Over 25 LSU students traveled across the state of Iowa over the winter intersession to participate in the Manship School of Mass Communication’s Iowa of the Tiger Program.
This is the fourth year that the program has occurred, and LSU is one of only two schools in the nation with an Iowa caucus program.
The program brings students to Iowa to witness the state’s unique political process leading up to the Iowa caucus. Students on the trip also had the opportunity to report for the Manship News Service which sends student stories to media outlets across the state.
Students traveled across over 900 miles of snow, fields and windmills from Dec. 29 to Jan. 7 chasing candidates to all corners of the state.
Despite colder temperatures and blustery winds rolling across the prairies and pastures outside, Woodrow Wilson Middle School’s gymnasium was suffocatingly stuffy.
Within hours of arrival in Iowa, some University students embarked on a two-hour drive to Council Bluffs, Iowa for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s town hall meeting at Woodrow Wilson Middle School.
The 70-year old, Oklahoma-born Massachusetts senator ran in from the gym doors behind the crowd of curious caucus attendees pumping her first to kick off the event.
Warren began by detailing her background as a special needs educator and a Harvard Law professor before shifting to her presidential aspirations.
“We need big ideas to match the big problems of our time,” Warren told the crowd.
Warren ended the town hall with her famous “selfie line.” A line wrapped around the basketball court leading up to Warren’s stage. For the University students attending the event, a Warren selfie and handshake was a welcome into a world unlike anything else in American politics.
Another group of students attended an event for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Clive, a suburb west of Des Moines the same day. The event was conducted in Spanish with a band and speeches about immigration.
Students traveled about three hours northeast of Des Moines to a middle school gymnasium in Maquoketa, Iowa to hear from South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
In a rural town with only 6,000 residents, Buttigieg drew a crowd of 600 to the event.
The mayor expressed a focus of unity in his message while describing his plans for the presidency and his campaign.
Students reporting for the Manship News Service went to a Sanders press conference which was cancelled without an email explanation. After some phone calls, three students were invited to follow the Vermont senator as he knocked on doors in a neighbor north of downtown Des Moines.
Students later attended Sanders’ New Year’s Eve Bash which had food, drinks, photo booths and live music to end the decade.
The Sanders team encouraged attendees to commit to caucus for Sanders. Commit-to-caucus and volunteer forms were brought around all night.
Sanders arrived after two bands and speakers introduced him, and he stayed for around 20 minutes. The Vermont senator’s speech focused on what he hopes to achieve in 2020. After his speech he briefly waded through the crowd, shaking hands and taking selfies with reporters.
Java Joe’s, a coffee shop in downtown Des Moines which plays host to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” during the caucus, was filled with LSU students listening to Washington Post journalist Robert Costa detail his career and give advice.
Costa was followed by miles of windmill-dotted farms and countryside as the group headed to Creston for a Sen. Cory Booker event. The New Jersey senator packed a small coffee shop, fielding questions from the crowd, reiterating his experience and focusing on his message of love and unity.
“If America hasn’t broken your heart, you don’t love her enough,” Booker said.
Booker ended with selfies, handshakes and even a “Geaux Tigers.” New Year’s Day concluded with another trip to Council Bluffs, this time for a Tom Steyer town hall.