Overton: Return of the Republicans

BY JON OVERTON | JULY 10, 2013 5:00 AM

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I rather miss the 2012 presidential campaign — at least as entertainment. The Republican primaries looked like a competition to see who could take the most outlandish positions from opposing contraception to supporting a Moon base. Then came $6 billion in political ads, drowning the public in a flurry of misinformation and outright lies. And the entire time, cable news promoted every sort of worthless political theater without actually informing voters. Good times.

And they’re back.

Or at least a few Republican hopefuls for the 2016 presidential nomination sure seem ready to revive that glorious golden age that all upstanding Iowans remember as wistfully as our well-paying manufacturing jobs that have been missing in action since the 1980s and 1990s.

A few weeks after the 2012 election, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a likely candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, arrived to make a speech in Iowa.

Then came Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in May for a Republican fundraising dinner.

And a couple weeks later, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was kind enough to drop by.

On Aug. 10, the very Christian and very socially conservative Family Leader will host a summit in Ames, featuring the likes of Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. No doubt it’ll be a family-friendly hoedown, promoting social ideals of the 19th century.

While it’s nice that hopefuls for the Republican presidential nomination are taking an interest in Iowans more than three years before the next presidential election, they really need to back off. It’ll mean less time for them to waste on Iowa and relief for Iowans who must weather a storm of political attack ads every four years.

Frankly, the Iowa caucuses are irrelevant. Since 1972, only two presidential contenders have actually won the caucuses and the general election.

In the singular focus on Iowa, we can see the Republican Party’s outdated demographic strategy at work. In Iowa, candidates are pouring resources into a state whose population, according to census data, is substantially whiter, older, and more rural than the rest of the United States. Iowa is not at all representative of the nation, and with time, it will probably be even less so. While Iowa has the perfect demographic makeup for a Republican-leaning state, in six of the last seven presidential elections, Iowa voters have chosen the Democratic candidate.

Republicans jumping all over Iowa is also terribly premature. It’s hard to say how the bane of the Republican Party, President Obama, will handle his second term, and no one has any idea what the issues will be in 2016.

Candidates waste time getting cuddly with voters, especially since a lot can change in only four years. Much of the presidential campaign in 2000 focused on how to spend the budget surplus and in the following general election, everyone was pretty concerned with how we blasted Iraq.

Sorry, hopeful Republican presidential candidates, but investing your time in Iowa isn’t likely to do much good. On the bright side, Iowa’s choice hasn’t usually made a significant difference, so why don’t you leave us alone so we can recharge and brace ourselves for the next wave of politicians who drown us in attention even though our opinions really aren’t that important.

Whether we’ll see a return to that knee-slapping joke that was the 2012 Republican presidential primaries is anyone’s guess, but if the emerging lineup keeps courting Iowa voters, you can bet election season will arrive ahead of schedule. Oh, joy.

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