Back in January of 1984, I left the comfort of my Southern California home to help produce a televised presidential debate in Iowa. What was true then — that the results of the first-in-the-nation caucus could easily make or break a candidate's political viability — still is true today.
From one corner of the Hawkeye State to the other, White House hopefuls have to be willing to visit with voters nonstop for months in manufacturing plants as well as on farms and in local diners, beauty salons, grocery stores and living rooms. Like speed dating, Iowans love their turn at what I call "candidating."
Just like on Match.com, not all meet-ups work out. It's not that Iowa's voters are fickle. Hardly. It's that by candidating, they really get to see someone's warts and all. For example, did they like a candidate's handshake; were they able to look directly into the eyes of a candidate; or, could they measure how tall a candidate really is? In many ways, the answers to these and similar questions are just as important to voters in Davenport, Ames or Sioux City as a presidential candidate's position on issues.
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There are five months between now and the Iowa caucus. Some of the candidates clearly will outshine others during the course of the next 150-plus days. Yes, there will be media buys for most of them; but, in my opinion, the person who is best at "candidating" Iowa voters will win in 2020.
Laguna Beach, Calif.