There’s still a year to go before the Iowa caucuses, but this weekend, I’ll be chasing presidential candidates from Waterloo to Des Moines to Cedar Rapids to Davenport. Thank you, God, for Mapquest, but it would be terrific if Hertz in Waterloo offered GPS. Such an early and fast start to the campaign is not necessarily a good thing. Here’s what I wrote about it in this week’s magazine. Newt Gingrich, who is considering a run himself, has an interesting perspective on what may be ahead when you have so many people deciding to run for President before they have figured out what they would do if they won:
If what you’re going to do all day every day is exhaust yourself running around, meeting with precinct leaders, raising money, there’s an exhaustion, a banality and a narrowness of focus, all of which are bad for the American system. This may be where it ends up. It doesn’t mean it’s reasonable, rational or good for the country.
UPDATE: Not a good sign. My luggage is already lost. It’s in Dubuque; I’m in Waterloo. Or is it vice versa?
A lot of you have commented asking why we cover this stuff so early. Here’s why I think it’s valuable: First of all, we are not neglecting what is happening back in Washington. I’ve done many stories on the new Congress for the magazine, plus we have correspondents there who are doing it full time. Why political reporters start the chase so early is that it’s really the best opportunity to get a sense of the candidates–and the voters–as they themselves are getting a sense of the campaigns. You learn a lot on a four-hour flight where someone who wants to be President has no one to talk to but you. Once the primaries themselves begin, reporters are often stuck behind ropelines and in filing centers covering events that are scripted and stage-managed into meaninglessness. Once the secret service is on board, you need binoculars to even see what’s happening. So it makes sense for reporters to see as much of it as they can whenever they can.