Time to end the Iowa and New Hampshire Primacy

1200x630_171975_us-primaries-how-it-worksIt is going to be a long campaign, and people in Iowa and New Hampshire are going to shake a lot of hands. But why, exactly, should Iowa and New Hampshire get first crack?

There is something to be said for a long campaign. Candidates get thoroughly vetted. And there is something to be said for mixing open primaries, closed primaries, and caucuses. If you want to stress test candidates, expose them to different tests.

There is a lot to be said for beginning with some fairly small states. The expense of launching a campaign in, say, California, New York or Texas would be prohibitive. Much better to winnow the field before such states get to vote. Let the small states make a shortlist and the large states choose the candidate. Campaigning is also very different in small states. It is retail politics. If the big states voted first, the small states wouldn’t matter. You would end up with candidates who look good on TV but can’t handle a town hall meeting in rural America.

New Hampshire and Iowa are not particularly bad choices. New Hampshire in particular is used to direct democracy, with more legislators per head than any other state and a history of towns being governed by meetings of the population. They are both fairly swingy – they voted for Clinton and Obama twice each, and each state voted for George W Bush once. The last point is odd, as New Hampshire was solidly Republican and Iowa solidly Democratic when they established themselves as the first states – but both have swung to the middle since then.

The problem is the disproportionate attention given to the issues of these states – in particular the massive agricultural welfare bill with which Congress sticks the taxpayer. 

Wouldn’t it be better to choose different small states to kick off the campaign for each election? Four of them would be a good idea: one from the North East, one from the South, one from the Midwest and one from the West. If you want to shorten the campaign somewhat, you don’t have to choose which states will hold the early primaries until later in the cycle. The four regions could rotate, but the small state from each region that went first could be chosen by lot, let’s say six months before the primary campaign begins. 

Those first four states could then each vote on a different Tuesday in February. March could see other small states voting – a few each week. Then middle-sized and larger states could come in during April and May, ending with California, Texas, New York and Illinois, each the largest in its region, in June. 

It is also worth giving a slight preference to swing states. Let larger states such as Florida and Ohio revel in coming in before Illinois because choosing a candidate who appeals to swing states makes quite a lot of sense.

Such a campaign would still be a demanding schedule, kicking off from August, a year before the party conventions, with voting conducted from February to June the following year. But the two years of living and breathing just two states – and promising eternal ethanol subsidies to the welfare queens of the Midwest – would be ended at a stroke. 

qlQuentin Langley is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Bedfordshire Business School as well as a freelance columnist published in the UK and all parts of the US. He blogs on social media and crisis communications at brandjacknews.com

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