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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Are the Iowa Caucuses Still Relevant?

Recently my colleague Kathy Obradovich wrote a very insightful column on the Iowa caucuses. I want to share that with you because there is ALWAYS a discussion of whether the caucuses distort the Presidential selection process.

Kathy wrote.
"I hear more often than you might expect from Iowans who think it would be just fine to substitute the caucuses for a primary. Sure, we'd give up our first- in-the-nation status, they argue, but then everyone can participate. A caucus requires attendance at a precinct party meeting in January or February. In a primary, voters can cast a ballot any time the polls are open or vote absentee.

Sometimes, I hear from people who want to participate but find it difficult because they are elderly or have mobility issues. Their concern is absolutely valid and it's one of the reasons why I'm happy to see the Iowa Democratic Party working to address accessibility issues at the caucuses (/story/opinion /columnists/kathie-obradovich/2014/08/02/obradovich-caucuses/13517071/). Others, however, seem to think it would be just fine if Iowans could make up their minds based on TV ads and national media reports rather than seeing or meeting candidates in person.

What I don't think some voters here have considered is that if Iowa held a primary in June 2016, they most likely wouldn't have their pick of seven or eight candidates. Instead, they'd be left with the ones who voters in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and maybe Michigan or Florida thought were fit to be president. Yes, every Iowa voter could participate — if only to rubber-stamp the choices already made in other states.

If states like Iowa got rid of caucuses and all moved to primaries, American voters would see far fewer candidates challenging the ones with big names and big bucks. Iowa's choices don't always go the distance, but they usually make sure the ones anointed by the kingmakers in Washington, D.C., have some competition along the way.

The caucuses are far from perfect, and both parties need to do everything they can to make sure people who want to participate are able to do so. They need to be transparent, accountable and accurate. But those who think Iowa's special status is robbing some voters of a voice should consider how losing the caucuses would rob all Iowans of choice."
 These are sound comments that well describe the benefits of the Iowa caucuses. 
Of course, the caucuses, like all good things, will some day go away. For now however, the Iowa caucuses continue to offer a good opportunity for Presidential contenders to "strut their stuff." As I've written before, the caucuses are like the county fair. From there, the competitors and exhibitors who make it go on to the big event, the State Fair which are the "mega primaries" that seal the fate of contenders.  

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