Iowa doesn’t come close to measuring nation’s pulse

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JAFFREY, NH - JANUARY 06: Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) talks to reporters and voters after touring Pelletier’s Sports Shop January 6, 2012 in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. After coming in second place by only eight votes behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the Iowa Caucuses, Santorum is riding that momentum into next week’s New Hampshire GOP primary. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) R:MerlinGetty_Photos136484927.jpg

Once again, the news media have made many of you attach far too much importance to Iowa’s political caucuses. They are fun to watch, but they’re really more like a circus than a serious measure of what most of us across the United States want for leadership.

As a native of neighboring South Dakota, I have many friends and some relatives in Iowa. I visit there at least once or twice a year. That’s why I understand that press or political suggestions that Iowans represent the rest of the USA are nonsense. Contrasts:

† Iowans are 91.3 percent white. The USA as a whole is 72.4 percent.

† Iowans are 2.9 percent black. The USA is 12.6 percent.

† Iowa has 5 percent Hispanics. The USA is 16.3 percent.

Ironically, the legend that Iowans are so representative that they foretell our political future started with a South Dakotan and my lifelong friend George McGovern. When George decided he’d like to run for president in 1972, he placed his first bet in Iowa. He finished second to Sen. Edmund S. Muskie, but then went on from there to get the Democratic presidential nomination. Unfortunately for him and the USA, Republican Richard Nixon beat him in the general election.

Now, any suggestion that winning of Iowa’s caucus or New Hampshire’s primary are the keys to getting a major party presidential nomination is utter nonsense.

The first real test in a really representative state comes in Florida’s primary on Jan. 31. Because of movers like me from all across the USA, Florida now represents the best cross section of our population.

Race, religion, sex, sports interests, political affiliation all have their fair share in Florida.

So, after interesting but inconclusive preliminary tests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, you can take the Florida results seriously. Mark your calendar for Jan. 31.

Al Neuharth is founder of USA TODAY.

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