Bloomberg reporter John McCormick draws a contrast between the political landscape in Iowa four years ago versus what we see today. Although the farm state is enjoying a lower unemployment rate than the national average thanks in part to robust prices for corn and soybeans, Iowans are still concerned about the nation's economy:
“There is a great apprehension about the federal debt,” newly elected Governor Terry Branstad, 64, said in an interview at his capitol office in Des Moines, Iowa. “It was the premier issue in 2010. Will it be in 2012? I think so.”No less than 17 presidential candidates from both parties had announced their intentions to run or had at least formed exploratory committees by the end of January 2007, but with the Iowa caucuses only a year away, still no candidates have formally declared for 2012. What are they waiting for? Make that who are they waiting on. Although Iowa's governor and state GOP chairman both insist there is no front runner, the political players seem to be wrapped up in a game of "Follow the Leader," with Sarah Palin cast in the role of the leader:
Campaigning for the caucuses is getting off to a slower start this election cycle, as candidates seek to save money and await a better indication of whether Sarah Palin will run.Her potential rivals for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination appear to be looking at Gov. Palin and saying, "You first," but the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate seems content for now to wait them out:
Palin, 46, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and a former Alaska governor, has hinted at a possible bid.
“You kind of get mixed signals,” Branstad said. “She kind of marches to her own drummer, so I don’t have a good read on it.”
Even if Palin enters the race, Branstad predicts a “wide- open” contest. He doesn’t plan to endorse any candidate early on, he said, although he is “reserving the right” to do so later in the process closer to the caucuses.
“There’s no question that things are starting at a slower pace than four years ago,” Matt Strawn, chairman of the state’s Republican Party, said in an interview.But if Gov. Palin can capture the lion's -- or in this case, Mama Grizzly's -- share of Tea Party support in The Hawkeye State, she will have an advantage over the rest of the field. The Tea Parties are relatively well organized, and if she can seamlessly transition that activism into her campaign organization in Iowa, she will save a good deal of time otherwise spent in organizing. The time saved can be put to better use practicing the kind of retail politics that are required of all candidates in the state. And if the pundits don't think Sarah Palin can play the game of retail politics, they need a crash course in Alaska Political History, circa 2006.
Strawn attributes the slower pace to a variety of factors, including the “fluidity of the field” and the potential entry of candidates like Huckabee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney who don’t need to work as hard at introducing themselves because they campaigned in the state four years ago.
Another unanswered question is how big a role the Tea Party movement, which helped Republicans gain 63 seats in the U.S. House in November’s election, will play.
“I think that’s a story yet to be written,” Strawn said. “There is no question that there are newly engaged activists in the state.”
Strawn cautioned Palin against waiting too long to decide or campaigning in Iowa for only a few months.
“Iowa caucus-goers expect to see candidates here early and often, and they expect the chance to interact with them,” he said.
Palin was last in Iowa on Nov. 27 for a stop on her latest book tour. Before that, she visited in September, when she gave the keynote address at the Iowa Republican Party’s largest annual fundraiser.