Monday, June 6, 2011

Can't Skip Iowa

I'm not sure how much news it is that a candidate who has no plausible chance of winning the Republican nomination for president is going to use a campaign strategy that doesn't yield nominations, but anyway: Jon Hunstman is apparently skipping Iowa.

It's an excuse, at least, for a reminder. Skipping Iowa doesn't work. Most people don't pay attention to presidential politics until very late in the game. When they start paying attention -- when the non-obsessive section of the news media starts paying lots of attention -- is around the Iowa caucuses, and a candidate not playing there will, naturally, not receive the publicity that the other candidates receive. Then comes the caucuses, and another blast of publicity that the non-participant will miss. And the last bit is that the winners in Iowa will at the very least be taken more seriously, and perhaps get the kind of windfall positive publicity that Jimmy Carter in 1976 or Gary Hart in 1984 got. Note that Hart's came from a weak second place finish; the news media have to find some candidate to give the rest of the primaries and caucuses some drama.

The truth is that if you don't have a realistic chance of finishing top three in Iowa, you really don't have a realistic chance of winning the nomination. And, yes, I know that John McCain fell just short of that, but that would certainly put him in the category of having had a realistic shot at the top three.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with pretending to avoid Iowa in order to lower expectations, as McCain did, and as Mitt Romney appears to be doing this year. But really skipping Iowa? Can't do it. Not if you want to be the nominee.


  1. Reagan skipped Iowa in 1980, no? Of course, he was already the frontrunner. And McCain had already won NH last time around.

  2. Anon,

    No, Reagan competed in Iowa in 1980.


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