELL, IT WAS STUPID BECAUSE IT TOOK BARACK OBAMA OFF HIS MESSAGE FOR THE DAY. HE WAS TRYING TO GIVE A BIG CLOSING SPEECH. THE EVENT ITSELF ECLIPSED IT. THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN THE STORY BECOMES DAVID AXELROD'S STATEMENT. AND, YOU KNOW, IT DIDN'T DO BARACK OBAMA ANY GOOD, WHO IS TRYING TO BURNISH HIS EXPERIENCE CREDENTIALS, TO HAVE A POLITICAL CONSULTANT OUT THERE COMMENTING ABOUT FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES. AND SO THAT ENABLED HILLARY CLINTON TO SAY, SEE, I TOLD YOU THIS GUY DOESN'T HAVE WHAT IT TAKES. IT'S THE KIND OF SIDE SHOW THAT NO CAMPAIGN REALLY NEEDED.

Borg: BUT I -- GOING BACK TO THAT AND THEN TO A LARGER SUBJECT, DAVE, I WONDER IF PART OF THAT WASN'T JUST CAMPAIGN FATIGUE SETTING IN AND NOT THINKING THINGS THROUGH CLEARLY BEFORE, AS YOU SAY, DAVID AXELROD MAKING THE STATEMENT.

Yepsen: ABSOLUTELY, DEAN. WE'VE ALL COVERED ENOUGH CAMPAIGNS TO KNOW THAT AT THE END OF THE CAMPAIGN EVERYBODY IS TIRED, CAMPAIGN STAFFS AND MEDIA PEOPLE. AND SOMETIMES YOU DO DUMB THINGS OR YOU SAY DUMB THINGS, AND THIS CAUSES YOUR CAMPAIGN -- IT'S USUALLY NOT FATAL BUT IT SORT OF DERAILS YOU FOR A DAY OR TWO.

Glover: AND IT ADDED TO THE FATIGUE THAT HAPPENS AT THE END OF A CAMPAIGN. AND YOU CAN SEE THIS IN CAMPAIGNS AS WE GET INTO THE CLOSING DAYS, PEOPLE GET CAUGHT UP IN THE FURY OF THE MOMENT. SUDDENLY THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION IN HISTORY. SUDDENLY STAKES ARE VERY, VERY HIGH. SUDDENLY EVERYBODY IS CAUGHT UP IN THE FURY OF THE MOMENT, AND EVEN AN EXPERIENCED OPERATIVE LIKE AXELROD CAN DO SOMETHING THAT IN RETROSPECT THEY PROBABLY REGRET BECAUSE THEY'RE CAUGHT UP IN THE FURY OF THE MOMENT.

Borg: CHARLOTTE, GOING TO THE INTENSITY OF THE CAMPAIGN AND THE INEVITABLE FATIGUE I'M TOLD THAT IT TAKES ON CANDIDATES AND THEIR STAFFS, WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO WILL BE GOING TO THE CAUCUSES? DO YOU SEE ANY FATIGUE AMONG PEOPLE WHO SAY, 'BOY, I'M GOING TO BE GLAD WHEN THIS IS OVER AND I'M NOT EVEN GOING TO GO TO THE CAUCUS'; OR IS THERE THE OPPOSITE, THIS HAS REALLY ENERGIZED PEOPLE?

Eby: I THINK IT'S ENERGIZED A LOT OF UNDECIDED VOTERS. I'VE TALKED TO PEOPLE AT THE CAMPAIGN EVENTS THIS WEEK THAT ARE HITTING CAMPAIGN EVENT AFTER CAMPAIGN EVENT DURING THEIR HOLIDAY WEEK OFF. THEY'RE TRYING TO DECIDE AND THEY'RE SEEING ALL THESE CANDIDATES IN PERSON, SO THAT'S WHY THIS WEEK IS SO CRUCIAL TO THESE CANDIDATES. IF THEY CAN MOVE A COUPLE POINTS, IF THEY CAN WIN OVER UNDECIDEDS --

Glover: IT'S REALLY STRIKING. IF YOU GO TO THESE EVENTS, EVERYBODY ON BOTH SIDES IS GETTING REALLY BIG CROWDS. BUT THEN YOU GO OUT AND YOU TALK TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE THERE. 'OKAY, YOU'RE AT A HILLARY CLINTON EVENT. DOES THIS MEAN YOU'RE A HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER'? 'WELL, NO, I HAVEN'T DECIDED YET BUT I WANTED TO HEAR WHAT SHE HAD TO SAY.' SO THERE ARE PEOPLE SHOPPING. YOU'RE RIGHT, CHARLOTTE: THEY'RE ENERGIZED; THEY'RE LOOKING AT IT. BUT THERE'S STILL -- THERE'S A LARGE GROUP OUT THERE THAT HASN'T DECIDED AND MAY NOT DECIDE UNTIL THEY WALK IN THE CAUCUS.

