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Thanksgiving Talks with Family—Time to Drop Out

Posted: December 11, 2019 | By: Morgan Garner Tagged: Blog

DES MOINES, IA—On the chilly morning of Monday, Dec. 2, Iowans woke up to the news that Democratic presidential candidates Steve Bullock and Joe Sestak dropped out of the crowded race for president. Behind them, they leave sixteen candidates.

Bullock, the current governor of Montana, began exploring a campaign in Iowa by headlining Polk County Democrats events starting in April 2018. He began officially planning his presidential candidacy in mid-February 2019 by holding planning meetings in Des Moines, Fort Dodge, and Carroll. Since then, he has visited and personally hosted events in Iowa between four and five times per month.

Unlike what the New York Times said in an article Dec. 2, Gov. Bullock did get a decently early start by announcing May 14. However, he did not get a strong one. He constantly trailed the bigger names in the polls due to a lack of name recognition and a lack of gaffes or events that caught media attention. This is disappointing because he was a charming, intelligent, and moderate Democrat with a record of winning elections in a deeply Republican state and who had the potential to beat President Donald Trump. 

I met Gov. Bullock once at the Polk County Steak Fry in Des Moines in September. As he grilled steaks, he smiled and laughed with the crowd surrounding him and made jokes about whether the beef was from Iowa or Montana. More recently, he charmed guests on Nov. 1 at the Liberty and Justice Celebration where he thanked the crowd for staying until his speech at 11 p.m.—nearly five hours after the event began. His consistent charisma, on top of his qualifications as a Democratic governor in a deeply red state, made me wonder why he did not perform better.

Steve Bullock at the Polk County Steak Fry in September

Gov. Bullock made his final visit to Iowa on Dec. 1 to personally announce to his campaign staff that he would withdraw from the race. At this time, he will continue to serve in his role as governor and has announced no plans to run for Senate.

Visits from Steve Bullock (Days):

  • June 9-11, 26 (4)
  • July 4, 9-10, 18-19 (5)
  • Aug. 8-9, 30-31 (4)
  • Sept. 1, 20-22 (3)
  • Oct. 12-13, 21-22 (4)
  • Nov. 1, 17-18, 23-24 (5)
  • Dec. 1 (1)

One month after Gov. Bullock, former Pennsylvania Representative Sestak announced his candidacy in June. Since then, he has hosted an overwhelming number of events across the state of Iowa, showing that he recognizes the importance of the state in the national nominating process.

Every week, Sestak hosted meet and greets, climate conversations, picnics, Democratic meetings, parades, fundraisers, forums, and more. In the summer months, he spent the majority of his time in Iowa, hosting events on 21 days in July and 25 days in August. In the fall, though, his visits dropped off to 13 in September, 0 in October, and 1 in November.

Sestak was not a speaker at the 13,000-person Liberty and Justice Celebration where 14 Democratic presidential candidates spoke on Nov. 1.

Unfortunately, Sestak never gained more than a percentage point in the polls and had the fewest TV and news mentions. This lack of press coverage was his main reason for dropping out. He said in a statement shared to Twitter that his lack of national press coverage did not merit the donations and volunteer time from his supporters. 

Visits from Joe Sestak (Days):

  • July 5, 8-11, 13-27, 29 (21)
  • August 2-4, 7-21, 24-25, 27-31 (25)
  • September 1-4, 16-22, 28-29 (13)
  • November 1 (1)

IACP Staffers Ian Klein and Adam Koch interview Joe Sestak