Very few people can claim to have arm-wrestled Stephen Colbert, but Drake Democrats Political Director Adam Koch can thanks to the media frenzy that surrounded the Iowa caucuses.
Koch first entered the caucus media stage by appearing in weekly shows of KCCI’s “The Undecided,” which featured presidential hopefuls and a political reporter conversing with voters who had yet to commit to a candidate.
“It was kind of a once in a lifetime deal to be able to sit down essentially one-on-one with these presidential candidates, have a long time to talk with them both on screen and between commercial breaks and get to tell their true character when they’re off camera,” Koch said.
For the show, Koch was able to submit his own questions. The intimate setting allowed him to get to the heart of the issues that matter the most to him and hear directly from the candidates about it.
“My main focus is healthcare as well as education because I’m a young college student with a chronic illness, so generally I got to ask those types of questions,” Koch said. “When Warren released her new cancelling student debt program, that was about a day before we filmed, so I asked a question about that. I also got to ask a question to Vice President Joe Biden about his healthcare plan and threw in that I have Crohn’s Disease and he got to talk about his own family’s experience with [it].”
Koch’s role with KCCI presented him with the opportunity to appear on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” alongside other members of “The Undecided.”
“It’s hard to even find words to describe it,” Koch said. “They film lots of people, so you weren’t even sure whether you were going to make it in, but fortunately, I had some funny little moments that they liked picking from. It was shocking because I was getting text messages and Facebook messages from people I hadn’t heard of for years and lo and behold, they were watching the show.”
Democrats weren’t the only students appearing in the media, however. Drake College Republicans Co-President John Altendorf was interviewed by Fox News, CBS and BBC, among others.
“One of the really cool things about the caucus is this media phenomena going on,” Altendorf said. “You have all these reporters crawling around campus and it’s something that you really can’t experience at a different school because they’re reaching out to you, they’re looking for you to do interviews and talk to them. They’re always looking for that young person perspective, which is really cool to feel like your voice matters and that you’re adding to the dialogue.”
Altendorf was able to appear not just in print journalism, but on radio and TV as well. He was interviewed by BBC at 12:30 a.m. on Caucus night.
“I was most nervous [for BBC] because there are 230 million listeners and they’re all in the UK,” Altendorf said. “I was like ‘Why are they listening to me?’ It was cool but also kind of scary.”
According to Altendorf, the best way to succeed in interviews is to be prepared and know that not everything you say will make the final cut.
“Learning about the process, learning what kinds of questions they were going to ask, having talking points helped the nerves and helped me be better at it,” Altendorf said. “You also have to realize that they’re interviewing you for thirty minutes and they’re cutting that down to a minute and a half. You might have said some really good things or had some really long-winded answers, but they’re not going to use any of that.”
Both Koch and Altendorf agree that it was important for the nation to hear about the Iowa caucuses from the perspective of the younger generation.
“Whatever the decision that the presidential candidate from the democrat’s side or President Trump makes, is not going to really affect [the older generation] to the degree it’s going to affect us,” Koch said. “For all of us 20-year-old college students, we have our entire lives ahead of us and the decisions that are made today will impact our future, our children’s future, and really what we see as America for the rest of our lives.”