MASON CITY, IA (February 8, 2016) — John Skipper, a member of First Covenant Church and political reporter for the Globe Gazette, loves politics but he is glad the caucuses are behind him and the candidates moved on to New Hampshire.
“Just because it’s enjoyable doesn’t mean it’s not tiring, because it’s a long haul.” said Skipper.
Before last Monday night’s caucuses, Skipper wrote in a column that, “In many ways, the Iowa caucus campaign season is like a relative who comes for a visit and stays too long. Sooner or later, the food all begins to taste the same and you run out of things to talk about.”
Skipper has covered events by 18 presidential candidates in just the last year.
One of his more memorable interviews came in 2007, when met with then-Senator Barack Obama in a room next to the junior college gymnasium where the candidate had just addressed an enthusiastic crowd.
When Obama met him, he playfully said, “I want you to know you are the only thing standing between me and dinner.” Dinner did soon come, however, so Skipper and Obama talked over a plate of lasagna for more than half an hour.
Skipper, who was honored by the Iowa Newspaper Association on Friday night for his 50 years in journalism, joked that Iowans have a joke: “There are five seasons – winter spring, summer, fall, and caucus.”
It’s a season that can become almost unbearable. In the final months of the campaign, for example, almost every TV ad is for—and against—one of the candidates.
At the end of caucus night, when people ask me if I’d want to do it again, I always tell them that it’s a little like asking a woman in labor if she wants to have another baby.
But being the first state in the process and voting by caucus does have its advantages. “If you live in Iowa, you have a chance to meet the next president of the United States.”
Little attention had been paid to the Iowa caucuses until the relative upstart Jimmy Carter came out of nowhere—or Georgia at least—to win them in 1976. He had spent several years going to numerous small-town gatherings before anyone else noticed what was happening.
“Ever since then, all of the candidates come pouring into Iowa,” Skipper said. “We had 22 of them at the same time at one point.” That made sneaking up on the other candidates pretty much impossible.
Skipper said it is ironic that for all the emphasis placed on winning the caucus, only Carter, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama went on to become president. “It does winnow the field, though.”
The Republican and Democratic races were both exciting because of the rise of the insurgent candidates, said Skipper, noting that all of the candidates who had experience governing a state finished far behind the winners.
On Thursday, he said, “At the end of caucus night, when people ask me if I’d want to do it again, I always tell them that it’s a little like asking a woman in labor if she wants to have another baby.”
Give him some time to recover, though, and he’ll be ready to go at it again. He won’t have to wait too long.
“A week or two after the presidential election after November, you’ll start to see notices that some out of state senator or governor is going to speak at the Dubuque rotary club, and you think, “Aha! It’s started,” Skipper said.
“No politician comes to Iowa in the middle of winter without a reason, and we all know what the reason is.”