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Location of presidential announcements influences campaign

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | APRIL 02, 2015 5:00 AM

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Flanked by flags, surrounded by family in either in a home state or a political locale.

This is how a candidate announces her or his desire to win the White House.

The latest to practice the quadrennial ritual, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, surrounded himself with mainly evangelical conservatives at Liberty University, one of the largest Christian colleges in the world. As a variety of news reports indicate, a number of other presidential contenders will follow suit in the coming weeks and months.

Selecting a locale, honing a message, and determining a date are just some details that make up the backdrop to the big revelation.

“It’s the starting point, which is to say that [the announcement] is the one instance a candidate can count on get on getting news coverage,” said Chris Arterton, a professor of political management at George Washington University.

The rollout is inherently newsworthy, he said, provided a candidate has at least some national credibility to begin with, he or she can generate headlines for a handful of days.

Politico reported last week that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is weighing whether to announce in Iowa or New Hampshire, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will make a “big announcement” on April 13 in Miami. The Daily Iowan has reported that Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is expected to launch his campaign next week (see page 3A).

Interviews with experts who critique and analyze presidential campaigns illustrate why the presidential moment will occur months before most voters back their favorites, let alone flock to caucuses or ballot boxes — the formal speech offers the perfect opportunity to define a campaign.

“All of these speeches are symbolic,” said Donna Hoffman, an associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa.

Hoffman pointed to a number of previous occurrences that underlined the tone a location can set for a candidate.

Then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., standing of the steps of the state’s old Capitol building, alluding to Abraham Lincoln; then-Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., venturing to New Orleans’ Ninth Ward as the city tried to recover of Hurricane Katrina; or Cruz’s depicting the gospel’s resonance to some of America’s Founding Fathers.

In some cases the governors, senators, and congressional representatives take their location and mold it into the very composition of their campaign.

“I know what it means to be from Iowa — what we value and what’s important. Those are the values that helped make Iowa the breadbasket of the world and those are the values, the best of all of us that we must recapture to secure the promise of the future,” former Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said in front of the Snowden House in Waterloo when she announced her campaign for the Republican nomination in June 2011.

Beyond reaching the large media contingent present at the event, a New Hampshire political expert said the venue can also “clue in” influential activists on what to expect.

“Nobody wants to be involved in a campaign where their candidate will be in another state,” said Andrew Smith, an associate professor of practice in political science at the University of New Hampshire.

In recent years, the Granite State has been among the leading spots for presidential candidates. But should any would-be candidates decide to announce in Iowa, Hoffman said, Iowans would expect more.

“Showing up in Iowa once isn’t going to curry favor with caucus goers,” she said.


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