My 2012 Iowa Caucus Experience — Part II


…Continued from Part I.

At first I thought it was a no-brainer to just read the speech provided by the campaign. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to write my own speech. Yes, I did a lot of copying and pasting from material Newt’s campaign sent out, from what Steve Deace (conservative radio show host) and others said, and also a few points of emphasis from Bill (my Constitution-proponent husband).

I combined all of that with my gut.

Late Tuesday after the caucus, a friend emailed asking me which candidate got my vote. I replied saying I had voted for Newt. I also said, “I can’t regurgitate what he says or defend very eloquently my defense* of him if someone pounds me for details, but I know that every time I hear him speak, I have absolutely no doubt that he is absolutely remarkable for our country.”

Monday and Tuesday were pretty much t-shirt-and-sweatpants days as I developed my speech. The morning of the caucus, on the news I heard that speakers would have about three-to-five minutes to speak. My speech was 3 minutes 45 seconds. I practiced it maybe fifteen times, speaking loudly, giving lots of eye contact to the walls of various rooms in our home, and giving it in different brightnesses of lighting so that I would, hopefully, be prepared for whatever kind of setting I might be in when reading aloud at the caucus.

In hindsight, I’m so thankful for my 1970s high school art-teacher-speech-coach Carla Jones. Even though Betty Knoll was the official speech sponsor, Mrs. Jones was the teacher who offered constructive criticism, during her art classes, to my readings of interpretive prose in the weeks prior to speech contests.

Back to Tuesday night. I was nervous. Approximately 241 Republicans and a few Democrats showed up at the caucus in Perry. (This included four precincts that met together for the candidate preference vote.) About 10 minutes into the caucus, those who wanted to speak were invited to stand in line in the front of the room and wait our turn. Up we went. Then we were told that we’d have two minutes to speak.

Uh-oh. Two minutes meant I needed to cut out quite a bit of my speech. What to cut out? Everything in my speech was important. It had already been cut way back from my original draft. I’d already cut out some points that I thought were next-to-vital.

I was in the middle of the pack of speakers. I imagine there were about 15 speakers. There was one pro-Gingrich speaker before me, and two after me. The one before me touched on some of Gingrich’s successes as Speaker of the House. So, I pretty much omitted those aspects from my speech. I read a bit from my speech, and ad-libbed the rest. One of the things I ad-libbed about was the following. A gentleman from the Texas Railroad Commission was in line before me. He said he represented Rick Perry and told the crowd that, sure, Rick Perry doesn’t have the greatest debating skills. He went on to say that Barack Obama does have good debating skills, but that they haven’t gotten him anywhere in the White House, and therefore strong debating skills in a candidate/future President aren’t important. (Remember, this was the Rick Perry supporter talking.)

In response, when it was my turn, I said about half of what I originally intended to say. In addition, I kind of repeated what the Texas guy said (in the previous paragraph). Then I said we can say all we want that debating skills aren’t important, but that the eventual GOP nominee has to be able to debate successfully in order to get TO the White House. (I.e., since the GOP doesn’t currently have anyone in the White House, we don’t really have the luxury to say that debating skills, once in the White House, make no difference.)

Anyway, I was kind of proud of myself for thinking on my toes on that aspect. And, I was proud of myself for sifting through my speech WHILE I was speaking to determine what I should include, leave out, and paraphrase. That is so unlike me.

Out of the approximately 240 people in attendance, Rick Santorum came out a strong-finishing first. Then Ron Paul. Then Mitt Romney a third with Gingrich close behind at 4th. Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann received few votes.

I knew the negative ads had likely hurt Newt’s campaign quite a bit, although I was hoping people would respond to substance. Anyway, while I was hoping that Newt would fare better, fourth was better than fifth or sixth. (When I got to the caucus, the Ron Paul people were so seemingly obvious with their t-shirts, talking with people while carrying tablets and forms around, etc., that I thought maybe Ron Paul might walk away with first place.)

