Expectations, energy, and outreach efforts are three elements of a presidential campaign that one witnesses when on-the-ground in a political campaign, particularly when on-the-ground on the day of a presidential primary.
I went to two campaigns the day of the South Carolina presidential primary: Governor Jeb Bush and Governor John Kasich. One was full of energy and excitement, with loyal volunteers who had traveled across the country to spread his message.
One was, well, sad.
Someone on social media compared a photo of Jeb’s state election HQ to one of a “high school class president level.” That person wasn’t wrong. Four Wake the Vote students and myself walked in to a room significantly larger than necessary to house the dozen or so people who were inhabited the room. Despite the two cute kids handing out water and t-shirts to the occasional volunteer, the room felt tired. The lack of excitement in the room made me certain that everyone knew it was a losing battle that would end shortly.
Jeb dropped out of the race shortly after the returns came out. Given my experience in his state headquarters, frankly, I can’t say that I was even kind of surprised. Jeb started with significant funding and expectations, and he fell flat.
I left Jeb’s campaign sad. Nowhere else in this experience have I really felt such a void in happiness and passion. We got in a car and drove to Charleston. When in Charleston, I had the opportunity to work for Governor John Kasich.
John Kasich is the type of candidate who can be described as a “good guy.” He has avoided participating in attacks against his fellow candidates, and preaches rhetoric about moving away from the darkness in our country. Although the nice guy approach hasn’t sprung Kasich to be the frontrunner, it has given him passionate supporters who care about spreading his message.
The Kasich campaign had reached over 11,000 homes through phone calls and door knocking by the time I left, and they were not willing to stop reaching out until the moment the polls closed. People traveled from across the country to interact with the people of South Carolina and encourage them to support their candidate.
I left the Kasich excited with my faith in the political process re-affirmed. People were campaigning for a candidate that is by no means one with an easy path to the Oval Office. Instead, the Kasich supporters were working for a candidate that they truly believed in. They did not believe in him because he is calling for radical change, like some of the nonconformist candidates on both sides of the spectrum. Governor Kasich is trying to bring his party together and push back against the extreme ideological polarization of the political party that endlessly frustrates the moderates of the country.
The moment you walk into a campaign office, you can tell whether or not it has the energy to be successful in its mission. I look forward to walking into the office of candidate I choose to volunteer for this summer and become a part of the magic.
-Katherine I. Cassidy