The Collegian crew set off today at the crack of noon with a mission – to hit up Republican campaign offices and chat it up with volunteers for the other side of the ticket.
Unfortunately, this proved more difficult than expected.
After checking out all the campaign Web sites, we were dismayed to find two disappointing truths: a) no Republicans were planning events for the day, and b) not a single Republican candidate was listed as having an office within the city limits.
The county Republican Party was equally elusive. Their Web site listed no address and a phone number listed that led only to a full voice mail.
It looked like the elephants were off the agenda.
Still determined to justify last night’s hotel bill, the crew, after a couple of side trips to a military surplus store (see Living on the Hedge) and the inaccessible facilities of the Daily Iowan, the University of Iowa’s student paper, decided to go with our standby plan to hunt for any campaign office and bug the volunteers.
All the offices had a few things in common – the people were all very nice and obviously hard working, albeit slightly uncomfortable talking to us (due to the fact that field office personnel are not authorized to talk to the press) – but there were little differences that made each unique.
The Edwards camp had quite possibly the most cramped office we have seen thus far. The volunteers were nice enough, but didn’t seem too comfortable with our presence, with the exception of a Colorado native who had moved to Iowa in her teens, who seemed less awkward.
After allowing Brandon to snap a few shots of some of the volunteers, they informed us that the Republicans were not entirely neglecting Iowa City. Just around the corner was “little New York” — the field offices for Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, located next door to each other.
Excited to meet some Republican volunteers, we thanked the Edwards folks and set off.
If energy had been lacking in the Edwards office, it certainly wasn’t here. And for good reason. The staffers were friendly and thoroughly excited to be working on the campaign.
Unlike some of the other offices, most staffers were students from the University of Iowa, rather than transplants from out of state.
The fine folks at the Rudy office are the only Republican campaign volunteers in Iowa city, one staffer informed us. The other candidates are pooling their resources to the west, where more farming and industrial areas foster a more positive environment for Republicans.
These folks, rather than being content to cater only to those friendly to the Republican Party, were trying to convert people in an area that, they admitted, was more liberal.
You can’t help but admire that kind of commitment.
Stepping in the door of the Clinton campaign headquarters, we were greeted warmly, but when we asked permission to ask the volunteers about their experiences and take a few photos, things cooled rather quickly.
We were referred to the director of the office, who promptly told us we had to get permission from the central campaign office in Des Moines. When Erik Myers placed the call, he was told we had permission to take photos of the building’s exterior, but that we did not have permission to speak with the volunteers or photograph the inside.
Dejected, we moved on to the Obama office.
When we first stepped in, it looked like it would end like our Hillary stop. After hearing our request to poke around, we were again told they would need to get permission from their main office.
However, unlike the Hillary campaign volunteers, a volunteer made the call and, after being given the green light, gave us free reign to poke around.
Afterward, the office staff warmed up considerably. One of the staffers, after hearing we were from Colorado, even jumped on Facebook to see if we knew any of her friends.
The volunteers coming down from making phone calls upstairs seemed genuinely excited about their work and the gains they were making.
One particularly excited staffer was overheard mentioning how she went out of her way to take information to potential voters at a diner and, as a result, three Iowans now knew where the caucus for their precinct would be held.
She and a few others even made plans to mix business with pleasure and bring information cards out with to their respective New Year’s Eve celebrations.
The grassroots excitement that I saw here and at the Giuliani office gives me hope that there is still some life in American politics.
At these offices, it’s not about bipartisan bickering and spiteful attacks or personal glory. It’s about good, hardworking people supporting people and ideas they believe will better our nation, which is what politics should be about.
It’s nice to know that somewhere in America, the system is working as it should.