The Missing Campaign Element

Posted: September 10, 2015 | By: Iowa Caucus Project Staff Tagged: Blog
Yard signs have yet to inundate Des Moines, but one candidate is doing better than others: Bernie Sanders. Photo by Zachary Blevins,

Yard signs have yet to inundate Des Moines, but one candidate is doing better than others: Bernie Sanders. Photo by Zachary Blevins.

If you had driven around Des Moines one year ago today, you would be overwhelmed by the number of yard signs lining every side and corner of the street, trying to get drivers’ attention for the 2014 midterm election. Now, fewer than five months out from the Iowa Caucuses, yard signs are few and far between.

This traditional campaign tactic to let neighbors show each other who they are supporting has not been utilized by many campaigns yet, except for one principal user. I set out on a drive with no predetermined destination, rather, just a quest to check out a healthy variety of main roads and neighborhoods. Aside from one Hillary Clinton yard sign, a Scott Walker poster in a window, and the occasional Ben Carson billboard, it was clear that Bernie Sanders was winning the yard-sign game.

Sanders yard signs can be found tucked away in various corners all over the Des Moines area. For instance, I found four separate lawns all on a one block stretch of 45th Street that have been feeling the Bern. While yard signs are not very informative about the candidates, the current trend of Bernie yard signs aligns with the snowball-like support he has been seeing and could lead to a strong support network come caucus night.

Nicole Allen, a Des Moines mother, was surprised by the lack of yard signs that she sees on her way to work and does not want the traditional campaign tactic to die. “I wouldn’t say that they have an impact on my decision, but they have an impact on my research,” Allen said.

These yard signs are a great way to get name recognition, especially if they are strategically placed on corners and busy streets. So, while it may be an additional expense for campaigns that are already short on cash, yard signs may just be the one unused campaign tactics that Republican contenders need to utilize in order to get more name recognition in a crowded field.

To me, this lack of yard signs in Iowa is a result of weak grassroots movements, causing it to be unclear on who the Republican front runners really are. While retail politics are crucial for this state, most campaigns seem to be missing some of the most basic elements of a presidential campaign.

Blevins is a junior politics and strategic political communications major at Drake. He avidly follows Postmodern Jukebox (check them out if you don’t know who they are), is a strong proponent of the color orange and can often be found relaxing in a hammock if it’s a nice day out.