End king-making in Iowa and New Hampshire

Thank you for your service, Iowa and New Hampshire. But it’s time to end the prominent, influential place you two small rural states have long enjoyed sifting through the presidential nominee list.

Another state or states should have the ability to sort candidates and make an early election in the country’s first faction or primary. Officials from both political parties should acknowledge that a change is overdue and then quickly offer alternatives — preferably before the end of the year.

This would give the new state or group of states sufficient time to plan for this earlier responsibility. Additionally, an early announcement would give presidential candidates ample time to adjust their schedules accordingly.

An influential committee of the Democratic Party is expected to consider the issue in December. Iowa Democrats’ somber handling of 2020 election meetings, where technology glitches delayed results, provided additional motivation to move elsewhere. Republican officials did not respond to an editorial writer’s request for comment.

Without change, the 2024 presidential election will soon put the two states back at the center of the American political universe. The Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary have enjoyed first honors in the nation for decades. In 2020, the Hawkeye State caucuses were held on February 3. In 2012, the caucuses took place just after the New Year – on January 3rd.

With these very early dates comes massive media spotlight, additional political influence for state voters, and an unprecedented opportunity to see candidates up close. There is also a small but still significant economic boost from hosting the traveling reality show of contestants and journalists.

Winter winds can sweep through the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines now, but it’s only a few months before summer political news coverage turns tattered photos of presidential hopefuls grilling pork chops or merry cattle exhibitors at the annual agricultural show. The same goes for White House wannabes storming the quaint small towns and back streets of New Hampshire.

That’s enough. This is a tradition that has become stale. It also doesn’t serve the nation well. As a Brookings Institution white paper notes, demographics in Iowa and New Hampshire are at odds with the country’s more diverse and urban populations.

“With a white population of 85% and 90% respectively (compared to 60.4% for the entire country), they are the sixth and fourth largest ‘whitest’ states. They also have slightly older age structures, significantly less urbanized populations, and a much higher proportion of noncollege white adults than the rest of the nation,” the report said.

And while voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have commendably taken their responsibility for screening candidates seriously over the years, those voters shouldn’t have a monopoly on the influential early election. Other states’ voters deserve to share in the spotlight that Iowa and New Hampshire have enjoyed, along with the issues that matter to them. That front row seat could also get voters in the new state or states to get involved – a win for voter turnout.

Concerns about which states go first have existed for years. In the mid-1990s, the National Association of State Secretary of State pushed for a system of regional primaries, the order of which would rotate at each election, leaving no region with a lasting advantage.

It is a pity that this proposal never caught on. It should be revived and vigorously debated by both political parties.

There would be some compromises, as is the case with most changes. For example, the small geographic footprints of Iowa and New Hampshire, along with their relatively cheap media markets, may allow an unresourced candidate to compete early on.

But that alone isn’t a strong argument to stay the course. There are other states that could offer similar conditions.

Iowa and New Hampshire had a good run. It is time for a change.

– Star Tribune