Thank Jimmy Carter, or curse him if you prefer, for the steady stream of presidential candidates visiting Iowa every quadrennium.
As a demographic entity, Iowa does not stand as representative of the nation. Its racial makeup, particularly, is far less diverse than the country overall.
And it’s not like Iowans have a political prescience that American voters elsewhere lack. Remember that Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Dick Gephardt finished first in the Iowa caucuses and never sniffed their parties’ eventual nominations.
Even Carter, a governor little known outside Georgia and the first to parlay exposure in Iowa campaigning into a successful presidential run, finished second in the 1976 caucuses. The Democratic winner that year: “Uncommitted.”
Still, Missouri’s northern neighbor will see its community centers, sports venues and feed lots occupied in the coming months with candidates seeking to raise their presidential profile in the presence of roving bands of national political reporters.
The Iowa caucuses will be Feb. 3, 2020, one year from today.
Already, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, alighted in several Iowa cities just days after announcing her candidacy last month. Fellow senator and party mate Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York, followed this same formula a couple of weeks later.
“You are hardy and you are hardworking and you don’t give up,” Gillibrand said, identifying with a crowd in Des Moines. “It’s a lot like upstate New York Democrats.”
Another senator and Democrat, Kamala Harris of California, kicked off her campaign last Sunday in her home state and spent part of Monday in Iowa.
A former congressman from Maryland, Democrat John Delaney, the first to announce his candidacy in July 2017, boasted last week of the tenacity of his supporters in turning out to open two new Iowa offices despite sub-zero temperatures.
“We’re putting in the work, campaigning everywhere and listening to people,” Delaney said.
Republicans also will host caucuses, even though a GOP president occupies the White House. In 1992 and 2004, with Republican presidents seeking re-election, they ran unopposed in the state.
But the state’s GOP chairman, Jeff Kaufmann, said the party “will roll out the welcome mat to every Republican national leader and elected official who wants to visit Iowa to make their case to our grassroots activists.”
In an interview with RadioIowa, however, he warned, “I’m not going to provide a platform by which people, on our dime, can beat up on our Republican president.”
While a challenger might arise to contest Trump, Iowa will largely bring a focus on Democrats in what promises to be a large field.
Among the more seasoned candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden has weighed a run for the nomination, and 2016 Democratic runner-up Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator, retains a huge following and broad name recognition.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, of the key swing state of Ohio, made his first campaign stop in Iowa Thursday night, pitching a pro-worker message. Businessman and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has designs on the White House and could run a largely self-financed campaign.
Among the under-50 set, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has been building an Iowa organization and announced his candidacy Friday, and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard have already spent time in the state.
Beto O’Rourke, who elevated his profile in losing the Texas U.S. Senate election in November, has been quiet about a presidential run but has supporters singing loud praises in Iowa.
Politicians from neighboring states have often done well in Iowa. Illinoisan Barack Obama finished first among Democrats in 2008, propelling his run to the White House. This year, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, might be the person next door looking to capitalize on this.
Missourians will not get their chance to cast a vote for candidates until the March 10, 2020, primary.
The initial version of this story included a typo in the name of Tulsi Gabbard.