Iowa Caucuses Draw Slew Of Candidates To College Campuses

This story was written by Sydney Smith, Iowa State Daily
Students at Iowa State University are used to seeing presidential candidates on campus.

This semester alone has seen more than 10 presidential candidates campaign in person on the ISU campus.

This isn't the case on all campuses. Iowa is unique among the states when it comes to presidential campaigning, as it is the first state in the country to hold its caucuses. The significance is deeper than just the precedence it has, however.

Iowa's position as first to caucus makes it a hot destination for campaigning presidential hopefuls, which is why Iowa State has seen such a huge influx of candidates.

Candidates are so eager to gather Iowans' votes for the caucuses because, in the past, Iowa's caucus results have tended to be mimicked in the New Hampshire primaries -- and again in the following state primaries.

In the 2000 presidential race, Al Gore went on to win the New Hampshire primary, as well as many others, after he won the Iowa caucus. Similarly, George W. Bush won a large portion of the primary states after taking a lead in the Iowa caucus.

New Hampshire, as the first state to hold presidential primaries, is in a position similar to Iowa's when it comes to heavy campaigning.

Paul Barresi, associate professor and chairman of political science at Southern New Hampshire University, said his university's campus is host to a large number of candidates -- in part due to their facilities, but also due in large part to the placement of New Hampshire in the primaries.

"One of the things that's true is that campaigns want to send representatives to classes to attract votes, and I would imagine that their effort is especially intense here in New Hampshire," Barresi said.

Although heavy campaigning can be good for presidential candidates, voters often have the omnipresent complaint of the years of campaigning.

Arthur Sanders, chairman of the department of politics and international relations at Drake University, said voters will always complain about the constant presence of politicians yet, despite the griping, there is an upside to the continuous campaigning.

"If you look at voter turnout in the Iowa caucus and compare it to that of the primaries, the turnout is much higher, as is the voter turnout in the New Hampshire primaries," Sanders said. "Voters may complain, but more participate than if there were no campaigns."

According to the United States Election Project website, which compares voter turnout to state population, Iowa ranked eighth in the country in the 2004 presidential elections with a voter turnout of 69.98 percent; the average turnout for the country as a whole being approximately 60 percent.

Contrary to the high frequency of presidential candidate visits on Iowa and New Hampshire campuses, Alaska receives very little attention from candidates.

"The attention is good for the state," Sanders said. "A lot of other states would like to change the process so they matter more."

Gerald McBeath, political science professor at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, said that the campus hosts some campaign representatives, but the state is interested in state level affairs.

"There was some interest in moving primaries up [in order to receive more candidate attention," McBeath said. "But nothing was actually done."

© 2007 Iowa State Daily via U-WIRE