The best surrogate ever is campaigning in Iowa this week


C’mon. What better surrogate is there for a politician than the family dog? Especially if that dog is friendly and adorable, who wouldn’t want to walk over and say hello?

Bailey, the family dog in Elizabeth Warren’s home, is on the ground in Iowa campaigning for her while she is tied up in Washington, D.C. with her day job in the U.S. Senate. Bailey is a two-year-old Golden Retreiver (the third most popular breed) and he traveled to Iowa with Warren’s son, Alex. It was a 20-hour car ride from Boston late last week and Alex acts as Bailey’s handler during public events. Bruce Mann, Elizabeth Warren’s husband, is also pitching in while Warren has jury duty, as Bailey’s tweet describes her work.

Yes, Bailey (First Dog Bailey) has a Twitter account. There are messages to get out to dog-loving voters, you know.

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The dogs that own Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasen also have a Twitter account but their’s is a more, um, shall we say eclectic kind of Twitter feed. The dogs do promote Buttigieg’s campaign merchandise but their tweets are general, random kinds of posts. Bailey’s is a strictly political account. Both accounts reference “First Dog” status.

It’s clever to use family pets to humanize candidates. Candidates are usually criticized for being stiff or impersonal, even robotic at times, so dogs loosen people up. Iowans are lining up to get a photograph with First Dog Bailey while Warren’s campaign staffers gather up voter contact information during the meet and greet stops.

According to a recent survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Association, a trade group, some 63.4 million American households have dogs, a state of affairs that creates a natural constituency of citizens who might be disposed toward dog-owning candidates. And dogs make great surrogates, in part because they never say anything, let alone the wrong thing.

Joe Biden used his two dogs in a Christmas-time plea for campaign donations.

At only two years old, Bailey is still in his rambunctious puppy years. Alex Warren says things can get a little chaotic. I notice that Mr. Warren describes ordinary photographs with a candidate, like his mom does with supporters. She calls them all “selfies” but they are just regular photographs.

Introduced as “our future first dog,” Bailey proved a charismatic if unpredictable surrogate, whacking things with his tail, rolling around with his paws in the air, munching on hoodies and slobbering on the volunteers. “The selfie line with Bailey is a really acrobatic experience,” Mr. Warren said.

Just in case Bailey encounters Mike Bloomberg on the campaign trail, he would like Bloomberg to know that he doesn’t want a snout grab, thank you very much.

Is a last-minute push in Iowa, including driving Bailey across the country, enough to bump Warren back up in the Iowa caucuses? Her campaign is being credited as having the best ground game in the state.

“Elizabeth Warren has the best ground game in the state right now. She’s been building that up for a year,” says Sean Bagniewski, chair of the Democratic Party in Polk County, who hasn’t endorsed a presidential candidate. “She has the most staff who are the most ingrained in the most Democratic communities in Iowa.”

All campaigns are knocking on doors, all campaigns are raising money, and all campaigns are trying to get voters to commit to caucus. But none have been doing it as long or as hard as Warren’s has in Iowa. She has been campaigning in Iowa for nearly a year, with roughly 150 staffers on the ground and 26 field offices. And it’s not just about numbers. Observers say that Warren’s campaign has been notable for the depth of its engagement in local communities.

When a local animal shelter needed a boost, Gomez brought Warren volunteers to help. When a neighborhood in Des Moines needed help with their community garden, Hines organized Warren volunteers to pull weeds and till the soil. “I said, ‘Great, we’ll be there every Saturday,’” he recalls. “We fed folks in the community where there are no grocery stores around. We went door-to-door handing out vegetables to people.” Hines says the area near the garden now has several Warren signs that weren’t there before.

Warren is in fourth place in Iowa as of today, according to Real Clear Politics. Bailey has his work cut out for him. Warren’s husband, though, points to the fact that Warren did receive the endorsement of the Des Moines Register. And, we’ll likely see video footage in campaign ads in the future.

Bailey wore a collar that read “consumer watchdog” and a harness that was outfitted with a Go-Pro camera that captured his point-of-view, which on this morning included reporters and photographers on the ground aiming their cameras and phones into his face and a box of doughnuts on a nearby table that he stuck his nose into before a staffer pulled it away.

Mann played coy when asked what the campaign was planning to do with Bailey’s footage. And soon, they were off, husband, son and other canine son, jumping back on Warren’s campaign bus heading to the next stop.

Bailey can’t help it that Elizabeth Warren is turning him into a delivery system for her socialist messages. He’s cute, though, and that’s all he needs to be.

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