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From the campaign trail to the radio

November 20, 2015

From an early age, Monmouth College Professor Robin Johnson was attracted to politics. With a father who was very involved with unions and the Democratic Party, he quickly became accustomed to how the government worked.

Now he is a campaign consultant, professor and the host of a radio show about politics. Since April of 2014, Johnson has interviewed ten of the original seventeen Republican candidates and two of the five original democratic candidates.

Johnson began his career as a county coordinator for Jimmy Carter’s successful 1976 presidential campaign as a freshman at Monmouth. He would go on to graduate from Monmouth in 1980. From there, he would work behind the scenes on campaigns and as a staffer until 1988, when he won his first campaign as a manager for a democratic candidate in a strongly held conservative legislative district.

Since then, he has worked over a hundred campaigns, ranging from mayoral and sheriff’s races to congressional races. While he hosts his show and teaches, Johnson also continues to work campaigns. In 2000, political science Professor Ira Smolensky approached Johnson to see whether he would be interested in teaching introductory political science courses. Johnson accepted, and since then has expanded into upper level courses on topics such as parties and campaign management while also teaching a citizenship course.

According to Johnson, the idea to have a radio show on politics was first brought up by close friend, Chicago Tribune political reporter Rick Pearson. Pearson, who normally covers state and national politics for the Tribune, first thought of the idea after he was given his own political show on WGN radio in Chicago. Johnson would then go on and talk with the owner of Burlington, IA radio station KBUR about the possibility of starting a show. The owner loved the idea and the show began in April of 2014.

When the show began, Johnson planned to have the show focus on issues rather than gaffes. “I avoid gotcha questions which are the favorite of the national media and use my years of working campaigns to ask questions that can enlightened listeners on the behind the scenes aspects of politics and government,” said Johnson. So far, Johnson has said that his favorite person that he has interviewed was Tom Brokaw, which was arranged by journalism professor and Courier advisor Joe Angotti. According to Johnson, “he represents an era of quality journalism and integrity that has unfortunately mostly passed,” and that he was “polite, personable with the Midwestern charm.”

With the Iowa Caucus coming up quickly, Johnson has attracted many candidates, which he said was “somewhat daunting at first to interview them but I found most all of them to be good people to chat with, especially when we’re off air.” Johnson predicts that Hillary Clinton will win the Democrats in Iowa while Ted Cruz will win the Republicans. According to Johnson, Clinton will win it due to the support of the democratic establishment while Cruz will win it because “he has skillfully positioned himself to gain the Trump and Carson supporters when they peel off.”

To listen to professor Johnson’s radio show, listen to KBUR-AM 1490 on Fridays at 10 AM. You can also like the show on Facebook at Talking Politics with Robin Johnson and follow the show on Twitter @PoliticsKBUR.

Jacob Marx
Contributing Writer

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