Political branding. Iowa's Republican and Democratic Parties projecting image issues, energy and money. We're questioning state party leaders democrat Andy McGuire and republican Jeff Kaufmann on this edition of Iowa Press.

Funding for Iowa Press was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public Television Foundation. I’m a veteran. I am a builder. I'm a volunteer. I am a teacher. I'm a banker. I'm an Iowa banker. No matter who you are there is an Iowa banker who is ready to help you get where you want to go. Iowa Bankers, allowing you to discover the genuine difference of Iowa banks. Iowa Communications Network. ICN's Broadband Matters campaign advocates for access to high speed broadband in all corners of Iowa for education, public safety, health care, government and economic development. Information is available at broadbandmatters.com. Iowa Community Foundations, an initiative of the Iowa Council of Foundations, connecting donors to the causes and communities they care about for good, for Iowa, for ever. Details at iowacommunityfoundations.org. The Associated General Contractors of Iowa, the public's partner in building Iowa's highway, bridge and municipal utility infrastructure. The Arlene McKeever Endowment Fund at the Iowa Public Television Foundation, a fund established to support local programming on Iowa Public Television.

For decades Iowa Press has brought you politicians and newsmakers from across Iowa and beyond. Now celebrating more than 40 years of broadcast excellence on statewide Iowa Public Television, this is the Friday, June 24 edition of Iowa Press. Here is Dean Borg.

Borg: We're midway through a busy year for Iowa's major political parties beginning with a responsibility for the first-in-the-nation presidential preference caucuses. Then, primary elections anointing the party's candidates for all offices. And then state conventions culminating very soon with the general election determining who controls, among other things, the Iowa General Assembly, the congressional delegation and a seat in the U.S. Senate. Well during the past two years, Jeff Kaufmann of Wilton has been leading the Republican Party of Iowa. Andy McGuire of Des Moines chairs the Iowa Democratic Party taking that leadership role about 18 months ago. Welcome back to Iowa Press.

McGuire: Thank you, Dean.

Kaufmann: Pleasure to be here.

Borg: Just listing those things leaves me a bit breathless. I can't imagine being involved in responsibility for all that. And we want to talk about that today. Across the table, James Lynch writing for the Gazette published in Cedar Rapids and Radio Iowa's News Director Kay Henderson.

Henderson: Mr. Kaufmann, let's talk about the Brexit. Voters in England expressing concern about globalization, about immigration. Do you think there are any implications for American voters' attitudes on those issues?

Kaufmann: I think there's some, I definitely think there's some overtones. I don't know whether it's England here or here England but I think there's a populism there, there is certainly some concern about the integrity of the United Kingdom and its borders. I definitely see some analogy between the two. I was actually taken back a bit when I was hearing some of the folks that were advocating for removal from the UK, or from the EU, it really sounded quite similar to what some of the themes that I'm hearing here.

Henderson: Do you think the Clinton campaign should be anxious about this?

McGuire: Well I'm not sure, it's pretty new news, so I'm not sure that's something we can equate from both. But I do think that it shows that it's a global world and that we need to have someone in the White House who understands policies around the world and can have the judgment and the temperament to deal with them.

Borg: But Donald Trump is already weighing in on that and approving it very heartily. So what are the implications, do you think, for you?

McGuire: Well, I always worry about people getting overseas and talking about foreign policy and our people back here. But when I saw him this morning he was talking about his hotel. So I think that sort of talks about the judgment he has. This is a large foreign policy problem if you will, or issue, and what happens to the EU affects all of us. And I think we need someone in the White House who understand the implications of issues like this.

Borg: Kaufmann, Jeff, do you think that the energy that has been generated in Britain can be transferred and maybe already is here?

Kaufmann: I think so and I actually would say I think we need someone in the White House that understands what citizens of the UK are feeling right now and that impetus and the reason why they left the EU. I think that in England what they're saying or in the UK what they're saying is, England in and of itself, the UK in and of itself, is greater than the whole, we need to understand exactly what is happening in our country.

Lynch: Sticking with foreign affairs to some degree, Andy, is it fair or appropriate for a former presidential hopeful from your party to be calling Donald Trump a fascist and warning that this will be a fascist president or is that going a little overboard on his characterization?

McGuire: Well I know our presumptive nominee has really not gone there with that language. And I think what I try to do is talk about the policies and not the people. But I do think some of the language that has come out of the republican's nominee really is pretty hateful and divisive and may border on such things. So I think the language is what you're talking about and the policies, it's not really the people. Someone has said I don't know what's in someone's heart, I think you have to go with that.

Lynch: So responding to that sort of hateful speech by calling someone a fascist, does that elevate the debate?

