The Importance of the Iowa Caucus

It is the beginning of 2012 and while there are many uncertainties about the coming year, including whether or not the world will end, one constant is the near-manic coverage and behavior of those involved in the Iowa Caucus.

For those uninitiated with the workings of the Iowa caucus, it is not that hard to see why; there is a lot of differing opinions involved to make a complete understanding of the caucus something of a hassle for casual observers of politics. For one thing, the caucus is a relatively new concept for American politics, with the first being held in Iowa in 1972, and even then Iowa is one of the few states to have a caucus – excluding a majority of states from this unique, sometimes-cluttered election process.

What is perplexing though is that the Iowa Caucus is not that fundamentally different from other states’ primaries system, with the purpose of both involving the selection of a delegate to send to a party’s national convention where a presidential nominee can finally be decided for that party.

What makes presidential candidates and voters place so much importance in the Iowa Caucus is the fact that it is considered something of a litmus test for candidates to see whether his or her campaign for president is worth continuing. A number of candidates, such as Rep. Michelle Bachman, even retire from the race if he or she feels that their message has not reached the public.

There are a number of explanations people have as to why Iowa is considered a proving ground for candidates, including the fact that it is the first state to hold any political activity as far the presidential election. According to however, a number of political analysts suggest that the news media has had a significant role to play in the caucus’ reputation, particularly during the first Iowa Caucus when presidential candidate George McGovern received a surprising showing and the media began to place more focus on the state.

This explanation seems wholly possible as there does not seem to be any other distinguishing feature from Iowa that would suggest that its “voice” needs to be placed over any other state.

Ultimately, the importance placed on the Iowa Caucus seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy bloated by presidential candidates and the media. And while the opinions of the Iowa public should be heard, the level of hype built up around the caucus is questionable.