We’re getting closer and closer to the Iowa Caucuses, and that means the candidates just keep on coming. In just two days, I was able to meet two of the biggest fish in the pond: Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton.
I’d wanted to meet Senator Cruz for a while, but the only other stop he’d made in Council Bluffs was back on the night we’d planned a goodbye dinner for Pastor Drew and his family, so I’d had to miss it. Then on Monday, Ted Cruz kicked off his “Cruzin to Caucus” bus tour, which included five different meet and greet events and ended in Missouri Valley, which was about half an hour outside of Omaha.
It was a late event starting at 10:45 pm and set at the tiny Penny’s Diner just off the I-29. I arrived early enough to get a good seat, but soon the place was packed with 200+ supporters, reporters, cameramen, swag-sellers, and other oddballs. Once Cruz arrived (ten minutes early — a first for any candidate I’ve seen), I had to stand precariously on top of a cushioned diner seat to a decent picture of him when he arrived. Congressman Steve King introduced him as he poured coffee in a clever photo op. Then Cruz spoke for twenty minutes, covering all his standard talking points on Radical Islamic Terrorism, abolishing the IRS with a flat tax, and rescinding all of Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders.
Once Cruz was done, he immediately started shaking hands and greeting nearly every person in the diner who came to see him. He signed autographs, posed for pictures, and even gave one attendee a hug, something I hadn’t seen any other candidate do. It was a good night, though I was paying for it with sleepy eyes the next morning.
(Flash forward: four years later In a podcast in 2020, Ted Cruz would refer to this event as one of his favorite campaign stops.)
The very next day, I got to see Hillary Rodham Clinton. I’ve been following politics since I was a freshman in high school, and the Clintons have always been at the forefront, so seeing Mrs. Clinton up this close was daunting to say the least. The crowd, though respectable in size, seemed smaller than the one Bernie Sanders drew a few weeks ago. Both had sycophantic hipsters in attendance, but I also recognized a couple people who were regulars at republican events. There was also a notice that said I might get my picture taken for use in Hillary’s campaign ads — so keep an eye out for that.
As for Mrs. Clinton herself, she arrived forty minutes late and then covered most of the same liberal talking points that Bernie Sanders had gone over. One difference was that she didn’t condemn any of the “big banks,” preferring to blame Republicans exclusively for the sub-prime mortgage crisis.
She did spend some time greeting attendees from behind the security barrier after her speech. Anyone who wanted a selfie with her had to let the First Lady personally hold the cell phone camera and take the photo herself. She didn’t do autographs, either. Instead, her staff collected items people wanted signed with “no promises” as to what would happen to them. I had a mission of my own, however — to hand Mrs. Clinton a copy of An Insider’s Look at the War on Women, written by my boss at the Pope Paul VI Institute. I’ve been trying to give a free copy to every other candidate running for president, and I’ve never had a problem before. This time, though, Hillary’s handlers physically pushed the book away when I got within reach.
So for the record, I now have only two candidates left on my list: John Kasich (who I plan to see Sunday) and Jeb Bush. We have about three weeks left until the Caucus. That’s more than enough time, I’m sure.