Last Day of the Program!

Today was our last day in New Hampshire and the last day of our field program. We woke up early and left our hotel to go see former Vice President Joe Biden in Claremont, New Hampshire. We got to the event over an hour before it started but we still had to wait in line in the cold for about 45 minutes. However, that gave us time to chat with other attendees and meet people working on the campaign staff. When we finally got into the venue, we were escorted to our seats which happened, mostly, to be directly behind where Biden would be speaking. The room was full of New Hampshire residents eager to hear Biden speak as well as various media representatives. A few of us were identified by a local Boston radio station and were interviewed for their project!

After Biden finished speaking, a few of us were able to talk to him early on. He huddled us up and told us that we, as young college students, were the future of the nation, and stressed to us the importance of staying engaged in politics. We were able to get a selfie with Biden – one of the few actual selfies we got with a candidate on this trip!

Afterwards, we had lunch in Claremont and met up with Gail Russell Chaddock, a former Christian Science Monitor reporter who focused a lot of her coverage on Congress. While we were enjoying lunch, we found that a few of us were featured on C-SPAN’s coverage of the event! A clip from that coverage was also featured on Fox News as well.

We had some downtime at the hotel to rest and pack, which was rejuvenating for many of us. For dinner, Dr. Roberts and Kim treated us to a great meal where we were able to enjoy each other’s company for one more night.

We are so grateful for everyone who helped make this trip possible, including Dr. Roberts and Principia as a whole. Thank you to everyone who followed along with our coverage on this blog and on social media – it was a blast to share our experience with you! Look out for our presentation to the Principia community about our findings coming later this semester!

New Hampshire – Day 4

After a more relaxed morning, we had a delicious lunch at a nearby Thai restaurant that had recently opened. Then we returned to the hotel and had conversations with professor Dante Scala from the University of New Hampshire, and Christa Case Bryant, Christian Science Monitor reporter. Scala shared valuable insight about our current political climate and how it has affected various campaigns. Christa shared her experiences covering political events and her more recent studies into the Russian interference in western democracies. 

We ended our day by grabbing dinner at Panera with Christa, followed by some ice cream in Concord! Overall, we had a fun day and continued to learn more about the primary process here in New Hampshire.  

New Hampshire—Day 3

We enjoyed a bit of a sleep in this morning, as well as meeting individually with Dr. Roberts about our papers and research projects. We spent this afternoon in Concord, where we had lunch and explored downtown. The local Derry newspaper, The Derry News, expressed interest in our field program, so their reporter, Julie Huss, interviewed us. We explained the insights we have gained from the trip so far and our impressions of New Hampshire.

Pollyann Winslow then graciously welcomed us into her home again, where we watched part of the Sound of Music and enjoyed a taste of New England with clam chowder and lobster bisque for dinner. Pollyann also explained some of the history and dynamics and of the New Hampshire primary. We finished the night with a lovely testimony service at First Church of Christ, Scientist in Derry.

New Hampshire – Day 2

Today, we had the opportunity to meet with multiple political experts and representatives in New Hampshire who shared their “behind the scenes” knowledge of primary voters in the state. 

We kicked off the morning by meeting with Jim Demers, former senior advisor to the (now ended) campaign for Cory Booker. Jim was also the senior advisor for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016 and Barack Obama’s in 2008. He introduced us to his adorable Boxer, Bolt, who all of us instantly fell in love with. Jim spent most of the morning giving us an insider perspective on what it’s like to man a presidential campaign. He also spoke to us about his time in the New Hampshire state legislature, which is the largest in the nation with 400 members!

Afterwards, we were able to spend some downtime at our hotel for a few hours to prepare ourselves for the long afternoon and evening of driving ahead of us. 

We traveled south to the University of New Hampshire campus where we met with Dr. Andy Smith, Political Science professor and director of the UNH/CNN poll. He is also the co-author of the textbook that we read last semester to prep us for our time in New Hampshire! Andy gave us a thorough presentation of polling in New Hampshire, including its history and the state-wide and nation-wide impact polls have in the primary election. He dispelled some common myths about the New Hampshire primary and fielded our many questions, making him a wonderful resource for our individual research projects. 

Our evening consisted of having dinner at Principia alum Pollyann Winslow’s house in Londonderry. We were also joined by Prin alums Lyssa Winslow and Brie Burns. A few guests joined us for dinner as well, sharing their experience in New Hampshire politics. Republican state senator Sharron Carson, Republican county and state party leader Wayne McDonald, Londonderry town clerk Sherry Farrell, and historic local farm owner Andy Mack all provided us with a much deeper and diverse understanding of how New Hampshire politics operate as a whole, both on the local and state levels. Much thanks to the Winslows and guests for supporting a great night for our group!

Tomorrow: Meeting with Tom Rath (senior advisor for multiple GOP candidates), the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper, and attending a Tulsi Gabbard event!

