By: Madeline Rathle
What most people think when they hear about presidential campaign events is large, obnoxious rallies with a stage, huge signs and supportive chanting. While that has been the case at many Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton events this year, it is far from the truth for many other candidates.
Many of these candidates, such as Governor Chris Christie and Governor Martin O’Malley, have made it their goal to host intimate events in which their supporters can be heard.
On Dec. 31 Governor Christie held a town hall meeting at Mickey’s Irish Pub in Waukee, Iowa. There were around 300 people there, according to Time Magazine, but Christie was able to keep the event casual by sitting in the middle on a stool in the dimly lit room and occasionally walking around the crowd.
Christie was also skilled at making eye contact with everyone and adding humor and relatability to his rhetoric, which allowed the audience to see his personality.
“I want to listen, and I want to learn,” said Christie. If he had hosted a rally on the same scale as some of his opponents, listening and learning would not have been a realistic goal.
Those events turn into a lecture. The candidate gives his speech from a stage and podium above the crowd, and audience participation is not necessarily the main goal.
Christie remembered names, stories and issues, and he clearly took an interest in his supporters.
A few days later on Jan. 2, Governor Martin O’Malley held a town hall meeting at the West Des Moines Public Library. Around 120 people came to hear him speak, according to The Des Moines Register.
O’Malley’s event had an entirely different feel to it. The governor didn’t use a microphone, he wore jeans and no tie and he gave the audience a lot of personal background information.
Among the audience was Sue Cline who was accompanying her friend to the event. Cline is not an O’Malley supporter, and this was her first caucus event.
“Anything that doesn’t require a microphone has a better feel,” said Cline. She felt the event was not oppressive and was glad she was able to sit down and really hear O’Malley up close.
The question then becomes whether this style of campaigning is more effective than the large rallies and huge media events.
It depends on how you analyze it.
On the one hand, the large events have the advantage of making headlines. For example, Donald Trump held a rally Jan. 2 in Biloxi, Mississippi, where over 14,000 people were in attendance, according to WKRG News.
While this shows a tremendous number of people showing their support and getting excited about the candidate, it does not give a good indication of whether or not he will definitely win the Republican nomination.
Trump has slid in the polls recently. Although it is not by much, Ted Cruz is now in the lead, according to the Huffington Post’s latest polls.
Cruz has also been participating in smaller events around Iowa that seem to have made a big impact.
Barb Heki was in attendance at a Mike Huckabee event at a Des Moines Machine Shed on Jan. 3. Heki is a Huckabee supporter and has seen him at other locations.
This event was very much a cross between the Christie event and the O’Malley event. It was smaller than O’Malley’s but was in a location similar to Christie’s.
“There’s energy and excitement here,” said Heki. She feels as though Huckabee has chosen good locations for his campaign, such as Pizza Ranch. “That’s something people will come to whether they’re a family or older or single.”
Heki brings to light a valid point: just because these events are smaller does not mean they are not full of excitement and energy.
These candidates are finding a way to generate a buzz and get people talking without making the event feel impersonal, and that is an accomplishment.
The candidates must learn how to reach the people they need to reach in order to win the caucuses and ultimately their party nominations. Whoever can most effectively get volunteers, voters and caucus goers will be able to put up the best fight, and some of the campaigns, such as Trump’s do not seem to have that.
Much can happen between now and Feb. 1, the date of the Iowa caucus and the first caucus of the 2016 election. For now the candidates will continue making their way through Iowa and a few other states, including New Hampshire in the hopes of gaining more support and name recognition.