Today, the Race for the White House spoke to two former party state chairmen. Scott Brennan, former Democratic Party state chair of Iowa had much to say about the unique Democratic caucus system in Iowa. Characterized as a “conversation” about candidates, Brennan believes the Iowa caucus is important because of its democratic roots. He notes that if there were to be a national, or even regional, primary, candidates would not have to make face-to-face connection. Without a state caucus/primary system, candidates would rely solely on money to buy airtime to influence the vote in populated states like Texas, Florida, New York, and California.
Stephen Roberts, former Republican Party chairman who was influential in developing the modern Iowa Republican caucus system, gave the Race for the White House field program an extensive history of the Iowa caucus. Roberts notes that this is an exceptional year for the Republican Party. There are so many viable candidates, a number never before seen in a presidential election, which drastically changes the dynamics of the election and the Iowa caucus. The number of candidates contributes to the divisions within the Republican Party as different candidates appeal to different factions of the party: the social conservatives, the fiscally conservative, and the moderate conservatives.
Both Brennan and Roberts had unique perspectives on the Iowa caucus, and both chose to elaborate on different topics. While Brennan spoke of the different functions of the Democratic Iowa caucus, Roberts focused on describing the historical development of the Republican Iowa caucus. However, both men were emphatic that the Iowa caucus maintains its first-in-the-nation status in order to keep the integrity of the American presidential election process.
The Race for the White House field program then raced over to Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s town hall event in Fort Dodge, Iowa. We sat in the front row to catch all the action! After his speech concluded and Sen. Rubio began taking audience questions, our own sophomore Channing Fisher asked him about bipartisanship. Later, senior Shontee Pant had the opportunity to ask him about his ability to fulfill an executive leadership role as President. Afterward, many of us were privileged to meet Senator Rubio and take pictures with him.
The group has now been to four presidential candidates events. It was interesting to see how each of the candidates approached their events in Iowa. Governors Huckabee and Kasich both had smaller, more informal events in restaurants. In both of these events, the candidates primarily answered audience questions instead of giving a stump speech. These two gatherings were more informal, and this was reflected in the candidates’ interactions with the audience, as well as in how they dressed. Rubio’s town hall event was more formal with a professional backdrop. His event was well-organized and offered refreshments. Hillary’s event was the most formal with a raised stage and supporters in bleachers behind her. Her many volunteers at the event brought posters and started cheers. Hillary did not take questions as her event was more of a rally which a large group of supporters attended. She was introduced by former Iowan Governor Tom Vilsack. The manner in which candidates addressed the audience and the content of their speeches depended on the type of event that the candidate hosted. It was interesting to see how the candidates differed in their approach to campaigning in Iowa.