Oh, Iowa, what a long, strange trip it’s been.
Remember August? That was the unofficial beginning of the journey to the caucuses, marked by Michele Bachmann’s victory at the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames.
The unofficial end of the campaign? Perhaps it was when Edith and Carolyn, two precious caucus volunteers out in Clinton County, provided CNN with the final Caucus tally after waking up their friend, another volunteer, to find out how many votes she had counted for each candidate. (If you weren't awake to hear them, you really ought to click here. Honestly.)
The day after the caucuses, though, seems more like the real unofficial end. For the candidates, it’s the time for getting out of Iowa and into New Hampshire and South Carolina or, in Bachmann’s case, time to get out all together.
Here’s what we saw today at the headquarters of the candidates:
At Mitt Romney’s headquarters in Des Moines, a single volunteer was on hand, locked out of the offices because he had given his keys to somebody, who had given them to somebody else, who put them who knows where?
Peering into the office through the windows, one could see the remnants of a long night: What looked to be an empty Dr. Pepper can, empty two-liter bottles of Coke, toppled Styrofoam coffee cups, and abandoned computers plugged into nothing sitting atop tables, one of them with a telephone script for volunteers, “Hi. This is _____ and I’m actually a volunteer with Mitt Romney’s campaign team...”
In the parking lot, Chris Hill, a Romney supporter from Ankeny, pulled up to the locked doors in search of campaign signs.
“I have mine,” she said. "My children haven’t put theirs up, so I’m getting a couple.”
— Todd Richissin
As Rick Perry heads back to Texas to reassess his presidential bid, it appears the campaign staff at the Perry for President headquarters in West Des Moines is clearing space.
One worker seemed to be packing up a desk phone from the sparse office Wednesday. A poster was folded on a side table.
The campaign staff was not talking to the media today.
The parking lot of the office was sparsely populated, a few of the remaining cars sporting Perry for President stickers.
— Ashlee Kieler
Across the street from each other in a large Urbandale office complex, the moods at the Gingrich and Santorum campaign headquarters were greatly different.
At Newt 2012, an Iowa lobbyist and Gingrich volunteer, Craig Schoenfeld, has set up the campaign office a little over a month ago, dealing with a fickle furnace and a gas leak. Now he was cleaning up and shutting it down. The office that had been bustling with activity and excitement Tuesday was empty at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, but for Schoenfeld and a couple other staffers who were clearing it out.
Gone were Judy Reynolds, the 64-year-old former teacher who functioned as the friendly receptionist and volunteer coordinator for the office. Reynolds, a chaperone at a private high school academy in Indiana, had taken a couple weeks vacation to bridge her school’s Thanksgiving break and Christmas break so she could spend nearly six weeks volunteering in Iowa.
A former worker for Richard Nixon’s Campaign to Re-Elect the President in her youth, Reynolds wanted to be a part of a Gingrich victory at the famed Iowa caucuses and worked 12 hours a day to help make that happen. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to see that.
Neither did the Kamish family: Mike, Mary and their 13-year-old daughter, Grace. Minneapolis friends of the Gingrichs who spent their New Year’s holiday weekend on the campaign’s phone banks, the family was on their way home.
As he cleaned, Schoenfeld, listened to politicos on talk radio postulate that Gingrich appeared angry in his speech Tuesday night. He was a bit cranky as he dumped papers and abandoned coffee cups into a large garbage can.
— Anne Carothers-Kay
Across the street, Rick Santorum’s staff began to gather for a 10 a.m. meeting. Iowa campaign chairman Cody Brown, who’d been sleeping on an air mattress in his office the past few days, arrived after a few hours sleep to congratulations from a German television film crew.
Brown said he’s not sure what he’s going to do next, other than sleep and then take about a week’s vacation somewhere warm.
As for the five paid Iowa Santorum staffers and two consultants, they would be meeting in a few minutes to talk about who would be sent to other states to help the Santorum campaign. Brown said he gave some permission to phone into the meeting. Most hadn’t gotten to sleep before 3 a.m.
Brown, who designed Santorum’s Iowa strategy of retail politics with more than 380 appearances in the state, allowed himself a little pleasure at its success.
“There is really nothing like this campaign,” he said. The campaign’s turnout projections were “spot on” and “we always believed Iowans would reward (Santorum’s) hard work. The question was: by how much?”
Brown said staff and volunteers worked hard to get an Iowa victory for their candidate, but “Rick Santorum earned it.”
— Anne Carothers-Kay
Teeming with activity just 24 hours before, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's Iowa campaign headquarters in an Urbandale strip mall was desolate and mostly empty Wednesday morning, save a tired Iowa campaign manager, Eric Woolson.
Woolson was cleaning up his office while he waited for an assist from state Sen. Brad Zaun, Bachmann's Iowa campaign chairman — the one who didn't defect, unlike state Sen. Kent Sorenson, who ditched the Bachmann campaign a week before the caucuses to back Ron Paul.
Less than an hour before, Bachmann held a news conference suspending her presidential campaign. Woolson was matter-of-fact. By afternoon, he planned to be back at the helm of his own consulting company, The Concept Works, and meeting with corporate clients he put on hold in October when he joined the Bachmann campaign.
A half-eaten plate of Christmas fudge, looking hard and dried out, sat in the middle end of the counter. A red, white and blue bouquet of flowers was wilting on one end. A roll of Bachmann for President stickers that will never be placed on supporters' lapels sat partially unfurled on the other.
Hallways were lined with unopened boxes of campaign brochures promoting Bachmann as a strict constitutionalist. Bachmann for President placards papered the walls from floor to ceiling.
In the war room, dry-erase boards announced plans that have been curtailed. New Hampshire on Jan. 10? No. Bachmann's planning on taking some down time, her national communications director, Alice Stewart, said at the news conference.
If Woolson was surprised by Bachmann's poor showing and subsequent withdrawal, he didn't reveal it.
"You always expect your candidate to do better," he said, "but you are so close to it, you are working so hard and, more importantly, your candidate is working so hard that you expect to do better."
Four years ago, Woolson's deep knowledge of the state and his expertise in retail politicking helped give Mike Huckabee a win in the caucuses. This time around, religious conservatives who supported Huckabee four years ago coalesced around Rick Santorum's candidacy in the final days.
The lights flickered momentarily, a metaphor, perhaps, for a campaign whose light has gone out?
The office had been a place of optimism, with 12 paid staff members and an army of volunteers, including 45 from Oral Roberts University dispatched to Iowa to build up the congresswoman's support when she began fading in the polls.
— Beth Dalbey