Newt Gingrich won South Carolina in 2012. He didn't get the nomination. Photographer: Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images

Iowa and New Hampshire Should Keep Voting First

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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As Democrats confirmed their (planned) schedule of primaries and caucuses for the 2016 election, Ed Kilgore is upset that Iowa and New Hampshire (and Nevada and South Carolina) are keeping their spots:

The Iowa/New Hampshire chokehold on the beginnings of the presidential nominating cycle, shrewdly modified a couple of cycles ago to cut one western and one southern state in on the action, will continue, despite the many words regularly spilled about the irrationality if not injustice of the custom.

I’ll accept arbitrary, but I disagree with irrational and unjust.

In the 1970s and perhaps 1980s, it made sense to care a lot about the sequence of the primaries and caucuses. These days, however, the primaries have more or less returned to what they were pre-reform: useful information for the party actors who dominate the process. That’s not all, of course. These events also are the technical means by which the party consensus is carried out. Beyond that, it’s the perceptions of party actors that matter, and those high-information people shouldn’t be overly fooled by a candidate who benefits from favorable demographics in an early state.

Granted, voters in New Hampshire at times have appeared to be willfully contrarian, seemingly voting against Iowa winners just for the sake of mattering, or perhaps out of sheer cussedness. But it’s not as if John McCain was able to make much of his New Hampshire win in 2000, for example.

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