We landed in Des Moines Iowa late last night and got started early on Caucus day. My team and I headed to the Jeb headquarters and met our fellow volunteers. They were quick to hand us buttons, stickers, and posters and encouraged us to post on social media. The Jeb volunteers were friendly and enthusiastic and came from all over the country. I met some fellow Texans who had come all the way to Iowa to canvas for Jeb. We were trained in phone banking and began calling Iowans to gauge their support for Jeb. I chatted with one very passionate Jeb supporter eager to caucus for his candidate tonight. After about an hour of phone banking one of the volunteers asked if we would be going to “the event”. We were a bit confused but since the office was closing down we decided to join them and climbed in a total stranger’s car to head to downtown Iowa.
As we got closer to the Embassy hotel we began to see news vans and cars sporting political bumper stickers. The city was buzzing with energy and excitement. Inside the hotel we were ushered into a room full of Jeb! posters, a giant Iowa flag, and a fleet of news cameras. A man in an embroidered Jeb! vest found us a seat and we settled in and chatted with our neighbors. They were all very passionate Jeb supporters and excited to hear what the former Governor had to say. It felt a little strange to be sporting Jeb swag and I realized that these people I was meeting thought I shared their values and supported their candidate. My identity is tightly tied to my liberal values so this was a very strange experience. I felt like I was pretending to be someone I’m not. However, it was surprisingly easy to nod along and listen to the excited Jeb fans around me. After very little waiting Former Governor Bush entered the room.
Jeb was dressed simply in a gray sweater and sat down a few feet in front of me. As he entered the room everyone began to chant “President Bush!” which I found a little confusing. At first I was not sure which Bush was in attendance. After the chant died out a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient spoke and endorsed Jeb and then the Governor of Iowa gave a short speech. In the middle of his speech he tried to say Jeb and accidentally started to say George. The Governor was adamant that Jeb had done a great job running Florida and is the right man to lead our country. He was greeted with boos and stunned silence when he admitted that Florida’s schools were performing much better than Iowa’s schools. However, when his security detail was rushing him out later and a reporter asked if he was endorsing Jeb he said no. After the Governor’s speech Jeb stood up to speak about his values and his platform. Right as he began two young men sitting nearby stood up and started yelling. They claimed they had been at the event for two hours and hadn’t been paid yet. They were quickly dragged away by security as the Jeb supporters booed. “It was a joke” a Jeb staffer loudly proclaimed. They were trying to make it seem as if Jeb’s campaign had paid them to attend the event. Jeb spoke broadly about his many policy positions touching on veteran’s affairs, a stronger military, ISIS, and the 10th amendment. After his speech the town hall portion began and audience members asked questions. Jeb fielded many queries about the Bush legacy and his brother and father. He maintained that he is a proud Bush and that his father is the “greatest man alive”. There was one moment where he started talking about his wife Columba who is from Mexico. He was answering a completely unrelated question so this was an interesting twist. Perhaps it was an attempt to remind Hispanic voters he has ties to Mexico?
Overall, I had a fascinating experience getting up close and personal with the grassroots campaigning that goes on here in Iowa. I really enjoyed the opportunity to hear Jeb speak and interact with his supporters. They were all extremely gracious and so welcoming. Whether or not they would react similarly if I had shown up with a HRC button is up for debate. Jeb did spend some time criticizing President Obama and former Secretary Clinton but for the most part his speech was positive and focused on what he would try to accomplish if he were to be President. Being a Republican for a day was a fascinating experiment. I enjoyed the truly bipartisan experience. It was easier than I had expected and truly exhilarating..
Sophia Rossell Romo
I WENT TO THE HILLARY CLINTON VICTORY PARTY!
It was crazy and energizing and an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Bill and Chelsea were both standing staunchly behind the former Secretary and Hillary was fired up in response to the close race in Iowa. She came across as strong, driven, confident, and experienced. Today was a day of sharp contrasts and polarizing debate. I am so glad to have had the opportunity to see the future first woman President of the United States speak. #I’mWithHer