Traditional and Trampled: How Established Candidates Are Handling the Iowa Caucuses

Posted: January 16, 2016 | By: Evan Guest Tagged: Blog
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Photo Credit: Evan Guest

At the beginning of this election cycle, both the media and polls predicted that the candidates with the most experience would dominate Iowa and New Hampshire. As we can see now, this is not the case. With only 15 days until the caucuses, a theme of this election is that the outsider candidates are much more attractive to voters than the establishment ones.

What makes an insider anyways? Let’s take a look at the three establishment candidates we have picked.

Hillary Clinton has held many political positions, which classifies her as an establishment candidate. She has assumed the titles of First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State and 2008 presidential candidate. Clinton’s resume is not the only thing that screams Washington insider, but her messaging both in media relations and at events.

Clinton’s advertising strategy is a tell-tale sign that she has been around the block before. Clinton’s recent ad focuses attention and money toward criticizing republicans and promoting Clinton rather than members of her own party. This is a strategy normally found in the general election or closer to super Tuesday rather than the caucuses. An interesting strategy to say the least, however, Clinton has proposed various policies she hopes will clear a path to presidency. Some of these were explained at the Black and Brown Forum held at Drake University on Jan. 11.

“So one of the reasons why I’m so adamant and so much in support of President Obama’s policies that he’s rolled out is that I just think as a nation we cannot sit idly by while 33,000 people a year die from gun violence.”

Another career politician is Jeb Bush and much like Clinton, he has a political dynasty attached to his last name. After having both George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush as president, voters might not want to see a third Bush in the White House. It’s clear that this presidential candidate might be trying to hide his last name is through his campaign’s branding as Jeb! 2016. Bush spends plenty in advertising and the Right to Rise Super PAC in support of his campaign does as well.

Bush said at a town hall in Ankeny, Iowa, “I’ll tell you what I’m for, and I’ve been consistent about this. No one else comes close to the record that I have and I’m not going to stand back to anybody and get lectured to by a bunch of pipsqueaks about education.”

This language from the Bush campaign points to his experience as qualification when it comes to discussing the specifics of policy.


Photo Credit: Madi Holmes

Marco Rubio’s experience in the U.S. Senate and his frequent presence within the Republican Party qualifies him as is an establishment candidate. Senator Rubio was catapulted to fame on the national stage when he was chosen to give the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union address in 2013. While campaigning, it’s typical for him to reference his experience in the Senate to build credibility. Despite Senator Rubio’s background, he continues to poll behind outsider candidate Donald Trump, signifying that experience may not be the most important quality to have when campaigning in Iowa.

Bush, Clinton, and Rubio continue to brand themselves as experienced and proven leaders, pointing to their policy to build support around their initiatives. This branding makes them some of this election cycle’s prominent establishment candidates. But, with the first caucuses just 15 days away, the three candidates are neck-and-neck with outsiders in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Evan is a Sophomore Marketing and Strategic Political Communications Major at Drake University

Nicole Dohm, Nick Frandsen, Madi Holmes and Lauren Stanton contributed to this article.