McGuire: I'm not sure it does.

Lynch: Jeff, is it fair?

Kaufmann: Politics is a full contact sport and there is a transition going on from a bruising primary, I heard some pretty strong language coming out of the democratic debates as well, and I think you're going to see a gradual transition. But we all knew this. Both of these nominees have some problems with numbers in their party in terms of the likeability, whatever you want to call it, whatever the pollsters are using. I think you're going to see a very bruising general election. I think you're going to see both candidates saying that the other one is more bruising than the other but I think we're going to get used to this.

McGuire: You know what I'd like to see is us talking about policies and I think that's something that we miss sometimes with the rhetoric we get into. And we should be talking about who can really take American forward? Who has the policies that can help our economy? Who has the policies that can help us in foreign policy? So I think that's where we ought to be going.

Henderson: Both of you will be attending national conventions at which your party's nominees will officially be chosen. Mr. Kaufmann, will there be a delegate coup and would you support one?

Kaufmann: No. Absolutely not. The people have spoken. In the republican process that we use we're bottom up. I didn't know six months or seven months ago that Donald Trump was going to be our nominee. The fact that the chairman of the party did not know that but now Donald Trump is tells you that there is nothing loaded, there is nothing that was predestined in this whole situation. We don't have super delegates where you can step on the scale and weigh them one way or the other. This came from the people. To negate what the people have said right now I believe is to negate the very essence of democracy and the spirit of our caucus.

Henderson: So are people like Paul Ryan and Scott Walker who are talking about delegates voting their conscience wrong?

Kaufmann: I believe that they need to remind themselves that if we are going to be a bottom up party as opposed to a top down party I believe we need to act like a team. The people have spoken. You cannot believe in bottom up if your answer is I will accept what the people say as long as I agree with it.

Borg: Andy, several grins while he was saying that. Why?

McGuire: Oh, just because I appreciate the problems of a bottom up process. You do not have, I think people think sometimes we have some more control than we do. We may run the conventions, we may run the caucuses, but the vote is the people's. So I appreciate where he's going.

Lynch: Sticking with that bottom up approach, it's clear from talking to folks at your state convention that not everyone is on board yet with the presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. Are you going to come out of Philadelphia and the national convention unified or will Hillary Clinton sort of be limping along as an unpopular candidate without the support of her party?

McGuire: I think we will unify. I already saw signs at our state convention. There were a lot of people who were very passionate for Senator Sanders and Senator Sanders did a great thing for our party. He really energized our party and so did Hillary Clinton and really all our candidates. So we now have a more energized party. I do think we'll come together. I have really no doubt about that. And as you have seen, Senator Sanders has been making a lot of those overtures of late. So I do think we will unite behind Secretary Clinton and I do think we'll have a very good November.

Lynch: On the state party level there was a real fight for caucus chairs and national delegates between the Sanders and Clinton camps. Are you going to end up with the same sort of situation that led to Jeff Kaufmann becoming chairman where the Ron Paul faction took over the party and you have this divisiveness within the party?

McGuire: I don't think so. I've talked to a lot of people who are coming on our state central committee and our caucus chairs and what they really want is to have an open, inclusive party and so do I. And so I think what we’re going to do is this is going to be a lot of new ideas and new people coming in, a lot of new energy. I think this is very good for the party, very good for the party.

Henderson: Let's shift to Iowa being a swing state in the general election. There are concerns about the fact that Clinton has an apparatus here in Iowa on the campaign level at the grassroots level and she has begun running advertisements here. Are republicans and the Trump campaign a little bit behind the ball?

Kaufmann: I act as if we are always behind the ball. We are behind -- if you phrase that question the opposite I would say we are going to act as if we are behind. Here's the thing, we have had our victory director on the ground since 2013.

Henderson: And that's a person employed by the Republican National Committee.

Kaufmann: Correct.

Henderson: And do you think the Trump campaign will be relying on the RNC rather than having its own campaign team here?

Kaufmann: I believe they will have their own campaign team but there will be more coordination with RPI, RNC, the presidentials and actually our statewide races than there has ever been before. That's one thing that we have all signed off on, if you will, and that is we're going to all march in the same direction, we're going to try to avoid duplicity as much as possible.

Henderson: And how many people does the RNC have on the ground here?

Kaufmann: Ultimately we're going to ramp up, it's rather fluid now because people are separating out going to this campaign and that campaign. Ultimately we hope to have well over 50 and those are paid positions. We expect in October for there to be hundreds and hundreds out there on the GOTV efforts and also the efforts for absentee ballots.

