Getting us ready for the Iowa caucuses

Historical Society program Sunday features political reporter Mike Glover on caucuses’ history & impact

~by Chuck Offenburger for the Greene County Historical Society 

Mike Glover
Mike Glover

 Mike Glover, who covered politics and government in Iowa for more than 30 years for the Associated Press and for the “Iowa Press” program on Iowa Public Television, will speak Sunday afternoon, Jan. 17, in Jefferson on how the Iowa caucuses have become the important first step in America’s presidential selection process.

His appearance here is being sponsored by the Greene County Historical Society, with support from Humanities Iowa. The program, which is free and open to the public, is set for 2 pm at the historical museum.

Glover, 67, who lives in the Des Moines area, will talk about the history of the caucuses, and also offer analysis of this year’s presidential race in both parties. The caucuses are set for Monday, Feb. 1.

“I go back to just about the beginning of the Iowa caucuses,” he said. “In 1976, I was a young reporter at the Fort Dodge Messenger. I saw a news release saying a former governor of Georgia was running for president and would be speaking at the VFW in Algona. I talked my bosses at the newspaper into letting me go up there – I had to agree to pay my own expenses – and I was the only person there when Jimmy Carter and his press secretary Jody Powell came down the steps to the VFW’s basement meeting room. Powell said, ‘Well, do you want to interview the governor?’ I said sure, and he said, ‘Take your time. I’m going to run up and down the street and find some people to come hear him speak.’ So Jimmy Carter and I went up to the bar and I had him all to myself for a good, long interview.”

Glover grew up in Clinton, IL, and traces his interest in politics to that state’s long history “of having the Democratic machine dominate Cook County while the whole rest of the state was Republican. It was always interesting.” He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam war, then did his undergraduate work at Western Illinois University. Later, he earned a master’s degree in public administration at Drake University in Des Moines.

When he was with the Associated Press, Glover was the wire service’s full-time reporter on Iowa politics and government. He’d shift to covering the presidential races when the first candidates came to Iowa, “and then spend the next year chasing candidates all over the nation.” His coverage took him to all 50 states.

For much of his career, he competed for stories with Jefferson native David Yepsen, who had become the Des Moines Register’s political columnist. And the two were both regulars on the panel of IPTV’s weekly “Iowa Press” show, in which they’d question government officials and candidates.

“I both worked with and competed with David,” Glover said. “We were not close friends but I think we had an understanding of our roles. We competed hard with each other, but it never became a personal thing. That’s probably because we both won some and lost some over the years.”

After retiring from AP, Glover has been working on a book about “all the events I witnessed, a story of my career,” and has a goal of finishing it next summer. Meantime, he writes frequently as “senior editor” for the Iowa Daily Democrat online political news journal.

But in his speeches, like the one here Sunday, “I don’t speak from a partisan position,” he said. “I’ve covered Republicans, I’ve covered Democrats, and I talk about them all.”

Glover will answer questions from the audience after his speech, and will continue visiting with people afterward when free refreshments will be served.

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