Thursday 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 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Leahy was joined on the newsmakers line by longtime friend and ambassador to the Iowa Democratic presidential field, Jim Larew to the show.
During the second hour, Leahy asked Larew if he felt the Democrats in Republican districts of Iowa would be affected by their vote for impeachment Wednesday evening. Larew pointed out that although Iowa is a consistent purple state, those particular districts were starting to lean Democrat.
Leahy: It’s impeachment day plus one. Last night the House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump on two articles of impeachment. Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. And joining us now to make sense of all of this out in the heartland is our good friend. Our ambassador to the Iowa Democratic presidential field, Jim Larew. Good morning Jim.
Larew: Good morning Michael.
Leahy: What is the weather like out there in Iowa today?
Larew: Quite brisk. They are promising us that it’s going to get a little warmer. By that, I mean the low 40s. I’ll believe it when I see it I will then believe it. But it seems cold.
Leahy: Seems cold. Now you have a legal practice and you are based in Iowa. The University of Iowa and then also in Des Moines as well, right?
Larew: We have offices in Iowa City, which is my home and principal office. And I have an office over in Des Moines. And then in southeast Iowa in a town called Musketine over by the Mississippi River.
Leahy: Just a multi-office legal conglomerate you are there Jim?
Larew: It means I spend time on the road driving from one pace to the next. I enjoy it. One man band.
Leahy: For our listening audience. Jim and I attended Harvard together. He was one year ahead of me. We spent one summer as roommates in Washington, D.C. And we have been friends ever since even though ideologically Jim is on the left and a Democrat. I’m on the right. A conservative and more often in line with Republicans. By the way, Jim, just as an aside. One of our listeners sent me a Tweet the other day and said I’m too nice to you. (Laughs)
Larew: (Chuckles) Well, that’s been true always. That’s probably why we’re friends.
Leahy: And the other thing is so listeners won’t be confused. The big issue you know, should president Trump be impeached or not? Why should we have that discussion because we know where we stand on that. Not a fruitful discussion and our listers will weigh for the rest of the program of course.
But there are special things you know that we don’t know. And I guess the first question is, were Iowans last night just clinging to the television watching with bated breath to see if the House would impeach President Trump?
Larew: I don’t’ sense that. It certainly wasn’t something I was doing although I was checking in from time to time. And that makes it much different from the experience we had in college. Because that was an impeachment process against Richard Nixon. And it was absolutely galvanizing because the country had not gone through that. The end was not clear. The stakes where high.
And it really just gripped us and at least the group I was with talked about a fair amount. This doesn’t have that same sense. Maybe it’s closer to the Clinton impeachment where the outcome was pretty clear even as it started and that was that it would not result in a trial that would force the president to leave the office. So that drama isn’t there.
Leahy: So Iowa has four members of the House. One Republican, Steve King, and three Democrats. And the three Democrats represent districts that President Trump won in 2016. Cindy Axne from the first district of Des Moines.
Larew: She’s in Iowa three. The Des Moines area.
Leahy: Then Abby Finkenauer, who’s the youngest woman elected to congress. And then, Dave Loebsack who’s retiring from the House. All three of them voted yes on both articles of impeachment. Do you know these three and how do you think their own re-election chances are influenced by their votes?
Larew: Well yes I do know them. And they are indicative of what has been going on in Iowa which is one of the purplest states in the country. That is President Obama won Iowa by about 10 points in his last election. Mr. Trump won his race by about 10 points. That’s a huge swing in a short period of time.
Two of those three Democrats that you just named, Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer took Republican seats and made them Democrat in the election two years ago. I interpret those kinds of votes as being a referendum on the presidency. But to that extent, it was moving back in a Democratic direction. And the outcomes of those races won’t’ be clear. There are contested primaries going on. And I would say that each of the freshman women and Congressional members are doing pretty well as you would normally measure them.
Leahy: Micheal Bloomberg, by the way, is coming to Tennessee this week and people just can’t wait to see him. (Laughs)
Larew: To see him in front at all instead of the television would be novel. We haven’t seen him out here in Iowa but his commercials run fairly frequently. I don’t think he’ll have any trouble getting some profile with all those commercials. But that 15% threshold that you need in Iowa and a lot of other states means that people spend a lot of money and still not win many delegates. So we’ll see how that goes.
Leahy: So Michael Bloomberg is thumbing his nose at an in-person visit to Iowa and coming to Tennessee. I guess that’s part of his super Tuesday only strategy. Does that hurt the feelings of Iowans, Jim?
Larew: No. I think they take anyone who wants to come out and they would grill them like they do all the candidates. These are pretty pointed questions Iowans ask. They’re pretty interested. He has a history that is attractive to some Democrats. He’s spent a lot of money for causes they support.
Leahy: Gun control and stopping big gulps and that sort of thing. (Laughs)
Larew: Well, yeah, trying to push back against shootings in schools and things that are disturbing to people. It’s a collection of issues supporting causes and candidates. It’s a lot of work down there that causes folks not to be hostile to him. But that’s different than saying we want you to be our President. I don’t think Iowans think the problem with the caucus is that there are too few candidates.
Leahy: (Laughs) There you go yeah.
Larew: That’s it yes. There have been to many to make the process work well. This is the start of the process not the end and we get it.
Leahy: So the caucuses are creeping upon us. Have you selected where you will caucus?
Larew: You are assigned to a caucus. I know where it will be. It’s the fourth precinct in the city of Iowa City. Although traditionally we caucus in what was my grade school Lincoln School. There are going to be so many people attending they’ve moved us to a large hall so that we have room to do it.
When I started caucusing years ago we had maybe 50 bodies in a school gymnasium. They’re predicting 650 people at this particular caucus so we needed a bigger space.
Leahy: Wow. Now, we’re sending out two reporters. Anthony Gockowski who’s the editor of the Minnesota Sun will be going out to Iowa. And then Chris Butler our intrepid Tennessee Star reporter will also be going out. Will they be able to get into these caucuses? How does that process work?
Larew: I’m certain they’ll be able to be guests. That’s always been true. And then they’ll need to figure out how to get from that scrum to someplace where they can begin to witness as a congregation results across the state of Iowa. Begin to be reported in some interpretation can be made. Because it’s quite frequently the case that a precinct will be dominated by one or two people because they reflect neighborhoods.
And it’s only when you get the aggregate across the state of Iowa, more than 600 precincts out of 99 counties that you begin to see what happens statewide. So I think they could have both experiences which has certainly been the case before.
Leahy: Ah, that’s good. We are starting to increase our coverage of Iowa. And shhh, don’t tell anybody. We’re thinking of maybe possibly opening up an Iowa Star there.
Larew: It’s our secret. (Laughs)
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.
Background Photo “Iowa Capitol” by Cburnett. CC BY-SA 3.0.