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Iowa Day 3 (Caucus Night)

Preparation

This was the big day we were all working towards.  I started the morning diligently calling potential stump speakers on our rp2012 lists who I didn’t get to the night before.  After a couple hours of calling people from the laptop in my hotel room, I went over to the campaign office in Coralville to see what work still needed to be done.  There I met Sherry, one of our out-of-state volunteers from Kentucky, who asked me if I wanted to take a precinct they had just found out about in Iowa City the week before. Originally I was planning to fill in as a precinct captain for a location on Jun’s list, but I figured I’d take this one since it was closer and we knew for sure it had no precinct captain. My assignment was for the precinct of Union Township, which encompassed some farmland on the edge of Iowa City. Last caucus they had 33 people show up and this time they were expecting close to 50.  I happily accepted my assignment and was then given a brief training overview about what my responsibilities. I was also given a bag of materials I would need to bring that night such as campaign literature and stickers, voter registration forms, and a vote tally sheet to be used to report to the campaign.

I must be in an alternate reality

After my assignment, I had a quick bite to eat for lunch and then ran back to my hotel to help conduct a caucus training session with our out-of-state volunteers coming in from Illinois that day. There were about 14 people at the meeting, and I essentially passed on the information that I had just learned that morning. Everyone was very eager and excited to participate in the Iowa cuacus and help Ron Paul in any capacity they could.  After I was done talking, Jun Dam arrived with the caucus packages and was able to dole out precinct assignments to the new volunteers.  There were several people who offered to take precincts over in Des Moines despite it being another two hours west because they knew that’s where Ron Paul was going to be throwing his after party and they didn’t want to miss it.  Thus when our meeting ended, those volunteers had to book it in order to make it to their caucuses at a decent time.  I proceeded back up to my hotel room to change into my suit so I’d look all professional and legit.

The Caucus

Tonight was the big night I had prepared for the last couple weeks and I was psyched.  I decided to head over to my precinct location a little early to check things out and mentally prepare.  After fifteen minutes of driving I found myself on a little dirt road out in the middle of nowhere and started questioning the accuracy of my phone’s GPS directions.  It seemed like the only thing in the area were scattered farm houses, but eventually I noticed a little church on top of the hill and the address validated it was the right spot.  Also beside the entrance of the parking lot was a Rick Santorum sign and besides the church doors I noticed another one.  It appeared the Santorum Surge had even reached out to these parts.  I immediately placed my Ron Paul yard signs on opposite sides of the entrances to offset the evilness.

After marking my territory, I decided to wait around a bit until I started seeing the first people trickle in and then I made my entrance.  I proceeded to the main room of the church where the registration table was setup and was greeted by the temporary chair woman, Barbara, as well as her secretary.  I let them know I was a volunteer on behalf of Ron Paul’s campaign and graciously offered to help them in any way I could.  They also asked me if I was from the area, and I came clean and told them that that I was an out-of-stater.  Since it was such a small precinct, I figured there was really no way I could hide the fact I was an outsider so it would be best to be honest.  They were glad to have me as a guest and asked me if I wanted to observe the vote tallies and greet people at the door.  Besides my speech, both of these tasks were exactly in my mission plans for the night, so I was glad Barbara brought it up so I didn’t have to impose.  Feeling like a welcome guest, I then went back to my car and grabbed my bag full of materials and placed the super-brochures, copies of Ron Paul’s Plan to Restore America, slim-jims, and stickers on the table next to the cookies and coffee in the lobby.  I was hoping to be the only one with campaign literature, but soon thereafter I noticed Santorum’s literature popping around my stuff, including some more signs inside the lobby!  I could have busted out my 2×6′ Ron Paul banner from the car to outdo the Santorum supporters, but I figured my time would be better spent talking to people to get a feel for their politics.

As one would expect, the two youngest voters there revealed themselves as Ron Paul supporters and they happily accepted my stickers to wear as a badge of honor.  One of the supporters, Carson, was a nice young man in his mid twenties who was an independent re-registering as a Republican to participate in the caucus.  Coincidentally, he had lived briefly in Lompoc a while back, so this was quite the surprise.  Up until the caucus started, I was able to talk to a good majority of other voters, but had a hard time figuring who they were supporting (unless they had an shirt on saying their candidate’s name on it, which a number of them did). Even though I had arrived an hour and a half early, the time before the start of the caucus flew by and before I knew it they were starting their meeting.  There ended up being 41 total voters who arrived at the caucus, and unfortunately I was only able to identify two Ron Paul supporters.  I had a feeling this might be a rough crowd for my message.

