It didn’t take very long after the mid-term elections were done for the national and local media to begin writing articles about the upcoming 2012 Iowa caucuses. There has been plenty of caucus activity in recent weeks to satisfy the media’s appetite. 2008 Iowa Caucus winner, Mike Huckabee, has visited the state, as did Newt Gingrich. Sarah Palin has visited the state twice to promote her new book, and Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty have Iowa trips scheduled.
Not only is the traditional media reporting on the comings and goings of these potential Republican presidential candidates, they are also writing stories about the caucuses themselves and the people and events that will shape the race. This week, TheIowaRepublican.com will look to into five different myths on which many in media seem to be focused.
Today, we look at the media created myth that the caucus campaigning in Iowa is getting off to a slower than usual start.
At this time four years ago, Mitt Romney and John McCain had already employed a number of Iowans for months. By the end of February of 2007, Romney and McCain formally announced their campaigns and officially opened their Iowa offices.
There is no doubt that things are off to a slower start than four years ago if one only compares the 2010 caucuses to the 2008 caucuses. That said, there is still plenty of time for candidates to announce and meet or beat Romney’s and McCain’s February announcements four years ago. When the 2008 caucus campaigns are compared to the caucus campaigns from 2000, it shows that the early start of the 2008 caucus campaigns were an exception, not the norm.
In 1999, Steve Forbes officially announced his candidacy in March, George W. Bush announced in June, and John McCain announced in September. While the Bush and Forbes campaigns were employing Iowans before each made their official announcement, those campaigns were not fully staffed for quite some time.
For instance, I joined the Forbes campaign in June of 1999, just two months before the Iowa Straw Poll, and I wasn’t the last field staffer hired by the campaign. Forbes was polling at two or three percent in the Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll when I signed on to work with him. In just a few months, Forbes has made a major move in the polls and finished second to Bush in the Straw Poll.
We are not experiencing a late start to the caucus campaigns in Iowa. What we are dealing with is a potential field of candidates that lacks a true frontrunner. That’s not a bad thing at all. By the looks of things, the depth of the 2012 class of candidates seem to be of a much better than it was in previous cycles. While it might take a little more time for things to sort themselves out, that’s actually good for the voters and the caucuses themselves.
Another factor that must be discussed when talking about the mythical “late start” in Iowa is the uncertainty that surrounded the 2008 caucus date. In 2007, the date for the caucuses were not established until late October, after the Iowa Straw Poll had already taken place.
In that cycle, we saw states like Michigan, Florida, and Wyoming all move up their primaries in hopes of getting more presidential attention. That wreaked havoc on the nominating calendar. Fortunately, the RNC and DNC have both addressed those problems.
The current caucuses are scheduled for February 6, 2012. While they could move by a week or so, nobody is expecting to see the news reports that we saw in 2007 speculating that the caucuses going to be held in December. The uncertainty in the nomination calendar forced candidates had to organize early. When you don’t know when the election is going to take place, you need to ready.
The 24-hour news cycle and internet news sites have also impacted the politics of caucus campaigns. In 1999 and 2000 the 24-hour news networks were still in their infancy. Now, they are a primary source of news for the people who will vote in the caucuses. What exists now that didn’t exist back then is a whole host of political websites that focus entirely on politics. Whether it’s a national site like The Politico, or a site like TheIowaRepublican.com that focuses on Iowa politics, they and other sites like them add a dynamic to the campaign that didn’t exist before.
All of the attention that the presidential candidates will receive from all of these news outlets also means that the nomination process will have a more national feel, even thought the contests still begin in a handful of smaller states. This additional media attention allows candidates the ability to remain in the discussion without camping out in states like Iowa and New Hampshire as soon as the mid-term elections are over.
Like the national media, I too am anxious for the caucus campaigns to heat up. However, the notion that the caucus campaigns are off to a slow start is not even worth mentioning. I think I speak for a lot of Iowans who are thankful to have a little break between the 2010 campaigns and all the caucus activity. As was the case in 1999, there is plenty of time for these campaigns to take shape.
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