For more than 40 years, Iowa voters have played a vital role in picking the nation’s president, culling the field of hopefuls and helping launch a fortunate handful all the way to the White House. For about 35 of those years, Iowa has been the target of jealousy and scorn, mainly from outsiders who say the state, the first to vote in the presidential contest, is too white and too rural; that its caucuses, precinct-level meetings of party faithful, are too quirky and too exclusionary to play such a key role in the nominating process. Now, a swelling chorus of critics is mounting a fresh challenge to Iowa’s privileged role, targeting especially the August straw poll held the year before the election, which traditionally established the Republican Party front-runner. Increasingly, critics say, the informal balloting has proved a meaningless and costly diversion of time and money. Some GOP strategists are urging candidates to think hard before coming to Iowa at all.
“A monster has been created,” said Charlie Cook, a nonpartisan election analyst once so enamored of the caucuses he brought his family here for a politically themed summer vacation. He points to the growing influence of interest groups that press their agendas at the expense of what used to be a more neighbor-to-neighbor style of campaigning.
“The process has become increasingly contrived and manipulated,” Cook said, “losing its effectiveness of being a surrogate for voters across the country.”
For Republicans, the last two elections have given further reason to gripe. The caucus winners, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008 and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in 2012, were favorites of Christian conservatives but came nowhere close to capturing their party’s nomination. More embarrassing, problems with the 2012 count resulted in the wrong candidate, Mitt Romney, initially being declared the GOP winner. (The tally was fixed about two weeks later.)
Full Article: rim jpenner – latimes.com.