Report Shows Unearthly Power of Iowa and New Hampshire Voters


Two econ­o­mists, Brian Knight and Nathan Schiff, set out a few years ago to deter­mine how much Iowa, New Hamp­shire and other early-voting states affected pres­i­den­tial nominations.

Mr. Knight and Mr. Schiff ana­lyzed daily polls in other states before and after an early state had held a con­test. The polls tended to change imme­di­ately after the con­test, and the changes tended to last, which sug­gested that the early states were even more impor­tant than many peo­ple real­ized. The econ­o­mists esti­mated that an Iowa or New Hamp­shire voter had the same impact as five Super Tues­day vot­ers put together.

This sys­tem, the two men drily noted in a Jour­nal of Polit­i­cal Econ­omy paper, “rep­re­sents a devi­a­tion from the demo­c­ra­tic ideal of ‘one per­son, one vote.’ ”

A pres­i­den­tial cam­paign is once again upon us, and Iowa and New Hamp­shire are again at the cen­ter of it all. On Thurs­day, Mitt Rom­ney will announce his can­di­dacy in Stratham, N.H. Last week, Tim Paw­lenty opened his cam­paign in Des Moines. The two states have dom­i­nated the nom­i­nat­ing process for so long that it’s easy to think of their role as natural.

But it is not nat­ural. It’s unde­mo­c­ra­tic, in fact. It is unfair to vot­ers in the other 48 states. And it dis­torts eco­nomic pol­icy in sev­eral dam­ag­ing ways.

Exactly, ethanol exists because of the Iowa Cau­cus.  You run for Pres­i­dent, you sell your eco­nomic com­mon sense, your sci­en­tific know-how, and pre­vi­ous stances on Ag pol­icy to get the vote of Iowan corn farm­ers.  And it only gets worse from there.

Their pop­u­la­tions are grow­ing more slowly than the rest of the country’s. Res­i­dents of Iowa and New Hamp­shire are more likely to have health insur­ance. They are older than aver­age. They are more likely to work in manufacturing.

Above all, Iowa and New Hamp­shire lack a sin­gle big city, at a time when large met­ro­pol­i­tan areas are cru­cial to lift­ing eco­nomic growth. Big metro areas are where big ideas most often take shape and great new com­pa­nies are most often born. The country’s 25 largest areas are respon­si­ble for 52 per­cent of the country’s eco­nomic out­put, accord­ing to the Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion, and are home to 42 per­cent of the population.

Yet metro areas are also strug­gling with major prob­lems. The qual­ity of schools is spotty. Com­mutes last longer than ever. Roads, bridges, tun­nels and tran­sit sys­tems are aging.

Finally, vot­ers in Iowa and New Hamp­shire have become spoiled in their role of “1st in the Nation” states.  Vot­ers get tem­pera­men­tal with can­di­dates if they haven’t been seen in their state for a few weeks.  The media in those states takes glee in point­ing out a can­di­date isn’t in these two states.

It’s got­ten to the point that some Iowans and New Hamp­shir­ers (New Hamp­shirites?  New Hamp­shiri­ans?) won’t vote for a can­di­date unless they’ve per­son­ally been able to talk with the can­di­date mul­ti­ple times.

This is the sys­tem we have made for our­selves.  It is flawed, and no one has the stones to change it.

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