John McCain stayed out of the Iowa Caucuses altogether in 2000. Of course, as Iowans point out, he then lost to Bush handily. He hasn't visited recently either, but fourteen other non-candidates have. Most telling is that the most active visitors are those with low or non-qualifying Chatter Rankings.
For Democrats, the race is even less meaningful. With no black or urban vote to speak of, Iowa is unlikely to propel a little-known Democrat to victory in the big cities. Furthermore, Governor Tom Vilsack may try to parlay his governorship in Des Moines into a national candidacy by taking advantage of the Caucuses, which would make them all the more meaningless for other Dems.
Candidates, of course, have to use whatever they have. Northeastern politicians take aim at New Hampshire; moderate Democrats try to leverage Iowa into "electability". Mitt Romney - tied for second place with four visits to Iowa - will try to duplicate the Kerry Strategy: use the hometown advantage to take New Hampshire and his mainline party creds to take Iowa. Two early wins put Kerry ahead for good, so it's not a bad strategy for the primaries.
Politicians who have little play in either state scrounge around for other methods. McCain, for instance, is stumping Michigan (but so are Romney and others). Lefty Democrats are trying to reorganize the primary process to give their boys a chance.
And in keeping with the new year, I'll introduce a new feature: the monthly prediction:
Feb '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Rice.
Please post your predictions in the comments!
|R.1||Sen. John McCain||903||0|
|R.2||Secy. Condoleezza Rice||891||+2|
|R.3||Sen. Bill Frist||640||0|
|R.4||Gov. Mitt Romney||596||-2|
|R.5||Gov. George Pataki||489||+1|
|R.6||Sen. George Allen||293||+3|
|R.7||Sen. Sam Brownback||268||+4|
|R.9||Gov. Jeb Bush||139||-2|
|R.11||Gov. Mike Huckabee||92||+1|
|R.12||Sen. Chuck Hagel||40||-4|
|D.1||Sen. Hillary Clinton||2,320||0|
|D.2||Gov. Mark Warner||1,080||+2|
|D.3||Sen. John Kerry||841||-1|
|D.4||Sen. John Edwards||396||+1|
|D.5||Sen. Harry Reid||378||+4|
|D.6||Sen. Joseph Biden||250||0|
|D.7||Sen. Russ Feingold||195||-4|
|D.9||Sen. Evan Bayh||179||+3|
|D.10||Sen. Barack Obama||163||0|
|D.11||Gov. Tom Vilsack||153||0|
|D.12||Gov. Bill Richardson||139||-4|
Notes: The Chatter Rankings are created by searching each candidate's name plus "2008" in the Google News database. This month's tested-but-not-qualifying list is Tom Daschle, Haley Barbour, Wesley Clark and Tom Tancredo. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dick Cheney continued to qualify, but as cannot and will not (respectively) run in 2008, and tend to make news for largely non-election reasons, they were left out.
See the Chatter Rankings from December, August, July, June, and May.