Political Science Professors Donna Hoffman and Dave Peterson


New Speaker: David Yepsen: Iowans will be flipping the
calendar to 2020 in the days ahead, but we’re already one year into a presidential campaign.
What political trends can we expect in the new year? We sit down with a pair of Iowa
political scientists on this edition of Iowa press Announce: funding for Iowa press was provided
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of broadcast excellence on statewide Iowa public television. This is the Friday, December
20th edition of Iowa press. Here is David Yepsen. David Yepsen: By the time caucus goers cast
their choices in February, 2020 islands will have been subject to nearly 400 days of presidential
campaigning as a never ending election cycle is poised to turn churn turnout throughout
2020 we’ve gathered a pair of political science professors for insight. Dave Peterson is professor
of political science at Iowa state university and Donna Hoffman is professor of political
science at the university of Northern Iowa. Welcome to you both. Good to have you with
us. I think this is your first time being on the program. So welcome. Thank you journalists
joining us across the table today Clay Masters of Iowa public radio and Kay Henderson, news
director at Radio Iowa, Kay Henderson: Professor Hoffman, uh, New
York. Uh, mayor is spending a lot of money running in other States. There’s a discussion
about the diversity among the Iowa electorate. Do you think this is the final time the Iowa
caucuses will be first in the nation? Donna Hoffman: I think that’s always a question
that we entertain in this state. Every time that we’re first, uh, the other 48 States,
New Hampshire usually gives us a pass. The other 48 States, uh, envy position. Um, we’re
always under attack. And you know, one of the things both parties in the state of Iowa
will in fact cooperate on, is keeping the Iowa caucuses first. And they are always,
uh, very attuned, especially in the last couple of cycles to make sure that the caucuses try
to, to not have any hitches in them. The Democrats of course, are dealing with some rural changes
the cycle. Um, the Republicans are, uh, unlike some of their colleagues and other States
not canceling the caucus precisely for this reason. So it is always a threat, um, that
Iowa confronts whenever we enter into this process that by bringing the attention onto
ourselves, it invites some of the criticism as to why should Iowa be first. Kay Henderson: Professor Peterson? What impact
do you think Michael Bloomberg’s, um, more than $100 million in advertising and States
that aren’t at the head of the pack? Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, will
have on this debate moving forward? Dave Peterson: Uh, do you mean on the Iowa
caucuses themselves? The Iowa caucuses. Uh, probably not a whole lot. Um, he’s not doing
very well in the polling that’s come out since he’s been, uh, since he’s announced. Um, Iowans
seem to actually kind of resent the fact that he’s gotten in this late, is not campaigning
in Iowa, um, and has, uh, been sort of attracting attention away from the state and away from
the other candidates. David Yepsen: What’s your answer to Kay’s
question earlier about is this a it for Iowa? What do you think? I will remain first in
the nation. I think it depends on who wins in November of 2020. Right. So if, if there’s
a democratic president, then there won’t be much of a democratic Iowa caucus in 2024,
assuming it’s somebody running for reelection, in which case it’s the Republican party essentially
that makes the decision about the ordering for, for 2024. Dave Peterson: And in that situation, it seems
to me like the Republicans would be much less willing to shift the, uh, away from Iowa.
I think they’re probably a little less concerned about the racial and ethnic diversity. Um,
and so it, it, in that situation, it probably would wait until 2028 at the same time too. Clay Masters: We have, I think for the first
time a presidential candidate actively campaigning in Iowa with Julian Castro, the former housing
secretary running ads saying basically like iOS shouldn’t go first. I mean this, this
is new territory. And does that have any kind of effect? Do you think? Donna Hoffman: Candidates have criticized
the Iowa caucuses before? That usually does indicate that they aren’t doing so well in
the state. And I thought Julian Castro approach was pretty interesting because he has been
doing events across the state, uh, and at the same time criticizing the caucuses, you
know, he is, I guess from his perspective, speaking truth to power in that sense in some
ways, uh, to draw attention to the fact that, um, you know, that Iowa, uh, has some, some
drawbacks to it. You know, at the end of the day though, somebody has to go first. And
what keeps, uh, the protection of our position in that, uh, place is the fact that nobody
else can agree on a better system. And, um, although others have tried. And even when
you’ve had cycles, like in 2008, when Florida, Michigan tried to leapfrog us, we leapfrog
them. It did cause for a lot of chaos. Um, in terms of what would happen to those delegates,
for example, in that race that went to pretty late in the season for Obama and Clinton.
