Saturday, January 5, 2008
Especially this year, with the controversy surrounding the Michigan primaries, the current primary system has been under more fire than in previous years. Iowa, a state with about 1% of the United States' population and in which almost 95% of the population is White (as opposed to the national 80%, according to 2006 figures released by the US Census Bureau), isn't exactly representative of the general American people. Because of this, several different alternatives to the current system have been proposed.
One of these is the Rotating Regional Primary System, which divides the country into four regions (proposed as East, South, Midwest, and West, although the exact states in each region may vary because of the historic political alignments of individual states). Iowa and New Hampshire would retain their “first in the nation” status. There are also several different propositions for determining the order of the states. The original one was using a lottery to determine the order of states in the first primary year (the primary primary year, if you will) and then rotating the states every year since. The second is the use of a lottery system every year, potentially with provisions to keep a certain region from being first many times in a row. With the second option, the primary dates could be picked out as late as six months before the initial primary, which will keep candidates from camping out in the early primary states and encourage them to be campaigning in more states. There are, however, some problems with this system. The large size of the regions would significantly raise the price of campaigning, which could potentially prevent the candidates with a smaller base of funds from competing.
Something else that has been proposed is simply having a National Primary Day, on which all states would have their primaries at the same time, thereby eliminating Iowa and New Hampshire's “first in the nation” status.
Another proposition is the Graduated Random Presidential Primary System, also known as the California Plan. The California Plan proposes dividing the primary season into ten two-week periods. The states or territories will be divided up based on the number of electoral votes held by the specific states. (American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands do not hold electoral votes but send delegates to nominating conventions; they will be counted as holding one electoral vote each.) The first period will be made up by any states, as long as their total electoral votes total eight. In each subsequent period, the total votes will increase by eight- the second will have 16, the third will have 24, et cetera. One problem with the California Plan is the number of electoral votes held by some of the larger states- California, with the highest population and ___ electoral votes, wouldn't be able to vote until the seventh period, but the second, third and fourth most populous states (Texas, New York, and Florida, respectively) would be able to vote in the fourth period. To remedy this, the California Plan proposes staggering the periods, so that instead of going 1-10 in order, it would go 1-2-3-7-4-8-5-9-6-10, thereby preventing California from having to always hold its primary towards the end of the primary season. Again, this plan could lead to high travel costs for the candidates, and the random selection could also prevent long-range planning.
The fourth major proposition is the Delaware Plan, which would divide the states and territories into four groups, based on population. The twelve smallest states (by population) will be the first group, then the thirteen smallest remaining states, then the next thirteen, and finally the largest twelve. The four groups would vote on four days; one each in March, April, May, and June, respectively. Although the last states would always have to wait until the June date to vote, they will control over 50% of the electoral votes and therefore effectively be able to determine the election.
In my opinion, a national primary day is ideal; however, I think that states should have the option of caucuses or primaries, because I feel that caucuses are a much more interactive and informed political decision making process. A national primary day will ensure that all states have primaries earlier in the process and will therefore not have to have their primary elections after it's more or less clear who will get the nomination. States with late primary dates are disenfranchised and are given less of a role and a voice in the political process. This isn't right.
For more information on proposed alternatives to the current primary system, I recommend http://www.fairvote.org
After the intense hour of training and learning strategic persuasive moves, they thought we were ready for battle, to battle for Richardson. Our assignment was Ames Middle School, precinct 3-4 in Story County. We knew there was a good chance that we could be close to viability and it would take some, ok, more like a lot of work, to get others to join and support us. We handed out stickers, mingled with Iowans, and scoped out an estimation of how many people we might need for viability. The temporary chair of the precinct called the room to order and began the first order of business. Adrenalin began running through me, because by my approximations of numbers, I feared we would be extremely short of supporters. My raw calculations were there approximately 200 people in attendance, with 9 delegates available, and 15% was viability, we needed at least 24 people to get one delegate. After the first alignment into preferences groups, we found out we needed 33 people to get a delegate (this was with an attendance of 217). Now was the time we had to start crunching numbers and see how many each preference group could afford to give up. Dodd, Biden, and Kucinich groups were nowhere near being viability so I really focused on trying to get them to join us. But, unfortunately, most of those group members joined John Edwards who was having trouble making viability too. Next group to persuade was Obama. They had the overwhelming majority of attendance already with 5 delegates to their name. Here was our chance. With viability, any number above .5 rounds up. As they stood, they needed 24 more people to make it a 6th delegate. If we were not to make viability, our now 21 people would still not be enough to reach that last delegate. So there was a chance that some of our people would go to Edwards who was 3 people shy of a second delegate. So the Obama precinct captain was going to try and give us the 12 people we needed to be viable. But, after multiple calculations, they could only give us 11 people without dropping down to 4 delegates, so they backed out last minute. Therefore, after all the poking and prodding, we lost our group, but 16 went to Obama, two went to Clinton, and three went to Edwards, giving him the last delegate.
The final delegate count: five to Obama, two to Clinton, and two to Edwards. Although my precinct was not successful, it was great to hear that Story County had the second highest Richardson count in the state of Iowa next to Des Moines. Overall, Richardson only received 2% of the votes for fourth place, but in Story County, he received 7%. So, all in all, I know that my efforts with the Richardson campaign in Ames maybe have boosted support for him. I feel like this was the MOST AMAZING experience I could have.
The room was nearly empty. The food was all gone. The chairs stood unused, but still warm from the 217 caucus goers from precinct 3-4. Other than a few party diehards debating over platform planks and committee members, all that remained were two volunteers, displaying less bounce than a 3 week old party balloon. "So this is what it feels like to come up short."
