The political media can’t stop talking about the Iowa Caucus, which takes place in a couple of weeks and they tell us is the first official electoral event of the 2012 presidential campaign. They’re all playing it up like it means something, like it’s a predictor for what happens next and who will become the GOP nominee.
That’s because they don’t remember history and have no perspective.
If you don’t believe me, ask President Mike Huckabee. He was the beneficiary of all the pre-caucus hype four years ago and ended up winning in Iowa with 34% of the vote, the kind of kick-start a campaign of destiny needs. How’d that work out? While it did get Huck a contract with Fox News, he was never really a threat to the eventual nominee, John McCain — who came in fourth in Iowa with both Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson finishing ahead of him, too.
In 1988, then-Vice President George HW Bush finished a weak third behind Bob Dole and Pat Robertson (!), yet somehow managed to succeed Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office. Dole, by the way, did go on to win the nomination — in 1996, after barely getting more Iowans to choose him than Pat Buchanan.
What does all this mean? Mostly that Iowa is a terrible bellweather state. Its Republican base is much more white-bread conservative than the rest of the country, so the more extreme a candidate’s right-wing-ishness, the better their chances. Remember, this is the state that even liked Michele Bachmann for a couple of minutes.
But let’s not allow the facts to get in the way of the hype. Let’s play up Iowa as the most important place on the political map — and don’t let me hear you say anything bad about corn subsidies and the ethanol mandate mistake.