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Five candidates, three days, one goal


While on the campaign trail in Iowa, Ohio high school students have been given the opportunity to interact with many Democratic campaigns and rallies first-hand. This experience has allowed them to have a small glimpse into the commonalities and divides between the five leading candidates. Their policies have been a catalyst of friction leading up to the caucuses.

Pete Buttigieg speaks with passion and ferocity during his Des Moines rally. Photo by Axel Mueller.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have been the beacons of the Progressive Democrats, fighting for policies that include Medicare for all, taxing the rich, free college tuition and the protection of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Their platforms are almost identical as they emphasize the importance of voting President Donald Trump out of the White House.

Though these two candidates share a vast amount of undeniable similarities, their rallies were nowhere near the same.

Warren’s Iowa City rally took place in a high school gym that was packed with supporters, volunteers and journalists. The crowd was colored with a variety of different age groups and genders. The confined space of the gym allowed for a quainter and more relaxed setting, and Warren’s laid-back attitude set the tone for the time that she filled with personal anecdotes and political revelations.

She answered questions from the crowd, making herself stand out from opponents Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden who did not set aside a time for this during their rallies. Warren continuously emphasized her love for children by pulling them aside to make pinky promises with them, telling the young girls that “running for president is what girls do.”  Her focus on spreading love and acceptance of others again allowed her to make herself unique in comparison to her running mates.

There have been some doubts about Warren, as there is no telling if she could be the first female president or not. Her meticulous plan for every policy has helped her to gain respect, as one of her slogans is “she has a plan for that”.

Adam, a volunteer from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), says that he believes that Warren has what it takes to break this glass ceiling of a woman in the Oval Office. 

The most fervent fans of Buttigieg earned the privilege of standing in the risers during his rally. They waved their signs to rile up the crowd. Photo by Axel Mueller.

“As someone who has been watching the tides change for a while, I absolutely think a woman can become president in the 2020 election,” said Adam.

Those who are viciously fighting for the first female president have put in every ounce of effort they have in order to get this woman into office.

Sanders hosted a drastically different rally from Warren’s, as the venue was the U.S. Cellular Center arena in Cedar Rapids. Around 3,000 supporters were in attendance, and the band Vampire Weekend performed after Sanders gave his speech. The energy was high due to the blending of politics and music.

This rally was the home of countless young people, with a majority being members of Gen Z. The energy had a flavor intensity and angst that the other rallies did not include, as the supporters shouted with contempt when Sanders mentioned the policies that he believes have wronged the American people.

Those who found their way to the front of the rally were bursting at the seams with excitement when Sanders walked along the line of supporters and offered handshakes. Though Warren and Sanders have sibling-like policies, their rallies were more like distant cousins in terms of the energy and age groups represented. 

His so-called “cult following” has greatly benefitted his bid in the presidential race. The dedication of Sanders’ supporters is unparalleled by any other candidate, as his run in 2016 allowed him to become a household name.

Signs promoting Joe Biden were scattered around the outside of his Des Moines rally at a local middle school. Photo by Micah Beck.

On the complete opposite end of the Democratic spectrum, Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Amy Klobuchar have become the idols of those who consider themselves to be moderate. Their policies still fall into line with traditional Democratic beliefs, but they are far less radical than Warren and Sanders. 

Biden has three main points that he has pushed throughout his presidential candidacy: rebuild the middle class, repair relationships with foreign nations and ensure that America’s democracy includes everyone. His campaign has focused on the necessity of making reparations in the nation and righting the wrongs that he believes have been committed by the Trump administration.

His rally in a Des Moines middle school gym stood out the most from the others due to the lack of energy and enthusiasm. Middle-aged supporters and media made up the majority of the crowd. Biden has been successful in polls, but the statistics did not match the reality of how he presented himself. The speakers that led up to his introduction were able to rile up the crowd more than he was, and his main speaking points included the bashing of Trump rather than his policies and plans.

This Biden rally was the first where the high school students had witnessed a heckler that interrupted the flow of a candidate’s speech. Biden’s rally was the site where two hecklers protested his lack of progressive policies.

“I’m not going to attack another Democrat for things that aren’t true,” responded Biden.

Elizabeth Warren waves to the supporters that are standing in the rafters behind the stage. Photo courtesy of Terry Armstrong.

He was clearly shaken by this and quickly attempted to recover, but the energy of the crowd was unable to pick up again after the disruption.

Amy Klobuchar, a candidate that has been on the rise since the endorsement by New York Times, also has her major fighting points. She is a strong proponent of an increased minimum wage, slowing the effects of the climate crisis and the prioritization of mental health care. She is yet another candidate that is crying for the removal of Donald Trump from office.

The high school students were not able to attend a Klobuchar rally, so there is no telling what the energy or experience was like. 

Some undecided voters, like Iowa resident Al Graziano, tend to lean towards the moderate Democrats due to the practicality and tangibility of their policies. He says that while policies like Sanders’ sound good on paper, it is not necessarily easy to achieve because of barriers like funding and passing legislation through Congress.

“I can relate to Klobuchar because she’s a midwesterner and she is more realistic in her approach to the countries’ issues,” said Graziano.

The moderates have been able to gain support from those who desire a future for America without Donald Trump in it. Their policies are relatively achievable when directly compared with the aspirations of the progressives. There has been one candidate, though, that has seemingly found a stance between moderate and progressive.

Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, falls somewhere in the sweet spot between the two sides. His policies have some common ground to those of both Sanders and Klobuchar, who have proven to be polar opposites within the Democratic party. Buttigieg is passionate about climate change, providing for veterans and first responders and affordable medicine for all.

Bernie Sanders animatedly extends his arms during a moment of political passion in his speech. Photo by Micah Beck.

His rally took place in Des Moines in a high school gym packed full of his supporters and volunteers. Buttigieg’s most fervent fans were sectioned off behind the stage, leading chants in the hopes of creating a rowdy atmosphere. No other crowd of supporters could compare Buttigieg’s, as they were filled with political passion and were enthusiastic about reform.

The crowd of supporters was a mixed bag of ages, genders and races. After Buttigieg would make a bold political statement, the gym roared with chants and cheers. He even set aside some time to answer questions from the crowd and met and shook hands with as many supporters as possible. 

Some Democrats find that they prefer Buttigieg because of his young age. This has been both an advantage and a disadvantage in his candidacy.

“I like the younger candidates because they have a lot of new ideas and they have a vision for our country,” said John Mahone, an Iowa resident.

Though Warren and Buttigieg are vastly different in their political priorities and ideologies, their rallies shared the most similarities due to the effort they gave to meeting and responding to fans. They also both promote the spread of love and acceptance, which the other candidates were not as focused on.

Despite the different priorities that each candidate brings forth, they are still all working together in order to fight for government reforms. Melinda Goforth, devoted Democrat and Biden volunteer, says that there is one common cause that each Democratic campaign has emphasized.

“What we need to do is beat Trump,” said Goforth.

The Iowa Caucus will be the defining moment that will solidify exactly which Democrat is needed in order to achieve their single burning goal; get rid of Donald Trump.

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Five candidates, three days, one goal