Obama had carried the day. Congratulations. He had won 5 of the 9 delegates from the precinct with Clinton and Edwards taking 2 apiece. Bill Richardson had failed to gain viability by less than 1/10th of one percent of the margin. The most bitter pills to swallow are the ones you don't expect to take.
Earlier that evening Kristi and I arrived at Richardson headquarters, prepared to go anywhere and help the precinct captain. When we walked through the door we were told to report to precinct 1-3. However 30 seconds later our plans changed. The precinct captain of 3-4 had come down with the flu and could not make the caucus. We were redirected to precinct 3-4 with the instructions of twisting arms until we were asked to leave to help Richardson gain viability and delegates, as well as tabulate viability numbers. This was a duty usually reserved for experienced party regulars or long term paid staff. We had had a grand total of 45 minutes of training.
We arrived at Ames Middle School to find a line of people waiting to sign in longer than the line outside a department store of the day after thanksgiving that advertised free beer. There was humanity everywhere. We made our way to our location in the school and set up camp next to our Richardson for president sign. When 7:00 PM rolled around we knew we had a tall stack of work cut out for us. There were 217 people present, meaning we needed 33 to be viable. At 7:00 PM we had 20. This is what happened next.
7:20- floor opens for participants to move from candidate to candidate. We tell our 20 to hold firm for 25 minutes to let us garner more support.
7:21- we pick up a Biden supporter. We are now at 21.
7:23- both of us move to Obama and Clinton camps to try to get excess voters
7:25- an Obama representative that is 6'6'' 250 pounds tells me in no uncertain terms that I am not a registered voter and cannot talk to other people's followers. At risk of being thrown out I return to the Richardson camp.
7:27- Kristi endures the same fate. We are forced to simply crunch numbers and see if Obama or Clinton have enough delegates to spare to give us viability.
7:30- The Obamanese, and the Clintonites send over voters to try to chip away at our people and entice them to join our opposition. For now no one budges, but they are starting to look antsy.
7:40- The Dodd and Kucinich camps have defected to Obama, giving them enough people for another delegate.
7:42- The Edwards camp is still not viable. They are sitting on 31 people and are doing their best to pick away at us.
7:50 - Time is called, the Richardsons start to disperse to other camps when Kristi grabs the mic and tells them all to come back, If Obama gives us his surplus candidates that are not enough to get him another delegate, according to our math we can become viable and prevent Clinton or Edwards from picking up that delegate.
7:51- the Obama people agree and come over. Hell Yeah!!! We did it!!
7:52- No never mind, to give us enough to become viable would take away a delegate from Obama by .1 percent of the margin. All the Obama people retreat.
7:55- The delegates are ratified and that is all she wrote. "So this is what it feel like to come up short."
We leave a short time later with heavy hearts and tears of disappointment being held back by a dogged sense of pride not to give the opposition any more satisfaction than we already had to concede. Stopping by the Richardson office, we turn in our resources and get the whats what on the state. Richardson is getting trounced throughout the state, BUT, his average take out of each county was 2 %. His take out of Story county where we had toiled the last two days was 7%, the second best county showing in the state.
The increased turnout by the people we had helped contacteased the pain a bit, but only for a brief moment. It hurts. It hurts bad. We did all we could and it wasn't enough. That stung deer than anything else.
Right before leaving we got contact information form the staff in the Richardson office. Networking. References. More people I know. Alright, things are looking up a little bit. From electoral politics to networking politics. There is a little something for everyone in Iowa in January.
11:00- I collapse into an exhaustion induced coma. Never has sleeping in jeans felt so delicious.
Friday, January 4, 2008
I found it impressive that he was able to entertain us on stage with the band, along with Joe Scarborough from MSNBC news. Although I did enjoy hearing Governor Huckabee speak, the best part of his rally was definitely Chuck Norris. He told Chuck Norris jokes, spoke very kindly of Mike Huckabee, and danced with his wife on stage.
I will have to start off this blog with one word: WOW! Tonight I had to honor to meet Former President Bill Clinton. When Dr. Williams told us about the possibility of seeing President Clinton give a speech on Hillary's behalf, I was instantly excited. The two hour drive to Waterloo felt as if it was only fifteen minutes. When we first arrived to the building, all the front row seats were reserved. However, Ben Martin and I were lucky enough to find two open seats front row next to a friendly Clinton supporter. After several minutes of discussion and Ben and I informing the supporter what we have been the past days in Iowa, the announcer came on and introduced President Clinton. For the first time in my life I shook a president’s hand. President Clinton delivered a very persuasive and supportive speech about Hillary. He talked about Hillary’s past and what she achieved by working hard and not letting failure slow her down. President Clinton continued his praise of Hillary and told the audience her plans for the future. He used her past experience to show her credibility and ability to push forward and make the country a better place. To be honest, Hillary’s plans for the United States sounded better coming from President Bill Clinton then what I have been seeing of her own speeches on TV. Finally, several members of our group were able to receive autographs from President Clinton and others also were fortunate enough to meet him. With only the Caucus and the musical to go, this week has been nothing short of amazing and I am extremely grateful for all of the opportunities I have been given.
When we arrived back at the Ames headquarters, all the coordinators were extremely appreciative of our work. Brian Breman, the Story County campaign coordinator, ask us if we would be interested in crunching numbers for the precint captains Thursday night. It sounded like a great opportunity to gain first hand experience; so kindly agreed to help. We informed them that we would be back Thursday morning to volunteer some more.
