GOP Party Chair Reince Priebus told the National Journal this week that “ … New Hampshire and Iowa aren’t ‘sacred cows’ in the presidential primary process after the 2016 election.” He continued, “I don’t think there should ever be any sacred cows as to the primary process or the order.”
Here are 10 reasons why Iowa could lose its status as “first in the nation” in presidential selection. These principles are taken from my discussion with the focus group of my former (now well established and powerful) students and from the “interview” that the Daily Show’s Al Madrigal did with me on the Iowa caucuses in which I was “the apologist” for Iowa while he was the “attacker” and “discreditor” of Iowa.
1. Iowa is too white.
2. Iowa is too rural.
3. Iowa is too right wing (i.e. “conservative”)
4. Iowa has too small a population.
5. Iowa is too “Ethanoly.” (BOY did I hear complaints about the Ethanol lobby when I was on the East Coast especially from my boating friends and the management of marinas!)
6. Iowa is no longer seen as purple (where Democrats and Republicans are in balance). The virtual collapse of the Democratic Party was mentioned as an alarming warning sign. In the last election the Democrats lost its US Senate seat, lost all but one House race, barely clings to a 2 vote majority in the Iowa Senate, is a 14 member minority in the House, lost the governor’s race again, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is a Republican, they lost the Sec. of State race, lost the State Auditor race, and cling to only the Attorney General position which will be up for grabs because Tom Miller is toying with retirement and the State Treasurer position.
7. Iowa is no longer the “squeaky-clean” state.
The Kent Sorensen scandal has tainted the “squeaky clean” image of Iowa politics. Nothing could make the case more clearly that this is a huge problem for Iowa than the NPR headline “Big Money And Backstabbing Have Become Part Of The Iowa Game.” The story goes on to explain, “Iowa Senate found that Sorenson and the Paul campaign had violated the law. Three Paul staffers were indicted last month for concealing payments of $73,000 to Sorenson in exchange for his support. Sorenson pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Craig Robinson, the editor of IowaRepublican.com and a former state GOP political director, said such defections make Iowa’s political culture look unseemly to the rest of the country” (Emphasis mine.)
8. Supposedly Iowan’s and folks in New Hampshire feel “entitled” to be first in caucuses and primary. In the intro to my short appearance on the Daily Show, Jon Stuart said, “When it comes to Presidential elections nobody votes until Iowa votes. Iowans have EARNED this position. (Laughter) … Or not.” Then they segued into the six-minute episode with Al Madrigal that was deliberately called “The Chosen Ones of Iowa.”
9. The termination of the Ames Straw Poll was so mismanaged that it caused much chortling among those watching the Iowa GOP fumble that play. (“It’s on. It’s going to me moved to Boone. It’s not on because … well … uhhh..”)
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10. And finally but most importantly, the terrible fumbling with Republican Party caucus return in the last round where Mitt Romney was declared the winner then Rick Santorum because some “lost votes” were found days later made Iowa “The Florida of caucus ballots” as my good friend and Mitt Romney high-level staffer in Washington, D.C. called it.
I’m a great supporter of the Iowa caucuses but too many politicians in Iowa have been taking them for granted and may not have not done their due diligence. There is some fear that 2016 could be the “last hurrah” even though Iowa and New Hampshire have laws that say they come first. Would these states really defy the two national political parties, which can presumably impose harsh delegate seating penalties?
I think it would be a big mistake to disrupt this tradition; this “phased” process and replace it with regional primaries or a national primary. The Iowa/New Hampshire sequence is easily “digestible” by the media and voters before the huge floodgates of Super Tuesday open.
• Steffen Schmidt is professor of political science at Iowa State University. Comments: Steffenschmidt2005@gmail.com