Our US election tour has long been our most popular. For 2020 we are introducing our first tour in the primary season – and we have chosen the Iowa Caucuses.
Any Democratic hopeful needs to do well in Iowa. It is the first out of the blocks for the primary season and it’s long been thought that if you fail to do well here and in New Hampshire you’ll struggle to regain steam in time for the Democratic convention in the autumn (see our background guide).
From our perspective what’s great about Iowa is that Caucuses give you an opportunity to see the candidates and their supporters in the flesh.
The tour lasts six days and six nights, gives you access to the campaigns of several Democratic contenders as well as analysis from leading journalists and polling analysts. There have never been so many contenders for the Democratic nomination – so it should be a fascinating time to be there.
Our US election tours sell more rapidly than any of our tours so it’s wise to book soon!
|DESTINATION||Des Moines, Iowa|
Led by US based correspondents
Single supplement: £500.00
Please enquire for pricing in Australian or US dollars
Numbers will be strictly limited on this tour so early booking is advised.
Single Supplement: £500.00
Please enquire for pricing in Australian or US dollars
As with all of our expert-led tours, we ensure that our groups remain small and intimate, and will not exceed 14 people. Flights to the US aren’t included in the tour price and should be arranged by customers themselves or with an agent.
As with all of our tours the itinerary focuses on current affairs, and owing to the dynamic nature of politics means that local conditions may lead us adjust the final schedule.
Accommodation for the tour will be based in the state capital, Des Moines where we have access to the campaigns of the leading candidates.
Our itinerary will be dictated by the events at the time – where and when candidates are visiting. This will be finalised nearer to our departure date.
Previous participants on Political Tours – and notably our US election tours will know we are very adept at taking advantage of latest developments in the news and the campaign.
Our tour will include the following elements:
See the candidates on the campaign trail – there will be plenty of opportunities to see candidates out and about meeting local voters.
Meetings with leading Democratic (as well as Republican – but less important this time around!) campaign strategists.
Meetings with key electoral groups – farmers, rural vs suburban and urban voting areas.
Talk with polling experts.
A guide to how caucuses work.
A guide to where Iowa is on the electoral map – why does it have so much impact?
Meetings with key media groups covering the campaign – from both national and state outlets.
Witness the caucuses take place.
Review the results with our expert guides.
On the Campaign Trail:
This six-day tour is campaign focused – so much of the itinerary is dictated by the timing of campaign rallies and candidate appearances which are arranged at short notice. So necessarily this itinerary has to be adapted close to our departure date to make the most of events.
We will be based in the state capital, Des Moines.
Following the Key Candidates:
We will be following the leading candidates as they travel through the state.
Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are obviously the ones to watch. But we will be paying particular attention to the campaigns of Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Cory Booker. If you don’t make the top 3 in Iowa the odds are you have little chance of getting through to the Democratic Convention.
The candidates who dominate Iowa will also determine what kind of campaign the Democratic party will run to try and defeat Trump. The choice is between trying to recoup voters that previously supported Obama and then went for Trump: or trying to boost the Democratic base – with a focus on young people, women and minority votes.
The Key Issues – Tariffs and Healthcare:
Our visits will cover differing electoral groups as well as two big issues that are likely to affect the campaign in the long run; healthcare and tariffs.
We’ll speak with farmers and manufacturers affected by Trumps trade-war with China. Many of these groups voted for Trump last time; what do they think now?
And local communities – there’s a huge demand for healthcare reform among Democratic supporters – how does it play out in Iowa?
For anyone with an interest in US politics it’s a tour not to be missed. Please email [email protected] to join the tour, or call us for further details and ask to speak with our Director Nicholas Wood.
All of your accommodation and meals with water are included, as well as local transport (except during your free time).
Flights are not included in the price and need to be arranged by customers themselves or with an agent.
Following the news
Like all our tours the itinerary is focused on current affairs. Events on the ground may change and the final schedule may be adjusted accordingly.
As on all our expert-led tours the groups are deliberately small and will not exceed 14 people. Frequently we travel with 10-12 people. Limited spaces are available.
The United States runs a visa waiver system for the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand (ESTA or ETA). Candadians are exempt from visa requirements. It is always good to check with the embassy in your country for latest advice regarding visa requirements. Travellers from most countries will need to register online with the department of homeland security before you travel. Please get in touch and let us know what passport you are travelling on so we can help advise you on any visas you may require.
