I have never lived anywhere other than Massachusetts. I joke, but the spirit is true, that my ancestors traveled from Scotland to Boston in the late 17th century and moved steadily west to Belmont where I live now. We’re easing ourselves into America. We’ll stand by the door with our coat on in case we hyperventilate.
So Iowa was an adventure. I quit working for a Massachusetts congressman, a risky move financially. But I wanted to work on a presidential campaign ever since volunteering for John Anderson in 1980. I drove my extravagance for a staffer salary, a 1986 red Camaro, to Council Bluffs, sporting a Dick Gephardt for President bumper sticker. We won, but Iowa proved our high water mark.
I’ve been back, to work and to watch, but there is nothing like the first visit. I remember driving through Indiana on my first journey, not wondering what I would find, but how amazing just driving through Indiana was. Ohio had been amazing too. And then I got to Iowa.
So I come back, with Cate Ferson, Syracuse poly sci major, to observe. We are amateur anthropologists. We are sociologists. We tweet. I probe in the jetway. Two returning businessmen talk about the onslaught of calls each evening. “20 or so each night. Candidates, pollsters, newspapers, everyone. TV ads constant. I’ll be happy for Tuesday.” One of them wonders about the economic impact, how much money stays in Iowa.
On the plane I open up “Boys on the Bus” and the guy next to me asks about it. He’s a NYTimes reporter covering de Blassio who’s coming in to knock doors for Clinton. He wonders if anyone will know the mayor of New York, or care about him. Remembering, I laugh inside.
In 1988 I was offered a congressman seemingly every day. Gephardt was the fourth ranking member at the time and his colleagues descended. They were there to help elect the first member of the House to the presidency in forever. But field work is pretty straightforward. I can ID a Gephardt voter. I don’t need a rock star to help me. And if a congressman comes to town, I’m staffing her or him, he or she’s not helping me. God bless the Clinton staffer pulled away from real work to knock doors Des Moines with the mayor of New York. “Hi Ma’am, I’m Bill De Blasio, here to talk about New York values..”
We’re staying by the airport. We had prime rib for dinner. The TV ads in the breakfast room at the Quality Inn are non stop. The billboards extol and attack. Forecast is 38 and cloudy on Monday right now, but the weatherman is all excited about a storm on Sunday.