Why Iowa? Small states play a major role in choosing the president

(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Why Iowa? Small states play a major role in choosing the president

Elections 2024, Jobs, Labor & Workplace

Ziema Mehta

January 15, 2024

At temperatures below zero

on Monday

want to rally Iowans


in churches, high school gyms and community centers to select the Republican presidential candidate they want to be their standard bearer in November. Once again, a small portion of the American public is forming a group

from people

smaller than the population of Huntington Beach will make headlines around the world for the first presidential election contest of the year.

Why is Iowa, an agricultural, older, predominantly white state with relatively few residents, playing such a big role in the presidential race? Especially when

a state like

California is so much more representative of the country’s demographics



Such concerns were not paramount when the modern primary calendar was developed in the late 20th century, says Dan Schnur, a professor of politics at USC, Pepperdine and UC Berkeley. And he added that while he understands Californians’ frustrations, the state has been blessed in many other ways. “We have Hollywood, and we have Silicon Valley. We have the beaches and the mountains. We have more electoral votes in the general election than any other state in the country,” he said. “Let them be in the spotlight for a few weeks.”

By all accounts, California’s 39.2 million residents are more representative of the country’s future than Iowa’s 3.2 million residents.



Nearly 84% of residents in the Hawkeye states are compared to non-Latino whites

with to

59% of Americans and 35% of Californians. Iowa is home to more seniors.

California has a much higher median income and is more densely populated. California’s median income is much higher, and the state’s population is more densely populated despite its geographic size.

Even some Iowans agree there is reason to worry.

It is a true honor for us to serve in this role, said retired French teacher Gene Larson, after watching former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley address voters in Ankeny. I don’t know if I could say we should have it.

The 71-year-old, who described herself as a centrist who has voted for presidential candidates from both parties, said the nature of caucuses has changed, as have the demographics of the nation.

We are absolutely not racially representative of the country, there is no doubt about that. I don’t think it follows that we are biased, he said, pointing to then-Sen. Barack Obama’s surprise victory in the 2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses laid the groundwork for his election to the White House, a moment often highlighted by defenders of Iowa’s role in the nominating process.

That being said,

Larson said

it would make sense to revise the process, even if it means losing Iowa’s status

he noticed


It would be nice [if] it is spread all over the country. I have also seen the idea of ​​organizing six or eight states into clusters and the different clusters get to go first each year. “I think that might be fair,” he said.

noting that politics have changed since Iowa began holding the nation’s first nominating contest.

We originally prided ourselves on a small-town atmosphere, where candidates had to prove they were people-oriented to succeed. I think that has some merit compared to going to a big TV state like California, Larson


. But I think it’s important to share, and I think maybe it’s time for it to be shared.

Others argue that this is the nomination system

if it isn’t, it can’t be

Perfect, it gives Central Americans the chance to meet and interview candidates in a way that would never be possible

major states such as


or other major states


“I don’t know if I can say if we’re a perfect cross-section of the country, but I think we have a pretty good representation of conservatives, liberals, Democrats and Republicans on both sides,” Andrew Stephenson said. a


production engineer

and undecided voters

, after seeing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dish selectors at Jethro’s BBQ in Ames.

I mean, it has to be somewhere, right? added the 42-year-old,

add note

that Iowans have

a history and

the expectation that we meet and vet candidates in person rather than

through watching

expensive television advertising,

which one would be

the main campaign method in large states such as California. I don’t know who would be better or more suitable.

Iowa has long held caucuses, where voters meet in person to select their favorite candidates. This year the meetings will take place on Monday in sub-zero temperatures. CH: We’ve already said this in the states of Iowa

The contest became a proving ground for presidential candidates in the 1970s. Other states have questioned Iowa’s outsize


role for

a lot of

only years


were rejected on the grounds that each candidate

who was

willing to put in the time and effort to meet with Iowans might have a chance there, because of the intimate nature of the caucuses.

Likewise, simmering concerns that the state’s residents would not be representative of the country’s demographics and direction never came to a head until the state’s Democrats so badly upset the 2020 caucus that no formal winner emerged .


declared. The National Democrats made South Carolina the first official state in their parties’ nominating contest


This year, though critics say the change had more to do with President Biden’s lackluster performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the nation’s first primaries are being held.

Many Iowa stalwarts argue that the states


role is justified because it creates a level playing field for candidates, regardless of their financial resources, and because

the States

voters expect to be able to question presidential candidates.

Iowans take it very seriously. They really want to get to know the candidates. It’s a retail policy, says Terry Branstad, President Trump’s former ambassador to China and multiple governor of Iowa.



argue that



with his whose

Surprise victory over Hillary Clinton in 2008

Democratic Iowa


laid the groundwork for his election to the White House. CH: We’ve already said this

would never have become president if the race


started in a big state like California.

Clinton’s money and connections would have dominated, and that wouldn’t have happened, Branstad said. That’s the problem in those states. People rarely even meet the candidates, while, as in Iowa, they often meet them multiple times. So I think that’s important.

Some Californians agree.

Veteran GOP strategist Rob Stutzman will land in Des Moines on Saturday to observe the caucuses.

The argument for Iowa is that the barrier to entry is low, so it favors any candidate who wants to get in and do the work

” says GOP strategist Rob Stutzman

. ‘Whereas if you were to start in a state like California, that would only favor a rich candidate.

he said.

It is a nation state. It will always favor the wealthier candidate,


Stutzman, who advised the former governor. Arnold Schwarzenegger

as well as billionaire Meg Whitman in her 2010 gubernatorial bid. There are too many media markets, the state is too big to get around efficiently without spending a lot of money on private jets.

That said, Stutzman

said he found that the states found Iowa’s

lack of diversity and


Agriculturally driven economy not ideal. California could be more relevant if it plays an early role in the nomination process, as is the case this year

it is the state

is among more than a dozen


that will vote


March 5, Super Tuesday.

So there are pros and cons, he said, before reminiscing about observing past Iowa caucuses. It’s a good tradition. The voters there take it seriously. I’ll miss it if it doesn’t happen again.


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