The Tennessee Star Report Talks to Jim Larew About How 2020 Democrat Presidential Contenders are Being Received in Iowa


In a specific discussion Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Gill and Leahy spoke to long time friend and resident of Iowa, Jim Larew. Larew is also the leading Democrat from Iowa who served as an aid and Chief of Staff to former Senator John ‘Chet’ Culver.

During the show, the men discussed how the 2020 Presidential candidates are being received in Iowa and specifically the lead that Elizabeth Warren is showing versus Bernie Sanders in current polling.

Leahy: Jim, welcome to the Tennessee Star Report. And what is going on in Iowa?

Larew: Well, good morning to you Mike. It’s a pretty active place out here in Iowa. So many candidates, so many events that one can’t keep track of it. In fact, newspapers publish schedules everyday of where are the candidates today. It’s a pretty wild place.

Leahy: So the latest poll that Steve and I were just looking at this poll. Monmouth poll released on Thursday of Iowa voters. Joe Biden in first place at 28%. Elizabeth Warren in second place at 19%. Kamala Harris in third place with 11%. Bernie Sanders in fourth place with 9% and Pete Buttigieg 8%. Is that poll reflective of what you’re seeing out there Jim?

Larew: Yes. I think it is. One added part would be people that I speak to who’ve seen her have said good things about Amy Klobuchar but she doesn’t show up as a persons’s first pick but seems to be a lot of  peoples second pic. And that’s not un-important when you get down the line. There’s a 15% viability rule when people go to their caucus’s next February.

If you have to go to your caucus room and your candidate doesn’t have at least 15% of those assembled than you have to break up and go a line yourself with someone who does have 15% or more. So, going down the line, a persons second pick will be increasingly important because they’ll be reassigned and you could see some bumping going one way or another.

I’m not saying that’s gong to happen with Amy Klobuchar but she does seem to be a popular person who no one is picking as number one right now.

Gill: Jim, Steve Gill here. One of the hurdles they’ve got to face before they even get to s caucus’s is who makes the next round of the Democratic debates. There’s about nine that have qualified with the fundraising levels and the polling data to get into the next round of debates. There are several others that are very close.

Tulsi Gabbard right now is just outside the margins. You’ve got Marianne Williamson who’s been very popular in the first debates at least among the public. You’ve got several that if they don’t make the debates, they don’t get the attention. I mean everybody’s been wanting to kind of wean this thing down so you don’t have two nights of 10 each. But if they don’t make this debate, will they have any clout in Iowa?

Larew: Well they’ll still be able to participate here but you’re point is a good one. At some point these candidates have to remain visible in order to be viable. It’s a very expensive process to maintain, just in Iowa alone, the campaign machineries that keep these things going.

And if they get cut off at the national level it’s hard then to understand how outside of their immediate constituencies, their own state or congressional district for example, where they could draw funds from. And I think that would be hard.

So that won’t have an impact. But in Iowa just basically anyone or most anyone can play. And I imagine there will be a lot of candidates that might say, “Iowa is my last stop.” But they’ll probably go through the process of the caucus’s just to see what’s going to happen.

Gill: And you mention the money. You had Scott Walker the governor of Wisconsin in the Republican cycle the last time. He had plenty of what’s called ‘the soft money.’ He had the super PAC’s, the independent expenditures, he had plenty of money there, but did not have enough in the hard money where you’re hit with the limitations of what you can donate in a federal campaign.

I think a lot of these candidates may soon be coming up against that as well where they may have independent expenditure outside source money but they don’t have the hard money which is what you have to pay staff. What you have to pay your own travel. The actual cost of a campaign is the hard money. And that’s where a lot of these folks run short even when they’ve got money on the soft side still available.

Larew: Steve, I think you’re right. And another part of that too, you can have candidates that seem to come up with the money who are largely self funded or whatever who just get no traction at all. The money’s an important ingredient but not just the only thing. But for some of these people it will just make it nearly impossible for them to proceed anywhere past Iowa.

Leahy: Jim you know the mind of Democratic voters who participate in the caucus’s in Iowa, probably as well as anyone in the country. When they are looking at who to pick, are they looking at issues? Are they looking at who can beat Trump? Or are they looking at shall we say the ‘charisma of the candidate?’

Larew: It’s a combination and it’s I think changed overtime Mike. When we first started doing this back in ’72, ’76, we did look at ourselves as Iowan;s pretty modest people. We’d rather look at our shoes than look at someone in the eye, and we used to think, “Well if we can just widdle the field down in Iowa. Maybe from a field of 10, down to three four or five.” That’s a big deal and we really shouldn’t ask for more.”

So people in that atmosphere I think really focus on things like issues. Well if we can send five or six on to the next place we might as well get the person who we align most with on issues. And although, activists talk that way, it’s been my observation that this thing has become more and more front loaded so that frequently we have the time on the Republican side and nearly that much on the Democrat side. Whoever wins Iowa wins the whole thing.

And so you get this sense, and Iowan’s are very earnest about it. They study the issues hard. They take it very seriously. But I think this year in particular, it’s like the bank shot. (Leahy chuckles) Not who do I like so much, but who do I think can beat Trump. And so it’s almost by proxy. And you see a lot of that kind of thinking going on that wasn’t true decades ago. And I think that does influences their choice.

“Well I really like candidate X the most, but you know I think candidate Y can beat Trump. So I’m on candidate Y’s bandwagon.” So that’s happening more than in past cycles. Whether that’s the Trump factor or whether just the fact as a matter of reality the Iowa caucus’s have more importance than they used to in terms of the ultimate decisions of both parties.

Gill: I’m always fascinated by these ‘fair campaigning events.’ Did anybody commit a major ‘fair faux pas’ at the Iowa state fair? A few years ago you had Fred Thompson show up when he was running for President walking around in his Gucci loafers wasn’t exactly the right fit. (Leahy laughs) Cosley warned “Don’t eat a corn dog.”


The optics where just too bad. I think it was John Kerry that went up to Philadelphia eating a Philadelphia cheese steak with knife and fork. It’s like, “Ok, there’s some things that you just got to know and your staff’s got to know you just don’t do.” Did anybody have any major fair screw ups this week?

Larew: So far I don’t think any have been reported but there’s a gaggle of going on with each of these candidates where they dare not make a mistake. I saw a picture or read something that Elizabeth Warren ordered a corn dog but she took it off-site to eat it.  (Larew giggles)

Leahy: Oh, smart. Smart.

Gill: Good staff work.

Larew: They really do taste good. (Leahy laughs) I got one of those vouchers for a corn dog.

Leahy: It looks like Bernie Sanders is losing support while Elizabeth Warren is gaining support. Am I reading that right? And if so, why is this happening?

Larew: I think you are right. And there’s different explanations I suppose. One, Bernie’s strength in Iowa four years ago, my view of it was a lot of it came from the fact that she wasn’t Mrs. Clinton.

Leahy: (Leahy chuckles) Yeah.

Larew: There was a lot of skepticism bout her candidacy in the party. And they’re were so many fewer candidates then. I think part of the support was exaggerated. I think one loves Sanders for his presentation and his message. Or one doesn’t. And it’s the same message over and over and I think for some (Inaudible talk)

The demographics of the two are quite different by report. Oddly, Sanders given his own demographic still remains quite compelling to some younger people but they’re not exactly the same demographic. And yet, as you’ve described, she has gained while Sanders fallen back.

Listen to the full hour:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.





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