After volunteering, the class as a whole, headed to Waterloo, IA, to witness former president Bill Clinton speak on behalf of wife Hillary. I was completely excited to hear one of the best public speakers of our time perform in the flesh, right in front of me. There was no formal speech written out, no note cards; B. Clinton spoke completely off the cuff. It was more than inspiring. It was phenomenal! I am not even a Hillary supporter, but I was convinced that every word he spoke, was 100% true and right. He really emphasized the fact that Hillary has been doing diplomatic work for years. While being First Lady of the US, she was making friendships and alliances for the US with foreign political leaders. Also, she has always been a woman to solve problems. When she was the First Lady of Arkansas, she took it upon herself to help solve education problems and reform her states policies. After his speech, I got the impression that Hillary could not have gotten her current Iowa standings without the greatness of Bill.
On January 2, Andrew Doub and I took to the streets of Ames for Barack Obama. Having had an hour of training the previous day, we went door to door making sure families knew where their caucus was, who they were voting for, and if not Obama, would he be their second choice. The weather was bitter cold with winds making both of us feel as though we did not have toes. Knocking on doors and having interaction with these Iowans has turned out to be one of my highlights of our time here. We never encountered one inhospitable or rude Iowan. In fact, one woman asked us to come in and ended up having a home in West Lafayette, Indiana. Another told us her brother had gone to Manchester College. It was fun to be able to discuss with caucus goers about the candidates whether we were agreeing or trying to persuade to Obama’s side.
In the afternoon we went to Waterloo to hear former President Bill Clinton. Everyone was very excited to see him. Bill spoke at a cattle arena to what looked like 400 to 500 middle class Iowans. President Clinton did a great job speaking for his wife and presidential candidate. It was an honor to watch how laid back and comfortable Bill was while speaking. As he stood behind the podium, his hands were in his pockets and his legs were crossed very casually. Although this may sound cliché, the speech was delivered simply yet elegantly. I have heard about how Bill sometimes when speaking will spend most of the time talking about himself and what he has accomplished. His speech on this day was totally focused on his wife Hillary. He praised Hillary on all of the education upgrades in Arkansas and tactics to improve America’s poverty downward slope. President Clinton also stated Hillary is the best-known candidate, out of the other Democrat candidates, around the world. He believed Hillary would have more respect from foreign political leaders because of this, therefore likely to be more diplomatic.
After Norrris spoke, the band came back on with Huckabee and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough. Starting out with Sweet Home Alabama, Huckabee helped his cause on my likeability scale. I was impressed with his bassist skills and more importantly his stage presence.
Another early morning today, but this time the morning came very quickly. At this point in the trip, I am not sure exactly how the candidates are able to maintain such a time demanding schedule. I am starting to feel fatigued and I have only been going to events for a few days now, these politicians have been on the campaign trail for weeks, and still will be campaigning long after Iowa. I happened to catch word while we were working at the Huckabee headquarters that Governor Huckabee would be speaking at Fort Dodge (about an hour away) at 8:00 am at a more personal event. There were four of us willing to get up early for another early event to see Mike Huckabee, and the governor did not disappoint. The event was certainly much more personal than the Huck and Chuck Rally from the night prior, which Governor Huckabee informed us that there were over 3,000 people there! We sat in the second row, and I was probably no more than three feet away from the governor for the entire event. He was a riveting speaker and took the time to explain some of his criticisms that Mitt Romney has fired at him, as well as the fact that many conservatives have called him “another liberal Governor from Arkansas.” He cut taxes across the income level board during his time, and turned a multimillion dollar deficit into an $850 million surplus. He did explain that yes, he did raise taxes, like raising the tax on gasoline to improve the roads in Arkansas that had been in horrible condition. Anyone who wants to argue with raising taxes to maintain the roads, which benefit everyone and keeps everyone safer does not have their head on straight in my opinion. He spoke of tightening up the border, maintaining the sanctity of life, maintaining a strong economy and energy independence. Unlike John Edwards, he did not have the same speech, and I really felt like I was at two different events, which was awesome. The statement that stuck with me was the following: “You guys know where I stand, just look at my voting record and what I did while in office at Arkansas. I have always been pro-life, I have never swayed from that stance and I never will sway from that stance. I am pro-life where ever I am; I am not swayed by the polls. I don’t read the polls and adjust my values to them, I will not read the poll that says I need to be pro-choice right now and switch to that. I stand firm in my ideals and I will stand firm for you.” He also took a firm stance against the mega corporations that has taken politics into their own hands and have taken away from the middle class. I have decided that I will no longer state the ethnicity of the crowd, since Iowa is about 93% white. In fact, the race of the crowd was nearly all white except for the Obama rally. I have noticed that Huckabee events have a lot of children there was well, which makes sense since he has placed such an emphasis on the family unit and the importance of family. But again, the overwhelming age of the crowd was 40-50 and entirely white. After he spoke he began to walk about, but was willing to stop and chat with anyone and everyone who stayed and went over to speak with him. I was able to walk right up to Mike Huckabee talk to him and his wife, get a picture with them and have him even sign my Mike Huckabee button! I was really pumped about Mike Huckabee’s speech and was moved by the power of his message. I definitely was leaning towards Governor Huckabee before the caucus and this trip to Iowa, but after seeing him at both events, I know that I support Governor Mike Huckabee 100%.