And so, um, you know, it is an interesting strategy that he has to do that, but he is
trying to bring attention to the way the party nominates its candidate. Clay Masters: Well, coming out of the 2016
election, the democratic national committee basically said, Hey Iowa, be more inclusive.
There were the virtual caucuses, uh, which the Iowa democratic party rolled out that
we don’t need to talk too much about that cause they were confusing to explain before
the DNC had concerns about cybersecurity, they threw it out. Now we have these satellite
caucuses, uh, that are going to be in effect. Can somebody explain satellite caucuses? Donna Hoffman: Well, I did hear that, uh,
they’ve, um, said that there will be 99 of them. Now, it sounds like they’re very diverse
in terms of even across the globe, uh, beyond that, I haven’t heard much yet about how they’re
actually going to function, but you know, they are under pressure from the DNC to try
to, um, make the contest seem a little more accessible. Dave Peterson: Yeah, no, I think that’s exactly
right. I mean, the other trick to the entire thing is that New Hampshire’s first in the
nation, primary status is in their state constitution. Right? And so it’s not just, I mean, most
of the ordering of primaries and caucuses is determined by the parties, right. Through
a coordinated strategy, which is part of the reason why, uh, other States have trouble
getting ahead of us is cause they all, they’re all jockeying for position and it’s difficult
to coordinate. But New Hampshire is, is by state constitution, not just state law, state
constitution. And so even if the DNC and the RNC have some type of coordinated effort where
to try to make it so the New Hampshire couldn’t be the first primary, they would lose, right.
That the state is constitutionally obligated to do. So, which creates all sorts of complications
for trying to make this 50 state coordinated strategy difficult. David Yepsen: Do you think Professor Peterson
and do you think the stat alight caucuses will help, uh, Iowa meet the criticism about
diversity and inclusiveness? Dave Peterson: Probably not. I mean, a and
part, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of attention to what they’re going to be. And
from talking to campaign staff, they don’t fully understand what it’s going to be. They
had a good sense of what the virtual caucus was going to be, even though we don’t necessarily
need to talk about that, but they don’t really quite know how to prepare for these satellite
caucuses as in the same way that they know how to prepare for precinct caucuses. David Yepsen: Do either of you think that
Iowa is a good practice ground for democratic presidential caucuses this year? Because as
we’ve all learned, there’s a rural skew to the electoral college. If Democrats can’t
do better in rural America, they’re not going to win the electoral college. So professor
Peterson, is this a good dip place to, for a practice, for a workout? Dave Peterson: Uh, uh, it depends, right?
I, I’d push back a little bit on the, the, the electoral college strategy. I think that
there are other strategies that a democratic candidate could have to try to do better in,
in other States, States like Texas, Georgia, Arizona as a, as a potential path as opposed
to sort of the more, uh, upper Midwest rural. Um, that said, I mean, I think what makes
Iowa a good test case or the good first state is the degree of attention and care that Iowans
put into this. We know to show up at a library in August on a beautiful August day to see
some member of Congress we’ve never really heard of before, give their spiel and, and
to listen and to question and to poke. David Yepsen: Professor Hoffman. Um, I’d like
to switch gears to look at November. Um, is Iowa in play in November? Donna Hoffman: I think certainly it is. Um,
we have, uh, historically gone back and forth. We generally have been seen as a swing state.
