US NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Pizza Ranch, House Parties and Candidates’ Other Favorite Haunts on the 2016 Trail
As originally appearing in US News & World Report


More than a year still separates American voters from Election Day 2016, but presidential hopefuls have been swarming early primary states for months as they vie for their party’s nomination and, ultimately, a seat in the White House.

Thursday marks this election cycle’s first GOP debate – a prime-time opportunity for 10 of the party’s front-runners to plead their case to a national audience and, for the sake of quality television, pick apart their opponents.

But this is hardly the candidates’ first opportunity to garner support. U.S. News has tracked more than 22 hopefuls’ visits to early primary states dating as far back as January 2013, with many of the stats viewable at The Chase blog’s landing page. As of Aug. 7, our database encompassed more than 1,700 individual campaign events in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina alone, with more entries streaming in daily as the election cycle begins to pick up steam.

Campaigning is becoming increasingly crucial as the clock ticks toward Nov. 8, 2016, especially in a GOP field that offers candidates little margin for error due to its size. And while Thursday’s nationally televised debate represents one of the biggest opportunities for hopefuls to get their message out there, this isn’t any of the participants’ first rodeo.

Not all campaigning venues are created equal, so U.S. News has broken down the most popular early primary state venues visited by this election cycle’s crop of candidates thus far.

Most Popular City

Cities were awarded a point every time a candidate attended a scheduled political event within city limits. Unsurprisingly, capital cities were the most popular destination in two of the three states we tracked.

Iowa: Des Moines (150 visits), Cedar Rapids (50 visits), Davenport (33 visits)

New Hampshire: Manchester (139 visits), Concord (61 visits), Nashua (54 visits)

South Carolina: Columbia (80 visits), Greenville (57 visits), Charleston (38 visits)

Most Popular Diners

Diners/eateries were awarded a point for each time a candidate scheduled an event on their property.

Iowa: Pizza Ranch Chain (7 candidates, 15 points)

Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are among the seven primary candidates who have made a political pit stop at Pizza Ranch. Mike Huckabee has already visited Pizza Ranch locations on at least seven separate occasions during the current election cycle.

New Hampshire: The Barley House (7 candidates, 8 points)

Carly Fiorina is the only repeat visitor to The Barley House, but George Pataki, John Kasich and Bernie Sanders are among the seven candidates who have made an appearance at the Concord restaurant.

South Carolina: Beacon Drive-In (5 candidates, 5 points)

Ted Cruz, Chris Christie and Huckabee are among the five individual candidates who’ve visited the Spartanburg staple.

Best State for a House Party

Candidates have collectively attended more than 100 house parties in early primary states since the beginning of 2013, and New Hampshire edged out Iowa as the biggest political party state.

Forty-five house parties have been attended by at least one White House hopeful so far in New Hampshire, while 40 bashes have drawn candidates to Iowa. South Carolina has been the most reserved state of the three, as only seven house parties in the Palmetto State have attracted a candidate.

Most Popular Colleges

Young voters are a crucial demographic for candidates to reach, so hopefuls have set their sights on colleges and universities as a forum to connect with an often apathetic voting bloc. Schools were awarded a point for each time a candidate scheduled an event on campus, including at athletic facilities and other buildings owned by the college or university.

Iowa: Iowa State University (12 candidates, 23 points)

Iowa State University’s Stephens Auditorium has drawn a huge pool of GOP candidates over the last two years thanks to The Family Leadership Summit held there.

New Hampshire: St. Anselm College (20 candidates, 29 points)

St. Anselm has attracted GOP and Democratic hopefuls alike, thanks in large part to the popular “Politics & Eggs” forums for presidential candidates – a partnership between The New England Council and St. Anselm’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics & Political Library.

South Carolina: The Citadel (6 candidates, 7 points)

The Citadel is typically a big destination for Republican candidates, and this election cycle was no exception. Donald Trump, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul and Santorum are among those who’ve made appearances at the military college.

Most Popular Venues

Venues were awarded a point for every individual candidate who scheduled an appearance at a given establishment.

Iowa: Iowa State University’s Stephens Auditorium (11 candidates, 19 points)

New Hampshire: St. Anselm College (20 candidates, 29 points)

South Carolina: Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center (9 candidates, 17 points)

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