The theme of the day truly was Arkansas governors, because we went to go see President Bill Clinton, in Waterloo. You may remember Waterloo being the infamous town in which I traveled 2+ hours to see Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton and missed both of them due to scheduling errors. Anyway, when we went to the Clinton event, we met a guy named Ethan who was also helping at the Bill Clinton event today. He told us to talk to him about the event and he would help us out. We came into contact with Ethan when we got there and he allowed two other students and me into the “reserved seating” for the event and we were very close to the former President. President Clinton is a mesmerizing speaker, and was so convincing that at times I felt stupid for not supporting Hillary for President. He just spoke with such ease at the podium, leaning up against the podium, crossing his legs while standing up and just delivering a very powerful speech. Regardless of how you feel about his politics or his presidency, one cannot argue with his incredible ability to speak and reach his crowd. He spoke of how Hillary has been tested as the first lady of Arkansas fixing the broken and worst education system in the United States, as the First Lady of the United States, as a Senator in Washington and even as a student in law school helping fight for children’s rights and her work and rules were extended nationwide. An important aspect that Hillary has on the rest of the candidates is that she is endorsed by 8 other Senators, the next closest has 2. President Clinton continued to spellbind the crowd, and again, I was just so mesmerized by his speech. It was probably the best political speech I had ever heard, bar none. The one problem I get from the Hillary campaign is that they are forcing so much emphasis on the fact that Bill Clinton would be back in the White House. Bill Clinton is a controversial figure, and not everyone would be welcoming to the idea of the former President being back in the White House. I enjoyed the event, and why not? You can’t argue with the status of the economy during the Clinton administration. He came around to the front row of the crowd and shook hands with everyone, was willing to sign anything and everything, stopped and chatted with these people and even stopped to take a picture with me! I would post it on this website, but I haven’t had time to upload them to my computer. The event was packed, but not with much media coverage; surprisingly. There were probably 300-500 people at the event, and was much more racially diverse than any other event to date. All in all, this is probably my favorite day so far. I was bummed when I didn’t shake hands and talk with Governor Huckabee at the Huck and Chuck, so I definitely felt redemption! Meeting President Clinton, though extremely superficial and brief, is a moment that I will never forget; he was the leader of the free world! So the day of the Former Arkansas Governors was exciting and will probably be one of the best “political” days of my life.
As she came closer, I was more and more nervous. She spoke very nicely with the older lady right next to me, and then she also listened to what I had to say. She spoke into my video camera, telling my mother and my boyfriend hello and happy new years, and I also got a picture with her. After being seated back so far, I had not expected at all to get a decent picture of her, let alone with her. This was definatly one of my highest points of the trip, fulfilling one of my most seemingly unreachable goals.
Upon asking if I could reserve a seat for myself, one of the campaign workers told me that I could just go ahead and reserve a seat in the back for myself. They put a sign that said “reserved for secret service” on my seat, so the man that I sat next to was sad to see that it was only me once I took my seat. While I was sitting in the back, I admit I was jealous because Dr. Williams and Ben were sitting right behind Hillary throughout her speech.
In all there were about 700-800 people there, mostly Caucasian, middle class, ages 25+.
Senator Clinton impressed me because of her speaking skills. The others sounded more down to earth, but her speech was so perfect sounding that she did sound quite as much like one of us. She discussed many of her issues, including her health care plan, plans for exiting Iraq, a veterans plan, reforming the education system, ect. She had much to say about her past legislative actions, emphasizing that she has worked with multiple Republicans to get legislation passed. She talked about what she did right out of school, and all of her work with and for children. Her motto through the whole speech was "ready for change, ready to lead."
At first I was unsure of what to expect even though the process was described to me and I have read about it. But that knowledge quickly made sense once the proceedings were underway. I was a little surprised that the Hillary supports barely had enough votes to be viable. Watching the interactions between the different caucus goers and different groups of supporters was also fun. There were many lively and dramatic discussions going on around the room.
Although I am a little disappointed that Edwards lost, I am glad that I got this opportunity to observe and experience the caucus process.
The vote on the side of the democrats proved to be exciting as well. Iowans declared Senator Barack Obama the winner by a wide margin. The race for second was very tight between Edwards and Clinton, but in the end Edwards pulled away. The most surprising thing was the way women voters voted. The fact was that more women voted for Barack Obama than did for Hillary Clinton. This seems very fascinating to me because I thought undoubtedly that women would try to harnass power and rally behind Clinton. They have the ability to do something in the US that has never been done in this great nations history. It just goes to show that the voters are educated this year. They know what they want, and are going to choose the candidate that can fulfill their wants and desires most closely.
The race in Iowa has proven, to me at least, that their is a reason this state holds the first caucus. Iowans should be proud of their political knowledge, and lust for being known as the first stop in the presidential campaign. I will for always remember the experience I have had the priviledge to experience in this great state. Thank you for your hospitality, I know you get sick of the overflow of campaign ads, calls, and tourists. You have paved the way for a tight race in New Hampshire and throughout the rest of the country in this next new year.
