What’s wrong with all this, beyond the cynicism of thinking everything has a price tag? Maybe Bloomberg is right, that trying to go in and convince voters of your appeal at town hall events and meet-and-greets in places like Iowa and New Hampshire is for suckers. Certainly, all the candidates might wish they had spent less time in Iowa the past 12 months, given its caucus-night meltdown.
But there is much to be said for grassroots politics. It forces candidates to take account, up close and personal, of what their voters believe and want. As president, Abraham Lincoln devoted serious time to meeting with random people who showed up to see him, in what he called “public-opinion baths.” Lincoln believed these wearisome encounters served “to renew in me a clearer and more vivid image of that great popular assemblage, out of which I sprang, and which at the end of two years I must return.”
The candidate who does dozens upon dozens of these events must have the ability to inspire and impress, think on his feet, show endless patience and stamina. If he’s not up for it, or is a pretender, he will inevitably be exposed.