Yepsen: IN THE LAST -- IN 2004, ACCORDING TO THE ENTRANCE POLLS, 21 PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE WHO WENT TO THE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUSES DECIDED WHO THEY WERE GOING TO SUPPORT WITHIN THE LAST THREE DAYS. SO WE'RE NOT EVEN INSIDE THAT WINDOW YET, ALTHOUGH PEOPLE ARE GETTING TIRED OF THE CAMPAIGN. I WAS TALKING TO THE STATE DIRECTOR FOR ONE OF THE CAMPAIGNS THE OTHER DAY WHO TOLD ME THAT THE MOST COMMON RESPONSE THEY'RE NOW GETTING TO THEIR PHONE CALLING IS 'DON'T CALL ME ANYMORE.' IT'S NOT 'I'M FOR YOUR CANDIDATE. I'M FOR ANOTHER CANDIDATE.' IT'S 'DON'T CALL ME ANYMORE.'

Borg: WELL, I SAW IN PERSON, I COVERED BARACK OBAMA IN VINTON ON THURSDAY NIGHT, AND HE ASKED FOR A SHOW OF HANDS AMONG THOSE THOUSAND OR SO IN THAT HIGH SCHOOL GYM. AND I'D SAY ROUGHLY 20 PERCENT RAISED THEIR HAND AS STILL UNDECIDED. AND HE ALSO -- HE MADE THE PITCH, FIRST OF ALL, COME. EVEN IF YOU CAN'T SUPPORT ME, COME, KAY. AND THEN IF I'M NOT YOUR FIRST CHOICE, I HOPE I'LL BE YOUR SECOND. WHAT'S THE STRATEGY THERE?

Henderson: WELL, FOR DEMOCRATS, THE TOP THREE DEMOCRATS, THEY HAVE TO HAVE A SECOND CHOICE STRATEGY. AS WE ALL KNOW, CANDIDATES MUST BE DEEMED VIABLE IN THE DEMOCRATIC PRECINCT CAUCUS. SO IF ON THE FIRST ROUND OF VOTING A CANDIDATE SUCH AS BIDEN OR DODD OR RICHARDSON DOES NOT HAVE 15 PERCENT SUPPORT IN THE ROOM, THE SUPPORTERS OF THAT CANDIDATE MUST ALLY THEMSELVES WITH ANOTHER CANDIDATE ON THE SECOND ROUND OF BALLOTING. AND THIS IS GOING TO BE REALLY KEY FOR OBAMA AND EDWARDS IN COMPETING AGAINST CLINTON BECAUSE THEY NEED TO WIN THOSE PEOPLE OVER ON THE SECOND ROUND OF BALLOTING.

Yepsen: ANOTHER THING GOING ON RIGHT NOW, DEAN, IS THE DIFFICULTY CAMPAIGNS HAVE IN CAMPAIGNING AROUND THE HOLIDAYS. WE'VE JUST FINISHED A RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY SO YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFUL HOW YOU DO IT AND BE SENSITIVE. AND YOU'RE INTO A FESTIVE TIME OF THE YEAR NOW AROUND THE NEW YEAR. A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE GONE, AND SO CAMPAIGNS ARE HAVING A REAL DIFFICULTY PUNCHING A MESSAGE THROUGH THAT TO REACH THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE UNDECIDED. IT'S -- THESE POLITICAL COMMERCIALS AROUND THE HOLIDAYS ARE SORT OF A NEW POLITICAL ART FORM. SOME WERE GREAT. SOME WERE AWFUL BUT IT WAS A REAL INTERESTING STUDY IN POLITICS.

Henderson: BUT ADVERSELY, I HAVE SEEN PEOPLE AT THESE EVENTS WHO ARE AT A WEEKDAY EVENT, IF YOU WILL, BECAUSE THEY HAD THE DAY OFF FROM WORK. SO I THINK THERE'S BEEN A CONVERSE EFFECT IN THAT PEOPLE WHO MIGHT NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SEE A CANDIDATE IN PERSON ARE TAKING THEIR DAY OFF TO GO TO THE ELKS CLUB IN URBANDALE AND SEE JOHN MCCAIN.

Yepsen: A DAY OFF FROM WORK, KAY! WHAT IS THAT?

Henderson: I HAVE NO IDEA. YOU'LL HAVE TO TELL ME SOMETIME.