Once everyone had been registered, and the 400 plus seats were full, the event was ready to kick off. The conversation was formal, and acquaintances and friendships were renewed. We all stood for the pledge of allegiance, and the mediator, John Lohr, asked if there was anyone who did not know what the caucus stood for. He went on to ask for people whom would like to speak for their candidates, and the ones that volunteered were designated vote counters. The power was entirely entrusted in them on an honor system, and it was not a pre-planned assignment. Jim went on to ask for nominations for a permanent chair and secretary. He himself was elected to the permanent chair position, and Dale Rensick was elected secretary. The people elected them by making an acclamation, and then having a nay or I vote of those in favor. The next step in the process was to allow those whom wanted to speak for the candidate the opportunity to do so. There was the restriction that no person was allowed more than 2 minutes to speak. A lady named Mariel, whom was undecided, stood up on behalf of Mitt Romney. She expressed her joy that he made the effort to visit all 99 counties in Iowa; he is a strong family man that will honor the white house, and wants a strong military. She pointed out that he would have to learn as he went, but she had respect for anyone willing to learn, and her last point of interest was to state that he was a patriot. Jim Lohr stood up on behalf of Rudy Giuliani simply to say that Rudy was about having strong national security, and if that was your issue he is the man for the job. The precinct captain, Kevin Woodard, stood up for Mike Huckabee. He pointed out Mike’s values in faith and politics. He pointed out that Mike was pro-life, and vested his values in the idea that marriage is to be strictly between a man and woman. A man, whose name I did not get, stood on behalf of Ron Paul to say that any Republican is better than a Democrat. He stated that Ron was a pro-life doctor, a veteran, and a consistent voter. He pointed out that Ron Paul was a 10 term US congressmen that had never voted for a tax hike, and that he wanted to abolish the IRS. The person that spoke on behalf of Fred Thompson, Monica Mullens, said that Fred has a demonstrated record, and that he has the endorsement from the right to life committee. The lady speaking on behalf of John McCain was very genuine, and in depth. She stated that John has a proven 24 years in Congress. She said that he is genuine, down to earth, and a veteran who was capable of serving our country once, and most certainly capable of doing it again. She said that he has integrity and determination, he demands respect, has the longest pro-life record, and knows what to do with this country.
After peoples speeches the vote was taken by secret ballot, which was then passed in and began to be counted. While the votes were being counted people were offered the chance to become delegates for March 18. There would be 14 delegates, 7 alternatives, and a $20.00 fee to cover food for the day. They then offered sign up for junior delegates ages 12-17. A petition was then presented that planned to impeach Judge Hansen, brought up by Charlie Bright, because he had allowed same sex marriage legislation in Iowa. After all this the votes came back; 126 for Mike Huckabee, 64 for John McCain, 23 for Ron Paul, 32 for Fred Thompson, and 96 for Mitt Romney with a small number going to the remaining few candidates.
Overall the caucus was a new and exciting experience. People in Iowa are brave to deal with what they do every four years. Props to them for their political knowledge and roll in this nation’s history.
The event was packed with media and people from all over the country. I do not know the official count of the event, but there were probably 300-400 people at the event. I will be honest, I was looking forward to hearing Indiana’s own John Cougar Mellencamp perform in support for John Edwards. However, the Cougar wasn’t there and was going to perform in Des Moines tomorrow at 9:00 pm. I think people came to see John Edwards mostly, but I have to wonder how many people were there because of Mellencamp. Elizabeth Edwards spoke first at the event, and she brought her two children on the stage and spoke about how much John Edwards wants to work for the middle class, gain energy independence while sustaining the environment, and providing health care for every American.
John Edwards came out to thunderous applause and actually appeared to be glowing during the event. The former Senator has so much energy and livelihood, I found his excitement was exciting me, and he hadn’t even spoken yet! This was the first time I had seen John Edwards, however some other students had seen him a few days prior and said that his speech was the exact same, and new everything that he was going to say and in what order. Even if I hadn’t received this information from the students, I could tell that the speech was staged and well rehearsed. While his event was rallying the crowd, I found the speech’s content rather dull, which could entirely due to the fact that I do not agree with his policies and programs. He spoke on how creating a “green” economy, which is an economy based on the creating new sustainable energies while gaining total independence from oil and OPEC, well create millions of jobs stimulating the economy while reducing greenhouse gases and counteract world enemy number one: global warming, feared by every liberal at every stretch of the globe.
I appreciate when a candidate takes the time for questions from the audience. Senator Edwards took a couple of questions from the audience, and a couple more after someone from his campaign told him they had to leave. Was Senator Edwards that caring that he wanted to hear every person’s concern or was this a clever political tactic which made him seem more caring? While I like to believe the former, you can’t rule anything out, especially in the crunch time of the Iowa Caucus.
Today was also the day we decided to work for the Mike Huckabee campaign. It worked out well for my fellow Republicans because the headquarters were in Des Moines, and so was the rally event for Mike Huckabee. We entered the headquarters eager to help and curious to discover what exactly we would be doing. Some students working for other campaigns has made phone calls, while others had canvassed the neighborhoods in Iowa knocking on every door to amass votes for the all important Caucus. I was hoping we would be making the phone calls, on account that the wind chill was probably hovering somewhere around -20. Not that I would not have gone door to door, but I would rather have preferred to make phone calls indoors. Luckily enough, the five of us were put to work on the phones. We were given a long calling list of those Iowans would had pledged support for Governor Huckabee in the past. We were given a script to follow, but we were encouraged to add personal touch to it. The calling center was packed, with every person on the phones in that room, totally somewhere around 75 to 100 callers. It was there that we met John Echols, a Republican from Arizona that was supposed to give us the “hook up” and have us sit on stage with Governor Huckabee. He told us that since we are not familiar with his past, he let it be known that when people stick with him, good things happen to them. So, if you need something good to happen to you, perhaps check out http://www.johnechols.com/. John told us to find him at the event and he would hook us up, so long as we passed out Huckabee signs attached with candy canes to the crowd. We obviously agreed, and became excited to meet Mike Huckabee and Chuck Norris.
