Iowa: Maybe It’s Time to Let Another State Go First?

 

rick-perry-visits-iowa-state-fairI was thinking today of the central role Iowa plays in electoral politics. It skews — unsurprisingly — traditional, conservative, and even religious. In fact, I think Iowa’s religious leanings (evangelical especially) cast a long shadow across the whole Republican nomination process. I mean, fer cryin’ out loud, the Iowa caucuses have Donald Trump trying to thump a bible. Huckabee has won here, Santorum too. Their success in this one state carried them a long way into the process, and losing here has eliminated much better-rounded candidates.

Now, what would happen, and what kind of candidates would the Republican Party put forward, if the nomination process proceeded in a different order? What kind of characters would we see making it to the later states if they surfed the wave created by a California win? I’m certain many flyover Republicans would not stand for such a thing, but the immense weight carried by religious voters in Iowa probably drives the coastal elites batty by the time they get their say in the process. Is there a better order? Is this the only way for social values and religious conservatives to have a real say in the nominating process?

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There are 90 comments.

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  1. carcat74 Member

    I know I’m tired of the primaries being basically over by the time they get to Kansas. My state doesn’t primary either; we have a caucus, which means only a few of the states’ voters have a real say. What about having primaries by region?

    • #1
    • January 12, 2016, at 4:34 PM PDT
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  2. BrentB67 Inactive

    I don’t think the problem with Iowa is conservatives of faith. I think the problem with Iowa is the ethanol lobby bending these guys over a gov’t subsidy and crony capitalist barrel.

    • #2
    • January 12, 2016, at 4:46 PM PDT
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  3. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    BrentB67:I don’t think the problem with Iowa is conservatives of faith. I think the problem with Iowa is the ethanol lobby bending these guys over a gov’t subsidy and crony capitalist barrel.

    I’ll grant that it is a problem, and a rather large one. I’m looking more at the tone of the candidates. I think (apart from ethanol) they would campaign as entirely different people if they didn’t have to sway the religious in the very first contest. Even the difference between Iowa and New Hampshire campaigning is significant. Even reversing those two states and the roles they play would give us a different set of candidates when we reached the bigger groups of primaries.

    • #3
    • January 12, 2016, at 4:51 PM PDT
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  4. Profile Photo Member

    Any change is going to do something. Someone is going to gain and someone is going to lose.

    Personally, I would like to start in a state with a better balance of the different wings of the party. Not necessarily the most conservative state, but one were the factions of the party are balanced in a way that reflects the party as a whole.

    Democrats will never agree to move the caucuses. The winner of the Iowa caucus on the Democrat side is more likely than not to be the nominee. Only George W. Bush won Iowa as a contested caucus and then was elected president. And he didn’t win Iowa in the first general election. I suspect the Democrats would try to make hay of Republicans moving the caucus. Not that big a deal since Republicans almost never win Iowa anyway in the general election.

    • #4
    • January 12, 2016, at 5:24 PM PDT
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  5. E. Kent Golding Member

    Iowa consists of Left Wing Evangelicals and Roman Catholics. They are cultural conservatives and economic socialists. An odd place for Republicans to start off the Nomination process.

    • #5
    • January 12, 2016, at 5:24 PM PDT
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  6. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    E. Kent Golding:Iowa consists of Left Wing Evangelicals and Roman Catholics. They are cultural conservatives and economic socialists. An odd place for Republicans to start off the Nomination process.

    Indeed, but what would be better? Is the religious pandering required by Iowa voters a net plus or minus on the process as a whole?

    • #6
    • January 12, 2016, at 5:26 PM PDT
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  7. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    I’m sure there are practical reasons for not doing this, but I wouldn’t mind if the order of the primaries were randomized every four years.

    • #7
    • January 12, 2016, at 7:59 PM PDT
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  8. kylez Member

    I wish all the primaries were on the same day.

    • #8
    • January 12, 2016, at 10:44 PM PDT
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  9. Fake John/Jane Galt Thatcher

    I suspect that Trump has destroyed the current GOP primary process. The GOPe will make changes so what is happening this year does not occur again.

    • #9
    • January 13, 2016, at 12:07 AM PDT
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  10. Vice-Potentate Member

    Of the first four one is in the midwest, one in the northeast, really the only northeastern state that Republicans have a shot at in the general, a southern state, and a western one. Seems well balanced to me, with the added bonus of having 3 of the early states being swing states. As for the ethanol subsidy, whichever state goes first would have a similar problem, think of the sugar subsidy problem in Florida.

