Clay Masters

Morning Edition Host

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter. He also covers environmental issues.

Clay joined the Iowa Public Radio newsroom as a statehouse correspondent in 2012 and started hosting Morning Edition in 2014. Clay is an award-winning multi-media journalist whose radio stories have been heard on various NPR and American Public Media programs.

He was one of the founding reporters of Harvest Public Media, the regional journalism consortium covering agriculture and food production in the Midwest. He was based in Lincoln, Nebraska where he worked for Nebraska’s statewide public radio and television network.

He’s also an occasional music contributor to NPR’s arts desk.

Clay’s favorite NPR program is All Things Considered.

The cost of college and student debt are all-consuming for some families, and they're driving political conversations this cycle. On the eighth episode of Caucus Land, we'll break down what the candidates are promising and hear what higher ed experts make of their plans.


Farmers in the rural Midwest say they are struggling because of President Trump's ongoing trade war and a recent decision the president made on renewable fuels made from corn and soybeans that benefits the oil industry.

"We're tightening our belt," farmer Aaron Lehman says while driving his tractor down a rural road near his farm north of Des Moines, Iowa. "We're talking to our lenders, our landlords [and] our input suppliers."

While most of the attention around the 2020 election is focused on Democrats, Republicans will hold a caucus too. President Donald Trump does face multiple primary challengers, but on the seventh episode of Caucus Land we'll explain why he likely has nothing to worry about in Iowa.


Scott Morgan for NPR

Joe Biden wants voters to look at the big picture.

His campaign is focused on a mission to "restore the soul of this nation."

That's also why the former vice president does not think anyone should get bogged down in the small details he mixes up on the campaign trail.

troy price
Clay Masters/IPR file

The Democratic National Committee is recommending that Iowa scrap its plans for telephone-based virtual caucuses next year, citing security concerns. The DNC had asked the state party to make Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses more accessible following the 2016 election. 

The Iowa State Fair has become a must-stop for presidential campaigns ahead of the Caucuses. Candidates eat fried food on a stick and try to chat with voters through the swarm of cameras. We’ll take you through the crowds to see what the fair actually does for wannabe presidents.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said by delaying some tariffs in an escalating trade war with China, the Trump administration is acknowledging the pain it’s causing Americans.

“This is going to hurt in our pocketbooks at home,” Buttigieg told reporters after speaking at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair Tuesday.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said 10 percent tariffs on about $300 billion in Chinese imports will go forward, but tariffs on some goods will be delayed until Dec. 15. 

John Pemble / IPR

Democratic presidential campaigns are swarming Iowa this weekend, including stops at the Iowa State Fair. In addition to their standard stump speeches, many of the candidates are using their time in Iowa to talk about their plans to address gun control following last week’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

California Sen. Kamala Harris says if she’s elected president she’s prepared to take executive action to pass gun control policies if Congress doesn’t act. She made those comments at the Des Moines Register Political soapbox before a large crowd of fairgoers.

John Pemble / IPR

Former Vice President Joe Biden said he has what it takes to strengthen gun laws in the country following mass shootings in Texas and Ohio last weekend. Biden told reporters at the Iowa State Fair Thursday that it violates no one’s Second Amendment right to tell people they can’t own certain weapons like an assault rifle. 

"We can get it done," Biden said. "We can get it done with background checks done. We can get it done because the public is finally at the point that it’s sick of it. It is sick of it. I’ve got it done before and I can get it done again."

Some two dozen presidential candidates have been campaigning in Iowa since way before much of the rest of the country tuned in to the race. Many have been coming here for months, some for years. On the fifth episode of Caucus Land, we'll introduce them to you.


The major parties in Iowa generally agree that the caucuses should remain first in the nation and they don't agree on much else. On the fourth episode of Caucus Land, we ask the state's party leaders how they can put aside their differences to keep Iowa first and what the 2018 midterms say about 2020.


During the 2016 presidential election, two seemingly impossible candidates took both major parties by storm, and American politics hasn't been the same. On the third episode of Caucus Land, Iowa gives Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump a stage and a microphone.    

John Pemble/IPR

Democrats running for president have been spending a lot more time this cycle talking to voters in western Iowa, which is predominately Republican and rural. Many of them are visiting that part of the state with J.D. Scholten, a former congressional candidate from their party who almost beat an embattled Republican congressman last year.

“We built something this last cycle and I hope you guys take it further,” Scholten said to a crowd gathered at The Mucky Duck Pub in Ames, Iowa ahead of the first Democratic presidential debate.

The Iowa caucuses are not known to be particularly inclusive or diverse. But in the 2008 cycle, the state became the jumping off point for a candidate who would become the nation’s first black president. On the second episode of Caucus Land, Barack Obama’s road to the White House.


Charlie Neibergall / AP

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden unveiled a health care plan Monday that would add a public option to the Affordable Care Act.  The former vice president talked about the plan at a Des Moines forum hosted by AARP Iowa and the Des Moines Register. Biden has differed from many of his opponents in not calling for a “Medicare for All” plan.

