For a Minute Iowa and New Hampshire Matter, but Why?

Politics Polling

             New Orleans       You may have heard that the political primary season is now before us, with upcoming events in Iowa and New Hampshire.  Both parties have these primaries, but on the Democratic side, it’s mainly a yawn with an incumbent president in the lists and no longer front these two states.  On the Republican side it has been the giant Trump against a bunch of Lilliputians, far, far behind.

For the Republicans, on the eve of the real season as opposed to the exhibition games, played mostly for the media throughout last year, the candidates are finally winnowing down to less than a handful.  Former VP Pence threw in the towel.  A bunch of others could not get more than a look.  Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie finally pulled out in recent days, leaving the former South Carolina governor and UN representative Nikki Haley and current Florida governor Ron DeSantis fighting over the place and show positions in this race, with Trump still many, many leagues ahead.

Trump almost seems to be spending more time with judges and lawyers than voters, but his lead has been unassailable thus far, so it has all seemed to be working for him.  Pundits and pollsters are all agog about these affairs, conceding Iowa to him, but now putting their bets on New Hampshire.  One calculation added up Haley’s small numbers with Christie’s smaller numbers and had them right under Trump’s big numbers, trying to juice the odds on the contest, but you still have to kinda pinch yourself to pay any attention to it all.

The Democrats have upgraded South Carolina in the primaries, arguing that Iowa and New Hampshire simply don’t align with the population of the United States, which is inarguable, especially when it comes to race and ethnicity.  These contests can seem a little bit like the old South’s “white only” primaries.  Even past the fact that neither is really representative of the contemporary electorate, it is inarguable that both, especially a small Iowa, and a very, very small New Hampshire should be in the post position.  Iowa is the 31st largest, while New Hampshire is the 41st.  It’s really kind of absurd for either to be seen as potential barometers or electorate feelings, much less as kingmakers.

Certainly, that’s the case when it comes to the Democrats, although they like to make a play for New Hampshire on the red-blue color chart.  For the Republicans, especially this time, given all the fraught divisions in their gang, maybe these are just the voters they want to gauge.  Iowa has gone from liberal-moderate midwestern, to hard right from governor to legislature.  Caucuses bring out the activists and extremists, many of whom have been MAGA all the way, so maybe they want to use Iowa to determine if they can move that base anywhere at all.  New Hampshire is a bit more taciturn and moderate on the Republican side, so this may tell part strategists something they need to know.  Short story:  these states are rearview mirror for Dems and front windshield for Republicans.

Face it, the core Republican base is the declining white population of America, so no matter how much an outlier Iowa and New Hampshire are for most of the country, they might still fit Republicans like a glove.  If the party ever wants to win a majority of the US popular vote in a presidential again, they might have to change, but as long as gerrymandering, the Electoral College, and Trump’s hold on his base holds fast, they won’t change anytime soon, so the weird and outsized weight of Republican folks in Iowa and New Hampshire will continue to have their moments for a few more minutes.