The Iowa Way

I wonder what would happen if every state caucused? 

Sure it takes a long time; sure it’s personal. But the best part is that it asks a lot of a voter.  I think that’s what has inspired me here in Iowa.

When I vote in Los Angeles, there are signs everywhere: no electioneering beyond this point.

In Iowa, it’s the opposite. The people, the voters, try to persuade other voters to align with them.  And, the candidates are permitted, encouraged, welcomed into precincts. 

I was with Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson tonight as he went to three voting locations to get some last minute votes.

I was astonished at his access, and at mine as a reporter.  Can you imagine standing in line, waiting to vote and having the candidate get in your face, shake your hand and ask for your vote? What an amazing opportunity for a voter and a candidate to have a mini-debate and hash out an issue in real time.

I did a live report for the Fox station in LA, from a school gym while Carson was talking to a group of voters.  At that moment I truly understood what House Speaker Tip O’Neil meant when he said “all politics is local.”

I am sold on the Iowa way of voting, except in New York. New Yorkers are way too argumentative. Caucusing would take too long there and people in Queens would get into fist fights.

Thank you Iowa, for inspiring me. Yes, even a jaded journalist can believe again.

Making A Splash In Iowa

A lot can happen under one Ramada Inn roof during a presidential election.

Senator Marco Rubio was trying to rally a few hundred Republicans, many of them undecided, in a ballroom while dozens of Midwest families splashed around in an indoor pool and waterslide.

The humid cloud of chlorine hit me like wave when I walked in to the Ramada in Urbandale.

I saw all these very pale families splashing around and I thought: there’s no way Rubio is having a campaign event here.

I was too embarrassed to ask families headed to the pirate ship splish splash, so I asked a man hauling a trashcan. Oh, I was in the right place. The Rubio event was just past the pirate ship.

As I walked toward the ballroom I couldn’t help wonder, was Donald Trump hiding in the pirate ship? Come on, you have to admit, that would have been a great stunt.

The setting was surreal, but then again this entire campaign season has been surreal.

By the time I got to the ballroom, I missed Rubio’s speech, but he was still working the room…one potential voter at a time.

Rubio stopped to talk to everyone, but he did so from behind a velvet rope. I felt like I was in LA nightclub and he was the celebrity.  In this room Rubio was.

Volunteers were busy trying to get voters to commit to Rubio on caucus night. Many in the room were undecided, and were planning to attend rallies for other candidates.

That’s what I like about Iowa. People come out to hear and see a candidate for themselves.

There is something very inspiring about that level of voter engagement.

And, if you plan well, you can get a swim in too!

Footnote: I ran into the legendary Judy Woodruff, perhaps the best TV journalist of our time. She is the bar by which we all should be measured.