I get many, I mean MANY e mails, Facebook messages, and phone calls from reporters trying to puzzle out the Iowa Political Caucuses. A recent inquiry from my friend the US political corrspondednt of the largest Slovakian newspaper Pravda intrigued me and got me thinking.
What is the connection between off year elections when the caucuses are not exciting because there is no presidential race and the one's every four years that brings the world to every little town and hollow in Iowa?
The 2014 election is a good example.
Ostensibly this race was about:
a. an open Senate seat which is a rare and precious opportunity for the opposite party from the current incumbent Democrat Tom Harkin who decided to retire, to snag a new seat
b. a governors race pitting world champion Terry Branstad seeking a sixth term in two centuries making him the longest serving governor in history and a weak Democratic challenger
c. an open House seat in the First Congressional District a seat vacated by Democrat Bruce Braley who decided to run for the Open Senate seat instead which is also a bonanza because there are not that many open House seats, making the results a tossup. The Democrat running for this seat ran a lackadasical race and there were fears this seat might flip to the Republicans.
d. another rare open seat in Iowa's Third District when the incumbent Republican Tom Latham decided to come home to spend more time with his family and business. This race became a BRUTAL contest between the Democrat and Republican with huge amounts of outside money poured into the race.
e. the Fourth District held by Tea Party ultra conservative Steve King who was under assault from a young Iraq veteran Jim Mowrer who rattled the old incumbent because Mowrer had no record in politics and was a combat veteran which made it hard to attack him.
BUT, in the strange world that is American politics 2014 became very much a precursor to the 2016 Presidential Caucuses. Not only did Hillary Clinton, the presimed candidate of the democrats, make frequent visits to Iowa mostly to support Democratic candidates but Bill Clinton also tagged along and got massive media exposure.
On the Republican side every potential 2016 candidate for President tracked through Iowa doing such improbable events as "raising money to elect Terry Branstad governor" a laughable neccesity since Branstda was awash in money and double digits ahead of his opponent.
I could make a list here of which Republicans came and who came for seconds and thirds but you can make that list yourself. If you REALLY need me to elaborate, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask me to post another blog with the names of Republican likely contenders for 2016.
The take away: fFor the Iowa caucuses any year BEFORE the actual presidential caucus is an opportunity to make connections and network in Iowa with an eye on the Presidency.