Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Iowa Effect

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Iowa Effect

Article excerpt

Nation needs a better way to select presidential candidates

The Iowa caucuses Tuesday provided further evidence that the presidential nominating process is skewed and flawed.

Yesterday, after poor showings in Iowa, Michele Bachmann dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination and Rick Perry said he would remain in -- after taking a one-day hiatus to "reassess" his campaign. Newt Gingrich mediocre finish led political analysts to question the long-term viability of his campaign. In contrast, Rick Santorum gained an immediate lift by finishing second, just eight votes behind the presumed front-runner, Mitt Romney.

For better or worse, Iowa voters have again had significant impact on a major party's presidential-nominating "system" -- a disproportionate effect.

Consider: Tuesday in Iowa, 122,255 voters participated in the caucuses.

In Manatee and Sarasota counties, 113,144 Republicans voted in the 2008 primary -- just shy of the number of participants this week in all of Iowa.

Add in the GOP tallies from Charlotte County in 2008 and 138,873 Republicans cast ballots in the three-county region -- 24 percent more voters than participated in this year Iowa caucuses.

Small states, big impacts

Yet, three of the last six Republicans to win in Iowa (which ranks 30th among the states in population) have won the party's nomination and, perhaps most important, few candidates have survived losses in both Iowa and the next small state to vote, New Hampshire (ranked 42nd). South Carolina (24th) will follow on Jan. 21.

Florida Republicans will vote early in the process this year -- fourth, on Jan. 31 -- but by that time, some GOP candidates who have led nationwide polling for at least a month during the past year might end their candidacies.

Since the results from Florida's primary could produce additional fallout, the ballots of Republicans in up to 46 states could be substantially different from -- and shorter than -- those in the first four states to vote. …

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