Iowans always say that it seems as if the presidential campaigning starts earlier and earlier each election cycle. There is a lot of truth to that line of thinking, but we are a long way from seeing presidential campaigns set up shop in the state and start hiring staff.
What is fascinating, however, is the amount of attention that Nevada Senator John Ensign ‘s trip to Iowa next Monday is receiving. Fox News’ Carl Cameron is scheduled to be back in Iowa for the event. CNN is also planning to cover Ensign’s visit, and CSPAN is sending its own cameras. That’s a lot of media coverage for a lecture.
To put it in perspective, there have been announced presidential candidates in Iowa that don’t get this type of media coverage. I can remember back in the 2000 caucus campaign when the local newspaper in Mt. Pleasant told the Forbes campaign that it would only cover one of his campaign stops when he visited the town. And we wonder why the local newspapers are struggling survive.
The different reactions by the media to Ensign’s visit to Iowa compared to former New York Governor George Pataki’s previous visit couldn’t be more different. Pataki did make news at his AFF event when he called on President Obama to fire Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, but there was little media buzz leading up to his visit to Des Moines.
Ensign’s visit to Iowa is different for a couple reasons. First, he’s not visiting Des Moines, but rather, he’s going to northwest Iowa, a part of the state where conservative presidential candidates can rack up huge margins during the caucuses. Second, he’s not just flying in to give a lecture and then fly out. He’s going to spend the better part of a day doing what most presidential candidates would do if they were campaigning in the state.
The reason Carl Cameron and other national news outlets are coming to Iowa to cover Ensign’s visit is because, at the end of the day, they will know whether Ensign is the up and coming star for Republicans or not. With all the talk about Republicans trying to rebrand themselves, what is really lacking is a national figure for whom people can get excited and hopeful again.
That’s not to say that people like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh are not leaders, but they might not represent the future either. The Republican Party also has people like Congressman Paul Ryan and Congressman Eric Cantor, but congressmen don’t typically become serious presidential contenders like senators and governors do.
Senator Ensign is a fresh face, and he has an outstanding conservative record. He’s got a long way to go before deciding on whether or not to run for president, but his trip to Iowa will provide him with a great opportunity to see what it’s like to run for president, and Iowans will again get to look into a candidate’s eyes, ask him questions, and determine if Senator Ensign is for real or not.
The Iowa Republican will be in Sioux City to cover Ensign’s visit on Monday. Check in throughout the day for updates and reactions to Ensign’s visit.
Details of Ensign’s visit can be found here.
Monday, June 1, 2009, 7 p.m.
Wilbur Aalfs (Main) Library, Gleeson Room
529 Pierce Street, Sioux City, IA
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