This photo was taken in Des Moines at about 10:00 PM, January 3, the night of the caucus. I'm (Louise) pictured with Newt and Callista in the background while Newt is giving his serious and positive post-caucus speech. (Cllick on photo to enlarge.)

Before we went to the caucus, Bill and I said that immediately after the caucus we’d decide if we wanted to go to Des Moines for Newt’s caucus party.

After the caucus, a friend of mine from Ankeny called to compare notes about her caucus and the one I attended. I told her that Bill and I were thinking about going to Newt’s party in Des Moines and would she pretty-please meet us there (even though she had voted for another candidate…although she wasn’t necessarily 100% sold on who she voted for).

Meet in Des Moines we did and we had a ball brushing shoulders with other Newt enthusiasts. The wife of a higher-in-the-food-chain supporter of Newt was able to get Newt to autograph a copy of my speech. I was thrilled, but not as thrilled as I was to once again listen to Newt talk with fire in his belly about the future of our country as tied to the Constitution, and sharing that moment with Bill and my Ankeny friend.

Newt, Callista and their crew needed to leave the building soon to (at ~11:55 PM, I later learned) fly out of Des Moines on their way to campaign in New Hampshire for that state’s primary in just a week. Sigh. I figure I’ll either never get to come close to meeting Newt again if he becomes President, or else maybe I will have a chance if he doesn’t make it that far and I get to meet him at another of his book signings.

For those of you who have yet to see Newt on the campaign trail in your state, if you have a chance, please go listen to him speak, if only for what he has to offer of historical value. What he has to offer is fascinating. Also, he seems as genuine to me as they come. He’s a little bit like me. I say it how it is and it sometimes gets me in trouble. Also, I don’t come across very “nice” when I’m backed into a corner and have to defend myself. I don’t like the trouble into which either scenario gets me, but I do like that I’m true to myself and that I don’t wimp out. I think when people do the contrary, progress can be inhibited.

Ok, so, yesterday Bill and I were wondering if pretty much everyone at the Perry caucus (and likely other places) had their minds made up before they entered the caucus.

Today I was at the local Subway. There I saw a recently-retired well-respected community-minded gentleman whom I knew had attended the caucus. He is someone with whom I have never really brushed shoulders. I think I’ve even been a little intimidated around him because I figured he was Mr. Community and in comparison I felt timid. This example shows how wrong perceptions can be. This gentleman went out of his way today to say to me about my speech, “You did a REALLY NICE JOB with your speech the other night.” Then he paused and more quietly said, “Your speech made me change my vote.”

:  )


* * * * * * * *

If you’d like for me to send to you a digital copy of my speech, autographed on caucus night by Speaker Gingrich, you may email me and request a copy.

*I intentionally said “defend” and “defense” in the same sentence.

Click here to go to the home page of Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.


6 Responses to “My 2012 Iowa Caucus Experience — Part II”

  1. Clara Hoover Says:

    What fun! I can just see you practicing at home. The caucus and the party afterward are things you’ll remember for a long, long time. And then to have this well-respected person (totally unsolicited and after the fact) compliment you on your speech and tell you it had changed his mind, well that’s just frosting on the cake!

    Way to go!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Clara Hoover Says:

    For anyone who wants to read another local perspective on the caucuses, go to Chuck Offenburger’s site:

    I really enjoy the articles Chuck and Carla write about so many interesting local and sometimes state-wide and national happenings.

  3. Louise Gunderson Shimon Says:

    Clara: Wow, and I was concerned that I might have said too much in my blog post. Maybe Chuck should say what he ***really*** thinks! : ) I don’t look at Chuck’s and Carla’s postings all that often, but when I do, they are always interesting reads. I’m so glad that health-wise they are both doing well. Their candidness and positive attitudes are an inspiration to me.

  4. Marti Gunderson Carlson Says:

    Louise, great photo. I’m so impressed with your active participation in the political process. Everyone should be such a responsible participant.

  5. mona Says:

    Okay that’s just way cool that you got your speech signed. But even more so that your speech made “on the fly” as it were, an impact on the audience and actually changed a vote. So very nicely done Louise. I’m terribly proud to call you friend. 🙂

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