Going on a safari in…Iowa

February 1, 2016

DES MOINES – Mat and Brandy Miller plan a trip for each of their birthdays. He usually prefers music festivals; she often chooses New York City. But the Orange County, California, couple came to Iowa this year ahead of the state’s presidential caucuses as Brandy’s birthday trip.

“Our friend, a professor at the University of Utah, he’s a geek like us and he said ‘I like this whole safari you’re on,’” Mat told me last week.

“We’ve seen a lot of animals,” Brandy added.

Shortly after the two self-described MSNBC junkies landed in Des Moines on a Sunday to begin their bipartisan tour that put 500 miles on their rental car’s odometer by week’s end, a woman in a restaurant overheard their plans and directed them to the “caucus tracker” in the local newspaper.

On Monday, they caught Martin O’Malley in Pella, popped over to see Bernie Sanders in Grinnell and finished the day watching Mike Huckabee play bass at Wooly’s in Des Moines. Tuesday it was Marco Rubio in Oskaloosa. They went to an Adel bowling alley to see Hillary Clinton on Wednesday. On Thursday it was Rand Paul at Drake University and Bill Clinton in Altoona.

“You don’t know what to expect when you get here,” Brandy said.

“It’s surprising how well it worked out, how nice everyone was, it could have just been a week of sitting in our hotel room,” Mat added.

The Millers also learned a little bit about Iowa along the way (Brandy has relatives in the Hawkeye State but had not been in some time.) Mat said that Pella has a “Holland thing” going on.  A couple there who brought pastries to O’Malley also gave them a “primer” on the caucuses.  “For 20 minutes, they talked about how the caucus system works,” he said.

The Millers said as Californians they do not have the same opportunities to see candidates up close like Iowans do – many presidential hopefuls that go through the state are there to raise money in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.

“I think if you don’t have this experience, it’s all ideology,” Brandy said. “This is a whole other level of being able to assess a candidate.”

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