..Jon Simonds..


Once every four years, the lonely state of Iowa is thrust onto the radar screen. Iowa, the state of corn and hogs was granted membership into the lower 48 back in 1846 as the 29th State of the Union. As someone who has spent the better part of his life in New York City, there isn't much else to say about Iowa. For example, nobody ever sings about Iowa. There are songs like Sweet Home Alabama, California Girls, Georgia On My Mind and hundreds of songs about NY; but I can't think of a single song about Iowa. Does anyone know Neil Young? Maybe we could get him to write a song about Iowa. After all, he's written so many. Why not write one about Iowa?

There aren't any TV shows about Iowa. Florida has CSI Miami. I loved Hawaii Five-O, The Streets of San Francisco and NYPD Blue, but I've never seen a show referencing Iowa. There aren't even very many famous people from Iowa. Buffalo Bill Cody was from Iowa. John Wayne hails from Iowa, as did Johnny Carson, Herbert Hoover and Ann Landers. Even the Indian tribe from which Iowa took its name, The Ioway, never quite made the name for themselves that say the Apache, or, the Sioux nation did. Iowa just doesn't fire up the imagination like many other parts of the country do.

Iowa has 947 cities. That's not much more than the amount of neighborhoods spread across the City of New York, the five towns of Long Island and upper Westchester County. The largest is Des Moines. Everyone has heard of Des Moines, as it is the only question with the answer of Iowa on all the tests you will ever take throughout your years in school. How large is Des Moines in terms of population? Think Yankee Stadium, late September when the Red Sox come to town for a 4 game series with the pennant on the line. The smallest city in Iowa is Beaconsfield. The official population is 11. The last tenement I lived in had 12 in the apartment next door. It was a four bedroom, shared by two couples with 8 kids. I was never sure which kids belonged to which set of parents, but if they all moved to Beaconsfield they could double the population and probably be celebrated for triggering a huge burst of economic growth.

Iowans are rather sharp cookies, however. In my lifetime, Iowans have only once failed to pick party winners in the Iowa Caucus. In 1960, for example, Iowans picked John F. Kennedy and Richard Millhouse Nixon as their candidates of choice. In 1964 it was Lyndon Baynes Johnson and Barry Goldwater. Four years later, in '68 it was Nixon again and Hubert H Humphrey. Humphrey lost the Party Nod to Robert F. Kennedy, a senator from NY who was assassinated by a Muslim radical. The Party, however, went with Iowa and Humphrey ended up with the mantle. In '72 it was Nixon again, and George McGovern. A pattern was beginning to emerge. Iowans tended to prefer Presidential candidates with three names, and usually the candidate with three names went on to win the White House.

Iowans, not wanting to be typecast, broke with tradition in 1976 when they picked Gerald Ford to lead the Republicans and Jimmy Carter, the peanutman from Georgia, to lead the Dems. In 1980 it was Reagan and Carter. They picked Reagan again in '84 and Walter Mondale. In '88 the era of the three-name candidate started to re-emerge. George H. Bush was an Iowan favorite along with Michael Dukakis. In '92 Iowans went with George H. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton. Iowans loved Slick Willie in '96 and Bob Dole. George W. won in both 2000 and 2004 against the other Iowan picks, Al Gore and John Kerry.

On January 8th, Iowans go to the polls yet again to pick the winners. The leading contenders on the Democratic side are Barak Obama, Jon Edwards and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Hillary is the only three-name candidate from either party. This could give her an edge. There are places in Iowa that share names with candidates. For example, Fred Thompson should do well in Thompson, Iowa and you have to wonder how many people in Clinton, Iowa will vote Hillary, well, just because. Don't kid yourself, Clinton, Iowa is a well populated town. There is a Pauline, Iowa but I'm not sure that will count for anything in the Ron Paul camp. There is a Johnston, Iowa and an Eddysville, but that shouldn't carry the same weight for John Edwards as Clinton, Iowa might carry for Hillary.

I should probably visit Iowa, someday. It seems like the kind of place I'd like to retire. There doesn't seem to be much going on in Iowa, except during the primaries and that's only once every four years and even then, it only lasts for a couple of weeks anyway. The rest of the time, I imagine — it's just — I don't know, Iowa.

* * *