Dateline Iowa

December 28, 2011

By Joshua Lott

Before leaving my apartment in Phoenix, Arizona and driving 1,500 miles with two other photographers to Des Moines, Iowa to cover the Iowa Caucus, thoughts of frigid temperatures, scraping frost off my windshield and driving along snow covered roads were foreseeable. That is exactly what happened when I covered the caucus for Reuters in 2007. Since arriving in the Hawkeye state on December 18th, Mother Nature has kept Old Man Winter to the north and the weather on the mild side; the low 40s.

I am right back where I was four years ago minus the snow, cold and Democrats; chasing Republican presidential candidates on the stump through the corn fields and dirt roads of Iowa. Before Christmas I spent most of my time in the eastern part of the state following Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Newt Gringrich.

Paul held one of his events at a banquet hall filled with followers in Fort Madison, Iowa.

Perry spoke to a room full of supporters at a restaurant/bar during a campaign stop in Ottumwa, Iowa.

Bachmann sipped her coffee as she signed autographs at a coffee shop in Newton, Iowa and Gingrich received the attention of dozens of people standing before him at a security company in Davenport, Iowa.

The day after Christmas I trailed candidate Rick Santorum as he sported a bright neon orange hooded jacket and matching hat, keeping his finger close to the trigger of his shotgun as he hunted for pheasants in a field with other hunters in Adel, Iowa.

Covering the candidates leading up to the caucus involves driving several hundred miles unless your are lucky enough to be embedded with a candidate on the journalist bus. I started off in Johnston, Iowa, a suburb just north of Des Moines where I will be based during my second visit to the caucus. Once given an assignment to follow a candidate, I normally leave the night before or the day of the event depending on the location. Travel time can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours and candidates sometimes work the campaign trail from sunrise to sunset.

What I find interesting about covering the Iowa caucus as I travel from town to town is seeing the residents who attend these events that live here in middle America. It seems every four years when the Iowa Caucus rolls through Iowa, the people are excited about meeting the candidates and interested in hearing what they will bring to the surface. Like the World Cup or Olympic games, The Iowa Caucus repeats itself every four years. It’s history in the making.

The look of intensity on the faces of Iowans as candidates try and persuade them as to why they would be the perfect fit for the White House in 2012 is priceless. After the candidates finish their stump speech, supporters normally surround him/her wanting to shake hands or engage in a conversation. At every event I try and create images that show compelling moments of the presidential hopefuls and their supporters that readers can relate to.

As the caucus moves closer to its scheduled date of January 3rd, more and more Iowans will stand shoulder to shoulder and sit side by side attending events during the final days seeking out the best candidate they feel confident in to hold the seat of the White House. Campaign volunteers will arrive from different parts of the country helping their candidate of choice by phone banking, registering voters and canvasing Iowa neighborhoods. During the final days, I will have brushed shoulders with hundreds of Iowans, campaign volunteers, candidates and journalists during my two weeks of coverage. Once its all over, the wait is on for another for more years. Hopefully I will be back for a third round.

One comment

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Mr. Lott,

Thank you for the honest coverage account from the people’s point of view. It’s refreshing to see faces (both of the candidates and their supporters) outside of the spic-and-span podium with shining lights and make-up.

I enjoyed the hunting photos and the closeup of Bachmann and little Miss Thayer. Amusing and slightly creepy at the same time. Your photos never fail to be interesting and thought provoking.

Thank you for your continued work.

For others reading this post, I highly recommend the Tumblr photo blog that Mr. Lott and other campaign trail photographers contribute to. It includes more stories behind their work and an up-close view of the human side of the candidates. I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

All the best.

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