This headline may seem misleading and many will wonder how it would be possible to forget about a state that is currently enjoying more media attention than Lindsay Lohan climbing out of a low-to-the-ground vehicle. But, In just seventeen days Iowans will gather in high schools, churches and community centers around the state to caucus and in so doing will kick-off what promises to be a vigorous fight for the White House.
While pundits spin and beltway desk-sitters (sadly, I'm one of them this time around) pontificate about who will prove victorious in this important contest, campaign staffers are slugging away trying to gain as much support from soon-to-be caucus-goers throughout Iowa. I've been there. It's tough.
At this time in 2003, I was in Des Moines, IA, fighting to deliver a victory for my candidate, Senator John Kerry. It was an exciting time and I can only imagine what the current crop of organizers are feeling going into the homestretch of caucus 2008.
Yet, soon enough, this opening battle will be over and the scramble to win the next set of primaries will be underway. Staffers will disperse like buckshot to states around the country and with them will go all of the lists, relationships and valuable institutional knowledge that have been built over the past year.
After winning the Iowa caucuses in 2004, I was immediately dispatched to drive across the country to New Hampshire, a state in which I had done electoral work before, to help secure another victory for Kerry. I woke up the morning after the caucus and rushed around town collecting my possessions and preparing for the journey to come. Among these possessions, which were all hastily piled into the back of my car, were many of the lists that I had used to organize my turf. These lists -in the universe of a field organizer- are considered gold and can mean the difference between a winning campaign and the Dean campaign (sorry, had to dig).
Sadly, after going on to secure the nomination in 2004, John Kerry lost the state of Iowa in the general election by a mere 10,059 votes and I can't help but to wonder whether the vast amounts of information that left with all of the caucus campaign staffers contributed to this defeat. Surely, the infrastructure that had been built by the campaigns should have given the Democrats an advantage over the less organized Republicans in that state?
The Iowa caucuses are just one battle in what will be an electoral war to come. I urge Obama, Clinton, Biden and all the rest to start making plans today to ensure that when their soldiers are dispatched to the next set of states the important data they have worked so hard to gather does not leave with them.
And to the staffers I say this: whether you win or lose on January 3rd one thing is for sure- you will wake up hung-over the following morning and overwhelmed by your next move. Grab a Gatorade, take a deep breath and take the time to organize, copy and debrief other staffers on your turf. The general election is just around the corner and who knows; maybe you'll be back in Iowa in just a few months doing it all over again.