© michal czerwonka, via the website The Stumping Grounds
On our way back from Kansas City, Marilu and I stopped in the small Iowa town of Nevada to catch a campaign appearance by Barack Obama. In the week leading up to the caucuses, this was a classic candidate event - held in an elementary school cafeteria and filled with down jacket-clad locals, energetic volunteers, and earpiece-toting secret service men.
I have a soft spot for Iowa during election years. Back in 1988, I was a college student in Des Moines, and spent much of that year photographing candidates rather than attending class. On any given day, for months leading up to the caucuses, you could photograph candidates in living rooms and church halls, and rub elbows with photographers like Steve Liss and Ken Jarecke. This was before I had my first newspaper internship, and I learned a great deal from Dennis Garrels, the local UPI staff photographer. Dennis was kind and patient, and at the time there was a great underdog aspect (to say the least) about stringing for UPI. It was an inspiring time for me, setting in stone the idea that I wanted to make pictures for a living.
The woman seated next to me at the Obama event was serious and thoughtful about the candidates - she had seen all the Democrats in person, and was still undecided. Don't get me started on how flawed our electoral college process is, but I'll say this: If the rest of the country was as knowledgeable about presidential politics as Iowans are, we'd all be better off.