It was finally time for the event that I had looked the most forward to since I signed up for the trip, a time to finally see former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. That would have been enough for me. But Mike was accompanied by the one, the only, Chuck Norris aka Walker Texas Ranger. Chuck Norris, world renowned fighter, creator of the Total Gym, creator of Walker Texas Ranger (the claim to fame of the struggling Hallmark Channel), and an American Icon. While the majority of the students have a liberal ideology and did not agree with Huckabee’s campaign, everyone wanted to see Chuck Norris. Did you know that most children check under their beds to make sure the Boogey Man isn’t under there? Well the Boogey Man checks under his bed to make sure Chuck Norris isn’t there. Chuck Norris facts are increasingly popular, and has given Chuck somewhat of a cult following in recent years.
As it turns out, John Echols had no more standing at the event then we did. I realized it was time to cut away from John after two events. The first was when I called him and he had a ringback tone (as in instead of the normal phone ring, I would hear a song) which was a rap song, specifically Pimpin’ All Over the World by Ludacris. Secondly, I realized that John was just looking for any chance to get on television. The true organizers of the event planned to have children holding up signs at two spots; one spot had children yelling “Huck” while the other spot yelled “Chuck.” The average age of this child crowd was probably around seven. When John saw the cameras were rolling on this crowd he ran over with a Huckabee sign and jumped into the crowd. At this moment I realized that my “hook up” connection was really a television time monger and had no true standing at the event. But despite the fact that John was too busy pushing 6 and 7 year old children out of the way of the local news cameras, the event was awesome, all in all, there were over 2,000 people at the Val Air Ball Room in Des Moines Iowa. There was a band playing, and hundreds of people cheering “Huck and Chuck!” “Huck and Chuck!”
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee came out to speak first, not Chuck Norris, which was surprising at first. He came and spoke for probably 25 minutes or so and really hit hard on the importance of family, the sanctity of life, and energy independence. He also spoke on being from the serving class, not the ruling class, and he [Governor Huckabee] would be elected to serve you. He also spoke how the incredibly rich in this country are the ones that government and politicians have catered to, and it is time to bring back the strength of the middle class. From the entire speech from Governor Huckabee my most memorable quote from his was talking about his belief that we need to have energy independence. Prepare yourself, this quote is amazing… “And when we fully invest in energy independence, we can look over at the oil exporting countries and tell them that we, the American people, do not need your oil anymore than we need you sand.”
Chuck Norris came out and spoke for a while about why he chose Mike Huckabee to endorse. He actually gave out his favorite Chuck Norris fact which was the following: did you hear that they were going to put Chuck Norris’ face on Mt. Rushmore? But they couldn’t because the granite wasn’t tough enough for his beard.” Chuck Norris spoke about how Mike’s FairTax plan would really benefit America, how his education reform would really help the broken system and how Mike Huckabee emphasizes family, which would help the United States.
But the event was not complete with just the Huck and Chuck. Mike Huckabee joined the band, took on his bass guitar and jammed out to three songs. I loved the performance and Governor Huckabee is no slouch on the guitar. He was joking between songs and even had Joe Scarborough join him on stage and perform alongside with him. This was easily my favorite event to date. I was a little sad that Governor Huckabee didn’t shake hands or wait to take pictures. In his defense, he was extremely busy, there were over 2,000 people there and it was more of a rally rather than a personal event. The event was so exciting and fun that this surpassed any event, and only Senator Obama’s event came in a close second.
It poked fun at a lot of the drama that too often occurs in politics between different candidates and even different parties. There was one part in particular that hit close to home, in my opinion, and that was when the family started fighting so much that they were almost at each others throats. I strongly feel that that has occurred throughout the short time that our group has been in Iowa. Everyone wants to believe that they are right and everyone who is not with them is against them. The most striking example of this to me would have been the display of attitudes at different events and rallies from people with differing views. At many of the events there have been negative attitudes, which have had a negative effect on everyone. I am speaking about both parties and I am not saying that I myself at times have not been the most polite or respectful. I feel that even if even if a candidate is not supported, they should still be cheated with respect like everyone else and not only the candidate, but the other people who actually do support the candidate. I think if everyone tried to consider the feelings of other parties involved, the world would be a much better place.
I think that Americans really need to learn respect for other views and until we come up with a combined effort that the world will most certainly remain in despair. Not every individual can always be right and always get what we want. Life is all about compromise. Too often it seems like we get into such arguments that mean so little, we are just so stubborn to even listen to other ideas and alternatives. The musical was extremely funny and I would love to see more just like that one.
Iowa has been very exciting and our group has been extremely lucky! I didn’t imagine that when I came to Iowa that I would see any of the candidates so close, if at all. While my own candidate of choice is off in some other state, I have had some pretty amazing opportunities to meet the as many candidates as I have. From Huckabee and Bill and then being so close to Obama, Edwards, Thompson, I never imagined I would be so lucky. Not only have I learned a lot about the candidates and what their policy initiatives would be, but I also learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot of my inner values and where I really stand in my ideas, my part, my state, my country, and my world.
As my students and I waited in line to enter the caucus room, everyone knew there would be a higher turnout in a too-close-to-call presidential race. Yet, despite the uncertainty, Andrew (far left) yesterday afternoon correctly predicted the eventual outcome for the state--38% of the delegates going to Obama. Stephen (in the middle) should get a silver medal for his prediction of 37%.
As for my own thoughts, from the day we arrived in Iowa, I could see the enthusiasm for the Obama campaign and its message of hope and change. More importantly, in a caucus state, organization is key. You need to get your supporters identified and engaged; you need to turn them out in force on caucus night. The Obama campaign showed all the marks of a disciplined, vibrant, and dedicated effort throughout the week we've spent here. Everywhere we went, in contrast with the other campaigns, the Obama folks were always the most "Fired Up. Ready to Go."
