This evening, for the first time I will participated in the Democratic Iowa Caucus at my local precinct. The Iowa Caucus has been first in the nation since 1972 and increasingly draws incredible candidate and media attention to the state. Over the past year candidates have been making stops all around Iowa, spending millions on television ad campaigns, and in the recent week, making a barrage of automated phone calls to homes across the state.
Caucus season affords all Iowans plentiful and generally convenient opportunities to meet just about every current presidential candidate. I have taken advantage and met a few candidates. Back in 2004, I met John Kerry weeks before the Caucus, at a Cedar Rapids rally held in my high school gymnasium. While at Iowa State this past year I crossed paths with a few candidates as they traversed the state making stops on campus. In January 2007, I attended an energetic Barack Obama rally at Hilton Coliseum just one day after he announced his candidacy. In November I went to see candidate Rudy Giuliani speak at the Memorial Union. This event was much less exciting with about half the small space unoccupied and Giuliani showing up nearly 45 minutes late. And yesterday, I once again went to see Obama at a Caucus crunch-time rally in Cedar Rapids at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.
Undoubtedly the Iowa Caucus is a huge economic boon for the state as well as great PR, especially for the city of Des Moines where most of the media action takes place. Although it’s hard for national media outlets to resist spinning Iowa as an entirely rural state, like intentionally placing reporters in front of a stereotypical cornfield, there is increasing exposure of Des Moines’ impressive skyline and booming downtown. Unfortunately the media attention cannot be as profitable for every larger city in Iowa. Regardless the Iowa Caucus puts the whole state in the national spotlight every four years and is a great opportunity and privilege for the citizens of Iowa.