Glover: IF YOU FLIP THE COIN AROUND, THE OTHER THING THAT WE REALLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT THE EFFECT OF THE HOLIDAY IS I SUSPECT A LOT OF POLITICALLY ACTIVE PEOPLE SPENT THE HOLIDAYS WITH THEIR FAMILIES OVER CHRISTMAS DINNER. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE TOPIC OF CONVERSATION WAS? PROBABLY WHO THEY'RE GOING TO CAUCUS FOR. THE ARGUMENTS OVER WHICH CANDIDATE IS THE BEST, WHICH CANDIDATE IS GOING TO WIN, AND ALL THAT KIND OF STUFF. I'VE TALKED TO A NUMBER OF OPERATIVES WHO SAY THAT THEY FEEL LIKE THE THING IS BEGINNING TO BREAK BECAUSE DURING THAT HOLIDAY SEASON, A LOT OF ACTIVISTS SAT OVER THE CHRISTMAS DINNER TABLE AND SHARED THEIR THOUGHTS WITH PEOPLE THEY LOVE AND TRUST AND MAY HAVE COME TO CONCLUSIONS.

Yepsen: AND OVER NEW YEAR'S EVE, THEY'LL DO IT WITH FRIENDS. AND WE ALL KNOW THAT ONE OF THE BIGGEST DETERMINANTS IN HOW YOU VOTE IN ANY ELECTION IS WHAT YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS ARE SAYING ABOUT A CANDIDATE.

Borg: THANKS, DAVE. EXPLAIN WHAT YOU MEAN BY THINGS ARE BEGINNING TO BREAK. DO YOU MEAN THAT UNDECIDEDS ARE MAKING UP THEIR MINDS AND INDEPENDENTS ARE CHOOSING --

Glover: PEOPLE AT THIS POINT ARE BEGINNING TO MAKE UP THEIR MIND. NOW, THERE WILL BE A CERTAIN PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE WHO WON'T MAKE UP THEIR MINDS UNTIL THEY WALK INTO A CAUCUS ON THE NIGHT OF JANUARY 3. HOWEVER, I THINK THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN LEANING TOWARDS A CANDIDATE WHO ARE NOW STARTING TO MAKE UP THEIR MINDS. THAT'S WHERE I'M GOING, ABSENT SOMETHING HAPPENING IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS.

Borg: AND, CHARLOTTE, REFRESH US AGAIN ON SOMETHING I THINK YOU SAID EARLIER. PEOPLE, AS THEY MAKE UP THEIR MINDS, WHAT ARE THEY MAKING UP THEIR MINDS ON? IS IT THE ECONOMY? SOMEONE SAID HERE EARLIER, IT'S NOT FOREIGN AFFAIRS.

Eby: WELL, THEY GENERALLY GO FOR SOMEBODY THAT THEY THINK HAS GREAT LEADERSHIP SKILLS AND MATCHES THEM ON THE ISSUES. BUT USUALLY YOU KIND OF SEE PEOPLE PICK SOMEONE WHOM THEY LIKE AND THEN FIND A WAY TO JUSTIFY IT. SO, YOU KNOW, IT'S LIKE MIKE ALWAYS SAID, IT'S LIKE RUNNING FOR CLASS PRESIDENT. YOU PICK THE PEOPLE THAT YOU LIKE.

Glover: AND IN THIS ONE, I THINK THE OVERARCHING ISSUE I SEE ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE IS WHO CAN WIN THE WHITE HOUSE, PARTICULARLY AMONG DEMOCRATS. DEMOCRATS HAVE BEEN OUT OF POWER FOR EIGHT YEARS. THEY'RE VERY HUNGRY TO GET BACK IN. GEORGE W. BUSH HAS UNITED THE DEMOCRATS IN WANTING TO GET THE WHITE HOUSE BACK. THE NUMBER ONE QUESTION YOU HEAR PEOPLE ASK PRIMARILY ABOUT BARACK OBAMA, HILLARY CLINTON, AND JOHN EDWARDS IS GIVE ME AN ARGUMENT FOR THEM WINNING THE WHITE HOUSE.

Yepsen: THERE IS A LITTLE BIT OF A DIFFERENCE IN THE TWO PARTIES IN THEIR INDECISION. DEMOCRATIC ACTIVISTS LIKE ALL THEIR CHOICES. SIX VERY CREDIBLE CANDIDATES. THEY HAVE A HARD TIME STRUGGLING BECAUSE THEY'RE HAVING TO CHOOSE AMONG SOME FAIRLY RESPECTED AMERICAN POLITICAL FIGURES. ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE, THERE'S A LOT OF ANGST AMONG REPUBLICANS. THERE'S NO PERFECT CANDIDATE. THERE'S NO NEW RONALD REAGAN. AND THEY FIND SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH GIULIANI'S POSITION ON SOCIAL ISSUES AND MAYBE MITT ROMNEY IS TOO SLICK AND FRED THOMPSON DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO CAMPAIGN. YOU HEAR THAT FROM ACTIVISTS. AND SO THERE'S INDECISION IN BOTH PARTIES STILL, BUT IT COMES FROM DIFFERENT THINGS.