Um, I think there are some who would say, well, maybe we, we lean red at this point,
but you know, I would point to the 2018 midterm elections where when you look at the statewide
races, we had two Republicans. When we had two Democrats win, um, we, our congressional
delegation is three to one, Democrat to Republican. Um, I think that it is a very competitive
state. And as we saw from, uh, 2008, 12 and then to 16, we had 31 counties, I believe
it was that, uh, voted both times for Obama and then voted for Trump in 2016. So voters
in Iowa, uh, do tend to, um, take the race and the competition seriously? David Yepsen: Same question to you? Dave Peterson: No, I think absolutely. Um,
I mean one of the things that we know is, uh, that there have been some, in 2018, there
were some real losses for Republicans in particularly in the areas that were hit hard by the trade
sanctions, by the inability to export, particularly like soybeans. Right? So I’ve got a couple
of colleagues who’ve done some really cool work looking at how the, the losses in soybean
exports were directly connected to the gains that the Democrats made in Iowa in 2018. I
mean, if trade picks up, maybe that’ll be better for Trump. Um, but if it doesn’t, I
think that that’s an issue that the, that the democratic candidates can hit. And we’ll
hit on. Clay Masters: Speaking of the democratic presidential
candidates, there’s a lot of them and they’ve been spending a lot of time in Iowa for the
past year. Professor Hoffman, when you look at the different democratic candidates at
this point, I mean, is there some kind of clear candidate you think that will go up
against president Donald Trump successfully in a general election? Donna Hoffman: Well, it depends on, um, you
know, if you look at the polling, uh, it’s, it’s been a little bit, um, skewed in terms
of, uh, who can beat Donald Trump at various times, which Democrats can go up against that.
We do know though, that electability seems to be a concern of democratic party voters.
And part of the process of getting to that is going through the process of the, the caucuses
and primary season because it is grueling. It is testing the candidates metal and um,
and so those are are some of the factors. Uh, I would, I would point to. David Yepsen: But you don’t have a name or
two that you think would be better? Donna Hoffman: I mean I think we have a top
tier and we have a, a bottom tier in terms of who can get the nomination there also though
seems to be a hunger, uh, among Democrats of I don’t really care about the issues as
much as I care about beating the incumbent president. David Yepsen: Peterson? Same question. Dave Peterson: No, I mean I think it’s, I
think it’s tricky right at this point. Um, while Iowans are paying really close attention
and this time, Democrats are paying really close attention to all these candidates. Voters
in about 46 other States aren’t. Um, and so when we poll them and ask, you know, would
you vote for Trump or would you vote for this candidate? They may not know much about that
candidate yet. And one of things that happens during presidential election campaigns is
that we learn, right? Americans actually learn a lot about the candidates over the course
of the campaign. And so the polling today, that’s a snapshot. A lot of that is driven
by name recognition. And so if a candidate like people to judge who a lot of Americans
don’t know yet is the nominee, the polling today is not going to be very helpful to predict
what’s going to happen. Okay. Kay Henderson : What happens if there is not
a clear winner of the primaries and caucuses and it goes to a contested convention? Does
that benefit a candidate in the media age in which we live or is that a detriment and
that they are not able to have been running a campaign against Trump over those months? Donna Hoffman: Well, first I would say the
likelihood of a contested convention is actually quite small. It is always something we talk
about as a possibility, but it is in the interest of the political party, whether it’s the Republicans,
whether it’s the Democrats to not have a divided contest. Uh, you don’t want a convention floor
fight. It puts you at a disadvantage. That is when most Americans start paying attention,
uh, to the general election is right after the conventions. And so even if you look at
2008 as a guide here where it went extraordinarily light between Clinton and Obama, they had
it settled and they had it settled well before the convention. Even though then we were also
