Politics

John Pemble

With the sun setting on a primary season full of surprises, Iowans can expect more of the unexpected as the nominees head towards the party conventions.

On this special edition of River to River, co-hosts Ben Kieffer of Iowa Public Radio and Jennifer Hemmingsen of The Gazette sit down in front of a live audience in Cedar Rapids with The Gazette’s investigative reporter James Lynch, and columnists Lynda Waddington and Todd Dorman.

They give their thoughts on Iowa races as well as the race for the White House. Below are some highlights from the discussion.

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In advance of next Tuesday’s primary election, IPR is bringing you interviews and stories about the candidates and the issues. Here is a profile of Democratic candidate Monica Vernon, who’s in the First District Congressional race.

Monica Vernon has been here before. She ran for the Democratic nomination in 2014 in a five-way primary and came in second to former Iowa lawmaker Pat Murphy. She and Murphy are back on the ballot this time around.  Vernon says she’s ready to pick up where she left off, especially on the issue of increasing the minimum wage.

OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY LAWRENCE JACKSON

Now that the election is well underway, it's prime season for the campaigns to consider their vice president picks. According to presidential historian Tim Walch, there are three things campaigns look for in a candidate.

Temperament – "You don’t want somebody who is going to blow up or be difficult with the president," he says. "They have to keep in mind that they are there to assist the president."

Clay Masters (Clinton, Cruz, Trump); John Pemble (Sanders); Alex Hanson (Kasich)

While presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is asked about hair, clothes, and makeup more than her male counterparts, she isn't the only candidate spending time thinking about her appearance.

“Most people don’t realize quite how much goes into any politician or candidate's face or clothing,” says beauty consultant Rachel Weingarten

Billionaire Donald Trump won seven of the Super Tuesday primary contests to take a commanding lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also claimed victory in seven of the states voting Tuesday, making it all but impossible for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to overtake her in the race for the Democratic nomination.

By Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States / Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11761539

The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia over the weekend has ignited a firestorm. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately said the next president, not Barack Obama, should make the nomination. That sentiment was echoed by Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Pete Souza, Official White House Photo / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

President Barack Obama gave his eighth and final State of the Union address on Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress. Instead of a traditional speech where the President lays out an agenda for the coming year, the President took more of a long term view.

Theresa Thompson / Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

Millennials are projected to surpass Baby Boomers as the largest living generation this year, according to the Pew Research Center. And as they're between the ages of 18 and 34, they'll be eligible to vote in the upcoming caucuses and 2016 election. So, what do these young voters care about?

More than 120 people are dead in Paris after a string of terrorist attacks late last week, including one American. The attackers have been identified as Muslim extremists, and one of the terrorists is said to have gotten into France by posing as a refugee.

John Pemble / IPR

Think for a moment about the person with whom you share the least in common, when it comes to your beliefs. Now, imagine having coffee with that person, not just once, but many times over a period of two years.

Principia School / Flickr

There's more than a century between the candidacies of William Jennings Bryan and Bernie Sanders, but history is still repeating itself when it comes to the elections of 1900 and 2016.

"The Industrial Revolution was creating that same gap that the technological revolution has expanded. There was a sense of dizzying inventions that were being made, that the pace of life was speeding up. People were moving from the farm to the city, so it was a disorienting age much like our own. So that was really the spur for the populist movement."

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

A top Iowa Republican has harsh words for his party’s representatives in the U.S. House, where the GOP has so far been unable to agree on a new House Speaker to replace the outgoing John Boehner.

Opposition from a cadre of conservatives known as the Freedom Caucus helped lead Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to withdraw from the race for the top post.

Former Iowa Republican party chair Matt Strawn says it looks like Republicans don’t know how to govern.

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The battle over who will become the next Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is "probably the most important thing happening in politics today." That's according to Dave Andersen, assistant professor of political science at Iowa State University.