The caucus I attended in Ames was a fairly raucus one--lots of chatter and noise, people milling around. There were more than 270 people in a room designed for not much more than 140. Candidate preference groups cheered, chanted, and listened to pep talks.
At one point, Biden supporters who came over to the Edwards camp were welcomed heartily and then rewarded with homemade cookies. Throughout the night, we particularly enjoyed watching this animated Clinton supporter argue with an Obama partisan.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
This morning MC students were up early and off to their different events. The group campaigning for Obama headed out to the Ames headquarters as bundled up as possible for a little visibility work. Entering the office and seeing it fill up with nearly 30 people in just a short period of time truly displays the power Obama has to motivate citizens and move them to action. Street corners around Ames were filled with Obama volunteers holding signs with messages such as: STAND FOR CHANGE, HOPE, and OBAMA. It takes true dedication to get a bunch of people up and out before 7 am, in single digit temperatures, yelling and jumping around like maniacs hoping to remind a few more people to caucus that night. But that’s the kind of power Barack seems to have; the kind of ability he has to motivate people and instill hope for a better, brighter future.
There are a number of stats that I think really display the ability Barack has to win this nomination. First the age split of those that caucused for Obama showed 17-29 year olds at 57%! This is truly remarkable in a country whose young people are typically seen as politically apathetic. Could the nomination of Barack as the democratic candidate also result in such remarkable turnout among our youth in the general election? Second, women voters chose Obama over Clinton 35% to 30%. This displays Obama’s ability to pull women voters even with a female opponent. Finally, in a state with 95% Caucasian population Obama has received the most delegates for the Democratic Party. I really believe that this helps negate the argument that an African American cannot win the election.
I’ll certainly be excited to see what happens in New Hampshire! FIRED UP! READY TO GO!
This is the closest that I could get to a picture with Senator Obama
What made Obama pull so far ahead of Edwards and Clinton tonight? In the precinct caucus that I observed, Obama clearly had more votes than any other candidate. When it all came down to it, in my precinct, Clinton ended up with 66, Richardson with 70, Edwards with 101, and Obama with 164 people. All day today, wherever we went, we saw people standing on the side of the road with Obama signs yelling “Fired Up” and “Ready to Go!”
When we went to see Obama speak on New Years Eve, I specifically noticed that there were more young adults there than at any of the other candidates’ speeches or rallies which I had attended. Another very interesting fact is that the large majority of the other people attending were white, and middle class. Since Iowa is 95% Caucasian, at the very least, 33% of Obama’s votes had to have come from white Iowans. The demographics of Iowa proved tonight to be insignificant, showing that Obama has what it takes to win in the more predominantly white states. Now that Iowa has shown their support for Senator Obama, other states shouldn’t be too far behind. He is projected to take the majority of the southern states, except for South Carolina (which naturally should go to John Edwards). What makes Senator Obama so appealing?
In his New Years Eve speech, his focus was “change.” His definition of change meant both to oust George W. Bush along with reversing everything that he has inflicted on our country and around the world, and also to change the presidency by having a fresh face in the white house (meaning, no more Clintons). I think that this is one aspect that appeals to the younger voters, because this is OUR future. We have to deal with the degradation of our environment, we have to deal with the war in Iraq, we have to deal with running out of fossil fuels, our reliance on the Middle East for our oil, and the entire economic state of our country and our own families. If change does not take place in this election, it may be too late to change our policies under other administrations. Having the support of the young voters will help Senator Obama in every state because they have the time and the energy to put into the campaign.
I enjoyed listening to President Clinton speak and campaign on behalf of his wife. He told many stories about her work during college and as First Lady of Arkansas. He laid out her vision for the country. He discussed her hopes for the future of education discussing re-writing the No Child Left Behind Act or scrapping it all together. He also portrayed her as being able to get things done when no one else can. Sense this was the only event I saw in which the candidate was not there to spread their own message; it was interesting to see what he had to say.
Her universal healthcare coverage is also very important to her image. President Clinton did an excellent job of describing the way the plan would work, emphasizing that she has had lots of experience with the health care issues, pointing to her days as First Lady. He also told us why it is so important to fix this problem and to end the donut hole for seniors on Medicaid.
The crowd seemed to respond to her solutions to both these issues very well. The crowd was made up largely of older people of the middle working class. I was surprised by the amount of older men in the audience, but there were many women there as well. The crowd was predominantly white but there were a number of African Americans attending as well.
Again this opportunity to meet a former President was probably once in a lifetime experience. I really enjoyed listening to what he had to say and am glad that I had the chance to.
Later that day we headed to Waterloo, to hear former President Clinton speak on behalf of his wife Hillary. We managed to get seats in the bleachers behind the podium. After hearing Bill Clinton’s speech I understood a large part of why he was elected for two terms; he is a great orator. The speech outlined many of Hillary’s accomplishments before she became senator and what she had accomplished as a senator. I have been a fairly loyal Obama supporter since I heard he was going to run, but at that point in time I was enthralled by the message that President Clinton was giving. I do find myself questioning whether or not I liked the message more than some others I’d heard simply because of the care with which it was delivered. Did I agree with most of what was said? Yes, but I also agreed with a lot of what Edwards said and it hadn’t made me seriously reconsider my choice like Bill Clinton was able to do during that speech.
My choice won’t be shifting to Hillary anytime soon, but Bill’s speech certainly made me consider it, even if only for a short time. There is no doubt that Bill is an incredible asset to Hillary’s campaign and it makes me wonder how much of Hillary’s support can be credited to the tremendous speaking ability of her husband? Hillary is certainly a strong woman and capable of holding her own, but if I, as a strong Obama supporter, could be swayed by his speech for a short time could others? I believe they could. Although Hillary has placed third in Iowa it is certainly not the end for the Clinton team.
