When a volunteer finds an Iowan committed to caucus for Rand Paul, they run up to the front of the sprawling, windowless space that houses his campaign headquarters and jovially ring a bell. Sometimes the bell rings every few minutes. Other times the room is quiet, save for the chatter into the phones.
So who are these people devoting hours of their lives to phone banking on behalf of a candidate who commands just 4.1 percent in the polls here?
Well, one of them is a libertarian activist from Australia who had never been to America before this trip to Des Moines, and another is an anti-Clinton conspiracy theorist who spent the last election circulating rumors that Rick Perry is bisexual and believes that Lyndon Johnson collaborated with the CIA to murder John F. Kennedy.
On Monday afternoon, the day of the caucuses, Rand came to give thanks to them and a few hundred others. With him was his father, Ron Paul, the former congressman and presidential candidate, and his wife, Kelly, who looked the part of the perfect political spouse in a cream-colored coat and heels. He said there were 13 of his family members in total crisscrossing the state on his behalf.
Ron told me his son would do “better than, uh, all the polls have shown.” He didn’t know if he’d do as well as he did four years ago, when he was the candidate, because “if you asked me my percentage, I’m not sure I could give you mine” (21.4 percent).
Rand tried to be optimistic. “We’re gonna beat a lot of people in the race,” he said. “I think there’s a chance we can win.”
Robert Morrow, 51, flew in from Austin to be here.
He’s a diehard Libertarian who spends his days doing what he describes as opposition research on various politicians, with an intense focus on the Clintons—Hillary in particular. He got into this line of hobby (he doesn’t make much money doing it) in 2005, to prevent Clinton from becoming president in 2008. He’s continued ever since. Last year, he co-authored The Clintons’ War On Women with Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone, a book which, among other things, charges that Bill Clinton was a coke fiend and insinuates he may have been involved in pedophiliac behavior.
“He’s the closest one to my ideology,” Morrow said of Rand.
Not that he believes he’ll come close to winning. In fact, he already has a plan for when he doesn’t. “I’m really a full-blown libertarian and I’ll probably vote libertarian in the general election.”
But Morrow said it’s important to stick to your principles and do what you can for your cause, even if it’s hopeless.
“I’ve been phone banking,” he said, “I went out for a day or two to Iowa State University and passed out some flyers. You know, nothing heavy duty.”
Morrow, like the other volunteers from out-of-state, is paying his own way here. A staffer from the campaign said all are welcome to volunteer and the campaign isn’t aware of who most of their worker bees are.
Out-of-state is one thing, but out-of-country is another level of dedication. Tamara Candy, 27, is self-described, on her Twitter page, as “Nationalist—Capitalist—Libertarian—Pro BitCoin—Egalitarian,” and she flew herself here from Sydney just to work a precinct for Paul.
“I believe in the liberty movement,” she told me as she teetered on bedazzled platform heels in the hallway. “We’re fighting the same sort of cause down South.”
Candy works for George Christensen, a member of the Australian Parliament. She said he had wanted to come here, too, but couldn’t make it. So she decided to come with Morrow, who she had met on Facebook.
But Candy said that being an Australian in the American political process is not without its drawbacks. Some Iowans have been taken aback by her accent when she calls them to talk up Paul.
“A couple of times I’ve had a few comments, like, you know, ‘Your accent doesn’t sound like it’s from Iowa!’”