CPP students and professors visit Iowa to meet Republican Party candidates during caucus

By Damariz Arevalo and Gerardo Sanchez, Feb. 27, 2024

Political Science students and professors, attended the Iowa Caucus from Jan. 2 to Jan. 9 to meet the Republican candidates during the Iowa caucus.  

The class trip involved 13 political science students and two professors traveling to the city of Des Moines, Iowa, where students talked with Republican candidates Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, before heading to a rally hosted by former president Donald Trump.  

A caucus is the political process of state residents meeting in person and discussing their support for a presidential candidate. The results determine the nominee for the presidential election later that year. 

 The Iowa caucus is the Republican Party’s first state contest to determine the nominee for the Nov. 5, presidential election. 

The group were all Democrats and saw in person how the events handled racism towards Hispanics, immigration policies concerning border security and current gun laws.  

During DeSantis’s rally, he promoted his policies, one of which would end the 14th amendment that grants birthright citizenship to immigrants in the United States. If this were to pass, it would threaten programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects adults brought to the United States as children and grants them temporary and renewable protection from deportation, as well as providing work authorization, according to the Claremont Courier. 

The students also participated in campaign work during the trip. The group volunteered to canvass door-to-door with Hutchinson.  

“I think the Asa Hutchinson event was one of the highlights just because it kicked off the trip,” said political science assistant professor Jarred Cuellar. “We were able to see the governor, and it made the students excited that they were some of the few people there.” 

Student David Maqueda recalled his experience during the Hutchinson events. 

A sizeable number of my peers gave Hutchinson a tough challenge when it came to policy,” said political science student David Maqueda. “There was one specific instance where a peer of mine, Yeltzin, had asked Hutchinson a question about undocumented immigrants who already contribute to the economy and whether there would be policies that would allow them to renew their DACA. Hutchinson instead, resorted to dodge the question, talking about how he would pledge to strengthen border security.”  

Students described Trump’s rally as a six-hour event that had supporters lined up to see the former president. Political science student Yeltzin Rodriguez Luna described the event as bizarre. 

“It caught me off-guard how they idolized Donald Trump in his rally,” said Rodriguez Luna. “They prayed for him. That was something I’ve never seen before, and I felt that was interesting to witness just because you wouldn’t think at a political rally you would see people praying and worshiping him like they were.”  

Political Science Department Chair and professor Mario Guerrero recounted his first impression of the event. 

“You wait in line for like two or three hours, a little bit like a concert vibe,” said Guerrero. “They play music, and people are excited.” Guerrero added that they were not upfront about who they were to fit in among supporters, but that attendees were friendly towards the class.  

CPP students at the Asa Hutchinson event | Department of Political Science

Trump won this year’s contest by 51%, with a total of 56,260 votes and gaining 20 delegates out of the 40 available. Both Hutchinson and DeSantis suspended their campaigns shortly after the Iowa caucus, according to the Des Moines Register.  

Des Moines Register reported 110,000 voters participated in the 2024 Iowa caucus, which is under 15% of the state’s 752,000 registered Republicans. This turnout does not rival previous years as 2016 set a record with almost 187,000 voters. 

 Following Trump’s victory, Guerrero noted current legal troubles including impeachment and indictments that may affect the Trump campaign.  

“It felt like a foregone conclusion that Trump would win, but in terms of what will happen, this is just uncharted territory,” said Guerrero. “Strange but consequential times because it’s unclear if a potential conviction will derail his campaign.”  

Cuellar added the Iowa results should not be surprising to voters who are following the presidential candidates. 

“I don’t think there was too much of a question that the race was going to come down to Joe Biden and Donald Trump,” said Cuellar. “All the caucus did was solidify what people were thinking. I think the question is will all the indictments, the E. Jean Carroll lawsuit and impeachment affect who people vote for when push comes to shove. I think we knew he would become the nominee, but this was the solidification that people will vote for him. People don’t care.” 

Feature image courtesy of the Department of Political Science and Cal Poly Pomona.

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