A Friday in Caucus Country

Posted: November 8, 2019 | By: Morgan Garner Tagged: Blog

Every week in the several months before caucus season, 6.8 days out of seven host at least one candidate event. That number will increase to seven out of seven days with events in the next few weeks, even though February 3–caucus day–is still about 90 days away.

This past weekend, though, most candidates were in Des Moines to rally volunteers and entertain attendees at the Liberty and Justice Celebration, formerly known as the Jefferson Jackson Dinner, and to speak at the NAACP Town Hall on the economic empowerment of black voters.

To show a day in the life of an Iowan, here’s what happened on Friday:

1:00 Dressed in thick leggings, rain boots, a long sleeve shirt, vest, and puffy winter jacket, I left my house to drive downtown and watch the set up of various candidates’ rally sites, despite the frigid and wet 30-degree weather. 

  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s team set up a large stage in the center of Cowles Commons. 
  • Andrew Yang’s team set up press risers, a stage, signs, and multiple entrances. 
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren’s team gathered along the street west of Wells Fargo Arena and cheered and sang to passing cars. 
  • Amy Klobuchar parked a massive green bus reading “Amy for America” south of Wells Fargo Arena in her chosen venue’s parking lot.
  • John Delaney parked his blue bus on the street across from Klobuchar’s bus. His bus had his name in smaller letters and read, “Real Solutions, not Impossible Promises.”
  • Beto O’Rourke (pre-drop out) had a small gathering of fewer than 10 volunteers cheering opposite Warren’s volunteers. They had been there staking out the spot and providing a Beto presence since 5:30 a.m.

3:30 A steady, light drizzle of rain started, and the streets began to populate with passionate Democrats who arrived hours before the Liberty and Justice Celebration began.

  • Mayor Pete’s followers began gathering at Cowles Commons and picked up buttons, stickers, and t-shirts at the Pete Mobile, a repurposed ice-cream truck filled with gear for grassroots. 
  • Weezer performed classic 80s songs for a crowd of less than 200 in Brenton Skating Plaza, where areas of the ice rink were covered in a few inches of standing water. Weezer adapted the lyrics of several songs, including his cover of Africa, to incorporate Iowa and Andrew Yang. 
  • Warren volunteers continued to sing and dance along the street to popular songs by Lizzo, P!NK, Katy Perry, and others. Supporters crossed the street to take photos with a large blowup dog, Bailey Warren.
  • Delaney had no volunteers present outside of his pregame at Buzzard Billy’s, but there was a sign outside of his chosen venue. 
  • Klobuchar had no guests at her pre-event rally, but volunteers sat down inside Forte listening to their field director for a staff meeting. 
  • O’Rourke announced that he has dropped out of the race, though several of his supporters were still at a tent surrounded by Beto signs.

6:00–The event started and candidates spoke to guests seated at tables on the floor of the large venue and in the bleacher seats. For the first time, the speeches showed stark divisions between the candidates that caught the attention of national news sources.

  • Buttigieg, who had the advantage of speaking first, portrayed himself as a Midwesterner with experience and downplayed his young age. His large group of supporters, arguably the largest and loudest group in the stadium, had matching light-up bracelets synced with his opening music and parts of his speech.
  • Biden circled the stage to view the supporters in every corner of the arena speaking about the importance of the next vote, healthcare, climate change, etc. Biden expressed frustration with Democrats and Republicans who say, “woe is me” at the current state of affairs. Biden’s response was, “the first thing to do is get rid of Donald Trump.” 
  • After thanking the “Yang Gang,” Yang connected with voters, particularly parents in the room, when he said at the beginning of his speech, “Our kids are not alright. We’re leaving them a darker future than we had.” He discussed the suffering mental and economic health of young people and the need for change. At the end of his speech, Yang (adorably) danced off the stage to Return of the Mack. 
  • Unlike most of the other speakers, Warren seemed to focus on the cameras, rather than making the effort to connect with Democrats around the arena. In her speech, she hit at Biden and Buttigieg for their incremental strategies rather than “big structural change” like her ideas. Warren’s supporters had such loud noisemakers that Warren had to pause several times and restart her sentence to overcome her team. 
  • Harris, despite the lack of coverage, likely had the third-largest crowd of supporters in the arena. Her speech, like Warren’s, was frequently interrupted by her cheering supporters. Unlike Warren, she smiled and appreciated their enthusiasm. Harris’ speech was strong and effectively demonstrated her dedication to protecting the people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. 

*Watch all the speeches here.*

11:30 The event ended, and I set out clothes for my 7:30 a.m. wake up Saturday morning to show up when the doors opened 8:00 a.m. for the NAACP Town Hall!