Lynch: Looking ahead to this election, Andy, are democrats recovered? Have they recovered from 2014 when you had low turnout, low voter turnout, lost a Senate race that looked like it was in the bag when it started? Are you ready for 2016?

McGuire: We are. One of the things I did when I came in was I wanted to go to all 99 counties and I wanted to build our party from the ground up and we've done that. I've been to all 99 counties. I've talked to democrats all over the state. They really are fired up and maybe even because of '14 where we didn't have as good an election, they realized we need to really get out and get people turned out, get their ballots in the box, as we say, and make sure we have a very good November.

Lynch: When you do something different on the get out the vote effort this time because we kept hearing how turnout was going to be so large in 2014 and it was smaller than in 2010.

McGuire: We are trying to learn from some of the things that happened in '14 and we have a very coordinated campaign and we have great candidates up and down the ticket. And so that really helps us as far as from the presidential all the way down to county supervisor. So this is really something where we're going to coordinate, we've even got a lot of great women running which makes me very happy as a person who has pushed women in office. It's going to be a great year I think because of those candidates.

Henderson: The U.S. Senate race that Mr. Lynch just mentioned, the 2014 race, republicans cast Joni Ernst as a Washington, D.C. outsider and Braley as a D.C. insider. It seems to be flipped this time around. What is the motivating issue for republicans who are seeking to re-elect Senator Grassley?

Kaufmann: Look at the records. You have a former Lieutenant Governor that was with an administration that by any measure was bad for the Iowa economy. You have a --

Borg: But what's the issue, Mr. Kaufmann, what's the issue, Kay is asking, that is going to re-elect Senator Grassley?

Kaufmann: Solid leadership and proven record for getting things done.

Borg: But not political issue other than experience?

Kaufmann: Well, I think what the cover is going to be over almost all of these races and that is going to be protection here at home, fighting terrorism abroad and it's always going to be the economy and jobs. But I think the Senate race is going to be about, I think it's going to be about credibility and getting the job done. What has happened in the past with Chuck Grassley, what has happened in the past with the Culver/Judge administration, I can't think of a comparison more stark.

Henderson: On the democratic side, democrats had been hoping to make the Scalia vacancy an issue. Given all the other things that are happening, can you sustain interest in an issue for months at a time?

McGuire: I really think you can. Just this week we had a tie in the Supreme Court. So when Chuck Grassley is playing politics with the Supreme Court and not letting Judge Garland have a vote, I think that is something that we hear every day from people who think that he's not doing his job. It's something that we need someone who represents us in the Senate, who goes to the Senate and does their job and that is something that Senator Grassley has a long, distinguished career but he is not doing his job now and I think people are very disappointed in that.

Lynch: Jeff, as a history professor, a question for you. We've got congressional races coming up this fall as well as the Senate race and this week Representative Steve King made a comment, tried to amend a bill to prevent the U.S. Treasury from changing the face on the $20 bill from Andrew Jackson to Harriet Tubman. He called that sexist and racist. And I'm wondering as a history professor, do you have a problem with changing the name, or the face on the $20 bill?

Kaufmann: I've been involved in a lot of commemoration of Underground Railroad activities here in this state and just as I stood up for the union soldiers last year, I will say that a woman, a person with the character and integrity of Harriet Tubman, of course she should have any kind of recognition that we can give her. I wished that Congressman Loebsack would also be angry when the First Lady and members of the Obama administration venerated people like Jane Fonda. There's a whole lot of people, I wonder why he cherry-picked that particular issue to rail about. And at the same time --

Henderson: When you say he, who?

Kaufmann: Congressman Loebsack had some pretty strong words. And I don't disagree with the premise that Harriet Tubman should be on our currency. But I heard crickets when the First Lady was talking wonderful about Jane Fonda. Where was Congressman Loebsack there? That would be political courage to --

Borg: Well he called, let's go back, Congressman Loebsack said that Congressman King is an embarrassment to Iowa. Is he an embarrassment to the Republican Party?

Kaufmann: The fourth district it duly elects Steve King. It is their decision who their congressperson is and they have selected him overwhelmingly every single time. That is democracy. Steve King is the fourth district.

Lynch: So, Andy, is the fourth district so republican that Steve King can get away with saying anything?

McGuire: Well he certainly, I agree with Congressman Loebsack, he is an embarrassment and I hear that from people in the fourth district all the time. This isn't the only thing he has said. He on a daily basis says things that I think most of the fourth district don't agree with and we have a very good candidate in Kim Weaver. She really has the values of the fourth district. Steve King was primaried into his own party. I think there's a lot of people who are disappointed with his rhetoric and I think it is time for a change.

