I want to dedicate this column to the people of Iowa. I spent a night in Iowa once, 18 years ago, in Iowa City. I was traveling cross-country. I don’t remember much about it, honestly, but it made enough of an impression on me that I purchased an Iowa University Hawkeyes Football T-shirt. I also stopped and grabbed a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese value meal from a McDonald’s some ways off the Interstate where I was the only person inside who didn’t have blond hair and blue eyes. So, I may not have an intimate knowledge of Iowans, but I feel like I do, not because I’ve slept at their Motel 6 and dined at their Mickey-Dee’s, but because every four years, the entire country seems way too-intently focused upon them.
The Iowa Caucus will take place Feb. 3, 2020. It will be our first glimpse at who may emerge from a still-growing (how is that even possible) field of democratic presidential hopefuls. To use a sports analogy, it’s kind of like game one of the World Series. It’s nice to start off with a win, but there’s still a long way to go before you get to hose down the locker room with champagne, hoist that trophy and render your opponent’s world champion merchandise sitting in a warehouse somewhere irrelevant.
Nevertheless, it’s understandable why a candidate would want to get off on the right foot. That’s why every four years, suddenly, people who have never even eaten a McDonald’s french fry in Iowa are all about this Midwestern state. I can only imagine the amount of ads they must be forced to sit through every four years. Since they are the first caucus, the field is always at its largest when the election cycle looks toward Iowa, and this time around, the field is immense. Like, it must be impossible to go to a blue-collar diner in a small town somewhere, because you’re likely to encounter Joe Biden and his coterie of advisors, PR people and campaign personnel. You just wanted to settle into a plate of onion rings after a long day of work, and now you’re being polled.
See, poor Iowa, right? And what’s worse is Jake Tapper doesn’t care about you once the primary is done. Fox and Friends and Morning Joe won’t be broadcasting live from the parking lot of a Hawkeyes’ game anytime soon after Feb. 4.
Anyway, at least Iowans can revel in the fact that people in the country at large actually care about what they think right now. New polls have emerged that South Bend, Indiana’s Mayor Pete Buttigieg has surged to the top of the field. Mayor Pete seems cool. I liked him a lot when he burst on the scene. He seemed to be the antithesis of our current president: Young, well-read, worldly and with a strong record of public service. Sure, his name has the word “Butt” in it, and I worried how that would play with voters, but he certainly had charisma to spare. Then his star kind of waned as the more established candidates ramped up their efforts. Honestly, I didn’t even realize he was still in the race. I mean, I knew he hadn’t dropped out, but I just thought he was over it, or just realized he didn’t have a shot in hell.
Apparently, he’s been laser-focused on Iowa. I guess it makes sense since he’s just two states away. If anyone knew who he was, it was probably Iowans. The strategy has worked. He now has a nine-point lead over Elizabeth Warren (Biden is in third), and he’s up 16 points since September, according to a poll posted on CNN.com.
“Over the last few months he has built one of the largest on-the-ground operations in the state, supplemented by a robust advertising campaign and strong public appearances, including a speech at the Democratic Party’s biggest event of the year earlier this month in Des Moines,” the article states.
There’s more than two months as of this writing to go before the caucus, though, and as we’ve come to learn, polls should probably be taken with a grain of salt, going forward. Still, I hope the people of Iowa at least take some satisfaction from being the talk of the town for a while. For what it’s worth, I still have that Hawkeyes T-shirt.