One of David Yepsen’s favorite stories from his days covering presidential campaigns was when then-presidential candidate Jimmy Carter had a press conference and Yepsen was the only reporter to show up.
Yepsen, the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and former political writer for the Des Moines Register, said they were sitting in a hotel room and Carter was munching on grapes.
Yepsen brought this story up as an example of his time covering elections, something he talked about during his speech at the Edgar Speaker Series Thursday night.
Yepsen also went around to political sciences classes throughout the day and had a meet and greet with political science and journalism students.
In his speech, Yepsen talked about the presidential primary candidates and how both sides are campaigning.
He said debates go on in the political parties about the message they are sending out.
“If you’re a Republican and you’ve lost, you’ve got some Republicans saying ‘our message wasn’t conservative enough,’ and you’ve got others who say ‘we’ve got to be more moderate,’” Yepsen said. “If the Democrats lost, you’ve got some of them who say “why not liberals? Why not progressives?” And you’ve got some who say ‘you’ve got to be more centrist.’”
Yepsen said what made this election fascinating was that both parties are having that discussion.
“We haven’t seen this kind of turmoil in both parties at the same time very often,” Yepsen said. “It’s a fascinating election to cover.”
Yepsen spoke to the audience about the different candidates, saying Ben Carson is now leading Donald Trump in the polls, and Trump is slipping.
“My friends in the national media say, ‘Trumps got 25 percent, he’s ahead of everybody else,’” Yepsen said. “But that means 75 percent of the Republicans are either with somebody else or are against Trump.”
The front-runner of the Republican party has yet to be decided.
“(Trump) has very limited appeal,” Yepsen said.
Even though Trump is drawing big crowds at political rallies, this does not necessarily mean he will be successful when it comes time to vote.
“Bernie Sanders has the same challenge,” Yepsen said. “He has a great crowd, but can he get them out on Caucus night?” Yepsen said.
Yepsen said he is keeping an eye on Republican primary candidate, Marco Rubio.
“The Republican party has so many factions,” Yepsen said. “Different lanes. It’s like a track meet. Who’s running well in the evangelical lane? Who’s running in the traditional conservative lane? Who’s running in the Libertarian lane?”
During his speech, a question was raised regarding the state of Illinois.
Yepsen said several things contributed to the current situation, with different factors making it hard to compromise.
“Think about campaigns,” Yepsen said. “People say, “I’m going to Springfield and I’ll fight for you. You never see a candidate who says ‘Send me to Springfield and I’ll compromise for you.’”
Yepsen said it would take pressure for people to start doing things differently in the Illinois government.
“It sometimes takes a great crisis or tragedy to get politicians to behave differently,” Yepsen said. “I wish I could be more optimistic.”
After Yepsen’s speech, former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar told students to enjoy Homecoming, but not to forget about the upcoming presidential primary elections.
“If you’re not registered (to vote), get registered and be sure to vote,” Edgar said.
Yepsen said that though the primaries were a few months away, there is plenty of time for people to get excited and ready for the elections.
Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]