    • #10
    • January 13, 2016, at 1:13 AM PDT
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  11. Blue State Curmudgeon Inactive

    They should make the order of the primaries random in each presidential cycle.

    • #11
    • January 13, 2016, at 5:44 AM PDT
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  12. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    I’m more wondering at the type of effect certain states have on candidates in general. I can’t imagine Trump trying to thump a bible if the first primary were in Cali or NY.

    • #12
    • January 13, 2016, at 6:00 AM PDT
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  13. Profile Photo Member

    The King Prawn:I’m more wondering at the type of effect certain states have on candidates in general. I can’t imagine Trump trying to thump a bible if the first primary were in Cali or NY.

    California as a big state would favor big fundraisers. It’s not like Iowa or New Hampshire where you could easily get to every part of the state. Probably producing less religious candidates than Iowa and less flinty candidates than New Hampshire. I would imagine Jeb Bush would have had that one in a walk if it were first.

    • #13
    • January 13, 2016, at 6:09 AM PDT
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  14. Songwriter Member

    All due respect to Iowa and New Hampshire, I am truly tired of them getting to winnow the field before I ever cast a vote. The order of the primaries should be altered every election.

    • #14
    • January 13, 2016, at 6:28 AM PDT
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  15. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    So glad you said it first, KP. I didn’t even realize it, but this has been driving me nuts. I don’t care how traditional it is, it’s just basically undemocratic and unfair. We take such pains to ensure candidate’s names are randomized on ballots — doesn’t it make sense to randomize the order of the primaries? (Or caucuses, as the case may be?) Iowa is disproportionately powerful because of this, and that’s wrong. I’ve got nothing against Iowa and suspect its judgment is pretty good. But it’s really not a level playing field.

    • #15
    • January 13, 2016, at 7:19 AM PDT
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  16. Nancy Member

    I would like to see regional primaries, with the order changes each time either by rotation or by lottery. But in practical terms, what could be done to change this? I believe that each state makes its own decision. How would that be changed?

    • #16
    • January 13, 2016, at 7:30 AM PDT
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  17. Robert McReynolds Inactive

    Why this unceasing desire to change the primary system? If the argument is that the momentum of a small number of candidates gained from how they show in states that are “meaningless” (in a word) causes voters down the line to just throw in the towel or not vote, then isn’t that really a critique of the voters and not the system? I mean, can’t we get a bit of a glimpse into who is really going to contend in these things based on the polls in the late fall, early winter? Do any of you really think that if we had the primary all on one day that, say, Rand Paul is going to do any better than he is at this moment? Ditto Bush, Christie, Kasich, Santorum, et ceterra? I would suspect that these names do better in various regions, but do you really expect that to translate into securing some 1200 delegates?

    What if we started the Primaries in, say, Alabama where Trump is looking pretty good along with Cruz? Is that going to satiate any of your complaints about “who goes first”?

    • #17
    • January 13, 2016, at 7:31 AM PDT
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  18. Vance Richards Member

    Jersey First!

    I want Mrs. C come here and say, “Dead ambassador? Fuhgeddaboudit!”

    • #18
    • January 13, 2016, at 7:35 AM PDT
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  19. BThompson Inactive

    Our nominating process is completely idiotic. I think we should have a series of 5 or 6 regional primaries, a la the SEC primaries they are doing this time. The order of the primaries should rotate. There should only be 2-3 weeks between the primaries and they should start after Memorial Day.

    • #19
    • January 13, 2016, at 7:41 AM PDT
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  20. Robert McReynolds Inactive

    BThompson:Our nominating process is completely idiotic. I think we should have a series f 5 or 6 regional primaries, a la the SEC primaries they are doing this time. The order of the primaries should rotate. There should only be 2-3 weeks between the primaries and they should start after Memorial Day.

    Okay, but why? What does this solve? Or put another way, what problem are you attempting to fix with this?

    • #20
    • January 13, 2016, at 7:43 AM PDT
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  21. Profile Photo Member

    Randomness has its own problems. If the first state is the home state of a candidate? If the first state has other undesirable qualities? Imagine if the first primary were in the District of Columbia. We’d never hear the end of it.

