In a special interview Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – host Michael Patrick Leahy spoke with good friend and Iowan attorney, Jim Larew about the current front runners in the 2020 Democratic Presidential race.
Towards the end of the interview, Larew analyzed the four top players and who may drop off. Leahy questioned Larew on what he thought about Hillary Clinton getting back into the race and her recent smear of Tulsi Gabbard calling her a Russian asset. Larew was confident that Clinton will not be getting into the race and that Democrats feel that she’s already had her chance at the Presidency. He also believes that her recent accusation towards Gabbard was purely a distraction.
Leahy: And we are joined on the phone now by my good friend Jim Larew. Jim, you’re in Iowa City, Iowa today?
Larew: I am, indeed, Mike.
Leahy: Jim, as those of you that listen to our program regularly know is our good friend. Long-time friend. We went to school together. we were roommates one summer in Washington, D.C. He’s still a Democrat. I was a Democrat. I haven’t been a Democrat in a long time. Jim has been very active in Iowa politics and wrote the history of how Iowa changed from being Republican to being Democrat and sort of now as a purple state.
In the 1970’s worked for late senator John Culver. Was on the chief of staff and general counsel for Governor Chet Culver. He knows what’s going on in Iowa. And Jim, you and I are going to meet a week from Friday. We’ll be broadcasting live from WHO radio in Des Moines. That should be a lot of fun.
Larew: I’m looking forward to it. Excellent venue for you to broadcast from. It’s a historic place to have a radio show.
Leahy: We’ll try and get the same studio Ronald Reagan once had. What do you think? (Laughs)
Larew: I think we should go for it and let’s give it a try.
Leahy: And you are our ambassador to the Democratic 2020 presidential field. I guess maybe that afternoon Simon Conway has a big afternoon program on WHO in Iowa. We may be on his program that afternoon. You and I. You call us the political odd couple. That’s a good description don’t you think?
Larew: Well, I think so. Between the two of our views probably cover the gamut (Leahy chuckles) and remain good friends. That’s probably how it should be.
Leahy: I think that’s the problem today isn’t Jim? It would be hard to be more different in terms of political ideologies now than the two of us are. We’re good friends and have been for years. That ability in the general discussion just doesn’t seem to be there. People are enemies. It’s polarized. They hate each other.
Larew: It’s true. It affects the rhetoric that we use. Sooner or later the words we use turn into the feelings that we have. On the whole of the American experiment we have more things in common than differentiate us. We’re certainly in a harsh period of politics. It doesn’t have to be forever but that where we are right now.
Leahy: What’s the weather like up there in Iowa? I’ll be there a week from Friday. Should I wear my winter clothes?
Larew: Well, it changes from day to day. We had a spectacular day yesterday. Just had a thunderstorm go through that left cold weather. In Iowa, we get a string of days that are as beautiful as anywhere else on earth. If it wasn’t for winter which followed it, you know we all look forward to the fall. I can’t predict it. But with any luck, you will have one or more good days while you’re here to enjoy it.
Leahy: So on the ground in Iowa. Just give us an overview of what’s the momentum organizational momentum feels like? Is it still Elizabeth Warren on the rise and Joe Biden struggling? What’s it look like?
Larew: Organization, there’s a rule of thumb. I think it’s probably pretty accurate that a good organization can make a good difference in percentage points in terms of delegates on caucus night. Right now I think you’re going to find maybe three or four tickets getting punched out of Iowa for viable candidates to go to New Hampshire, Nevada.
They’re pretty brutal widdling process here. We’re talking now 19 candidates to come down to four. Those candidates that have a strong organization have the potential to rise out of what seems like nowhere. Strong candidates who come here with a pedigree can do well with the less strong organizations.
On the ground right now I think Biden if he’s not leading but he’s out there. He doesn’t have a particularly strong ground game. Everyone likes Joe Biden as Democrats. You don’t hear anything about him that’s negative. They may say that his time has passed and they won’t say anything negative about it.
Warren has had a terrific organization and has risen to be top tier. Buttigieg is coming on strong and that’s also characteristic of Iowa caucuses in the last 20, 30 years where someone towards the end gets hot. You don’t know what it’s going to be or why it’s going to be. But I would say he’s had some pretty good weeks.
And he has a very strong game and well-financed. Bernie Sanders I think will be just holding on. If we do win and get our candidates we do have to be concerned about his healthcare even those of us who admire what he’s done. So it has a sense of waning to it but he’s still a contender.
