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CNN Today

Iowa Caucuses: So What's Life in Like in the Hawkeye State?

Aired January 24, 2000 - 1:07 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: Once every four years, the presidential hopefuls flock to Iowa, along with hoards of reporters. Then, once the caucuses are over, life here returns to normal.

CNN national correspondent Bruce Morton has been covering the caucuses for more than 20 years. He shares some reflections in this Iowa essay.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (voice-over): What's it like? Used to be a farm state, but more agribusiness now. These guys are somebody's hobby. Growth now is in the cities, high tech, insurance, banking, but who are they, these Iowans?

DIXIE RUBLE, NATIVE IOWAN: I think they have a wonderful work ethic. I think if they have a job to do, they like to finish it.

MORTON: For sure, if you ask for a flat-top in Ray's Barbershop in Indianola, a flat-top is what you get.

LARRY CRAWFORD, NATIVE IOWAN: They're good down-home folks, and gosh, just good-hearted people normally.

MORTON: It's not Manhattan, can't always get sprinkles on your doughnut.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I want sprinkles on it.

MORTON: Sometimes, just a Coke can help make your day. Of course, it might help if a stranger took your picture.

KATHI HORNADAY, NATIVE IOWAN: I think they're open and caring people, energetic. I think caring probably is most important.

MORTON: They care about education, the state is full of fine, small liberal arts colleges. This is Simpson in Indianola. It's a small town turning into a suburb of Des Moines -- look at the houses going up.

ROBIN LUNKLEY, NATIVE IOWAN: Hard-working, independent, they think for themselves.

MORTON: In politics too, they're doing work on the capitol, but both parties have run mostly clean campaigns for years. Iowans don't much like negative advertising either. Lots of churches, this service at the Airport Baptist Church just outside Des Moines, was non- political, but Christian Conservatives are an important force in Republican politics, though they've had organizational problems lately.

REBECCA MATTESON, NATIVE IOWAN: I think there's a work ethic that we have. We have a real neighbor ethic. We like to -- most people that I have met like to do as they say and say as they do.

MORTON: It's not typical of the country, of course, a little older, a lot whiter. But in more than a quarter of a century of visits, I've found them intelligent and kind to strangers. We could go further, looking for a place for the campaign to start, and do worse.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON: As always, there's a lot of talk about doing it differently next time, but usually, they talk, Iowa has survived with this early format ever since 1972, Frank.

SESNO: Bruce, the question for the candidates already being posed is, how much clout and influence do these Iowans have on states and races beyond.

MORTON: Well, you don't have to win here, but you have to do reasonably well. Nobody who's finished worse than third has ever gone on to be the nominee. The Republicans, with the big field, if Gary Forbes (sic), for instance, were to finish fourth behind, say Alan Keys or John McCain, that would be a very serious blow. Where does his money come from? Forbes, it's a question of how strong a second. If he's on Bush's heels he gets good headlines, if he's 20 points back people say, yes, well, second but so what.

SESNO: And it's retail politics here as it is in New Hampshire, but that's not the way the political game is played after New Hampshire with this rush of primaries.

MORTON: It's all money now, and there's so many so early, this year, you have to have the already. You can't use a win here or in New Hampshire to raise the money.

SESNO: Bruce Morton, thanks.

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