Borg: KAY, LET'S GO TO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, THEN, AND LOOK AT SOME OF THOSE CANDIDATES. WE GENERALLY CONSIDER THE TOP TIER TO BE JOHN EDWARDS, BARACK OBAMA, AND HILLARY CLINTON. THAT STILL IS VERY, VERY TIGHT AND ONLY CAUCUS NIGHT IS IT GOING TO BE DECIDED. IS THAT THE WAY YOU STILL SEE IT?

Henderson: I SEE IT AS A VERY TIGHT RACE. AND AGAIN, AS WE DISCUSSED EARLIER, I THINK THE SECOND ROUND OF VOTING WILL BE KEY FOR THOSE TWO CANDIDATES THAT ARE MALE, NOT FOR THE CANDIDATE WHO IS FEMALE. DAVID MENTIONED EARLIER THE ADVERTISEMENTS. I THINK THESE ADVERTISEMENTS ARE SOMETHING THAT WE COULD TAKE A LOOK AT AND ANALYZE BECAUSE AS THESE CANDIDATES STRUGGLE TO FIND A MESSAGE FOR THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY, HILLARY CLINTON RAN AN AD IN WHICH SHE HAD GIFTS AND THEY HAD NAMES ON THEM, LIKE UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE. AND I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE OFFENDED BY THAT AD BECAUSE IT PLAYED INTO ONE OF THE COMPLAINTS ABOUT LIBERALS IS THEY'RE ALWAYS PROMISING SOMETHING. AND THEN SHE TURNED AROUND AND SHE HAS A TERRIFIC AD THAT HAS NO NARRATION. IT'S A VERY SERIOUS, SOMBER AD ACTUALLY PLACED BEFORE THE SITUATION IN PAKISTAN. SO I THINK SHE MAY HAVE CHANGED HER FORTUNES A BIT ON THE TELEVISION STAKES, IF YOU WILL, IN REGARDS TO THAT ADVERTISEMENT. OBAMA RAN A VERY WARM AND SORT OF CAPRAEQSQUE AD WITH HIS FAMILY OVER THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY. AND JOHN EDWARDS IS FLOODING THE STATE -- I MIGHT SAY JOHN EDWARDS' FRIENDS ARE FLOODING THE STATE WITH ADVERTISEMENTS ON HIS BEHALF.

Glover: I FIND IT INTERESTING BECAUSE I SEE THE ADS -- YOU SEE CANDIDATES RUNNING ADS, YOU SEE CANDIDATES FLOODING MAILBOXES WITH DIRECT MAIL, THE ROBO CALLS ARE WORKING OVERNIGHT, 24 HOURS A DAY, AND I THINK ALL THAT IS USELESS. I THINK IT DOESN'T MAKE ONE BIT OF DIFFERENCE AT ALL IN WHO IS GOING TO SHOW UP AT A CAMPAIGN.

Borg: WHY?

Glover: BECAUSE POLITICAL ACTIVISTS, THE ROUGHLY 125-, 135,000 DEMOCRATS WHO ARE GOING TO SHOW UP AT A PRECINCT CAUCUS ON JANUARY 3 ARE NOT GOING TO MAKE THEIR DECISION BASED ON A TELEVISION COMMERCIAL. AND I THINK WHAT YOU SEE HERE IS THE INFLUENCE OF MONEY IN POLITICS. THESE TOP CONTENDERS, PARTICULARLY BARACK OBAMA AND HILLARY CLINTON, HAVE SO MUCH MONEY, WHY NOT SPEND IT ON TELEVISION.

Yepsen: I DISAGREE WITH THAT. I DO THINK COMMERCIALS DO HAVE AN EFFECT. I MEAN THEY MOVE POLL NUMBERS. YOU CAN SEE THAT. WHAT I THINK HAS GONE ON, THOUGH, IS A LAW OF DIMINISHING RETURNS. THERE ARE SO MANY POLITICAL ADS ON THE RADIO, THESE ROBO CALLS. WHEN ACTIVISTS COME HOME AND THERE ARE LITERALLY EIGHT PIECES OF MAIL IN THEIR MAILBOX, IT TENDS TO -- THEY JUST THROW THEM ALL AWAY. SO TO ANSWER TO YOUR INITIAL QUESTION ABOUT THE RACE, DEAN, THIS DEMOCRATIC RACE HAS BEEN TIED FOR MONTHS. AND AS WE GO INTO THE FINAL FEW DAYS, IT REMAINS A STATISTICAL TIE. THERE'S LITTLE MOVEMENTS IN THE POLLS. IT'S A GREAT STORY, DEAN, BECAUSE WE DON'T KNOW THE REAL OUTCOME OF IT YET. IT'S REAL NEWS, DEAN.

