Contributor : Shani Young
Lets take a moment to think about Iowa. Drawing a blank? That’s ok! I was scrambling myself, when asked a seemingly simple question: Why start the primaries in Iowa? Honestly, my first thought was, “that’s just how it is”. In fact, it’s been this way since 1972. But, even so, why keep the tradition going? Why all the pomp and circumstance?
Surely there is good reason, right? Let’s be honest, Iowa is overwhelmingly white, sparsely populated, very rural and staunchly conservative. The people who show up for the caucuses are only a fraction of the Iowa residents and represent a small subset of the entire population.
Since 1972, only three non-incumbent candidates have won the Iowa caucuses and then the presidency — Carter, George W. Bush, and President Obama. So it’s not even a determinative location in the primaries. Why all the power in Iowa, then?
There are two arguments, (aside from candidates not wanting to piss off Iowa):
- Iowa distinguishes the players for the presidency from those who are just play-acting.
The New York Times and the Washington Post have cited just how much Iowans require from the candidates. In Iowa caucus goers need more than a few ads; they expect to meet the candidates and the world gets to watch.
Iowa can give candidates the momentum they need in the race. Voters (and the media) really get to know each candidate, as they campaign in the months leading up. The candidates that can finesse during such a scrutinizing time are the true contenders for the presidency.
And, in turn, those who cannot win over Iowa won’t make it much further.
- Iowa can shift the focus, for Democrats and Republicans alike
No one knows this better than Republican Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz. When the media made it seem as though a high Iowa turn out would mean a certain Trump victory, Sen. Cruz was able to garner the necessary backing and come out on top. Now the world is watching to see how the senator fairs in New Hampshire in the coming week.
Even things within the Democratic Party are all shaken up. Hillary Clinton, the democratic frontrunner, did not have the landslide victory she was hoping for either. Senator Bernie Sanders was a favorite at the democratic caucuses, losing to Clinton by just fractions of a percentage. This has got the Clinton donors worried, especially since predictors are looking to Sanders for a win in New Hampshire.
So does Iowa matter? Yes and no. While the citizens are not representative of the US at large, and Iowa isn’t determinative of the final outcomes, for all that it doesn’t do, Iowa is the first step to winnowing the field of players and can often turn predictions on their heads.
Truly, there is a lot more race left in the months ahead. Now, the world is looking to New Hampshire for more decisive wins.