The Principia abroad group started out the day by heading to West Des Moines to see Ohio Governor John Kasich at Inspired Grounds coffeehouse. We got there early and eventually the room was filled with about 100 people. The Governor spent the entire time answering questions from the audience ranging from early childhood education to foreign policy concerns regarding ISIS. Governor Kasich told the audience a story about how he met Nixon when he was a freshman in college after writing him a letter. After the talk students spent time speaking to the press; Emelie Fredrikson was quoted in The Des Moines Register when asked about her reaction to Kasich. Other students spoke with campaign staff to get a sense of how the campaign was structured while the remaining students got to know local residents attending the event and asked for their reactions to the Ohio governor. We continue to find Iowa residents to be very welcoming and proud of their state’s position at the first caucus state in the presidential nominating process. They realize the opportunities they have to meet candidates in person are unique and must be cherished.
Our group grabbed a quick lunch and then headed to the Hillary Clinton rally at the Iowa State Historical Museum. The event for the Secretary of State was, as expected, greatly different than those the students had attended thus far on our trip. The event had about 400 attendees and staff. Clinton delivered a rousing speech, but did not take questions. She then greeted those of us who had been fortunate enough to secure a position right at the rope line – which included our whole group! We were able to speak with her, ask brief questions, and take photos. The size of the campaign staff was notably larger than any of the other staffs witnessed from other campaigns and the event was structured like a rally, rather than a discussion. After holding some town hall sessions recently, it would appear that the rally format will become the primary event type for the Clinton campaign over the next 25 days before the Iowa caucuses.
After the Clinton rally, where we stood for more than three hours to secure our prime position, our group was so thrilled to be able to sit down and enjoy a delicious meal at the trendy Smokey Row Coffee café. We then took a scenic route back to the hotel and recapped our eventful day.
Our day started with church at First Church of Christ, Scientist in Des Moines where the congregation warmly welcomed us. After the service we went to Jethro’s BBQ—a local joint known for its fantastic bacon and pork—with church members. We were able to ask them about their experience caucusing and found that many were very politically active. One member asked us our thoughts on income inequality and we had a spirited discussion about the topic. We have found most Iowans to be extremely passionate about their role as “first in the nation” and the lunch reinforced this belief.
While we passed on the dessert option at the restaurant we received our real treat when we went to see Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee at the Machine Shed in Urbandale—a local restaurant. This was a special experience for us because it was the first time that the group got to meet a presidential candidate. It was fascinating how amicable he was. He even mentioned Principia College by name (referencing our group) during his talk and took a question from Brie Burns. In addition, he was very polite afterwards and talked with many of us and was totally willing to do selfies.
After the Huckabee event, about half of us went to volunteer at the Des Moines Carly for American office. Cha Cha, Brie, Shontee, Emelie, and Michala all met National Research Director, Christy Paavola, and Iowa State Director, Mary Earnheardt, along with the Iowa headquarters team. They also got the opportunity to sit in on a staff meeting and spend the afternoon cold calling hundreds of voters inviting them to an event later this week hosted by Carly’s husband, Frank Fiorina. It was a great way to experience what it’s like to work on a campaign in a Super PAC.
We finally got a well-deserved dinner at Zombie Burger, where we enjoyed unique burgers, deep-friend macaroni and cheese, fries and milkshakes! Successful Sunday for the #prinforprez2016 crew.
We kicked off our first full day in Iowa heading to the Des Moines Register, where we met with Executive News Director, Carol Hunter, and Political Content Strategist, Annah Backstrom. Through an open discussion, they shared with us the role the Des Moines Register plays in the Iowa caucus process. Carol and Annah explained how the Register tracks candidate events across Iowa, reports on candidate activity within the state, conducts public opinion polls, and eventually endorses a candidate. It was refreshing to learn that the Register doesn’t just report on frontrunners, but strives to provide equal coverage of all candidates.
After the Register, we grabbed a quick lunch at Jimmy John’s and headed to the State Historical Museum of Iowa in downtown Des Moines. The museum curator, Leo Landis, greeted us with enthusiasm and gave us a tour of the Iowa caucus exhibit. We saw campaign paraphernalia dating back to 1972 when Iowa began the tradition of holding the first nominating event in the country. The exhibit consisted of over 100 artifacts with everything from a unique ceiling mural to cutout faces of each of the current candidates. Selfies anyone?
We wrapped up the night sharing pizza with students from Louisiana State University who are participating in a similar political field program. After getting to know the LSU students and hearing about their experiences on the campaign trail to date, the Associate Director of the Harkin Institute, Rachel Caufield from Drake University, spoke to the group about Iowa’s political culture. As a key orchestrator of the National Democratic Debate recently held at Drake University, Rachel gave us the inside scoop of what goes into hosting political events. We were grateful to end the evening inspired by Rachel’s passion for politics.
The Race for the White House field program has officially commenced! All our fellow students arrived in Des Moines safely. We are now settling in and getting ready for what we know will be an exciting two weeks!
Dinner tonight at the famous Drake Diner was fantastic. The Drake Diner is a hotspot for candidates in the days approaching the Iowa caucus. At the old-fashioned, ’50s-themed diner, candidates have an opportunity to sit and chat with potential participants in the caucus process.
We are looking forward to meeting with a news editor and political reporter from the influential Des MoinesRegister tomorrow.After lunch we will visit the State Historical Museum, followed by a pizza dinner with LSU students who are on a similar field study. We can’t wait to begin our adventure getting a closer look at how Iowa influences our presidential nomination process!