Republican presidential candidates receive praise at the Iowa caucus

“If you’re still undecided as of now, vote for Vivek — he’s a good guy,” was the single line spoken by a Ramaswamy supporter in Des Moines’ 42nd Precinct Monday night as he appealed to his fellow caucus-goers. While this was not the most long-winded or elaborate appeal seen at this caucus site, anybody is allowed to speak on behalf of a candidate before voting begins. Who shows up to talk at a precinct is unknown to caucus-goers until they arrive on site.

The Iowa caucuses thrive on conversation and grassroots — face-to-face — politics. Thus, campaigns try to send people to speak on behalf of their candidate, called surrogates, to as many precinct locations as possible. In Des Moines’ 42nd precinct, Ramaswamy and DeSantis sent surrogates from their campaign. A voter from the precinct spoke on behalf of Haley, and a first-time caucus-goer added remarks about Ramaswamy. 

The speaker for Ron DeSantis was John F. Davis, the Secretary of the Florida Lottery. Davis highlighted DeSantis’s guiding principles: his faith, love for his family and love for his country. Davis stressed that DeSantis is the only person in the race with a military background, and he used anecdotes to highlight the Governor’s loyalty to Floridians and those in his administration. Davis painted DeSantis as a strong candidate who will not back down from what is right. 

“If he believed that what he’s doing is the right thing and he’s doing it on behalf of the people, then so be it,” Davis said. 

Support for Nikki Haley came from David Hott, a voter in the 42nd precinct who showed up with Haley stickers, brochures and signs, including a yard sign stuck into the snow in the parking lot outside the building. 

“I think she’s the only candidate who can really beat Joe Biden. She will stop the chaos that is going on in our country today,” Hott said. 

He stressed Haley’s record in South Carolina of transparency, minimal spending and being tough on immigration. 

“What I really like about her is she’s an accountant. She knows the numbers — she can see if things add up,” Hott said. “She’s the best person for the job right now. She is a new generation…and I think it’s time for change.”

Ramaswamy had two people speak on his behalf, which is a break from the single speaker that is traditionally seen at caucus sites, but the motion was met with no complaints. The first speaker was a surrogate sent from the campaign. She spoke about how she was scared for her children’s future, and she believed Ramaswamy would protect them. 

“He had a standing ovation — the only candidate,” she said. “And I knew that he was the guy who was gonna give my kids their future back.” 

She also stressed the number of events Ramaswamy put on during his time in Iowa.

“We did 300 town hall stops — more than all other candidates. His knowledge of the Constitution and the law is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” she said. “He will shut down the Department of Education and that 8 billion dollars will go back into the pockets of parents, and they can choose their child’s education.”

The other speaker quickly jumped in and implored undecided voters to give Ramaswamy a chance.

Nobody spoke on behalf of Trump.

Haley and Ramaswamy tied for first with 8 votes each at the 42nd precinct of Des Moines. DeSantis earned 3 votes and Trump had 1 vote. Ultimately, Trump won the Iowa caucus with DeSantis finishing in second and Haley in third. Ramaswamy suspended his campaign Monday night.