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The Circus is Coming!

By Jerry Bowen,
Los Angeles, CA, USA

Jerry Bowen

My home state of Iowa is about to engage in its quadrennial contribution to the national body politic. Thousands of well-meaning folks will gather on a freezing February night in living rooms, church basements and town halls to start the process of picking presidential nominees for the two major political parties.

The annoying robo-calls will be over. The appearance of the presidential wannabes at Rotary Clubs, local cafes and the State Fair the stuff of history.

The Democrats offer Hillary "What Email?" Clinton, Bernie "Long Shot" Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin "No Shot" O'Malley. There is a sense of inevitability about this side of the field.

The Republicans offer a parade of astonishing candidates where little is predictable. They are fighting among themselves over who gets to drive the clown car out of Iowa on to New Hampshire and beyond. You know them well by now unless you have just emerged from a cave. In which case, I offer this cheat sheet.

There is "The Donald", a visionary who saw celebrating Muslims on the streets of New Jersey the day the twin towers came down. Problem is no one else saw them.

Mr. Mumbles, celebrated pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson who has a theory the Egyptian pyramids were built as grain silos not burial chambers.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (Florida) who rarely shows up for that job which he says he doesn't like and has serious problems managing his personal finances.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (Texas) who has insulted his fellow Republicans in that august chamber and counts among his Iowa supporters a rabid evangelical preacher who advocates killing gays.

And these are the leaders in the polls. There are more candidates. A baseball team's worth.

Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey. He styles himself as the tough as nails foreign policy expert. The only one able to take on ISIS. Yet he fumbled his response to another foreign threat...Ebola. His quarantine of an American nurse returning from Africa proved to be overkill. 

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. He's taken the art of hyperbole to a tasteless low. President Obama, the former preacher preached, took Israelis to the oven door with the Iran nuclear deal. He said all that with a smile.

Carly Fiorina, the fired Hewlett Packard CEO, also has visions. She saw a live fetus in a Planned Parenthood "gotcha" video made by an anti-abortion group. And she heard a voice saying the fetus needed to be kept alive to harvest its brain. Turns out she has "The Donald" problem of seeing and hearing things that others don't.

And Jeb Bush. What to make of Jeb Bush? A brand name, millions of dollars in campaign and PAC coffers and no traction. Haunted perhaps by the ghost of his unpopular brother George. Ignored so far by a public that may have concluded he is one Bush too many.

Santorum, Pataki, Kasich, Paul and Graham are running on fumes or gone.

Rick Perry, Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal simply ran out of gas and money and didn't make it to the starting line.

I have some friends who believe Donald Trump is the best of the bunch. The immigration issue won them over. She is a teacher's aide, he manages a small trucking company. Neither is college educated. Both are angry over "Mexicans" taking American jobs and large "Mexican" families crowding the aisles at Wal-Mart.

Never mind that the Hispanics are taking jobs at agriculture and meatpacking plants that can't be filled otherwise. Or, that the migration of Hispanics to Iowa is why the population is growing. Why some small towns are still alive.

It would be nice to think the majority of Iowa voters are thoughtful, middle of the road folks who in the end will sort out the field in a reasonable way.

Their choices will be based not on fear, but on common sense. Finding that candidate who can lead us through economic and foreign affairs challenges ahead.

That would be nice. But that is not necessarily reality. The caucuses, as they always are, will be a crapshoot with surprises. The polls that stand today will be proven irrelevant.

This coming freezing February caucus night, Iowans will go to work with they candidates they have, not necessarily the candidates they or the rest of us want.

It is what it is. The 2016 political circus is hitting the road.

All aboard! First stop the great State of Iowa.

Jerry Bowen is a veteran news correspondent now in retirement after 33 years with CBS Network News. He lives in Los Angeles, but escapes regularly to commune with the coyotes and cougars on his family farm in southwest Iowa.

All opinions expressed in this article are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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