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August 26th, 2011

A Straw Poll Hangover? Campaign Inspections Show Locked Doors and Empty Offices decided to conduct an unannounced inspection of each of the four GOP presidential campaign offices located in the Des Moines metro area yesterday afternoon.   While a restaurant or building inspector might look for cleanliness or cracks in the foundation, we were looking for busy campaign staffs and volunteers.

The period immediately following the Ames Straw Poll is usually much slower and campaigns allow their field staff a brief grace period to relax.  Additionally, the candidates have momentarily shifted their focus to other early primary states like New Hampshire and South Carolina.  However, with Texas Governor Rick Perry joining the field and immediately shooting to the top of the polls, there is little time for the other campaigns to rest.

For those of you unfamiliar with campaign work, it is generally a 10-12 hour per day, six or seven day per week job.  We wanted to know if that remains the case for Iowa presidential campaigns following the Straw Poll.  The results of what we found proved fascinating and somewhat surprising.

Craig Robinson and I met at 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon at the parking lot of the strip mall on 86th Street in Urbandale near both the Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain Iowa headquarters.

Here is a synopsis of each visit we made, followed at the bottom of the article with a grade for each campaign:

2:10-Michele Bachmann Iowa HQ – We entered the campaign headquarters of the Ames Straw Poll winner expecting plenty of activity.  We found none.  The lights in the front office and most of the building were off.  We did hear the voice of one staffer talking somewhere in the background.  After waiting several minutes for someone to come up front, Craig shouted, “Hello”.  No one answered.  We waited a few more minutes before departing, surprised at the lack of activity at Bachmann HQ.

2:20-Herman Cain Iowa HQ – Cain’s Iowa office is literally 100 steps away from Bachmann’s.  We walked in to see the entire four person staff in their offices.  Cain’s Iowa director, Larry Tuel, admitted that we “got lucky” to catch them and they had been in the office very little since August 13th.   They said they hoped to bring Mr. Cain back to Iowa at some point in September but were not sure when he might return.

2:30-Michele Bachmann Iowa HQ- After leaving the Cain office, we noticed the one car parked in front of the Bachmann office was no longer there, so we ventured back over to see if there was anyone working.  This time, the doors were locked.  Our grade for Team Bachmann continues to fall.

2:50-Rick Santorum Iowa HQ- We walked into Rick Santorum’s Iowa headquarters and were greeted by three staffers.  The office was in a bit of a mess, because they are in the midst of moving to another office located nearby.  No candidate worked harder in Iowa than Santorum and his staff reflects that as well.

3:15-Ron Paul Iowa HQ- We ventured to Ankeny to catch up with Ron Paul’s Iowa team fully expecting a busy office.  Congressman Paul returns to the state for a handful of events this weekend, so we figured his staff would be busy making phone calls and preparations.  Instead, we found locked doors and an empty office.

4:00-Michele Bachmann Iowa HQ – We returned to our original meeting place on 86th Street in Urbandale.  This time, Bachmann’s campaign chair Kent Sorenson was in the parking lot unloading his vehicle and returning to work.  It turns out the Iowa staff had a “team building” event away from the office earlier in the day.

4:10-Herman Cain Iowa HQ – Although at least three staff cars were in the parking lot just minutes earlier, the lot is now empty and Team Cain has left, apparently calling it a day.


Bachmann campaign – D plus – They lose points for not having someone manning the front desk while the office was open.  The fact that we were there for several minutes, and even loudly announced our presence, yet never saw anyone is not good.  This means security is extremely lax.  We could have easily wandered through the office, seen confidential information and perhaps even walked out with valuable equipment.

The fact that the office was locked up and empty moments later was another bad sign.  Team Bachmann escaped an F grade by being there later in the day.

Cain campaign – C plus – All four staff were there when we arrived.  That was good.  There were no volunteers and no one was making phone calls while we were there.  Not good.  Admitting that they had not been in the office much since the Straw Poll also decreased their grade.  They would have received a B if everyone had not left shortly after 4 pm.

Santorum campaign – B – The state director and two staffers were on hand.  They appeared to be busy and in the midst of moving to a different office.  Based on what we saw and have heard, the Santorum campaign continues to chug along in Iowa.

Paul campaign D minus – No one was there.  A week and a half after the Straw Poll, the rest period should be over.  Campaigns never stop and there is still a lot of work for Dr. Paul in Iowa.  We resisted giving an F grade because they might have been out in the field.  However, presidential campaign offices should not be closed at 3pm on a Thursday afternoon.  Ever.


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About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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