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.

Clay Masters / IPR

Iowans will caucus Monday, and there will finally be results to how all that campaigning and organizing has paid off for the Democratic candidates. 

What started as the largest and most diverse crop of Democratic presidential candidates in history has been cut down substantially ahead of the February 3rd Iowa caucuses. But it’s not just Iowa that’s winnowed the field. On the nineteenth episode of Caucus Land, we’ll talk about how we got here and what it could mean for the future of the Iowa caucuses.

Clay Masters / IPR

There are just three days until the Iowa caucuses and on Thursday night President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Des Moines at Drake University, where he focused his remarks on the general election.

Speaking for an hour and a half at the Knapp Center, President Trump didn't bring up his party's caucuses next week. Instead, he touted recent trade deals, spent time talking about his 2016 win and attacked his potential Democratic rivals in 2020.  

Clay Masters / IPR file

President Donald Trump is holding a rally Thursday in Iowa, just four days before the state’s caucuses. Trump faces no significant threat from within his party but his campaign has been quietly working in the state. The rally is part of Trump’s efforts to counter program the Democratic candidates. 

John Pemble / IPR file photo

Republican state senators are advancing an abortion-related constitutional amendment early in Iowa’s legislative session. Iowa Public Radio Morning Edition host Clay Masters talks with state government reporter Katarina Sostaric about the proposed amendment and other issues facing lawmakers in the week ahead in the legislature.

Clay Masters / IPR File

The Iowa Democratic Party is doing the Iowa caucuses a bit differently this year. In 2016, the Democratic National Committee told the state party they needed to be able to do a recount in 2020. 

Here are the big changes for this year. 

Every four years, people have to basically relearn how the Iowa Democratic caucuses work. This year, a slate of new rules means caucus night could get even more confusing, and campaigns will have more ways than ever to spin the results out of Iowa. On the eighteenth episode of Caucus Land, we’ll break down what actually happens on February 3rd. Plus, conversations with two candidates: former Vice President Joe Biden and billionaire Tom Steyer.

Clay Masters / IPR

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is one of four U.S. senators who are back in Washington and away from Iowa as President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial begins Tuesday. Monday in Des Moines, Sanders told a crowd he will have to rely more on volunteers and surrogates to close the deal than he had hoped. 

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

In January 2019, billionaire businessman Tom Steyer originally said he wouldn’t run for president but he changed his mind later that summer. Steyer was behind the Need to Impeach organization that pushed for the impeachment of President Donald Trump and he also started NextGen America which focuses on progressive issues including climate and mobilizing young voters. Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters spoke with Steyer before a campaign event in Council Bluffs on Tuesday.

John Pemble / IPR

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will have an advantage over the Senators running for his party’s nomination as President Trump’s impeachment trial begins Tuesday. The trial centers on the president pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters sat down with the former vice president before a Saturday campaign event at Simpson College in Indianola.


Six Democratic presidential candidates faced off at a debate at Drake University in Des Moines Tuesday, less than three weeks ahead of the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. 

Clay Masters / IPR

Six of the Democratic presidential hopefuls will debate in Des Moines Tuesday at Drake University. It is the first time there will be no candidates of color on the stage. The chairman of the Democratic National Committee is standing by the standards to make it on that debate stage.

John Pemble

Monday is the first day of the 2020 legislative session.  For the fourth session in a row, Republicans have control of the governor’s office, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Morning Edition host Clay Masters talks with IPR state government reporter Katarina Sostaric about what to expect this legislative session.


Clay Masters / IPR

A respected poll out this weekend in Iowa shows 45 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers say they could still be persuaded to support someone else. The state's caucuses, which are first in the presidential nominating process, are now about three weeks away. 

The Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll also says 13 percent of those likely to caucus on February 3 have not picked a favorite.

A wide open competitive presidential primary should be a moment of opportunity and peak political leverage for ambitious and aspiring politicians in places like Iowa. But one of the most sought-after Democrats in the first-in-the-nation caucus state isn't interested in endorsing a presidential candidate.

As the youngest of a handful of Democrats in statewide office in Iowa, state Auditor Rob Sand, who was elected in 2018, is often mentioned as a potential future U.S. Senate or gubernatorial candidate.