The very beginning of the caucus started with a pledge of the allegiance, and then it went right into the presidential preference poll.  The chair woman said that each candidate could have one person speak up to five minutes on their behalf, which included time for questions.  With the exception of Newt Gingrich, every candidate had someone stand up and speak for them, even Michelle Bachmann (the church’s pastor vouched for her, even though he lived outside the precinct and was just acting as a caucus observer; despite that, no one still voted for her).  When it came to Ron Paul’s turn, I graciously offered to speak on his behalf and no one else seemed to object.  I proceeded to the front of the church and gave my rehearsed two-minute speech without any kinks or stumbles.  I was actually more nervous practicing it than actually giving it, and once I was up in front commanding everyone’s attention, I began to feel somewhat relaxed.  I made sure to keep good eye contact with the crowd and by the end I built up enough confidence that I was eagerly ready to handle any questions they would throw at me.  Ironically, the only question I was given came from the mother of a young woman who was one of the two Ron Paul supporters I identified, and she asked me to clarify Ron Paul’s foreign policy.  I gave a frank answer, stating that Ron Paul believes we are over-extending ourselves around the world militarily, and that our nation’s biggest threat is from our crushing debt.  After the lady’s question, another person raised his hand in the crowd and asked if he could say some words on Ron’s behalf.  I was a bit thrown off because I hadn’t identified or figured him to be a supporter, but unfortunately the chairwoman couldn’t allow him speak to since the rules only called for one speaker per candidate (I felt a little bad for taking his chance, but afterwards when I talked to him I found out he supported both Ron Paul and Rick Santorum so I think it was probably a good thing I spoke for Ron Paul).  Since there were no more questions, they proceeded to the next speaker for Mitt Romney.  After he was finished, I was happy to see Carson ask the man to clarify how exactly Mitt Romney plans to fix the economy, which I thought was a great question myself.  I have never seen any concrete plans from Mitt which explains how he’d cut spending or incentivise business.  The speaker gave a pretty weak explanation stating that because Mitt Romney was a CEO of a couple companies and knows business, he would know how to fix the economy (which never really answered the question).

After everyone spoke for the candidates, then came the moment of truth when all the voting slips were passed out.  I walked back to the lobby to grab my tally sheet, and was met by Barbara and her secretary after they had collected everyone’s votes.  Once the counting began, it became pretty clear that Santorum and Romney were the clear favorites.  I still had hope that Paul could have a respectable finish and garner more than two votes (from my identified supporters).  Halfway through the counting I was vindicated as Ron Paul staged a late surge.  The more times I ticked Paul on my tally sheet, the more I had hope that my message hadn’t fallen on deaf ears.  At the end, the final count was 16 for Santorum, 13 for Romney, 9 for Paul, 2 for Perry, and 1 for Gingrich.  Later on I would find that these results were mirrored those from the overall state.  Given that I had only identified two Ron Paul supporters at the beginning, I was pretty satisfied with Paul’s finish at 22% of the overall vote despite the demographics.  Thus, my trip to the caucus might have had an effect on the undecided voters.

Another great victory from the night was that out of the two delegate spots the precinct was allocated, Carson was elected to one of spots and would be attending the county convention in the spring.  In addition, he also got elected to the county central committee, so that was great to see a young Ron Paul supporter willing to get active and carry the message of liberty.  After the election of delegates and committee members, came the party platform voting and this was an very interesting exercise in democracy.  All sorts of different people ended up submitting planks, which were then argued about and ultimately voted on.  For the most part, the ideas were generally conservative and smart, including support for a balanced budget amendment, term limits, and a sunset clause on regulations.  All of the planks that passed a majority vote would go on to represent the precinct in the county convention in the spring and have the potential to go all the way up to the state level.  Caucuses like this, where a neighborhood takes part in direct democracy, makes me feel like this was what politics used to be like in America back in the days of our Founding Fathers.  Sadly, most states like mine in California now have impersonal primaries, which I feel disenfranchises people more than empowers them.

