Just watched the two state party chairs on "Iowa Press" and while I was of course rooting for my friend Sue Dvorsky, I've been listening to her long enough to know what to expect. Mostly, I was curious to see how new Republican chair A.J. Spiker fared.
I can see where he hasn't inspired confidence in the GOP donor class, as he ran out of ways to not say "I endorse Mitt Romney" or even imply support of the certain nominee until after the third clause of a long sentence.
But that's the other teams problem. I was cheering for Spiker to come up with some good answers for the assorted issues Iowa Republicans had with their caucuses and conventions. As Dvorsky noted, Iowa Democrats and Republicans are in the same boat when it comes to efforts to keep our first in the nation status.
Spiker seemed to fixate on one relatively small aspect of the problem: the fact that hei predecessor Matt Strawn "declared a winner" on caucus night, when Mitt Romney seemed to have an eight vote lead. I can understand why Spiker focused on that; it's probably what he heard from his own party activists during the GOP's review process. If I were a Rick Santorum Republican (the if's don't get any bigger than that) I'd be steamed that Strawn called Romney a winner in the wee hours of January 4, but did not use equivalent language two weeks later when the certified results showed Santorum 34 votes ahead. Indeed, it was at that point that Strawn's support melted away, which is why Spiker is chair today.
But from the perspective of the national press, the phrase "I declare" is 1) more suited for the South Carolina primary and best done in a Scarlett O'Hara accent and 2) insignificant. If the January 4 1 AM number showed Abe Lincoln one vote ahead of Teddy Roosevelt (dead presidents are safe examples), the headlines would blare LINCOLN WINS IOWA.
No, the larger problem is that the order itself changed. And it's compounded by the fact that a third candidate won the delegates and, as Dvorsky reminded us, a fourth candidate had won the Ames Straw Poll.
Another fixation the locals have is the battle over whether state central committee members should be neutral in primaries. The national media doesn't care about that either. In fact, I think they kind of expect and like it; "State Central Committee Member Endorses Eisenhower" can fill a news hole on a slow day. And remember: no national media = no candidates coming to Iowa.