Students at Iowa’s colleges and universities haven’t been on campus on caucus night for more than a decade. But tonight, far from being out of practice, Drake University students will caucus with confidence.
Student Senate, Drake College Republicans, Drake University Democrats, and the Drake Political Review hosted a mock caucus event last week in the Shivers Basketball Practice Facility’s hospitality suite. More than 300 students simulated the Republican and Democratic caucuses procedures.
“We all felt it was important to come together and host this event so students would be more comfortable with the caucus process and more excited to caucus for real,” said senior Jack Hellie, who served as media coordinator for the Jan. 27 event.
Journalists from national and international news outlets, including CNN, CBS, and AP, interviewed students and captured footage.
“It’s really great to see such energy among students, and such interest in politics,” said Randi Kaye, a reporter and anchor for CNN. “For anyone who says Iowa doesn’t matter, I think I’ve seen firsthand that that’s wrong.”
The evening began with an hourlong reception in the practice facility’s Prairie Meadows Atrium. Students moved from table to table as representatives for Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, John Kasich, Martin O’Malley, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Bernie Sanders stumped on behalf of their candidates.
Students then moved into the hospitality suite, where Student Body President Kevin Maisto lauded students’ participation in the mock caucus as a proud display of engaged citizenship and strong evidence of political involvement by the Millennial generation.
At the start of each caucus, surrogates for the candidates provided speeches about their candidate’s platform and leadership ability. Most of the speeches were provided by students. Jeb Bush Jr. spoke on his father’s behalf, and guest celebrities including actor Justin Long and Ben & Jerry’s cofounders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield provided brief endorsements for Bernie Sanders.
After hearing from candidate’s representatives and explaining the process, students cast their votes. Although the event was purely educational and not intended to accurately represent students’ voter preferences, results were tallied. The student Republican caucus placed Jeb Bush first, followed by Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump. Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, and John Kasich tied for sixth place. Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee received no votes.
During the mock Democratic caucus, students sent four delegates each for Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, while Hillary Clinton received two delegates.
Logan Kentner, president of the Drake College Republicans, said regardless of their political party, students should feel encouraged and empowered to participate in the caucus process.
“I just hope students do their civic duty,” Kentner said.