Sen. Bernie Sanders
Photo: I-Vt.
Photo: I-Vt.

Iowa notebook: Candidates turn Super Bowl into a final pitch

DES MOINES, Iowa – Even the Super Bowl couldn’t give Iowans a respite from presidential politics. 

White House hopefuls turned Sunday’s nail-biter into a last-minute plea to caucus for them on Monday, the first election in the long Democratic contest to decide who will challenge President Donald Trump. 

They hosted watch parties, sent surrogates to local bars and ran pricey local TV ads during the game to lure voters’ attention in between plays. 

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren brought a six-pack of local beer to a progressive watch party in Des Moines before taking selfies. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar jetted to a barbecue in the city’s northern suburbs.

And U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders briefly addressed a bar crammed full of supporters before hopping a flight back to Washington for the impeachment trial. 

“Tomorrow night is the beginning – the beginning of the end of Donald Trump,” he bellowed to the crowd, as TV screens behind him showed the start of the game. 

There was no avoiding the candidates on the airwaves, either. Klobuchar and Warren ran local TV ads, and both Trump and Michael Bloomberg ran dueling commercials for a national audience during the game. 

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About those ads ...

DES MOINES, Iowa – Emory University marketing professor David Schweidel did a preliminary analysis of how those rival ads from Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg performed on social media, and what he found was surprising.

The volume of tweets mentioning the president, his handle and his hashtag was down roughly one-third from the average daily volume over the previous week. The volume of Bloomberg-related tweets using the same metrics roughly doubled when compared with the previous week. 

More: A Georgian’s guide to Iowa’s caucus

More: Iowa notebook: Closing arguments, Bernie’s vampires and a pulled poll 

Digging a layer deeper, Schweidel found the rate of positive Bloomberg tweets held relatively steady, while negative tweets about him shot up by double-digits, possibly due to the new exposure. Anti-Trump tweets held steady at around a 40% clip, though he saw a slighter increase in positive tweets. 

Here’s how he boils it down:

The data could be spun different ways. Bloomberg’s campaign will obviously be happy that the issue-related ad boosted the volume of relevant Twitter activity by as much as it did. As they try to reach as many people as they can, the increased negative sentiment is probably not as much of a concern at the moment. 

It will be interesting to see if the campaign can take advantage of the ad and sustain the momentum over the next few days. It’s a bit surprising to see that the president didn’t get a bump in Twitter activity following his two ads, but Trump-related twitter activity already is at a high level, so there may be a ceiling to how high it can go.

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Bernie blowback?

CORALVILLE, Iowa – Though there’s no surefire polling available, Iowa experts are increasingly confident that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has the edge in Monday’s caucus. And if he wins, he’ll head to a New Hampshire primary he’s already favored to dominate. 

That’s sparking widespread concern among more moderate candidates, and even some liberals, who worry that a presidential contender who describes himself as a democratic socialist will flail in a November election against President Donald Trump.

More: A frenzied final sprint toward the Iowa caucus is underway

More: Trump tries to upstage the Iowa caucus

That concern was crystallized in an NBC News report that former Secretary of State John Kerry was overheard in a Des Moines hotel talking about the possibility of entering the presidential contest to prevent Sanders from “taking down” the party. 

(Kerry, who is here campaigning for former Vice President Joe Biden, wrote on Twitter that he was “absolutely not” thinking about running for president, though he did not deny uttering those words reported by NBC.)

Mayor Pete Buttigieg tried to woo supporters of both Biden and Sanders at an event in Coralville, acknowledging that he needs a “very strong finish here” to prove he has the viability to stay in the race. 

“This is our chance to show-versus-tell that we’re building the organization that can turn people out and go on to defeat Donald Trump,” he said in a media scrum.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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