Presidential candidates are seemingly everywhere in Iowa: showing up at picnics, union halls and coffee shops, even running in to each other at the farmer's market. Skipping out on the state that's the first to weigh in on the presidential primary process has become politically unthinkable. But that wasn't always the case. In the first episode of Caucus Land, we're going back to the 1960s to see how it all got started.

Clay Masters / IPR

Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King says he's ready for primary debates if the time comes.

“If there are debates… I’m ready,” King told Iowa Public Radio after a town hall in Hampton on Friday. “I spend every day getting ready for them. I don’t have to go prep for them or read up. It’s what I do every day.”

joe biden
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigned in Iowa Tuesday to run against President Trump, who was also in the state for a fundraiser.

At his first campaign stop of the day in Ottumwa, Biden called President Trump an “existential threat” to America and the country’s core values. He criticized Trump for policies he said are hurting farmers.

Amy Mayer/IPR file

President Donald Trump will be in Iowa Tuesday talking up his administration’s recent move to allow year-round sales of E15. That’s a form of gasoline with higher blends of ethanol – primarily made from corn. It’s a policy meant to bolster Trump’s support in the upper Midwest where farmers have been hurting as a result of his trade wars and natural disasters.


John Pemble / IPR

Nineteen of the Democratic presidential candidates gave speeches at one event in Cedar Rapids Sunday.  The candidates mostly took to bashing President Donald Trump, but there were subtle jabs at the front-runner.

The candidates just got five minutes each to speak. The most notable absence from the lineup was Joe Biden, the current frontrunner in the latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom/CNN Iowa Poll published over the weekend. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York made a swipe at the former vice president regarding abortion.

Welcome to Caucus Land! As the first in the nation voting state, Iowa is where all presidential candidates begin - and many end - their campaign to the White House. Join IPR reporters Clay Masters and Kate Payne as they delve into Iowa's role in shaping the nominating field - from Iowa's caucus history to the candidates, the moments and people that shape the 2020 presidential cycle. 

Iowa capitol
John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa Senate has sent a bill to the house that would legalize sports betting in the state. Morning Edition host Clay Masters talks with IPR state government reporter Katarina Sostaric about the bill as well as other issues like Republican lawmakers trying to restrict Attorney General Tom Miller's ability to join national lawsuits.

The Iowa caucuses are still nine months away, and with at least 20 Democrats either considering a run or officially declared, many of them are looking for ways to stand out in the crowded field. One tried-and-true way: show up in voters' homes.

Clay Masters / IPR/File

The CEO and General Manager of the Des Moines Water Works has died. Bill Stowe was known throughout the state for his steadfast commitment to Iowa’s water quality. Des Moines Water Works announced last month he’d recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In 2017, he was part of the on-going IPR forum Public Radio on Tap.

“The biggest water quality issue facing Iowa in my view is the denial of many in leadership positions that there is a water quality problem in this state,” Stowe said to applause from the audience.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposed constitutional amendment to restore felon voting rights upon completion of their sentences appears dead for the session.  IPR's Clay Masters spoke with Iowa Public Radio state government reporter Katarina Sostaric about this and other issues at the Statehouse.

John Pemble/IPR

Last week, the Iowa House voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights to Iowans with felony convictions. It’s the first step in a long process. Morning Edition host Clay Masters talks with state government reporter Katarina Sostaric about this issue. They also discuss Governor Reynolds' birth control plan and the "personhood" bill in the Senate.

At first glance, Storm Lake, Iowa, doesn't seem like the sort of place that would attract Democratic presidential candidates.

The town of 10,600 sits in the highly conservative northwest corner of the state. In 2016, Donald Trump collected 4,903 votes in surrounding Buena Vista County, compared with Hillary Clinton's 2,856 votes.

iowa capitol
John Pemble / IPR

Republican lawmakers in the Iowa House have advanced a proposal to address concerns they heard from voters about property taxes. IPR Morning Edition Host Clay Masters speaks with IPR state government reporter Katarina Sostaric about that chamber's bill as well as why U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was at the Statehouse last week, and what the "Ag Gag 2.0" bill that Gov. Kim Reynolds signed last week would do for undercover farm investigations. 

Clay Masters / IPR

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke started his bid for the White House campaigning in Keokuk on Thursday. And continued his swing through the state with multiple stops on Friday.

The former Texas congressman is linking the terrorist attack at two New Zealand mosques that left 49 people dead to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric. 

On the road between campaign stops Friday, O’Rourke said the United States should not only offer compassion to the survivors and to those who lost loved ones in the terrorist attack, but also be a leader in calling out Islamophobia. 

Campaign Facebook Profiles

Many Democrats running for president have been spending time in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area over the last number of weeks. It’s because of a special state senate election. Jeff Danielson, a Democrat, left his senate seat abruptly last month and Governor Kim Reynolds set the special election for this coming Tuesday, March 19th.  Presidential hopefuls Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar will be knocking doors for the Democrat, Eric Giddens. He's running against Republican Walt Rogers. 

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