Jim Larew Weighs In on Iowa’s Justice and Liberty Event and Buttigieg’s Self-Proclaimed ‘Obama Moment’


On Monday’s 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 – Leahy was joined by good friend and famed Iowan attorney Jim Larew to chat about last weeks Liberty and Justice event in Iowa and how it’s changed the pace of the campaigns.

During the show, Larew and Leahy, in particular, discussed Pete Buttigieg’s new 60-second campaign commercial ad which showcases the candidate as having an ‘Obama moment.’ The men discussed the genuineness of the so-called moment and found it odd that a candidate would self analyze himself in proclaiming such. Larew commented, ‘It’s one thing, for which is what happened with Obama for people in the audience to suddenly say, ‘Well that was a huge moment.’ It’s another thing for the candidate himself analyzing the moment and calling his own moment and ‘Obama moment.”

Leahy: We are joined on the line by our good friend and the ambassador to the 2020 presidential field and long-time expert in Democrat politics in Iowa. Jim Larew. Good morning, Jim!

Larew: Good morning, Michael. How are you?

Leahy: I’m great. And I wonder if you are able to go out and show your face in Iowa having been my host. (Laughs) A very gracious host I must say last Friday and Saturday as we went around. We went to the Liberty and Justice event where all the democratic presidential contenders spoke.

You graciously introduced me to a number of Iowa political leaders. Many Democrats and many Republicans. That was very brave of you Jim and I salute you for that.

Larew: Well, you were well behaved. (Leahy laughs) You had some very direct discussions. But that’s the way it goes here. Around the coffee table and we exchange views eyeball-to-eyeball.

Leahy: I thought Jim it was very interesting because there may be something about Iowa. Because you have the two very different points of view and we did have some direct exchanges there with a number of your Democrat friends.

And there were a couple of Republicans there as well. I don’t see that kind of frank interaction but relatively polite. I don’t think that would happen here even here in Tennessee. I think the left and the right are so divergent here that politeness is kind of gone with the wind shall we say.

Larew: Well, I think in Iowa it has to do with a relatively small population. Three million scattered across the 99 counties. 950 cities. And in Iowa, what goes around comes around. If you treat someone less than honorably you’re going to meet that person on the street corner.

And it requires a degree of civility, your’ probably going to have to depend on that person for something else within the not so distant future. So I think it’s part of the culture here. It’s in my observation in the legal practice that dealing with an attorney from other states and larger cities where they think, ‘Boy after this case is over I’ll never see that guy again,’ the behavior is a little more brutal.

Here you know with any other lawyer in Iowa you’re going to see that person again so why not both of us do our best notwithstanding our differences to treat each other civility. I think it’s part of the culture here.

Leahy: I really enjoyed my trip there. A great state. Great people. Classic Americana. Very, very enjoyable.  Now let’s talk about something that happened last week. Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City has apparently filed in Alabama and is thinking of formally announcing his candidacy but apparently wants to avoid Iowa? What do you make of that, Jim?

Larew: Well, its a surprise to some degree because it wasn’t that many months ago where he having raised the issue than said he wasn’t going to. He’s not a person for whom one feels a groundswell of interest. (Leahy laughs)

Leahy: That’s a polite Iowa way to say he’s boring! (Laughter)

Larew: Yes, and well – the message isn’t there. And how many billionaires do we need in the race and how many sub-generations do we have to have to express a generational point of view. And I think this isn’t true of every campaign season. But this year as a general matter the Democrats are happy with the pool. They wish it was smaller, not larger.

But they seem to be rather satisfied in a way that I don’t recall it being when President Obama ran for the first time. Within the Democratic circles, there’s not this sense of hunger for one more candidate that is so why shouldn’t it be Bloomberg. I don’t think he’d fare well if he came to Iowa and tried to perform in the caucuses.

Leahy: Yeah, that’s my take as well. I mean he’s a New York City billionaire who I think the campaign will consist of making phone calls from his penthouse in New York. And executing wire transfers around the country for paid media.