Glover: THAT'S THE POINT I WAS GOING TO MAKE. IT'S ONE OF THOSE REALLY FUN ELECTIONS TO COVER BECAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW WHO'S GOING TO WIN. WE ALL KNOW THAT GOING INTO MOST ELECTIONS, WE ALL SAY, WELL, IT'S UP FOR GRABS, DA-DA-DA-DA-DA. BUT IN THE BACK OF OUR HEADS, WE KNOW WHO IS GOING TO WIN THE THING. THIS TIME WE DON'T KNOW.

Borg: CHARLOTTE, THEN THE OTHER CANDIDATES, YOU SAID TOP TIER. I DON'T WANT TO SAY BOTTOM TIER, BUT THOSE WHO MAY HAVE A CHANCE TO BREAK INTO THAT TOP TIER ON CAUCUS NIGHT. I'M THINKING ABOUT BILL RICHARDSON, JOE BIDEN, CHRISTOPHER DODD. DO YOU SEE ANY INDICATION THAT THAT MAY BREAK THAT WAY AS IT DID, WHAT, FOUR YEARS AGO?

Eby: BIDEN AND RICHARDSON ARE STILL GETTING GOOD CROWDS HERE IN IOWA. THEY'LL TURN THEIR MESSAGE TOWARDS FOREIGN POLICY, THEIR STRENGTH, IN THE FINAL DAYS. BUT NEITHER HAS REALLY BEEN ABLE TO BREAK INTO THE DOUBLE DIGITS IN THE POLLS. DODD HAS REALLY HAD A HARD TIME GAINING TRACTION THROUGH THE ENTIRE CAMPAIGN.

Glover: IT'S A FASCINATING STORY BECAUSE HERE ARE THREE IMMINENTLY QUALIFIED POLITICAL FIGURES: JOE BIDEN, VETERAN SENATOR, CHAIRMAN OF THE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE; CHRIS DODD, VETERAN SENATOR, CHAIRMAN OF THE BANKING COMMITTEE; BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER AMBASSADOR TURNED GOVERNOR. THERE ARE THREE CANDIDATES WITH GREAT RESUMES WHO SIMPLY PROVED TO BE BAD CANDIDATES ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL.

Yepsen: I DON'T KNOW THAT THEY NECESSARILY PROVED TO BE BAD CANDIDATES. I THINK THEY'VE RUN A RESPECTABLE CAMPAIGN. IT'S JUST THEY'VE GOT SOME TOUGH CELEBRITY OPPONENTS THAT THEY'RE TRYING TO GET PAST. IN OTHER WORDS, IT WOULD BE HELPFUL IF HILLARY CLINTON OR BARACK OBAMA OR JOHN EDWARDS WOULD MAKE A REALLY FATAL MISTAKE SO THAT ONE OF THESE OTHERS HAD A CHANCE. BUT THE TASK THAT THOSE THREE SECOND-TIER CANDIDATES ALL FACE IS A REAL DAUNTING ONE.

Borg: IS THAT -- WOULD A AGREE, MIKE, WITH THAT EXPLANATION, RATHER THAN A BAD CANDIDATE?

Glover: YEAH. AND WHEN I SAY BAD CANDIDATES, I MEAN THEY SIMPLY HAVE NOT RISEN TO THE LEVEL OF CHALLENGING THE TOP TIER. THEY'VE NOT GOTTEN OVER THE HURDLE OF BECOMING A SERIOUS CONTENDER. THEY'RE ALL RUNNING, IN ESSENCE, A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK, FOR VICE PRESIDENT.

Borg: KAY, LET'S GO DOWN TO THE REPUBLICANS THEN. HOW DO YOU SEE THAT RACE?

