Coming from D.C., did you have any difficulty adjusting to Iowa life?
It’s not at all like D.C., but Des Moines is a really cool city. It is not as populous as some places, but the people are great, and there are amazing restaurants. When we did have a little downtime, there was plenty to keep you entertained. I also liked driving around the state. I drove more than 22,000 miles over the last eight months and got to know all corners of the state. In some of the cities, they knew me in the restaurants, and they would say, “Hey, the CBS guy is back.” That was so cool.
This year, the Iowa Caucuses turned out to be historic for the delay in announcing a winner and the chaos that ensued. What was that day like for you?
The delay raised some alarms, and when we started to ask questions, the state Democratic party here said that they were doing quality control on the results. And then, you’re like, 'Okay, what’s really going on?' I just started calling county chairs all across the state. We built relationships with these folks, so I put everything down and started making calls frantically to everyone, and pretty quickly, we found that there was an issue with the app the party had been using to gather results.
Around 10:30, 11:00 pm that night, the candidates came out to their caucus night parties and gave brief speeches, but they didn’t know how well they were performing, and they all had to rush to New Hampshire after that. At one point, I was sitting on the ground making calls, my back was starting to hurt, I hadn’t eaten all day, and I looked behind me. There was nobody in the room because after the candidates spoke, all the supporters left. It was midnight, and we still didn’t know the results or what was happening. It was exciting and anxiety-provoking.
Any takeaways from your caucus night experience?
It reminds you of how important it is for a journalist to build relationships. If I hadn’t been in Iowa for so long and cultivated my sources, nobody would have picked up the phone when I called to ask, 'What’s going on?' Also, everybody wants information instantly these days, but it was a really good reminder that accuracy beats speed, especially in a situation where things are fluid.