By Carla Nordstrom
Chair, Town of Franklin Democrats

There was no question that Trump would win the Iowa Caucus. He was ahead in the polls, his opposition was weak and feckless, and he dominated the headlines, not in Iowa but in courtrooms where he is fighting 91 felony charges. Something else happened in Iowa that we should pay attention to. The Trump Campaign used an established ground operation approach to get their voters to the caucuses. They developed a neighbor-to-neighbor strategy that Democrats used in Virginia in 2017 to win the state legislature. In Nebraska they call it Block Captain and on my own website we call it Vote Captain.

According to CNN, The Trump campaign has been focused in recent months on recruiting and training around or close to 2,000 volunteer caucus captains across the state — assigning several to the largest voting locations. Each agrees to get commitments from 10 first-time voters in the Iowa caucuses from a list of 25 prospective supporters the campaign has identified in their neighborhoods.

This number of captains may seem daunting, but remember our responsibility for getting out the vote is more doable in Delaware County. While our county may be one of the largest in area in the state, it doesn’t compare with organizing the state of Iowa. A couple of interesting facts to consider; Iowa has approximately 719,000 registered Republicans, Trump walked away from the caucus with 51% of the vote for a total of 56,260 votes. Seems like a lot of effort for a small result, but it was a winning result.

So, how can we use this Trump strategy, which originally came from Democrats, to get positive results in our own elections? The first thing we need to do is get Democratic candidates on the ballot, either for the primary if there are multiple candidates, or on the general election ballot in November. That process starts at the end of February when the petitioning period begins.

Petitioning involves getting local registered Democrats to sign a petition to put a candidate on the ballot. It is a way to start to build a relationship with a voter. In Delaware County there are currently 8,416 registered Democrats. If you commit to getting 10 signatures of Democrats that you can touch base with throughout this election year, we will be well on our way to creating an effective ground game for November.

Iowa is a state where captains needed to be told which voters to approach. The towns of Delaware County are small in population but big in space. If we wait to be told who to approach by a local voting app, we may find ourselves running from pillar to post and knocking on the doors of strangers.

The fun of being involved in politics and election campaigns is talking to friends about issues you care about and candidates you are passionate about.

The Board of Elections can provide lists of registered Democrats for your town. If you go through the list you are bound to find some friends. Bring those friends together, have a party, and identify the people you know and divide up the list. If each person agrees to take on 10 people, you’ll get the petition signatures and begin the work of the 2024 election.

The Democrats may have let Trump to take on the mantle of being the populist candidate. Perhaps we would be better served if we were flattered by his effort to replicate our GOTV approaches and show him that we can do it better.


IMPORTANT EDITOR’S NOTE: We welcome petitioning volunteers, but we caution that petitioning is a very exacting business. If done incorrectly, names collected or entire sheets of names can be disqualified for seemingly minor errors.

If you are interested in helping with petitions, contact us. We’d love to have you! We can provide instructions and training. We can also offer connect you with a petitioning team in your town.

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