Henderson: IN MANY RESPECTS, THIS IS A MUCH MORE INTERESTING RACE THAN THE DEMOCRATS' RACE BECAUSE IT'S BEEN TOPSY-TURVY. MIKE HUCKABEE HAS MADE A SURGE LATELY. MITT ROMNEY HAD BEEN CONSIDERED THE FRONT-RUNNER HERE. JOHN MCCAIN IN THE LAST PITCH IS SORT OF STANDING THERE AND TAKING THE PUNCHES, AND MAY BE A LEGITIMATE THIRD PLACE HERE IN IOWA. AND THEN HAVE YOU FRED THOMPSON WHO SORT OF PUT ALL HIS EFFORT INTO IOWA, RUNNING AROUND THE STATE IN A BUS. SO I REALLY THINK AT THIS POINT, THE REPUBLICAN RACE COULD BE REALLY IMPORTANT DOWN THE FIELD, BECAUSE RUDY GIULIANI I DON'T THINK IS GOING TO DO WELL HERE. AND YOU HAVE TO WIN ONE OF THE EARLY STATE CONTESTS IN ORDER TO BE THE PARTY'S NOMINEE. SO I THINK RUDY GIULIANI MADE A HUGE MISTAKE BY NOT COMPETING HERE IN IOWA MORE EFFECTIVELY.

Yepsen: IT'S AN INTERESTING CONTRAST BETWEEN WHAT THE THIRD PLACE FINISH MEANS ON THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE AND WHAT IT MEANS ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE. ON THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE, IT'S ALMOST A DEATH SENTENCE FOR CLINTON, OBAMA, OR EDWARDS. WHOEVER FINISHES THIRD IN THAT IS REALLY GOING TO BE SENT OUT OF HERE REELING. BUT ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE, JOHN MCCAIN AND FRED THOMPSON STILL HAVE A SHOT AT THAT THIRD PLACE POSITION AFTER MITT ROMNEY AND MIKE HUCKABEE.

Borg: YOU'RE SAYING FOR THE REPUBLICANS THERE ARE THREE TICKETS --

Yepsen: THERE ARE STILL THREE TICKETS. AND SO THERE'S A LITTLE BIT OF A SCRAMBLE TO TRY TO GET THAT EVEN RUDY GIULIANI WHO, DEPENDING ON WHAT DAY OF THE WEEK IT IS, WRITES OFF IOWA, IS BACK NOW. AND HE'S OBVIOUSLY TRYING TO PLAY INTO MAYBE GETTING A LITTLE BIT OF THAT THIRD-PLACE FINISH HIMSELF.

Glover: AND IT'S INTERESTING TO ME TO LOOK AT THE VARYING LEVELS OF INTENSITY BETWEEN THE DEMOCRATS AND THE REPUBLICANS. THE DEMOCRATS HAVE MADE IOWA LITERALLY THEIR LINE IN THE SAND. THIS IS GROUND ZERO FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION. THE REPUBLICANS HAVE NOT HAD THAT LEVEL OF INTENSITY. AND YOU'VE GOT A COUPLE OF MAJOR CANDIDATES, RUDY GIULIANI AND JOHN MCCAIN, WHO BASICALLY HAVE WRITTEN THE STATE OFF AND AREN'T CAMPAIGNING HERE AT ALL. AND THE OTHER CANDIDATES ARE CAMPAIGNING ALL OVER THE PLACE. SO THERE'S A LESSER LEVEL OF INTENSITY AMONG THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES.

Borg: FOR THOSE WHO HAVE WRITTEN OFF IOWA, IS NEW HAMPSHIRE, THEN, THE FIREWALL FOR THEM OR THE PLACE WHERE THEY CAN GET LAUNCHED?

Glover: IT VARIES FROM CANDIDATE TO CANDIDATE. JOHN MCCAIN HOPES TO SURVIVE IOWA AND WIN NEW HAMPSHIRE. RUDY GIULIANI HOPES TO SURVIVE IOWA, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEVADA, SOUTH CAROLINA, AND THEN ABOUT FEBRUARY 5 START WINNING. WHAT RUDY GIULIANI DOESN'T UNDERSTAND IS WHOEVER WINS THE FIRST THREE PRIMARIES IS PROBABLY THE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE.

Yepsen: YOU LOOK AT THE POLLS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, DEAN, THERE IS NO FIREWALL FOR ANYBODY. YOU'VE GOT A SITUATION HERE WHERE ON THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE THERE'S A REAL FEELING THAT WHOEVER WINS IOWA COULD BE IN THE POSITION TO RUN THE TABLE. CLINTON REASSERTS HER STATURE AS A NATIONAL CANDIDATE. OBAMA WOULD BREAK OUT WITH HIS EXCITING FRESH MESSAGE. JOHN EDWARDS IS BACK AGAIN. WHEREAS ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE YOU HAVE A SCENARIO WHERE MIKE HUCKABEE COULD WIN IOWA, MITT ROMNEY COULD WIN NEW HAMPSHIRE, FRED THOMPSON COULD WIN SOUTH CAROLINA, AND THEY FIGHT IT OUT IN MICHIGAN. A REAL PROTRACTED BATTLE FOR THE NOMINATION.

