- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2004

Some Democrats fear that the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary don’t truly reflect the stance of the Democratic Party and question whether the contests should be the first to determine the party’s front-runner heading into the primary season.

In fact, the Democratic National Committee changed the primary schedule this year to ensure other, more diversified states get to weigh-in early.

“It used to be Iowa and New Hampshire and then a six-week break before the next contest,” DNC spokesman Tony Welch said. “It’s a much more diverse calendar this time.”

Just a few days after Tuesday’s New Hampshire vote, seven states will hold primaries Feb. 3: Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina. The Michigan caucuses are Feb. 7.

But others say allowing Iowa and New Hampshire to go first — giving them arguably the most power in choosing the nominee — is hurting the Democratic Party.

“The Democratic Party will never nominate a candidate capable of winning nationwide until it abandons the suicidal compulsion of allowing Iowa and New Hampshire to be the tail that always wags the Democratic donkey,” writes Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, in his book “A National Party No More.”

“New Hampshire is a great state, but a microcosm of America it is not. Isn’t it strange that based on the outcome in these two states a Democratic candidate likely will be chosen? No, it’s more than strange; it’s suicide.”

The Iowa caucuses — which were held Jan. 19 and produced Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts as the new Democratic front-runner — began in 1972. Iowa’s position as the first caucus is written into the Democratic Party rules, and though it’s not enshrined in Republican rules, it is part of that party’s tradition as well. New Hampshire traditionally holds the first primary.

New Hampshire is 95 percent white and Iowa is 93 percent white, compared to the national population that is 69 percent white. Blacks make up less than 1 percent of New Hampshire’s population and about 2 percent of Iowa’s, compared to 12 percent nationwide. Hispanics account for 2 percent in New Hampshire, 3 percent in Iowa and roughly 13 percent nationwide.

“It doesn’t reflect the overall diversity of the country,” said Democratic strategist and former Clinton aide Morris Reid.

Mr. Reid added, however, that it is “a system that works,” mostly because the small sizes of Iowa and New Hampshire allow people to really get to know the candidates and force the candidates to do “good old-fashioned retail politics,” instead of relying solely on mass media.

“I’m not sure you could go to other states and get the same,” he said.

And on a variety of issues, the voters of New Hampshire hold views very similar to the rest of the country’s Democrats, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey. Results released yesterday found 70 percent of the 708 potential New Hampshire Democratic voters surveyed between Jan. 8-22 felt the situation in Iraq was not worth going to war over, while nationally 68 percent of 751 such potential Democratic voters said the same.

Eighty-one percent of the New Hampshire Democrats and 80 percent of nationwide Democrats favored more federal money for schools. And 59 percent of New Hampshire Democrats oppose a constitutional amendment defining marriage, while 62 percent of Democrats nationwide do.

“While Iowa and New Hampshire do not reflect the racial diversity of our country, they reflect the values,” agreed Democratic strategist Donna Brazille, who said the two states “do their job very well.”

Ms. Brazille is pleased, however, that more states get to weigh-in early this year, and she said this may very well inspire states like Michigan and South Carolina to try to become the first contests in future election years. She noted that Republicans too will address these issues at their convention this year.

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