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Capitol Ideas: Some light moments during the heavy task of interviewing presidential candidates

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., signs a photograph of himself with 8-year-old Addie Veasey of Cedar Rapids on Feb. 8 at the African American Museum of Iowa in southeast Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., signs a photograph of himself with 8-year-old Addie Veasey of Cedar Rapids on Feb. 8 at the African American Museum of Iowa in southeast Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Interviewing a presidential candidate is something to take seriously. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.

I was reminded of that a couple of times recently.

Cory Booker loves ‘star wars’ and ‘star trek’

One was with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. His staff had arranged a telephone interview to discuss his proposal for college athletes — a portion of which the NCAA last week took a major step toward adopting.

Before we got into the weeds on the policy, Booker started chatting with me about the new preview for the latest “Star Wars” movie, which is coming out this winter. Booker remembered from a previous pre-interview chat that I am a big “Star Wars” fan, as is he.

Booker is openly geek: he even visited Comic-Con in Los Angeles this summer.

He also is that rare individual who is a fan of both the “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” franchises. (If you don’t know, ask your nerdiest friend how unusual that is.)

Anyway, Booker and I chatted about the new “Star Wars” preview long enough that the staff member on the call had to remind us we had limited time to conduct the interview and probably should get on with the task at hand.

I think that was a first for me. I wonder if it was for Booker.

Amy Klobuchar shares dad’s sports stories

Another fun interview moment came recently in perhaps the most awful location I could imagine: a Minnesota Vikings bar.

I’m a Green Bay Packer fan, but I’m so dedicated to this job that I traveled into that hostile territory to cover U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who also is running for president. She had popped into the bar during a Vikings game to greet some fellow fans.

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It turned out to be an enlightening trip for me, a converted sports writer, as Klobuchar told me about her father, Jim Klobuchar, who was a sports writer and columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It was fascinating to hear her share stories about her father competing for space in the paper with legendary Minnesota sports columnist Sid Hartman.

And it was funny to hear Amy Klobuchar note that her father once wrote a book titled, “Will the Vikings ever win the Super Bowl?” and joke that 42 years after it was published the book still is relevant. (The Vikings, for you non-sports fans, still have not won a Super Bowl, even though they have made four trips.)

Admittedly, as a Packers fan, that may have been a little extra funny. And it made my trip into the Vikings bar worth it.

A war for endorsements

Each election brings a renewed debate about how much endorsements matter. But there have been some interesting Iowa endorsements recently in the presidential contest.

Klobuchar has racked up endorsements from 13 current and former state lawmakers, including Liz Mathis, a popular state lawmaker from Hiawatha. This past week, Klobuchar added the endorsement of Roxanne Conlin, a former U.S. attorney and candidate for governor and U.S. Senate.

Perhaps most intriguing, though, among Klobuchar’s endorsements are two elected Iowa officials who in the past few years left the Republican Party. David Johnson, a former Republican state lawmaker who became an independent, and Andy McKean, a state lawmaker who earlier this year changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, both have endorsed Klobuchar.

Elizabeth Warren is racking up some serious Iowa endorsements, too. This past week she added Zach Wahls, a state lawmaker from Coralville who is considered a rising star in the state party. His was the eighth endorsement of Warren by a state lawmaker. She also has been endorsed by a statewide elected Democrat, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald.

Another statewide elected Democrat, Attorney General Tom Miller, has endorsed Steve Bullock, a former attorney general and the current governor of Montana.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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