Dec 5, 2022 - Politics

What losing the Democratic caucus means for Iowa

Illustration of the state of Iowa hanging onto the U.S. map by one small corner.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Iowa's Democratic caucuses will no longer be first in the nation — a delayed announcement we all saw coming this year.

Why it matters: Being first gave our state outsized power in narrowing the party's contenders for president.

  • But beyond that, there are a lot more nuanced benefits, such as political favors and party building, said Derek Muller, a professor at the University of Iowa.

Driving the news: On Friday, the Democratic National Committee announced South Carolina will go first per President Joe Biden's request, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada a week later.

  • Georgia is fourth and Michigan would be fifth.

What we lose:

  • Presidential candidates shape their policy priorities to cater to early states like Iowa. Now, it loses that clout. "I think ethanol has been a very important policy at the federal level for Republicans and Democrats, not by accident," Muller said.
  • Support from the DNC to the Iowa Democratic Party will lessen and make party building and organizing more difficult, especially without a boost every four years.
  • Yes, but: Since Republicans will still caucus first in Iowa, they'll continue to get support that local Democrats will lack.

Between the lines: "Retail politics" was a major requirement of caucus candidates in the state, prompting them and their staff to drive and fly to all corners of Iowa.

  • The financial impact will be felt, from regional airports to political consulting firms, Muller said.

What's next: The Iowa Democratic Party has already threatened to hold the caucuses without regarding the DNC's new calendar.

  • If that happens, the DNC could punish Iowa by taking away half its delegates.
  • Iowa doesn't have that many delegates, so the wide attention the state could get by continuing to court candidates may be more worthwhile.

The bottom line: After all is said and done: "Whether or not it leads to a better or worse candidate is probably going to be a matter of perspective," Muller said.

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