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  • Writer's pictureIowa Caucus Project

Ian Klein

Established in 2011, the Iowa Caucus Project boasts four cohorts of college students telling the story of the Iowa caucuses through experiencing the Iowa caucuses. Leading into the 2024 caucuses, we wanted to catch up with the 2020 Iowa Caucus Project staffers, tap into their wisdom, and see what stuck with them four years later.

Ian Klein was a Campus Engagement Staffer for the 2020 Iowa Caucus Project. Ian studied Politics and Economics (and dabbled a little bit with some Philosophy classes for fun!), graduating Drake University in 2021. After graduation, Ian served two terms of service as an AmeriCorps volunteer in the Twin Cities before enrolling as graduate student at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, working towards a master’s degree in Public Policy.

Q: What was your role with the Iowa Caucus Project?

I was a Campus Engagement Staffer with the Iowa Caucus Project in the 2020 presidential cycle. It was really cool working with other students on the team in promoting voter registration, the mock caucus, and other events for students that highlighted the significance of the first-in-the-nation status. Also, going to caucus events and writing blog posts was a blast – getting to interview and talk with people from many different walks of life (including people from Iowa, outside of Iowa, and outside of the United States) and learn from them was an incredible experience.

Q: Four years after your participation in the project, what has stuck with you?

What has stuck with me the most is how special it is to have a process in which the people who are seeking to lead a nation of over 300 million people have to make direct connections with those people on the ground level. The access that caucus goers have to the candidates they want to elect is a big responsibility but also a big opportunity to manifest the ideal of the democratic process in which leaders follow the will of the people. When involved with the Iowa Caucus Project, we got to take on that opportunity and responsibility by encouraging engagement from Drake students and by amplifying the voices of others involved in the caucus process through the blog.

Q: Do you have an “only in Iowa” story? If so, what is it?

There are a number of them, which is a perk of being engaged and interested in the caucuses as a Drake student. The one that I think of most often was in the summer of 2019. At the time, I was working at The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement and decided to take a route back home after work that took me by Olmsted Center. As I was walking towards Olmsted, I saw a small group of people gathered on the steps outside the entrance facing Hubbell Dining Hall. My curiosity brought me closer, and I realized it was a group of reporters around (then candidate) Joe Biden. He left a few minutes after I joined the huddle, but it was one of those moments where it was special to realize that someone who had been Vice President and would later become the President was walking the same steps that I as a student took regularly. Long story short – cherish the proximity to policymakers that comes from the Iowa caucuses and going to Drake!

Q: What words of wisdom do you have for current Drake University students anticipating the 2024 Iowa precinct caucuses?

On a more obvious note – take the opportunity and responsibility seriously. On a similarly obvious note, keep your eyes open and ears listening to the entire experience because there is so much to learn! For a more fun recommendation, consider getting some merch and/or memorabilia if you haven’t already (for instance, I still have 15 or so campaign posters from the more than 20 Democratic candidates in 2020). Lastly, consider making a fun caucus day plan for yourself and other buddies! Whether that’s a pre-caucus coffee conference, post-caucus celebration, next morning breakfast huddle – doing something communal where you can process the event and swap stories can add to your own personal experience of the caucuses.

Check out where the other 2020 Iowa Caucus Staffers are now here!


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