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Iowa braces for fight to stay first in the nation

Iowa benefits from holding caucuses first, and other states know that

First, we apologize for mentioning the 2020 campaign process at this early juncture. But you can relax. This commentary isn’t going to expand the political chasm that continues to divide the nation. It’s really more about the state of Iowa than any would-be candidates.

Recently, state Republican Chairman Jeff Kaufmann aired his thoughts on Iowa and its lead-off position in the caucus and primary process. He isn’t expecting a great challenge to that lead-off spot in 2020, but he is looking ahead. His concerns stem from the fact California has scheduled its absentee voting to begin Feb. 3, 2020. That’s the same day as the Iowa caucuses.

“We’ve had states that tried to jump ahead, and I want to make very sure that this isn’t a foot in the door and in 2024 or 2028 we have problems in the Republican caucus,” Kaufmann said.

“Because of the huge penalties we have for any state that tries to jump ahead of the four carve-out states, I feel comfortable right now,” he added. “But I want to make sure they understand we’re going to push back any place where we think there is an erosion of the process starting in Iowa.”

Oh, yes. We are quite familiar with the attempted leapfrogging in prior years, in which other states seek to land ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire in the opening caucus and primary respectively.

There have been years where it’s nearly taken place, and Iowa’s leaders have fought hard against those attempts. Any future fight would not be a surprise. Iowa has been defending its leadoff status for decades.

It’s worth fighting for. There are benefits to the state, and other states obviously know that.

As the leadoff state, Iowa gets visits from a larger pool of candidates and focuses on a broader scope of issues. That will not be given up without a struggle from our governors and other leaders from both of our major parties.

Past arguments and future ones, we’re certain, say Iowa is not populated with the politically correct cross section of people to hold such a powerful position in the process. Critics claim Iowa is “too white” and “too old.”

The latter seems a strange argument. Would we be better off trading experience for inexperience? The racial charge should have been answered when Iowans tabbed a relatively unknown Barack Obama as the Democratic caucus winner in 2008.

And it’s the newcomers who get a fair shake in this process and in Iowa. Back in 2011, Iowa’s Republican U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley noted Iowa has often played such a significant role in determining who will become president.

“I’m reminded that Iowa made two previous presidents, Obama and (Jimmy) Carter,” he said. “Maybe you can give Iowa credit for a lot of other people becoming president, but those two would not have been president if they had not won Iowa, for sure.”

Iowa’s job in holding the first caucus isn’t to pick the president. It is to begin the winnowing process. It’s a responsible position, and we’ve proven to be pretty good at it.

Many across the nation are simply unfamiliar with a caucus as opposed to a primary. A caucus is a system of local gatherings. Voting is often done by raising hands or breaking into groups according to candidate preference. If there are too few people to make up a significant grouping, they move to another more populated group, which we would assume would be the group favoring their second-most-preferred candidate.

Holding the nation’s first caucus has been an excellent way for potential leaders of this country to get a glimpse and an earful of what issues are important to Iowans and Midwesterners. It benefits the state, as the largest pool of candidates — and their respective campaigns — make their way to Iowa, holding events and spending money. For weeks the nation’s attention is on our state.

Penalties cutting the number of delegates for states seeking to move ahead on the calendar have been strengthened in recent years. But future challenges and criticisms will come. You can count on it. And Iowans need to be vigilant about fighting them off.

It’s worth the fight.

-Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

Dec. 26, 2018.