Campaigning in Iowa - I
Thursday August 15, 2019
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- Iowa has a special place in the hearts of many - most - political types.
- There are the Iowa Caucuses, of course. Those occur at the end of seemingly endless months of walkabouts in small towns in the rain, rallies at the base of silos at corn farms in the summer heat, and the never-ending meetings with Iowans in small cafes in the dead of winter.
- There are the late night staff meetings with pizza and beer in the lobby of the motel with the outside entrances to the rooms, to go over the next day's schedule, to dissect the latest poll numbers, and/or to shake your collective heads over something the candidate said during the 15-hour day.
- You don't need poll numbers to know how you are doing. The size of the press corps following you around tells all.
- Joe Biden's campaign or Elizabeth Warren's - any of the big four or five - will need a press advance team whose job it is to make certain reporters know where the campaign is going, when it is going there, and how long it will stay there.
- The advance people will set up a press area in the coffee shop which (a) give press access to the adoring faces of the local Iowans and (b) helps convince the local Iowans that your candidate is worthy of their adoration. CNN is there. Fox is there. MSNBC is there. This must be a big time campaign.
- In my day, you knew who were the TV reporters and who were the print. TV reporters were going to do a standup outside "Pat's Dew-Drop-Inn." The writers would … write and dressed accordingly.
- Also, the travelling press was overwhelmingly male.
- Now, the writers are often contributors to the cable nets and, so, look and dress that part; and, there are at least as many women on the tour as men.
- If the campaign is running out of gas - or never had enough to start with - the number of reporters can fit into a rented Yugo and, in the 2020, they represent news organizations that end with the words "dot-com" that you may or may not have heard of.
- It is a slog and if you, like me, have done it more than once you just roll your eyes when you read about 25-year-old Major League Baseball players making multi-millions of dollars whining about "The Grind" of a 162-game season.
- There is no Players' Association for young advance people standing at an unmarked crossroads in a snowstorm waiting for the campaign bus to pull up so it (and the candidate) can be led down the right road to the correct farm to hold a 45-minute "listening session" to hear the same complaints heard the day before at a different farm and the day before that.
- I love Iowans. As a former Iowa boss Tom Stoner (candidate for U.S. Senate in 1980) used to say, "They put seeds into the ground and then hope and pray that there will be just enough rain, just enough warmth, just enough sun so that 60-100 days later, Iowa corn is ready to be harvested.
During that 1980 campaign, I was young and cocky, having come from being the press secretary in a Congressional office on Capitol Hill. I marveled at the miles and miles of corn stalks lining roads as straight as arrows, over land as flat as a billiard table.
I wondered aloud when roadside stands selling corn (which I had seen along corn farms in Maryland) would start popping up.
The silence in the car was that suffocating variety that says, "You blithering idiot. That's all field corn, not sweet corn. It's for feeding animals, making ethanol, and things like that."
Served me right.
- For Iowa farmers it is always too wet, too dry, too hot, too cool, too many rules they have to follow, but not enough rules to protect them.
- Then the corn is ready for harvest and all is well.
- At the fulcrum of all that is the Iowa State Fair which has an ethic and rhythm all of its own and woe to the campaign that doesn't take the Fair foolishness, seriously enough.
- More about that, later.
- Another actual car discussion:
Me: "Are those soybean fields?"
Everyone Else: "No. Sorghum."
Me: "You've been waiting for me to ask that, haven't you?"
Everyone Else: -- smug --
- On the Secret Decoder Ring Page today: Links to the Iowa Corn Growers web page, to a discussion of just how flat Iowa is, and to the Wikipedia entry for sorghum.
The Mullfoto is another in the excellent series of interesting license plates.
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