Caucuses develop into classroom for Atlanta college students

“Once you go searching, so many of those staffers are barely 5 years previous and they’re, so it was simply the last word studying alternative,” he mentioned. “I’ve additionally by no means been right here earlier than. And so for me, I used to be like, ‘Is that this actually taking place?’”

The group arrived in Des Moines to frigid temperatures and a foot of snow on the bottom, however that didn’t dampen their enthusiasm for seeing presidential candidates they’d solely examine up to now.

First up: A rally for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who arrived on stage to a packed crowd at his West Des Moines headquarters together with his spouse and 5-year-old son.

The scholars additionally plan to attend occasions for former President Donald Trump, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.

Bumped into a category of Westminster college students from Atlanta at DeSantis rally in West Des Moines. They’ve who’ve traveled to Iowa to expertise the caucuses and are taking a category I prefer to name, “What I want I might have taken in highschool.” #gapol pic.twitter.com/sKDH20j3gG

— Patricia Murphy (@MurphyAJC) January 13, 2024

“We’ve clearly had publicity to them already within the media and thru their interviews or debates, however seeing them in individual is only a completely different expertise for all of us,” mentioned Bobby, a senior at Westminster. The varsity requested that the scholars’ final names be withheld for privateness causes.

The prospect to go to Iowa in January might not entice most youngsters, however Peter, additionally a senior, mentioned the journey to the caucuses is the explanation he needed to take the category.

“I had no understanding of campaigns and elections,” he mentioned. “So I simply needed to be extra knowledgeable and I believed going was the easiest way to try this.”

The scholars’ project for the journey is to supply a documentary on part of the political course of.

Ellaura and Campbell’s documentary is on the caucus course of itself. “It’s the responsibility of each American citizen to learn about what’s happening in politics, and what’s going to occur to their nation,” Ellaura mentioned. “And that’s a giant a part of why I needed to take this class.”

They’ll embody the candidates, in addition to the Iowans they meet alongside the best way.

With one occasion down, the group headed into the Iowa snow.

Credit score: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit score: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa– As Iowa voters waited for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to reach for a rally at his Iowa headquarters, one theme emerged from their conversations — almost all had supported former President Donald Trump up to now, however gained’t caucus for him once more in 2024.

Ron Steenhoek, a retired pilot from West Des Moines, supported Trump in 2016 and 2020, however he gained’t do it once more.

“I believe Trump was a great man on the proper time, however he’s form of gone rogue on us. I can’t help him like I used to,” Steenhoek mentioned. He pointed to Trump’s refusal to just accept the 2020 election and Trump’s “manner he trashes anyone that criticizes him,” to clarify why he now not helps the previous president.

As for DeSantis, Steenhook mentioned his file in Florida speaks for itself. “He’s finished some issues in his state that ought to be finished within the nation and I believe he can do it,” he mentioned.

Sitting one desk over from Steenhoek was Debbie Heddinger, a caucus chair for DeSantis in West Des Moines who mentioned she simply logged her 2,016th commit-to-caucus name for the governor. She voted for Trump the final two occasions however needs to see DeSantis win this 12 months.

“We’d like any individual who’s younger and vigorous like DeSantis. We’d like a recent begin, a brand new begin, not the identical previous, usual,” she mentioned.

Standing at the back of the room was Chuck Hays, who additionally voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, however mentioned the previous president did a “awful job throughout COVID,” with companies across the nation closing.

A DeSantis White Home would seem like Trump’s, besides he would get it finished, Hays mentioned.

“He’s gonna do issues to assist the center class. He’s gonna drain the swamp. He’s gonna construct the wall and he’s most likely even gonna make Mexico pay for it.”

The important thing to successful in Iowa has historically been grassroots organizing just like the work Rob Owen is doing. The panorama architect from Urbandale is a precinct captain for DeSantis, whom he known as “a grinder,” after supporting Trump twice.

Owen doesn’t belief the polls that present Trump 30 factors forward of the remainder of the sector in Iowa. Owen mentioned he thinks Iowans will defy expectations, as they’ve many occasions earlier than.

“We’d shock some individuals,” he mentioned. “I bear in mind again in ‘16 and ‘20. I noticed loads of Trump indicators. You by no means see any Trump indicators now…I’ve seen loads of DeSantis indicators.”

Atlanta Journal-Structure reporter Tia Mitchell, columnist Patricia Murphy and photographer Hyosub Shin are braving the chilly in Iowa to cowl the lead-up to Monday’s Republican caucuses. Observe their protection on AJC.com/politics, and comply with them on X: Mitchell at @ajconwashington, Murphy at @MurphyAJC and Shin at @ilovefoto

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