There are plenty of critics of the Iowa caucuses. This year, there's pressure from insiders and outsiders to change the process. On the seventeenth episode of Caucus Land, we'll talk about why some of those changes haven't happened with Lauren Chooljian, a host of the New Hampshire Public Radio podcast Stranglehold. Plus, conversations with two candidates: former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

Clay Masters / IPR

Politicians around the country have been responding to President Donald Trump's order to kill Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. This is also the case in Iowa, where the caucuses are now less than a month away.

Many of the Democrats were in the state this weekend, including two of the front runners: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

In Waterloo, Former Vice President Joe Biden spent time calling possible supporters to see if he could count on their support on February 3.

He held a flip phone to his right ear. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Entrepreneur and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is best known for his pitch for universal basic income, or the freedom dividend, where he’d give every American $1,000 a month. Yang talks about his signature policy and reacts to U.S. killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani. 

Clay Masters / IPR

With 2020 comes a presidential election in November and the nominating process for the Democrats starts in just a little over a month in Iowa. Democratic candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders held a New Year’s Eve rally Tuesday night in downtown Des Moines.

Clay Masters / IPR

South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg finds himself polling in Iowa in the top tier among U.S. senators and a former vice president. The soon-to-be former mayor is a Rhodes Scholar and a military veteran, among other things. Buttigieg talks about foreign policy and healthcare with IPR Caucus Land co-hosts Clay Masters and Kate Payne in late December.

kim reynolds
John Pemble / IPR

The Iowa Legislature is set to gavel in January 13, kicking off the third legislative session with Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds leading the state.

She wants to focus on policies that will help Iowans getting out of prison successfully re-enter the community. And a criminal justice reform committee appointed by Reynolds recently announced recommendations for that.

“We’re still working through that right now,” Reynolds said. “But I thought the list of recommendations that they proposed were a really good start.”

When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, he defined marriage as “between a man and a woman." A decade later, that position would be almost unimaginable in this cycle’s Democratic presidential race. On the sixteenth episode of Caucus Land, we’ll talk about how the candidates are approaching LGBTQ policy. Plus, we’ll wade into the debate over whether Iowa is diverse enough to be first in the nation.

Clay Masters / IPR

Many of the Democratic presidential candidates were in Iowa over the weekend. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders ended a four-day swing through the state with a town hall in Indianola Sunday. Sanders said his Medicare For All proposal will be better for middle class Americans than his Democratic competitors.

Clay Masters / IPR

It’s now looking likely the five Democratic U.S. senators running for president will be tied up in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in January and they’ll be having to split their time between Washington and Iowa.

One of the surest ways to fire up Iowa Democrats at a campaign event? Bring up U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. On the fifteenth episode of Caucus Land, we’ll hear how that outrage over K-12 policy is spilling over into presidential candidates’ plans. Plus, a conversation with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been doing relatively well in Iowa polls and has been talking about her Medicare for All proposal. She says she would phase it in during her first three years as president. Sen. Warren talks about insulating her healthcare plan from partisan whims of Congress, and the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, with IPR Caucus Land co-hosts Clay Masters and Kate Payne in early December.

Clay Masters / IPR

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren says former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to buy the Democratic presidential nomination.

Bloomberg announced on Sunday he was entering the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary field and buying more than $30 million in TV ads. Bloomberg has said Sen. Warren’s wealth tax of 2 percent on fortunes over $50 million could ruin the economy.

Clay Masters / IPR

Two-term Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president on Saturday. Vilsack, who served as President Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture, has been very active in advising other presidential campaigns this cycle.

President Trump built his 2016 campaign on stoking fears around immigration. Leading up to 2020, Democrats are running against his policies. On the fourteenth episode of Caucus Land, we’ll hear more about their immigration proposals. Plus, a look at a candidate who’s been campaigning in Iowa longer than anyone else this cycle.

The scientific community says the world must zero out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. In response, Democratic presidential candidates are rolling out aggressive climate plans. On the thirteenth episode of Caucus Land, we'll talk about what it would take to meet those goals. And later, a conversation with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.