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We’re Not in Iowa Anymore

Each night, the primary is routinely the third or fourth story on the network evening news broadcasts—a good indicator of how little appetite there is for Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley with national audiences.
Each night, the primary is routinely the third or fourth story on the network evening news broadcasts—a good indicator of how little appetite there is for Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley with national audiences. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Peter Hamby
January 8, 2024

The Iowa caucuses are just one week away. Every four years, the Des Moines Airport starts to run out of rental cars as national reporters and political tourists from Washington and New York converge on the state to chronicle the starting gun of primary season. Against the backdrop of Republican candidates scraping for votes is the quadrennial media spectacle: The bar at the Des Moines Marriott will fill up with reporters and operatives; national TV networks will set up broadcast headquarters across the city with platoons of staffers; the kitschy apparel shop Raygun will sell out of quirky political T-shirts; and young journalists who have been living in Iowa for a year will inevitably grouse about the sudden arrival of big-name national correspondents parachuting into town just for the final few days. 

The national media invested a lot of time and money into covering this race, under the assumption—when it began, at least—that it would be just as enthralling and dramatic as recent ones, a boon for ratings, clicks, and revenue. The stakes were obvious: a possible resurrection of Donald Trump, and yet another battle for the soul of the nation, as his likely Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, frames it. The horse race story would be there, too, with other Republicans finally stepping up to challenge Trump, who would surely be damaged by his trail of electoral losses and legal challenges. No Democratic primary? No worries. Republican infighting has always made for a good story with a healthy sprinkling of crazy, especially in the Trump era.