I remember the weird quiet of downtown Davenport as I walked home from work on the night of the caucuses. The count was so close, we still didn’t know who won – Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton – but Iowa had chosen Ted Cruz.
You could feel it in the streets – the exhale and the exodus. As soon as the numbers were in, it was wheels up for the campaigns that had been door knocking, corner preaching and Pizza Ranch hand-shaking for months. They were gone. Campaigns and candidates packed up, checked out and headed for New Hampshire.
For the next couple of weeks, I debated. Should I send people to cover the conventions? Will it be interesting enough? I laugh now at my hesitancy to apply for credentials.
This week’s Republican National Convention has the potential to be one of the most interesting and politically important in my lifetime. And we’ll be there.
All week, you’ll get updates all day and late into the night from political reporter Ed Tibbetts and Editorial Page Editor Jon Alexander. (Visit qctimes.com, Muscatinejournal.com, follow them on Twitter @edtibbetts and @jonalexander. Or pick up the print editions of the Quad-City Times and the Muscatine Journal for our coverage and commentary). The following week, we’ll have Des Moines bureau reporter Erin Murphy sending constant coverage from Philadelphia.
I’m glad we made the call to go. Almost more than the drama around the nominees, I’m interested to watch both parties try to repair themselves. Both parties seem to be entering their conventions in tatters, torn apart by their own primary process. I’ll be interested to see how they define themselves and who drives the debate – the past, the present or the future.
I’ll also enjoy watching it from Iowa. Iowa takes its place in the process seriously, and it makes for a political discussion that’s less isolated, more varied and, frankly, more moderate than many places I’ve lived. I loved how people showed up to caucus campaign events whether they liked the candidate or not – just to be informed, to see and hear for themselves.
I love that we will all be watching this week from a place of knowing. Everyone I’ve met here has a presidential candidate story, a personal detail or conversation. Don’t get Bill Wundram started, or any restaurant owner, for that matter.
That place of political knowing that comes from living here also makes it hard to watch the countless movies and TV shows that try to depict the Iowa caucuses. I find myself correcting directors and actors as I watch. No. It’s not a primary. No. Corn would not be growing as they released results. No. No. No. And, even as a new resident, I’m already defensive when people ask why Iowa should get to be first.
It looks like our six electoral votes are going to be in play again this general election. Polls coming out of Iowa have Trump and Clinton separated by just two points. The starting gun goes off next week.
It’s going to be a fight and, honestly, I have no idea who is going to win. I have no idea what’s going to happen to the parties the next two weeks -- what they’ll admit, what they’ll decide. I can’t wait to read our own coverage.
Here’s what to expect from us: The action starts Monday morning. You’ll see headlines and short stories coming from Tibbetts and Alexander by mid-morning that day. Alexander will be providing commentary on what he sees and hears and you’ll get a daily column from him on the Opinion page in print. If you go to sleep early, you’ll also wake up to a column from him online at qctimes.com and muscatinejournal.com about the previous night’s speech.
Ed Tibbetts, who has been covering politics from here since the mid-'90s, will share news about the Iowa delegation to the convention as well as happenings on the floor.
We’ll be covering it with an eye to learn what you want to learn – to prepare the voters of our swing state, to keep a watchful eye on our delegates, to try to sort through and understand this unique moment in political history.