DES MOINES, Iowa – Since 1972, Iowans have been proud to be First in the Nation for picking the next president. Friday, they’ll be able to reflect on that privilege through a new exhibit at the State Historical Museum of Iowa.
“We’re looking at the history of the caucuses from 1972 to 2012, and that history has shown that Iowa and Iowans who come out to participate in the caucuses – they take the process very seriously,” said Jeff Morgan with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. “They do their research, they meet the candidates, they have an opportunity to meet just about every candidate that comes through Iowa. And what the Iowa caucuses have done is, the roll of the Iowa caucuses is to winnow the field. To vet the candidates, to winnow the field down. And that’s the first step on the road to the White House.”
The exhibit, titled, “First in the Nation: Shaping Presidential Politics Since 1972,” opens Friday, October 2 at 8 a.m. To commemorate the grand opening, two panel discussions will be held: First, at 8 a.m., is a panel moderated by former Des Moines Register chief political reporter, editor, and columnist, David Yepsen, who covered nine election cycles while in Central Iowa. Yepsen will be joined by Dr. Andy McGuire, the Iowa Democratic Party chair, as well as Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a former Iowa congressional candidate and a member of the Iowa GOP State Central Committee. The second panel, held at noon, will feature a slew of Iowa State University researchers discussing the significance of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status in relation to the U.S. presidential election.
The exhibit itself features news clips, campaign ads, and over 160 artifacts representing caucus campaigns from 1972 – when Iowa first became first-in-the-nation – to 2012, when Rick Santorum won the Republican caucuses with his 99-county tour strategy. While Iowa’s importance hasn’t changed in all these years, Morgan says one thing has changed – and its impact is well-represented in the exhibit.
“The most significant change has been over the last 8-12 years, has been how social media and digital technology has been incorporated into various campaigns throughout Iowa,” he said. “You find campaigns are connecting with Iowa voters in new and different ways, utilizing new technology through social media and those kinds of advances.”
In addition to the exhibit’s opening day festivities Friday, catch a special edition of Channel 13’s The Insiders with Dave Price, broadcast from the new exhibit, Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m.