First Day in New Hampshire

We started our day by driving from Boston to Concord. After attending Sunday School and church at Concord, one of the members gave us a personal tour of the church. We learned about its origins and Mary Baker Eddy’s involvement in creating and giving such a beautiful church to the citizens of Concord. We were also allowed up into the tower, where Sarah Switzer played a short hymn on the tower bells. After the tour, we had lunch with church members at Uno Pizzeria and Grill!

Next, we toured Mary Baker Eddy’s Concord home. Former Principia middle school teacher, Holly Morris, did an amazing job leading the tour, covering lots of historical information in a succinct and exciting way. For many of us, this was a completely new and eye opening experience. It was such a meaningful opportunity to tour one of the houses where Mary Baker Eddy made a significant impact on the Christian Science movement. This allowed us to better understand the struggles and triumphs of the church in this era.

To end our day, we were welcomed into political activist and former New Hampshire State representative, Arnie Arnesen’s, home. Along with 24 students from Saint Olaf College, we had dinner and heard from Arnie,  Dean Spiliotes, veteran political scientist, political analyst, and professor at Southern New Hampshire University, and Louise Spencer, founder of a progressive grassroots organization here in New Hampshire. They touched on the current political climate and how it has changed and transformed over the past couple decades. They also sent an inspiring message to be active in our own communities in order to make change. 

Overall it was a wonderful and fulfilling day. At our evening highlights and gratitude meeting, the tour of the Concord house was frequently mentioned. Many of  us were grateful to have been exposed to a different part of the movement and to further our understanding of Christian Science on Principia programs like this one. We were also very thankful for Arnie’s hospitality and insight. 

Last Day in Iowa

This morning started off back at Drake 

University with a presentation by Walker McKusick from This is a nonpartisan organization whose mission is to be an authoritative database on all political candidates— their voting record, public statements, biographies, fact checking, etc. This speaker reinforced the importance of public access to verified information in our democracy, especially in this era of the internet and fake news. 

After lunch we headed out to an Elizabeth Warren town hall in Newton, IA. At this small venue many students were able to speak with Iowa caucus goers, Warren staff members and volunteers, and members of the press to gather information for their research projects. After hearing her speak and answer questions from the audience, the group lined up in her signature “selfie line” to shake her hand and snap a quick photo before heading back.

Today concluded our time in Iowa, and looking back, we are so grateful for all that we did here. We have each been exposed to a part of the political process that very few ever experience- meeting presidential candidates face to face. Iowa is a place like no other. With Iowa’s “first in the nation” status bringing so much public attention to the Iowa pre-caucus polls and caucus results, campaigns concentrate here in a way that humanizes these often larger-than-life figures. Through personal experience and interaction with both campaign affiliates and Iowan citizens we’ve learned first hand how in-person exposure to candidates can influence voters.

We look forward to a harmonious day of travel tomorrow as we make our way to New Hampshire, where we will be able to compare and contrast the political culture with Iowa’s.

Iowa – Day 5

Today we had multiple opportunities to meet with Iowans who have been involved in the caucus process in different capacities. First, we went to a law firm in downtown Des Moines and talked to Tom Henderson, former Democratic Chair for Polk County. Working in the largest county in Iowa, Tom had great insights to share about having such an important political job. Among other things, Tom shared with us the qualities he believed Iowa voters care the most about in terms of selecting a presidential candidate.

After our meeting with Tom, we drove up to Ames and returned to Iowa State University, where we had attended the Buttigieg event a few days prior. There, we had a discussion with Political Science professor Mack Shelley who answered our questions and gave us his take on the importance of the Iowa caucus process. We also had lunch in Ames at a popular spot among Iowa State students.

We returned to the hotel, and after a few minutes of downtime, we listened to Drake University Political Science professor Dennis Goldford break down the history of the Iowa caucuses and why he considers himself a “caucus skeptic.” It was really inspiring to witness his depth of knowledge about Iowa’s premiere position in the presidential primary election. We finished the night at Smokey Row Coffee, a cute and cozy restaurant that warmed us up from the cold!

Overall, it was a great day to apply what we had been learning all of last semester and learn even more from renowned experts in their fields!

Tomorrow: We join a session with Project VoteSmart and attend a campaign event for Senator Elizabeth Warren in Newton.

Day 4 – Iowa

Today was filled with new political activities. This morning, every one in the program received the opportunity to learn more about the structure of campaigns by volunteering. Each student split into groups to volunteer for different campaigns. There were four groups in total. Three groups volunteered in Grinnell and canvassed for different candidates.

Hunter and Liam volunteered for the Andrew Yang campaign. They braved the cold to knock on doors and recruit support for Yang. Although most people were not home, many Iowans welcomed Hunter and Liam into their homes where they had meaningful discussions.

Chrissy and Lauren spent the day volunteering for the Biden campaign. Not only did they do some canvassing, but they also spent time making phone calls to undecided voters. Chrissy and Lauren both found this experience useful for further understanding grassroots campaigning.

