At a rally last November in Las Vegas, a reporter noted Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet’s experience leading Denver Public Schools, and asked the presidential candidate, “With your experience in the education area, [how] would you use that experience as president to help the education system?”
It’s an unremarkable question—except for the fact that it was posed by a 12-year-old.
That precocious political reporter is Phoenix Legg, who has interviewed multiple presidential candidates and politicians, including Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer. He’s gotten to meet both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden recently recognized Legg on the campaign trail by his trademark fedora, saying, “Still like the hat. I love the hat, man.”
Legg’s journey began in 2016, when he found himself enamored with the primary debates. He asked his dad if they could get an RV and follow the action for a month.
“Then we went out here to Las Vegas to cover the third debate and that’s where I would do my first interviews,” Legg said. “This is basically kind of where it started.”
That first month has now extended to more than three years on the road and a news blog called Phoenix Rising in America.
Phoenix has no brothers or sisters, so next to him through it all is his dad, Matt Legg. Matt sold his health care company to finance reporting trips. He’s now looking at ways to monetize the news operation, which has taken the two of them all over the country. Over the past few months Phoenix has reported from Nevada, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire and Ohio, just to name a few.
Phoenix says he’s fascinated by politics, history and psychology. His dad Matt says he also revels in meeting people.
“That’s what I love about it,” Matt said. "He’s excited when he gets his White House press pass. He wants the pass because it’s a neat memory, so we get the pass. But then he wants to go out and would rather go talk to both the supporters and then also the protesters.”
And the protesters don’t faze him. A video from Trump’s inauguration in 2017, when Phoenix was nine, shows Phoenix asking, “Why are you protesting one day before the inauguration?”
“We’re protesting because we don’t have any other choice,” a protester said.
“What do you mean that you do not have another choice?”
While the Leggs are on the road, Phoenix isn’t in school. So the two have been doing what Matt calls “road school,” basically a homeschool curriculum that he and Phoenix work on while traveling.
“A lot he learns just from what he’s doing,” Matt said.
For example, it’s pretty easy to cover history, Matt says, when they’re able to stop and walk around Gettysburg instead of reading about it in a history book.
So, if valuable lessons can be learned on the road, what has Phoenix learned during his more than three years covering politics?
“As a country, we’re really divided,” he said. “But at the same time, I think we need to understand that disagreement doesn’t equal rejection. And then we can disagree with each other and still hang out with each other and work to find common ground.”
Phoenix has already been offered a journalism scholarship from the University of North Texas. And although he’s not sure whether he wants to pursue a career in journalism, he’s at least planning on continuing through the coming year.
“At least until the 2020 election, I would like to keep doing it,” he said. “I enjoy talking to people, whether it’s the candidates, politicians, the voters…. It’s a lot of fun getting all those opinions for the election.”
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center For the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.