Concluding the Night

When the caucus had ended, I thanked Barbara once again for her hospitality and I also congratulated Carson for his nominations.  Then I cleaned up my literature and pulled out my signs, and left without any trace.  As I drove back to the campaign office, I couldn’t help but listen to CNN on my rental car’s Sirius/XM radio for live coverage of the results.  It sounded like there was a three way race between Santorum, Romney, and Paul and they were neck to neck.  Once I arrived to the office, I turned in my results to the county coordinator, Randy, and shared my experience.  Most of the other volunteers and precinct captains had already made their way back to report and it seemed like most people’s experiences were somewhat similar to mine.  However, compared to other counties, ours did better than average for Ron Paul and he was in the lead for a good while as the counts were coming in.  Sadly, he was eventually overtaken by Romney by a close margin.  Once all the tally sheets were turned in, we went next door for a celebration party at the Tailgate Bar and Grill with all the volunteers and to watch the final results.  I will be honest and say that there was a general feeling of disappointment in the air as we saw Ron Paul slip further away from the top two lead and settle into third.  However, I could also sense the hope and camaraderie among fellow patriots who had worked and given so much to the cause.  Despite not placing first, Ron Paul did earn a projected 7 delegates (the same as Romney and Santorum), and our local supporters also won many delegate and committee seats in their precincts.  Since the presidential preference poll at the caucuses are non-binding, our organizational efforts to get people elected as delegates was the true victory that night and it will likely go unnoticed until the spring convention.

To conclude, the Santorum Surge was definitely a shocker, but at the same time it also made sense.  Rick campaigned the old fashioned way, by driving around in a pickup truck to every county in Iowa.  He had the most face time with the voters of Iowa than any other  candidate and was the favorite among the social conservative Huckabee supporters from 2008.  However, as Ron Paul stated in his speech the night of the caucus, there are three tickets out of Iowa.  Ron won one of the tickets, and is one of two candidates who can mount a national campaign.  Essentially, Santorum is not going anywhere after Iowa due to his sole focus on the state and his lack of funding.  He is a candidate who is running primarily on social issues, and this will not gain him any traction in New Hampshire which votes next week.  On the flip-side, exit polls from the Iowa caucus showed that Paul won over 41% of the Independent vote and a huge majority of the youth vote.  Thus, he has crossover appeal to voters in all states, and this is one of the reasons Obama was elected in 2008.

I will end by saying that overall I had a great experience in Iowa and it’s something I won’t forget.  I was honored to meet so many other supporters from around the country fighting for what they believed in and doing anything in their power to get Ron Paul elected.    One of these days when liberty finally triumphs over tyranny, I will be proud to say that I was there in Iowa doing my part to fight with the other “winter soldiers.”  Remember the words of Sammuel Adams, “It does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”

Watching Ron Paul's speech at the after party

Eagerly waiting the results at the Tailgate Bar and Grill. Notice the huge Hawkeye flag in the background. This image is all over Iowa.

Iowa Day 2

All the news today seemed to be about the Santorum surge lately and it seems like a great anomaly to me.  There is no way he will be able to run much of a campaign beyond Iowa due to his lack of money, even if he comes in second or third place in the caucus.  However, Jun and many others in the Paul campaign rightly see this as a potential threat thanks to many Huckabee supporters who are well organized now carrying the Santorum banner.  Thus, a negative robo-call campaign against Santorum was quickly organized to run today and tomorrow in an attempt to deflate his sudden rise in the Iowa polls.

This morning I met two young men and their mom who were other supporters staying at my hotel who had driven up from Kentucky the night before.  Together we headed to the Johnson County campaign office to get brought up to speed about what needed to be done.  However, to get our blood flowing, one of the county coordinators decided it would be great to have a sign bomb down at the intersection and didn’t want to stop until we got 15 honks.  Thus, about 10 volunteers took Ron Paul banners and signs out to the streets in 22 degree weather with a wind chill making it feel like 4 degrees according to my AccuWeather.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the wind, and after about 20-30 minutes we all couldn’t feel our faces and our fingers started to feel that icy pain that’s a precursor to frostbite.  There’s nothing like suffering for a cause!

Beautiful Iowa scenery heading down 80 east

Entering Davenport

Once we defrosted in the campaign office, I took off with Jun to drive an hour east to Davenport and help do some outreach at the Ron Paul / Rand Paul wistle-stop tour at 1 PM.  It ended up being a great turnout, with about 200 people showing up to the event including dozens of reporters and a CNN news van.  After Ron and Rand spoke, we helped coral all the locals who were planning on caucusing tomorrow into a training session organized by the Story County Ron Paul coordinators.  If all the counties across Iowa are as organized as Story County, Ron Paul is going to have an easy wins hands down but I don’t think we can assume anything.

