A photograph with the Iowa caucus story in Sunday's Outlook section was misidentified as showing Hugh M. Field, Black Hawk County chairman for candidate George Bush. The photo was of John Connally with his county chairman, Bart Schwieger.
The cold wind sweeps across the nearly empty parking lot of the Crossroads Shopping Center, rattling the windows of the community room of the National Bank of Waterloo. Inside, 25 people raptly watch President Carter's televised press conference on the Iranian crisis.
When Carter finishes, Henry Cutler snaps off the TV set he had brought from home, turns to the others and says, "Meanwhile, back at the precinct caucuses . . ."
While historians may someday decide that the fate of Jimmy Carter's presidency was determined By the Tehran embassy challenge, the 25 people in that room will also be arbiters of Carter's prospects. They are the heart of the campaign in Waterloo and surrounding Black Hawk County, a vital battleground in a state which, more than leader or a born-again president.
Both Carter and his principal challenger, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, have made clear they are going for all-out victory in the Iowa delegate-selection caucuses on Jan. 21 -- their first head-to-head contest.
Considering those stakes, it may seem remarkable that only 25 people could be mustered for a meeting of an incumbent president's supporters. But the fact is that the Kennedy campaign, or those of the several Republican presidential hopefuls also gearing for their Jan. 21 caucuses, would be delighted with a similar turnout almost two months before the caucus voting.
As James M. Perry wrote last week in a Wall Street Journal article on the Iowa caucuses, "What a successful campaign seems to take these days in a handful of people who remain dedicated to the two-party system at a time when most Americans no longer care. It also takes a candidate who is willing to start early and spend hundreds of hours visiting with people in their living rooms and answering questions at endless Rotary luncheons and Chamber of Commerce dinners."
That, of course, is what Carter did in Iowa in 1975 and 1976, when many of the 25 people in the bank's community room met him face-to-face and established the friendship that motivates their efforts today. fCarter gained national publicity and invaluable momentum by winning 28 percent of the delegates at the 1976 precinct caucuses -- more than any other contender.
Yet in a state of almost 3 million people, with something more than 600,000 registered Democrats, Carter's triumph was built on the willingness of only 11,000 people to turn out on a chilly January night. Those 11,000, in turn, had been recruited and brought to the caucuses by a few hundred dedicated volunteers, like the 25 who turned out here the other night.
That is why a small band of activists who begin early and remain involved throughout the protracted selection process can exercise an influence far beyond their numbers. Who are these people and why do they do it?
It is a cliche to say that Ronald Reagan is the GOP front-runner.It is also a cliche to say that he holds that position in part because of a dedicated organization that has been in place for years, waiting for Reagan's moment.
But here in Waterloo, the first Reagan organizing meeting was not held until late October and the headquarters phone was installed just 12 days ago. Of the three key workers, only one was involved with Reagan in 1976, and she is a most unexpected person.
Dianne Mohler, the coordinator and headquarters manager, is the wife of a United Auto Workers member at the big John Deer tractor factory. "A lot of them are wearing Reagan buttons," she says of the John Deere workers. "The common man is thinking for himself. He sees the problems. He pays the taxes. And he's getting more conservative."
The Black Hawk County Reagan chairman is G. Marrin Lewis, a young stockbroker and policical novice. Lewis was a Notre Dame classmate of John P. Sears, Reagan's national campaign manager, but they were not friends. Says Lewis; "I never did anything but bitch about government until this year . . . But what got me into this campaign was Dick Clark [the former Iowa senator] coming out for Ted Kennedy. These are not liberal times and I don't think Kennedy is right for the times. So I just got a phone number in Des Moines and asked what I could do to help Reagan, and they said, "How would you like to be the county coordinator?'"
The most politically experienced of the Reagan trio is Evan (Curly) Hultman, a former state attorney general and unsuccessful candidate for governor, who served as U.S. attorney from 1969 to 1978. Hultman, now practicing law in Waterloo, agreed to become Reagan's 3rd District chairman after giving up the idea of running for Congress himself.
Over lunch at the Sunnyside Country Club, the three Reagan organizers commiserate on the problems of being with the front-runner: "A lot of conservatives can't cope with this front-runner strategy," Lewis says. "They want to know, "Where's my man?' . . . The last time Reagan was here was in 1977, and that was for the Chamber of Commerce, not the party. He's got a lot of friends here, but they'd like to see the man."
"That's right," says Hultman. "Bush has spoken at the county Republican dinner the last two years in a row. He's got the party organization people, at least 75 percent of them. And this happens to be probably the strongest area in Iowa for Phil Crane."
"Yes," Mohler says, "he's been here so many times in the last six months, and he's handsome and charming, like a Kennedy."
"So what Reagan has left is in the middle between these other two," says Hultman. "If we could get him in here, it would make our job of getting people out for the caucuses a lot easier . . . They [the Reagan managers] say he'll come, but they don't say when."
