Sunday, January 13, 2008

First Time Voter Gets Glimpse of the Action

In the title of my first post, I described myself as a “first time voter eager to catch a glimpse of the action” (in Iowa). Now, having spent my week in Iowa, I have soaked up more knowledge about the Iowa caucuses and about political campaigning as a whole than I ever expected I would. Going into the trip, I expected to catch a few campaign events from a distance, do some busy work for the Obama campaign for a few hours, and attend a laid back precinct caucus on the big night. However, what I got was much more than that. The event that I went to were very interactive, and most of the time my seat was good enough to get me a spot on national television. My work with the Obama campaign was far more extensive than I imagined. I got to knock on doors and actually talk to regular Iowans about Obama. In addition, I got to see what campaigning is like behind the scenes. On caucus night, the events were far from boring. The people were pumped up and the room was filled with excitement.

What I have been able to take away from all of this is a better understanding of what it takes to run a political campaign. To win the hearts and minds of millions of voters, you have to have a strong and appealing message. I heard many examples of these at the numerous rallies I attended. To complement this message, you must have a strong grassroots organization to “get out the vote” at the local level. I witnessed this at the Obama headquarters in Ames, Iowa. Finally, I realize now that when it all comes down to it, the people really are the ones who decide which candidate gets elected. The struggling and maneuvering I saw at the precinct caucus demonstrated how much the people enjoy that power. The experiment that is American Democracy is working, and it is working because we the people make it work.

Meeting the Rotary Club

Today my classmates and I had the delightful opportunity to have lunch with the North Manchester Rotary Club and share our experiences in Iowa with them. This was a lot of fun because the members of the organization are very friendly and generous. They love to do work for their community and they love to invite guests into their meetings. I found their company to be warm and receptive to our stories about Iowa.

This was also a good exercise for our class because until then we really haven’t had to describe the Iowa caucuses to anyone from outside the state of Iowa. Many on the members of the Club were well informed about the candidates, but not many knew much about the caucus system itself. Thus, we were able to demonstrate what we knew about the process to them and help them understand the caucuses better. In the end, I think they had a great time getting to know more about politics and hearing our fun stories.

thoughts on New Hampshire

January 5th

After the dust settled and the smoke cleared in Iowa, A cry for change could be heard resounding throughout the state. Upstart Senator Barack Obama was able to dominate the Democratic Caucus while Republican Mike Huckabee triumphs over front-runner Mitt Romney. With all of this surprise and inconsistency in the Caucus, what can be expected from the rest of the nation? Is this the year that the Democratic party will nominate a black man? Or a woman? Iowa has had its say but there is so much still left unanswered by the nation. Who will be able to emerge from either field and claim the presidency?

After a second place finish at the Iowa Caucuses on Thursday, John Edwards looks to keep his hopes alive by a strong showing in New Hampshire. Edwards was able to edge out Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton on Thursday to secure the second place finish falling only a few points behind winner Barack Obama. Edwards was able to push himself into the pack of Clinton and Obama despite being outspent by the duo almost ten to one. Pundits point to an array of situations that could have led to the good showing by Edwards. First and probably most important, Edwards has been campaigning in Iowa for years now. After his second place finish four years ago Senator Edwards has practically camped out in the state. This could be a major reason why the Iowa public voted for him. Also, Edwards has collected many middle/ working class votes because of his history as a lawyer and a populist candidate. Edwards reminds us of his upbringing in Seneca, South Carolina where his parents where mill workers. Edwards populist appeal may have been one of the major reasons why he was able to secure the win in Iowa.

Unfortunately, Edwards faces a new challenge in New Hampshire on Tuesday. His middle-class working-class platform will appeal much less to the more white-collar professionals (doctors don't really like John Edwards because he sued them a lot as a lawyer) in New Hampshire. He must be able to win the vote of unions with which he was very successful in doing in Iowa. He must also be able to steal a portion of the young vote from Barack Obama. This could help him secure another second place finish. Another thing going against John Edwards is his lack of funds. He may have been able to keep up with the other two candidates in Iowa but he will not be able to go much further with the meager funds that he has. He has taken out a federal matching loan that severely limits his finances. John Edwards biggest hope is that he can survive New Hampshire, which has never been too hospitable to Southern candidates, and manage to win in his home state of South Carolina.