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Iowa caucuses reinvigorate democracy, leave nomination open

Monday night showed that nothing is certain in politics. The Iowa caucuses took place in YMCAs and living rooms across the rural state in what was nicknamed the “Battle in the Heartland” by CNN. Now the scene is set for the presidential race, yet the outcome of even this first stage remains wide open.

As Judy Woodruff said during the CNN coverage, winning Iowa does not automatically mean the Democratic candidate also will win the Democratic nomination, let alone the race to the White House. Since 1972 “only one of (the democratic candidates winning Iowa) got elected president, and only half of them went to get their party’s nomination.”

Dick Gephardt, for example, won the Iowa caucuses in 1988, yet did not become president. Last night he came in as a distant fourth with 11 percent and later that night dropped out of the race.

Making this race even more interesting, Howard Dean, the face that had been greeting potential voters at newsstands from the covers of Time and Newsweek magazine, came in third with 18 percent, and did not come through as the front-runner that he had been heralded during the last month.

John Edwards, garnering 32 percent, said it was because “politics of hope overcame those of cynicism” and connected with his campaign’s message.Others had far more problems connecting with the public.

William Schneider, political analyst, attributed this change of heart in Iowa’s voters to the “capture of Saddam Hussein (which) turned this election around one month ago.” This might be true, as the nation suddenly did not see the military action in Iraq as gloomy. Even though soldiers were still coming home in body bags almost daily, the war effort now seemed to be better than before and it turned the tides among the Democratic candidates.

Overcome with the joy of victory, John Kerry exclaimed, “Iowa, I love you” and coined himself to be “Comeback Kerry.” But even he knows that there is still much work to be done in order to remain ahead in the polls.

Next week the New Hampshire primary will show if the trend continues, throwing Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman in to make it even more interesting. As changing polls have showed over the last month “people will make up their own minds” as Lieberman said on Larry King Live Monday night.

While the outcome of the race remains uncertain, the Hawkeye State also proved how important participation in politics is as 95 percent of the states eligible voters are registered to vote. The rest of the nation should follow the lead and reinvigorate the democratic process. It certainly seems the country could need it.