Caucus’s intense atmosphere ‘incredible to be immersed in’

Matt Hasvold

Matt Hasvold

The Iowa Caucuses create one of the most intense environments in politics. The difference between the Iowa Caucuses and other primaries and caucuses is the campaigning style. Candidates have months to travel around Iowa and speak to tons of potential caucus goers. This type of grass roots campaigning is something we won’t see throughout the rest of the election.

Since candidates have just days to cover other states, you don’t find the one on one interaction. In the few days I spent in Iowa, I was able to attend events hosted by eight of the candidates. Some candidates brought with them celebrities like Chuck Norris, Mike Delfino and John Mellencamp. Between the events, interviews, driving and a near caffeine overdose, I had a crazy ride.

Being a reporter at the caucuses is an incredible experience. Most of the events gave us our own taped off area to watch and take pictures from and we were able to conduct interviews with some people that had very integral roles.

At each event, there was a passionate mood in the air. Politics has the power to invigorate people at a surprising rate. The candidates walk into a room full of screaming fans and deliver very powerful messages that range from health care to national defense.

It was great to see how different candidates got their point across. The three democratic front-runners had different approaches to speaking. Barack Obama’s message centered on hope. He mostly focused on how the country can and should do better. Bill Clinton, speaking for Hillary, of course, emphasized her ability to quickly solve problems as they arise. He also made sure to point out her past success in tackling issues. Edwards had a less optimistic message. He was the most critical of the current administration, and even more so of big business. In this way, their speaking styles were microcosms of their different campaign messages.

Iowa was swarming with press. Everywhere you looked there were satellite trucks and logo-covered RVs. Practically every hotel room in downtown Des Moines was booked in advance. The Super 8s that we stayed at were slightly less exciting.

At the Polk County Convention Complex there were reporters from almost every media outlet in the world, even Al Jazeera. There were huge rooms filled with nothing but people vigorously typing on laptops and screaming into their Black Berries. Google and You Tube sponsored a lounge at the PCCC reserved for press where they served free food and drinks all day. Each candidate had a press corps following him/her around that ranged in size from 5 to 40 reporters.

Our days in Iowa consisted of driving to interviews, events and parties. When we weren’t driving, we were in coffee shops or outside hotels-anywhere we could find free Internet. We rarely ate anything but fast food, and drank only coffee and Mountain Dew. We wouldn’t get to bed until 2:00 a.m. and always woke up by 8:30. We had a rough itinerary, and it was hard to stick to. This was definitely no vacation. By the end of the trip we had put thousands of miles on my car and way too much stress on our brains. There was literally no down time.

I can’t say it wasn’t fun, though. Being a political science major, it was incredible to be immersed in an environment like that 24/7. There were so many events, with so many influential people everywhere. I saw more politicians in this trip than my last visit to D.C. We were able to sit down with top political science professors from the University of Iowa and Drake. On the last day we even got an interview with the Executive Director of the Republican Party of Iowa. Overall, the caucuses made for an experience I won’t soon forget.

#1.882948:939811316.jpg:Matt1.jpg:Matt Hasvold, political blogger:Susan Smith