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O'Malley, Paul, Carson, Fiorina Check In On Iowa Caucus Day


I'm David Greene at Smokey Row, a coffee shop in Des Moines, Iowa.


And I'm Renee Montagne, not in Iowa but calling out hello to all of you from - all of you there in Iowa. It's...


MONTAGNE: Hi. It's...

GREENE: Whoa, there you go.


MONTAGNE: We got them. Listen, it's a very exciting day. And it's a long one for you all with those caucuses this evening. So I wanted to leave you with just one thing, which is my dad is from Iowa, was from Iowa, born and raised in Sioux City. So I've been feeling very much at home all this morning hearing your voices and your stories.

GREENE: That's a fact about Renee Montagne and her family that I did not know, and I love it. Well, you know, Renee, we've been reaching out on this caucus day to all the campaigns. And we wanted to play some of their voices. And earlier this morning, it was Democrat Martin O'Malley, the former Maryland governor who stopped by here at Smokey Row. And we shared some memories.

I don't know if you know this. I was a reporter for The Baltimore Sun...

MARTIN O'MALLEY: Oh, were you?

GREENE: And lived in Baltimore and used to come when your band would play sometimes.

O'MALLEY: Oh, good.

GREENE: Those were some wild nights.

O'MALLEY: Well, that indicates that you came back more than once.


GREENE: Which is a good sign, you're saying.

O'MALLEY: Yeah, that's a good sign. A friend of mine, of my band, used to say, everybody wants to see the mayor's band once. So you came back.

GREENE: I came back. There you have it.

So I want a bit of a reality check here. The Des Moines Register has its poll come out. You are at around 3 percent.

O'MALLEY: I'm perfectly situated to beat expectations.


GREENE: What does that mean?

O'MALLEY: I don't know. Other people set the expectations. I mean, right before Christmas, there was a poll that had us at 10 percent. And so we've been kind of in that range. We have an organization all across the state, and we're going to be fighting for - to do as well as we can in every single precinct we possibly can. And the challenge here, and the opportunity, is viability.

GREENE: That's Democrat Martin O'Malley. Now, a few moments later, we reached Republican Senator Rand Paul on the phone, and I wanted his reaction to The Des Moines Register poll that has him at 5 percent.

RAND PAUL: We think it probably underestimates our support in Iowa because most of the polls, this one included, have very few people under 30, very few people even under age 40. And we think most of our support comes from the younger age group. They're on cell phones, not on landlines, not on old lists. And so I think the polls tend to exclude younger voters from the polling. So we think we'll do quite a bit better than the polls indicate.

GREENE: Do you ever feel like you're competing for votes with a Democratic candidate named Bernie Sanders in this race?

PAUL: You know, I think some of the same, you know, anger towards big banks ripping off the middle-class, I think we share some of that. We share some of the understanding that the Federal Reserve is part of the problem. We also share some of the idea that criminal justice ought to be reformed, and our foreign policy ought to be more measured. But we separate ways quite a bit because he believes in a centrally-controlled economy or socialism, which is a disastrous economic form, leads to poverty and starvation and something that I oppose with every fiber of my being. So on some things, yes, but on the main idea of what type of economic system would be best for the country, we are at diametric opposites.

GREENE: The voice of Senator Rand Paul who we reached by phone. We also got on the phone with another GOP candidate, Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard CEO. And I asked her what she makes of Donald Trump's candidacy. She told me Trump is tapping into anger, and that's not an emotion she wants to appeal to.

CARLY FIORINA: I just happen to believe that rather than playing on people's frustrations and anger, we need to do more. I've offered a set of solutions. We have been in the throws of crony capitalism for too long. Donald Trump is a crony capitalist. We have been in the throws of the political establishment of both parties for too long. I think ours was intended to be a citizen government. I think we have to take our country back now from the political establishments, from the wealthy and the well-connected.

GREENE: Carly Fiorina there. I also had a chance to speak with Doctor Ben Carson, who came by Smokey Row here, the Republican who was once polling near the top of the GOP field but whose numbers have dropped dramatically. He's now polling at around 10 percent in the latest poll.

I want to tell you about a voter named Arlene Raak. I met her at a pizza parlor in Correctionville, Iowa in the west. She told me that she likes you, but she is seriously thinking of caucusing for someone else tonight. And she said, I wish he had more zip. What do you think she means by that?

BEN CARSON: Well, she wants me to jump up and down and shout and be combative. And I have found that that is not necessary in order to be able to accomplish your goals. We've become the de-focused. We've become sort of like ancient Rome with the Coliseum.


CARSON: Everybody wants to go to the Coliseum and see the blood and the gore while their society is crumbling around them. Can we be more mature than that? That's the question because that will determine our future.

GREENE: Now, asked Dr. Carson about foreign policy. It's an area where critics have suggested that he doesn't have much experience.

How do you respond to that criticism?

CARSON: I respond to that by saying what I always say. Ask me a foreign policy question and see whether I have foreign policy credentials. I would compare my knowledge of foreign policy with anybody who's running.

GREENE: Let me ask you a foreign policy question.

CARSON: OK, thank you.

GREENE: Libya - should Moammar Gadhafi have been removed from power in Libya?

CARSON: Not the way that it was done. It left a tremendous vacuum there, a terrible opportunity. And now you look and see what's happening. The caliphate is looking to spread to Libya. And Libya is a huge territory. It's got a tremendous amount of oil and it's a perfect location. And we should be doing everything we can to prevent the caliphate from spreading there right now.

GREENE: One more foreign policy question is about Russia - how to deal with Vladimir Putin today. There are some who believe that NATO and the United States should really be building up more military might in places like the Baltics. Others have said that would really, basically stoke the flames, and that's not the right way to deal with Vladimir Putin. What's the answer?

CARSON: Vladimir Putin is an opportunist, and he is a bully. The only way to deal with them is to get in their face. You do not back down from them because they will simply continue to push you if you do. So absolutely, you know, we should be doing NATO exercises in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. But really the entire Baltic rim, I think we need a much stronger presence. We only have one or two armored brigades throughout that entire region. That doesn't show any strength. We should have more armored brigades. We should reinstitute the missile defense system there. We should be giving offensive weapons to Ukraine. You have to understand. What happens and what empowers bullies is when you back down and you say well, if I do that, it might lead to a conflict. That's what they expect you to do. No, we do not have to back down from anybody.

GREENE: Talking foreign policy with Dr. Ben Carson, Republican candidate for president. We reached out to all the major candidates from both parties involved in today's Iowa caucuses, and we're hearing from many of them throughout the show. We'll be back here, broadcasting live tomorrow at Smokey Row, the coffee house here in Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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