talking about the possibility of a convention fight. We talked about it in 2016 with the
Republicans. It’s not in the interest of a party to get to that they’ll do the things
they need to do to squash that if they need to. Kay Henderson: In the last century, we learned
that it’s the economy stupid during the Clinton campaign. Given the fact that America is having
a very healthy economic period here of great duration, professor Peterson, um, isn’t it
likely that president Trump will win reelection? Dave Peterson: Well, there’s two pieces to
that. Uh, first is that we no longer agree on what the economy is. Uh, if you ask Democrats,
uh, how the economy is doing, they’ll say it’s doing substantially worse than Republicans
will say it’s doing. And this is really heightened in the last decade or so. Um, that really
that, that idea of we all live or we all understand the economy to be good or bad at the same
way doesn’t exactly exist anymore. Um, and so the, that, that relationship has broken
down a little bit mean. The other piece to that though is that, uh, one of the ways that
the economy matters is that it feeds into presidential approval, right? A president,
uh, presiding over this economy should have a much higher level of presidential approval
than president Trump has, uh, based on sort of basic models of how politics works. Um,
and so it implies that president Trump faces a penalty that there is, uh, the, the link
between the attitudes about the, about him and perceptions of the economy doesn’t work
the same way it has for the last century. Essentially. Dave Peterson: It’s often good said James
Carville said it’s the economy stupid. I wonder if that is to be changed time and to say it’s
cultural. Um, you look at P hard-pressed regions of the country, you would think people would
oppose Trump, but in fact there for him. And if you dig underneath the surface, you find
its cultural issues that are driving their vote guns, social issues like gay marriage
or abortion. So isn’t it more a cultural driven electorate today than before? Dave Peterson: To a certain extent, yes. I
think that’s definitely the case. I’d add race and ethnicity as part of that as well.
Um, and that, that, that is some, that has become a lot of the major cleavage in American
politics. I mean, our parties line up along social identity lines. Um, and that tends
to really shape who we end up voting for. David Yepsen: Professor Hoffman. What’s the
political effect of this trade war? Um, what will it be in November? Donna Hoffman: That’s hard to say because,
um, even right now it’s a little uncertain. We keep hearing that there is a, uh, an agreement
with China, uh, kind of a, a light agreement, uh, but then it doesn’t seemingly always materialize.
Um, you know, the trade war, how it affects, uh, voters in Iowa, for example, in the caucuses.
Maybe one thing, how it affects, uh, the general election electorate in November may, may be
a different thing. And I think it’s hard to say in that regard because the trade war is
not about one commodity or one product. It’s about a lot of different things and they could
get differentiated here, David Yepsen: But hard times in the farm belt.
In the past, uh, in past farm recessions, there was always a lag time between when the
farm troubles started and when it started to show up at the electorate. I’m thinking
of the farm crisis of the 80s started in the early eighties, and it wasn’t until 88 that
Mike Dukakis carried the state. So, uh, I’m curious, Professor Peterson, would you think
about the political effect of the hard times in rural America? Dave Peterson: I mean, I think, I think it
can be a serious problem for the Republicans. I mean, we know that farmers, uh, and, and
other workers in the agricultural economy understand pretty well how commodity prices
directly impacted their bottom line. And understand pretty well how trade policy shapes commodity
prices and then shapes their bottom line. And it’s not too hard to draw a straight line
from some of Trump’s trade policies directly to some of the, the problems that they’re
facing. Clay Masters: We just had the U S house vote
to impeach president Donald Trump. Iowa’s two freshmen democratic Congresswomen, Abby
Finkenauer from Dubuque and Cindy Axne from West Des Moines, uh, voted to impeach the
president. They’re both in pretty swing districts. Um, how does this affect their races moving
forward? You’ve seen the Republican party of Iowa really hitting them for their votes.
