Scorecard for 2008 Iowa Caucuses

The early competition in Iowa for the 2008 presidential campaign is not for votes but for people as the candidates try to sign-on party insiders to help guide them through Iowa’s Caucuses. Former Iowa Republican Party chairman Chuck Larson, Junior announced last month that he’s in Arizona Senator John McCain’s campaign. Diane Crookham-Johnson, a long-time GOP activist from Oskaloosa (she works at Musco), has been helping New York Senator George Pataki since last year. Today, Doug Gross – the former aide to former Republican Governor Terry Branstad – announced he’s in Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s camp.

While folks in the beltway identify McCain and Virginia Senator George Allen as front-runners, when you talk with party regulars (other than the three named above) they are more apt to name governors, like Romney, or Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, as leading up their “short lists” of viable candidates. Allen is barely known here, and McCain will face the same fence-building task that former Vice President Al Gore painstakingly went through when he ran in 2000 – trying to soothe the hurt feelings of Democrats who remembered his castigation of the Caucuses in 1988.

If you’re keeping a score card at home of the list of potential candidates on each side, let’s compare notes. Here’s the list of potential candidates I’ve compiled for our newsroom:

  • U. S. Senators (R): George Allen of Virginia; Sam Brownback of Kansas; Bill Frist of Tennessee; Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; Chuck Hagel of Nebraska; John McCain of Arizona; Rich Santorum of Pennsylvania.
  • U. S. Senators (D): Evan Bayh of Indiana; Joe Biden of Delaware; Hillary Clinton of New York; Russ Feingold of Wisconsin; John Kerry of Massachusetts.
  • Governors (R): Haley Barbour of Mississippi; Mike Huckabee of Arkansas; George Pataki of New York; Mitt Romney of Massachusetts
  • Governors (D): Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania; Bill Richardson of New Mexico; Tom Vilsack of Iowa
  • Congress: Republican Tom Tancredo of Colorado.
  • Others (R): ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia; ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Guilliani
  • Others (D): retired General Wesley Clark; ex-Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, ex-Governor Mark Warner of Virginia

As I read through that list, I find the majority of those potential candidates have been in Iowa at least once in the past 12 months (NOT counting attendance at the National Governor’s Association meeting in Des Moines last July). There are only seven who have not been here. Santorum’s got a tough re-election campaign in Pennsylvania to occupy his time. Clinton doesn’t want to visit Iowa and raise even more speculation about her White House aspirations as she’s running for re-lection. Biden has been to Iowa since the 2004 election, just not in the past 12 months. Barbour’s got a state to rebuild. Rendell is on the list because some of my DC reporter friends say he’s on their list; he didn’t show for the NGA. Richardson did come to the NGA meeting. Warner has been back since that NGA meeting.

The test for that long list of candidates now is to start making announcements like McCain and Romney have, showing they’re lining up the Iowa foot soldiers. 2006 local and legislative candidates in Iowa should thank their lucky stars they can get the star power of one of these party people to headline an event. I doubt the people running for the state legislatures in most other states have a clue how much the Iowa Caucuses mean to candidates down the ballot in Iowa.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. I have seen and heard Mitt Romney and came away very impressed. He is the kind of leader who can beat Hillary or any other democrat as well as get some important things done in Washington DC. Now, if he can just get past the religious bigots and single issue voters in the GOP primary.

  2. Ed Rendell isn’t being seriously mentioned right now, while Chris Dodd recently announced interest. Tom Daschle is also sniffing around. Al Gore!! =)

  3. You’re right. Dodd will now be put on the list. But I checked with a couple of inside-the-beltway reporters, and they consider Rendell in. (One of them also tells me he interviewed Rendell during the NGA in DSM last year.) Latest polls show Rendell in wide lead over Lynn Swan. TD isn’t on the list because when he was last in Iowa he said he had no intention of running. As for Al Gore, I saw his interview with Tom Brokaw and if I remember correctly he used the same “no intention” language. I’m afraid if I start of list of “maybe, perhaps, or no intention of running” candidates it would get pretty long. Condi Rice, for example, would have to be on that list although she has repeatedly said she has no intention of running.