Mesa and Dana, part of the third group, volunteered for the Warren campaign. They spent the day learning to canvas and make phone calls. They also had an enriching conversation with the Warren staff about the factors that lead to a successful presidential campaign.

Will, Sarah G, Sarah S, Cassidy, and Stephen volunteered at a campaign event for Pete Buttigieg and gained a deeper understanding of how campaign events function. They observed the set up process and assisted with checking in event attendees. The event took place at the Tama County Nature Center and hosted about 100 people. They also spoke with a staff member of Pete’s campaign whose responsibility is to seek political endorsements. From him, they learned about strategies candidates will use to build their coalitions.

We all learned so much about what the day-to-day operations of a campaign look like. We were awed by the dedication and passion campaign staff members and volunteers brought to their work. Each group had a slightly different experience, but all agreed that next time they get a phone call or a knock on the door from a campaign volunteer, they will do their best to make them feel appreciated.

The final portion of our day consisted of meeting with Rachel Bly, Powesheik County Democratic Party Chair. We enjoyed dinner with her at a local Italian restaurant in downtown Grinnell, followed by a local “Caucus 101” event that Rachel, the county’s Republican Party Chair, and the League of Women Voters hosted. The event was free and open to the public as a way of reaching out to those who are interested in learning more about the caucus process or who have perhaps never caucused before because they do not understand how it works. Our group of 14 was joined by by over 50 other members of the community to hear about the history of the caucus process, why Iowa has first-in-the-nation status, and the differences between the Democratic and Republican caucus processes. After listening to the background and explanations, the audience all acted as Republicans and went through a “mock caucus” process. Next, everyone in the audience acted as Democrats and went though that “mock caucus” process. Although our students studied these processes in our course last semester and had done a similar mock caucus on campus, we still all learned something new, as did many, if not all, of the other audience members.

Overall, today was a wonderful day of learning about how grassroots campaigning works and diving deeper into the exact rules and differences in the Democratic and Republican caucus processes.

Iowa Day 3

Jan 14th
After our metaphysical prep, we all left the hotel at 9:40am. We then arrived at the Octagon Center for the Arts in Ames and trekked up three flights of stairs to await a speech from Andrew Yang. While waiting we worked on our individual research projects by interviewing the people around us and some news reporters.

Andrew had a PowerPoint presentation, which was different than what we had seen when analyzing the other candidates so far. His data on automation, jobs, and other issues added to the uniqueness of his campaign.

After Andrew Yang’s speech and Q&A, we took a group picture and headed to lunch. Half of us went to Chick-fil-A and the other half went to Chipotle. Then we headed back to the hotel for some down time.

After down time we drove to Drake University where the debate was being hosted. Wandering around Drake’s beautiful campus we stumbled upon an Amy Khlobuchar rally and the begining of a Pete Buttigieg gathering. We then had dinner with Principia Upper School alum and Drake student Siwa Asinga in Drake’s cafeteria and went to one of the many debate watching activities.

The Khlobuchar debate watch party was a fun and lively environment to experience the final debate before the Iowa caucuses. We especially enjoyed watching the candidates speak on a high stakes stage after seeing them in person. After leaving the Drake campus, we headed back to the hotel for some final gratitude after a fun-filled day!

Day 2

Our day started with a tour of the Des Moines Register. We sat in on their morning staff meeting where we got to hear how they selected upcoming stories for their print and digital newspaper. Afterwards, we got to speak with their political editor about the ways the Register has balanced its position as a local paper that garners national impact during the caucus season. 

Following this meeting we were given a guided tour of the State Historical Museum by its curator. In the museum, we heard more about the history of Iowa’s “first in the nation” status. This was an amazing opportunity to see election ballots dating back over one hundred years and view campaign materials such as signs, buttons, and bumper stickers from past caucus cycles. 

After a bit of free time in the afternoon we left for Pete Buttigieg’s event in Ames, Iowa, arriving early enough to secure spots right up front. This also gave us valuable time to interact with other attendees and campaign volunteers. To kick off the event, special guest Mandy Moore, a singer/songwriter and actress from many movies and shows including This is Uscame out all the way from Hollywood to give her endorsement and introduce Mayor Buttigieg. Pete spoke on a variety of issues such as climate change, the national economy, gun control, and his opposition to President Trump. We really felt the excitement of being at a larger campaign event and were able to make some interesting comparisons with yesterday’s Klobuchar event. After the rally, Mayor Pete and his husband, Chasten, took the time to meet and take pictures with our group. 

Although only our second full day in Iowa, we feel as though our group has already been able to meet with many interesting people and learn a lot about the state of Iowa and its role in the presidential primaries. Tomorrow, we expect to attend an Andrew Yang campaign event in the morning back in Ames, and the rest of the day will center around the Democratic debate at nearby Drake University and likely a watch party or two. We will all rest well after a full day buzzing around Iowa and are looking forward to tomorrow’s events.