Election 2008


Iowans Prepare to Flex Muscle in Primaries

January 02, 2008 04:05 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
As the Iowa caucus approaches, commentators wonder whether it is right that the Hawkeye State has so much sway in choosing the presidential candidates.

30-Second Summary

On Thursday Jan. 3, Iowans will head to their state's 1,781 caucuses, a milestone in the race to the White House.

Although the Iowa caucuses date back to the 1800s, they didn’t reach the level of political prominence they enjoy today until the 1976 presidential election. That year saw Jimmy Carter’s victory in the Hawkeye State secure him the Democratic Party nomination.

Since then, Iowa’s status as the proving ground for presidential hopefuls has only become more entrenched. But many U.S. voters are dissatisfied with what they see as Iowa’s disproportionate influence. 

According to a survey conducted by the Associated Press and Yahoo News, nearly 80 percent of those polled said they would rather see a system in which primary and caucus dates rotate each election cycle.

Christopher Hitchens goes so far as to write that Iowa’s preeminence “is an absolutely terrible way in which to select candidates for the presidency, and it makes the United States look and feel like a banana republic both at home and overseas.”

In a similar but less aggressive vein, Bonnie Erbe of U.S. News & World Report reports that the caucuses are troublesome because the Iowans who participate “do not represent U.S. voters as a whole and so are hardly prescient when it comes to divining who will ultimately win each party's nomination.”

Countering such arguments, however, The Economist takes a swipe at the “many non-Americans” who in criticizing the Iowa caucus forget their own flawed electoral systems.

In truth, says The Economist, “The primaries system, once again, is working pretty well.”

Headline Links: Examining Iowa

Reactions: Voters dislike the primaries system

Historical Context: Primary elections

Opinion & Analysis: The prickly caucus

Contra Iowa caucus
Pro Iowa caucus

Related Topics: Becoming president after losing the caucus


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