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Why Iowa rules — in 12 steps

On Thursday morning, the "Today Show" -- you may have heard of it -- announced that Des Moines was the "wealthiest city" in America. This comes on top of Forbes naming Des Moines the best place for business and careers in the country.   Iowa is, in a word, so hot right now. (Not literally; the temperature in Des Moines at noon was -1.)

Iowa forward Aaron White sits on the court after being called for a foul during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Minnesota, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

All of the pro-Des Moines/Iowa chatter got us thinking back to a piece the New York Times Adam Nagourney wrote in December 2007 touting the virtues of the city.  Wrote Nagourney:

I’m not sure I would go so far as to say that Des Moines has become a vacation destination. But it has most certainly become cool. More than that, if you have any desire to witness presidential candidates in the most close-up and intimate of settings, there is arguably no place better to go than Des Moines. If the city itself was once a reason not to come, it has now in fact become an added draw.

Having spent lots (and lots) of time in the Hawkeye State -- mostly in and around Des Moines -- we have to agree. It's an entirely underrated city (and state).  Here's twelve reasons why.

1. If you care at all about politics, it is the single best place in the country to live. There is a steady stream of politicians with national ambitions cycling through the state  -- and with the presidential campaign really having no beginning or ending these days, it's only getting hipper to be in Iowa earlier and earlier.

2. The Iowa State Fair is amazing. Our favorite part? This.

3. People are nice. Yes, genuinely nice. Scoff at that fact if you like but you don't know how important nice is until you are running late to cover a campaign event and stop to ask directions -- and the person actually helps you.

4. Breakfast at the Machine Shed.

5. Competitive races up and down the ballot. The state has a Republican governor who beat a Democratic governor in 2010 to win the office. One U.S. Senator is a Democrat, the other is a Republican.  Its House delegation is split between two Democrats and two Republicans.  Democrats control the Iowa state Senate while Republicans control the state House. The decennial redistricting process is run by a nonpartisan committee. Barack Obama carried Iowa in the last two presidential elections but George W. Bush won it in 2004. In short, you'd be hard pressed to find a more comprehensively competitive political state than Iowa.

6. This Starbucks.

7.  Field of Dreams.

8. It's the #1 state in terms of economic mobility in the country.

9. It is home to the Ice Cream Capital of the world.

10. The coach at Iowa State is known as The Mayor.


12. This shirt.

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Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

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