CLIVE, Iowa, 2:46 PM – Sarah Coleman ’05 is a long way from home. The buildings are shorter, there’s hardly any traffic on the streets and the next door neighbor used to be Tom Tancredo’s campaign. This is no D.C. and this is no Brooklyn. This is Clive.
“People here are so friendly,” she says over a cup of coffee a quarter mile from the Joe Biden for President Campaign’s Iowa headquarters in this Des Moines suburb. “There’s a woman – she runs a coffee place over that way – where I go every morning and it’s the nicest, most friendly cup of coffee. Being from Brooklyn I was not used to that.”
Coleman grew up a political bystander in a house of enthusiasts. She credits her final arrival in politics to her parents – a pair of New York lawyers for whom following politics has always been a passion.
“My parents love the fact that I work in politics because they’re such political junkies,” the Morse College alum says. “My mom called me the other day and said, ‘I think I saw you holding a Biden sign on CNN, but I could only see half your face…’”
The bug finally caught up to Coleman after she completed graduate work in history at Cambridge University in England and took a job as a policy advisor to Delaware Senator Joe Biden. Working out of the Senator’s Washington office, she takes care of basic policy formulation, background research, and – in some cases – debate prep for any of the numerous Democratic primary debates that have made airwaves this election cycle. At 6:00 a.m. on December 26th, she hopped a plane and took a vacation – to Clive, Iowa, home B-Bop’s burger joint, Joe Biden’s Iowa headquarters, and admittedly “tame” New Year’s festivities at the La Quinta Inn.
But Coleman likes getting outside the beltway. Working and collaborating primarily with Hill staffers, she doesn’t get to hear direct feedback on policies she has formulated from the voters themselves. Coming to Iowa has given her a chance to get that input. That said, she sums up her role in the Hawkeye state like this, “I’m here as a body – not as a policy advisor.” With the all-hands-on-deck mentality of the last hours before the caucus, the campaign has Coleman answering phones, talking to voters, or just holding signs – anything and everything the campaign needs as it scrambles for support in the remaining hours before Iowans caucus.
It’s hectic, Coleman admits, but it’s a bit like Yale.
“One of the greatest things I got out of my Yale education was time management skills and the ability to balance things,” she explains. “Yale’s very much a pressure cooker – or it can be. I think having to balance [school and extracurriculars] really deals with what I do here. There may be a thousand people calling you and asking for information but you have to triage what’s important.”
When Coleman goes home after the caucuses, she’ll head back to D.C. and a few of the same faces she’s known since freshman year. Coleman played squash during her time at Yale and now lives with a fellow teammate in D.C. Across the Hill, on the House side of the Capitol, another teammate serves as Press Secretary for a member of Congress.
But even away from home, Coleman can feel like she’s part of the family – the Biden family, that is. All 21 Bidens – brothers, wives, grandchildren – are in Iowa this week campaigning for the Delaware Senator, and Coleman says that’s nice to see.
“It’s good to know they’re as behind [Biden] as you are.”