While the mainstream media from across the globe flood into Iowa with their camera equipment, microphones and digital schedules, Iowans are prepping for the first-in-the-nation caucus which will take place in the state on January 3, 2011. Iowans have traditionally had long political seasons due to their voting status in large primary elections such as those for President of the United States. Even though the election doesn’t happen until November 2012, Iowans have already been inundated with nearly every political campaign ad (good and bad), been visited or called by nearly every candidate (some multiple times), received mailings or been busy trying to decide which candidate is the better GOP choice to face Barack Obama in the coming year. As the world watches, Iowans are preparing.
Traditionally candidates have developed organized county chairs and precinct captains to supercharge their campaigns in Iowa. The goal is to get as many supporters to the caucus sites as possible. Usually this strategy is combined with over-the-air ads on radio and television markets to ensure that the message each candidate wants to stress is clearly stated even if the listener isn’t a current supporter. This political season, Iowans have been nearly drowned in heavy television advertising, social media networking and candidate debates. Polls have fluctuated up and down. Unfortunately, the GOP still hasn’t been able to nail down one solid front-runner in the state, and they only have a few days left until Iowans make their decision.
There are nearly 600,000 registered Republican voters in Iowa, but a recent estimate given in CityView (a Des Moines ‘alternative’ newszine) only one out of every five of those who are registered will actually participate in the caucus at their precinct on Jan. 3. In an independent poll conducted on polldaddy.com by this Examiner (Dec. 19, 2011), out of 5500 participants who were registered as Republicans, a mere 35 percent stated that they would participate in the caucus. Of those same 5500 participants, only one in three said that they had made a decision about who they would cast a vote for at the caucus. A recent Gallop Poll has Romney and Gingrich in a deadlock.
This information seems to point to a trend; Iowans, although inundated with political information, aren’t finding this decision easy to make. Here are some reasons why that may be happening:
- Michele Bachmann came on strong only to hit her political climax after winning the Republican straw poll in Iowa on Aug. 13. Following the event, which is mainly attended by those who are already supporters and invited to the event by candidates, Bachmann’s poll numbers dove. She has promised to commit to Iowa and built a strong organization in Iowa. She also hired Eric Woolson, the man known for helping lift Mike Huckabee in the 2008 caucus. Bachmann has been to all 99 counties in Iowa, yet her poll numbers hang steadily near the bottom of the pack. Bachmann even had one Iowa event re-scheduled due to disruptions in Iowa. Bachmann has voiced that she plans on winning Iowans over to her side in time for the caucus. In a late-breaking turnabout, Bachmann is facing the fact that her state chairman, Kent Sorenson (an Iowa state senator), defected to Ron Paul’s camp and gave his endorsement to Paul.
- Rick Perry is a familiar face to Iowans, even if they’ve never met him, due to a heavy television ad campaign in the state. According to NBC’s First Read, Perry will have spent more than $4 million in advertising in the state. The day that Bachmann won the straw poll, Perry stepped into the race. Perry’s plan has been to lay down a grass roots organization. This plan has helped him to reach people through mass media and National spokesperson Ray Sullivan has said that Perry has the “best conservative record and policy ideas”. Sullivan added that “Iowans expect to see and hear from the candidates. They are independent and take their job very seriously.” Perry was an early poll leader, but in Iowa he too has dropped to the middle of the pack, regardless, after what many call poor debate performances.
- Rick Santorum has made more personal visits to Iowa than any other GOP candidate. During many national debates, Santorum would include names of Iowa locations like he had them memorized. He told those at the Pioneer Hi-Bred International Headquarters in Johnston, Iowa, that although his resources are low, he has “had the energy and commitment to soldier on.” It is difficult not to see Santorum on the nightly news every evening, and it’s true he has been dead-on when it comes to keeping his promise to visit every county in Iowa and talk to the people. Unfortunately, his work hasn’t moved him up in the polls. He may be able to tell you where Homestead, Iowa, is but can he make those in Homestead vote for him?
- Newt Gingrich had a head-start in Iowa only to see his campaign staff leaving him in droves. When Gingrich moved up in the polls in November and early December nationally, he also became poised to be taken as a serious candidate following the dropout of once-leading Herman Cain. Gingrich drew many Cain supporters his direction, and it got him a top spot in at least one poll. Gingrich’s ad campaign has been limited, and most of them have finger-pointed at other candidates and been responses to claims about his job performance in Washington being false. After news about Gingrich’s involvement with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and his three marriages came to light, he began slipping in the Iowa polls and was last seated as fourth in the most recent CNN poll.
- Ron Paul was once viewed as completely out of touch with America, politics, Washington and the world by many. The Texas Congressman who is a Libertarian in Republican clothing has recently gained more and more support in Iowa. Paul has garnered a lot of his following due to Constitutionalists, Libertarians and Independents (including Tea Party activists) who see him as an alternative to the status-quo in D.C. According to First Read, Paul will have spent nearly $3 million on air-time (television and radio). Paul’s Ankeny, Iowa, office opened in late April, giving him an early start in the state. Paul has made over fifty appearances in the state at various events, but he has a very large volunteer base that is good at getting out his message even if the candidate isn’t available at that time. His debate performances have often boosted his image as well as the extra time he has spent at events. James Barcia, Paul’s deputy press secretary says that Iowans like Paul because, “he is very generous with his time and is not in and out of the door.” Paul holds a steady spot at the top of the polls. To win, he will have to convince Iowans that he isn’t too old too lead the country and that his ideas about freedom in American won’t conflict with a good foreign policy (where he has traditionally been attacked as ‘weak’).
- Mitt Romney seemed, at first, that he might ignore Iowa altogether. He spent most of his campaign time in New Hampshire, focusing on the primaries instead of the caucus. Iowa voters took notice, and Romney didn’t fare well in early polls. Whether intentional or not, Iowans weren’t getting ‘face time’, and Romney’s campaign appeared to notice this when Gingrich took a big leap forward in the polls. In the last couple of months, the Romney camp has opened more offices and been more active in getting out in the public. A late ad campaign has focused on his ‘strengths’, but at the same time slammed Gingrich especially. It seems that as Romney stands at the top of the most recent polls in Iowa, it may be due more to his fellow candidates’ errors (ie. Cain sexual harrassment claims, Gingrich involved with Wall Street) than Iowans truly understanding what his message is. Romney has spent more time in the state meeting with Iowans in the past two weeks. Count on him to try to push his lead before Jan. 3. Even if he does, Romney is not a guaranteed winner in Iowa.
So, as Iowans try to decide which candidate they will caucus for and ultimately push forward as the GOP candidate – the world and nation will watch on. After all, they too will have to make their own personal decisions whether they agree with Iowans or not. Guarantees don’t come easy in politics, and a win in Iowa is no guarantee this year.
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