It’s candidate season in Iowa—what about everywhere else?

Posted: October 27, 2019 | By: Morgan Garner Tagged: Blog

After a single mid-October week in Central Iowa that saw presidential candidate visits from Vice President Mike Pence and Senators Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris, I left for a quick five-day weekend in Bilbao, Spain. On a layover in Detroit, I sat down at an empty gate to charge my devices before my 7-hour 50-minute flight and listened to the CNN talking heads over the speaker. Within a few minutes, there was an announcement sounding like a sports game advertisement. 


“Biden. Warren. Harris. Booker. Buttigieg. Castro,” it said. “Tuesday night on CNN.” 


The October 15th debate was the fourth Democratic debate for the 2020 presidential election cycle. While the debate drew attention from approximately 8.3 million voters nationwide, the race for the election of the leader of the free world doesn’t draw attention from abroad. 


“When is the election? I thought it was next year,” said my Spanish boyfriend Galder Larrea Santamaría, a native of Bilbao, Spain, who has never travelled to the U.S. When we catch up on the phone every day or two, I describe what recent candidate events I attended or which are nearby that I wish I had time to attend. He is confused that there is so much going on prior to the presidential election over one year away.


According to Foreign Policy, our long primary process (which started in 2017 with the announcements of President Donald Trump, Senator John Delaney, and Andrew Yang) should be “a source of great national pride.” The primaries allow for competition, which strengthens our party system, motivates voter turnout, and allows for the number of candidates to be winnowed down until the most favorable one wins. 


In foreign countries, the U.S. primaries and caucuses do not receive significant news coverage, unlike the 24-hour coverage they receive in U.S. media. Catie Mullen, a Drake University student studying abroad in Scotland during the fall semester, said, “I really haven’t heard anything about the primaries besides what I see through social media. Even among my American friends here, a lot of us are looking to step away from all of the politics.”


Despite the lack of coverage in the rest of the world on U.S. primaries and caucuses, Euronews published an article in January of 2016 titled “The US presidential primaries explained” that accurately describes the process, includes editorial skepticism of parts of the process, and even features a section about “what is so special about the Iowa caucuses.”


“The Iowa caucuses are the most hyped presidential contests in the country but also among the most confusing,” Euronews said. My boyfriend and even U.S. citizens from outside of Iowa would agree.