With less than 10 months to go before the Iowa caucuses, hundreds of Democrats have descended on the Hawkeye State to organize and energize voters. Only one candidate will finish first on Feb. 3 — and ultimately, there will be only one presidential nominee — but the experience can be invaluable to younger staff and could help the party in future years.
In 2004, Missouri Democrat Richard A. Gephardt was the early favorite as a neighboring congressman who narrowly won the 1988 presidential caucuses. Gephardt finished fourth, but his Iowa team was an impressive compilation of young talent who went on to help Democrats take back the White House, Senate, House and state legislatures around the country.
Fifteen years later, a dozen of them were more than willing to offer some advice to operatives toiling in the early states, particularly Iowa.
John Lapp (Iowa state director, Gephardt 2004)
“Iowa is an amazing, unique, beautiful place. Embrace it. Keep your head down, work hard, and be loyal. Be willing to do anything rather than just the photo-op type detail. In Democratic politics, there is too often a sense of looking for the next big thing — even quitting for another campaign when it seems like your candidate is down and out. You keep your head high, fight until the last dog dies. And I think that is the real secret of the Gephardt Team — we stayed unified through the highs and lows of the campaign. It’s a real bond we forged, even to this day.”
Lapp was subsequently…