John Skipper at the book-signing table.
I keep telling folks they need to get over that vast wasteland north of Interstate 35 and head south of Des Moines to experience the real Iowa --- so it was gratifying Thursday night when my old colleague John Skipper and his wife, Sandy, actually did that.
John, a veteran political reporter for the Mason City Globe-Gazette, was at Simpson College in Indianola to participate in an evening symposium on the Iowa Caucuses sponsored by the college's Iowa History Center. He was joined on the panel by Kathie Obradovich, political columnist for The Des Moines Register, and Dennis Goldford, political science professor at Drake University.
The alternate Frank, Marilyn and this Frank drove up for supper and the symposium.
I'm not at all a caucus junkie, but if I were I'd look on this as an evaluative dream team combing as it did insight from Obradovich, who operates out of Des Moines for Iowa's largest newspaper and therefore sees it all; Skipper, who has covered the caucuses and Iowa politics in general since Jimmy Carter first drew attention to the state's grass-roots starting point; and Goldford, who looks on it all from an academic perspective. John told the best stories, by the way.
It also was an extraordinarily well-organized and disciplined event that kept those of us gathered in the auditorium engaged from beginning to end --- and then we retired to the lobby for punch, cookies and book-signings.
John was autographing copies of his 2009 book, "The Iowa Caucuses: First Tests of Presidential Aspirations, 1972-2008," recognized during 2010 by the Iowa State Historical Society as one of the two "most significant books on Iowa history written in the past year" and available for purchase in both print and digital versions from all sorts of online sources.
So it was great to see John and Sandy again, as well as to sit through a programs on politics interesting enough to keep me awake. I was especially intrigued by discussion of the inevitable Mitt Romney's caucus campaign staff, one of the largest and best-organized even though the candidate rarely appears in a state where he's been badly burned before. The goal, of course, is to ensure a decent showing that will carry him into New Hampshire where the GOP God squad has far less influence.
Thursday night's program was held in the recital hall of Simpson's Amy Robertson Music Center, which I enjoyed because of the building's association with its principal benefactor, Promise City's Amy Robertson (Simpson Class of 1922), a great character and benefactor of many good causes, including the Wayne County Historical Society and Wayne County Hospital as well as Simpson.
The political news of the day around here, of course, was the announcement Wednesday by Chariton's Paul McKinley that he will step down next week as Iowa Senate minority leader and not seek re-election during 2012. Paul, my old Russell school bus mate, is serving his third term in the Senate.
I hate to seem him go --- despite deploring his politics. Lucas County now will lose entirely any hometown advantage it had when Paul was in the Senate and Richard Arnold, in the House. And that's too bad.
The announcement says "personal reasons," and that's logical. But there have been a couple of moves lately to unseat him from his leadership post among the Christianist zealots who continued to gain GOP caucus ascendance during the 2010 elections. I'd guess Paul, best known for his fiscal conservatism, just wasn't holy enough or mean enough.