By Jessica Hopper
The day after the Iowa caucuses, at least one presidential contender, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, has dropped out of the race and another, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, has vowed to fight on despite a disappointing finish in the Hawkeye state.
Bachmann received only 5 percent of Iowans' votes.
"I have decided to stand aside," Bachmann told her supporters at a press conference this morning. "We must rally around the person that our country and our party and our people select to be that standard bearer, but make no mistake, I'll continue to be a strong voice."
On Tuesday, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney narrowly edged out former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum by just 8 votes in Iowa.
The Iowa caucuses have long been venerated as the first big contest in the presidential nomination race with the outcome spelling the beginning of the end for some presidential contenders and giving a much needed surge to others.
“I think Iowa deserves to be the first in the nation caucus,” said Kyle Munson, a columnist for The Des Moines Register. “We’re a well-educated state... We’re well dispersed state population wise. People can really meet with voters, I think. And we’re becoming more and more diverse, counter to the perennial claim of us being too white or too ultra conservative, so I think it’s a very representative state if you take the time to look at it.”
A record number of Iowans participated in the caucuses Tuesday with 122,255 people voting. Ron Paul finished third among the GOP pack with 21 percent of the vote. Newt Gingrich finished fourth. After last night’s results, Texas Gov. Perry, who placed fifth, returned to Texas to reassess his campaign, but announced in a tweet this morning that he will continue on.
Munson of The Des Moines Register has watched Iowa become the center of attention over the last few months, with pundits questioning how much significance should be given to Iowa’s caucuses. Despite all of the media attention paid to its first-in-the-nation status, in the last 40 years, only one GOP candidate has won in Iowa and gone on to win the presidency.
“Right now, the national media, the New York Times, all sorts of outlets are filled with assessments of Iowa and what’s Iowa really like and who are these people picking the next president,” said Munson. “I think we’re willing to listen to different opinions, it’s just do they have a kernel of truth in them?”
The criticism that seems to have caused the most uproar among Iowans came from a resident-- Stephen Bloom, a University of Iowa journalism professor who has lived in the state for 20 years. Bloom’s article, “Observations From 20 Years of Iowan Life,” was published online in The Atlantic in December. The article went viral and quickly mushroomed into outrage among Iowans.
Bloom called Iowans “an assortment of waste-toids” and said rural Iowa consists of the “elderly waiting to die” and “meth addicts with pale skin and rotted teeth.” He defended his article as a form of parody and satire in an interview with Rock Center’s Willie Geist.
"Iowa isn't a place that's representative of America and why then should it be the springboard for the national presidential election," Bloom said.
Munson said it’s fair to start a conversation about Iowa’s role in the presidential nomination process.
“I think Stephen Boom’s article hints at some good questions about the declining population and economic fortunes in rural Iowa, the brain drain of our youth, but the problem is they get buried under the way he’s mangled some of the facts and the mean spirited nature of his prose,” Munson said.
Several of the GOP presidential contenders are moving their campaign efforts to New Hampshire today where the next primary is scheduled, but just how much of what happened in Iowa predicts what will happen in New Hampshire?
Since 1980, the Iowa caucuses have correctly predicted the GOP presidential nominee twice. The New Hampshire primary has had a slightly better track record, correctly predicting the GOP nominee three times since 1980. It’s rare for both the winner in Iowa and New Hampshire to be the same, but no Republican presidential candidate has won the nomination without either winning in New Hampshire or Iowa. The South Carolina primary, scheduled just 11 days after the New Hampshire primary, may be the most telling. Every winner of the South Carolina GOP primary since 1980 has gone on to win the Republican nomination.