Iowans have a rare political opportunity

The key part Iowa’s caucuses play in the process through which our major political parties select their nominees for president will put Iowa at the heart of the 2020 campaign for the next few months.

Our caucuses get enormous attention from the national news media because they come at the very start of the presidential campaign. Not very many convention delegates are at stake. Even so, a candidate who does well here gets a big publicity boost. Winning in the Hawkeye State can put a candidate on his or her way to becoming our nation’s next chief executive.

The caucus system requires candidates to campaign differently here than they will later in the election season. They must convince a substantial number of Iowans to show up at public meetings on a cold winter evening to express support for their favored contender. (That’s still true even though some new alternatives have been added for 2020.) The process is both more public and demands more time than simply stopping by a polling place to cast a ballot.

To build the type of loyalty and enthusiasm that translates into caucus attendance, it is necessary to do more than just run television commercials. To be successful, candidates must expend the time and energy to court supporters face-to-face. That results in campaigning that is very personal. It involves a great deal of one-on-one interaction with potential caucus attendees.

Consequently, those of us who call Iowa home have the chance to take a less-structured look at would-be presidents than is possible during later stages of the campaign when commercials and huge rallies dominate. We are able to meet and assess these contenders in a far more personal manner than would be the case if we lived most other places. It also affords us the ability to ask questions about their approaches to issues important to rural America that might not get asked in another state.

Particularly at this early stage, the groups that gather to meet a candidate are often quite small. The possibility to have a short conversation with a would-be president actually exists. And even in more formal settings, the folks in the audience aren’t seated or standing far from the candidates. They can observe and gain a real perspective on how they interact with others.

Even though most of the candidates currently crisscrossing our state are seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination, you don’t have to have an allegiance to that political party to attend many of the campaign events that will take place near where you live. Take the time to do so.

Already this summer, several top contenders have spent time in north central Iowa towns. They’ll be back. Those who haven’t been here yet most likely will stop by in the months ahead.

One of these candidates could be the next president of the United States. Others may be destined to occupy that office after some future election or be selected for another major post. It’s even possible that one day future historians will regard one or more of the current candidates as legendary figures. You have the chance to judge for yourself which, if any, of these wannabe presidents has the right stuff.

The good fortune of living in Iowa provides each of us with an exceptional chance to get close to history as it unfolds. Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity to judge for yourself whether or not what you are reading and hearing about these candidates rings true.

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