As If We Could Ever Rethink The Iowa And New Hampshire Contests, Even If We Wanted To
December 28, 2015

A couple of struggling Republican also-rans are trying to appeal to New Hampshire voters' better angels:

... as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Jeb Bush grasp for some way to dissuade the proud New Hampshire electorate from supporting Mr. Trump, they are turning to a new, blunter instrument: guilt.

“America is counting on you,” Mr. Christie said Sunday night in [Peterborough, New Hampshire]....

“There’s 14 of us today,” Mr. Christie said of the Republican field. “You all will take us from 14 to four or five. And those four or five are the only ones Americans are going to have to choose from other than Hillary Rodham Clinton. You have enormous responsibility.”

On Monday night, speaking at the Christmas-bedecked American Legion hall in Alton, Mr. Bush picked up where Mr. Christie left off.

“New Hampshire has a special place in our democracy,” said Mr. Bush at his 27th town-hall-style meeting, alluding to its tradition of holding the first primaries, shortly after Iowa’s caucuses. “I, for one, will entrust the voters of New Hampshire to make this decision disproportionately more than any other place. I’m totally confident that you all will maintain your position as first in the nation, that you will be discerning about this.”

... Mr. Christie did not deny that he was in effect telling New Hampshire voters not to send their reputation for discriminating tastes in candidates down the drain.

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying,” he said, again invoking how much the “country is counting on them” and noting their “huge responsibility.” ...

“You’re the answer,” said Mr. Bush.... “The question is will New Hampshire want to support a guy who might tarnish this extraordinary reputation that you have...."

You know what? New Hampshire voters don't care -- or maybe they do care, but they certainly don't have to. What are we going to do -- deprive New Hampshire of the right to hold the first primary? Nobody's ever figured out a way to do that, just as nobody's ever figured out a way to deprive Iowa of the right hold the first caucus.

A lot of us would like to change this system. Why should two small, rural, lily-white states have this level level of influence on how we select presidential candidates? Why do the residents of these two states get to demand multiple face-to-face encounters with every candidate over a period of a year or so, while most of the rest of us get TV ads at most? But if anyone makes a move to threaten the two states' precious privilege, the states will raise holy hell.

New Hampshire might make a bad pick? Hey, the state picked Pat Buchanan over Bob Dole in 1996, after coming fairly close to giving Buchanan an upset victory over sitting president George H.W. Bush in 1992. Did the state's primary status suffer? Not at all, any more than Iowa suffered after unelected religious-right extremists Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum won the last two Republican caucuses.

We defer to Iowa and New Hampshire. We yield to their mighty power. If their contests were later in the calendar, lazy elite journalists would have to discard far too many readymade clichés. State fair butter cows! Flinty independents at diners!

It's all tedious, but we can't quit it. We'll always do it because we've always done it. Christie and Bush can threaten New Hampshire voters all they want, but New Hampshire voters know we'll never take their precious firstness away.

(Crossposted at No More Mister Nice Blog

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