Iowa caucus 2012: A waste of time for candidates

If either Congressman Ron Paul or former Speaker Newt Gingrich walk away with the nomination from the Iowa caucuses, I suspect both political parties will take a second look at Iowa’s relevance. Photo: Romney, Gingrich, Paul at Iowa debate Image: AP

EASTON, Md., December 27, 2012 — If we are learning anything from this primary season, it’s that Iowa is a waste of time, money, resources, and candidates’ energy. Democrats and Republicans would be wise in 2016 to skip Iowa. It is not mainstream America, not even a microcosm of America, no matter how it tries to sell itself. If anything it’s the antithesis of what makes America America.

This is not snobbism or elitism from someone living on the East Coast. It’s reality. The fantasy that the good people of Iowa represent the values of America just is not so. And next Tuesday night, if either Congressman Ron Paul or former Speaker Newt Gingrich walk away with the nomination from the Iowa caucuses, I suspect both political parties will take a second look at Iowa’s relevance.

Here’s why Iowa should be eliminated from leading off the primary process:

1. The demographics are all wrong for selecting a major party candidate. Just compare Iowa with the rest of the country: 

Race - 2010 Statistics: Iowa USA

 

Whites 

91.3%

72.4%

African-Americans

2.9 

12.6

Native Americans    

0.4 

0.9

Asians

1.7

4.8

Pacific Islanders  

0.1  

0.2

Two or more races 

1.8 

2.9

Hispanic/Latino

5.0 

16.3

Whites, non Hispanic

88.7

63.7

 

2. The voting is skewed. About 120,000 die-hard Republican activists will throng the church basements or classrooms on Tuesday, January 3, to caucus and vote for delegates to the August Republican Convention, who in turn will support their candidate. The problem is that key word die-hard. These folks are not the average voter, not even the average Republican voter. These are the passionate, or perhaps fanatical is a better word, who would face down a blizzard to make caucus night.

Even more telling, this group tilts Right, very far Right. That is why Mitt Romney doesn’t expect to take Iowa but hopes to come out second or third. It is why Congressman Ron Paul is the darling of the caucus goers. His extremist views are like a Vulcan Mind Meld with them and he has a very good chance to take Iowa. However, even the editor of the National Review, Rich Lowry has warned Iowa: “If they [Iowans] deliver victory to a history-making Ron Paul, no one should take them as seriously again.” What he fears, and many in both parties fear, is that the fringe controls the center in Iowa.

Add to this mix of caucus voters religion, we then see a very conservative social agenda as well. Everyone is expecting a huge turn out from the largest single Protestant denomination in Iowa, the Evangelical Free Church of America, which has about 268,211 members.   To put this in perspective, EFC reports a nation-wide weekly attendance of only 364,221 in 1,318 congregations. The impact of evangelicals will be immense when those caucuses convene and way out of proportion to the Iowa and the country.

3. The cost of ads in Iowa drains campaign coffers quickly. The ads are up and bombarding the concerned and unconcerned voter alike. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney did not begin his campaign ads in Iowa until early December, but he has already purchased 1,100 spots for $411,740. He has the cash to do so, since he raised $14.2 million during the third quarter of this year, second only to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s $17.2 million.

Now mix in Romney’s Super PAC, Restore Our Future, which spent at least $1.1 million on 1,146 ads in the Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Quad-Cities markets. If you combine Romney and his super PAC ad buys, they spent more than $1.5 million on 2,246 ad spots in the three major Iowa media markets. Those ads have successfully sent Newt Gingrich’s poll numbers tumbling. 

Rick Santorum in Iowa Image: AP

But what a waste of money for any candidate in a little state like Iowa. And even worse is the pandering that goes on in those ads, trying to win over this far, far Right crowd. Just look at what comes out of Romney’s mouth these days trying to attract that demographic.

One bright light is that political TV ad buys in Iowa appear to have dropped off from the 2008 presidential campaign, which back then featured contests both for Republicans and Democrats. That year, Iowa TV stations reaped somewhere between $37.8 million to $43 million for political ads.

Will Republicans and Democrats alike take a look at Iowa and decide it’s not worth the money (see above), the time (starting in the summer heat and trudging through the winter’s snows), the energy (Rick Santorum has visited 99 counties and they still don’t much care for him), and resources (the field operation that must be put in place and paid for, something Newt lacks and Dr. Paul has in spades), all for 41 delegates for the Republicans and 56 for Democrats. Is it worth it?

It will be hard to dislodge Iowa from its self-imposed pre-eminence, probably because they believe they are doing good, old-fashioned democratic work. After all, the word “caucus,” apparently an Algonquin word, means “gathering of tribal chiefs.” And that’s how Iowans see themselves, the chiefs who will determine whom the rest of us Indians will vote for.  Even if it means handing the political parties a candidate who has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. 

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib in the Communities at the Washington Times. She can also be heard on the Democrats for America’s Future

 


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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

Contact Catherine Poe

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