Jan 10, 2024 - Politics

CNN's Jake Tapper and Dana Bash share Iowa caucus memories, favorite spots

Jake Tapper on set (left) Dana Basher on right at Waveland Cafe

Jake Tapper at the anchor desk (left) and Dana Bash at Waveland Cafe. Photos: Courtesy of CNN

CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash are no strangers to Iowa after following candidates like George W. Bush and John Kerry over the years.

Driving the news: On Wednesday, they'll be moderating the last GOP presidential debate before the Iowa caucuses at Drake University.

What's happening: We asked the politico veterans about their favorite caucus memories and top places to visit around Des Moines.

  • Answers are edited Smart Brevity.

๐Ÿ—ณ Q: What year was your first Iowa caucus?

Tapper: 1999-2000. The most vivid memory I have from 2000 is getting a drink at the bar at 801 Chophouse and seeing Alan Keyes, who came in third, strutting around as if he were Sinatra at the Sands.

Bash: 2000. I was a producer following Bill Bradley's campaign. I remember having his stump speech memorized, which was a good thing because my pen literally froze on more than one occasion.

๐ŸŒฝ Q: What is the most "Iowan" memory you have from the caucuses?

Tapper: I met my future wife at Hotel Fort Des Moines on Jan. 19, 2004, the night Sen. John Kerry won the Democratic caucuses.

  • I was with ABC News and had dinner at Centro with plans to then visit the HQ of whomever won. That turned out to be Kerry.
  • We walked into Chequers, the hotel bar, and there she was! The next night we went out for dinner at La Tomate in D.C. and that was it! 20 years ago!

Bash: In 2007, I was covering the GOP presidential candidates, and I remember very early in that cycle noticing how much voters seemed to like a former Arkansas governor named Mike Huckabee.

  • At that point, he wasn't on the radar of most people in the national media, but I watched him catch fire and get on the map the way only Iowa GOP voters can do for a candidate.

๐Ÿณ Q: In Des Moines, where are you going for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Tapper: I'd like to get in a visit to 801 and Centro if possible.

Bash: I admit, I have not been able to get out much for actual civilized meals in Des Moines for a while, so I asked my friend and colleague Jeff Zeleny, CNN's Chief National Affairs Correspondent who recommends:

๐Ÿ› Q: If you're buying a gift from Des Moines for a friend, where are you shopping and why?

Tapper: The Des Moines airport actually has some sweet souvenirs.

  • I got myself a great Iowa State Cyclones cap the other day when I was there for a town hall with Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Bash: This was the easiest question: Raygun! They have the best and most clever items.

  • The last time I was there, I got a mug with "America Needs Nasty Women" on it for Kaitlan Collins as a gift for the launch of her new show. I may have gotten one for myself too...

๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Q: What makes covering the Iowa caucuses unique from any other political coverage?

Tapper: There are so many aspects to why it's special: the fact Iowans take the process so seriously, the democratic nature of caucusing, the Des Moines Register and its poll, the potential for upsets (Cruz, Obama, Huckabee, Santorum....)

Bash: Covering any kind of caucuses is a unique experience for obvious reasons โ€” observing the physical movement of voters to the camp of a candidate.

  • But Iowa is a truly special place to report on this because Iowans take this role so seriously.
Dana Bash interviewing someone (left) and Jake Tapper in Iowa right)
Dana Bash in Des Moines in 2008 (left) and Jake Tapper in Iowa in 2004 (right). Photos: Courtesy of CNN
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