FOR THE WEEK OF DEC. 31, 2007
Iowa, New Hampshire are presidential campaign year launch pads
Newspapers help citizens make informed election decisions. Assign class members to look at campaign coverage this week and share at least one policy or issue comment from any presidential candidate.
Information about the 2008 race is available in many forms, not just in articles from Iowa and New Hampshire. Challenge students to find other resources in the print edition or on the paper web’s site with comments and details about the candidates.
Start a discussion among future voters about the newspaper’s role and reliability in the democratic process of electing leaders. What is valuable about political news coverage? How could papers do a better job?
The most important players in Campaign ’08 – voters – this week start thinning the crowd of candidates running for president. Iowa residents gather Thursday, Jan. 3, in schools, libraries, community halls and firehouses around the state for separate Republican and Democratic events called precinct caucuses. They’ll select delegates for each party’s national convention next summer to nominate two candidatess for the Nov. 4 presidential election. Five days later on Jan. 8, New Hampshire voters get their turn in party elections called primaries. They’ll also pick convention delegates pledged to support a certain presidential hopeful.
Though both states are small and don’t reflect America’s diverse population, they play a huge role every four years in presidential campaigns. Candidates gain or lose position nationally as intense media attention magnifies the importance of Iowa and New Hampshire results. That can affect fund-raising, news coverage and the perception of voters elsewhere. Candidates who don’t do well in these early rounds often quit the race within weeks.
Not surprisingly, the two states are fiercely protective of their influential early roles. Iowa caucuses have been the first major event of the nominating process since 1972 and New Hampshire has been a major testing ground since way back in 1952. National party leaders have blocked efforts by larger states to leapfrog ahead, and New Hampshire legislators in 1977 passed a law saying their primary must be the first in the nation. As a result, the state keeps moving its primary ahead in the calendar. Next week’s will be the earliest ever.
Accurate signposts?: Iowa and New Hampshire victories don’t assure nomination. In 1988, for example, eventual nominees George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis both finished third in Iowa. In elections without a sitting president or vice president, the Iowa winner has gone on to the nomination only about half the time.
Critic says: "The front-loaded process means a candidate could emerge the winner who is not truly tested, vetted or up to the rigors of a national campaign." – Chris Lehane, former aide to Bill Clinton and Al Gore
What’s ahead: Michigan elects delegates in Jan. 15 primaries, followed by South Carolina on Jan. 19 (Republicans) and Jan. 26 (Democrats). Then comes Florida on Jan. 29 and a huge day of voting around the country on Feb. 5 – called Super-Duper Tuesday because 23 states will hold caucus or primary elections for one or both parties.
Front Page Talking Points Archive