They’re filling the gas tank back up in John Delaney’s big blue RV for a final blitz across Iowa in the last month leading up to the caucus. Delaney and his team will embark upon a 40-stop tour in January, focusing their time in many tiny towns in rural counties as he fights to hit viability and grab some surprise delegates on caucus night.
Beginning in Montezuma and ending in Tripoli, Iowa, the trip features many of Iowa’s uniquely-named towns, including What Cheer, Matlock, Defiance and Dana. Some legs sound more like an international visit, with visits to Lebanon, Iowa and Gaza, Iowa.
However, there’s a strategy beyond the novelty of the schedule names.
On the messaging front, Delaney is calling this his “Send A Message Tour,” aimed at encouraging Iowans to upend the national expectations for the primary and reward the candidate who has spent the most time in the state. Delaney himself completed a 99-county tour of Iowa in 2018, before most of his opponents had even entered the race.
He’s also spent a significant amount of time talking about rural issues during his presidential campaign.
“I’m asking Iowa voters to send a message that Rural America and Main Street America still matter and that my unique ideas about how to create economic opportunity for everyone – no matter where you live – has to be part of the Democratic platform,” Delaney said in a press statement.
And while other 2020 Democrats have been visiting smaller towns in recent weeks, Delaney’s trips to places like Deep River (population: 279) and Bronson (population: 322) takes that to another level, likely making him the only candidate to visit certain locations for the entire cycle. That should at least help him in drawing a crowd at a time when other contenders who have long been off the debate stage have struggled to do so anymore.
It’s also similar to what J.D. Scholten has done this year in his “Don’t Forget About Us” tours, where he visits towns of less than 1,000 people in all 39 counties in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.
The other angle here for Delaney is a numbers game.
Given that he’s been polling at 0% or 1% in the few recent polls of Iowa, it’s obviously a big challenge to generate some kind of last-minute surge and surprise. But a hyper-targeted approach in the Iowa Caucus can still win you some delegates and finish with more on caucus night than what might be expected.
In many of the towns he’s visiting, the rural precincts they’re in have few registered Democrats and typically sparse turnout in the caucus. Getting just five to 15 supporters can get you to viability in a small precinct, which ensures you get county-level delegates. Stringing together enough county-level delegates from small precincts to have an impact on caucus night’s state delegate equivalent (SDEs) totals can be tough, but it’s much easier than achieving viability in a place like Ankeny, where you’d need well over a hundred supporters in a precinct.
To recruit those extra caucus-goers, Delaney and his team will also be door-knocking in several of these small communities, including in Gaza, Lebanon, What Cheer, Deep River, Dana, Panora, Okoboji, Storm Lake and Melrose.
Also a part of this trip will be Delaney speaking at local Democratic county party events, like ones in Albia, Dubuque, Ankeny, Ames and Davenport. Delaney’s campaign has highlighted how he’s continued to keynote at local party fundraisers while his opponents do mostly solo-events, though it’s obviously helpful to Delaney have those built-in crowds.
Finally, Delaney will make a statement of his own in a trip to Defiance, Iowa, to highlight his defiance to stay in the race even after he hasn’t seen the debate stage in months or any positive polling numbers of late.
At this point in the race, with just over a month to go until the caucus, it’s unlikely we see any more candidate drop-outs. It seems most candidates figure that if they still have the money to stay in the race through February 3 (a few have cut back significantly on staff/infrastructure), they may as well stick around in the hopes of some sort of shake-up in the race. Fifteen Democrats remain, including some, like Delaney, Michael Bennet, Julian Castro and Marianne Williamson, who seem to have long odds of ever polling above 1% again in Iowa.
Delaney, however, hopes Iowans will still find a way to change that narrative. If not, it seems his other focus at this point is to make enough noise to impact the broader party platform.
“By coming out to these events and supporting my candidacy, Iowans will also be sending a clear message that the Democratic Party has to fight for Rural America and forgotten small towns,” he said.
