They're just jealous


By Mary Bess Bolling

At the heart of Florida’s move to push its primary into January is that it wants what Iowa and New Hampshire have—prime influence on the Republican nominee and the advertising dollars that accompany .

But Iowa needs to be first. First of all, the Iowa legislature mandates that the state hold its caucuses eight days before any other caucus or primary in the U.S. Secondly, Iowan votes are less likely bought by flashy ads and speeches in big auditoriums than they are earned with a handshake and open conversation.

Blogger Robert Stacy McCain said it best.

“A joke told by Tim Albrecht, spokesman for Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad, is quite relevant here: An Iowa Republican is asked whether he supports a certain presidential candidate and answers, ‘I don't know. I've only met him twice.’” McCain wrote in a Sept. 30 article in The American Spectator.

That quote embodies Iowa’s atmosphere during caucus season. Meet an Iowan in a public park during a Tea Party Express bus tour stop, look ‘em in the eye and you might get the vote. Head to New Hampshire instead (Hillary, circa 2008) and you will lose the vote. Iowa’s grass-roots nature and caucus set up is a rare combination (most states chose to have primaries in 2008). The Hawkeye state’s unique political atmosphere is part of why it’s always been the first to choose the nominee(s).

“(Florida’s move) reflects the irritation these states at Iowa in particular and other early states have in it,” said Dennis Goldford, professor of politics at Drake University and co-author of The Iowa Precinct Caucuses: The Making of a Media Event. “We always have this game of leapfrog because they want more of a role themselves, and want to diminish the role of Iowa.”

Goldford pointed out that the move favors better-known and better-funded candidates in the race. Maybe that’s a good thing, because they can better clothe campaign staff to fend off 20-below temperatures and bone-chilling winds that’ll hit Iowa around caucus time. Here’s a link to a The New York Times blogger's prediction for how this will shake out with the other early states.

The rogue Florida outwardly broke the Republican National Committee rules with this move, taking the loss of half its delegates for national convention as penalty for it. Iowa’s position as first-in-line for the caucuses is obviously worth a likely 55+ delegates. (Florida gave up 57 in 2008 for the same move, according to this CNN count.)

The Iowa state legislature will likely move up the date of the caucuses, according to most pundits and this CBS article. This will mean maintaining its first-in-the nation status that leaves the larger states like Florida envious, and illustrating size may not matter, at least not as much as timing.