By Teresa Welsh |
I have been deeply skeptical about the legitimacy of the Iowa caucus, but I need to congratulate Iowa Republicans. You have (mostly) redeemed yourselves.
The Iowa caucuses came into last night with two strikes against them. First was former Gov. Mike Huckabee's win there in 2008. The problem wasn't that Huckabee struck many Republicans as unqualified, but it was the way he won, by overtly appealing to Christian conservatives purely on matters of faith while many Iowans seemed to reject former Gov. Mitt Romney because of his religion. The second strike was this year's straw poll, in which Rep. Michele Bachmann edged Rep. Ron Paul and forced former Gov. Tim Pawlenty to drop out. This hardly seemed to reflect mainstream Republican preferences.
Results like these cast doubt about whether Iowa's Republican caucus electorate reflects the party as a whole. The perception was setting in that Iowa's caucus electorate is well outside the mainstream of the Republican Party nationally, and that the caucuses are too easily captured by fringe factions of the party. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad likes to claim that Iowa's Republican Party is a "full spectrum" party—and he points to his own nomination as proof. What Governor Branstad doesn't mention is that he was nominated in a primary, not a caucus. If President Obama is re-elected and the Republican Party conducts another nominating contest four years from now, the betting was that no credible candidates would risk competing in Iowa.
But this year Iowa did not gallop off and vote for unqualified candidates in large numbers. Cain collapsed, Bachmann's support melted away, Ron Paul did not win, and no one overlooked Rick Perry's obvious deficiencies as a candidate. Romney got a fair hearing and the candidate who worked the hardest in Iowa with old-fashioned shoe leather, Rick Santorum, got rewarded. It's a great outcome for the process, and for Iowa.
About Fergus Cullen Former Chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party
Sally Kohn Political Commentator