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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bhutto And Iowa

Yesterday, I briefly wrote about the highly debatable theory that the Bhutto assassination will greatly affect the Democratic presidential race, and J.P. Green briefly touched on it today. But I want to return to it now in a bit more detail, after appearing on the syndicated public radio show To the Point earlier today, where speculation was rampant that the Bhutto Factor will be the ball game for the Iowa Caucuses specifically.
To be clear, it’s all close enough among the Big Three candidates in Iowa that all sorts of factors–the weather, the impact of the final Des Moines Register poll, and most of all candidate “second-preference” deals–could be decisive, And in that respect, heavy news coverage of the Bhutto assassination and its aftermath, along with candidate interaction on the subject, could have a key impact as well. But as for the idea that the assassination has suddenly made foreign policy street cred and experience an overriding factor in Iowa–sorry, I just don’t buy it.
You have to remember that Iowans have been watching and listening to these candidates for about a year, many of them through personal contact, and hearing their pithy views on virtually every topic, foreign and domestic. Most likely caucus goers are not just now “tuning in” (unlike their counterparts in later states). Yes, they will be exposed to relatively heavy news coverage of events in Pakistan and the remarks of the candidate on same, but news coverage in Iowa will be dwarfed by paid campaign media (which has reached unprecedented levels this year), phone calls, door-to-door campaigning and personal lobbying from friends and family. There are also Iowans who will go to the Caucuses undecided, and will pick a candidate based on the dynamics (and campaign pleas) in the room.
In other words, it’s the last place on earth where tangential news-cycle developments are likely to play a really major role. And come to think of it, that’s the first good argument I’ve thought of for Iowa’s primacy in a good long while.

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