Borg: CHARLOTTE, I ASKED YOU ABOUT ISSUES EARLIER. DO THE ISSUES VARY WITH THE REPUBLICANS, THAT IS BECAUSE OF THE SIGNIFICANT CHRISTIAN COALITION, WHICH I'LL CALL IT THAT, BUT THE VERY CONSERVATIVE BLOCK WITHIN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY?

Eby: SURE, THEY'RE MORE FOCUSED ON THE WAR ON TERROR, FOREIGN POLICY, AND THEN SOCIAL ISSUES. THAT'S WHY MIKE HUCKABEE, A BAPTIST MINISTER, YOU KNOW, HAS REALLY RISEN IN THE POLLS HERE IS BECAUSE FOLKS DIDN'T NECESSARILY FEEL LIKE THEY HAD A CANDIDATE THAT THEY COULD RELATE TO MAYBE ON FAITH ISSUES AND SOCIAL ISSUES.

Borg: IS THERE AN INDICATION, THOUGH, MIKE, THAT IOWA -- HUCKABEE COULD WIN IOWA POSSIBLY, BUT THEN NEW HAMPSHIRE IS GOING TO BE TOUGH?

Glover: MIKE HUCKABEE IS IN A CHALLENGING SITUATION. HE'S RISEN IN THE POLLS IN IOWA, BASED LARGELY ON HIS STRENGTH AMONG EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS. ABOUT FOUR OUT OF TEN REPUBLICAN CAUCUS GOERS DESCRIBES THEMSELVES IN THOSE TERMS. SO HE'S PRETTY WELL POSITIONED TO DO FAIRLY WELL HERE. HE HAS FAR LESS MONEY AND FAR LESS ORGANIZATION THAN THE OTHER CANDIDATES IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. AND, PLUS, HE DOESN'T MEET THE PROFILE OF THE TYPICAL NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN. HE'S MORE OF A FISCAL CONSERVATIVE, A FLINTY, SMALL GOVERNMENT TYPE OF CONSERVATIVE WHERE SOCIAL ISSUES MATTER LESS. AND YOU'VE GOT TO REMEMBER IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, INDEPENDENTS CAN VOTE. SO THE OUTCOME OF THE DEMOCRATIC CONTEST IS GOING TO BE REALLY INTERESTING IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. LET'S SAY HILLARY CLINTON WINS IOWA, HER TOUGHEST STATE. SHE'LL GO INTO NEW HAMPSHIRE ON A ROLL WITH EVERYBODY EXPECTING THAT SHE'S GOING TO BE THE NOMINEE. A LOT OF THOSE INDEPENDENTS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE MAY SAY WELL, OKAY, THE DEMOCRATIC CONTEST IS SETTLED, LET'S GO LOOK AT THESE REPUBLICANS AND SEE WHO WE WANT TO PLAY THERE. THERE WILL BE A BIG IMPACT DEPENDING ON HOW THE DEMOCRATS GO ON REPUBLICANS.

Yepsen: THAT'S JOHN MCCAIN'S SCENARIO FOR WINNING IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. JOHN MCCAIN HAS GOT TO BE ROOTING FOR HILLARY CLINTON IN IOWA TO FREE UP INDEPENDENTS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE TO VOTE FOR HIM.

Glover: BECAUSE EIGHT YEARS AGO WHEN HE WON NEW HAMPSHIRE, WHEN HE BEAT GEORGE W. BUSH, HE WON AMONG INDEPENDENTS HE TURNED OUT IN THE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY.

Borg: TWO QUICK THINGS I WANT TO DO IN OUR FINAL COUPLE OF MINUTES HERE. KAY, HOW -- WE'VE ENDURED THE -- THE CAMPAIGNS HAVE ENDURED A SPATE OF BAD WINTER WEATHER IN IOWA. IT'S BEEN REALLY ADVERSE. WHAT WILL TURNOUT BE ON THE EVENING -- CAUCUS EVENING IF THERE'S BAD WEATHER, AND WHO WILL BENEFIT OR COULD BE HURT BY BAD WEATHER AND A LOW TURNOUT?

