Elon in Iowa

Getting a Presidential Candidate One-on-One

Posted January 13, 2016

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley speaks with a student journalist from Elon University during a campaign stop in Ankeny, Iowa, on Jan. 13, 2016.

— One of my goals when I came to Iowa was to get a one-on-one interview with one of the major presidential candidates. Obviously a pretty large goal, considering the local and national media that is swarming the candidates and the state in the present time.

Well, I reached my goal on Wednesday night when I got an exclusive with Democrat and former Maryland (my home state) Gov. Martin O’Malley following the Ankeny Area Democrats Winter Banquet because I was the only broadcast media there, which was a surprise, but a nice one. As a bonus, I also got a chance to speak with Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, which was kind of interesting because one of my friends, WFFF-TV reporter Alex Rose, covers the statehouse beat and sees him on a daily basis.

Since coming to Iowa, something I’ve noticed is how passionate every candidate I’ve seen really is about being president of the United States. When watching the debates or the just certain clips from the news, it’s easy to think some candidates lack energy or the drive for the campaign. In a more intimate setting, you I can feel the energy and excitedness coming from everyone. Though they may not be the best debater or have the loudest voice, after seeing a lot of the candidates in person, I can definitely tell the passion they have for what they believe in.

One of my favorite things in the state is how politically engaged almost everyone is and how they seem to be able to discuss politics without it getting in the way of friendships. It is quite obvious that Iowans take great pride in being the first state to vote in the primary season, but it is also obvious that they know it is a great responsibility. Almost every Iowan I’ve talked to has been open to the idea of a candidate they’ve never considered, even if they don’t typically align with the same party. I was speaking with a man at a Hillary Clinton rally a couple of days ago, and when I asked him if he was a Clinton supporter, he said no, that he was a Republican, but that he would be doing himself and the other voters a disservice by not a least being open to Clinton’s message. This stuck out to me because a lot in this world is defined by partisan politics, and I’d venture that most Republicans wouldn’t go to a rally for a Democratic candidate and vice versa.

Finally, it has been fascinating to watch how politicians are fighting for votes in a purple state. Growing up in deep-blue Maryland my entire life, we rarely had a presidential candidate campaign for our votes, let alone visit the state, and the only time we saw ads for the candidate was when there was an overlap with candidates attempting to reach Northern Virginia through the Washington, D.C., television market. But here, you can go to a Bernie Sanders rally, eat breakfast with Jeb Bush, get your hair cut with Rand Paul and much more all in the matter of a week. If every state had the same opportunity that the voters of Iowa have, I’d like to think they’d take advantage and that we’d have a much more engaged and informed electorate.


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About this Blog:

Elon University students are in Iowa, covering the presidential campaign and caucuses are part of their coursework.