Don Graham / Flickr, Licensed Under Creative Commons

President Obama unveiled his Clean Power Plan this week. The plan sets the first-ever EPA standards on power plant emissions and requires a 32% reduction in those emissions over the next 15 years. It also seeks to boost renewable energy sources.

2016 Republican presidential hopefuls reacted negatively to the plan. Florida Senator Marco Rubio called it "catastrophic," while former Florida Governor Jeb Bush described it as "irresponsible and over-reaching." New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called it an example of "overregulation" that would "kill American businesses and jobs."

Clay Masters/IPR

Seven candidates and one potential candidate for the Republican nomination for president were on hand at the Central Iowa Expo in Boone on Saturday for a fundraiser hosted by Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst.  

The expo grounds are also this year’s site for the Iowa GOP’s traditional cattle call for candidates, the Iowa Straw Poll.   

Ben Barringer, a software engineer, drove down to Boone from Lake Mills in far north Iowa with a couple of potential favorite candidates in mind

“I’m very excited for Ted Cruz and Scott Walker,” Barringer says.   

Dan Farber / flickr

Former Vice President Al Gore is in Cedar Rapids this week as part of his Climate Reality Project, a tour meant to teach people how to “take on the climate crisis." Participants in the three day session are encouraged to give press interviews, communicate with government officials, and organize others in the effort against pollution.

Gore says he believes this year is a turning point in government action on climate change, and he believes the environment will be a key issue in the 2016 presidential election.

Clay Masters / IPR

As spending on Congressional and Presidential campaigns continues to grow, politicians are starting to voice support for measures to try and get some of that money out of politics. 

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton voiced her support for a Constitutional amendment to limit campaign spending last week in a speech at Kirkwood Community College, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has also spoken in favor of taking a hard look at how much money is being spent on elections. 

Photo by John Pemble

McCoy, You’re Going Straight to Hell – that’s the title of State Senator Matt McCoy’s new book. In it, Iowa’s highest-ranking openly gay elected official shares personal stories and opinions sent to him on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.

"Not only was I going straight to hell, but I was bringing the souls of innocent Iowans with me...all these souls that would be lost as a result of marriage equality," he says.

In this River to River interview, Ben Kieffer talks with Sen. McCoy about the book, as well as his future political ambitions.

Jonathon Colman

A recent poll shows that a majority of Americans (71%) now say the war in Iraq “wasn’t worth it.” That’s similar to sentiments from the Vietnam era about that conflict.

Caleb Smith / Speaker John Boehner via Flickr

Netanyahu stressed Iran’s “radical” regime, saying there is no difference between the country and ISIS in terms of “imposing a militant Islamic empire.”

401(K)2012 / flickr

Political action committees (PACs) for presidential hopefuls are focusing on Iowa and New Hampshire - with some groups channeling up to 95% of their political donations to local politicians in the two states.

Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Frank, a cultural columnist for Salon, says that President Obama’s legacy might be more about what he didn’t do when he was in office.

SV Johnson / Flickr

In her State of the Union response, freshman Senator Joni Ernst repeated an anecdote from her victory speech evoking her "down-home" upbringing.

John Pemble/IPR

The annual State of the Union address last night offered a national spotlight for Iowa’s junior senator.

That Hartford Guy / Flickr

Nixon resigned the office of president 40 years ago this month. But the question remains: What were the lessons of Watergate? And has our country learned them?

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Over the course of the next two years, political analyst Charlie Cook says we could see some infighting in Congress.

A historic deal regarding carbon emissions has been reached between China and the U.S.  Is it realistic?

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Senator-Elect Joni Ernst's 'Squeal' ad made waves this election cycle. NPR political correspondent Mara Liassion believes Ernst's gender was crucial to that appeal.

Ulises Jorge / flickr

The Republican and Democratic parties dominate politics in our state and our country.

John Pemble

NPR political correspondent Don Gonyea has spent many years in Iowa, covering political races and the Iowa caucuses; but can he reach the status of "honorary Iowan?"

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