Don't shorten the process

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Public officials from the more populated states have been moving up the dates for presidential primary contests, acting out of jealousy toward states like Iowa, which has the first caucus, and New Hampshire, which has the first primary.

The result could be a nominating process for the major parties that is completed by the end of February.

Despite the desire most people have to shorten the seemingly interminable process, in years like this with numerous candidates in each party seeking the nomination, the field needs to be narrowed and positions need to be clarified before the choices are made.

Critics of the role Iowa and New Hampshire have in the process point out that both states have a small number of electoral votes and a small number of delegates to party nominating conventions. That is precisely why these states are ideal for their first-in-the-nation placement.

It just doesn't make sense for voters in states like California, New York and Texas to decide on significant blocks of convention delegates before the field has been narrowed and issues have been clarified.

Wherever candidates campaign, they are communicating to the people of the nation through the national media. For that process, it doesn't matter whether a speech is made with a cornfield or a skyscraper in the background.

We take this position out of a belief that the traditional process has worked well, not because of self-interest. There is a financial benefit to having presidential candidates, their entourages and the national media crews being in the state but only a little. Most of the advertising revenue from presidential candidates goes to the broadcast media and to metropolitan newspapers, not small town newspapers like this.

It is a good ego booster for Iowans to feel they have an important role to play on the national scene for a short time, but that is not the reason we support the continued arrangement of political contests. It simply makes sense.