What’s the down ticket effect with whoever the presidential candidates going to be on
the democratic side and Trump. Donna Hoffman: you know, one of the things
that, uh, both Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer our need to do is explain their vote. They
have to explain their vote. They have to explain it in a way in which they’re, you know, essentially
saying, I stood on principle, I stood on principle. I didn’t pander, for example, my seat might
be in danger, but this was an issue for me that was worth it to do that. And uh, there
will be an, especially this was true, uh, in decades past, it remains to be seen if
this is still the case with voters, but voters generally with members of Congress may disagree
with a vote, but respect the fact if you can explain it well, this is a different type
of vote in some ways and it’s also a different type of environment. So they certainly have
thought about this before they even cast that vote. They’ve already got an answer to that
question in terms of how they’re going to explain it to voters. The question is where
are they going to be successful in doing that? David Yepsen : What about the effect, uh,
professor Peterson down-ballot on say the legislature, uh, this impeachment, we’ve talked
about the, the economy, the jitters. Is it possible that Republicans don’t become Democrats
but that they just stay home? Dave Peterson: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s
definitely the case, right? I mean, I think it’s, it’s one of the big questions we face
in the next year is what is this election going to be about? What is the narrative that
shapes what voters are thinking about when they go to the polls in November of 2020?
And if it is impeachment, if it is, uh, concerns about corruption, uh, with the president that
can cast, that can cascade down, right? I mean, there’s a reason why, uh, after the
Nixon, or excuse me, after the Nixon resignation, the Republicans took incredible losses all
the way down the ticket, right? The Republican party of Minnesota officially changed its
name to the independent Republican party. If that effect is, is similar, right, where
it sort of cascades all the way through the party, then it can, uh, make a big difference
at, at these even more local levels. David Yepsen: But what about the flip side
of that? Does that base Republican base get so angry and so energized and you saw it in
some of the floor discussions that they come roaring into the electorate? Dave Peterson: Yes, absolutely. Right? I mean,
that’s, that’s just it, right? I mean that’s a year out. We don’t know what’s exactly going
to happen, but that could very well be the case. It seems like the, I mean, the Republican
party really has been, uh, shaped and molded by president Trump in ways that I haven’t
seen a previous president do. Kay Henderson: Professor Hoffman. Um, I’ve
heard some pollsters certainly refer to something they call the exhausted majority. Where do
those people go? Donna Hoffman: That’s a good question. Um,
you know, so do they again, do they stay home? Um, you know, there will be people who, um,
might’ve been Trump voters that aren’t excited by Trump any longer. There are just so many
unknowns there in terms of, uh, what will happen. Do people just drop out of the race?
One of the things I would look to would be, uh, 2018, again, in the midterms we saw record,
very high turnout, uh, almost new record turnout there. The Republicans were energized, the
Democrats were energized, the Democrats happened to be a little bit more energized than the
Republicans. So I think the question is, uh, in terms of of 2020, and the turnout is how
far that, that, uh, burning indignation that some feel will last in that sense. And also,
you know, it is still a long time before that election takes place and a lot of things can
happen. Kay Henderson: What is your analysis of Joni
Ernst prospects for reelection in 2020? Donna Hoffman: So we used to, Tip O’Neill
used to say all politics is local, right? Uh, that really has kind of changed and uh,
these elections have become nationalized. And my prediction for Joni Ernst would be
is if, if the, if Trump wins the state, she probably gets reelected. If the Democrat wins,
she probably goes down. Dave Peterson: Yeah, absolutely. Um, no, I
think this is going to be a tightly contested race. Um, I think the, the Democrats are gonna,
uh, spend a lot of time and attention on this Senate seat, uh, nationally. Um, and I think
the, the, whoever ends up being the democratic nominee is going to be, uh, well situated
to run a competitive campaign. Um, but ultimately I think I agree, right? I think it’s going
to be a nationalized race and it’s going to be tied closely to the presidential election. David Yepsen: Take Kay’s question down ballot
even farther. Does this start to affect legislative races for local races? Dave Peterson: Yeah, probably. I mean, I mean
it depends on what the, it depends on what the mechanism is. Is it right? Is it, is it
that Republicans are staying home? In which case it absolutely will, right? Cause that’ll
just be a down-ballot effect. Um, sort of an unintended consequence is it, um, people
become polarized, um, and everybody’s turning out and everybody’s a hyperpolarized in which
case it’s going to be, everything’s going to be competitive. Kay Henderson: You know, I’m struck by the
fact that about this time last year, the world was going to come to an end because there
was a federal government shutdown. Um, how is it that we’re thinking we can forecast
what’s going to happen in November in this sort of environment when the news turns so
fast? Donna Hoffman: That is really an issue. You
know, this morning I heard on the radio, Kamala Harris dropped out of the race about two weeks
ago. And I thought, really, that wasn’t, uh, six, six weeks ago, eight weeks ago. So it
is like a fire hose in terms of the issues that come at, uh, uh, you know, voters again
that exhaust that’s, you know, part of that exhausted, uh, piece of the electorate. I
think, um, it is difficult to tell now. That’s why political scientist, we’ll talk about
the fundamentals of elections and we do, you know, rely on things like the economy, uh,
rely on things, uh, such as presidential approval to help us forecasting. But there’s always
an element of chance of, of, uh, error in those forecasts, Clay Masters: Democratic presidential candidates
when they’re here. I go to these rallies and one of the things that they’re often talking
about is the electoral college and, and they say that the electoral college should go away
and the crowd cheers. Um, they’re actively campaigning on this. Could we see, uh, another
time where president Trump is elected by winning the electoral vote and not the popular vote?
