Day 4: 2020 Iowa Caucus [Video]

BY BRIAN COOTE

After days of rallies and campaigning from candidates, the Iowa Caucus day had finally arrived. From the beginning of the trip, the staff has attended many rallies and volunteered at campaigns preparing them for what they were going to experience Monday night.

Logan Egleston interviews Republican candidate Joe Walsh. Photo by Kristen Csontos

Business manager Logan Egelston started the morning with Joe Walsh at a local coffee shop named SweetWaters. This meet and greet had only about ten other people present other than students int the group and was incredibly intimate. Logan had the chance to sit down and have a one-on-one interview with Walsh. After meeting Congressman Walsh, the students traveled to the Polk County GOP office to do phone banking on behalf of President Trump. 

“Being able to sit down with Congressman Walsh was an incredible honor,” Egleston said. “He is a big supporter of the media and the youth, and he gave me a large amount of respect and attention.” 

The other staff started the morning splitting between Joe Biden’s and Bernie Sanders’s campaign. At the Sanders campaign, Kate McGuire, an organizer for Sanders, led the volunteers in a mock caucus where they learned how a caucus works and how people select candidates, elect convention delegates and establish the party’s policy position on candidates and issues. 

“Practicing how a caucus works was interesting because it is very different from regular voting,” said Wadsworth senior, Seth Smalley.  

Part of learning about the campaign was talking about undecideds and persuading people to choose their candidates. The staff went through an exercise where they pretended to try and sway voters to choose their candidates. 

Former Senator Chris Dodd joined the students while working on the Biden campaign. Courtesy of Axel Mueller

“I thought that practicing persuasion skills was really cool and especially important to this caucus,” said Brianna Becerra, a Wadsworth junior working with Sanders’ campaign. “I tried to appeal to people’s emotions and what was most important to them.” 

The students working at Biden’s campaign arrived at a different location than Saturday and made phone calls to Iowa citizens. Senator Chris Dodd, Congresswoman Dina Titus and Lisa Blunt Rochester visited the students and talked with them about Biden. 

“It was really great to see someone so passionate about Biden and show us the hard work and dedication it takes to get this far into the election,” said Wadsworth senior, Halle Shaeffer. 

The day was not just focused on the caucus as the staff visited shops and ate lunch together in Des Moines. First on the shopping trip was Raygun, a quirky and political merchandise store. 

“I thought that the Raygun store was super cool because they had so many different designs that I never thought I would see,” said Wadsworth junior, Emily Brandyberry.

Around half the staff left with shirts that said “America needs Journalists” across the front.

After Raygun, the students visited Marvs Music, a record store filled with both older and newer classics. 

“This store was really cool to walk through because it had a large range of albums dating back to the 50s all the way to albums that have been released in the past month,” said Wadsworth junior, Axel Muller. “I bought multiple albums”.

The final stop was an antique shop, filled with little trinkets and handmade gifts.

Staff member Sarah Scobee broadcasted the caucus for followers at home to watch. Photo by Axel Mueller

“This store is the aesthetic I strive to achieve to but will never succeed,” said Wadsworth senior, Abby Witcherman. “I bought a cute vintage postcard so I could remember the trip.”

Before the caucus, the staff ate lunch at Zombie Burger, a zombie-themed restaurant. The menu played off of popular movies having names like Dawn of the Dead, the Walking Ched, and the Negan. 

“I got their signature burger, the Zombie Burger and it was one of the best burgers I have ever had,” said Wadsworth senior, Sarah Scobee. “I’m kind of sad they only have the restaurants in Iowa.” 

After lunch, the staff started to focus on the caucus. On the ride over, a survey was taken of the forty-eight students traveling on the trip who would win the Democratic caucus and Republican caucus. Only being able to choose between one party, the Republican had ten votes, five for Trump and five for Walsh. The Democrats had the remaining amount of votes with Buttigieg having twenty-two, Sanders having five, Waren having four, Biden having two and Yang with one. Four went undecided. 

“I was shocked that Pete Buttigieg won the caucus on the bus. I knew he would have a good amount of support but I did not expect him to win by so many votes,” said Scobee.

Once in a local caucus area, which was Iowa precinct 212, the Bruin faced difficulties. New caucus rules dictate that viewers are not allowed to interview, move around or interact at all with the participants before the caucus. The Bruin was very limited to what they could experience besides just viewing. The caucus took place in a high school cafeteria, with limited space, so the presence of the viewers made some campaigns look like they had more supporters. The officials believed that the group of observing students seemed to look like it was offering support to one candidate and decided to split the group up. 

“My main job of the trip is to videotape and document what we see, so when we were first told we could not move or go talk to people it limited my abilities,” said Wadsworth junior, Micah Beck. “Fortunately, they loosened their restrictions and I was able to video the caucus.”

Local Iowans filled Valley High School to caucus for their candidate. Photo by Halle Shaeffer

Once the staff worked around the obstacles, the caucus started at 7 PM, CST. The chairmen opened by addressing those officiating and helping run the caucus. Following, the board gave one minute to each candidate representative to speak for their candidate and why people should go to their side of the room. Only a few decided to speak; Representatives from the Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sander, Warren and Yang campaigns spoke.  

The first official action of the caucus began with each candidate captain counting the number of members already in their group before official counting and discussion began. Fifty members were needed to start for a group to be viable in the vote. Only three groups were viable; Bernie Sanders had 92, Warren 66 and Buttigieg had 54. With the other candidates out, the second stage of realignment began. 

Those with their primary candidate unviable in the race were now trying to be recruited along with the undecideds into other campaigns. Cheer, chants and political chat broke out throughout the cafeteria to accumulate the most members. During the second stage, an error was realized as the viability rate was supposed to be 49 instead of 50. 

After the mistake was corrected and those from unviable candidates rearranging the Klobuchar campaign became viable. The final count was 99 for Sanders, 76 for Warren, 73 for Buttigieg, and 57 for Klobuchar. With this, Buttigieg won three delegates, Warren won three, Bernie won three and Klobuchar won two delegates to send to the next stages of the election.

“I was super excited that Buttigieg made it through because he is the candidate that I wanted to win,” said Brandyberry. “I was also kind of surprised that Warren made it through because she hadn’t been polling very high.”

Bruin editor-in-chief Halle Shaeffer stands in support of Pete Buttigieg after being given a yard sign. Photo by Axel Mueller

The Bruin visited a high school that held multiple caucuses, so after the first caucus, the staff was able to visit another caucus on the second alignment. While the first caucus was full of debate, the second one had a more relaxed approach. Those that had already been locked in left rather than trying to persuade others to vote. While the first caucus showed Sanders leading, the second one showed Buttigieg in the lead. Each caucus showed different results. 

“I was very surprised to see that when people’s first choice was not viable they just left,” said Bruin staff writer Chris Steele. “They are all Democrats so I am just shocked they did not have a second candidate or fight for their first.”

After the caucus the staff went back to the hotel to work on their stories. Due to a delay in caucus results from the democratic headquarters the Bruin was unable to report the results at publication.

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