Here’s the full schedule:
1pm – Montezuma
Just a Small Town Grill
323 E Main St, Montezuma, IA 50171
2pm – Deep River (door-knocking)
3:30p – What Cheer (door-knocking)
5pm – Brooklyn
The Classic Deli
120 Jackson, Brooklyn, Iowa 52211
1p – Bronson (door-knocking)
3p – Matlock (door-knocking)
5p – Doon, Iowa
Burn’s Grill & Doon Steakhouse
222 Main St, Doon, IA 51235
11a – Horizon Family Restaurant
1220 Tri View Avenue, Sioux City, IA 51103
1p – Lebanon (door-knocking)
3p – Gaza (door-knocking)
5p – Sheldon
Old 60 Steaks & Chops
1113 2nd Ave, Sheldon, IA 51201
1030a – Dry Dock Restaurant
N 333, US-71, Arnolds Park, IA 51331
2p – Mason City
Crisis Intervention Service
Meeting with Board Members
206 Third NE.
Mason City, Iowa 50402
5p – ROOSTERS Bar & Grill – Boone
702 Allen St, Boone, IA 50036
7p – FAITH, POLITICS in DSM
Franklin Junior High, DSM
4801 Franklin Ave, Des Moines, IA
3p – Davenport – PEOPLE’S CAUCUS
North High School, 626 W. 53rd Street, Davenport, IA
6p – Muscatine
Muscatine Family Restaurant
1903 Park Ave, Muscatine, IA 52761
4p – Griswold (door-knocking)
‘Middle of Nowhere’ Restaurant
112 S Main St, Cumberland, IA 50843
12p – Humeston – Grassroots Gallery Gift & Cafe
121 Broad St, Humeston, IA 50123
2p – Liberty (door-knocking)
5p – Osceola
Iron Horse Grill, 123 S Main St, Osceola, IA 50213
11a – Des Moines
SEIU home care members
2p – Carroll – Napoli
1205 US-30 Suite A, Carroll, IA 51401
7p – ANKENY DEMS WINTER EVENT
Social: 6 pm
Dinner: 7 pm
FFA Enrichment Center
1055 SW Prairie Trail Parkway
Ankeny, Iowa 50023
12p – Dubuque INDIVISIBLE WOMEN’S MARCH
Steeple Square in downtown Dubuque
3p – Tama
Ross Street Roasting Co.
202 Harmon, Tama, IA 52339
6p – Ames STORY COUNTY DEMS FUNDRAISER
Iowa State Univ
Collegiate United Methodist Church
2622 Lincoln Way, Ames, IA
2p – Washington
112 N Iowa Ave, Washington, IA 52353
4p – Georgetown/ Albia – DOORS
7p – Albia – MONROE COUNTY SPAGHETTI FUNDRAISER
First Christian Church Albia
203 Washington Ave E, Albia, Iowa 52531
1:55PM – 2:20PM – BROWN & BLACK FORUM DSM
Iowa Events Center
730 3rd St, Des Moines, IA 50309
12p – Fort Dodge
280 N 1st St, Fort Dodge, IA 50501
2p – Dana (door-knocking)
3p – Jefferson (door-knocking)
5p – Panora
124 W Main St, Panora, IA 50216
11a – Elkader
Treats On Bridge
110 W Bridge St, Elkader, IA 52043
1p – West Union
Gus & Tony’s Town House Cafe
149-101 E Plum St, West Union, IA 52175
Luther College Poli Sci
700 College Dr, Decorah, IA 52101
5p – Old Armory BBQ
421 W Water St, Decorah, IA 52101
12p – Cedar Falls
Mulligan’s Brick Oven Grill & Pub
205 E 18th St, Cedar Falls, IA 50613
4p – Tripoli – Official End of Tour
502 7th Ave SW, Tripoli, IA 50676
7p – Waterloo – Team Dinner at Galleria De Paco
622 Commercial St, Waterloo, IA 50701
by Pat Rynard