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Do you like to go to the circus? One is coming to Iowa soon. It will be here for about a year traveling around the state, and it features high wire balancing acts, jumping through hoops, feeding raw meat to the animals and features a clown who is not funny. Some acts are appealing; others are appalling. Even if you haven’t bought a ticket, you can’t escape the noise and your own compulsion to peek into the tent.
It is not your normal circus, but democracy in action. A presidential primary has begun, a distraction usually for members of both political parties, but thus far Republicans steal the show. A dozen or so people will seek the nomination. Some you probably have never heard of, like Asa Hutchinson of I forget where.
Currently leading the bunch is a clown running for president a third time. Many decent Republicans have found If you get too close, you’re stuck. Keeping a distance, if you once embraced him, it's hard to get loose, but traditional Republican fat cats are already running from him. Even Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News, is looking for new blood.
Donald Trump sees it differently. The day before he announced he would run, he told us all, “Hopefully, tomorrow will turn out to be one of the most important days in the history of our Country!”
With that humility, he will be here a lot until the caucuses occur in February 2024. I don’t often feel sorry for Republicans. I do today. Sen. Chuck Grassley must perform a physical miracle harder than doing pushups. He chooses to accept Donald Trump, but at arm’s length, beyond the tar.
Within a day of Trump’s announcement, Grassley was asked if he supported Trump. He, with a spine of sponge, explained to The Gazette: “Here’s what I tell every Republican. See you in Iowa.” The governor had a better immediate solution — total silence. We read, “Kim Reynolds’ office and campaign did not respond to messages.”
Former Gov. Terry Branstad is doing the high wire act. He was appointed by Trump to be our ambassador to China, but he is undecided about Trump running again.
Iowa evangelical Bob Vander Plaats, who is president of The Family Leader, was more direct about a Trump candidacy. He said, "I think it's just time to turn the page.” Would that Grassley and Reynolds had a thimble full of Vander Plaats’ honesty.
Already, Trump has started his attack on front-runner Ron DeSantis, calling him disloyal and “Ron DeSanctimonious.” Trump also took aim at Virginia Gov. Gene Youngkin, another possible contender, mocking his name by saying his name "sounds Chinese.” Long ago, he talked of “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz and “Little Marco” Rubio. Mitch McConnell was “an old crow” and his wife. Elaine Chao a “China loving wife.” Trump also called McConnell “a piece of (expletive).”
When the final circus act is over and the caucus carnival is done, the result will probably be inclusive. Even if Trump were to lead, he is not likely to get even half the delegates. But that pattern was enough to win the nomination in 2016. The Republicans in Iowa should put him out to pasture.
Norman Sherman of Coralville has worked extensively in politics, including as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary.
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