If we can get passed those three or four I think there’s a significant drop-off. And those people who can’t get at least 15% in the caucus literally drop off. We get into groups standing in large halls and if you can’t get 15% of the people that are assembled at that moment, you have to dissipate and go to your second choice.
So at least with the Iowa experience, you don’t walk out with 5% out of the caucus. If you’re less than 15% you disappear. And I think that’s where these lower-level candidates whether they have 1%, 3%, or 5% it hardly matters. They really struggle in the Iowa Democratic caucus process.
So I think we’ll probably have three or four candidates who get out of here with countable delegates and time to go to New Hampshire.
Leahy: And you know that’s my take on it as well Jim. Just looking at it from afar, if I had to bet right now I would be those four emerge and nonother’s do. I think Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg on the rise I think and Bernie Sanders.
I think the rest of them, I mean Kamala Harris, she said she was going to I want to use the word, but she had an adjective to describe moving to Iowa. I think that adjective may describe how her efforts have gone.
Larew: Well it’s hard to restart a campaign. You know momentum is a mysterious thing in politics and sometimes lucky things happen. Events from the outside that you can’t control that help or hurt you. She started out strong. She had moments. It looked like she might be moving straight up and just has not.
Her campaign has withered. You don’t feel a resurgence on the ground albeit I’m just one person with feelers out there but I don’t sense it. It’s hard to recapture the imagination of people if you’ve lost it. Cory Booker seems like a terribly talented and very articulate and he’s had some moments but it hasn’t translated to the momentum on the ground.
Those kinds of candidacies of people of great promise and talent it might just not be their time. And sooner or later they bow out because of the humiliation of a huge defeat can be damaging. Others really will probably stick around for a long time.
Tom Steyer, who’s got all the money in the world. I don’t feel any momentum for him just talking to people. But he may stick it out for a long time because he can. I don’t know. But many of these candidates if they don’t get through the Iowa process and are looking to the future, I think they rather bow out gracefully. That’s oftentimes what happens.
Leahy: I see Cory Booker angling for the Vice Presidency. His support of Joe Biden for instance. ‘Don’t ask Joe a question!’ (Laughs)
Larew: It could be you know, there’s a lot of talent here. As we talk to people here I really do appreciate their efforts. And I see an embarrassment of riches here in the Democrats. Albeit maybe too many candidates, they’re all talented. And cabinet positions and Vice Presidency and all kinds of things might be alert to some of them.
It’s hard to get known unless you get into the fray. And some of them may just be in there for that purpose once it doesn’t look like their Presidential aspirations will be fulfilled.
Leahy: Is there a groundswell of support calling for Hillary Clinton to get into the race in Iowa?
Larew: No. I don’t think so. I think the view is that she had her chance and it’s now time for others to have the opportunity to run for President. I don’t sense any groundswell for that at all.
Leahy: What do you make Jim of her, I don’t know, unsolicited, unprovoked attack on Tulsi Gabbard who’s depending on the polls, like in 10th place or ninth place among the potential candidates for the Democratic nomination.
So this past week Hillary Clinton called Tulsi Gabbard you know the Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq I think called her a Russian asset. What do you make of that?
Larew: I thought it was bizarre. If anyone was aiming to try to elevate a campaign Gabbard’s is one that started now where it’s gone in that direction. It’s hard to run a campaign and she just hasn’t shown the path to do it here in Iowa. It’s basically billboards on highways. No paid staff. Showing up at events where there are already crowds. She marched in the Iowa homecoming parade last Friday. It’s an odd place to be.
I think that not only her attack on Gabbard but Gabbard’s incredibly harsh response. It’s a distraction from things that I think most Democrats think are much more important to be concerned about it. And it’s been less than a week since they debated.
And the usual course of things after a major debate amongst Democrats they’re talking about it. Sorting things out. Thinking about it. Second and third balances. This week has been one of the most incredible weeks of the American presidency in terms of Trump’s own conduct.
The withdrawal of troops in Syria. G7 announcement to be in Doral and then withdrawn. The chief of staff appearing to say there was a quid pro quo for military funds to be sent to Ukraine and then withdrawn until a commitment was made to investigate a matter of the President.
Those are usually, just one of those issues come up once a year. And here we have three or four of them right in one week. And it should have been raw materials for the Democrats to talk about. And here we have this distraction.
It didn’t make any sense in terms of the allegation. It’s not something people were concerned about. And really I think it was a distraction. We have more important things.
Listen to the second hour:
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