Iowa has few marks of distinction – we grow a lot of corn, beef and pork. We have a lot of high-tech industries and an advanced public education system. But for one brief shining moment every four years the eyes of the nation are upon the cities and towns of this state. Our caucuses (a sort of dysfunctional town-hall meeting) are the first stage in the nomination process for president of the United States. Last time around, Iowa Democrats shocked the nation by choosing Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton (who actually dropped to third behind John Edwards) and sending the current president on his way. Republicans also rendered a surprise, slowing Romney’s momentum by giving the win the Mike Huckabee.
I was part of the Huckabee brigade last time. This time, I’m not sure whom to caucus for. The caucuses will take place one week from tonight and I still don’t know which way to go.
The process so far has been simple: Mitt Romney vs. a parade of anti-Romneys. First, Michelle Bachmann sprang forward, then she fizzled. One of the reasons she fizzled was Rick Perry’s entrance into the race. He was the anti-Romney for a few weeks but he faded rapidly. I’ll be surprised if either of them is viable after the caucuses. Herman Cain grabbed a lot of interest and I was just about to jump on that bandwagon when his campaign imploded under the weight of all the accusations that were leveled against him. Then Newt Gingrich came out of nowhere and sprang to a big lead. But you should see the attack ads from the Paul and Perry campaigns. They are eviscerating Gingrich and polls show that the ads are starting to have their effect – I wouldn’t be surprised if the big news next Tuesday is the poor performance of Gingrich. With one week left, there is some talk that perhaps Rick Santorum may be the next anti-Romney – he seems to be getting a little bit of buzz, has worked hard in every one of Iowa’s 99 counties, and has a good organization. He appeals to Iowa’s conservative Christian Republicans. Is it too little, too late for him? A week from tonight we will know. Huntsman mostly skipped Iowa and doesn’t seem to be gaining much traction anywhere.
Ron Paul? He’s Ron Paul. He has a small cadre of passionate (some would say fanatical) support, but he came off kinda nutty in the Sioux City debate, has a foreign policy many Iowans won’t buy into and doesn’t seem to be gaining much traction beyond his supporters. And frankly, his supporters are sometimes so messianic about him that they tend to turn as many people off as they convince. He will probably get 10 or 12% – perhaps a little more.
So, what is an Iowa Republican to do? At this point I’m not sure. Each of the candidates has some appeal and some problems that cause me consternation.
If the caucus was tonight, I would probably support Rick Santorum, but that could change in the next 168 hours. Who knows?
You don’t have to win the Iowa Caucus to become the party nominee. But you need to show well. Most likely, three candidates will be viable coming out of Iowa into New Hampshire. Romney isn’t going anywhere. Gingrich? Maybe, but I’m sensing he’s on the downturn – just a hunch. Perry or Bachmann? Iowa may be their last hurrah. Paul? He’ll get some support, perhaps even a third place. Does Rick Santorum have a chance? Maybe, maybe not.
It’s weird. I’ve been voting in presidential elections since 1976. In every one of those elections, at this point, I had a horse in the race. Sometimes those horses ran well, sometimes they faltered, but I knew which horse was mine! This time, not so much.
It’s a confusing year.
Maybe the end result of it all is to do what David Rogers has suggested so often – do Kingdom work and not put our hope in politics!
He’s right, but I’m still going to the caucus next week. I can’t help myself.