EDITOR’S NOTE: Author, consultant, and educator Duane Abbey, a member of the RACmonitor editorial board and a frequent guest on Monitor Mondays, lives in Ames, Iowa: ground zero for Monday’s leadoff caucuses. No presidential candidate has ever been elected without first winning Iowa. What follows are excerpts from an interview with Abbey by RACmonitor.
With the Iowa caucuses looming this coming Monday, are you aware of the media attention both parties are attracting?
Both parties are receiving significant media attention. The level of advertising (television, radio, mailings) is almost overwhelming. I would estimate that about half of the television commercials are political, both from candidates, PACs (political action committees) for the candidates, and then independent PACs. The major news network affiliates, at least in central Iowa, are constantly interviewing candidates and there seem to be many presentations from the candidates even in relatively small communities. (Again, most of my exposure is in central Iowa.)
Could you briefly explain how the caucus system works in Iowa?
I am not an expert on the caucus system itself. I am planning to participate for the first time this year. In the past I was usually traveling or consulting, so I could not participate. Depending upon the weather, which at this point appears to be reasonable, there will probably be a record turnout for both parties. I think the key issue for the Iowa caucuses (or caucae, using the Latin plural, as would Rush Limbaugh) will be the number of first-time attendees. It is these first-timers that will actually determine what is happening during the process. I think this is the key issue, because most of these first-timers will not represent any sort of political establishment view.
Although the Republican candidates have made it clear that they would dismantle the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) if elected, how does that seem to resonate generally in Iowa?
Possible repeal of the PPACA is just one of many issues. My sense is that the issue surrounding the PPACA is that of an overbearing government placing demands and/or restrictions on citizens. Thus, it is (perceived) not so much a PPACA issue as … an example of big government trying to direct the lives of citizens. There is probably more concern about ethanol, biodiesel, and wind energy subsidies in the renewable energy area (remember that all politics is local.) There is also a pipeline, and thus an eminent domain issue, that seems very sensitive with proponents/opponents on both sides.
Iowa once was considered a swing state. With the presence of so many Republican presidential hopefuls in Iowa on the ground, do you think Iowa will vote Republican this year’s election?
I think that Iowa will continue as a swing state. For the most part, Iowa is split between conservatives and liberals, if labels are to be used. The conservative are generally rural, small-town, with the liberals in the more urban areas. Suburban areas are represented by a mix of the two.
Whatever the case, this is an interesting election year, and Iowa is certainly raking in the money by being the first in the nation. Certainly the existence of Iowa, and some of our towns, is becoming more well-known nationwide. You do have to plan carefully when traveling, because you never know when there is going to be some sort of political caravan disrupting our peaceful existence! After the caucuses, we should be able to return to reasonable obscurity and count all the money that has been spent.
As far as enthusiasm levels, it would appear that Trump and Sanders are the two that seem to garner the biggest and most vocal crowds.
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Chuck Buck is the publisher of RACmonitor and the executive producer and program host of Monitor Mondays.
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