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  • Writer's pictureChris Veninga

Types of people on the campaign trail

People watching; there's nothing quite else like it. Who doesn't like going to an airport and watching people have mental breakdowns over missing their flights? Or sit on a bus and hear all the drama from someone talking too loud on their cell phone? Or simply watch people's demeanor as they go about their day? 


As an avid people watcher - I'm not a stalker, there's a difference - going on the campaign trail and seeing how people react to candidates has been extremely fun. This is especially true when you see folks who are really, and I mean really, passionate about their candidate or their politics. So, after spending the last few months attending various political events, here are the top types of people I've seen on the campaign trail. 


General demographics

Regardless of political affiliation, most people were middle-aged to senior citizen white folks. Yes, you could see younger people occasionally, but college students or people around the age of college students were somewhat scarce. Iowa is primarily a white state with a large 65+ age demographic, and though there were some people of color here and there, they were largely outnumbered by caucasian attendees. Considering a large portion of college-aged students primarily align with left-leaning politicians, that could explain why there weren't as many young folks out at these events due to there not being too many viable democratic candidates trying to become prominent in a caucus. 


The Undecided Voter 

I talked with a few people who were not die-hard fans of the candidates but rather were there to scope things out. Many people said they wanted to see what that candidate was like in person and off camera. They also wanted to hear the candidates' thoughts on particular issues such as budgets, Medicaid, the border, etc. 


The Hardcore Fan

We all know one person who's a die-hard supporter of their favorite politician, whether left or right. Often, they can be the most pleasant person you've ever talked to. But sometimes, one step in the wrong direction politically, and they will get extremely defensive. I saw these types of folks at Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy events in particular. They would always cheer the loudest or even start the applause, be the first to shake the candidate's hand or wave their sign around frantically whenever possible. These types of people are typically decked out in candidate merch, from shirts to hats to buttons. Fortunately, I didn't see any fights break out… although I know that can occur. 


The Fan Of A Different Team

This is for the people who voted/caucused for someone else in previous years but are, at the very least, attending a different candidate's event. I've seen Trump merch at every political event I went to (minus the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry), I've talked with current/former DeSantis supporters at Nikki Haley events, and I met people who once caucused for one candidate on the left but now are caucusing for another on the right. It's interesting to see how political views evolve or switch based on voters' current needs. 


"X-Group" For "Y-Candidate"

People will always try to show that their specific group supports their specific candidate. One of my personal favorites was "Hawkeyes For DeSantis" and "Cyclones For DeSantis," which I thought were both funny and meaningful given that those college teams hate each other but also that people were tying one important thing in their lives to another. "Women For Nikki" signs were also abundant at the Nikki Haley event I went to. Though I did not get a chance to see Donald Trump, "Blacks For Trump" and "Women For Trump" are also prevalent in his campaigns. 


Interesting Merch-Wearers

"I Hate Alex Jones" on the front and "Don't Visit Infowars.com" on the back was quite possibly the most interesting shirt I had seen on the campaign trail. I couldn't tell if he was being serious, but then I remembered that Elvis Presley's manager sold "I Hate Elvis" pins. "Save fuel, burn Democrats" was another one I found quite intense - the same guy had a sweatshirt with a soldier kneeling in front of a cross gravestone around his waist. On the Democratic side, several pride-themed items were being worn, including the Iowa state outline with rainbow colors on shirts and pins.

 

The Vocal/Emotional Voter

One of the strangest things is people who commentate on what candidates are saying, like they're a color commentator for a football team. At a Tim Scott event, I sat beside a man who kept mumbling his agreement or disagreement with Scott… "Yeah, the border," "They did that in Ukraine," "Not constitutional," etc. When I was at the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry, several people were whooping or cheering during speeches when no one else was. Sometimes, these people would step up to the microphone and ask the candidate an incredibly enthusiastic or menacing question. At the Tim Scott event, one man who had been quiet the whole time raised his hand and very coldly said, "Mental health for veterans…?" I could tell Scott was slightly put off by this question because of the man's demeanor. A woman later was nearly brought to tears talking about how COVID-19 had ravaged her family and taken her husband's life; she wanted to hear how Tim Scott could make it better. At Nikki Haley's Town Hall in Waukee, a Jewish man asked a question about the current situation in Israel/Palestine. With so much enthusiasm, he even said, "This is the most important question you will ever get asked in your life." 


To summarize

When you're out following candidates, there are so many different types of people you're going to see. Each person has their way of expressing their support or lack thereof for a cause or candidate, and you'll find every single one of them here in the current political center of the universe, Iowa. 


Sources

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