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Wag the Blog: What You Had to Say

Readers of The Fix have posted more than 200 comments, so far, in response to our query about whether Iowa and New Hampshire should retain their role of casting the first votes in presidential primaries.

Fix readers might be interested to know that the Post's David Broder, the dean of Washington political reporters, weighed in on this issue in August.

Broder's conclusion? Iowa and New Hampshire have played an important and historic role, but recent "front loading" in the primary calendar does not leave enough time for voters to seriously evaluate the candidates.

Here is a small sample of what you had to say:

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I don't think Iowa and NH should always be first. They give two small, very unrepresentative states way too much say over who will be president. How many blacks or latinos live in NH?

I think a better system would be to break the country into 4 regions, NE, South, Midwest and West and have one primary or caucus from each region (each state chosen at random from each region) every other week beginning the first Tuesday in February. For example, the four early states now, Iowa, NH, Nev and SC might be the first four. Then two weeks later the states might be Wash, Wis, Ala, Mass. Etc. Under this system every region of the country gets some input every other week, the voters get a chance to digest what happened in the earlier round, the candidates get more time to campaign in for the next round and, hopefully, the nominating process gets dragged out a bit. It is ridiculous, given the speed with which the world changes, to have the presidential nominees virtually chosen by February for an election in November.

Posted by: LouisXIV | January 30, 2007 07:57 AM

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The current system made sense when the big states waited until the end of the process. It doesn't work anymore.

How about AZ, CA, NY, OH, FL and TX on one day?

Posted by: Steve | January 30, 2007 10:51 AM

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Many posts here have suggested putting all the primaries on the same day. That's basically the worst solution to the problem.

During the primaries, candidates don't have much money. Especially the candidates who aren't the front-runners. There's no way for a second-tier candidate to compete in a national election. Someone like Tom Vilsack or Mike Huckabee can afford some TV and radio ads in New Hampshire and Iowa. They can also afford to drive around and talk to people at local gatherings. But in a national primary, those candidates would be out of luck. They'd exhaust their budgets flying around the country and advertising in every market. And even then, they'd only be able to get their messages across to a tiny fraction of the electorate.

A national primary would also be harder on the voters. When there are 5-10 candidates in the race, it's difficult to hear enough about all of them to make an informed decision. Right now, voters in early primary states have a chance to talk to the candidates and hear them debate. Then the choices are winnowed down by the time of the later primaries. In a national primary, there would be too many candidates on the ballot for most people (those who aren't political junkies) to sort through. So a lot of people would vote for the big-name candidates, further hurting the little guys.

I don't like the current system. I'd prefer to see some kind of rotation of smaller states. I'd also like to see a system that's not winner-take-all, which would be much more fair in large fields of candidates.

Posted by: Blarg | January 30, 2007 01:01 PM

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I have an unique perspective because I've lived both in (6 years) and outside of Iowa. I certainly respect the knowledge and level of interest that my Hawkeye neighbors brought to the process. As a nation, though, we have to ask ourselves: are we really pressure-testing our future leaders by overweighting two small states? Is a leader who can excel in a retail environment in nearly all-white IA and NH really the best equipped to deal with the nation's problems? What about the dangers that come with those two states' issues getting undue priority (see ethanol)? It would seem a rotating system promoting a mix of small/large states would be the most equitable and in turn would produce better candidates (and policies). While IA and NH will squeal about the lost attention and media dollars, in the end their status would have been overcome anyways as the other states continue to crowd the early calendar.

Posted by: RLTW | January 30, 2007 01:59 PM

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The question about who SHOULD be first is separate from how does SHOULD get established, since there is no central body to determine the order definitively.

I'm for tradition because Iowa and New Hampshire are prepared for the responsibility of being first. However, the more important question seems to be not who's first (unless you live in a candidate for first's state) but when do primaries and caucuses begin and what is the spacing between them.

If there were a way to structure the system properly, I favor beginning the voting after Easter and spacing it out on a weekly basis (Tuesday votes only, perhaps) through June. Having IA and NH the same week, followed by a Western and a Southern state the next week--NV and SC seem the right size--would give small states a voice, and as Martha says, that's a good thing.

Posted by: allofmetb | January 30, 2007 03:32 PM

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NH's primary needs to be defended.

The state is remarkably well-informed on the issues, and grills candidates in a way that big states, with their big-money media markets, cannot and will not.

If you want to see a $1 trillion campaign, wait until 2012 when all of the primaries are in 2011 - and in big media markets that require that pricetag. The fact that the system is ridiculously frontloaded, and getting moreso every day, means that the NH primary, by state law occurring a week before any other, will be moved to *LATE 2007*.

Do we really want this to be all about the money that can be raised?

Will we get the best leaders, or the best politicians special interest money can buy?

I support rotating regional primaries after NH and Iowa. But let's keep NH first.

Posted by: Stephen A. | January 30, 2007 10:21 AM

By washingtonpost.com Editors  |  January 30, 2007; 5:30 PM ET
Categories:  Wag The Blog  
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