DAVENPORT, Iowa – Andrew Yang you have a lot of ground to do in your ground game.
In a state with a peculiar voting system, where organization is essential, presidential campaigns spend months recruiting and training captains from local police stations across the state, which can make or break a candidate's chance of success. Monday in the highly personal caucus system.
But half of Yang's captains are not Iowans – an extraordinarily high percentage, according to a Democrat familiar with the campaign's strategy.
This could make it difficult for Yang, who is running his first campaign for the job, to reach the highest level he set for himself at the country's first Iowa awards. Research shows him in about sixth place.
Take Katy Kinsey and Dani Hernandez – they are police captains, not Iowa, and never married before. From Washington, DC and Chicago, respectively, they currently live in a group home they co-founded in Davenport, Iowa, dubbed the "Yang Brotherhood". It serves as a center for the campaign in the region, hosting supporters who came to Iowa to help.
"All of their policies are brilliant and aim to fix the world," said Hernandez.
"We would very much like the police captains to be Yowans," added Hernandez. "I think all the campaigns that are here have found that, with 1,600 police stations in Iowa, it has been difficult to get all those police stations."
NBC News spoke to more than a dozen police captains who participated in events throughout the state's 17-day bus tour of Yang. All but one said they had never participated in Democratic groups before; several captains said they were not Iowa residents.
A captain in the Kansas Yang district said he would represent the campaign in the northwestern city of Le Mars, but has not yet visited the caucus for less than a week.
Veteran Iowa Democratic operators say reliance on foreign aid is a risk for Yang, whose main challenge will be reaching the 15% viability threshold in at least some districts. If a candidate does not reach this limit in a caucus, his supporters will be able to switch to a viable candidate.
Police captains, who are usually volunteers from the local community, usually give a short speech before caucus goers start moving to the corners that represent each candidate, and help count supporters.
Yang's campaign distributes custom baseball caps to captains so they are easy to identify. They say "MATH" – a signature acronym Yang that means "Make America Think Harder" – and have a small Iowa flag sewn under the flap.
"I drove 16 hours to come here from Texas," said David, who declined to give his surname, and will serve as captain of the Yang police station for Henry County while living in the basement of a Yang supporter. "I took three weeks off to come here."
David said he voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 and will likely vote for him again if Yang is not the Democratic Party candidate.
National press secretary of Yang S.Y. Lee said in a statement that the campaign knows "that the best person to inspire and engage an Iowan is his family, friends and neighbors".
"We prioritized the recruitment of police captains within the state of Iowa and recruited more than 1,200 police captains, most of whom belong to the police station they live in," said Lee.
The Iowa Democratic Party said captains of delegations outside the state are not a new phenomenon and other campaigns in the past have used them.
"There is no rule that prevents non-residents from serving as captains of campaign stations," said Mandy McClure, communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party. "Every campaign station captain needs to identify with the station president before the committee meeting. Non-residents cannot participate in the presidential preference process."
On Monday night, people who are unable to vote in a particular district will be confined to a part of the room away from those on the committee, which can make it difficult for captains of non-resident delegates to convey instructions to supporters and persuade undecided attendees. of caucus.
Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign told NBC News that all police captains are Yowans. However, NBC News reporters met with people who identified themselves as captains of the Biden police station who will come from outside the state. The Sanders campaign said that "the vast majority of police station captains are residents of Iowa", but admitted that some rural areas also have police officers from outside the state.
Chris Gidley, 33, will serve as a police captain in Waterloo and said his passion for Yang will make up for organizational deficiencies.
"I think we're playing behind because of this lack of experience," said Gidley, who became a Republican in 2016 and voted for Gary Johnson in that year's general election. "I'm not entirely concerned, because the passion of this group leads to a quick learning curve to understand at least the basics of what they need to do with the caucus."
Debbie Kyler, 64, will also serve as captain of the Yang police station in Waterloo and was the only police captain that NBC News found to have participated in a Democratic bench. She let slip concerns about the captains' relative inexperience.
"There's a first time for everything," Kyler laughed.
Yang himself is still predicting victory.
"Imagine the headlines after Andrew Yang shocked the world and beat Iowa on Monday," he told a crowd in Washington, Iowa, last week. "It will be a very funny night for us, the political world will be like, what happened?"