Whether it deserves the distinction or not, the Iowa Caucus has been elevated to something just shy of virtual kingmaker of American politics. In roughly the last 10 elections, 60 percent to 70 percent of the winners in Iowa presidential primaries go on to earn the nomination of their party. Conversely, no one finishing lower than fourth has ever succeeded. Once the Caucus was moved to the start of the year, Iowa became vital to anyone running for the nation's highest office.
The upcoming election is said to be “the most important of our lifetime” (for about the 17th election in a row now). There is significant interest and work at hand for the party out of power. After a number of debates already, the Democrats still have a dozen candidates to wade through, and every step of the upcoming election is taking on added significance. This is leading to a curious development in the state of Iowa -- and here in Florida.
For months, the herd of Democrats have been fanning out across the Hawkeye State, stopping by the State Fairgrounds and getting the requisite photo-ops. Recently we saw all the contenders looking mostly foolish as dozens of photographers filmed them flipping meat at a massive barbecue. That this came AFTER a debate where most of the candidates bleated that our meat stock was fueling global warming made this a rather tone-deaf event.
Meanwhile, the Iowa Democratic Party is hard at work trying to make its event better and more significant. Traditionally, the Iowa Caucus locations were the only places where citizens could vote -- during the evenings of the Caucus. The state party has attempted to make participating more available, at the requirement of the Democratic National Committee. One recent proposal was to employ a telephone-based virtual caucusing, but the national party shot that down over security concerns.
The new plan is to go with something called “satellite caucusing.” The state party initially intended for this to involve additional approved caucus locations throughout the state, to accommodate those people unable to attend in person. Locations could involve nursing homes, for instance, or large factory areas with a heavy night shift staff, or universities. And possibly even locations in other states.
Given that the Caucus is scheduled for Feb. 3, that could mean a large number of citizens could be traveling to or residing in warm-weather states on that date. The state party is entertaining the idea of having locations in other states petition to become satellite caucus locations. These areas have until Nov. 18 to submit an application.
This is where Florida comes in. There are a significant number of winter visitors in the Sunshine State during the winter months, particularly on the west coast of the state. Tampa and Fort Myers usually see an influx. The University of Iowa lists quite a few bars throughout the state that are locations for watch parties of the Iowa Hawkeyes' games. Whether this is significant enough to merit a voting base will need to be measured.
Party leaders will review each application and make a determination if Iowans are in the state in enough of a concentration to justify a satellite location. The approval by the state party will be decided in December before Christmas. And this could mean that come February, specific parts of Florida would be part of the national frenzy that is the opening vote of the campaign season.
And, nightmare of nightmares, it could lead to a stampede of Democrats arriving in Florida to curry favor -- including flooding the state's larger markets with TV campaign ads. Our long statewide nightmare may be starting even sooner than we thought.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.