5 Predictable Lines The GOP Debate Candidates Will Bring Out To Pander To Iowa

We're rapidly approaching what must be the millionth GOP debate of the 2016 cycle, and it'll be the last time the candidates meet before the Iowa caucuses. Despite the fact that winning Iowa isn't nearly as important as media coverage suggests, the GOP contenders will no doubt be looking to make a good impression on the Hawkeye State in the last days before they vote, and in all likelihood, Republicans will pander to Iowa at the debate in ways both obvious and subtle.

As Bustle's Chris Tognotti points out, Iowa's perceived importance in presidential primaries doesn't quite match up with its actual predictive ability in forecasting the eventual nominee. Past winners of Iowa caucuses include Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Tom Harkin, and, in 1976, the majority of Democratic voters actually remained "uncommitted." In other words, it's a bit foolhardy to assume that winning the Iowa caucuses means, well, all that much.

But thanks to its status as the first-in-the-nation voting state, Iowa enjoys heaps of attention during every presidential cycle from candidates, journalists, and campaign strategists alike. The Republicans will definitely be busting out some Iowa pandering at Thursday night's debate, and you should expect to hear them try a few, if not all, of the following approaches.

Talking About How Great Ethanol Subsidies Are

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Despite being very helpful to Iowa corn growers, the question of whether to subsidize ethanol is not an issue on which the fate of the republic hangs. Nevertheless, because Iowa is both a big corn state and the first state the nation to cast its votes, presidential candidates inevitably end up loudly proclaiming their support for ethanol subsidies in order to win over Iowa farmers. Expect to hear someone awkwardly mention this during Thursday's debate.

Reminiscing About The State Fair

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For decades, presidential candidates have been stumping at the Iowa State Fair over the summer in an attempt to drum up support for their candidacies, and this year was no different. The fair was months ago, but still, Republicans can score some points on the debate stage by talking about how delicious the pulled pork was this year.

Giving A Shout-Out To An Iowa Sports Team That Won Recently

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Patting local sports teams on the back is nonetheless a tried-and-true method of political pandering. As of this writing, the last college team win in the state was the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, so at least one candidate will probably congratulate them during debate night. Unless a different Iowa sports team wins between now and then, of course, in which case they'll congratulate that sports team instead. Conversely, if an Iowa team loses right before the debate, a candidate could express condolences for their loss.

Taking A Swipe At Carly Fiorina's Failed Sports Pander

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Conversely, the candidates could try to please the state's sports fans by reminding them of Carly Fiorina's disastrous college football pander from earlier in the campaign. When Stanford, Fiorina's alma mater, faced off against University of Iowa in the Rose Bowl, Fiorina tweeted that she was nevertheless rooting for Iowa, a rather drastic miscalculation of how sports allegiances work. It's easy to imagine one of Fiorina's opponents referencing this at the debate ("When I say I want Iowa to beat Stanford, I really mean it," or something to that effect).

Name-Dropping An Iowa Politician Who's In The Audience

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Here's another easy lay-up for candidates debating in Iowa: mention some state elected official who happens to be in the audience. Potential choices here include the state's two Republican senators, Jodi Ernst and Charles Grassley, or perhaps Terry Branstad, the governor. Branstad recently said that he opposes Ted Cruz's candidacy, in part because Cruz doesn't support — you guessed it — ethanol subsidies. So, Cruz's opponents would be wise to name-drop Branstad at the debate as a subtle way of dissing the Texas senator. See, this politics thing ain't so hard!