Tables Turned: An Interview with Steve Deace
By Bob Eschliman
A few weeks ago, Fox News grabbed the attention of Iowans by suggesting Steve Deace was considering a run for the U.S. Senate seat that will soon be vacated by Tom Harkin.
The first question most regular listeners of his nationally syndicated radio show wanted answered: “Is he serious?” The answer: “Yes, but not because he wants the job.”
“I don’t want to be a U.S. Senator. I never have,” he said in a recent interview. “But I think that maybe that’s part of what’s wrong. We have people who want the job too much, and for all the wrong reasons.”
When asked by Fox News — and just about everyone else who has asked him since the “story” broke — Steve points to Steve King as a candidate who he thinks should run. And while he has been critical of some things the western Iowa conservative stalwart has done over the years, Steve said he would support King as a senatorial candidate.
“I think it’s more than likely he will run,” Steve said. “And, if he does, he will be unopposed. Any other candidate that runs against him would be purely symbolic. Steve King will be the nominee if he chooses to run.”
During a March 5 interview with “Focal Point” host Bryan Fischer, Steve said there is a “short list” of candidates who have the right political principles and the ability to unite both the social conservative and Ron Paul “conservatarian” factions of the Republican Party. But rather than make the “critical mistake” of naming names, Steve instead points to the party establishment’s method of setting benchmarks and backing the proxy who “rises up to meet them.”
To defeat the GOP establishment ranks, which Steve said is the second-largest faction in the party rank-and-file, he said a merger of the social conservatives and the conservatarians is necessary. Any candidate who cannot walk into a room with either group is going to have a difficult time winning in the General Election.
Steve is quick to point to one candidate, however, who he feels has zero chance of winning in November of 2014: Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.
“Those of us who work in the ‘political know’ in Iowa know all about the reasons why she is unelectable. We don’t want to be the ones to write about it, but we’re all well aware of them,” he said. “Everything points to this being the 51st seat at stake, so you can be sure that in the general election campaign, [the Democrats] are going to make sure it gets told.”
Steve also points to an interesting statistic that would make the Harkin seat very important to both political parties. Since World War II, the average loss of seats in the off-year election in the second term of a presidency is five seats; Republicans would need six to regain control of the Senate if the election were held today.
But, if King — or someone with a similar level of “conservative street cred” — doesn’t jump into the race, Steve has said he will. To give other candidates the time they need to mount a successful campaign, Steve said King needs to announce his intentions by mid-August, or “around State Fair time.”
“I’m not going to just sit back and watch,” Steve said. “We have to have people in Washington who care about more than just their own self-interests … I’m looking for someone who shares my principles — they’re not really my principles — the founding principles upon which our nation was established.”
Time has run out to sit back, Steve said. The survival of our civilization is at stake. And, if nothing else, he hopes he is able to use his platform as means to motivate others to take action. Ideally, he would like to do that as a nationally syndicated radio host.
The current, nighttime format of “The Steve Deace Program” launched Dec. 5, 2011, with about 15 stations, one of which was in a “Top 10” market. Today, his show has been picked up by nearly 60 stations, including four in “Top 10” markets.
“My show is in the New York City and Washington, D.C., markets,” he said. “Glenn Beck can’t say that. That’s just crazy.”
Two years ago, he stepped into a meeting with program director Van Harden and general manager Joel McCrea at the venerable 50,000-watt blowtorch WHO and told them he was leaving the station to pursue new opportunities. Those included building a national brand-name for his talk radio show.
“They didn’t want me to go, but once we re-launched, [WHO] was one of our flagship stations,” Steve said. “Van said, other than Ronald Reagan, he couldn’t think of anyone who had ever left WHO and went on to bigger and better things. I said that’s because no one ever leaves WHO; it’s a destination-caliber station.”
Steve said he could’ve done his highly popular drive-time show in the central Iowa market the rest of his life, but didn’t want to have to ask himself the “what if” question 20 years from now. Nor did he want to have to explain to his children why he didn’t take a chance at moving his message to a larger audience.
“It would be purely based on economic security,” he said. “What a laughable argument that would be … it’s not good enough.”
