The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Capehart: Stop Picking on Iowans! They Picked Obama!


The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart finds a reason to like the Iowa caucuses: They voted for Obama!

Complaints that a state that looks nothing like the rest of the nation has such a disproportionate impact on how this nation picks its leaders. Of course, I’m talking about Iowa. And the lengths the Republican candidates are going to appeal to the more socially conservative caucus-goers there is nothing short of frightening. But before folks get a little too giddy about beating down the Hawkeye State, I want to remind them of something. This was the same wildly unrepresentative state that added instant legitimacy to the presidential ambitions of then-Sen. Barack Obama…

History was to be made — and it was the people of Iowa who set the wheels in motion. So leave them alone.

Candidates I prefer (Romney, Perry) may finish first or perform well in this year’s Iowa GOP caucuses. Candidates I do not prefer (Ron Paul) may finish first or perform well in this year’s Iowa GOP caucuses. Whether I get a preferred outcome or not, it doesn’t change much regarding my fundamental objection: In four days, about 80,000 to 140,000 Republicans in the 30th-most-populous state will get together on a winter’s night and all but eliminate certain candidates. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and/or Rick Santorum will be seriously hurt by not finishing third or higher (perhaps one could sustain their effort with a strong enough fourth-place finish). Iowa has .97 percent of the United States population; if anyone drops out after Iowa, 99.03 percent of us will never have the opportunity to cast a vote in support of that candidacy.

(Perhaps we need a slogan. “We Are the 99 Percent!” Wait, what? You say that one is already taken?)

I would suggest Capehart’s “Iowa is good, because it selected Obama” defense tells us a lot about the mentality of many of our friends on the left. They find an outcome they prefer (Obama winning) and work backward to determine what is “good”; we work forward from the right (and Right) principles and accept the outcome of a good process.

In fact, my objection about Iowa is more about the extremely low participation rate of a caucus and less about the state being “wildly unrepresentative” as Capehart laments; the state is 91 percent white while the nation as a whole is 72 percent white. It is very close to the national average in percentage of population under 18 and percentage of persons identifying as biracial, and the state’s median household income of $48,065 is close to the national average of $50,221.

The state has slightly more persons over 65, a slightly higher percentage of high-school graduates and slightly lower percentage of college graduates, a slightly higher percentage of homeowners, and a slightly lower percentage living below the poverty level.

Iowa “looks nothing like the rest of the nation”? Actually, demographically, it’s not that bad. Of course, the demographics of the state aren’t the same as the demographics of the caucus-goers.

Tags: Barack Obama , Iowa , The Washington Post


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