What the debates taught us

Ira Lacher: “For many Americans who only experience candidates through email appeals or in prepackaged videos, the debates provided an opportunity to see them as people.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Now that the first Democratic presidential debates have come and gone, what have we learned?

Forgetting and ignoring what the national media have said, here’s what I learned from my own and others’ observations from two nights of debate-watching parties.

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Follow Cory Booker's lead

The College and Young Democrats of Iowa have urged all the presidential campaigns to pay their interns. Lucy Karlin writes about her experience working for Cory Booker this summer. -promoted by Laura Belin

I have been an unpaid intern on Democratic campaigns for the last three years, and the experiences have inspired me to pursue political science as a major in college. As I am now in college, I knew I had to make money this summer to help pay for tuition, but I was torn because I didn’t know if that would enable me to still be engaged in campaigns.

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A candid assessment of seven presidential candidates

Ed Fallon is a former Democratic state lawmaker and “agitator in chief” at Bold Iowa. He backed Bernie Sanders shortly before the 2016 Iowa caucuses but has not endorsed a 2020 presidential candidate. -promoted by Laura Belin

Remember how the Republican field shifted in the 2012 and 2016 Iowa caucuses? The lead changed so many times that emergency rooms across Iowa saw a drastic increase in whiplash cases.

Ok, I made that last part up. But seriously, remember one-time 2012 front runner Herman Cain? I didn’t think so. How about 2016 flash-in-the-pack leader Ben Carson? Or shoe-in-for-the-nomination Scott Walker? And oh, how I miss Michele Bachmann.

The horde of Democrats running for president this year may or may not experience the same level of volatility, but we’ve already witnessed some surprises. A year ago, how many of us had even heard of …

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What candidates said about health care, reproductive rights at the Hall of Fame

Nineteen presidential candidates had five minutes each to make their case to more than 1,000 activists at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame event in Cedar Rapids on June 9. Most offered at least one really good applause line. Teams of reporters from the Des Moines Register and Iowa Starting Line pulled together some of the memorable parts of each speech here and here.

I decided to focus on how the candidates spoke about health care and women’s ability to access abortion for a couple of reasons. First, while the candidates highlighted a wide range of problems and proposals, almost all of them addressed those topics in some way.

Second, this post represents my gesture toward what media critic Jay Rosen has called the “citizens agenda” approach to covering campaigns. Although I lack survey data to know for sure what Iowa Democrats want the presidential contenders to be talking about, I believe health care and reproductive rights are among the most salient for caucus-goers, because:

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Steve Bullock's testing these messages among Iowa Democrats

Although Montana Governor Steve Bullock has not yet declared plans to run for president, a group supporting his ambitions has been polling Iowa Democrats to test positive messages about Bullock and several other declared or likely contenders.

I’ve long encouraged readers to record or take notes on political surveys. This post draws on a recording an Iowan provided after receiving the call on the evening of March 7. (Bleeding Heartland never provides identifying information about respondents; I’m only interested in the questions asked.)

The latest Selzer poll for the Des Moines Register, CNN, and Mediacom found Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders well ahead of the rest of the Democratic field in Iowa, with 27 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Bullock was among several candidates at 1 percent. Later today, Bleeding Heartland will publish analysis by Dan Guild, taking a historical view of polling this far out from the Iowa caucuses.

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