So, as he frequently says on his show, it was time to “go big or go home.”
First came SteveDeace.com, followed shortly thereafter by a web-based radio program that was picked up by a handful of radio stations during the drive time. And when it was apparent the drive-time market was oversaturated, he moved his show to later in the evening.
Lightning was officially bottled.
The format of Steve’s show, in which he talks about the issues, promotes an agenda and candidates, and takes on those who stand in the way of our nation’s founding principles, is not too dissimilar to the job of a politician. He just hasn’t been on a ballot, yet.
“Believe me, I’ve gotten all the same hate, too,” he said. “I’ve had lots of people trying to get me fired for what I say or do.”
But, as more and more stations joined the mix, Steve soon found himself being asked to provide analysis and commentary through a number of different media. Some of them probably made a lot of sense to his regular listeners — such as Breitbart and Town Hall — while others — like MSNBC — probably made no sense at all.
He has since been interviewed more than 50 times by the dreaded “mainstream media.” That’s very likely more than any other conservative radio host in the country, which perhaps has given him a unique perspective on one of the conservative movement’s biggest opponents.
“It’s been very fascinating; I’ve actually learned a lot from it,” Steve said. “Interacting with them hasn’t changed my principles. I doubt too many people would say I’ve mellowed on my principles. But, I have mellowed on human nature … I see them as people we need to witness to.”
Steve said most members of the new generation of journalists in the United States have a “secular ignorance” of all matters Christian of politically conservative. Being liberally biased isn’t as much a bias as it is a matter of default based on what they have been taught, he said.
But, the volume of interactions he has had with the mainstream media has helped him develop his skills of sticking to his talking points. That’s a skill that will come in handy should he run for U.S. Senate in Iowa, where he will come face-to-face with the Des Moines Register.
“[The Register] is going to be irrelevant,” he said. “I sat in a meeting with the editor of their opinion page and told him he should just go the way of MSNBC and simply cater to their audience … but he said there aren’t enough people like that in Iowa.”
The next time a voter changes his or her mind based on a Des Moines Register endorsement likely will be the first time, Steve added.
As he has often said, one of the most important opinions that matters to him in the decision-making process is that of his wife, Amy. He said she has become “more open” to the idea of his running for elected office than she was a few years ago, but she’s probably less enthusiastic about him becoming a candidate for U.S. Senate than even he is.
“I think she would rather I run for Governor,” he said. “That way, we don’t have to move and I can dink with all the same people.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Steve has already had enough conversations with his staff and syndicator, Salem Radio Network, that he has a plan in place should he decide to run. One step would include getting a “pre-emptive summary ruling” from the FCC regarding “equal time” provisions.
He said he’s unaware of any previous situation in which a nationally syndicated radio host has run for a statewide election, such as U.S. Senate, which would have a different set of circumstances as would a presidential candidacy. In the next couple of weeks, he said he may attempt to get just such a ruling.
Regardless of whether or not he runs for office, Steve said he hopes what he is and has been doing is exciting others who share his principles and worldview.
“Before I write a guest article or do an interview, I think about them,” he said. “When I was doing sports radio, I asked myself, ‘If I was just a fan, and I got to host this show for a day, what questions would I ask, what points would I bring up?’ Back then, not a lot of sports radio shows were talking about recruiting or the draft, but I did because I thought that’s what the fan really wants to talk about. So, it’s the same thing here. How would they challenge the opposition? What questions would they ask? What points would they want to make? I’m not a proxy, but I’m of the grassroots. So, I hope they’re excited to see that.”
Steve said the number one bias many markets have against shows like his is financial; they don’t see the potential profitability of putting a grassroots conservative on the air. He said he hopes in the next decade there will be other stations who begin looking for their own local versions of Steve Deace.
“There’s a huge swath of the general public that is being underserved, and I’m not just talking about those of us in ‘Flyover Country,’” he said. “These are the grassroots, Joe Six-Pack types who bleed red, white and blue, go to church … and just want to be left alone.”
And, if that works out, Steve said his show would have the ability to generate “20 Steve Kings.” But, if need be, he’s ready to change gears. And don’t think for a second he wouldn’t give it everything he’s got.