How Many People Participate in the Iowa Caucuses?
By Dennis J. Goldford, Harkin Institute Flansburg Fellow Professor of Political Science, Drake University Americans talk a great deal about the right to vote, but we apparently do not really mean it. For a midterm election—in other words, in the even-numbered year in the middle of a presidential four-year term when there are House, Senate, and numerous state-level elections but no presidential contest—turnout nationwide tends to run between 37% and 40% of eligible voters. That’s right—for all that we Americans complain about Congress, not much more than a third of us, on average, bother to vote in a midterm election. Turnout in the midterm election of 2014 was particularly poor. According to the New York Times, less than half of eligible people voted in 43 of the 50 states. “In the three largest states—California, Texas and New York—less than a third of the eligible population voted.” Turnout in New York was 28.8%, and turnout nationwide was 36.3%. Voting turnout always declines in a midterm election, but even in presidential elections it is not overwhelming. Although 61.6% of eligible voters cast a presidential vote in 2008, and 63.8% did so in 1960, over the last 50 years nationwide turnout […]
The Big Wide-Mouthed Frog Theory of Iowa Politics
Author: Chris Larimer Associate Professor, University of Northern Iowa July 13, 2015 If there is one lesson the Iowa Caucuses have taught us, it is that name recognition alone will not carry the day (see, for example, the failed candidacies of John Glenn, Ted Kennedy, and Rudy Giuliani). Candidates must be accessible and approachable. Put another way, candidates must adhere to what I call the “big wide-mouthed frog theory of Iowa politics.” This theory is derived from the children’s book, The Big Wide-Mouthed Frog, by Ana Martin Larranaga. In the book, we learn of a wide-mouthed frog who encounters various animals during his travels, including a kangaroo, koala, possum, and finally a crocodile. Upon meeting each animal, the frog asks, “Who are you, and what do you eat?” Despite being much smaller, the frog feels no apprehension about approaching these animals and peppering each one with questions. So it is with the Iowa Caucuses. Voters expect to be able to approach (with relative ease) candidates running for the highest office in the land, and will often do so with little hesitation. Candidates who appear less comfortable with such encounters are at risk of losing support to candidates who can. As the Los […]
What to Expect From the Campaign Trail
Every four years, Iowa takes the political spotlight. Presidential candidates trek across the state and meet Iowans. They visit small town diners, VFW halls, local businesses, and school gymnasiums. They take questions and hone their messages; they confront the issues and hear the stories of average voters in the Hawkeye state. When the media organizations come […]
American Political Parties: Not Truly National
By Dennis J. Goldford, Harkin Institute Flansburg Fellow Professor of Political Science, Drake University The essentially state-and-local character of the American electoral process creates the context for the operation of political parties and elections in general and the Iowa Caucuses in particular. Presumably, truly national elections would have given rise to truly national political parties, but that is not the system we have. Here, I want to suggest that, as we might expect from the state-and-local character of the American electoral process, we do not have truly national political parties. Over time, we have moved from a confederal to a federal form of union and governmental organization, but our political parties continue to exist in basically confederal form. The idea of a confederal form derives, in the American experience, from the nature of the union under the Articles of Confederation. According to Article II of that document: “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress pilys assembled.” Indeed, the Preamble of the Articles refers to “we the undersigned Delegates of the States” rather than to “We the People.” This language […]