Henderson: ON THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE, JOHN EDWARDS ON THIS VERY PROGRAM LAST WEEK SAYS HIS PEOPLE WILL TURN OUT NO MATTER WHAT THE WEATHER. HILLARY CLINTON HAS BEEN BASING HER CAMPAIGN ON AN APPEAL TO OLDER VOTERS, MANY OF THEM FEMALE. THOSE OLDER WOMEN MAY NOT WANT TO GO OUTSIDE AND BREAK A HIP ON CAUCUS NIGHT IF IT'S BAD WEATHER. BARACK OBAMA IS BRINGING NEW PEOPLE INTO THE PROCESS, AND I'M NOT SURE IF WE CAN TELL IF THOSE NEW PEOPLE WILL BE AFFECTED BY THE WEATHER, BECAUSE WE DON'T KNOW WHO THEY ARE, WE DON'T KNOW QUITE WHAT THEIR AGE IS. ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE, I'VE NEVER THOUGHT THAT THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE A LOT OF TURNOUT ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE. AND I THINK IT COULD BE DISMAL IF THE WEATHER IS BAD, AND THAT WOULD BENEFIT MITT ROMNEY BECAUSE, AMONG ALL THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES, HE HAS THE BEST ORGANIZATION.

Yepsen: WEATHER FORECASTS, AS WE ALL KNOW IN IOWA, ARE WORTH WHAT YOU PAY FOR THEM. BUT THE EARLY FORECASTS FOR THURSDAY ARE REALLY HILLARY WEATHER BECAUSE IT'S SUNNY AND 41 DEGREES, AND THAT'S THE KIND OF WEATHER THAT A WOMAN OF A CERTAIN AGE ISN'T WORRIED ABOUT BREAKING HER HIP TO GO OUT TO CAUCUS FOR HILLARY CLINTON.

Glover: IT'S INTERESTING, IF YOU LOOK BACK OVER THE LAST TWENTY, THIRTY YEARS AT PRECINCT CAUCUSES, WE'VE NEVER HAD A SET OF CAUCUSES THAT HAVE BEEN ADVERSELY AFFECTED BY THE WEATHER. WE'VE NEVER HAD A BLIZZARD ON CAUCUS NIGHT.

Yepsen: WELL, VERY FIRST ONE, MIKE, IN 1972. YOU'VE GOT TO GO BACK THAT FAR. GEORGE MCGOVERN'S ANTIWAR ACTIVIST TURNOUT, STRONG SECOND PLACE SHOWING AGAINST ED MUSKIE. BUT YOU'RE RIGHT, AFTER THAT -- WE ALL TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE ANY ELSE TO TALK ABOUT ON ELECTION DAY. THAT'S RIGHT.

Borg: WELL, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE PLENTY TO TALK ABOUT A WEEK FROM NOW. THANKS SO MUCH. WE'RE OUT OF TIME. BUT A WEEK FROM NOW, OF COURSE, IT WILL BE OUR IOWA PRESS PROGRAM RIGHT AFTER IOWA'S LONG AWAITED PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE CAUCUSES. AND WHAT WE'LL BE TALKING ABOUT THAT WEEK IS UNPREDICTABLE, AS YOU'VE SAID HERE, AS THE CAUCUSES THEMSELVES. THAT'S WHY YOU'LL WANT TO EAVESDROP AS POLITICAL REPORTERS WHO HAVE BEEN COMMENTING HERE TODAY WILL BE THERE EATING CROW OR CROWING I TOLD YOU SO. RIGHT, GUYS? WELL, YOU'LL SEE THAT REPORTERS ROUNDTABLE, REGULAR AIRTIME: 7:30 FRIDAY NIGHT AND 11:30 SUNDAY MORNING. AND THIS REMINDER TOO: IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION'S CAMPAIGN 2008 WEB SITE FEATURES ON-DEMAND STREAMING OF DEBATES AND UP-TO-DATE CAMPAIGN FEATURES. NAVIGATE OVER TO IPTV.ORG FOR ARCHIVED CAMPAIGN HIGHLIGHTS COVERAGE FROM IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION; IOWA PUBLIC RADIO; NPR, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO; AND THE PBS NEWSHOUR, INCLUDING AUDIO AND VIDEO STREAMING AND PROGRAM TRANSCRIPTS TOO. YOU'LL SEE IT ALL AT IPTV.ORG. AND THEN ALL OF US HERE AT IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION WISH YOU ALL THE GOOD THINGS OF THIS SPECIAL HOLIDAY SEASON IN LOOKING AHEAD AT A JOYFUL AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR. IF YOU'RE TRAVELING, TAKE SPECIAL CARE. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

FUNDING FOR 'IOWA PRESS' WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION. THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY POLICY WORKS, A PUBLIC AND GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS FIRM OFFERING LOBBYING, GRASS-ROOTS, AND ADVOCACY SERVICES TO HELP YOU MEET YOUR STRATEGIC PUBLIC POLICY NEEDS. INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE ON THE WEB AT WWW.POLICYWORKSLLC.COM; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.


Tags: Iowa politics