Travellers who have previously been to Iran are now required to get a tourist visa for the United States.
This is mid-winter in Iowa so the weather will be cold with temperatures ranging from 10-30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 to -10 degrees centigrade)..
Dress for cold weather; layers and headwear for warmth and waterproof clothing and footwear are important.
Secondly we have a range of meeting with politicians or senior officials where we are expected to be more formally dressed. We will advise you when meetings are coming up.
Men: Will need a jacket for some of the meetings.
Women: The female equivalent; jacket or blouse.
Plugs are North American 2 flat pin and 110v
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office publishes regularly updated travel information on its website www.fco.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo which you are recommended to consult before booking and in good time before departure. Where it considers it appropriate to do so, the FCO may advise against all travel or all but essential travel to particular countries or parts of particular countries. Similarly, the FCO may withdraw any such previously given advice. Where the FCO issues such advice, we may as a result cancel your tour or make changes so as to avoid the area concerned (see clause 10). Alternatively, we may ask you to sign a form confirming you wish to proceed with the tour notwithstanding the FCO advice. It is in the nature of the itineraries we offer that the FCO may have issued such advice in relation to the country or parts of the country we are intending to visit prior to confirmation of your booking. In this case, you will be asked to sign the above form before we confirm your booking.
Advice on health requirements may be obtained from your GP, or alternatively from the Department of Health leaflet Advice on Health for Travelers, or the Department of Health in the UK. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx
We suggest you visit your own doctor or local travel clinic who will have the most up-to-date travel advice, and be able to recommend any vaccinations prior to travel based on your medical history.
On all of our tours you are accompanied by a leading political journalist or academic. Together with your tour expert you will meet a range of speakers, analysts and ordinary people with a huge range of views and experiences.
The overall aim is to give you a nuanced and comprehensive overview of the country you are in, and an exceptional one at that.
Don’t just take our word for it …
“The main reason to travel really is the “being there” factor – the experience of seeing the reality for ourselves is what made the difference and gave us a context for the valuable inputs from the experts and propagandists we met. The tour’s openness to some unscheduled encounters with “ordinary” people on both sides provided further insight. I ended more sympathetic to them than I had been – and far less sympathetic to their leaderships.” AR
“The access you obtained was outstanding – really amazing.” AN
“It is a short but thorough exam of what makes a country tick – or not tick. An immersion class into the nuts and bolts of the area. I love it.” JG
“It sounds like a cliché, but the tours really take you beyond and behind the headlines, providing you with unexpectedly profound insights about the country.” EL
“To see so much and meet with so many people in so short a time, and to absorb so much information in depth, was very stimulating.” PF
In the Press:
“Who better to take people behind the headlines than the person who spent ten years writing them?” British Airways Highlife Magazine
“I had underestimated their high-mindedness… During the week-long tour there are talks and conversations with more then 20 guest speakers. The holiday makers are an equally impressive bunch.” The Financial Times, on a tour
“An eye-opening 10 days!” Sydney Morning Herald
Feedback from our tour in Iowa – January 2020
Political Tours genuinely gives the most stimulating groups of any of the companies I travel with which is a fitting return for the work which goes into the programmes.
AR Iowa Caucus 2020
My best tour so far! Loved the mix of access to big rallies and rural Iowa. Really loved it!!
CS Iowa Caucus 2020
The Trump rally was the perfect beginning. I never thought I’d quote Joe Walsh, the Republican standing against Trump in Iowa, but he’s right – beating Trump should be the ONLY priority for the Democrats, and watching the President in action that night was a clarifying reminder of just how tough that’s going to be. Economic growth messages were warmly welcomed by the Trump crowd, but it was the raw meat subjects of guns, god, immigration and abortion that really got the crowd on their feet. This set the context for what we were to learn and witness over the coming days as the Democrats lined up to win the support of Iowans to take these issues, and this President, on in November.
Getting out of Des Moines was essential and we couldn’t have had a better guide that Dave Swenson. What a brilliant, engaging teacher! I learned more from him in that bus drive north than I think I ever have in a similar few hours anywhere. Again, this deep examination of the economic and social forces that are changing rural America, and the way its votes, was absolutely fascinating and enlightening. Art Cullen, the small town newspaper editor out of central casting, was the icing on the cake. Storm Lake will stay with me for a long time.
