Iowa can have a magical effect on visiting politicians.
Peripheral concerns become major issues. Long-standing policy positions melt like spring runoff in the Des Moines River.
It's not the enchanting allure of Ottumwa, or the rhapsody of gazing upon row after row of soybeans, marching like green sentries to the unbroken horizon.
What captivates is Iowa's role as the first state to vote in the presidential nominating process.
A victory or even a surprisingly strong finish in the precinct caucuses can transform a candidate overnight from also-ran to serious White House contender. (See
So performing well is extremely important and that, in turn, requires a certain solicitude toward Iowa and the issues that Iowans care about.
Which helps explain why then-Vice President
Or why the self-described straight-talking Arizona Sen.
Now a fresh set of White House hopefuls are angling for Iowa’s approval, among them New Jersey’s Republican Gov.
There are relatively few hog farmers in New Jersey, and the measure passed the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support. One survey found that more than 9 in 10 New Jersey voters were supportive.
"I've said we should change New Jersey's nickname from 'the Garden State' to 'the Humane State,'" said Democratic state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who sponsored the law.
But there are a great many hogs and hog farmers in Iowa, the nation's leading pork producer, and there the legislation is far less popular -- at least within the agriculture industry, which carries enormous economic and political weight, even as the state grows more urban and its increasingly citified voters less tied to the soil.
(Braley, once a strong favorite for an open U.S. Senate seat, lost earlier this month in good part because the Democratic congressman and former trial lawyer was seen as out of touch with agricultural Iowa and, worse, even a bit contemptuous of the state's farmers.)
When it comes to ear-to-the-ground understanding, there may be no one better in all of Iowa than
For Christie, this poses a dilemma.
He rejected a version of the pregnant pig bill last year, saying in a veto message that "the proper balancing of the humane treatment of gestating pigs with the interests of farmers" is best left to New Jersey's Agriculture Department and other experts.
The measure was subsequently rewritten to address that concern, placing more authority in the department's hands. Now Christie has until early December to act on the revised legislation.
The governor may have already made up his mind, according to NJ.com.
"I indicated to him that I could not understand how someone who has never stepped foot on a pig farm … could ever understand [the use of gestation crates] or why they should even have any opinion on the use of them," Bill Tentinger, former head of the Iowa Pork Producers Assn., told the news organization. "And he said to me, 'I agree with you.'"
A spokesman for Christie, contacted for this article, referred to last year's veto statement but otherwise had no comment.
Lesniak, the bill's sponsor, said that he had not heard directly from Christie but that if the report of another intended veto was true, "It's not just an insult to me but to the state of New Jersey."
Although frequently described as critic of the governor, Lesniak said the two had worked cooperatively in the past, including on first-in-the-nation legislation that Christie signed in August forbidding the buying or selling of ivory products in New Jersey.
"I guess there aren't any elephants in Iowa," Lesniak said, dryly.