After a quick bite to eat for lunch, Jun and I met up at the campaign office in Davenport to print some phone-banking lists and then went over to The Lodge hotel in Bettendorf.  Here we met up with Zachariah, the coordinator for Illinois volunteers, as well as many other out of state volunteers staying at he hotel.  By utilizing the multitude of volunteers, we were able to split up the list of likely stump speakers from our rp2012 database and follow up with them with calls to make sure they were ready for the caucus tomorrow.  Almost everyone who I talked to on my phone list was super prepared and positive about participating in the caucus and this gave me a lot of hope.  It was amazing to see how enthusiastic all the out of state volunteers were about supporting Ron Paul, and I think they are going to make a big difference tomorrow.

Standing room only at the Ron Paul whistle-stop

Davenport campaign office

Iowa Day 1

After a relatively smooth flight into Des Moines, I got my rental car and drove 2 hours east to the Clarion Highlander Hotel in Iowa City.  I didn’t get in until about 8 PM, and once I unpacked my stuff I gave my rp2012.org contact, Jun, a call to see if there was anything still going on at the campaign office in Coralville which was just 10 minutes away.  To my surprise, there were many people still at the office so he told me to come on over to get caught up.

Ron Paul's Johnson County campaign office

When I arrived, I finally got to meet some people face-to-face who I had only talked to on the phone or seen online.  The Johnson County coordinator was inside busily working, as well as a girl from the Revolution PAC and a number of other volunteers from various grassroots organizations.  Jun showed me a county map of Iowa that noted how many precinct vacancies each one had and which ones we were concentrating on in the eastern part of the state.  These were in no way concrete numbers, but we estimated there were about 70 precinct vacancies that needed captains (out of 1784 precincts total), so this wasn’t too shabby.  Thus, our next goal is to to fill those precincts with vacancies as well as find backups captains for many others with our stream of volunteers.  I took off a little after 11 and the office still had several people working diligently.

When I woke up next morning to grab some breakfast at my hotel, I couldn’t help but notice the TV commercials playing.  Within the span of my meal, I saw a Newt Gingrich commercial, followed by ones for Rick Perry and then Ron Paul.  The media bombardment was in full effect 48 hours prior to the first caucus!  After eating breakfast, I took a look outside and noticed a small dusting of snow had fallen over night.  Also, another Ron Paul patriot had pulled up next to my car at the hotel!  In addition to helping Jun do some volunteer organizing, I might also do some outreach at Ron Paul’s and Rand Paul’s Whiste-Stop Tour up in Cedar Rapids.  Exciting times await!

Ron Paul reifnorcements!

2012, the Year of Ron Paul and my trip to Iowa

Today is the final day of 2011 and I am preparing for my trip out to the most important state of the 2012 election, Iowa.  This will be my fist time visiting the state, and it will be in the dead of winter.  But I am packing plenty of warm clothes, campaign materials, and my personal conviction that I must do anything possible for liberty and to get Ron Paul the victory in the Hawkeye State.  Tomorrow, on New Years Day 2012, I will be flying into Des Moines and then embarking on a mission to Iowa City, approximately 2 hours east.  There I will be meeting up with many other rp0212.org grassroots activists for Ron Paul who are traveling from outside of the state to help the campaign in any capacity they can.  [On a side note, I became a firm believer in the rp2012.org grassroots system after we helped mobilize over 1,500 Ron Paul supporters for the Ames Straw Poll back in August, bringing Dr. Paul a statistical first place victory along with Michelle Bachmann.   By using our advanced phone-banking software to target independents and young voters, I was able to personally get over 150 people to attend the Straw Poll and I felt like I was definitely more effective than if I were working with the official campaign.]

On Monday, I’ll be meeting up with some activists at the campaign headquarters in Iowa City, and we’ll be tasked with contacting all the county coordinators across Iowa to find out which precincts still have vacancies for captains.  Once we find out which holes need to be filled, we will then use our stream of hundreds of volunteers to fill in the gaps.  As a precinct captain, your primary task is to bring as many Ron Paul supporters to the caucus as possible and deliver a stump speech on Dr. Paul’s behalf on the night of the caucus.  I already have my stump speech prepared, so I will be eagerly ready to win some caucuses for Ron Paul on the night of January 3rd.  In addition, I am going to volunteer to watch the vote and will take a picture of the results and send them into an independent source.  There has been a lot of concerns of potential vote tampering by the establishment as a way to discredit Ron Paul’s victory, and I plan to do my part to keep it as open and honest as possible.

