After my interview with Ted Cruz, I was contacted by the Tom Leppert campaign in late August and asked if I wanted to do an interview with Leppert. And they did this despite my very public doubts over several aspects of Leppert’s record. Leppert’s comments on the campaign trail have always been very solidly conservative; my doubts have been over how much Leppert’s actions match his rhetoric. So I agreed to do an interview, after which is was just a matter of finding a date and time when he would be in Austin, which turned out to be Monday, September 19.
From shortly after each of them jumped into the campaign, Cruz and Leppert have been neck and neck in who has the most effective campaign organization, with both seeming very polished and professional. (David Dewhurst’s start was late enough that I haven’t yet collected enough data to make a determination. So far I’m more than little skeptical that the “Ivory Tower” strategy of avoiding the candidate forums is the right choice.) Early on, I sought to get interviews with all of the major Republican Senate candidates, starting in the order they joined the race. I heard absolutely nothing back from the campaigns of Roger Williams, Michael Williams, or Elizabeth Ames Jones, not even the polite “our candidate is really busy but we’ll see if we can work something in” blogger brushoff. By contrast it’s been very easy and hassle free to get information out of the Cruz and Leppert campaigns.
As I mention in the interview itself, this was designed so be a mixture of general and specific questions, as well as mixture of softball and hardball questions.
A few observations:
This was conducted in the atrium of the Renaissance Hotel in the Arboretum, which I thought was the easiest north Austin location to sit down in undisturbed. I think it worked OK, but the acoustics (including some soft background music from hotel sound system) were not necessarily ideal.
Unlike the Cruz interview, which was filmed and edited by their campaign A/V guy, I shot this myself on a Mino Flip camera and did a light edit in iMovie. I think it came out OK, but not spectacularly. Sorry for the tilt and the busy background. Maybe in the long run I need to set up a mini-studio in my guest room for filming interviews and such.
After I finished editing it, I found out that YouTube had imposed a new limit of 15 minutes per video…and removed the button to request lifting the length limit for the videos you post. After I spent an hour uploading it. Thanks a lot, YouTube! That’s why I had to split it into two parts. Plus one part is over 10 minutes, which means you can’t upload it directly from iMovie to YouTube, which is why the aspect ratios of the two may seem slightly different.
I really need to do something about my Jabba the Hutt-like countenance. (I have recently stepped up both diet and exercise efforts, so we shall see.)
Despite my reservations about Leppert, I tried to make this a fair, balanced interview, with some tough questions, but not a piece of “ambush journalism.”
In person, Leppert comes across as a smart, affable politician. He seems more effective in one-on-one retail politics than he’s been at some of the candidate forums. He talks significantly faster than Ted Cruz did.
I had the opposite problem I had with Cruz, when we ran out of time for all the questions I had. Knowing that I only had 25-30 minutes for the interview before Leppert had to go off to his next appointment, I only had 11 questions written down. In fact, he answered the questions fast enough that I got through all my questions and still had several minutes left, so I ended up winging it for the rest of the interview.
Knowing the interview was going to be this short, I couldn’t really follow up on portions of questions, such as those on the Trinity Toll Road Project, and the roles of Lynn Flint Shaw and Willis Johnson.
As Cruz did, Leppert side-stepped some questions, and brought back others to many of his standard talking points. Indeed, “I don’t talk in seven second sound-bites” seems to be Leppert’s favorite seven second sound-bite. As in the Cruz interview, “nothing personnel.” This is what politicians do (indeed have to do) based on the demands made on them by the campaign. Those caveats aside, I think it was pretty successful and interesting interview.
I expect to have more information on Leppert (both positive and negative) in the next week or so.