Given the recent frequency of presidential hopefuls visiting Iowa, you’d think it already was 2015 instead of a long 17 months or so until the 2016 Iowa caucuses.

But with Rand Paul and other potential GOP candidates visiting the Hawkeye state within a less-than-two-week period — not to mention how several “not-Hillary Clinton” Democratic and Independent hopefuls also have visited in recent weeks — it seems the 2016 caucus season is in bloom.

With other states still trying to increase their political capital by potentially moving up their caucus and primary dates, Iowans yet again need to demonstrate their worthiness of “first-in-the-nation” status. That means we not only need to have stellar turnout on the eventual caucus night; we also need to begin participating in the process as early as possible.

Despite President Obama’s lame-duck status, the pacing for this caucus season still seems to be much closer to that of the 2012 campaign (in which the Democrats largely sat out as they re-nominated the president) than the rapid-fire pace of the 2008 campaign (in which neither major party had a sitting president in the running). And if/when former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady Hillary Clinton decides to declare her candidacy officially, we only can hope she has learned the right lessons from her 2008 upset and agrees to participate fully in the retail politics so necessary for winning Iowans’ support on caucus night.

As the presidential visits start coming fast and furiously, we urge our readers to get the most they can out of Iowa’s political hothouse climate. All of us — even those of us already committed to a candidate or a party — need to take advantage of the opportunities to learn as much as possible about all the presidential hopefuls — especially the ones we disagree with most.

Although it’s true that Democrats significantly outnumber Republicans in Johnson County, that statistic won’t keep Republican hopefuls away. Johnson County has one of the higher concentrations of registered Republicans in the state. And given that the Republican caucuses adhere to the rule of one person-one vote — rather than use the complicated threshold formula the Democrats require — all Republican candidates will need to come here to court local conservatives, center-right moderates and independents.

In the meantime, we think voters of all parties need work together to ensure a goal we all can agree on: Helping Iowa continue to host the nation’s first, major, presidential competition.

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