Impressions of Iowa as 2024 campaign frenzy comes to an end: Reporter notebooks


(DES MOINES, IOWA) — After a seemingly endless stream of rallies, bus tours, campaign stops and more, the 2024 Republican field’s convergence on Iowa will come to an end on Monday when the state holds its first-in-the-nation caucuses.

ABC News’ team of campaign reporters and producers have been following the action for months.

Here are some of their stories from the trail, impressions and memorable moments.

‘Iowa nice’ is real

“Iowa nice” isn’t just a phrase in the Hawkeye state, Iowans really embody it. When talking to voters across the state, after I get done questioning them about the policies they support and the candidates they are planning the caucus for, our conversations usually end with voters offering me a home cooked meal or highlighting the sites I should visit while I’m in town.

When I was stranded at a Pizza Ranch in Marshalltown after a late-night campaign event, one local photographer even drove out of his way so I could get back to Des Moines after the press bus left me.

– Lalee Ibssa

Life goes on — even in the center of the political universe

I was at a diner in Des Moines on caucus day morning as candidate Asa Hutchinson visited and as he spoke to voters, I noticed the servers didn’t skip a beat as they slipped around the candidates and journalists, balancing heavy platters stacked with pancakes and shakes, and they were often reaching in to refill glasses of water even while Hutchinson or a reporter were talking intently to the people around the booths.

It was a moment that reminded me how even during the excitement of caucus season, normal life is still happening all around us. Normal life still seamlessly cuts through all the campaigning, no matter how focused we are on the politics.

– Oren Oppenheim

‘Experience that I will never forget’

In living here, while also covering Vivek Ramaswamy, the guy who’s doing 300+ events in the state, a lot of that is learning a little finesse and multitasking, being innovative, being creative. And so it’s been fun — aside from waking up at an ungodly hour to drive to one corner of the state to the other.

All of that being said, it has been definitely a fun experience from the pizza ranches to the Midwest sunrises and sunsets, to even this blizzard we’ve just had now, to all the people I’ve met and connections I’ve made on the campaign trail. It’s definitely been an experience that I will never forget. So all of that being said, I can’t believe it’s over. I can’t believe that it’s coming to an end.

I had never been to Iowa before this and so now leaving is, you know, bittersweet … I’ve made friends here, I’ve lived here and so it’ll be it’ll be definitely a different pace moving forward. What are some things I’ll miss the most? Hopefully, I’ll be back for the Iowa State Fair for some more food to try, some more corn to judge. And the people.

– Kendall Ross

Iowans’ passion for politics

After covering politics in Washington, D.C., for nearly six years, coming to Iowa to cover the 2024 presidential election felt like coming back to my second home that is Missouri — the cornfields, the brutal snow and best of all, the Midwestern nice.

But unique to Iowa is Iowans’ passion for politics, the democratic process and their special role in nominating the next president of the United States.

It’s been a privilege to hear from them and experience this historic moment together.

-Soorin Kim

Nikki Haley at the baggage claim

Iowa is one of the few places in the country, and perhaps the world, where people can truly get up close and personal with their future leaders. It’s here where everyone — from the farmer to the teacher to the banker to the young child enamored by politics — gets a chance to rub shoulders and bump elbows with the dozens of politicos who descend on the center of America to stump for the support of the folks who live here, in the hope that with enough charismatic speeches and an incalculable number of hands shaken and babies kissed, they might someday get to the White House.

As reporters, we get a special window into those moments, when the campaigns are still small but the aspirations remain large. Occasionally, we even get small moments of our own.

On one September night, after a long series of flights into Des Moines from Los Angeles that included me missing a leg of my trip, nearly losing my bag, and sprinting through Denver International Airport, I waited wearily at the baggage claim, desperate for my head to hit my hotel pillow. As I stood alone in the small room of luggage carousels and watched the clock inch toward midnight, I noticed a familiar face approaching me — it was the candidate I’d been assigned to cover: former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

I stood there for a moment, trying to sneak glances and verify it was actually her before I walked over to introduce myself. Both of us looked exhausted after a long day of travel, but when I walked up she still smiled and the two of us exchanged pleasantries before we hoisted our bags and trekked out into the night, knowing the long road we both had ahead of us.

Looking back, it felt like the perfect encapsulation of what happens everyday here during a campaign. It was a human moment — small and largely forgettable. But in Iowa, it’s small moments like those, if you can get enough of them with voters, that can sometimes help move the needle just enough to propel a campaign forward.

-Nicholas Kerr

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Submit a Comment