If you’re reading this you’re probably not aware (judging by the site statistics) that we spent the past weekend on an Iowa road trip, covering two out of three 2020 presidential campaign events we intended to cover (sometimes the concession to cold weather, a blocks long walk with a load of equipment, and the fact that we’re not getting any younger weigh more than getting just a few more images).
Back to the beginning. Once Democratic Party candidates started announcing that they were running or their intention to run for President (and traveling) we started contacting campaigns – not as easy as you might think – so we could receive media notices. We’re a four hour drive from Iowa’s largest city and in past years, dating back to 2007, had regularly covered the Harkin Steak Fry (look it up in our archives) in Indianola. They’re all going to be in Iowa more than once before 2020, so why not?
If history is any indication, it’s a mixed bag. In 2008 and 2012 we managed to cover what we could in Missouri and surrounding states as we received notices. In the 2016 cycle, by the time the two major candidates in the Democratic Party primary finally started sending us media notices the Iowa caucus was long over.
So, we’ve sent requests for media notices (again, it’s not always easy to find out the “to who” part) and have started to receive them. At present six of the campaigns are sending us media notices. It’s like trying to sip from a firehouse. We’ve yet to receive notices or responses from a number of other campaigns. That’s okay – it’s either a result of our failure to contact the right person or their choice.
The dynamics of the two different candidate town hall events we covered this past weekend were very similar to the constituent town halls we covered in Missouri when Claire McCaskill (D) was still a senator. At least the later ones.
There’s a meeting room in a small town with the space to seat a hundred, maybe more, interested people. Media shows up early – well, we do. We check in and may ask a few logistics questions. The lighting can be adequate or stellar. We always mumble to ourselves about the light. There’s a portable sound system that the candidate may or may not use. The interested crowd gathers, may visit, and gets seated. The candidate is usually behind schedule (that’s normal).
Then the candidate makes remarks, takes questions from the audience, finishes speaking, and, in this age of smart phones and social media, remains for a few minutes to pose with attendees for selfies.
There may or may not be a press availability. It depends on the candidate schedule and other factors. We’re a Z-list blog.
After the event is done then it’s a matter of us downloading, processing, and choosing photos; downloading audio; transcribing audio portions; and then writing and posting the story.
We’ll take anywhere from 500 to 1500 images at an event. The audio recordings (two sources) can run up to an hour of content.
So, why bother? It’s why we exist. And for the same reasons. Old media (not so much individuals) does such a poor job. There aren’t enough people covering the content details of these events. Not that some corporate entities in the game have a lack of resources. We’re comparatively cost efficient – we try, but we’re pedaling as fast as we can.
Iowa. Why do we invest so much importance in the “first in the nation caucus”? Well caucuses are democratic and anti-democratic. You show up, stand your ground, and choose your candidate. Unless you’re a working person who can’t take off for those particular two or so hours on that day. Old media needs an answer and a narrative, and they need it quick. That’s their failing. And, there’s the matter of a diverse population in a diverse state anointing a candidate for a diverse nation.
We see that you’ve never been to Iowa.
You believe presidential campaigns start too early and take too long? We attribute that to your laziness and sense of entitlement.
There are a number of publicly spirited, intelligent, and immensely talented, experienced individuals running for President. There are others doing so who are none of the above. How are we all going to tell the difference if they’re not meeting with voters in small groups from state to state over the period of time from now to the Fall 2020 election?
Also, Donald Trump (r). I rest my case.
It is our impression that the Iowa voters who attend these events to vet candidates and who participate in the caucuses take their responsibilities very seriously. Would you want unengaged morons doing this instead? Of course, there are no guarantees that they’ll get it right in 2020. With a single exception (a right wingnut Bret Kavanaugh supporter) the Iowans we watched participate this weekend were cheerful, thoughtful, engaged, and polite.
And, if we are to judge the entire Democratic Party field of candidates from the two campaign events we witnessed this weekend we’ll be in the good hands of an experienced, intelligent, and compassionate nominee in 2020 who believes in doing the best for all Americans.
Reporter: “Where does [this candidate] stand with you?” Iowan: “Oh, they’re on my top twenty list.”
Welcome to Iowa.