"The Iowa Trap"

I bookmarked Scott Conroy’s latest on Monday, then promptly did nothing with it until just now. And that’s my bad, as Conroy has a must-read piece on what he calls the “circus” of Iowa’s quadrennial conservative presidential candidate cattle call:

The would-be candidates varied in level of earnestness for their possible presidential runs, but they all shared the same goal: wooing the 1,200 or so conservative activists on hand at the kickoff Iowa cattle call of 2016, co-hosted by Congressman Steve King and the conservative group Citizens United.

Terry Branstad­—Iowa’s avuncular and scrupulously mustachioed sixth-term governor—was on hand to play his well-worn role as ring master-in-chief for the quadrennial ritual that has been one of the state’s most lucrative and aggrandizing traditions over four decades.

During a press conference, Branstad urged all of the would-be candidates to come here early and often.

Anyone who dared not heed this counsel, the governor warned, risked suffering the fate that befell Rudy Giuliani—who bypassed Iowa on the way to running one of the most underachieving presidential campaigns in recent history. “My advice is you skip Iowa at your own peril,” Branstad said, adding the standard line that there are only “three tickets out” of the state for candidates who hope to make it to New Hampshire and beyond.

If I could wave a magic wand over the RNC, I’d make it official party policy that ethanol subsides are bad, and their abolishment is part of the party platform. I’d then go further and make it a GOP plank to eliminate all agriculture subsidies, and candidates who deviate from this small government, free market principle will somehow fail to receive invitations to participate in primary debates.

And then I’d announce a new primary schedule, where the first-in-the-nation caucus would rotate each schedule between Iowa, and perhaps five or six other small states.

It’s nothing personal, Iowa. It’s just that your grandstanding attitude doesn’t jibe with your ability to pick actual winners.