The Iowa caucuses are caucuses, not even a primary. They have a lousy record of predicting the eventual nominee, but their significance in the eyes of the media grows larger and larger and larger in the absence of any meaningful reportable activity in the presidential nomination contest.
Fred Cagle argues that we are all wasting our time by paying so much attention to Iowa. Iowa is like those NFL pre-season games: the teams don’t always have their acts together or even care all that much. The real contest season that counts starts later.
Iâ€™ve always considered the Iowa caucus a speed bump on the road to picking a presidentâ€”the place where televangelist Pat Robertson beat George H.W. Bush, and it was won last time by President Mike Huckabee. My suspicions were confirmed when I went out there in 2008 to follow a group of Tennessee legislators campaigning for Fred Thompson.
Gov. Jimmy Carter of Georgia went to Iowa and spent time there in 1976 and when he won the caucus he was an overnight sensation. In addition to all his other sins, Carter injected an anonymous collection of house parties out on the prairie into the national conversation. Political reporters discovered they could start the coverage of the presidential campaign early and they learned to love Des Moines. Hey, it was the heartland.
The caucus season begins with presidential candidates slavishly kissing the ring of Archer Daniels Midland and ethanol subsidies. Then the candidates buy voters tickets and feed them to get them to a barbecue/straw poll and the press treats it like it means something. …
Will winning Iowa give someone momentum into the primaries? John McCain finished fourth in Iowa, and then won South Carolina.
New Hampshire takes pride in picking its own winner, rarely paying much attention to the farmers out on the prairie.
My point in all this is that the Iowa caucus has very little to do with who becomes president. It is a prelude to the real campaign and it entertains the press and political junkies. It is a place for candidates to practice a stump speech.
The results this time will not tell us anything about who will win the nomination, but weâ€™ll have wall to wall coverage anyway. I donâ€™t see any way we will ever relegate Iowa to the position it deserves.