Iowa, politics central


Welcome to Iowa.

To those from beyond the borders of the state’s 99 counties, Secret Service details, senators, and governors walking around campus or packing a diner may cause a double take.  

But in the home of the first-in-the-nation caucuses, such a setting is commonplace. Increasingly Republicans, such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.,venture into the confines into what local liberals proudly refer to as the “People’s Republic of Iowa City.” 

“Iowa City is kind of an interesting location, usually considered much more liberal town or community than the rest of Iowa, but as far as the students are concerned, there is a good mix,” said Tim Hagle, a UI associate professor of political science.

Since 1972 (starting with the Democrats), the Iowa caucuses have led the nation in choosing a presidential candidate. Unlike a traditional election, which is overseen by elected officials, the state parties operate caucuses in numerous locations around the state. 

On caucus night, there’s no absentee or early voting, Republicans and Democrats huddle in locations such as the IMU to handle party business, but the reason everyone watches is that participants — who could include you— choose whom they want to represent their party’s candidate for president. 

If a hopeful wins the caucuses, especially if the national media predict a candidate would not be successful, that can jump-start a push toward the White House. Just ask former Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former Texas Gov. George W. Bush what it did for them.

Bottom line, the reason you'll be swamped by people signing you up to vote, and if you choose to, you can meet with almost any candidate is for whom Iowa matters.

So if you want a selfie with the next president, you came to the right place.

And if politics still is not your forte, presidential visits have caused a handful of classes to be canceled in the past — always a plus.

On campus you’ll find events everywhere from the Pentacrest and T. Anne Cleary Walkway and IMU. 

Just a couple of minutes away from campus, you will find Hamburg Inn No. 2, which features the coffee-bean caucus. Starting with President Ronald Reagan — you can sit in the same booth occupied by the 40th president — a number of who’s who politicos have stumped through its usually cramped room. 

Even after the Feb. 1, 2016, caucuses, attention may still be on Iowa. As a traditionally competitive swing-state, the spotlight usually returns.

As you will soon learn, here the campaign, with its visits, coverage, and volunteers, are never far away.

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