    There is probably some optimal system that combines a few guidelines and some solid human judgment to find a good balance of states to kick off the process. A combination of regions, a mix of small and larger states. But no one thinks that solid human judgment is likely to come out of the RNC.

    • #21
    • January 13, 2016, at 7:57 AM PDT
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  22. donald todd Inactive

    One suspects that you won’t find the Republican Party asking Iowa to surrender its place in the pecking order to some other state. One also suspect that Iowa won’t volunteer to give another state its place in the pecking order. Once every four years, Iowa finds its name in the news. It is the Sadie Hawkins of politics.

    One might also suggest that, this year, given the number of candidates, Iowa will begin the winnowing which must be done in order to get the number of candidates countable by a single hand. It will probably do an admirable job of that as one suspects that there will be a lot less Republican hopefuls after Iowa than before Iowa.

    • #22
    • January 13, 2016, at 8:06 AM PDT
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  23. Vald the Misspeller Inactive

    Why would you want the moribund California Republican party choosing your presidential candidates? They can’t get anyone elected in their own state and you want to export this reverse-Midas touch to the rest of the country?

    Besides, California has an open primary, with Democrats free to cross over and vote for such surefire crowd-pleasers as John Kasich and everybody’s favorite light in the loafers bombardier, Lindsey Graham.

    • #23
    • January 13, 2016, at 8:06 AM PDT
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  24. Valiuth Member

    Really the biggest problem with Iowa isn’t that it is Iowa it is that they use a strange and terrible voting system, that discourages broad participation. Every state should be forced to just have a primary, where only party members vote. None of this independent voters silliness in primaries. This is a purely internal matter to the party.

    • #24
    • January 13, 2016, at 8:12 AM PDT
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  25. Jeffery Shepherd Member

    Haven’t put much thought or analysis into this but, maybe order the states by lowest percentage win and loss first. So toss-up states would go first as either wins or losses and states that we win or lose every time would go last. OH, NV, FL, NC, PA would be toward the beginning.

    • #25
    • January 13, 2016, at 8:14 AM PDT
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  26. Mike H Coolidge

    Ohio would probably be the best state to go first based on demographics, but Ohio is too large. Which state is small and most like Ohio?

    • #26
    • January 13, 2016, at 8:16 AM PDT
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  27. Spicy Food Hiccups Inactive

    Would it be wildly impractical to have a few rounds of national primaries which successively winnow the field? At least in that case actual votes cast might determine who leaves the race, rather than polls of unclear value and debate stage arrangements.

    • #27
    • January 13, 2016, at 8:17 AM PDT
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  28. gts109 Member

    I agree it’s unfair, and it also seems rather undemocratic to allow two small states to go first every year. But I’m also ignorant of the reasons we have this system. Was there some rationale behind allowing Iowa and New Hampshire to go first?

    I also don’t understand why we have a state-by-state process. It’s a national office. We have a national election day in the general election. Is the drawn out process a holdover from a prior era when candidates couldn’t communicate with the entire country at once? Or is it supposed to be a boon to up-start candidates?

    • #28
    • January 13, 2016, at 8:19 AM PDT
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  29. Duane Oyen Member

    James of England, you are needed here to weigh in.

    • #29
    • January 13, 2016, at 8:19 AM PDT
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  30. BThompson Inactive

    Robert McReynolds:

    Okay, but why? What does this solve? Or put another way, what problem are you attempting to fix with this?

    All of them. ;)

    Doing this would shorten the process and by grouping the regional states primaries and having them held on the same night would allow the candidates to campaign more efficiently rather than flying all across the country to campaign in states that have primaries close in time but which are far apart geographically. All of that would make it a less expensive process for candidates and make them less reliant on raising money.

    Rotating the order would make it harder for special interests to have outsized weight and control over who gets nominated, i.e. the ethanol lobby. Grouping multiple states together and changing the order would also allow everyone in the country to have a better chance to influence who becomes the nominee, as opposed to the current system where anyone not in a state with a primary in the first eight weeks hasn’t had a real say in who gets the nomination for generations.

    This would also weed out vanity candidates and non-serious candidates. Having to put together an organization that can campaign in 15-20 states in just over a month would eliminate jokers who hang around too long just to get a book or TV deal or who are small timers that are delusional about their chances to win the nomination.

    • #30
    • January 13, 2016, at 8:40 AM PDT
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