Iowans have always relished our “first in the nation” status in presidential elections, and we take that responsibility seriously. To those who dismiss Iowa as “flyover country” remember that many candidates have risen or fallen based on their performance in our state.
In 2008, Barack Obama’s surprise win in Iowa launched his presidential career. And Mike Huckabee saw his stock rise after an impressive showing in 2008. Make no mistake: Iowa has a proud history of making a difference in presidential races.
As a former Deputy Chief of Staff to Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks and a State Representative who was born and raised in Southern Iowa, I know what it takes to win here. Iowa is not Florida. Millions of dollars and a fancy TV ad campaign isn’t going to cut it in a state where we expect candidates to visit and campaign—not just once or twice—but multiple times—and yes, we keep count. We want to see candidates talking to grandmas, farmers, and young boys and girls who are still 10 years away from voting in the caucuses. We want to see you visiting our small businesses, traveling on gravel roads, trekking through the snow, flipping pork burgers, and getting to know who we are and what we care about.
As the 2024 presidential race kicks off, we’ve already started to pay attention to who is putting in the work in Iowa, and who is mailing it in. One candidate who stands out is former Governor Nikki Haley. With just over a month of her candidacy under her belt, Haley has already held 17 events in Iowa across 14 cities and towns. From well-attended town halls to a bakery stop in Winterset to a meet-and-greet with farmers, Haley is campaigning the Iowa way.
Iowans notice the small things—the things the media skims over. We notice when Haley stays after an event to mingle with the crowd, take pictures, and talk about the issues we care about like how to secure our southern border, how to squash inflation, and how to restore American strength and pride.
We notice when she opens up her town halls to unscripted questions from the audience and tackles tough issues like Washington’s spending addiction, instead of giving a prepared speech and calling it a night. We notice when she stays for three days and nights instead of popping in and out on a stopover through Des Moines.
One reporter put it best when she said: “In Iowa and New Hampshire—those early states are so incredibly important because retail politicking is so important. So you see Nikki Haley going to these diners, going to these restaurants, and meeting one on one with voters. So we’ll have to see if Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump do the same thing.”
In other words, when we say our vote has to be earned, we mean it. No one gets a free pass in Iowa. There’s no faking it till you make it here.
Of course, it’s early in the presidential race. Campaigning in Iowa is a marathon, not a sprint. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Haley is an avid runner, already displaying the political stamina to go all the way.
As other candidates jump in, they should steal a page from a beloved Iowa classic, “Field of Dreams.” In the Iowa-based movie, Kevin Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, stands in a corn field chasing a whispered voice: “If you build it, he will come.” If you want to win in Iowa, you have to put in the effort, the time, and the sweat. In other words, you have to build it.