The New Year is here and the 2012 caucuses are upon us. It's a month earlier than originally scheduled. We can blame Florida for that, but that's another story.
Ready or not, the nation's eyes are fixed squarely on our state and the outcome of Tuesday's first-in-the-nation GOP caucuses.
Perhaps we could have used the extra time. A recent Iowa State University/Gazette/KCRG poll of likely caucusgoers found the race "remarkably fluid" with 37.8 percent of respondents indicating they were still trying to decide and another 34.1 percent only leaning toward one candidate. Only 28.1 percent indicated they are definitely decided on who they will support.
That's fine. Caucuses, as opposed to primaries, involve discussions of platforms and other issues before committing. Our job is to winnow the field and propel those who will remain competitive. We sift and send.
Competition should remain high on our list of priorities. In a democratic and capitalistic society, competition is generally seen as healthy. It works well in the business world, where the best supposedly rise to the top via their own strengths.
It should be no different in electing our nation's leaders.
While the quick rise and fall of several candidates in the polls has been uncanny, one candidate has remained relatively steady. That's why Mitt Romney should be among the candidates we push along.
Our nation needs a viable candidate to oppose President Barack Obama in the 2012 election. In 2009, the president took first in the Iowa caucuses, giving him momentum in his run for the presidency.
We don't question the intelligence or dedication of our president. However, Obama's leadership skills seem underdeveloped. He failed to lead on trying to push through an integral mix of entitlement and tax reform from his own bipartisan deficit commission, headed by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. He seems to leave too much to Congress.
Of course, a do-nothing Congress, and freshmen tea partyers unwilling to budge on issues unrelated to our most important priorities surely deserve some blame. That notion is reflected in the dismal approval ratings of the current Congress.
That said, it's the president's job to get movement from Congress.
Iowa has a relatively low unemployment rate compared with the rest of the nation, but Iowans are aware the economy and jobs should be top priorities in the long and daunting task of getting this country back on track.
According to James Gattuso and Diane Katz of the Heritage Foundation, major regulations issued in the first 26 months of the Obama administration will saddle our economy with almost $40 billion per year in new costs. That's before health care reform, the Dodd-Frank Act and other regulations are fully rolled out. Rational fiscal policies are of utmost importance.
"Government is simply taking too large a slice out of our economy," Romney told the Boston Herald.
In recent years, our leadoff status has prompted a backlash from political pundits who try to downplay the Iowa caucuses as increasingly irrelevant. A bad showing from a candidate most likely to give the president the toughest competition would surely give such pundits more ammunition.