Lynch: So are you and Congressman Loebsack saying that you know better than the voters in the fourth district?

McGuire: Not at all. It's always about the voters but I think they are looking at this gentleman and saying, this rhetoric is not something that moves our country forward.

Henderson: In the first and the third districts in Iowa you have freshman republican Congressmen. Mr. Kaufmann, these have already been targeted by democrats as among the top 10 or 12 congressional races in the country. How much money will be spent on these races?

Kaufmann: Millions. And I would say that David Young is, he already has a reputation for being one of the hardest working freshman Congresspersons in D.C. He has a million dollars in the bank. Rod Blum is running against someone that many people see quite frankly, Monica Vernon, as an opportunist. Republican, democrat vote, who knows maybe she'll turn republican and endorse Rod Blum. I don't know. But I like the optics in both of those. And Rod Blum has proven that he has a streak of independence and he is not afraid to take on the republican leadership. Regardless of what you thought about his decision on the vote for who should be the leader of the Republican Party, I'm sorry, the republican caucus in the House, one thing Rod Blum said very loud and clear, my district comes before my party.

McGuire: I do not think Rod Blum really represents his district at all. He sold himself as a moderate. He has really been a very right wing Tea Party kind of person in his voting. And Monica Vernon, I have to tell you, is a wonderful candidate. She raised her three kids while doing a small business at her kitchen table. This is the kind of getting up and go person we need in Congress. She can bring people together. As you said, she has been on multiple sides of different things bringing people together, getting it done for the flood in Cedar Rapids. This is somebody who we want to send to Congress to really make Iowa's values stay.

Borg: Mr. Kaufmann, in that district, in that first district, democrats have the registration edge. So what are you going to do as a party to offset that to re-elect Rod Blum?

Kaufmann: I think first of all we need someone that can reach across the aisle. Monica Vernon is on the record saying she couldn't think of one thing that she had in common with Rod Blum. If Monica Vernon can't come up with one thing she has in common with her opponent, is she going to really be able to reach across the aisle? I think I would emphasize that on the negative. On the positive, once again, we are going to emphasize Rod Blum's independence, his populism, his placing his district before party. He took a very controversial vote as a brand new freshman Congressperson. That is political courage in my book.

Lynch: Andy, this weekend your party is going to have its second caucus review meeting and I think there's two or three more planned before you reach the recommendation stage. But what do you see coming out of this caucus review process? What will be different in four years?

McGuire: Well, I think as in last time we always want to improve our caucus process and so we want to listen to all the ideas. There's really no ideas off the table. We want to listen to people all around the state. That's why we're doing multiple meetings to really go all around the state, listen to everybody and see what the ideas are. I think there are a lot of issues that are coming to the forefront about efficiencies of the bigger caucuses, trying to get the electronics more into things, which I think will happen, maybe even how we make them more inclusive as far as is there absentee or is there some way to open it up to more people. So I think there's a lot of ideas on the table and I wouldn't as one really want to shut it down. But I think what will happen is we'll have an improved caucus in four years.

Lynch: You said nothing is off the table, but talking to Dave Nagle who chairs that committee last week it sounds like there's already a decision formally or informally been made that you won't do a head count. And that was one of the main concerns of Bernie Sanders supporters is that there should be a head count at these precinct caucuses rather than this complicated delegate equivalency formula. That's off the table, right?

McGuire: I wouldn't say anything is off the table at this point. What I would tell you is the caucus committee is going to recommend to the State Central Committee. So really there is a recommendation, the State Central Committee is really the governing body that will decide things. So I know in my opinion there is nothing off the table at this point and I think that's very important to have an open and transparent process.

Lynch: Jeff, do you think that in 2020 whether it is you and Andy or whoever chairs these parties will be hosting the first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses in four years?

Kaufmann: I do. I believe that. And let me -- Andy and I are disagreeing on a lot of things today. Their caucus review process, they invited me to come and speak to them. I was impressed with the openness of that and I also want to say in terms of someone that is tied inextricably with the democrats in terms of our first-in-the-nation I thought Andy handled that razor sharp, razor close caucus process with a lot of class and distinction. So I'm proud in the case of our first-in-the-nation. I'm fighting for that to stand shoulder to shoulder with Andy or whoever the democratic chair is. Yes I do. But I've got to say, James, that this never Trump, even though it's the ultimate goal in my opinion is nonsense, the bottom line is the more that you talk about it, the more that you hear, if you've got outside money coming in for radio ads and things, that detracts from our first-in-the-nation. And I will tell you one thing, the never Trumpers are going to become perilously close to moving away from chasing a goal that will never be and morphing into a situation of taking away the status that actually gives them the platform to do this. So I believe our first-in-the-nation, there's very few things that's more important than that.