Maxine Tomlyanovich works for a real estate company.Like Dianne Mohler, she also works in many conservative causes, and she heard Phil Crane at a conservative rally in Newton four years ago, long before anyone thought the young conservative would run for president. Now she is co-chairman of Crane's Black Ahwk County organization.
She is proud of the organization. "We have the right-to-life people behind us here. We have the people who led the fight against busing here in Waterloo. We had our first organization meeting last July, and Phil has been here three or four times already. I've got two co-chairman, and we have all our ward chairmen here in Cedar Falls [the neighboring city]. Now they're trying to get two workers per precinct."
Tomlyanovich has one organizing tool no one else seems to possess -- the actual sign-in lists of the people who came to the Republican caucuses in 1976. "Look," she says, pushing them across a coffee shop table. "Some precincts had no one vote. A lot had one or two. The most I've seen are 12 or 15 voters. We're aiming to get 8 or 10 people per precinct; that would be more than enough to win."
Tomlyanovich has only one fear. She keeps hearing that Waterloo is on oasis of Crane activity in a national desert -- that his campaign is spotty, that it's pressed for money, that he may have to cut it short to save his House seat in Illinois.
Tomlyanovich hoesn't want to waste her time or see the competition win. The competition isn't Reagan. "As far as I'm concerned, Crane is Reagan's heir; he follows him 100 percent. But I'm worried that we conservatives are splitting ourselves and letting George Bush get in. I'd hate to lose two good men."
Hugh M. Field, a young lawyer who was Black Hawk County's GOP chairman from 1974 through 1976, is Bush's chairman. Field works at a desk kept clear of paper and clutter, and he admires a man who is as efficient as he is himself.
Field met Bush when Bush came to speak to the county Republican dinner in October, 1978. "Frankly," he says, "I was more impressed by the way he handled things than by him or his speech. He knew the people who were the activists in the organization, and he met with us beforehand and, again, after dinner. Other candidates come in here, they meet a few financial contributors, they make their speech and they're gone. They ever meet the people who do the work."
Field and his committee have been working since last spring, doing a phone canvass of 1976 caucus voters. Despite the fact the Reagan beat Ford by roughly a 5-to-4 margin in 1976, Field says, "I think we can win it. I don't understand what Reagan is doing. He's not working here."
John B. Connally paid his first campaign visit to Waterloo last week and met his Black Hawk County campaign chairman, a lawyer named Bart Schwieger, for the first time. At first glance Schwieger, a former state senator, is an unlikely Connally backer. More liberal than most Republicans, he was 1968 county campaign chairman for Nelson Rockefeller. But he owns "a piece of land" in Texas, and while looking after his property, he read a Texas business magazine with a Connally profile. The article convinced him Connally "understands the private sector relationship with government just as well as Rockefeller did." So he volunteered for Connally.
The Connally visit a great success. Some 600 people turn out for the Rotary club lunch and listen, rapt, for 45 minutes to a Connally address. Beforehand, some 60 people, potential contributors, met Connally in a private reception.
To Bart Schwieger, the 60 people in that room represent "at least $30,000 in contributions." But he has one worry. As he circulated during the reception, talking about the importance of being at the Jan. 21 caucuses, "a lot of them told me they'd like to come, but they'd be away in warmer climes, Barbados or Trinidad. So I told them, "Tell your office people I'll be calling: you're got to leave someone behind to run the business.'"
When Rachel Fulton last summer signed her name to an open letter urging Ted Kennedy to run for president, it sent shock waves not just through Waterloo but through the state of Iowa. Rachel Fulton is more than the wife of Bob Fulton, former lieutenant government, former candidate for governor, current Democratic national committeeman. She is, in her own right, one of the best organizers and campaigners in the party, a woman of charm and brains and political substance.
Now, five months later, her husband has joined her in her new cause, Kennedy has declared, the United Auto Workers Union has swung behind Kennedy and two young staff people, from Cincinnati and New York, have come in to open the headquarters. So Rachel Fulton, in blue jeans, has time to sit at home, working on translations for her college French course, and to explain why she helped light the spark of rebellion last summer.
"It was not easy," she says. "We are liberal Democrats. We supported Bobby and George McGovern, and we urged Fritz Mondale to run in 1976.When he wouldn't, we were with [Birch] Bayh and then with [Morris K.] Udall and finally with Carter. It was difficult for me to come out against the president, with my husband on the national committee, but I wasn't happy with what Jimmy Carter was doing, and I was concerned that the Democratic Party could not stay in office with him as a candidate. He had two years to show me something, and he never came across strong and he never was able to work out a relationship with Congress, and I figured, that was it."
If you ask any smart Iowa Democrat about Black Hawk County, you'll be told it's a Kennedy stronghold because of the UAW. At the John Deere plant, UAW Local 838 has 11,000 members making an average of $9.40 an hour -- a powerful, prosperous force. In 1976 when Frank Alexander, vice president of Local 838's political arm, was county Democratic chairman, the UAW was backing Jimmy Carter. Alexander estimates there were 500 UAW members among the 2,300 people at the 1976 caucuses, and their presence was a principal reason that Carter won 31.6 percent of the Black Hawk delegates, toppng the field.
