A Magical Journal Through Iowa Campaign HQs, Part One: The Fellowship of the Caucus

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 29 2011 10:36 AM

A Magical Journal Through Iowa Campaign HQs, Part One: The Fellowship of the Caucus

NEWTON, Iowa -- A couple of weeks ago, on my way to the final Iowa debate, I stopped by every campaign headquarters in Iowa. Did I gain immense insights into how each campaign will pull off victory? Not quite.

#1: Ron Paul. The man they can no longer ignore keeps his HQ in a modest strip mall in Alkeny, a short drive north of Des Moines.

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Not on the sign, in an adjacent shopping center -- a cash for gold trading house. This is the habitat of a money-scrimping campaign. Inside the office, a tight and friendly operation, with phones packed closely together, sometimes three a table where you could more comfortably fit two. Beside the phones are bowls of candy; on the walls are pictures drawn by children. I didn't get to see the office in full effect, or proper lighting on the construction paper and crayon, because a power outage came right before I did. This only mattered a little. After I chatted with one of Paul's national organizers, he headed into an office, lit candles, and stopped working. "Just like the founders," I offered. This seemed funnier to one of us.

#2: Mitt Romney. My luck is terrible over at the concrete chic structure that houses Team Romney. Yesterday, I stopped by when Occupiers were getting arrested outside. Two weeks ago, when I arrived, protesters had just attempted to deliver petitions, asking rather plaintively for Romney to work for the 99%. The petitions were in the trash; cops were securing the scene.

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The Romney office is in Des Moines proper, a short way from downtown, housed in an old Blockbuster Video. The bankrupt chain's yellow and blue paint remains on the walls, obscured only partly by new candidate signs. The Paul office pushed desks and phones together for maximum power; the Romney space is used more minimally. (If I read Occupy's schedule right, they will have attempted sit-ins and both of these offices by day-end.)

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.