In February, Dr. Helen Sterk was given the opportunity to attend the historic Iowa Caucus with her good friend and highly regarded pollster, Dr. J. Ann Selzer. Dr. Selzer received national attention in 2008 when she accurately predicted that an increase in first-time caucus goers would drive President Barack Obama to a victory. After her accurate prediction, Bloomberg News hired her as their head pollster.
While attending the Iowa Caucus, Dr. Sterk experienced many behind the scenes moments with the media personalities who interviewed Selzer, including ones Fox News and MSNBC and well-known public figures. Dr. Sterk got a glimpse from behind the camera of shows like “On the Record” with Greta Van Susteren and “Morning Joe” with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. She was also able to come into close proximity with journalism celebrities Tom Brokaw and “Hardball” host, Chris Matthews.
Bloomberg News set up a temporary news set in the Des Moines Marriott that could have been mistaken for their real set. Dr. Sterk went on to explain that, “to the media, Iowa Caucus is like the intense eye of a hurricane and then they all leave.”
As for the caucus process, according to Dr. Selzer, Republicans are easy because their votes are written on pieces of paper and counted. However, the Democratic Party has a bit of a more complex process. Voters will stand on certain sides of the room, which represent who they want to vote for. Then, the total number of people in each corner will be counted. These rooms can have up to 500 or more people at a time. Then, if a candidate has too few supporters, designated persuaders from each opposing party will go to the other corner and try to persuade them to join their favored candidate’s corner.
Drs. Sterk and Selzer became friends while sharing an office in graduate school at the University of Iowa and they’ve held a lifelong connection. Dr. Sterk emphasized that students and alumni should make the most of the relationships they form at WKU. Even though life pulls people in different directions, the foundational experiences and friendships live on.