The Iowa caucuses are over and the question has to be: Who cares? And what does it all mean? The caucuses tend to not matter all that much, except to self-righteous Iowans. It was a big deal in 2008 when Barack Obama won and Hillary Clinton came in third but then she bounced back in New Hampshire and they slugged it out for the next seven months. Bill Clinton came in fourth in Iowa the year he won the nomination. What the caucuses do is bring millions of dollars into the state, which becomes the focus of the national media for months.
This year there is no Democratic contest so it is only Republican voters who are really paying attention. Those voters range from conservative to ultra-conservative. Evangelicals there tend to be virulently anti-LGBT, pro-life, states rights advocates and generally believe we would be better off if we went back to the 1950s where their own LGBT relatives were forced to stay in the closet and abortions were performed with coat hangers in backrooms. They are often hypocrites pontificating about the sanctity of marriage and then explaining how they could vote for a sleaze like Newt Gingrich.
Remember Mike Huckabee? Most don’t but he won the Iowa Republican caucus in 2008. This year’s games began when Rep. Michele Bachmann won the Ames straw poll in which you bus people in from around the state and pay them to vote.
She was big news in all the national media outlets, which screamed, “Bachmann is the frontrunner.” That didn’t last very long. Next came Rick Perry, the Texas governor who many said was “the candidate for those who thought George Bush was too cerebral.” Well Iowans thought he was the cat’s meow until his debate performances doomed his candidacy.
Next they fell in love with Herman Cain. I think it made them feel good to support someone who was the only face of diversity in their midst even though he hardly ever campaigned there since he was too busy selling his book. But something about his yelling 999 everywhere made their hearts flutter. Their love affair with him kept going until they found out he may have had too many of his own. First it was those pesky women he harassed and then the one with late night phone calls and cash payments his wife didn’t know about for 13 years. After Cain was cast aside there was that quickie love affair with Newt Gingrich, sort of like his marriages, which flamed out as soon as Romney and Paul began their vicious negative commercials about him. Those negative commercials simply told the truth.
As the day of reckoning approached there were three candidates left standing who fought for the hearts of Iowa’s Republican voters. First was the ever-steady Mitt Romney who had first come courting in 2008. He appeared to claim the hearts of the same 25 percent of caucus goers who loved him then. His positions, if you could figure out what they are on any particular day, still seemed too moderate for most Iowans. But some were beginning to say they might overlook his positions because they thought he was the candidate most likely to beat Obama and after all that was the overriding goal.
Then there was Ron Paul, the 76-year-old libertarian running to be president of a government he generally believes shouldn’t exist. And finally the newest heartthrob, or flavor of the week for evangelical Iowans, Rick Santorum. He seemed to be winning the hearts of far-right Iowans as he had won other far-right hearts when he served as a senator from Pennsylvania. Even Tea Party members in Iowa seemed willing to forgive his votes for millions of dollars in earmarks, his support of Romney in 2008 and his worst offense: that he once said abortion may be OK in the case of rape or incest.
Caucus day dawned clear and bright. Nearly 40 percent of Iowa Republicans still claimed they hadn’t made a final decision after all the meet and greets, millions of phone calls and campaign ads, and reading all the campaign literature. The national media were in Iowa spending millions of dollars on food, hotels and travel, to be the first to tell us who the winner was. It is hard to accept that someone other than the candidates themselves and maybe their husbands, wives or other relatives were waiting for this news with baited breath. Most Americans like me were just waiting for this spectacle to be over.
Then early Wednesday morning came the announcement. The top three vote getters were Romney, Santorum and Paul, with Romney winning by just eight votes. Again, I say, who cares? Now on to New Hampshire.