Sunday, October 2, 2011

Recap of my weekend with Newt 2012

(I am late with this, as I was hoping to do a recap each night, but after getting back to the hotel after long days, I pretty much crashed.)

This was my second trip to Iowa to travel around with the Gingrich campaign, and you can read my posts about that trip here and here.

This trip started early on Thursday. Since the unveiling of the 21st Century Contract with America was to be at noon, I left Topeka at about 7, and got there in plenty of time.

Soon after I parked and went inside the Principal Financial Group building in downtown Des Moines, Michelle Selesky and Andrew Bell of Newt's campaign walked up the steps. Neither traveled with the campaign the first trip of mine, and so it was nice to meet them after encountering them online some over the last few months.

I also got to meet another person I have been talking with online for a while now: Jeremy Danilson, President of the Drake Law Republicans. Him and his dad attended the event.

Here is the picture I took of the stage before people began walking in:

I helped sign some people in the audience up for e-mail updates as well as passing out some copies of the Contract and a few stickers.

Then it was time for the speech, and here was the view from my seat (taken before the event):

Andrew took this picture during the event:

From the speech, which was terrific, we had a little break for lunch and for me to get to my hotel to check in and drop some stuff off. Then it was off to the Republican Party of Iowa Headquarters, where Newt talked to a group of at least 100 about the Contract and the campaign. Jeremy also attended this event.

RPI picture:

As I wrote in my short recap the other night:
Here I helped pass out copies of the Contract to those entering. I started talking to a couple whose son is returning tonight from Afghanistan. She was obviously proud of her son -- rightfully so, of course -- so that was the main focus, but we did discuss Newt. Her and her husband are both big fans. We had talked before the speech, but afterwards, she came up and made a point of praising Newt's argument about military spending. Newt argued that when the United States slashes spending on our armed forces, we project weakness and invite hostile actions toward us. She was in complete agreement.
Newt then has an interview with Sean Hannity and a tele-townhall to do. While Newt, Andrew, and campaign manager Michael Krull headed off to Fort Dodge for the townhall the following morning, I went back to my hotel.

I drove down in the morning to Fort Dodge, which is north of Des Moines. Andrew took this picture of the event, which started at 8 A.M. on a Friday:

It was a great speech, but the two moments that stand out the most:

When Newt was speaking, an older couple came in and grabbed a couple of chairs that were off to the side and sat near the doorway, a bit behind Newt and to the side. Newt turned and saw them, didn't break stride in his speech, turned back to the rest of the crowd, then stopped and said something like: You two can get a better seat if you would like. Then, smiling and chuckling, he added: "You know, as a former teacher, I get very nervous with students sitting behind me." The crowd loved it.

His other moment was when a man in the audience asked about the challenge of overcoming a media that is largely in the bag for President Obama. His most recent example was the lack of coverage in the mainstream media of the Solyndra scandal. Newt went through his answer and, after mentioning all the problems of the Obama Administration, closed with: "If you're Chris Matthews, it's been a bad year."

Then it was off to the Ames, Iowa, to the campus of Iowa State University for a town hall on technology.

Here is a picture:

An Iowa State College Republican, Caytlin Hentzel, tweeted from the event:
In the campanile room with Newt Gingrich. What a great friday #tgif #newt2012
We then walked to the Virtual Reality Applications Center with Iowa State House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, who endorsed Newt in January and is the chairwoman of his Iowa campaign. The technology they are working at there is simply amazing. I wouldn't know how to start to describe it.

From there, we had lunch -- I had a Reuben sandwich for the second straight day, this time at Hickory Park Restaurant.

Then it was time to drive to Kansas City. The next day, I met Newt's wife, Callista, for the first time as well as Anna Haberlein of Gingrich Productions. And Ellis, the Elephant!

Callista reading the book:

Newt was nice enough to sign two books for me that I brought from home: Winning the Future (picture link) and The Art of Transformation (picture link):

I also snapped a couple of pictures people asked to take with Newt. The last two events of the weekend were Newt's speech to the National Federation of Republican Women Convention and book and DVD signing afterwards. I got some more people signed up for the e-mail list as well as had a few great conversations with the attendees from all over.

I plan on making a few more trips to Iowa before the caucuses -- which could be as soon as the first week of January due to Florida moving their primary up to the last of January. The Newt 2012 Iowa and New Hampshire offices are opening up this month, and so I am sure I will be knocking on plenty of doors and manning the phone banks, getting people to travel into a cold, January Des Moines night for a few hours.

Right before I left, Newt signed for me a copy of Thursday's Des Moines-Resgister, which previwed the 21st Century Contract with America on its' front page:

Here is the full album of pictures.

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