Do Caucuses Help Find the Best Candidate?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Supporters wait for the arrival of former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for a rally at the Hotel Blackhawk December 27, 2011 in Davenport, Iowa. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/Getty)

Iowa is not representative of the rest of the U.S. demographically, yet the state's caucuses every four years have overwhelming influence on the presidential nomination process. It is this idea that has some critics saying the caucus system itself is inherently flawed. The number of states holding caucuses — in addition to the amount of money spent and extremist positions espoused — have grown exponentially over the past few years, and are a far cry from their grassroots, populist origins.

Robert J. Guttman is the director of the Center on Politics and Foreign Relations at Johns Hopkins University. A critic of the caucus system, he recently penned an op-ed for The Huffington Post called "Forget Iowa." David Redlawsk is professor of political science at Rutgers University and author of "Why Iowa?: How Caucuses and Sequential Elections Improve the Presidential Nominating Process." 


Robert Guttman and Professor David Redlawsk

Comments [2]


I really wonder if The Takeaway's producers think that we are paying attention at all.

The Takeaway tells us in no uncertain terms that "Iowa is not representative." And we are linked to a paper from the American Political Sceince Association.

So I read the paper. Which ends with this Conclusion:

"Is Iowa representative? Yes, at least reasonably so. And when
it is not, that is often because it boasts a superior performance
socially (e.g., educational attainment) or politically (e.g., voting
turnout). Further, with respect to other social goods, it
might be mentioned that the politics of Iowa is well known to
be corruption free. If indicators on corruption had been
included in our analysis, they would be expected to boost its
ranking higher. With respect to the leading dimension of economic
conditions, which we did measure, Iowa is unambiguously
the most representative state in the country. In addition,
its geographic and historic centrality, commented on initially,
should not be forgotten. All things considered, there seems no
cause to take away Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential selection
status. If one state must hold this position then it is hard
to make a better pick. Although of course not impossible, if
one accepts the first-place ranking of Kansas."

Looking more closely at the data, it became clear that Iowa is NOT "diverse" in terms of its racial demographics, nor in its income and educational makeup. Iowa, to oversimplify, is older, whiter and better educated than most other states. It is, however, highly representative on economic factors. So the real problem that The Takeaway's producers seem to have with Iowa is that it is too white. However, even the study's authors didn't go that far. It is only in response to The Takeaway's provocative citation, that such trashtalking is warranted.

Naturally, undermining Iowa as being "too white" is ony timed by The Takeaway to coincide with a contested Republican caucus in Iowa. I don't remember too many liberals complaining about Iowa being too white, when Barack Obama was pulling off a huge upset win in Iowa in 2008.

But really; how the heck does The Takeway explain its citation of the APSA report concluding that Iowa is "at least reasonably...representative" with the bland assertion that Iowa is not representative? Apart, that is, from the elevation of race above all other factors?

Dec. 30 2011 11:08 AM

Such a blatant hit-piece on Ron Paul. Celeste tipped an easy one to the panel of experts and they all knocked it out of the T- ball field. Dr. Paul denies writing the newsletters and his foreign policy calls for friendship & trade with all nations, instead of occupation and destroying them. That's not isolationist. He cited CIA info regarding blowback as well as the words of BinLaden in explaining the underlying reason for 9/11. The main reason hisfollowing is so strong is that he is anti-war, anti-debt.
Not that thetakeaway is a valued source for info, but this piece was embarrassing and insulting to my intelligence.

Dec. 30 2011 07:15 AM

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