DES MOINES — The final Democratic debate before the Iowa Caucuses is here and Drake University is well into preparations for setting the stage for Tuesday night.
There will be six candidates participating in Tuesday’s debate at Sheslow Auditorium: former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, billionaire Tom Steyer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
CNN crews have been hard at work setting up broadcast equipment, and the stage itself, for the last week. The Drake neighborhood has been busy as well, from volunteers helping out with setup to the businesses preparing for the potential of massive influx of people coming into the area.
But it’s not all great — while most of the student body is still on break, some students like junior Hailey Gutowski are on campus for J-Term. Gutowski, whose J-Term acting class is located in Sheslow, says the debate set-up can get in the way.
“It’s kind of crazy how that affects our daily lives,” Gutowski said. “They’ve been setting up there for, like, the past two weeks, and so every time I walk to class I have to be careful of semis coming in with big gear — whatever they’re using in that space.”
It’s affecting Gutowski’s daily life outside of the classroom as well. When she’s not in class, she works as a barista at Mars Cafe on University Ave., where they’ve been getting a big bump in business since crews arrived.
“The place was completely full. Some people were standing to the side because there was no place to sit,” Gutowski said.
As a native of Wisconsin, pre-caucus buzz is new to Gutowski. To her, it’s a new and exciting time.
“It’s kind of cool knowing that all the Democratic candidates are in this city right now,” Gutowski said.
But for native Iowans, it’s a little less enchanting. Danny Fitzgerrell is a manager at the Jimmy John’s closest to Drake’s campus, and as someone who grew up in the state, he says he’s kind of done with the whole caucus thing.
“I’m a little over it,” Fitzgerrell said. “Like, every four years, gotta hear about it.”
Despite his feelings on politics, he can’t deny these past few weeks have been good for business.
“In the last week or so, it’s been a lot of CNN people coming in here. A lot of camera guys, reporters… that kind of thing,” Fitzgerrell said. “We like the uptick. I like the extra money it brings to the store.”
But when the debate stage goes dark and he’s served sandwiches to the last caucus-goers, you won’t find him complaining.
“I’ll be happy when it’s all over. For sure.”