It has been over a decade since the winner of the Iowa Republican caucuses went on to get the nomination. The year was 2004 and George W. Bush was running unopposed. The Who’s Not Who of GOP candidates has won ever since. In 2008 it was Mike Huckabee. Huckabee went on to underwhelm getting under 300 delegates, just a bit shy of the 1,191 needed, and only about 1,300 delegates fewer than nominee John McCain. (John McCain ran a distant third in the Iowa caucuses.) But Huckabee did a get a good tv gig out out of it.
In 2012, the victor of the Iowa Republican caucuses went on to even greater infamy. Rick Santorum garnered just 258 delegates compared to Mitt Romney’s 1,489. The former Pennsylvania senator has used his 2012 performance as a springboard for his 2016 run. Currently, Santorum is polling at .4%. Ouch.
And so now we’re supposed to act like it’s big and important news that one completely inexperienced far right Republican candidate has taken the lead in the Iowa polls from another completely inexperienced far right Republican candidate. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson has supposedly surged (political pundits love the term, surge, or any derivation thereof) past branding and bankruptcy expert Donald Trump. Those quirky Hawkeyes.
Iowa may not be the sole cause of the major trouble in the GOP, but it is emblematic. The Republican Party has allowed the extreme right to trump (sorry about that) the majority. There is no chance that Ben Carson or Donald Trump will ever receive the nomination. None. But when the petulant children of Iowa’s GOP should be getting a timeout from their elders, their elders are instead trying to persuade those goofy kids out of their tantrums. And we all know how well that works.
Possibly some day the Republican Party will again be the party of Lincoln. Imagine that. But this won’t happen until Iowa becomes even more irrelevant than it is today. Iowa is irrelevant in terms of its caucuses’ victor becoming the eventual nominee. But it is not irrelevant in the sense that candidates try to placate the far right there, which effectively produces a disconnect in most other parts of the electorate.
Irrelevant Iowa? The GOP better hope so.