Is this going to happen again? And then is there this appetite manifesting into something? Dave Peterson: I mean, it could happen again.
I mean, it obviously could happen again, right? I mean, I think it’s likely that the democratic
candidate will run up a run up their votes in New York and California, um, and that the
Republicans won’t be able to do, or Trump won’t be able to do quite the same in Texas
for instance, you know, the big were Halligan state. Um, and as long as the popular vote
loser electoral college winner is always a Republican, which is what it’s been the last
couple of times, then Democrats are gonna love that. The one time it switches the other
way, then we might see some bipartisan, uh, attempts or efforts or, or taste to, to get
it changed. Donna Hoffman: The problem though with the
electoral college is, um, that States, at least small States would have to be pretty
selfless and getting rid of it. Iowa being one of those, because the ratification process
of a constitutional amendment that would get rid of the electoral college would have to
go to the States. And there’s enough small States that are slightly advantaged by the
electoral college that, uh, could probably block it. David Yepsen: Not likely. This is ever going
to change? Donna Hoffman: Unlikely. I tell. I tell students
all the time, you know, you can hate the electoral college all you want, but you better get used
to it. Kay Henderson: We haven’t much more than a
minute left. You’re both political scientists. Tell us one piece of data you want to see
from the caucus electorate, professor Hoffman. Donna Hoffman: Um, I, well, we’re going to
get different data, uh, in the democratic caucus this time because the democratic party
has historically only reported state delegate equivalents. And that is sometimes confusing
to explain to people both in and outside of the state what that actually means. Um, so
we will see, uh, hard numbers, raw numbers on the first alignment as well as the second
alignment from the Democrats as well as the state delegate equivalent. And what, how those
numbers, um, compare and contrast. I think it’s going to be something that will be very
interesting to watch. So I’m looking forward to that kind of data. Dave Peterson: I mean, I would agree that’s
the same. That was again, I was getting my answer as well, right? That, uh, seeing, um,
which of the candidates, right? So basically there’s four candidates, about 15%, four candidates
look like they’re going to get delegates. Is there a fifth one who can get close even
that would help figure out what’s going to happen next. David Yepsen: And I’m out of time. Thank you
both for being with us. Thank you. You’re welcome. And we’ll be back next week for another
edition of Iowa Press with an all Iowa reporters round table at our regular times Friday night
at 7:30 and again at noon on Sunday for all of us here at Iowa public television. I’m
David Yepsen and thanks for joining us today. Announce: funding for Iowa press was provided
by friends, the Iowa public television foundation, the associated general contractors of Iowa,
the public’s partner in building Iowa’s highway bridge and municipal utility infrastructure.
I’m a dad. I am a mom. I’m a kid and I’m a kid at heart. I’m a banker. I’m an Iowa banker.
No matter who you are, there is an Iowa banker who is ready to help you get where you want
to go. Iowa bankers allowing you to discover the genuine difference of Iowa banks.

Maurice Vega

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