Larew: Well it might work in some larger states. One of the beauties is starting in the smaller states, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina is that in any of those instances in different ways. The politics are at a retail level and Bloomberg knows how to sell wholesale.

Leahy: Yeah, he’s a wholesale guy. Absolutely.

(Commercial break)

Leahy: Jim, has the pace picked up there in the past week and a half?

Larew: It really has. And you would enjoy or at least recognize one of the commercials that are being shown here rather intensively. You had one of the best seats in the house being in the press gallery. You probably weren’t but 20 to 30 feet away from the candidates in this large arena.

Buttigieg has taken that campaign speech and visuals of the crowd who were there and made it into a 60-second commercial which is extremely well done. But it plays over and over again to show how that Liberty and Justice Celebration event transfers over to the energy of the campaign, that would be a very good example. But its true in all cases that we really are on the final stretch so people are going door to door.

I was on the road yesterday but a family member here said that three different campaigns had volunteers or paid campaign people, I don’t know which, that came to our door at different times to pitch their candidates. I received push-polling from most of the campaigns that are still viable here.

The campaign call starts with, ‘Who are you supporting?’ And if you leave any opening – which I do – I say, ‘I went to a caucus today and I would support Joe Biden but anything can happen in 100 days.’ Which is a little bit left of that. That’s an eternity in politics on any number of things that can happen.

And if there’s an opening they’ll give a pitch and putting their candidate’s own best case forward or also getting you to question what your first preference is. Social media is terribly saturated. There are campaign ads for virtually all of the top-tier candidates.

And when we see that in Iowa we’re talking Warren, Biden and Buttigieg and Sanders. And Klobuchar has an increased presence but less so for the other candidates although they will pop in from time to time. Tom Steyer, another one of the billionaire candidates has a lot of money and is spending according he had a stumble within the last few days.

Leahy: What was his stumble?

Larew: It was alleged and it appears that he admits that people were understood to have been offering money to politicians in exchange for an endorsement. (Leahy chuckles)

Leahy: What! A  billionaire paying for an election? I’m shocked! I’m shocked!

Larew: You know, it underlines the worst fears at least on the Democratic side of the equation that money should not speak so loudly. And that’s not an allowed practice and an embarrassing moment to the Sheriff. But he has a presence on social media even though I will call him a lower-tier candidate.

But the rest of them fairly predictably, maybe Amy Klobuchar coming down from Minnesota has the biggest spike. That doesn’t overwhelm the others but I think there’s a sense in her followers that she did well at the Liberty and Justice celebration. That there may be an opening due to Joe Biden’s faltering somewhat.

I don’t know that he is but if that’s the perception that there would be room to swim in the lane of the more moderate Democrats. She took some big swings at the Warren healthcare plan over the weekend. And I think the moderates and the candidates accurately assess that that’s going to be a heavy load for Senator Warren to carry further.

Leahy: So I’m very curious about the Buttigieg 60-second ad. Now I was there. We were both there at the event. He’s been trying desperately to make that event a sort of Obama moment. As you know I wrote at Breitbart that it was an adequate speech but it certainly to me didn’t seem to be an Obama moment because in that crowd of 13,000 people there and maybe 1,500 Buttigieg supporters, they were very enthusiastic.

I thought the reaction of the rest of the crowd was a little bit tepid.  I wouldn’t say it was a big ‘Obama moment.’ And yet it sounds like in his TV ad he’s trying to create the impression that there was an ‘Obama moment.’ Is that what the ad is looking at?

Larew: Well it certainly is framed as a campaign ad. Quickly done. It was a big production. We should give credit to Buttigieg coming out of nowhere really. He had the most people in the audience. They were well equipped and visually the commercial was done well.

It’s one thing, for which is what happened with Obama for people in the audience to suddenly say, ‘Well that was a huge moment.’ It’s another thing for the candidate himself analyzing the moment and calling his own moment and ‘Obama moment.’

Leahy: Trying a little too hard there it seems like to me, Jim.

Listen to the second hour here:

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








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