First Press Pass

HOF DinnerThe Iowa Democratic Party approved my press credentials to attend the Hall of Fame Celebration Friday night for Blog for Iowa.

This is the first time the five declared candidates for president will speak from the same stage. It is a key milestone on the road to the Feb. 2 Iowa Democratic caucuses. Going forward, if candidates don’t get organized, they won’t win delegates—it’s as simple as that.

Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley are working the caucus process diligently. Bernie Sanders is attracting interest—good sized crowds—but I haven’t been to one of his events since 2014, before he announced for president. I’m less certain of what organizing Sanders is doing, but the staff he hired knows the Iowa caucus process.

Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb appear to be decent people, but have furnished no evidence they are signing people up for anything except donations and email contact lists. Chafee made his first trip to Iowa this week and Webb held about 25 events in Iowa according to the Des Moines Register. Clinton, O’Malley and Sanders are far ahead of them in terms of traditional organizing. Catching up in Iowa will be hard for the other two to do.

I plan to provide a unique perspective on the events tonight. My first post on Blog for Iowa was about the 2009 Hall of Fame Celebration and I’ve learned a lot about Democratic politics since then. Here’s what to look for in my coverage:

The candidate speeches will be streamed on C-SPAN and posted on their website for later viewing. I won’t be covering what is said, or trying to assert points about this or that, creating spin. If people want to know what candidates said, they can invest the time and hear for themselves.

If I can keep my phone charged, I will send a few tweets about the event. Since hoards of news media will be there, I’ll let others generate the Twitter traffic. I want to spend my time observing, not tweeting.

I’m most interested in the framing of this event. There is an inherent deception of a level playing field in the graphic above and the event. Both Clinton and Sanders have solid name recognition because of their prominence in public life. Hillary Clinton is so well known, her most significant problem may be we know her too well. Enough so she is taken for granted as people look at other options. Martin O’Malley has been doing a lot of work in Iowa, going all in here in an effort to get a ticket out. By its framing, the event takes Clinton and Sanders down a peg, allowing the other three to to see some sunlight. Will the five candidates share the stage or sit in the crowd? What will be the order of speakers? How will the IDP frame the night’s events? If there’s a story in answering these questions, I’ll write it.

By having a press pass I hope to understand how other journalists frame the events. I don’t know which national political correspondents will be present, but they bring with them an external style that seems self-perpetuating regardless of what may actually happen. By hanging with them to some extent I hope to learn and report about it.

It would be more convenient to view the speeches from the comfort of home wearing casual clothing and drinking fizzy lemon water. In 2009 my photo on the Hall of Fame event post shows me wearing a suit. I plan to be more casual tonight with my trademark blue jeans, blue twill shirt and comfortable shoes. Getting out among the moneyed Democrats of Iowa once in a while is important, and on this one pivotal night, I can invest the time.

I hope readers will stay tuned.

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