Finally, slowly, the Republican presidential field is taking shape as aspirants begin courting early caucus and primary voters. Here, a guide to the most important people to see (or avoid), events to attend, and pitfalls to steer clear of in the three states that, for no appreciable reason, play an outsize role in our electoral process.
MOST VALUABLE LOCAL ENDORSEMENT
Governor Terry Branstad. Reportedly already firmly in Tim Pawlenty’s camp.
Senator Kelly Ayotte. Has sway with grizzly moms after receiving Sarah Palin’s imprimatur last year.
Senator Jim DeMint—who might decide to jump into the race himself.
Jeff Mullen of Point of Grace Church in Waukee, who was a pivotal player in the charge to remove gay-marriage-friendly State Supreme Court justices.
No one goes to church here; it ranks as the second-least-religious state in the country.
Bob Jones III, as in the Bob Jones.
BLOGGER TO FEAR
The “Krusty Konservative.” Anonymous, abrasive, and well-sourced.
Skip Murphy of GraniteGrok. Very politically incorrect; known to change his mind about pols.
Will Folks, FITSNews. Once claimed an affair with Governor Nikki Haley (she denies it). Might pick on a few candidates; he likes a foil.
OBLIGATORY PHOTO OPS
• The cow made out of butter at the Iowa state fair
• The keeper of the New Hampshire primary, Bill Gardner, secretary of state since 1976
• A South Carolina local beauty-pageant queen (any of them, and there are a lot)
Estimated number of votes needed to win, based on previous years’ totals and the size of the current GOP field …
New Hampshire: 86,000
South Carolina: 200,000
PLACE OUTSIDERS MISPRONOUNCE
Loess Hills, Iowa: It’s “Luss.”
Berlin, New Hampshire: Put the emphasis on the first syllable.
Beaufort, South Carolina: Bu-fort. (Even though in North Carolina it’s Bo-fort.)
May 5: First debate of the GOP campaign, hosted by Fox News and the South Carolina GOP in Greenville (if anyone has officially declared his or her candidacy).
June 7: First New Hampshire primary debate, held in Manchester.
June 10: Republican Party of Iowa’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner. This year’s theme: “An Evening With Donald Trump.” Lincoln would be proud.
June 11: Laconia “Bike Week” in New Hampshire—Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, a Harley man, could make a splash if he decides to run.
August 11: Iowa State Fair opens in Des Moines. Every candidate will attend.
August 13: The Ames, Iowa, straw poll. (Low finishers are often moved to drop out of the race.)