In terms of presidential nominations, Iowa has only one relevancy. It is the first contest in the 11-month primary season. That’s it. Without being the first in the union, Iowa would be about as important as the North Dakota convention, which takes place on March 27.
First and foremost, Iowa is not a state that reflects the nation. As a largely older white voter state, it lacks the diversity of America – more so today than in the past. In that regard, it is not a bellwether state. It gives us no valuable insight into future trends. It is an outlier.
It is not a battleground state. While it can swing left or right – Democrat or Republican – it only has six electoral votes – only a smidgeon more than two percent of the 270 electoral votes. Were it not the first in the nation, it is unlikely that so many candidates would be visiting Des Moines or Dubuque.
It is also a caucus state – meaning that the winner is not selected by voters, but by a small more highly motivated group within the greater electorate. They often arrive in busloads – even from other states. Perhaps that is the reason why Iowa rarely picks or launches the eventual winners.
Because it is the first contest in the presidential campaign season, it enjoys a disproportionate level of lead-up media attention. Weeks – and even months – before the Iowa caucuses the press focuses on Iowa. In fact, the countdown to the primaries is often introduced with the political cliché “only (blank) days until the Iowa primary …” The remainder of the states – even the largest – usually garner myopic media attention only within days of the vote.
Because Iowa is first, it gets visits from the greatest number of contenders – long before the winnowing process reduces the ranks. This, naturally, is one of the factors that brings disproportionate media attention.
The unimportance of the Iowa caucuses is reflected in the post-primary attention it receives – virtually none. What happened in Iowa is rarely entered into the analytical output of the candidates, pundits and reporters as the primary season moves on. What happened in Iowa stays in Iowa.
To understand the real importance of Iowa, imagine if Iowa shared the first-in-the-union primary with California. How much attention would be paid to the Hawkeye State? To get an idea, consider how much attention will be given to American Samoa’s six delegates when it is in the mix with California’s 415 delegates on Super Tuesday, March 3rd.
Iowa is a great state with wonderful people – a real live American Gothic. They have wonderful traditions, like grilled pork chop flipping. But when it comes to relevancy in the selection of presidential nominees, its fame is more hype than reality.
So, there ‘tis.