Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate how good things really are. This is especially true in politics. Having traveled from Sioux City to Davenport, with stops in Pella, Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids along the way, the one thing that is most noticeable on the campaign trail is the excitement among Republicans and the candidates themselves.
It’s easy for me to see the difference between the 2006 and 2010 Republican gubernatorial campaigns. Four years ago, I was part of Jim Nussle’s fundraising team. As the election comes to a close, the job of a fundraiser drastically changes. While there is critical fundraising that still needs to be done, fundraising typically runs a couple weeks in front of the campaign calendar. So while the campaigns are in overdrive, the workload of the fundraisers actually eases.
Four years ago, I was dispatched by the Nussle campaign to organize a rally in Le Mars that featured President George W. Bush. Organizing events like that are as frustrating as they are exciting. The Rally in Le Mars was held the Friday before Election Day.
The advance team transformed the gym at the Le Mars High School into something that resembled a rock concert. Worried about what the fire marshal might say about how many people we planned on packing into the gym, we made sure he greeted the President at the back entrance of the school.
People lined the streets to welcome the motorcade. More that 3000 people packed the gym. The Le Mars marching band played, the cheerleaders fired up the crowd, and the captains of the football team gave President Bush a jersey.
If you looked just at that event, Republicans seemed energized and motivated. The people in attendance undoubtedly were fired up, yet, that was also the day I realized that Jim Nussle wasn’t going to be Iowa’s next governor.
As I met the bus to escort Nussle and those traveling with him into the venue, I could sense that Nussle wasn’t as fired-up as one would expect him to be walking into what would be the largest event of his campaign. It’s not that he didn’t do a good job at the event, it’s that his body language told me everything I didn’t want to know.
Fast-forward to 2010, and things couldn’t be more different. Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds are fired up. When Branstad is introduced, he gets a thunderous ovation. Branstad himself oozes enthusiasm. Every time I cross paths with him, he stops and gives me an update on the campaign. In those conversations, it’s easy to see how passionate and fired-up he is during the final days of the campaign.
Maybe the biggest difference between 2006 and 2010 is that there is so much more Republican activity going on across the state. Four years ago, the only thing going was Nussle’s race. This year, there is something going on every night, in every nook and cranny of the state.
For instance, last night I attended a fundraising event for Kent Sorenson, Glen Massie, and Kim Pearson at the Airport Holiday Inn in Des Moines. The event also featured Texas Congressman Ron Paul. The place was packed. Probably 250 people showed up, and they also paid to attend.
There was nothing like that going on in 2006. However, what impressed me the most last night was that I think most of those people would have shown up to support those three candidates whether Ron Paul was there or not. Please understand, that’s not a shot at Congressman Paul, that’s a compliment to those three state legislative candidates.
There is no doubt that Republicans are fired up heading into Election Day. I’m sure a lot of hardcore Democrats are fired up too. However, if you really want to get a sense of how our candidates are doing, just look them in the eye and read their body language. It’s a lot different from 2006, which is a good thing for Iowa Republicans.
Tuesday night might be the first time in years that Iowa Republicans will have something celebrate.
Below are photos and a YouTube video of Jindal, Barbour, Branstad, Reynolds, Northey, Zaun in Newton by TIR’s Dave Davidson
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