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10 Thoughts I Had During the Politico Caucus Event

Posted: November 22, 2015 | By: Skylar Borchardt Tagged: From the Campaign Trail

Politico hosted the event: Politico Caucus Economy and the Election (presented by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation) in Des Moines on Nov. 18. I ditched class a little early (don’t worry it was a politics class anyway) to cover the event. While at the event I noticed a few aspects about the event, the crowd, and the panelists.

1. I am the youngest one in the room by about 15 years. (Also one of the most underdressed)

First of all, when I walked into the Des Moines Embassy Club, they offered to check my coat. What? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my coat checked before, but not at any political rally I’ve covered before. Once I got into the banquet room I looked around and … suits and gray hair. Coming from class, I thought I would look like an informed college student in a button down, a sweater over that, and my “nice” jeans, that was certainly a mistake. Moving on.

2. This lunch is way too nice for me. (I’m not on campus anymore)

Free food might be one of the most enticing things for a college student. On campus, free food is usually a greasy slice of pizza or some sort of cookie-lemonade platter. This lunch was nothing of that nature. Carved ham, roasted turkey, oven-baked potatoes, it was like Thanksgiving but a week early!

Yes, I took a photo of the lunch Photo by Skylar Borchardt

Yes, I took a photo of the lunch. Photo by Skylar Borchardt

3. Des Moines has a building with 34 floors? Wow!

I get into the Ruan Center downtown, walk through the revolving doors and notice a sign, “Politico Caucus: 34th Floor.” Get off the elevator, and the Embassy Club provided a view of Des Moines unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Des Moines does have 34 floors! Photo by Skylar Borchardt

Des Moines does have 34 floors! Photo by Skylar Borchardt.

4. “Economists can’t count words.”

After sitting next to John Johnson of the National Pork Board through the first panel, which included Steve Grubbs (Rand Paul’s Iowa chief strategist), Douglas Holtz-Eakin (president of the American Action Forum), and Gene Sperling (former national economic adviser to Presidents Clinton and Obama), I was beginning to realize when given the chance to speak to a captive audience, “Economists can’t count words” as Johnson put it. Several times the economists were asked to limit their responses to a short time frame or five words, they all exceeded the word limit.

5. Economic policy is a confusing topic.

I was not alone in this. The others at my table who are professionals in the business sector in various capacities were confused with the amount of taxation budget terms thrown around. The first panel focused on questions including “the largest threat to the economy” and various candidates’ tax plans. The two Republicans on the panel, Grubbs and Holtz-Eakin, both believed the national debt was the largest threat. This was consistent with a Politico poll where 93 percent of Iowa Republicans felt the government needed to spend more time addressing the national debt opposed to 72 percent of Iowa Democrats. Sperling, an outside adviser to the Hillary Clinton Campaign, maintained with Democratic rhetoric, stating economic inequality is what hinders the economy and frustrates the middle class.

6. What is the difference between static and dynamic scoring? Is that like volleyball rally scoring?

The panelists continually discussed static scoring vs. dynamic scoring of economic policy plans. After research: Dynamic scoring takes into account the changes to the economy the policy will affect. Static scoring assumes legislation will not change the economy. Grubbs noted, “Rand Paul is the only candidate with a revenue-positive tax plan according to dynamic scoring.”

7. Is this supposed to be bipartisan? Doesn’t seem like it.

The first panel had two Republicans and one Democrat, but both Republicans continually attacked Sperling for representing the Clinton campaig, and would attack Bernie Sanders, who had no spokesperson to counter. The second panel consisted to two Republicans: David Oman (senior adviser to Jeb Bush) and Steve Deace (conservative talk show host) and two Democrats: Brad Anderson (Obama 2012 Iowa director) and Bonnie Campbell (partner at LPCA Public Strategies). The Democrats agreed Ted Cruz would win the Iowa caucuses and both Republicans agreed Hillary Clinton would win the caucuses, disagreeing about the margin.

8. Did they bring specific campaign advisers?

Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and Hillary Clinton all had campaign representatives. Why only these three?

9. Wait, I get to keep the coffee mug?

Free stuff, a college student’s best friend!

10. Who is Steve Deace? And why is he so confrontational?

It turns out Steve Deace hosts a conservative talk show in Iowa and wrote the book titled, Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives can Win Again.

Deace argued Republicans will win when they have an “existential debate” with Democrats. Deace confronted Brad Anderson, and David Oman (a fellow Republican) for not getting into this debate. Deace endorsed Ted Cruz for President. If you ask me, he is Iowa’s Glen Beck.

IMG_1494Borchardt is a junior studying political science and law, politics, and society from Litchfield, Minnesota. This summer he interned in the office of U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and was the recipient of the Harkin Institute D.C. Experience Scholarship. He enjoys politics, Minnesota sports and playing his guitar. Follow him on Twitter.