By February 1, 2016 0 Comments Read More →

The Political Stakes in the Hawkeye State

Results of Iowa caucuses important in national presidential elections

Results of Iowa caucuses important in national presidential elections

                                                  

Iowa, nicknamed the Hawkeye State, is the site of the first runoff in the current presidential race.  According to Wikipedia (the Free Encyclopedia), Iowa is the 26th state in the United States in land mass and the 30th state in population.  In its 2014 statistics, the United States Census Bureau listed Iowa’s median annual household income as around $52,000, which is about $1,000 below the national median.  The population of the state is some 87.1% (non-Hispanic) white, 3.4% African-American and 5.6% Hispanic, as opposed to the national population of around 62.1% (non-Hispanic) white, 13.2% African-American and 17.4% Hispanic.

These statistics show that Iowa is not a microcosm of the nation.  So why is Iowa so significant in the presidential primary season?  It is important because it is the first of the primaries.  And because it is the first, campaigning in Iowa receives a deluge of publicity. As the caucuses draw near there is a grand spectacle of reporters, journalists and news crews converging upon the state. Dan Balz of The Washington Post puts it this way: “In its [the Iowa caucuses] splendor, these last days and hours represent a display of democracy in action—under the brightest of lights imaginable.”

Also, Iowa stands out because it serves as a winnowing field that presents clues as to candidates’ strengths and weaknesses.  There is serious vetting of the competitors of the race by the citizens of Iowa, as well as by the news media.  Tough questions are posed that force the candidates to reveal where they stand on issues and to state in definitive language how they propose to move the country forward.

Moreover, Iowa is a key state in the election process because the outcome will set the direction and tenor the campaigns will take as the candidates prepare to engage in future battles.  This means that the order in which the candidates finish in Iowa matters.  Contrary to Vince Lombardi’s famous quote about winning being the only thing, winning is not the only thing in Iowa—the candidate who finishes 2nd or 3rd may have attained a strategic position.

As the Iowa caucuses commence today, the national presidential landscape is certainly very different than many had predicted it would be—a year ago the odds on favorite to win the Republican nomination was Jeb Bush and the Democrat favorite was Hillary Clinton. However, the billionaire Donald Trump is currently leading the Republican field and Jeb Bush is barely hanging on; and though Hillary Clinton is still the favorite to win the Democrat nomination, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is giving her a run for her money.  In the Republican race, Texas Senator Ted Cruz is second in the heat.

In an Associate Press article that appeared in today’s (2/1/16) newspapers, columnist Julie Pace made this statement: “Candidates named Bush and Clinton—members of America’s elite political families—and others with deep ties to party leadership have been unexpectedly challenged by a billionaire businessman-turned reality television star, a young senator loathed by GOP leaderships and an unabashed democratic socialist.”  She says that this rebellion against the political elitists is fueled by anger and frustration with the ineffectiveness of the current political establishment.

Political observers generally agree that the turn-out in the Iowa caucuses will be a large factor as to whether Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders do well in the Hawkeye State, in that their campaign success is heavily dependent upon would be first-time-caucus goers.

The Illinois Freshman Senator Barack Obama was able to mobilize a historic number of Iowa new caucus voters in 2008; we will have to wait only a short time to see what happens in 2016.

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