Monday, October 03, 2005

The Iowa Democratic Caucus in 08 or a three-part strategy on how to let an Iowa cash cow die

ONE, you need at least one entrenched political party to blame its election night bad luck on the candidates that get made in Iowa. After last November’s spanking, pundits looked around for anyone or anything to blame, and instead of looking at the hapless Kerry they pointed a finger at Iowa with the vague suggestion that “Iowans shouldn’t …” Excerpted from a Peter Beinart column from the WaPo…

... Most Democrats recognize that they have a problem on national security -- a problem exemplified by November exit polls showing President Bush with an astounding 72-point lead among voters who cited "terrorism" as their overriding issue. What most Democrats don't recognize is that the Iowa caucuses are a critical part of that problem. ...

Ari Melber, a former Kerry campaign staffer, shared these observations at

… At the commission's second meeting in May, Levin gave a fiery presentation calling for the abolition of Iowa and New Hampshire's "perpetual privilege." He advocated rotating regional primaries to involve more states, increase diversity and engage more voters. Levin declared, "what's at stake here is nothing less than a struggle for political equality."

One commission member said Levin's "effective and passionate" advocacy made reform more likely. Leaders from Iowa and New Hampshire counter that only small states can allow retail politics to compete with big money.

After the meeting, Dingell argued that Iowa and New Hampshire do not represent the party's diversity or its electoral ambitions: "two small states have a disproportionate impact on the nominating process. We need candidates in states that reflect issues across the country." Dingell added that most Democrats agree with this position. "We're not asking for Michigan to go first. We're asking for a system that allows all states to be relevant," she said. Besides these egalitarian goals, Dingell is also quick to argue that history is on her side. After Kerry's loss, she reminded Democrats, "Iowa and New Hampshire are not giving us national winners."

Of course, most people do not blame Iowa or New Hampshire for the Democrats' recent losses. But many grassroots Democrats question whether the 2004 primaries were too fast and too unrepresentative of the party's members. I served on the Kerry Campaign's staff in Iowa, so I was obviously happy with the outcome. After working in Des Moines for months, I also concluded that Iowa's grassroots Democratic traditions make it a great place to start the primaries. But Iowa's first-in-the nation role does not require a rushed or "front loaded" primary process, which effectively reduces the power of other states. Furthermore, as Levin is arguing, a political party that stands for political equality and civil rights must confront the racial components of this imbalance, even if they are entirely unintended.

Ari does not intend to make a return trip to Iowa, not even a fly-by.

TWO, you need incredibly stupid political consultants making desperate arguments that sound like they came straight from the brain of a pathological five year old. Then again, you give some of these guys cheap scotch and bad poll numbers and they do sound just like wigged out five year olds. From the October 1 WaPo

… Democratic consultant Steve Murphy warned that it is critical they make no changes that help Republicans. Murphy and Iowa Democratic activist Jerry Crawford said Democrats should avoid changing the leadoff roles of Iowa and New Hampshire, which could anger voters in those states and make GOP victories there very likely in the general election.
THREE, the we’re-all-white-folk Iowa politicos crumble into apology mode when anyone mentions diversity. The smart hacks know this, and are working the “not sufficiently diverse enough to nominate a winning Democrat” angle to chainsaw any Iowa arguments about the keeping the caucus; an Iowan speaks up and Iowa caucus opponents whisper racism. This under the radar whisper could inflict pain on “rising star” Tom Vilsack as he works to shake off his English Only reputation. So, you get the idea why the Iowa pols are keeping their mouths shut.

You add it up and -- thanks to the Iowa Democrats and their inability to handle the politics of our 1st in the Nation status -- Iowa will eventually lose the first caucus and all the PR, money and power that comes with it.

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