Two days after New Year’s Day, the Iowa Caucuses begin. This will officially kick off the start of the Republican presidential primary election. Historically, the Iowa Caucuses have received a great deal of attention, but retain questionable substantive importance. Winners arguably gain “momentum,” which is poli-talk for enhanced legitimacy, notability and positive morale among campaign staffers (not to be discounted). However, the power of being the first to put points on the board is historically limited, especially in the context of actually winning the presidency. First Read points out that only one candidate (Bush Jr.) has won both the Iowa Caucuses and went on to actually win the presidency.
My take is that the longer historical importance of Iowa is fairly irrelevant. This time around, Iowa and New Hampshire will act as harbingers for those remaining in the bottom tier. It is likely that the “bouncing” effect we have seen in this primary will end, if only because every candidate except for Huntsman has already “bounced” (ending now with Santorum in Iowa). No candidate except for Romney has been unable to survive the hightened levels of scrutiny and criticism. So, the most important impact of Iowa will be solidify and “gel” the current field by forcing voters to make a responsible decision about their future.
Iowa’s man of the hour is and continues to be Dr. Ron Paul. A perpetual presidential candidate hailing from the libertarian right and usually regarded as entirely unelectable, Paul ordinarily goes ignored by the media. But reporters will take any pitch this time of year and Paul leading in Iowa is bleeding news. Unfortunately that story has been muddled by attacks about him being racist.
There a lot of reasons to not vote for Paul. His views are restorative libertarian, some degree of isolationist and generally out of the mainstream. As a question of policy, many of his policy prescriptions are easily refutable as initialing radical and unrealistic reformations on some of the most entrenched components of modern society. While I do not side with him on many policy questions, for the last decade he has shown himself to be a man of unprecedented honesty, lack of ego and integrity. This makes it all the more surprising that criticisms Paul is currently faced with are questions of character – was he and is he a racist?
The principal evidence is a newsletter, published in Paul’s name, with flatly racist remarks in it. This newsletter has been nationally public for nearly a decade now and since its unearthing Paul has consistently denied authorship of it and disavowed the offending content. However, it was made locally public much earlier on, which is where Paul runs into trouble. A good and fair timeline of what has occurred is provided by the Christian Science Monitor. The most nonsensical evidence of a “shaky” explanation comes from a widely reported video of him briefly mentioning the newsletter. An actual substantive piece of evidence was a 1996 interview with the Dallas Morning News, during which he defended the article’s substance.
Frankly, I think the change in story over a period of two decades was Paul understandably running different levels of damage control. He has remained consistant for nearly a decade and his explanation makes sense. It is unlikely that these accusations will greatly impact the results of the Iowa Caucus. Still, Paul will have to offer a strong response to get the national media off his back.