The Iowa Precinct Caucuses

The Making of a Media Event, Third Edition

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December 2010
378 pp., 6 x 9 inches

“This revised and expanded edition of The Iowa Precinct Caucuses: The Making of a Media Event offers new chapters on the 2000, 2004, and 2008 precinct caucuses and their impact on candidate fortunes. The feast of details served up by Winebrenner and Goldford reaffirms the adage that Iowa is important because it goes first rather than being first because it is important."—Emmett H. Buell, Jr., emeritus professor of political science, Denison University

“This continues to be the definitive analysis of the Iowa caucuses in the presidential nominating process.  Winebrenner and Goldford update the coverage to include the three presidential campaigns in the 2000s, while providing a balanced take on the origins, influence, and pros and cons of the Iowa caucuses. Is this any way to nominate a president? Probably not, but this book is the way to understand this key aspect of the process, warts and all."—Walter J. Stone, professor of political science, University of California, Davis

“Terrific. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or making your regular trek to the unique world of Iowa presidential politics, this is a must-read guide for the political traveler. Full of details on the voters, candidates and media, Winebrenner and Goldford show how and why Iowa does what it does.”—Steven Thomma, White House Correspondent, McClatchy Newspapers

Although some people refer to Iowa as “flyover country,” presidential candidates and political reporters in the national press corps have no difficulty locating the state every four years at the beginning of presidential primary season.

When Iowa Democrats pushed forward their precinct caucuses in 1972, the Iowa caucuses became the first presidential nominating event in the nation. Politicos soon realized the impact of Iowa’s new status and, along with the national media, promoted the caucuses with a vengeance. The Iowa Precinct Caucuses chronicles how the caucuses began, how they changed, and starting in 1972 how they became fodder for and manipulated by the mass media.  Hugh Winebrenner and Dennis J. Goldford argue that the media have given a value to the Iowa caucuses completely out of proportion to the reality of their purpose and procedural methods. In fact, the nationally reported “results” are contrived by the Iowa parties to portray a distorted picture of the process. As presidential primaries have grown in the media spotlight and superseded the parties’ conventions, Iowa has become a political proving ground for the confident, the hopeful, and the relatively unknown, but at what cost to the country?

The third edition of this classic book has been updated to include the elections of 2000, which saw the first winner of the Iowa caucuses to reach the White House since 1976; of 2004 and the roller-coaster fortunes of Howard Dean and John Kerry; and of 2008 and the unlikely emergence of Barack Obama as a presidential contender.