Monday, August 19th, 2019

Caucus envy


Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Jan 5, 2012; Section:Opinion; Page Number:6A    

Caucus envy  
Wisconsin’s turn in spotlight will come this fall

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)


    I know what you were doing Tuesday night. Like me, you were hunkered down in front of the television set with a favorite snack and a beverage watching the Iowa caucus.

    Maybe you had a wager on the outcome (although gambling on an election is wrong). Maybe you had some money “invested” on Intrade (see: gambling). Maybe you were playing the “Iowa Caucus Drinking Game.”

    Maybe you actually had a favorite candidate.

    Watching other people get together to decide who is going to be the next president is not exactly the most exciting television. Some of you probably preferred to watch paint dry, conveniently recorded by your DVR from one of the home repair cable channels.

    But a little over 120,000 people in Iowa were choosing the Republican nominee to take on President Barack Obama in November. And they were doing it for you.

    We’re told that the Republican nomination process is different this year. According to Fox News, even if a Republican candidate wins every contest he won’t be able to sew up the nomination before April 24.

    However, let’s be realistic about this. Former Gov. Mitt Romney did very well in Iowa without much effort. If he wins in New Hampshire and Florida, while doing well in South Carolina, we should know who the Republican nominee is by the end of January.

    The Wisconsin presidential primary is not until April 3.

    We can complain it’s unfair. Why should Iowa and New Hampshire have more say over the presidential nominating process than Wisconsin? After all, Wisconsin was the birthplace of the party primary, allowing the voters to choose the candidates instead of the party bosses.

    Wisconsin is also the birthplace of the Republican Party at a little schoolhouse in Ripon. You would think we would have a disproportionate influence in the nominating process, not some state lacking a professional football team.

    Unfortunately, what is the alternative? If the parties move to a national primary, states like Wisconsin will be ignored while states with much larger population centers will get all of the attention. Do you want the Republican nominee picked by Iowa and New Hampshire, or New York and California?

    Even regional primaries would have us overshadowed by Illinois and Michigan. Yoopers and flatlanders would have more influence than cheeseheads. Think about it.

    Ironically, the best way to make sure that every state has a say in the nominating process is to give it back to the national party conventions. It is hard to argue with a process that gave Republicans Calvin Coolidge, Dwight Eisenhower and Abraham Lincoln.

    As much as the media would love for the national conventions to be more than infomercials, the public would never tolerate the return of smoke-filled rooms and delegate arm-twisting.

    On the other hand, Iowa has not always picked the eventual presidential winner. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won four years ago. That earned him a guest shot on “Saturday Night Live” and a regular spot on Fox News.

    While former Sen. Rick Santorum will have a moment in the sun, it’s likely that he will be the 2012 version of Huckabee. He will be chasing the front-runner the rest of the campaign.

    Of course, Wisconsinites will have a disproportionate influence on the presidential election in November. Wisconsin is again targeted as a swing state. Once the Republican nominee is chosen there will be a blizzard of political campaigning here.

    There is a strong possibility that Wisconsin will have an even larger role in the presidential election. The eventual Republican nominee could choose congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.

    Ryan already has a tremendous influence on the national debate. Nobody else better articulates the Republican positions on health care, taxes and entitlements. He also comes from a swing state.

    Perhaps we are lucky that Wisconsin is not early in the nomination process. With a fall presidential campaign and another summer of recall elections, including the governor, did we really want to be so bombarded by presidential politics 10 months away from the November election?

    This time next year, we will probably be sick of all of the attention while Iowans will wonder why everyone was so concerned about Wisconsin.

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