Utah State University assistant professor Jason Gilmore is writing a book on President Donald Trump’s communication style and traveled to Iowa this week to attend some rallies before the state’s caucuses on Monday.
Tom Williams: Thanks so much for taking time.
Jason Gilmore: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
TW: So I understand you went to a Biden event in a Yang event.
JG: Yeah. So we were at a Yang event in the morning at a high school. It was definitely an interesting event.
TW: What's Andrew Yang talking about?
JG: Andrew Yang seems to be focusing on redefining kind of the conversation. So he seems to be trying to make a play for Obama's space. Even if you look at it, like his campaign signs and whatnot, he's making a play for, I think the slogan was “Not left, not right, forward,” making a play for, you know, “this shouldn't be a partisan issue. We should be talking about how we move the country forward and not backwards.” So we found that very interesting.
He’s definitely kind of queuing into different ways to think about issues. One that really stood out to me was he was talking about the fact that, you know, we all think about health care is something that is coupled with our jobs. And for most of us it is. And he said well, the problem of that is, is that people who would like to get into better jobs where they could be more productive, more creative, and contribute to society, think twice about doing that, because they might lose their health care. And that's the same thing, according to Yang, when it comes to starting a business. You know, somebody says, I'd love to do that, but I'm going to lose my healthcare. And I don't know how to do that.
So his event was quite interesting because he had kind of novel ways of redefining the issues. And he seemed to pretty much stay out of too much political infighting, which I found refreshing for sure.
TW: What's Joe Biden talking about?
JG: Joe Biden is talking about Donald Trump. He's talking about the dangers of Donald Trump as president, as he perceives Donald Trump to be. He's talking about the fact that, you know, according to Biden, that Donald Trump is scared of Biden, he said something along the lines of “you know, he talks about me all the time.” So he's really looking to make a pitch for defining America as being different from Trump.
And to a certain extent, you know, he harkens back to the kind of themes of traditional presidential candidates, you know-- We're the United States of America. We're the greatest country on Earth. We should treat each other nicely. We should work across the aisle. We shouldn't insult each other.
So you could really see Donald Trump, or responses to Donald Trump, embedded in most everything in his campaign messaging.
TW: I assume in Iowa right now, it's all politics all the time? Is everybody paying attention?
JG: I'm not sure everybody's paying attention, but definitely, everywhere you go, you can feel the buzz of politics. We've taken Ubers around towns and whatnot. And the Uber drivers are always asking us where we're going. And as soon as they find out why they're doing something on politics, they're like, “Well, my candidate is Andrew Yang,” or you know, “Elizabeth Warren.” So it does seem to be everywhere. And Joe Biden spoke to that. He said, you know, “why is it that Iowa should be starting this out?” And his answer was, because in Iowa, everybody cares. Everybody takes it seriously. Everybody's involved. And you can definitely see that, even in the smallest of towns, you can see the signs everywhere. For those the different candidates, and you can just tell that everybody's thinking about this right now.
TW: Is there a candidate seems to have momentum right now.
JG: You know, as far as I've seen throughout national polling, it seems that Sanders comes into this weekend before the caucuses with momentum. Although, you know, looking at the polls, you know, he’s neck and neck with Joe Biden.
But that’s the thing about caucuses is when you're there, it's about energy, right? So when people go into the different caucuses throughout the night, people have to recruit people to their side to get them behind certain candidates. And really that plays to Sanders and his ground campaign here and his supporters who are super energetic.
To tell you the truth coming out of the Biden event, you know, Donald Trump's nickname for him is sleepy Joe. And we were commenting that the event itself was not high energy. You know, there was one point where Joe Biden got riled up and talked forcefully about you know, who we are as America. But by and large, it was a very subdued event, everybody was sitting. So Bernie Sanders, I think comes into this with an advantage not only in the polling, but in the fact that his supporters when they go into these caucuses, they're going to be going in, ready to go.
TW: Well, Jason, thanks so much for reporting for us from Iowa.
JG: Yeah, thanks for having me. It's a unique experience out here for sure.