RC – Iowa Caucus Tour 2020
Intelligent and good fun companions and hosts. Lots of exposure to the politics from many different angles. Variety of perspectives – political, economic, geographic, academic, media, candidates – national & local – was excellent. You could not get the access and insight if you travelled on your own “DIY” political tour – so a real selling point. The tour exceeded my expectations.
Both experts were “on their feet” a lot, and had high energy and great insight. I liked the mix of political consultant and academic. It was great to listen to Eric give a Republican perspective on things. But all of the “guests” you invited along had interesting things to say – Joe Walsh and Trump were both equally fascinating!!
PG – Iowa Caucus Tour 2020
The US and Trump is a new tour. Please see feedback below from our US election tour from 2016.
“If it was a film we’d have ended watching from behind the sofa. Tremendously informative and (despite the result) fun tour.” US Elections, 2016
“The quality and variety of experts was excellent.” US Elections, 2016
“The speakers were a particular feature of this tour, and clearly much thought and effort had been put into selecting and engaging people from a variety of backgrounds. I doubt if this could have been improved upon and it was a privilege to meet them all.” CB, US Elections, 2016
“We’ve done a variety of group tours before. This was the best we’ve been on, both in terms of content and company.” CR, US Elections, 2016
“The highlight of the tour was the Trump rally, because it overturned all preconceptions about those who would vote for Trump. We should have realised that the fact that his appeal was so wide would be very bad news for the Democrats. As with Brexit the volume of discontent with those in power would mean people would vote for anything or anybody who promised change.” SR, US Elections, 2016
“A sociological and political eye opener of a tour.” VH, US Elections, 2016
“I have been on a few tours before, but not one of them compared with this one. This was by far the best. Of course, the material content, and the time and place of its setting had a lot to do with it, but there were other factors. The size and mix of each group was about right, and having both yourself, and a local expert with us was a big advantage, able to sort out en route problems too, and help set the tone and atmosphere. The tour itinerary was very detailed, and could hardly have been more so.” CB, US Elections, 2016
How to win the Iowa Caucus?
Winning Iowa isn’t like most US states – candidates need to focus their campaigns in a different way – and that’s what we’ll be looking at on our tour next February in the state.
The first thing to remember is that in this digital age, Iowa remains very rural. Many analysts speak of an information gap where many households don’t have access to a good mobile phone network or even the internet.
Barbara Leach, a guest columnist with the Desmoines Register and former Democratic Party vice-chair, says this means campaigning has to be done the old fashioned way, on the door step. Talk radio and local newspapers are key (although daily papers have gone – weekend papers are read throughout the week).
The next rule according to Leach follows on from the first. Candidates need to get out and meet the electorate. Obama did just that in 2008 and visited all 99 counties!
“Politics is personal,” writes Leach, “television, social media, and dropping by to give big-city speeches is not enough to win.”
In this largely rural state, the fall out from Trumps trade war with China, which has hit commodity prices has hit farmers hard. A new Farm Bill was introduced in late 2018 designed help them, but small farmers are looking for more. So a successful candidate will have to offer real policy solutions.
Democratic Caucuses are Undemocratic!
Caucuses are great to witness; instead of people casting their votes you literally see people clustering in corners of a room to show their support for their candidate. Heads are counted and from there there is a second count and delegates are then assigned.
While it’s great from an onlookers point of view – you hear the debate and can see support for each candidate muster in front of you – it’s not actually that democratic. This is because delegates are apportioned based on the Democratic turnout in the two previous elections.
As the Guardian reported in the run up to the 2016 election “if a precinct is supposed to have five delegates to the county convention, it doesn’t matter if eight people show up to the Democratic caucus or 800. The precinct is still only getting five delegates.” (Precincts elect people to the county convention, which elects people to the district convention, which elects people to the state convention.)
The rules require that candidates need to muster at least 15% of the vote in order to be considered a candidate. So if you poll less than 15% across the state – you’ll do worse in Iowa than you would elsewhere. In a crowded field this is pretty tough going.
Does it all matter?
Winning or losing Iowa doesn’t determine whether you have a shot at the presidency. But Iowans do say “There are three tickets out of Iowa” and that you have to be in the top three. Carter came second in 1976, although Obama’s win in 2008 key to eventual win over Hillary Clinton in 2008. A win here also helped John Kerry beat Howard Dean decisively in 2004.
The other thing to note is that the state’s Democratic electorate is dominated by college towns and blue-collar union industries. As the Guardian notes – it’s whiter and more liberal than other primary states.