More updates to come as my days in Iowa progress.

Tabling for Ron Paul downtown Santa Barbara

I can’t talk for other Ron Paul Meetup groups, but our Santa Barbara one has been quite active lately and we’ve already begun taking the message of liberty to the streets!  This time around more people know who Ron Paul is and he has a much better chance at winning the GOP nomination.  With the insurgency of the Tea Parties, Paul’s ideas are now becoming mainstream and he can no longer be ignored by the media.  Our goal for the tabling events has been to get the word out to as many people as possible that Ron Paul is running again for president and to find supporters to join our Meetup group and to fight with us for liberty.  In addition to tabling, we have been phone banking in Iowa to get people to attend the Ames Straw Poll in August, which is a crucial event in Ron Paul’s campaign.

Here's our table setup downtown. You can see the signs at all angles. Two of the Meetup members are engaging with the public.

Ron Paul's freedom fighters!

Wisconsin School District Improves Immediately after Union Reforms

The unions and Democrats have called Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker the anti-Christ. They have claimed that his recent collective bargaining reforms would destroy public education. Lo and behold, these threats are turning out to be a lot of hot air blown out by groups of thugs vying for relevancy and not wanting to release their parasitic stranglehold over taxpayers. According to a recent article by Bryon York of the Washington Examiner, many school districts in Wisconsin are seeing benefits from Walker’s reforms.  In fact, one school district in particular has seen immediate improvements despite all the predictions of gloom and doom.

Kaukauna School District was struggling and facing a deficit of $400,000, but a day after Walker’s law was signed the school officials began putting new policies into effect that are projected to turn the district’s budget deficit into a $1.5 million surplus.  Teachers and staff are now required to pay 12.6% of their health coverage (compared to 10% before), and contribute 5.8% of their salary to pensions (compared to 0% before).  These changes alone will save the school district an estimated $1.2 million a year.

In addition,the district can now negotiate with any health insurance coverage group instead of just a group called WEA Trust (a company created by the teacher’s union).  This year, WEA Trust told the school district that they were going to have to increase their premiums significantly, so the district decided it was time to shop around for better prices.  Because of the district’s threat of dropping their coverage, WEA Trust immediately changed their position so that they’d match the lowest bid.  These new terms will save the district substantial amounts of money on health coverage.

Teachers will also be asked to work 40 hours a week at school instead of 37.5 hours a week.  Additionally, pay increases and benefits will transition to a merit based system, which will save the district money and allow them to hire more teachers.  “These changes mean that the district can  reduce the size of its classes — from 31 students to 26 students in high school and from 26 students to 23 students in elementary school. In addition, there will be more teacher time for one-on-one sessions with troubled students.”

Overall, these changes will improve the classroom experience for all students while at the same time saving taxpayer’s money and putting the school’s budget back in the black.  The fight over collective bargaining reform has been ugly in Wisconsin, but once people notice the improvements it will bring this next school year, the more Governor Walker’s decision will be justified.  Freedom works when given the chance, and in Kaukauna district’s case it is working wonders.  Hopefully many other states like California will realize it is time to embrace collective bargaining reform and pass Right to Work laws.

Ready Ames Fire! The Iowa Presidential Straw Poll

August 13th is the Ames, Iowa presidential straw poll.  Why is this so important?  The winner of this straw poll almost always wins the primary next year in Iowa, and Iowa is the first primary state in the election so it’s critical to the campaign’s momentum to get an early victory.  A member of our SB Meetup, Jun Dam, has created a website for people to phone bank in Iowa here: http://grassroots.wildfireplatform.com/t/sbrp.  It’s really easy to use, and if you just have a little spare time after work or on the weekends, then any amount of calls can make a big different.  All we need to do is identify Ron Paul supporters and urge them to purchase tickets for the straw poll in Ames.

Another helpful website related to this is http://www.iowaforronpaul.com.  This site was created by Ron Paul’s PAC and has up to the minute news about the campaign’s progress in Iowa and ways you can help out.  If you navigate to the Projects section, there’s a breakdown of all the operations that need funding that you can donate to directly.