CLEAR LAKE — Every four years, presidential candidates vying for votes in the upcoming Iowa Caucuses have spent part of the 4th of July holiday in Iowa, but this time around none of the major GOP presidential hopefuls will be here.
Back in 2007, Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton both walked the route of Clear Lake’s 4th of July parade and four years later Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachman did the same, but Stacey Doughan of the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce says not a single presidential candidate is signed up this year. “Over 60,000 people attend the parade and the carnival and fireworks on that one day alone,” Doughan says.
There are a couple of major multi-candidate events coming up in Iowa later in July, plus most will visit the Iowa State Fair in August. That may be why former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Texas pastor Ryan Binkley are the only candidates campaigning here this weekend. The other reason? A candidate has to show 40,000 individuals have donated to their campaign in order to qualify for the first televised debate in August.
Dave Kochel was the Iowa GOP’s political director in 1996 and he’s worked on several presidential campaigns in the past. “It’s probably more important for candidates at this point who are trying to find those donors to get themselves on Fox and get some attention for themselves than to campaign in Iowa, which isn’t really going to drive any small dollar donations into their campaign,” Kochel says. “That’s, I think, job number one for some of these candidates who are going to struggle to find that many donors to get themselves on stage.”
Kochel says reaching that 40,000 donor goal is tough for candidates who aren’t famous or considered frontrunners — and failing to qualify for the debate means a candidate would have a difficult time convincing voters they can beat Donald Trump or Joe Biden. “The debate in August is going to be the thing that has the most eyeballs nationally and it will influence how things are going in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire,” Kochel says, “so it’s just one of those big mileposts that everyone is going to look forward to.”
The Republican National Committee has scheduled its first debate of the presidential campaign season for August 23rd, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition to the fundraising threshold, candidates have to show they’re reached at least one percent support in three different polls to qualify.