Iowa Caucuses and Straw Poll as relevant as ever
by Steffen Schmidt
CityView, Des Moines, 2/18/2015
Every four years, the contrarians come out of the woodwork trashing the Iowa Presidential Caucuses and the Ames Straw Poll.
Retired Drake journalism school professor Herb Strentz had his opportunity at this Whack-a-Mole in Cityview. In “Adieu to the relevance” of the caucuses and poll, he avers that Congressman Steve King’s Freedom Summit is proof of the irrelevance of Iowa. He quotes the left-wing wag Scott Galindez, featured in Anarchist publications such as The Rag Blog, who wrote that Iowans are “God-fearing, pig-castrating, gun toting whackos.”
First of all, Professor Strentz may have missed the fact that there is no such a thing as “Iowans.” There are Independent-No-Party voters, there are lots of Democrats (Iowa is probably still purple), there are seriously lefty Bernie Sanders Democrats, there are Libertarian-Rand Paul Republican Iowans, and there are even lots of moderate Republicans or Mitt Romney would not have tied for first place in the last Iowa caucuses. Iowa is much more diverse than the fool out of town critics can ever imagine.
By the way, in Iowa we have members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and, for all I know, other diverse branches of the Lutheran faith. Now that’s diversity!
Second, the Iowa caucuses are a terrific testing ground for candidates. They can hone their skills, meet lots of self-confident people at cafés, community centers, the Iowa State Fair, and people’s homes, people who will straight out ask hard questions with no intermediaries. And poor candidates like Rick Santorum can beat a rich businessman like Mitt Romney by burning up shoe leather and going to 99 counties shaking hands and selling himself.
Third, Strentz misses the point completely that Iowa allows us and the massive media horde that come here to assess the character and communications style and skills of contenders. Anyone watching Steve King’s Summit from “gavel-to-gavel” could not help but see the differences between Gov. Scott Walker and Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Sara Palin.
Fourth, the Ames Straw Poll is a terrific, fun political festival. The media loves it. Those attending the event (including me) love it. The Iowa Republican Party loves it since it raises a ton of money. Ames and Story County love it because these fool politicians leave a big chunk of money with us. It’s called a Republican stimulus package for us.
Fifth, Joni Ernst WON the Senate race. No matter how much the left dislikes her, the Democrats blew that race and almost every other race in 2014. That’s how elections work, Professor. The majority works hard, turns out large numbers and wins elections. I recommend that the Democrats carefully study Joni’s campaign. They will learn how to win elections.
And, of course, the East Coast dandies who write about the Iowa caucuses have their own axe to grind, and their own “groupies” to satisfy.
I, for one, am a huge fan of the Iowa Caucuses and the Straw Poll. They create political excitement. They show what highly motivated voters are as opposed to the low information and low intensity voters who turn out for primaries.
Let the candidates roll in!
Join me this September for a fun, online, FREE class on the Iowa Caucuses (and Straw Poll)!
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Steffen Schmidt is originator and co-author of the largest selling American government college textbook and Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University. His Iowa Caucuses online course launches in September.