Iowa GOP’s Quirky Volunteer Effort

Instead of knocking doors, the Iowa Republican Party is spending a day before a crucial U.S. Senate election having volunteers pull weeds and move files.

In one of the biggest swing states of the 2014 election, Republicans are getting geared up for Election Day not by knocking doors or making phone calls but by spraying weeds and moving furniture.

With 76 days before the state’s crucial U.S. Senate race (along with campaigns for Governor, Congress and state legislature), the Iowa Republican Party is holding a major volunteer event on Saturday August 23 at its Des Moines headquarters to help party staffers “with tasks such as moving furniture/documents, organizing, landscaping, cleaning and painting.” It promises those who sign up that “you'll get a free lunch and a chance to meet and interact with Iowa GOP staffers.” The party has promoted the event through emails as well on Facebook and Twitter.

The event's timing is peculiar because it comes as state Republicans are trying to reverse a longstanding Democratic advantage at turning out voters in the Hawkeye State and involves commited volunteers essentially taking a day from those efforts. Jeff Patch, the communications director for the Republican Party of Iowa, disagreed with that characterization and called the event "quirky" instead.

He described the event as a chance to give volunteers a break from doorknocking and making phone calls and allow them to meet the state party's new chairman while serving them a free barbeque lunch. Patch said "there's not a whole lot to do with the building" but just an opportunity to catch up on some basic tasks like spraying weeds, moving files and testing outlets which had been neglected in the past. But while this basic maintenance was important, the "main focus is giving [volunteers] more interaction" said Patch.

One veteran Democratic operative in the state found the event befuddling. “This is very strange” he said. The operative went on note that the event would be a “waste of time 70 days [before the election] or 170 days [before the election]."

UPDATE: In a statement to The Daily Beast on Tuesday night, Patch said: “The Republican Party of Iowa sent an email to our state central committee members, not to our field team, seeking volunteers for Saturday. One hundred percent of our field staff and precinct captains—hundreds of them—will be engaged in GOTV activities across the state this weekend and were not asked to participate. Anything to the contrary is false. I inaccurately phrased the title for this informal gathering in an email and on social media, and I regret the mix-up.”