The technology of election reporting is fascinating. As the data comes in and is fed into computers, color graphics make for spectacular pie charts, maps, graphs and other ways of displaying what the data looks like, and what it means. And the focus is on one of those square, somewhat obscure, middle American states, Iowa.
I’ve never been in the state myself, though I’d like to visit there some day. I know several Iowans. From pop culture, the state is characterized, at least for me, by Walter “Radar” O’Reilly, the fictional corporal who was the company clerk for the 4077th M*A*S*H in the television series.
And so here, in this rather flat, open-country state in the middle of the Midwest, the nation focuses its political interest on its registered voters who turn up at precinct caucuses to cast the first votes that count, so to speak, on the way to electing the President of the United States. It is one of those places where you get an up-front seat at democracy in action. As the vote totals come in, the leading candidates are separated by votes numbering in the hundreds, rather than the thousands or millions you see in nationwide elections.
There are several things here that are very ironic. One is that since there is no Democratic race, it is a small group of Republicans from Iowa who have one of the loudest and most influential voices in choosing the Republican nominee in 2012. That’s ironic since the Republicans are a minority in Iowa, and the state’s five electoral votes usually go to a Democrat. I can see why. It would be very difficult to go through all of the mud slinging, accusations, fights, and focus of millions of dollars of negative campaign ads, come out the winner, and then try to campaign for president against the nominee of the other party, expecially if he’s an incumbent. And this time around, with everything that has been said, and the massive amounts of money that have been spent by the candidates who have it, the Republican nominee will very likely have a hard time in Iowa. All the President will have to do is replay some of the GOP’s ads from the caucuses.
I think Iowa may also help the GOP leadership get a grip on just how difficult it will be for their party nominee to win in 2012. Look how many different candidates led the polls here in just a few weeks. The negative numbers are high. It will be difficult for any Republican, and if there is one who is more “electable” against President Obama than another, Iowa won’t answer that question.
I think it is pretty obvious that after tonight, Michelle Bachmann is done. Rick Perry probably is, too, though he’ll have to get beaten in New Hampshire and South Carolina to drum him out. Beyond that, this is still wide open.