Also that day our class was fortunate enough to attend a Bill Clinton speaking engagement in Waterloo in which he was trying to drum up support for Hillary’s campaign. We once again arrived early and got great seats. Mine was directly behind Clinton’s podium, so I was once again fortunate enough to sneak onto TV. His speech was well delivered in his vintage smooth-talking, heartfelt style, and he did a great job of emphasizing Hillary’s experience and perseverance. When he finished, I was able to make my way up to the spot where he was to exit. There, he shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and thanked me for coming. I thanked him back and that was that. I couldn’t say much more due to the battalion of Secret Service guards surrounding him on his way out, but I was content with what I got.
There is never a boring day in Iowa.
It all began with a brief introduction from congressmen Steven King. Then Thompson walked in the room, all 6 foot 5 of him, demanding authority and attention. He went on to make a speech that was less than entertaining or informational. His main focus centered around illegal immigration and border control. He made it apparent that he did not believe in amnesty for illegals, nor would he stand for it. He expressed his dire desire to get rid of illegal aliens, build a fence around the border, and demand that in order to cross into our country one must be able to speak English. Continuing on, Fred Thompson began a spiel on national security, and his desire to capture the infamous Osama Bin Laden, whom he said was probably hiding in the hills of Pakistan. Fred, this is all great and dandy, but can you talk about something else to? I mean I do not know about everyone else in the room, but I did not get up at 6 o' clock and take a shower to come see a 20 minute speech. If you want election in a race that you did not stand much of a chance at in the first place, you absolutely must take more time to make sure your issues are well understood by the people of Iowa and the rest of the U.S.
No doubt about it Fred Thompson is a sincere man. A man that demands respect wherever he goes, and a man bent on fixing the issues of America. On the other hand, he is arrogant. Almost more arrogant than Mitt Romney, whom as we can all see wants to buy this election. From the time Thompson entered the room to the time he left the room he did not shake one hand. I do not know about you readers, but I personally can judge someones sincerity based on one small handshake. I am sure Hillary shakes more hands in an hour than did Thompson all day. Fred Thompson.....no wonder you are losing.
Today we went to our second John Edwards' campaign. I need to start off my blog by thanking Ben and Jesse for the seats they worked for. When we entered the room, Ben and Jesse found Adam (worked on the Edwards' Campaign) and their work was rewarded with seats on stage right behind Senator Edwards. On top of all of our luck at Edwards' rally, we found out that we were going to be on CNN which instantly began to excite the group. After quick phone calls home, Senator Edwards and his wife Elizabeth came out to the dedicated crowd. I was even more excited when I found that I was going to be sitting directly behind Elizabeth Edwards. Mrs. Edwards is a very inspirational woman and I was extremely grateful when after her husband's speech she signed my book and took a picture with Ben. Senator Edwards' speech was a repeat performance from the day before, however; it was still very entertaining and a great speech. For me, this event was much more exciting than yesterday. The crowd was larger and this event kicked off Senator Edwards' 36 hour campaign marathon.
Experienced Jan 3
Twenty four hours ago I made the comment that if I had been able to choose my candidate again, I would have chosen someone other than New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Now a few short hours later I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. The fervor of caucus day spreads like an epidemic and I now have a full blown case of political mania.
The day started at 6:00 AM tagging along with the Obama crew to hold signs by the street in the rush hour traffic to gain visibility. I had nearly become convinced in the days previous that Obama was where I belonged and I figured I could do this small chore to say I was a part of his effort.
Ninety minutes and 20 frozen fingers and toes later, I stumbled into the Richardson office to fulfill what I had anticipated as 3 hours of painful phone banking. However, instead of being chained to a chair of tedium and tongue lashings from Hawkeyes weary of being badgered by phone, we were sent back out into the crisp Iowa morning to do more literature drops and door hangings. This task consisting of spilling out of a still moving van at a dead sprint on sheets of ice to attach polling locations to supporter's doors did a monumental job of lifting my spirits.
Coming back, mission fulfilled, we finally did settle down into the softest couch I have ever had the pleasure of placing my seat upon to work the phones. Sixty minutes and 50 calls later we were relieved for the biggest surprise of the day. Fellow Spartan Kristi and I were to help the understaffed Richardson team hold delegates and do the math at the caucuses to determine how much begging, borrowing, stealing, coercing, kidnapping, pandering, graveling, it would take to achieve the magical viability percentage, in most cases 15% of those assembled. No where in the colossal organizations of Edwards, Clinton or Obama would a Hoosier college kid peon be placed in this kind of role. The next hour was filled with everything from strategy on who to steal caucusers from, to warnings of potentially corrupt opponents, to basic algebra lessons for computing viability measures and delegate apportionment. My head is still spinning. (Math and I haven't been on speaking terms for the past decade or so).
In 6-7 hours we will know which candidate pockets the first spoils of the 2008 election. The excitement is reverberating through my veins already. I will obviously bust my butt to do all I can for Richardson, and it is possible that as a registered observer I may be forced to stand in the corner and just crunch numbers, but regardless of the outcome I will be indebted to him and more so to his Ames staff for even the chance at an opportunity to do what I have been trained to do tonight. The passion, dedication and hope of these men and women has been truly astounding.
For the last month Hope has been the toast that has resonated form Barak Obama's lips, but for the next 6 hours it is the rallying cry of of the Richardsons'.
(Part 2 will be posted at the conclusion of tonight's caucus)