Between the Lines: The long and winding campaign

There are a few things we can all agree on.

We can all agree that a white Christmas beats a brown one. But after Christmas, the lack of snow to shovel is just fine, thank you.

It's a relief to not have to worry about bundling up in the wee hours of the morning to shovel your driveway so that you can make it to work on time.

Perhaps Mother Nature knew we needed a break this winter, as she's watched the Midwest being besieged with a blizzard of a different kind. A storm front has been dumping all sorts of nasty stuff on Iowa for months now. It is forecast to finally all end sometime next week with seemingly only one survivor.

Yes, there will be only one winner in the Iowa Republican caucuses scheduled for next Tuesday, Jan. 3.

Nearly every one of the still active Republican presidential hopefuls has spent some time in Iowa this year, keeping the storm alive.

The full fury of this political gale has now been unleashed, as the New York Times reported that earlier this week, all the Republican hopefuls who are competing in Iowa started descending on the state to begin making their final, urgent appeals.

As the candidates travel hundreds of miles back and forth across the state, the campaigns are spooling out an intense barrage of television commercials, radio spots, direct mail drops and automated telephone calls in the hope of extending the reach of their messages as widely as possible.

The target: about 120,000 die-hard Republican activists who will be willing to spend their entire evening next Tuesday gathered in a church basement or school classroom to vote for their preference as Republican nominee.

The storm has been long and unrelenting. And I'm sure many of our close Iowa neighbors can't wait for it to end.

Just as we can all recognize that the weather sure has been nice lately, Kevin Horrigan of the St. Louis Post Dispatch believes there's one other thing just about everyone can agree on: Ending the unending presidential campaign.

Horrigan argues that a law enforcing shorter campaigns, such as the British have, would not simply compress the political calendar, but reduce the huge spending on races. The shorter time frame would allow much less advertising, making public financing of campaigns affordable. He believes that, in turn, would vastly reduce the influence of big-monied special interests and individuals.

Not all aspects of political campaigns are negative. The whole goal of a campaign is help us learn the positive traits of each candidate. Of course, the motives of nearly all of the candidates is to point out the not-so-savory characteristics of their opponents.

Which is why the people in Iowa must be just about on their last nerve, collectively, as the GOP presidential race has turned ugly with negative campaigning.

Thank goodness we were spared all of that ugliness during the GOP presidential debates, which have been going on, well, forever last time I checked.

The debates gave us greater insight into both the candidates and the voters who attend these events. I found them to be very educational, presenting us all valuable teaching moments about the candidates and the people who attend these Republican functions.

I personally learned a lot when some audience members cheered at one of the debates for people without insurance to die, and the booing that greeted a gay soldier. We heard Ron Paul defend his libertarian view on government not helping dying people without insurance (society, he offered, would surely not let it happen), and we heard Rick Santorum explain why he opposes the end of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

And Rick Perry. Wow, thank goodness we all had a chance to listen to him debate before contemplating about actually casting a vote for him someday.

Maybe long campaigns are a good thing. Maybe we need that extra time, the week after week of sheer torture, to allow us voters to eventually separate the wheat from the chaff.

In the meantime, the final dustup in Iowa continues, with everyone – be they wheat or chaff – making one final push.

All six candidates are hoping for a strong showing that could help propel their campaigns forward into future contests. Even for Iowans who are used to the cacophony of messages, that's a lot of campaigning.

And it's just beginning.

As soon as the voting is over in Iowa, the candidates (and the reporters following them) will board airplanes for New Hampshire and a similar weeklong sprint to primary day on Jan. 10. And then an 11-day stretch of political battle before South Carolina's primary. And then a 10-day stretch in advance of the voting in Florida.

In other words, the storm front is forecast, with certainty, to head east. And nearly all of us, especially people residing in Iowa, can all agree that such a climate change will be a good thing.

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