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Notre Dame students travel to Iowa for 3-day trip through Pete for America campaign

| Tuesday, February 4, 2020

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA — Pete Buttigieg took the stage in front of a roaring crowd.  

More than 600 women, men, children and voters cheered rambunctiously as the presidential hopeful launched into one of his last pleas for Iowan Democrats. As he spoke, a group of Notre Dame students huddled together, waving vibrant “Pete 2020” signs and clamoring for a closer look at one of Buttigieg’s last rallies before the Iowa caucuses.

“The energy is crazy,” sophomore Hayleigh Rockenback said. “Everyone’s just so happy.”

Kelli Smith | The Observer
A student hugs Pete Buttigieg after his rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Saturday.

The rally took place in Cedar Rapids on Saturday and was one of Buttigieg’s “Get Out The Caucus” events in Iowa. A presidential candidate vying for the momentous Iowan vote, Buttigieg made his last pitch to those in the area in hopes of earning their support before Monday’s caucuses.

The night before the rally, 11 Notre Dame students traveled from South Bend to Cedar Rapids through a trip funded by the Pete for America campaign. The self-organized group hoped to impact the political process, sophomore Matheo Vidal said. Buttigieg’s position as former mayor of South Bend made that possible.

“We’ve been really lucky to have a presidential campaign in our backyards,” Vidal said.

Iowa was the first state to participate in the 2020 election season and has been the stomping ground for most presidential hopefuls in recent months. Democratic candidates had the chance to earn 41 delegates of the 1,991 needed to win the party’s nomination.

Students who participated in the trip took part in a range of political events in Iowa until Monday evening, including Saturday’s rally and canvassing across Cedar Rapids on Sunday.

Kelli Smith | The Observer
A group of 11 Notre Dame students attended one of Pete Buttigieg’s last rallies on Saturday before the Iowa Caucuses.

“It [was] really exciting to be in Iowa and feel the democratic spirit,” sophomore Emma Dudrick said.

Though they met Iowans with ideologies across the political spectrum, most residents remained civil and respectful as students canvassed door-to-door, Rockenback said.

“We were real-life people there to answer questions, which I think just makes such a big impact, more so than like reading it online or watching the news,” she said.

As a New York native, Dudrick said she was initially upset since her home state is “so important electorally” yet receives little attention compared to Iowa. After being in Cedar Rapids, however, she says her viewpoint changed.

“Being here, the people here are so involved and they care so much,” Dudrick said. “I thought the caucus was kind of a weird thing, but it’s so amazing [how] the people here are so involved [and] I think it’s because of where they are.”

After hearing about how most Iowans tend to attend rallies for each candidate ahead of the caucuses, Rockenback realized how immersed Iowans are in the election.

“I didn’t even realize it was such a big deal until I got here,” Rockenback said. “People take it very seriously.”

Kelli Smith | The Observer
Sophomores Hayleigh Rockenback and Emma Dudrick look at their list of Iowan houses they planned to visit on Sunday to canvass for Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend mayor.

Coming from Notre Dame, Dudrick asserted the “unique” political landscape on campus made her more considerate of issues prominent in the 2020 election cycle since she’s met people with both similar and opposing views on campus.

“It’s just so interesting that we don’t go to a very, very liberal school, so we get to have those conversations with people,” she said.

Rockenback said participating in the political process on the ground in Iowa made her aware of the tangible impact she could have on the election, no matter the caucus results.

“I feel like I’m making a real impact,” she said.

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About Kelli Smith

Kelli Smith is a senior at the University of Notre Dame. Originally from El Paso, Texas, she served as Editor-in-Chief at The Observer for the 2019-20 term. She is pursuing majors in political science and television with a minor in journalism. // Twitter: @KelliSmithNews

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