My first caucus was bittersweet. It was an easy year to remember: 2000. The Republicans and Democrats both had heated races that year, but both had clear frontrunners. George W. Bush seemed to be the annointed GOP candidate, and while Bill Bradley put up a good fight, Vice President Al Gore was going to be the inevitable Democrat nominee.
I had hoped to vote for Elizabeth Dole in the Iowa Caucus. I worked full time for her as a field staffer from July through October 1999, when she decided to drop out of the race. I had begun to volunteer for her during the spring of 1999 and before I knew it, I was hooked and working 80+ hours a week for her.
After some wound licking in October, I decided by mid-November to support Steve Forbes at my caucus. I volunteered here and there for him, even though it felt a bit weird, like an out of body experience, after having backed another candidate and working so hard for her. This was my first presidential campaign to be actively involved in, as I was just a few months too young to vote in the 1996 presidential race.
I was a student at Simpson College in 2000, so I caucused in Indianola. My first impression was, “Wow, there are so many people here! How cool is it that so many people care about this election?” Forbes and Bush had the strongest presence at my caucus, with a few Bauer and Buchanan supporters sprinkled throughout the crowd. Bush won our caucus, with Forbes not too far behind. The vote was simple with paper ballots marked and handed in to the counters.
Afterward I went to the Forbes caucus party in Des Moines. While Forbes finished second, the spin was his finish was a victory since he put up a tough fight and was climbing in the polls in the early primary states also. The media coverage was tremendous. All national and many international outlets were there. With no Twitter or Facebook back then, everyone was glued to the televisions. I was more starstruck by the media than the candidates during the 1999 – 2000 election cycle. I met Tom Brokaw, George Stephanopoulos, Lisa Meyers, Joe Klein, and Wolf Blitzer, among others.
Caucus night was so much fun for me. I had started to pay attention to presidential politics as a junior high student during 1992 and could not wait to be able to vote and be a part of the action. I never imagined I would one day work on a presidential campaign, meet national media stars, and be so thrilled to cast my vote at a caucus.
After working on various campaigns and for the Republican Party of Iowa, I am looking forward to participating in the caucus as a local precinct chair in 2012. I hope others have a great caucus experience that inspires them to become more involved with politics. We are very fortunate to live in Iowa where we have a sizable impact on the presidential race.