STORY BY JAKE BULLINGTON
It’s caucus season, which means the state largely known for corn and agriculture will take the political spotlight for the next few months – and where the politicians flock, the media follows.
So far, five Democrats and over 20 Republicans have announced their candidacy in the race for the White House. Politicians and their platforms have dominated the airwaves for Iowans in the last few months, more than a year out from the election.
Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush have been considered the ‘establishment’ politicians for their respective parties, while ‘fringe’ candidates like Donald Trump have gained momentum since May — utilizing shareable sound bites and images on social media to point all eyes and ears to what they have to say.
Trump has commandeered a vast majority of the media coverage in recent months, boosting his name recognition, thus poll numbers and popularity in several early key states, including New Hampshire and Iowa.
Although the election is often thought of as a marathon and not a sprint, it is difficult for voters not to speculate about the eventual nominees.
“The way it’s going, it looks like [the nominee] is going to be Donald Trump, although I can’t take him seriously,” said junior Politics and Public Relations major Nick Frandsen. “I don’t think a lot of Iowans can either.”
Some national polls show Trump leading by nearly double digits above Bush, who frequently polls in second place nationally.
“Americans like to see national polls because they like to see what the rest of the country is thinking, but campaigns should be focusing on state polls,” said Frandsen. “It’s all a state-by-state race until you pick a nominee.”
Regardless of how the public seems to perceive his comments as brilliance or as outrageous, Trump’s numbers continue to rise above the competition. His ability to seize the “sick and tired of politics as usual” feeling in many voters’ minds has undoubtedly become one of his biggest tools on the campaign trail.
The more bombastic the quote, the more likely he’ll grab the media’s attention.
“It’s easier for him to cut through (the noise) with his flamboyant personality,” Frandsen said. “He’s able to spit out quotes that the media then picks up.”
Frandsen attributes Trump’s success to his ability to campaign more effectively in early-voter states like here in Iowa.
“A lot of it comes down to visibility, I think.” Frandsen said. “His name is always in the news, his face is always out there, even during RAGBRAI he was handing out ‘Trump for President’ water bottles to the riders. He has his name plastered across the state in ways the other candidates haven’t been able to.”
Name recognition will continue to be a large aspect of maintaining a lead in the race, considering one could not even count the Republicans in the race on two hands.
Trump’s status as a celebrity and his subsequent ability to overshadow his competitors in terms of name-recognition may bode as an obstacle his opponents will have to overcome by proposing practical and relevant solutions to political issues.