DES MOINES, Iowa — As the great political exodus from Iowa got underway following Monday’s presidential caucuses, it was just another winter day at Des Moines International Airport: Planes got de-iced, souvenirs were purchased and celebrities like Josh Hutcherson (Peeta from “The Hunger Games”) and Mark Foster of the band Foster the People — fresh off their days of rallying for Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt. — rushed to catch flights to warmer climes and future caucuses.
“We’re trying to get off to Nevada. I don’t think we’re going to make it to New Hampshire” Hutcherson said Tuesday when asked if they were headed to the next stop on Sanders’ itinerary after they’d been stumping for him in the Hawkeye State for several days.
Asked if the sun and warm weather had anything to do with, particularly after Iowa’s dreary caucus weekend and Tuesday blizzard, Hutcherson agreed. “Yeah, exactly. A little bit closer to home, too,” he said, referring to Los Angeles.
Nevada’s Democratic caucuses are on Feb. 20, with the Republicans following suit on Feb. 23.
Foster had played a couple of gigs, including an acoustic act on Jan. 29 at the Des Moines Social Club Kum and Go Theater, as well as the next night in Iowa City with another iconic band, Vampire Weekend.
Not all the political guests were able to get out Tuesday, with the Midwestern snowstorm snarling flight patterns. But the partial emptying out was felt particularly hard in downtown, where restaurants, bars and hotels that had been packed to the gills went back to the rhythms of an average winter commercial pattern.
“Normally it tapers off for the holidays, but it never let up, said Chelsea Ceretti, a waitress at the downtown Django french bistro. “Last week we were slammed, and now we don’t know what to do.”
Jody Mooney, a host and manager at the Django, said it had been “really hectic the last few nights” and the restaurant as a whole did very well last year, but he imagined there was some relief among locals that life would go back to normal. Still, Mooney said, “The ownership has been really happy with the money we’ve been making.”
Mooney is no stranger to politics, having worked for the late Rep. Charles Bennett, D-Fla., from 1985 to 1991. He moved to Iowa a couple of years ago to be closer to his son. “I thought I was going to run for office, but I never got around to it,” he said.
Closer to the Iowa Capitol building, things were also returning to normal at the popular Scenic Route Bakery, a favorite of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton, who dropped in three times, ordering a house specialty, the Honeybee — espresso, honey and milk steamed with cinnamon. Staff said she was always welcome, but customers were relieved not to have to pass through a Secret Service gauntlet to pick up a pastry and utilize the free wifi.
Scott Contri, a Scenic Route employee, said the bulk of the business, though, came from the press. “We got a lot of news people, a lot of people from all over. We had some French guys, some Finnish guys, some Russian guys.” But Clinton ups the game to another level.
And now the buzz is gone.
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