The Washington Times-Herald

Our Perspective

December 23, 2011

Iowa isn’t the place to winnow candidates

Mankato — The first real presidential showdown will be happening in fewer than three weeks when Iowa will hold its caucus. For the Republican candidates, there’s a lot riding on this electoral event — perhaps too much.

Political scientist Caroline Tolbert argues in her recently published book, “Why Iowa?” that the state’s outcome is not reflective of other states; yet it has a major influence on the presidential nomination.

It receives huge amounts of attention that is unlike any other election. More than half of the caucus goers say they have personally met the candidates. How many other voters can claim that amount of attention? . . .

A stale political joke that makes its way around this time of year is “Iowans pick corn, New Hampshire picks presidents.” While that may have been true in the 1980s and ’90s, lately that’s not correct. In the last three presidential election years, Iowa picked Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008. That shows an awful lot of misappropriated influence in our nation’s leadership potential.

“Why Iowa” contends voters in that state respond better to volunteer-driven campaigns more so than political advertising. Again, that is unusual for the rest of the nation. The counter argument that does carry some weight is with all the attention paid to Iowa, those voters get a tremendous amount of information from which to make their decisions. But again, that’s not the same opportunity granted to voters, say, in our state.

Iowa represents Iowa. U.S. News & World Report observed that Iowa has fewer minorities than the rest of the nation, its unemployment rate is far lower, it has no union presence (save education) to speak of and it has no major urban areas. . . .

The American University’s Center for the Study of the American Electorate notes that caucus goers represent about 0.05 percent of the national electorate. . . .

We all need to keep that in mind going forward. Iowa may be the first selecting state, but it should not be the last. . . .

The Free Press

Mankato, Minn.

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