Love and politics, however, have a way of keeping the Prices together. “We were setting up the time and then she goes, ‘Is Dave sitting next to you?’ ” Emily recalled. She handed her husband — and rival — the phone so he could book his interview.
As candidates capitalize on the couple’s access to more than 100,000 households, the Prices are juggling how to compete and console, to be the best reporters and the best spouses they can be. And with the primary season upended by unusually influential debates and super-PAC ads, the two Iowa mavens who have been shadowing the candidates for a full year insist that the person-to-person venues provide the most valuable and decisive view of American politics.
Take former senator Rick Santorum, for instance, whom each of the Prices saw early and often in his poorly funded, seemingly quixotic Iowa travels.
“He was always here and what he did was more amplified because the others weren’t,” Dave said at a barbecue lunch on the busy Sunday afternoon before the caucuses.
The two reporters had been regulars at Santorum events — he a tall, Richie Cunningham motormouth in pinstripes, she a sunny, blond Floridian in colorful suits. They witnessed Santorum speaking in front of empty seats throughout the state, taking every last question at a VFW hall or a coffee shop and asking voters to fill out a form to learn more. Emily noted that the former Pennsylvania senator, whose dramatic rise has been the story of the caucuses’ final days, both showed up and followed up.
“A lot of people feel like, ‘Well, I signed that paper for him and said I would do it, so I’m not going to back down,’ ” Emily said. “It’s almost like a contract. Iowans are very faithful people.”
Both Prices are crucial to their respective stations’ political coverage. He’s a big deal at the state’s No. 2 station; she’s a rising star at a station that’s rated narrowly ahead of his. And since Iowa journalistic oracle David Yepsen has shuffled off to academia, the field is open for another quadrennial star to be the state’s man, or woman, to see.
Dave is a savvy analyst and a “living Rolodex,” in the words of his boss. He saw an opening for Santorum after witnessing the misfortunes of Santorum’s fellow conservatives, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and businessman Herman Cain.
“As he has gone up while Bachmann went down and Cain disappeared and Perry didn’t take hold, you could just feel people are thinking, ‘Oh, maybe this guy can win,’ ” Dave said.
Close to the vest
Dave and Emily Price, University of Missouri graduates who met covering candidates, individually told colleagues that Santorum was the one to watch. Both endured derision. “People thought I was crazy five weeks ago,” Emily said. And the husband and wife never shared their analysis — or the blowback — with each other.