Zikamania! New grist for fright-wing buzz!

      (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com'>Photo</a> via ShutterStock)

    (Photo via ShutterStock)

    Have you seen the latest health news? I bet we’re just a few weeks away from this Republican roundelay:

    “I’m the first candidate on this stage to sound the alarm about the Zika virus. Be very afraid when they cross our borders with their Zika.”

    “No, it’s worse than that. Obama’s refusal to seal our borders and halt flights from Latin-type countries is the reason why millions of real Americans will suffer from Zika.”

    “No, it’s worse than that. Obama is signing a dictatorial executive order so he can purposely import Zika.”

    “No, it’s worse than that. Hillary Clinton wrote classified emails to Obama urging him to be soft on Zika.”

    “My opponents on this stage are all soft on Zika. They don’t seem to understand that Zika is an existential threat to the family values of the United States of America.”

    “No, it goes beyond family values. My opponents don’t seem to understand that Zika — aided and abetted by Obama, that petulent child — is existentially poised to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids.”

    “No, you’re all ignoring the real threat. I am the only candidate on this stage who has learned of the existence of a video that shows Planned Parenthood killers laughing about Zika.”

    “No, what Americans want most is an action president. I’m the only candidate on this stage who, on Day One, will work his heart out, from morning prayer to evening prayer, to utterly and completely decimate Zika.”

    “No, what Americans want is a literally hands-on president. I’m the only candidate on this stage who, on Day One, will personally squash each and every Zika mosquito until they buzz for God’s eternal mercy.”

    “No, what Americans want is a commando president who, in Hour One, will carpet-bomb each and every radical Islamist Zika mosquito until they glow with incandescent awe at America’s force and fury.”

    Zika. What kinda name is Zika. Sounds like the name of my next wife. Any girl named Zika is gonna be a 10. I only date 10s. If I dated Zika, I’d date her real real good, I can assure you. But a guy like Jeb – lookit Jeb over there, tryin to look tough. Jeb, I’ll tell ya now, you’re too low-energy to satisfy Zika. It’s too disgusting to imagine. It’s very very sad.”

    But seriously, folks…

    We’re sitting now at the tippy top of the 2016 roller coaster, poised for the plummet. Finally, we’re going to get some actual voting results – starting tonight, with the Iowa Caucuses.

    Which may prompt you to wonder: Why on earth does the presidential primary calendar begin in Iowa?

    It’s a long story, too long for a short post. Suffice it to say that unknown Jimmy Carter put Iowa on the early map in 1976 by doing Better Than Expected, and the caucuses have since become a tradition. But before you view tonight’s results as some kind of holy writ, consider these caveats:

    Iowa is a preposterously unrepresentative state — older and whiter than the national norm; the GOP caucus-goers are far more religiously conservative than the national norm — and, despite all the national hoopla,  turnout is notoriously wretched. Only 20 percent of registered Iowa Republicans typically show up on caucus night. The GOP winner in 2012 got 121,000 votes — statewide. Heck, Montgomery County alone, just outside of Philadelphia, has 207,000 Republicans.Iowa Democrats haven’t been much better. In 2008, only 39 percent of the party’s registrants showed up — and that was a record high turnout, thanks to Barack Obama’s surge. But typically, they’re down in the low 20s on caucus night.
    Iowa’s results typically tell us squat. Care to guess how many Republican candidates have won Iowa and gone on that year to win the presidency? One. (George W. Bush in ’00.) Remember the last two GOP winners? Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Nuff said.And care to guess how many Democratic candidates have won Iowa and gone on that year to win the presidency? One. (Obama in ’08. Jimmy Carter, in ’76, finished second; the winner was “Uncommitted.”) 

    Still, we might be able to divine something from tonight’s tea leaves. Most Iowa Republicans seem split on whether to choose repulsive or repugnant (Trump or Cruz), but maybe someone in the semi-sane camp can finish a solid third and get traction for next week’s tally in New Hampshire. This is also the first chance to see whether Trump’s hot air translates into a ground game. And on the Democratic side, this is the first chance to see whether Bernie Sanders’ fans are willing to show up en masse for those rigorous two-hour meetings — because that’s the caucus gestalt, and the polls report that habitual Democratic caucus-goers tilt strongly for Hillary Clinton.

    But we’ll probably forget tonight’s stats once the roller coaster accelerates. And in the winter of 2020, you’ll wonder anew: Why on earth does the presidential primary calendar begin in Iowa?

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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