In the old days, the only way for presidential candidates to win the first two caucus/primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire was to spend significant time there, meeting voters one on one. But now the calculus has changed, Politico
None of the top candidates is using much shoe leather in the first two primary states, or even the next two big ones: South Carolina and Florida. Instead, they’re using free media interviews and the many candidate debates to get their message across. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is the only contender hitting the hustings hard in Iowa, visiting all 99 counties, and he’s barely a blip in the polls.
It’s hard to argue with the strategy. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, retired businessman Herman Cain, and now former House Speaker Newt Gingrich shot to the top of the polls without spending much time in the early primary states.
Just four year years ago, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney virtually camped out in Iowa. But it didn’t do him much good, as he lost the caucuses to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. With at least 17 debates — all televised nationally — taking place this year before the Iowa caucuses, there’s no need to repeat that strategy. In 2008, the debate total was 11.
When the candidates do make their way to the early primary states, they generally appear at town hall meetings rather than going door to door and attending local party meetings like candidates did in elections past. The town hall format guarantees large crowds and few questions.
Romney went door to door in New Hampshire Saturday, but that was largely a photo opportunity to galvanize his backers.
Republicans in the early states would love for candidates to come more, Bill Schickel, co-chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, told Politico.
“There is a strong desire to see the candidates, and the candidates have been producing good turnouts,” he said. “There is a lot of activity on the ground. It’s being done primarily by the supporters of the candidates.”
Chip Saltsman, who managed Huckabee’s 2008 campaign, says the reluctance of the candidates to venture much to the early states provides an opportunity for one who is willing to do so.
“I don’t think there is any substitute for being there,” he said. “I still think there is a way for a candidate who works his backside off to make some real progress in the last 30 days. There are 99 counties in Iowa. There are a lot of miles to put on the car, and your volunteers are doing the same thing.”
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