Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Trading the lovely sights of the McGill walk to view of rural Iowan towns, Julie Baker ’08 has taken a leave from Swarthmore this fall to become a regional organizer for Democratic Senator Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
Baker, best known on campus last year for her leadership of the Peaslee Debate Society and her membership in the a cappella group “Mixed Company,” began working for Biden last summer. Drawn by the senator’s experience as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committees, Baker began working in the campaign’s Wilmington office. After being approached with a job offer in Iowa by the campaign’s national director, she chose to take a break from Swarthmore to set her sights on the White House.
With two other coworkers, Baker oversees a regional office with the largest amount of Iowan Democratic caucus-goers. From nine in the morning to nine at night, her day will be crammed with events, such as attending rallies to persuade voters to cast their ballot for the senator in the nation’s first caucus in January. Back in the field office, Baker makes phone calls to drum up support for the Senator. In addition to these responsibilities, she drums up support from college and university-goes in Iowa.
Bake notes that this interaction with students is particularly refreshing: ”students generally seem to be happy to see a fellow college kids out here [campaigning].” She maintains that students appreciate the fact that she is working “not for the young trendy candidates, but rather for a veteran of the political scene.”
However, Baker is quick to point out that despite the plethora of Democratic contenders intensely lusting to become the next Commander and Chief, there is a good sense of camaraderie amongst the rival campaigns. Referring to all the Democratic primary workers, Baker maintains that “there’s a very strong sense that we’re all Democrats, and we’re all going to be supportive of whoever wins.”
Even as Senator Biden trails the leading Democratic contenders in fundraising, publicity and polling, Baker is hopeful, noting that Senator Kerry was in a similar position as Biden in this stage of the game. Baker observes the presence of a “strong feeling that he will pick up when people start paying closer attention to the issue” in the campaign.” The Senator has actually doubled his poll numbers since August, giving his campaign staff a healthy sense of optimism.
Perhaps the greatest surprise of the campaign trail for Baker has been the Iowans themselves. Contrary to stereotypes of being small-minded, she has found them to be deeply invested in the primary process. She comments that “people all want us to know how important this election is to them.”
Of course this doesn’t mean the Iowa Caucuses are not without a certain Midwestern flavor. For instance, each presidential aspirant is obligated to attend the famous State Fair, where he or she can shake hands and kiss babies among such sights as the famous life-size Butter Cow.
So just how different is campaign trail from college? Baker complains about “not having enough hours in the day” while working for Biden. Many of her fellow students back in Pennsylvania can surely sympathize.
If anyone has questions about Julie’s work she would more than appreciate your e-mails at firstname.lastname@example.org.