vital in grass-roots campaign
Iowa Presidential Politics.com
IOWA CITY - Without an extensive volunteer organization,
presidential hopefuls will not be successful in Iowa, where
people favor grass-root campaigning, Democratic
and Republican Party officials said.
The Iowa caucuses differ from primary elections in much of
rest of the country because foot soldiers count for more
TV commercials, said Stephen Roberts, Republican national committeeman
in Iowa, and Gordon Fischer, chair of the Democratic Party in Iowa.
In Iowa, grass-root campaigning is essential, while in primary
states, television coverage and advertising play a greater
role, they said.
In addition, Iowa caucus participants have to stand up in public
in one of nearly 2,000 precincts, showing neighbors and friends
In primaries, voters cast votes anonymously in polling places or
Because of these differences, volunteers are crucial in Iowa’s
presidential nomination process, Roberts said.
“Volunteers are going to vote,” and good volunteers
will rally friends and neighbors to vote, getting other people
the campaign, he said.
“Volunteers bring passion
and enthusiasm to the political campaigns,” he said -- things
one might not get from paid staffers simply because volunteers
work as volunteers all the time, not only during regular business
Fischer volunteered for the first time by supporting Democrat
Walter Mondale’s presidential bid in 1984, the first year
Fischer attended the University of Iowa.
Roberts first volunteered for a political campaign in 1965, when
he was 26 years old. He said campaigns today are much more staff
driven because people don’t have time to engage themselves
in a political campaigns.
Nowadays it is political activists and people with a strong party
identification who volunteer, he said, but added that sometimes
people sympathize with a specific candidate or an issue a candidate
Fischer did not earn any academic
credits for his volunteer work in college, but today's University
of Iowa students can.
David Redlawsk, UI assistant political science
professor, said that the university has an internship program in
which students can earn academic credits for volunteering. The
student finds a candidate he or she like, or an organization to
volunteer for, then asks a faculty member to supervise the internship,
Redlawsk, who oversaw more than 30 students and also taught a
class on the importance of the Iowa caucuses this fall, said
students can earn one to three credits by volunteering 50 hours
per credit, which is equivalent to a regular class.
Redlawsk does not see any problem with students earning credits
for volunteering because “[students]
get a valid educational experience.
“Getting out to do internships add what they learn from the
Both Fischer and Roberts praised the University of Iowa’s
"I’m a big believer in service learning,” such
as receiving academic credits for volunteering, Fischer said. He
stressed that volunteering provides an opportunity to work in a
“It should be a part of the curriculum,” he said.
Roberts agreed that the school system
should encourage young people to volunteer because this segment
of the population usually is neither politically active nor
likely to vote.
“Anything that gets people involved in politics is important,” he
Redlawsk said he has had several students who have advanced into
a political career because of their volunteer work.
One student who hopes that her volunteering will lead
to a political job is UI senior
Alicia Mundy, who puts up signs, organizes
visits and makes phone calls to rally support for former Vermont
Gov. Howard Dean.
She chose to volunteer the traditional way, without earning credits,
and said she was not whether students should be able to earn academic
credit for their volunteer roles. But the Cedar Rapids
native said what she has learned from volunteering has been applicable
in her classes, especially how
After college, the 22-year-old political science major said she
hopes to work with policy implementation, which means putting legislation
volunteers about five
hours per week for the Dean campaign, said she has a fundamental
approach to her volunteer
“It is important to be involved and to keep the electorate
said. “People in our age don’t have an interest in
One of Mundy’s tasks for the Dean campaign in Iowa City
is to call people on a list of registered Democratic
talks to potential voters about issues and encourages them to vote
for Dean and donate money to his campaign. When Dean comes to the
Iowa City area, Mundy also works to make the
event a success.
“[Volunteers] make sure people know he will come and we act
positively [at the event],” she said.
Mundy said she thought Dean’s volunteer organization
has been very organized in Iowa and that Dean will win the caucuses
but “[Missouri Rep. Richard] Gephardt will give him a run
for the money.”
Party officials Fischer and Roberts both agreed with Mundy that
campaign is very organized.
Fischer said that Dean has been successful with grass-root campaigning
and his use of the Internet as a source to rally support and raise
money, predicting other people will imitate Dean’s
"Regardless of how Gov. Dean does, he will be remembered for pioneering
a new system [of campaigning],” he said.
Two other candidates, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and
the Rev. Al Sharpton, are running behind in the Iowa polls because
have not campaigned as extensively as Dean or established a strong
Iowa organization, Roberts said.
Roberts said those two candidates
have not gained as much popular support as Dean in Iowa partly
because they have not established a base, staffers or offices in
things he said are essential for success in the
Fischer agreed, adding that Moseley Braun and Sharpton are running
a “non-traditional” campaign with no strong grass-root
organization in Iowa.
Johan Bergenas at [email protected]