Ten Miles Square


December 22, 2011 8:30 AM Iowa Forever

By Jonathan Bernstein

Josh Putnam has a nice post up pointing out that you can ignore any claims you hear that the Iowa Caucuses will be jettisoned if Ron Paul or some other unlikely nominee winds up winning. As Josh says, the job of Iowa is to winnow the field, not to pick a winner. He also goes through some of the technical reasons why it’s difficult for the parties in practice to shift away from Iowa.

I think the shorter version is simple: if you’re going to have a sequential system, some state has to go first, and there’s no particular reason to suppose Iowa is worse than any other state would be. Yes, it’s not a demographic match for the nation, but no state is. You can come up with plenty of other dimensions on which it’s not descriptively representative of the US as a whole, too — but again, that’s true for any state.

I’m also mostly not impressed, on the Republican side, by claims that social conservatives are especially important in Iowa. They are important, no doubt — but is that really atypical for the GOP? It sure doesn’t seem like it to me.

It also seems to me that the GOP nomination process is basically working pretty well this cycle. To the extent that stability helps that happen, keeping the early schedule in place is probably the best way to go. But as Josh says, we’re probably stuck with Iowa (and New Hampshire) whether we like it or not.

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.
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  • aggie bee on December 23, 2011 9:54 AM:

    Is it too much to ask a blogger to do the most rudimentary tasks of reportage?

    How *lazy* it is to say: "Yes, it's not a demographic match for the nation, but no state is."

    There are any # of states that align up almost exactly with the total average USA census demographics. Let's compare one such state, Illinois, with Iowa, with the USA averages on basic electoral demographics:



    Let me sum up (& in turn revise Bernstein's fatuous line): "It would be almost impossible to find a state less of a demographic match for the nation than Iowa."

    (Btw, took me less than 10 seconds to Google the above #s from the U.S. Census Bureau website. Don't they supply bloggers with Google. Or are they simply lacking the journalistic rigor to use it?)