The importance of Iowa politics



Opinion columnist Colin Horning discusses the importance of Iowa politics on a national level.

COLIN HORNING, Opinion Columnist

If you’re someone like me who has lived in Iowa his whole life, you probably tend to view our state as rather insignificant to the rest of the United States, aside from our massive production of corn, soybeans and other agricultural products. We tend to be regarded as one of those states located in “flyover country,” lying somewhere in between New York and Los Angeles, and kind of in the general vicinity of Chicago.

It’s understandable how we get forgotten: the vast majority of Iowa is covered in farmland, with a town containing 40,000 residents like Cedar Falls being considered a “city” to a lot of people. But low and behold, Iowa has turned into one of the most important states in the entire country in terms of the role we play in national politics. The obvious answer here is our first-in-the-nation caucuses, which as we know garner a lot of national media attention. The caucuses, usually held at the beginning of February, are typically a good indicator of how well presidential candidates will do throughout the primary season.

While the caucuses haven’t been the most accurate in determining the eventual Democrat or Republican nominees (Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses in 2016, Donald Trump was second), they are good at shoring up the playing field.

Three candidates for president in 2016 dropped out within two days of the Iowa caucuses due to their poor showing at the polls (Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Rand Paul). The caucuses also result in many presidential candidates, both current and potential, spending a lot of time in Iowa before the actual election season is in full swing in order to get name recognition.

Just in the past few months, we’ve seen prominent political figures visit Iowa, including California Senator Kamala Harris, former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and of course President Trump himself, all of whom are being talked about as potential presidential candidates in 2020.

    During the general election for President, Iowa plays another significant role that not many other states can claim: we are one of several “swing states,” or “battleground states.” Due to the fact that our state is neither deeply red or blue, it can be hard to predict which presidential candidate the state will vote for. To put into perspective how divided our state’s politics are, it’s worth noting that Republican Senator (and UNI alum) Chuck Grassley has been elected to the U.S. Senate for seven straight terms dating back to 1980, while at the same time serving alongside Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, who was elected to five consecutive terms dating back to 1984 and ending in 2014.

During presidential campaigns, Iowa voted for Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama twice, while voting for Republicans George Bush in 2004 and Donald Trump in 2016. On top of this, most election cycles show our state with slim polling numbers between candidates, with many polling outlets often times calling the Iowa race a “toss-up.” Despite the fact that Iowa only has six electoral votes to offer in presidential elections, many candidates will spend a lot of time campaigning here both during caucus season and during the general election season in order to engage voters and potentially capture crucial electoral votes for the presidency. Even though a mere six votes might not seem like a lot, they can be critical to presidential candidates. Every electoral vote matters.

    While a lot of people who aren’t from the Midwest tend to forget about Iowa and disregard our importance as a state, it’s important to remember that we play a massive role in national politics. Our first-in-the-nation caucuses are definitely unique and crucial during the primary season.

Our reputation of being a swing-state during presidential election years means that our state will continue to receive national attention from both candidates and the media. Even though it might not seem like it, Iowa plays a very important role in determining the politics of the rest of America.