Henderson: On the democratic side, the Clinton forces have been talking about primaries only. That means there would be no Iowa Caucus.

McGuire: I would disagree with them there because I think the Iowa Caucus is a wonderful way -- Citizens United and all the money, this is a way -- as you know, we get to sit across and talk to candidates and really vet them. There is such a wonderful way of getting to the right candidate in Iowa that I will tell you that we ought to be first-in-the-nation still.

Henderson: You recently announced that the Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner would hereafter be known as the fall gala. Is that for real? Might you reconsider? It didn't seem to get widespread joy.

McGuire: I'm not sure it's about the name of the dinner, I think it's about what we're doing at the dinner which is coming together with democrats and talking about opportunity for all and equality and what democrats stand for that everyone can get ahead. So I'm not sure it's about a name.

Henderson: Let's turn to the republicans. You didn't have a straw poll. Now in the aftermath of a race that has been won by Donald Trump there are people who are saying, gosh if they only had that straw poll maybe we wouldn't have Donald Trump as our nominee. Do you think republicans will reconstitute and have a straw poll four years from now?

Kaufmann: We were very clear and remember the party had a straw poll, we had invitations, we had a site. The candidates chose not to participate and so we did not want to force something upon them that they did not want and I came pretty close to the point of being rather uncomfortable about pushing that until the candidates said no. Do I think there's going to be another straw poll? We were very clear that when we cancelled that straw poll last summer that we cancelled it for that cycle. I'm not so sure the end result would have been different. Both of those, the straw poll and our caucus process, they were both very much bottom up kind of situations. I'm guessing that the Cruz campaign with its great ground game would have been prepared had we had one and had they participated I think they would have been ready to go. Our caucus process is 50. We have 50 states plus 6 territories and D.C. There's a difference there but I'm not so sure that would change the dynamic right now. People are angry, people chose in a large number Donald Trump. I am going to do what the people have asked me to do and that is support Donald Trump and do everything I can to put him in the White House.

Lynch: There's an axiom of politics that all politics is local. And Jeff, you touched on this earlier, you talked about inside influences advertising in Iowa. In terms of legislative races, are they going to be local or are they really being affected by all the presidential issues and national agendas of various constituency groups? How is that going to play out, Jeff?

Kaufmann: I am going to give you the best answer from a Ph.D. I can. I don't know. In all seriousness, I still believe that the core of every legislative race, even those races that are going to be possibly even pushing in the Senate a million dollars, I still think the fit of that individual legislator with that district is most important. We've seen times when there's been democratic sweeps but republicans have done well in the legislature and vice versa. There's going to be a lot of money and these candidates cannot possibly raise this money on their own. The Senate is going to be an absolute, that is going to be a battle royal and I hope that it doesn't get lost in all of the presidential politics.

Borg: Andy, we're running out of time. So the question really is, are you going to be able to translate presidential energy down to the local level?

McGuire: Oh I think we absolutely will. I think on the local level what it really is about is really good candidates and we have Mark Smith and his team have got great candidates all across the state. We are really ready to win in almost every district.

Henderson: Will you be a candidate for Governor in 2018?

McGuire: Well right now I'm 110% focused on making sure we have democrats elected up and down the ballot. But I will tell you I don't think the priorities of our Governor right now are the right priorities. So if I could do anything to help that I would.

Borg: Thank you for spending time with us today. Next week on Iowa Press, a man we've been talking about, third district Congressman David Young. He's in his first term, campaigning now to hold the seat on the republican side of the aisle. Congressman Young, 7:30 next Friday night, noon on Sunday. I'm Dean Borg. Thanks for joining us today.


Funding for Iowa Press was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public Television Foundation. I'm a veteran. I am a builder. I'm a volunteer. I am a teacher. I'm a banker. I'm an Iowa banker. No matter who you are there is an Iowa banker who is ready to help you get where you want to go. Iowa Bankers, allowing you to discover the genuine difference of Iowa banks. Iowa Communications Network. ICN's Broadband Matters campaign advocates for access to high speed broadband in all corners of Iowa for education, public safety, health care, government and economic development. Information is available at broadbandmatters.com. Iowa Community Foundations, an initiative of the Iowa Council of Foundations, connecting donors to the causes and communities they care about for good, for Iowa, for ever. Details at iowacommunityfoundations.org. The Associated General Contractors of Iowa, the public's partner in building Iowa's highway, bridge and municipal utility infrastructure. The Arlene McKeever Endowment Fund at the Iowa Public Television Foundation, a fund established to support local programming on Iowa Public Television.    

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