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For Candidates, Winning Iowa Means Courting Business, Evangelicals


After taking aim at John McCain's military record last weekend, Donald Trump is back in Iowa. This time, he's targeting one of his rivals for the GOP nomination, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Trump also boasted about banning Des Moines Register reporters from his campaign event yesterday after the paper ran an op-ed calling for Trump to pull out of the race. To learn more about what Iowa Republicans think of their options in this election, we've called up Steve Deace. He hosts a conservative radio show in Iowa, and in his podcast this past week, he listed the qualities needed to win in his state.

STEVE DEACE: What I've seen so far, I think Ted Cruz probably has all eight of those criteria, although I don't know that he's the best at any of them. For example, he doesn't have quite the record that, say, Scott Walker has. He doesn't have the level of winsomeness as a communicator that Mike Huckabee has. But comprehensively, he presents a pretty strong presence as a candidate, which is why he's winning the activist caucus right now in Iowa, Rachel. And if you look historically at polls in the summertime, they just show no bearing of what's going to happen in the Iowa caucuses. And I'll give your audience recent examples. In the RealClearPolitics polling average in the end of July, 2007, Rudy Giuliani was in first place with 33 percent. Fred Thompson was in second place at 20 percent. Neither one of them won Iowa. Neither one of them won anything.

MARTIN: John Kasich, this past week, became the 16th official candidate in the GOP field. He's headed for Iowa. Have you met him? What do you make of him?

DEACE: I have not met John Kasich. I will tell you though, two things about him. Number one - you get 62 percent statewide in Ohio as a Republican, you deserve a hearing as a presidential candidate. But in reality, I mean, you look at his profile as a candidate, he gives you all the things you don't like about Jeb Bush and, like, none of the things that you do, whichever those things may be. I still have yet to find many, but I'm sure there's some. But - so if I'm the party establishment, I'm thinking, why would I go against the Bush family for a guy who's less funded and less skilled and gifted as a politician than Jeb Bush?

MARTIN: Let me ask you about Donald Trump. He's getting a lot of attention in the national media and in national polls. Do you think that's a problem for Republicans?

DEACE: I don't because of the reason why. The Republican Party is in a full-blown civil war now. And for too long, the people running the party have advocated policies and an agenda that just aren't based in a party platform. And in this civil war, Donald Trump has become its John Brown. Now, John Brown's not the hero of the story, if you know your history, but he is a guy that brings the conflict past the point of no return. The majority of the GOP base is fed up with the same things Donald Trump is. Although, I don't think a majority of the GOP base wants Donald Trump as their nominee.

MARTIN: If he can't get a nomination or if he just feels like he's not welcome, he has suggested that he would run as an Independent. Would that make the race more competitive, more interesting? Does that gives the voters - particularly conservative voters - more options, or does it hurt the GOP?

DEACE: I think we've been doing a pretty good job losing presidential elections recently, Rachel, without any third-party candidates. I think we're doing that just fine. Trump is not the cause of the issues. He is the effect. I mean, he is a manifestation of what the Republican establishment in Washington has done to their own base. Very few Americans want to have to vote for a Bush or a Clinton again. And I think Trump is tapping into that.

MARTIN: Scott Walker still seems to be number one and highly popular in Iowa. And your state has been good to candidates from neighboring states like Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. Is that Walker's edge, or is there something else setting him apart?

DEACE: I like Scott Walker a lot. I think his popularity in Iowa was way overblown. The top two finishers - it just depends on what the order is in a given year - but the top two finishers are always the candidate strongest with evangelicals and the candidate strongest with the business community. Right now, Scott Walker is neither one of those. And this is one of the reasons why it's hard to read polls in Iowa. We are a caucus state, and that means you don't win with name ID or ads. You have to win with organization. And the only two outlets you have to build a caucus organization in a small state like ours is through the churches and through the business community. And that's why if you're not the strongest candidate with those two groups, you don't win here.

MARTIN: Who is? Who's your money on?

DEACE: I think it's a matter of whether Jeb Bush or Scott Walker can become that business community candidate. And then I think - I'll give you three names. Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal are going to vie to see who's going to be the candidate that best organizes the churches. And I think one of those five names I just gave you is going to ultimately win Iowa on February 1. Now, I don't think you have to win Iowa, historically, to win the nomination. Although, if you do, you're the nominee about 75 percent of the time. But whoever's not in the top three has never been the GOP nominee ever. So if you're not in the top three on February 1, then you're done on February 2.

MARTIN: Steve Deace is the host of "The Steve Deace Show" out of Iowa. Thanks so much for talking with us, Steve.

DEACE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.