Happy Sunday everyone. The Flyers’ season is off to a good start with a win against Chicago, and the Sixers are up next as they gear up for preseason. In our weekend Q&A, we chat with our politics reporter Julia Terruso, who has been on the campaign trail following several 2020 presidential candidates.

The week ahead

This week’s most popular stories

Behind the story with Julia Terruso

Volunteer Riley Nelson from Colorado Springs supporting Governor Steven Bullock of Montana greets voters arriving at the Polk County Steak Fry, a huge gathering of Democrats in Des Moines, Iowa September 21, 2019.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Volunteer Riley Nelson from Colorado Springs supporting Governor Steven Bullock of Montana greets voters arriving at the Polk County Steak Fry, a huge gathering of Democrats in Des Moines, Iowa September 21, 2019.

Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week we chat with Julia Terruso, who’s on the campaign trail covering the 2020 presidential election.

Tell us about your role in covering the 2020 presidential election. It seems like a Herculean task!

Yes! Pennsylvania is going to play a huge role in the 2020 general election. It narrowly flipped in 2016 from Democrat to Republican for the first time since 1988. The state is one of three or four that could decide the entire election. My role is to cover the lead-up with a particular focus on Pennsylvania and its voters. As important as the state will be in the general election, our primary is rather late so we probably won’t be deciding who the Democrats nominate. Nevertheless, the last few months have been all about getting to know the candidates, particularly those with local ties like former Vice President Joe Biden and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

You recently traveled to Iowa ahead of the state’s caucus. What was the environment like ahead of the caucus and what were some of your takeaways from that trip?

Iowans know their politics. They are some of the most informed voters I’ve ever talked to and they take their role as “the first” state very seriously. The state’s caucus, Feb. 3, is going to be critical in winnowing a huge field. All the candidates know that so they spend a lot of time there. In the week I was in Iowa, I saw 17 of the 19 candidates, that included a huge steak fry in Des Moines and at smaller events like BBQs and community events around the state.

What’s the most difficult part of your job when there are so many candidates to consider?

Figuring out the most interesting and relevant story that also hasn’t already been told. Who’s up and who’s down in the polls is a story every day, so I’m looking for a more unique perspective. Access can be tough, depending on the candidate. At a lot of events, the press “scrum” is a throng of 20 or more reporters all shouting questions over one another. Mayor Pete Buttigieg from South Bend, Ind. recently invited press aboard a bus he toured through Iowa, which was a rare opportunity to ask some more direct questions.

What captures your attention as you continue to report on the election?

How voters are deciding who they like and the way their support changes. It’s really interesting to look at campaign contributions to see where there’s overlap among bases. As the campaign goes on, seeing where voters shift as candidates drop out or others gain momentum is also really interesting.

What are some consistent issues that you hear from voters as you travel and talk to sources?

Health care, gun control and, for Democrats, beating Donald Trump.

You can stay in touch with Julia by following her on Twitter at @JuliaTerruso or emailing her at jterruso@inquirer.com.

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What we’re…

  • Eating: shoyu ramen at Neighborhood Ramen. It blends three kinds of Japanese soy sauce with dried niboshi sardines, producing an “assertive layer of tidal funk and schmaltzy richness,” according to our restaurant critic Craig LaBan.
  • Drinking: J’aime Sparked Seltzer, which recently beat out national top-selling brands White Claw and Truly at Fizz Fight, the country’s first hard seltzer tasting competition and festival.
  • Watching: the nearly half dozen films that will be screened during the Philadelphia Film Festival beginning Oct. 17.
  • Visiting: the Ghost Ship, a 90-foot-long art installation, complete with translucent sails and misty masts. You can find it underneath the Ben Franklin Bridge between Race Street Pier and Pier 12.

Comment of the week

What a bunch of clueless idiots on City Council! In my opinion, City Council is the true “nuisance business.” Hey, that’s our tax dollars you’re frivolously spending!! — Fler88, on Philadelphia suspends 11 p.m. closing ordinance; city will pay $265,000 to Chinese takeout owners

Your Daily Dose of | The UpSide

The 10th annual “Recognition Day” was hosted by the Philadelphia Firefighters & Paramedics Union Local 22, which recognized firefighters, paramedics, and civilians for heroic acts in the past year.