This year, although he works in an office dominated by pictures of Carter and Mondale, Alexander is turning out the vote for the UAW's new candidate, Kennedy. He says a poll of the local's leadership found 57 percent favored Kennedy, largely because "they feel that's where the membership is going."
All the membership? "Oh, no. He'll lose votes because of Chappaquiddick. Because of gun control. He'll lost the pro-life vote. But Ted Kennedy has supported labor issues for 17 years, and the UAW people haven't forgotten it."
The UAW is the biggest union in Waterloo, but not the only one -- and some of the others have their own reasons to be for Jimmy Carter.
Among the 25 people at the Carter organizing committee meeting are five teachers. One Jean Seeland, is governmental affairs chairman of the county unit of the Iowa Education Association. It has only one-tenth the membership of the UAW local, but because teachers are more readily mobilized for politics than factory workers, their presence in the caucuses could be almost as great as the Uaw's.
Seeland know why they are strongly for Carter this time: "He's given us a 60 percent increase in education funding and the Department of Education; he's opposed tuition tax credits and supported the Era [Equal Rights Amendment]. That's our platform."
"Besides," she says, smiling, "I teach in a federally funded program called Follow-Through, so I have something at stake myself."
Another unionist at the Carter meeting is Lyle Taylor, president of Local 46 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, representing 1,500 employes at the Rath meatpacking plant. Fifteen months ago, when that plant was facing bankruptcy, a county economic development committee was created, with Lynn Cutler, a county commissioner with exceptionally good ties to the Carter White House, at its head. A $3 million federal loan was sought to refinance Rath, and as the deadline for a shutdown approached late last year, Cutler and the international union (whose president, William Wynn, heads the Labor for Carter Committee) got Jack Watson and others in the White House to expedite the loan. The plant was saved.
With its new financing, Rath has increased its volume 50 percent, expanded to 2,000 employes and turned a profit in the last two quarters. "We know that if it hadn't been for [Carter] and his people getting involved, that loan couldn't have been made that fast," Taylor says.
The caucuses off Local 46 a chance to say thank you. But Taylor worries that "most people don't understand caucuses and are shy about going to a meeting where they may not know the other people.It's going to be hard to educate them."
The fourth big union in town is District 134 of the International Association of Machinists, with about 2,000 members. Russ Woodrick, its brash, beared young business representative, is having coffee at the Embers with Tom Sallas, the Democratic county chairman, a bachelor who supports himself with part-time consulting jobs for the Machinists.
Both men wear "Ted Kennedy in "80" buttons. "I know of no one in the county except the Cutlers who really believes enthusiastically that Carter is the man," Woodrick says. "But the Carter campaign is working hard here, and we're starting late."
Both men insist they chose Kennedy on the issues, but it becomes clear they have other complaints with Carter.
"I was the chairman of the uncommitted delegation at the county convention [in 1976]," Woodrick says, "and I ended up voting for Udall in New York. I got my invitation to the Inaugural one week beforehand -- too late even to go. They really let us know what they thought of us."
"I was the chairman of the Democratic Party in the third largest county, and I never even got an invitation," Sallas chimed in.
Henry and Lynn Cutler are the Carter people in Waterloo, but it was almost an accident. Four years ago, Lynn Cutler was committed to Bayh and Henry was candidate shopping at the Democratic state committee diner where all the hopefuls spoke. The next morning, they stopped by a Des Moines hotel suite for coffee and danish with Carter before driving home. Henry was so much more impressed with the man in that small gathering than he had been with his formal speech the night before that he offered to work for him. He became Carter chairman in Black Hawk County, and from that developed what he calls "an intimate friendship" with the Carter family.
Lynn, who is now seeking the Democratic congressional nomination, was appointed by Carter to represent county governments on the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. Henry, a lawyer and amateur actor, was named to the advisory committee of the Kennedy Center. Their "green room" is lined with photos of them and their children with various Carters at White House functions, and they speak of "Ham" and "Tim" as members of an extended family.
"I feel they have been loyal and responsive to their early Iowa supporters," Henry Cutler says. "I just wish everyone could come to know them as we have."
Waterloo has about a 12 percent black population, the highest portion of any Iowa city, and Carter has a problem.
The problem's name is Ruth Anderson. She is a handsome, dynamic woman, a professor of social work at the Universiy of Northern Iowa. She, like Rachel Fulton, signed the letter urging Kennedy to run.
Later in the summer, the Carter committee sent an outside black organizer to tell Anderson she could make amends by holding a reception for Chip Carter. She said forget it.The organizer told her, Anderson says, that Carter didn't need help from any "ignorant niggers" anyway. And she told the world about it.
On an afternoon when Ruth Anderson is holding a reception for tennis star Arthur Ashe, touring Iowa for Kennedy, a visitor asks her how well she thinks Kennedy can do. She laughs uproariously. "Listen," she says," I carried my precinct unanimously for Fred Harris last time. You ask how I can do with KENNEDY? Those delegates, he's got."