WATERLOO, Iowa — It took 20 hours and countless bathroom breaks, but late last week, a key supporter for Elizabeth Warren arrived in Iowa: Her dog, Bailey.
Now, with Warren stuck in Washington for the impeachment trial just days before Iowa’s crucial caucuses, the indefatigable, golden-haired surrogate is crisscrossing the state on her behalf.
As her husband, Bruce Mann, pointed out to fans on Wednesday, Warren nabbed the coveted Des Moines Register endorsement just 24 hours after Bailey arrived on Iowa soil for the first time.
“Bailey is a natural closer,” he joked.
Bailey, Warren’s son Alex, and Mann emerged from her mint-green campaign bus and mingled with volunteers and supporters in a small campaign office in Waterloo — the first of a three-stop tour of the state for the family trio Wednesday. The three surrogates were introduced as “good boys” to the small crowd by a Warren staffer.
“As you can see, it’s all paws on deck,” Mann said, as Bailey wagged his enormous tail, his brown eyes expectantly darting around the room. “While Elizabeth is doing her constitutional duty in Washington, she has a lot of people — and a dog — standing in for her.”
Mann has been taking a more public role in his wife’s campaign since December, but the last few days in Iowa have pushed the other two members of the family trio — Alex and Bailey — further into the spotlight.
While Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg held town halls this week, Warren’s golden retriever attempted to make up lost ground for Warren. But Bailey can’t do it alone.
Alex, an unofficial but near constant presence in Warren’s campaign, has been leading the dog around the state on a blue leash ever since he arrived with the top surrogate and his own blue-nosed pit bull Friday. (The “terrific” road trip from Medford involved lots of doggy bathroom breaks, he said.)
Alex, 43, brought Bailey as he knocked on doors to ask voters to caucus for their mom, charmed college students in meet-and-greets, and gratefully accepted Starbucks “puppuccinos” from fans, one of which Bailey greedily licked down on Wednesday.
A video camera strapped to his back, Bailey accepted a string of gifts from campaign staffers on Wednesday, lunging at a giraffe chew toy in particular, seeming to relish a temporary break from posing for thousands of photos. Warren’s digital team routinely examines the footage from the “BaileyCam” to use in social media videos.
“This dog was born for the South Lawn,” a Warren staffer said, sighing as she held her camera out for another shot of the dog.
Bailey has often towered over other Warren surrogates, sometimes even literally, as the campaign deployed a 25-foot balloon of his likeness during a crucial campaign weekend in Iowa last November. This is Bailey’s first trip to the state, as Mann joked he doesn’t like to fly commercial.
Alex’s role as chief Bailey handler has led him to interact with thousands of voters in his own right, though he doesn’t speak publicly to supporters, as Mann does. Although Warren points Alex out at every campaign stop he attends, jokingly calling him her lifelong tech support, he has granted few media interviews. He holds Bailey’s leash during selfie lines that can stretch for hours, scooching him around so that it appears he’s looking at the camera and petting him in between photos.
As with Warren’s selfie lines, Bailey’s are tightly choreographed — one staffer snaps her fingers to try to get Bailey to look at the camera, another is in charge of snapping the photo for the fan, and a digital staffer records his own footage for the campaign’s potential use. Alex stands outside of the frame, a loose grip on Bailey’s leash.
At a recent town hall in New Hampshire, Bailey’s “selfie line” went on even longer than his owner’s.
“She finished up and there were still folks waiting [for Bailey],” Alex said.
Alex claims Bailey, a natural extrovert, rarely gets tired, except for last weekend in Cedar Rapids, when the two nearly froze taking photos outside of Warren’s event.
“We had to take lots of breaks to go into the bus and warm up,” he said. “By the end of that he was definitely done.”
Bailey has his own Twitter account with 30,000 followers, and videos featuring him rack up tens of thousands of “likes” on Warren’s Instagram page.
In the tense final days leading up to the Iowa caucus, Bailey also is serving as something of an emotional support animal for nervous Democrats. During a photo line at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, on Wednesday afternoon, Bailey rolled onto his back, exposing his furry belly, as a small child wearing a “Nevertheless She Persisted” black T-shirt squealed in delight. Several staffers sprinted over to take another photo.
Ramona Lucius, 62, who volunteers for Warren, said Bailey was “the cherry on the top of the ice cream sundae” of her day.