Although some people refer to Iowa as “flyover country,” presidential candidates and political reporters in the national press corps have no difficulty locating the state every four years at the beginning of presidential primary season.
When Iowa Democrats pushed forward their precinct caucuses in 1972, the Iowa caucuses became the first presidential nominating event in the nation. Politicos soon realized the impact of Iowa’s new status and, along with the national media, promoted the caucuses with a vengeance. The Iowa Precinct Caucuses chronicles how the caucuses began, how they changed, and starting in 1972 how they became fodder for and manipulated by the mass media. Hugh Winebrenner and Dennis J. Goldford argue that the media have given a value to the Iowa caucuses completely out of proportion to the reality of their purpose and procedural methods. In fact, the nationally reported “results” are contrived by the Iowa parties to portray a distorted picture of the process. As presidential primaries have grown in the media spotlight and superseded the parties’ conventions, Iowa has become a political proving ground for the confident, the hopeful, and the relatively unknown, but at what cost to the country?
The third edition of this classic book has been updated to include the elections of 2000, which saw the first winner of the Iowa caucuses to reach the White House since 1976; of 2004 and the roller-coaster fortunes of Howard Dean and John Kerry; and of 2008 and the unlikely emergence of Barack Obama as a presidential contender.