Watchdog Blog

Gilbert Cranberg: Much Ado About Very Little in Iowa

Posted at 3:31 pm, November 18th, 2011
Gilbert Cranberg Mug

Republican presidential candidates are flooding into Iowa attempting to reach and influence the tiny sliver of GOP voters who actually will express a candidate preference at the much-hyped Jan. 3 “first-in-the- nation” Iowa caucuses. If past experience is a guide, the press will go ga-ga over the event, but most Iowa Republicans will have nothing to do with it.

To their credit, Iowa Republicans do an actual voter-preference count on caucus night. The problem is that there is very little to count. To vote at one of the 1,700 or so Iowa caucus sites, you must be there in person; no absentee voting allowed. The bedridden, people who work nights and those with kids who need tending are shut out of the process. Typically, more than eight out of 10 registered Iowa Republican voters shun the party caucuses.

For the most part, the press covers up the slim attendance by not highlighting it. If you are making a big deal about an event, you don’t go out of your way to belittle it. So most often the press reports the results in terms of the percentage of the vote each candidate receives out of the total vote cast, and readers have to do their own legwork and calculating to realize that the huge fuss made over the Iowa caucuses is much ado about very little.

A basic number to keep in mind is that there are 641,000 registered Republican voters in Iowa. Good luck trying to learn how many of them voted for Herman Cain, Rick Perry and the rest on Jan. 3. Do the arithmetic with the numbers you glean and then decide for yourself whether they add up to anything meaningful.

Undeniably, the Democratic caucus tally for Barak Obama in 2008 did mean a lot. It showed that if he could do well in waspy Iowa, and he did exceedingly well, he had to be taken seriously as a national candidate. In the Iowa Republican caucuses, right-wingers tend to predominate. They carry added weight when the turnout is slim. And despite all the ballyhoo, and all the candidates, turnout is very likely to be low.

If Mitt Romney does exceedingly well, in an event dominated by Neanderthals, that would be newsworthy. Otherwise, don’t look for much of substance from Iowa’s over-hyped, under-attended and unrepresentative caucuses.

2 Responses to “Much Ado About Very Little in Iowa”

  1. Louis Nardozi says:

    I’ve made a promise to vote for Ron Paul and no one else. Then I went one step further and put my promise online for the whole world to see. Do you support Ron Paul? Will you be voting for him? Make yourself counted! Log on to and sign the statement of support. Let your weight to the growing avalanche that is Ron Paul. Remember to spread the word!

  2. Jackson Baer says:

    Just keep speaking the truth and you’ll continue to rise Mr. Paul. He’s the only consistent candidate running and the only one that you can take his word on something.

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