The Gazette’s offered a very solid forum here for discussion of the Iowa Caucuses and the 2012 election generally, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to comment periodically from the perspective of Iowa Democrats. In one sense we’re missing out on all the fun this cycle as Republicans meet their potential nominees up close and personal as we had the chance to do in 2004 and 2008. In another sense, observing the caucus process from the “other side” is a wonk’s dream, a chance to analyze, reflect, predict and project without having a dog in the fight.
I’ll be doing my best to offer analysis uncolored by my own belief about which Republican candidate would be the “best” for Democrats to face (history tells us that’s a dangerous game anyway, as many of the Democrats who hoped for the very conservative Reagan as a beatable ’80 GOP nominee will quickly remind us.) I’ll also provide a little perspective on the work the President’s re-elect campaign is doing in Iowa. As most readers here realize, the public part of a caucus campaign is the tip of the iceberg, with most of the action happening below the surface.
With that, away we go!
Bachmann has the right mix. After her very strong debate performance last night in New Hampshire, most of the media is catching up to the idea that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is a smart, focused candidate who boasts a heaping helping of substance to accompany her flash. She’s skillfully mixing her backroom D.C. advocacy (fighting against TARP) with red-meat stump rhetoric (“I am a defender of life”) to appeal to both fiscal and social conservatives. It’s shocking to me how few commentators see that she’s the candidate mixing those strains the best to date. It’s undeniable that the candidate who does so the best will win not only the caucuses but the nomination. I sent out a tweet after the debate that if the Ames straw poll were held today, she’s your winner. I’m standing by it.
Community Organizing is Back in Force. The Obama team held a workshop for its current community organizers last weekend, teaching the ’12 team the hard-won lessons from the last time out. The team is unusually heavy on young pros who built the organization in the first place, led by Derek Eadon as Iowa Democratic Party coordinated campaign director. Derek is a familiar face in Eastern Iowa from his ’08 work as a C.R.-based organizer. He’s quietly kept the “Organizing for America” network and lists fresh and is working with the President’s national team in Chicago to set up for the caucus push. The tremendous value of not having to re-learn lessons about Iowa organizing at the grassroots cannot be overstated. With Iowa consistently showing up on the list of swing states for ’12, early organizing will go a long way to keeping Iowa blue. The approach reminds me of a charming line conservative darling Ralph Reed used to have about winning at the grassroots: “Your opponent’s already in the body bag before they know they’re dead.”