by Alex Fulling (2/1/2016)
Today I had my first phone-banking experience on Governor Jeb Bush’s campaign here in Iowa. I quickly discovered that two good metrics of a campaign’s success (from a volunteer perspective) are the grandiosity of their headquarters and the quality of the snacks they provide. Unfortunately, Jeb’s campaign has been struggling recently and now sits at sixth in the final realclearpolitics Iowa polling, garnering only 4.1% of the vote. Accordingly, we were stuffed in a tiny meeting room at a Sheraton hotel situated well outside of Des Moines and treated ourselves to mini-Oreos from a Costco value-pack. To compare, Marco Rubio, who is in third place and boasts nearly 17% support (RCP), has rented out multiple floors of a Marriott hotel in the heart of Des Moines. I can only imagine what type of delicacies Rubio volunteers are indulging on.
This is not to say that my experience with the Jeb Bush campaign was not an amazing one however, and I hope my tone is not perceived to be cynical. I enjoyed my entire morning working for Governor Bush and learned a lot of valuable skills. Sophia, Grace, and I began the morning with phone banking. During our hour and a half on the phones we reached out to hundreds of documented Jeb supporters to reaffirm their commitment to his campaign at tonight’s caucuses. It was interesting communicating with local voters and getting to engage them politically. I find that when surrounded by people socially similar to yourself, regardless of their party affiliation, it is easy to forget that there are parts of this country not too far away from home that are almost like a different world. It has been an incredible day immersing myself into Iowa and discovering what influences Iowan society.
After being glued into my phone banking duties for awhile, I looked up from my screen to discover that the room had emptied and the volunteer coordinator was hurriedly ushering me out the door. I quickly stuffed my gear into my backpack and was informed that Jeb was having a rally downtown in five minutes and that we needed to be there. I promptly hopped in the trunk of this lady’s vehicle and was ushered (speedily) downtown. As I sat cramped in the trunk of a random person’s rental car with students from Houston I had never met before, bouncing off the walls as the excited woman in her mid-twenties zipped us down the highway, I thought to myself, “This is Iowa.” This sense of unpredictability defined the rest of my day. Upon arriving at the Jeb rally, a staffer asked me unexpectedly if I wanted to sit directly behind the governor in the backdrop-area as he spoke to the crowd. Next, after being shocked by a pair of hecklers who interrupted Jeb during his first few words in front of the crowd of several hundred, we made our way to the MSNBC headquarters where Professor Harris-Perry gave us a tour of the setup and introduced us to her colleagues Willie Geist and Chris Hayes. For the next few hours we bounced from place to place, touring more media establishments and campaigning locations.
I now sit in the background of an MSNBC set, ten minutes before it goes on air. I am incredibly eager to see where this wild ride takes me with the seven hours left in the day. T-minus two hours to the first results from Iowa; stay tuned!