By Craig Robinson
While the national media is trying to convince the Republican Party to become a kindler, gentler, more moderate political party, the Des Moines Register has rounded up the usual suspects to disparage Iowa’s role in the presidential nominating process.
Iowa Republicans did themselves no favors when they followed up the botched certification of the caucus results with a heavy dose of Ron Paul. Not only did Paul supporters take over the Republican Party of Iowa, but the third place finisher in the caucuses was also awarded 22 out of Iowa’s 28 delegates at the Republican National Convention.
Iowa’s 2012 caucus woes are well documented, but that doesn’t mean that Iowa will not host the First-in-the-Nation caucuses again in 2016. The one advantage that Iowa and New Hampshire have is that it will be extremely difficult to significantly change the nomination calendar as far as the early states are concerned. If Iowa doesn’t go first then who does? Reinventing the nominating calendar would create chaos for both political parties, those eyeing a presidential run, and even the media.
Simply put, it’s probably easier to keep the current primary calendar in place than it would be to junk it for something new. Another factor that helps the 2016 Iowa caucuses is that both parties will hold competitive caucuses following a two-term president. Changing the nominating calendar would take cooperation from both parties, which is something we don’t see much of anymore.
Despite the favorable odds that Iowa will once again lead off the presidential contest in 2016, there are those who believe that the caucuses are the root cause of all the trouble that Republican nominees have to deal with in the general election. It’s sad that the media, especially an Iowa newspaper, continues to fall for this line of garbage.
To think that a Republican presidential candidate wouldn’t have to answer questions on social issues or immigration in a debate if Iowa didn’t go first is nonsense. Let’s remember, it was George Stephanopoulos who asked the Republican candidates a question about contraception, not an Iowan. In fact, the left’s war on women came in response to a congressional hearing in Washington D.C., not a campaign event in a small Iowa town. And by the way, nobody knew who Sandra Fluke was until after the Iowa caucuses.
The last two Republican nominees have also done their best to avoid the Iowa caucuses. Romney basically ignored the state for much of 2011 and only campaigned in the state late in the process when his campaign believed he would win the caucuses. Major candidates essentially skipping Iowa is a cause for concern, but electoral math suggests that a candidate would be wise not to bypass either Iowa or New Hampshire.
While it’s true that Mitt Romney and John McCain won the Republican nomination without the help of Iowa, winning the general election is a different story. Combined, Iowa and New Hampshire only tally 10 electoral votes, but as we saw a week ago, the route to the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the presidency is narrow, and even small states matter.
This is especially true for Republicans. Even if a Republican presidential candidate carries Florida, Ohio, and Virginia they still need another state to put them over the top. The most likely states to do that are Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, or Nevada. If you notice, three of the four are early states.
So, when former Iowa Speaker of the House Chris Rants told the Des Moines Register that a presidential candidate can, “do the calculus about how to survive without Iowa,” he completely ignores the importance states like Iowa have in determining who will win the presidency in the general election.
Candidates may choose to skip Iowa in hopes of avoiding a confrontation with conservative issues in the primary, but ask Mitt Romney how that worked for him? Romney avoided social issues, really any controversial issue, like it was the plague, and the media and President Obama still ran against him like he was Rick Santorum’s long-lost twin brother.
“Taking their lumps” by forgoing the Iowa Caucuses as Rants suggested is a recipe for disaster. Winning the nomination shouldn’t be the goal for our presidential candidates. The goal is winning the general election. And a quick look at the electoral map suggests skipping Iowa runs the risk of angering the very people a candidate will need come November.
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