October 31, 2005

Iowa's first primary status on shaky ground

Hoping to scare the stuffing out of your favorite Democratic activist tonight? Just show up at his or her door dressed as a 2008 presidential nominating calendar that dumps Iowa’s first-in-the nation caucuses.

And don’t forget the smelling salts.

Iowa Democrats have been spooked for more than a year since the Democratic National Committee set up a commission to consider changes in the nomination calendar. The panel was formed after an Iowa-anointed Democratic dream team of John Kerry and John Edwards lost a bitter fight for the White House.

Party leaders from Michigan, New Jersey and other states turned up the volume on chronic complaints that Iowa and New Hampshire – home of the first presidential primary – are poor places to start picking a nominee. They’re too white, too rural and too cold, critics charge. And besides, they stuck us with losers.

Democrats did what they do best – they lost, searched furiously for a scapegoat and appointed a big commission. All that’s left to do now is make things worse.

After several meetings, the 40-member commission has decided that Iowa and New Hampshire should share the early spotlight with two or more other states. Ideally, those new additions would have a population of less than 5 million, a minority population of 15 percent or more and would be closely-contested “purple’’ swing states.

South Carolina often is mentioned, although President Bush’s 14-point win there hardly makes it a battleground. Nevada and New Mexico, with large Hispanic populations and tight 2004 presidential contests, are the best examples. Colorado and Arkansas also are possibilities.

The commission is scheduled to meet for the final time on Dec. 1 to vote on a revised strategy and submit that plan to the Democratic National Committee and its chairman, Howard Dean. But the Washington rumor mill already is churning out proposals allegedly being considered.

The good news for Hawkeye State Democrats is that nearly all of those rumored options keep Iowa in its traditional pole position, at least for 2008.

“If there is a consensus, it appears to be that Iowa goes first, in my opinion,’’ said Roxanne Conlin, a veteran Democratic activist and Des Moines attorney who is representing Iowa on the commission along with fellow attorney Jerry Crawford.

“I think it’s possible we will be struggling the rest of, at least, my natural life to keep our state first. I’ve been through this battle myself three times,’’ Conlin said.

New Hampshire Democrats, on the other hand, are freaking out.

Their latest bout of anxiety was sparked by a plan detailed on the National Journal’s Hotline Web site. The “leaked’’ proposal called for putting Iowa’s caucuses on Jan. 14, 2008, and the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 29 while allowing two or more other states to hold caucuses in between.

Under than scenario, New Hampshire would slip to the fourth slot or worse. Granite State Democrats have vowed to fight.

But if party leaders do decide to demote New Hampshire, clearly Iowa is next. Once Democrats vanquish one half of the dynamic duo, booting the other will be effortless.

That would be bad news for Iowa Democrats who have successfully used the caucuses to build organizations, raise money and cover their walls with photos showing them arm-in-arm with party luminaries.

But the argument could also be made that Iowa, once a unique and intimate presidential proving ground, has become merely a stage prop in a national campaign that starts too soon, costs too much and offers little more than a daily drumbeat of charges and counter-charges.
What's your opinion? Would letting states other than New Hampshire and Iowa essentially pick the Dem nominee be a good move? Why? What are the downsides to having these two states play such a prominent role in chosing the Democratic presidential candidate?


At 10/31/2005 11:29 AM, Blogger Kankakee Voice said...

Good talking points. If you sign in and cross post this at Soapblox Chicago, I'll promote it to the front page for you. This should make for a great discussion - although with everyone out trick or treating.... ;)

At 10/31/2005 9:11 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

At the risk of being off topic, I just had to share this. Headusher has earned the "delete on sight" honor here, after endless second, third, forth, fifth, etc. chances to get his act together.

But I deleted this comment of his and I think it should live for the ages. Maybe those of you who get a kick out of his brand of madness might get a chuckle or two.

He wrote:
Before you get all "juiced-up" tonight, you might want to reconsider your unamerican activity.

It's no accident that freedome of speech is protected in the Fisrt Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

During the "Red Scare" in the 1920's , thousands were censored and deported for their politcal views.

Before you throw on your Joe MacCarthy outfit and go tricker treating, you really might want to consider the prohibition of free speech. If not I am going to sick the ACLU on your drunk ass!.

What a peach, eh? hahahahahaha!
You gotta admit, there's nothing quite as amusing as a pissed off illiterate raising the spectre of Tailgunner Joe. Pure gold!

At 11/01/2005 6:54 AM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Dope you don't have to delete usher - no one cares what he or his "alter ego" Mike Jacobs say anyway anymore.....

At 11/01/2005 9:25 AM, Blogger DownLeft said...

First, Iowa did us a huge favor by knocking off Howard Dean, who had already been declared the winner in December by the corporate media and half the party establishment. Dean was a bad candidate and Iowans were able to see that up close before the rest of the nation did. Its one of the advantages of having a small primary state go first: people get to know each candidate more closely than TV commercials and distorted articles from the corporate media allow.

New Hampshire on the other hand, has a much too expensive media market. Its impossible to compete there anymore without big corporate money. Therefore, it no longer serves its purpose, and frankly the people there are incredibly arrogant about their primary role. Their position as the first primary state virtually guaranteed one of the three New Englanders would be the nominee and that's not something we need next time.

Having one or two new states with a primary/caucus closer to Iowa and New Hampshire is a good idea. However, I think those of us who are progressives should be wary of those who would lock liberals out of the nominating process by having only red or purple states go first. We should have learned since 2000 that nominating the more moderate, reasonable "electable" candidate does not guarantee victory. How about an early primary state that's a swing state but that also has a strong progressive element like Wisconsin, Oregon, or West Virginia? Now that I think about it, New Mexico and Arkansas may fit that description as well. Dean and Kucinich did well in the New Mexico caucus. ACORN could dominate an Arkansas primary.

At 11/01/2005 2:21 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

Iowa is purple and red, respectively, in the last 2 elections though. Of course, that could just be a fluke.


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