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DU Students Experience Iowa Caucuses First Hand

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Emma Atkinson

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Seth Masket and a group of DU students pose for a group photo during a campaign event at the 2024 Iowa caucuses.

Seth Masket (far right) and a group of DU students pose for a photo during a campaign event at the 2024 Iowa caucuses.

Former President Donald Trump decidedly won the Iowa caucuses last week—and some University of Denver students were there to witness it.

Seth Masket, DU professor and director of the Center on American Politics (CAP), took a group of 13 students to the Hawkeye State as part of his American Presidential Nominations class. The trip was made possible thanks to a partnership between the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS) and CAP, which lives in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

It gave them a chance to see a wide range of campaign styles, meet with journalists and campaign officials, and interact with Iowans as they made decisions that affect the rest of the country,” Masket reflects.

Rachel Padden, a junior majoring in public policy and strategic communications, called the experience both educational and exciting.

“Being from a state that has a primary, it was so cool to see a caucus happen,” says Padden. “It was exciting to see the caucus happen—the way they just vote right there by a piece of paper—and the anticipation of waiting to hear the votes being announced. It honestly made me want to caucus.”

Padden says the experience—particularly the group conversations that happened after each event—helped her think critically about her professional future post-graduation.

“It was so fun just to be talking, and so I’ve been thinking more about political commentary positions than I have before,” she says.

The students got to attend campaign events big and small, getting up close and personal with campaign staff, caucus-goers and members of the media.

Junior Daniel Lange, who studies political science and socio-legal studies, reflected on some major differences between three major Republican party candidates:

“While Trump often talked about the need to save America and return to the essence of the economy, social landscape and global influence that was present during his prior presidency,

[Gov. Ron] DeSantis was more focused on highlighting his efforts, achievements and successes as the governor of Florida—and how he as a younger and more responsible character would serve the nation in a similar way that he served his state,” Lange says. “[Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki] Haley was rushing around often, giving short feel-good and concise speeches to Republican voters.”

Lange says his time at the caucuses provided a unique learning experience that one wouldn’t find in a normal classroom environment.

“Learning about things from a book, videos, case studies and even subject matter experts is the great experience we are afforded at DU already,” he says. “However, getting to attend events in person and interact with the powerful and influential potential leaders of the free world, their staff, event coordinators and other political participants, has given me a whole new perspective on how the election system works in my country.”

The Iowa caucus trip was made possible thanks to funding from CAP and the Provost’s Office, along with the generosity of donor Sam Barrows, an ’08 political science alumnus.

“Thank you to DU and other donors [for funding] this trip that afforded us this incredible and unforgettable experience,” Lange says.

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