On the whole, politically involved Iowans take their First-In-The-Nation moniker seriously. But even the most engaged activists have to join with the rest of the state in saying “Thank goodness that’s over!”.
And truly only because being first comes with a significant price. Christmas/New Year’s with family just gets a little annoying with the phone calls (my dear wife kept score of how many calls we got from each campaign), and the constant, substantively negative, ads on the radio and television. All of that on top of the fact that many Iowans actually don’t need all of the extra whoop-de-doo because they are already meeting candidates, researching them, talking to their neighbors, weighing their choices. And many found the assessment particularly difficult, perhaps not deciding on their vote until they arrived at the caucus itself.
Others across the county complain about the apparent meaningless of what Iowans do. Because the top vote getter isn’t always the eventual nominee, they think we don’t have the right to come first.
Iowans like to think of it as a responsibility, and not so much to be the soothsayer as much as helping lighten the load for the rest of the country.
Rick Perry’s decision to go back to Texas and “reassess” his campaign is an example of what I’m talking about. We started with something like eleven or twelve candidates. As of the caucus, there were still seven serious candidates (I include Huntsman only because, well I’m not even sure why). After last night, there’s really only four that should be treated seriously: Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich. Perry’s apparently done, and Bachmann is staying in the race for now, but unless something big happens in New Hampshire, she’s also done. Huntsman and Roemer are really not worth the trouble to even mention in my opinion, at least not for 2012.
So Iowa has more or less whittled the field in half (or a third if you go back a few months, but I won’t split hairs), saving the entire rest of the county a bunch of time. Which is totally win-win in my opinion since putting the first-in-the-nation in the hands of Florida, New York or California would probably cost thousands or even millions of man-hours of work. And what would we have to show for all that work? Probably 7 candidates still in the running by the time they got to Iowa. Just sayin’.
So, it’s not so much that Iowa picks winners as we weed out the losers that matters to the rest of the country.
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For me personally it’s a relief to get this caucus over with. I’ve found that while the Presidential Preference Poll is certainly important, all of the work leading up to it seems more focused on personality that on issues. While there is something to be said for potential character flaws having an influence on one’s decision, it seemed as if that was the only thing driving people’s choices. In all my years I have yet to find a candidate that meets all of my requirements in moral turpitude, principled consistency and articulate conviction. I have not found that we have been able to discuss the issues and have instead been totally focused on the candidates themselves. I know this is part of the cost of being “first”, but I’m ready to move on now to discussing the issues. Having fewer candidates may also make this easier.
Anyhow, Iowans, you now own your phone, your front door, and your entertainment systems. Until this fall, that is.Image © Robert Kneschke – Fotolia.com