The 2008 Iowa Caucus | "They said this day would never come..."

It all came down to Iowa.

We had been editing campaign spots for David Axelrod and the Obama campaign since early 2007. Dozens of ads had already blanketed the first primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada but the long-shot campaign of Barack Obama had placed a bet on Iowa—if he could just win the Iowa caucuses, the first nominating contest in the nation, he would gain enough momentum to propel him to victory in the remaining states.

On the eve of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, our rented Chevy Suburban was hitting the road chock-full of editing gear. The Chevy’s outdoor temperature gauge registered minus 10. The dingy motel, just off of the interstate on the outskirts of Des Moines, was five and a half hours away.

Our assignment was to set up an editing suite in the motel and turn then Senator Obama’s post-caucus speech into a television ad to run beginning the next day in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire primary was only five days away — every minute mattered. We readied ourselves for the overnight edit.

We wanted as large of a motel room as possible due to the amount of gear and size of the campaign team. Our reservation was for the honeymoon suite, which seemed like a good idea until we actually saw the room. Imagine a regular motel room with a hot tub in place of one of the beds and a lot more mirrors. The room had less space than a normal room and was not going to work. 

The front desk man said that maybe their meeting room would work. It sounded good—the best option so far. The “meeting room” however, was a regular motel room with the bathroom and closet walls removed, no beds, a few desks and couches. Tight, but it would do. The desk man was struggling to get us an Internet connection as the polls neared closing.  

Our Internet connection came to life minutes before the polls closed. The room had no television. We had to learn of the caucus results via car radio while out on a run to the nearest Hy-Vee — we were stocking up on caffeine and sugar.

They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high… but on this January night, on this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do
— Barack Obama, January 3rd, 2008

The rest of it was a blur. Campaign aides arrived with the victory speech, tape was digitized, the mood was euphoric. Obama had won a stunning 38 percent of the overall caucus vote. Axelrod and campaign manager David Plouffe had already boarded a plane for New Hampshire — Jim Margolis, from D.C. based GMMB stood in for them. The spot was rushed to a Des Moines TV station for satellite uplink minutes before the 6 am deadline. It had been an exhilarating evening.

That historic night marked the start of the long and drawn-out primary fight. By the November election, Mode Project had cut over 200 broadcast spots and additional content. We are honored to have been on the Obama ’08 Media Team from the beginning, having been brought in to direct the design of the iconic Obama logo in December of 2006.


Trivia Fact:

Pizza that night was from Paul Revere's Pizza.

It seemed appropriate.