Every four years the attention of the media and the entire political world is focused on Iowa and the results of the caucuses there are a huge factor in determining the presidential nominee from at least one of the two major parties (this year, only the Republicans because there is a Democratic incumbent without a serious challenger). The obvious question: Why?
Less than 100,000 voters in that state will attend the Republican caucuses next week and have a huge impact on the campaign. If Romney somehow squeaks out a win, or even a strong second place, he will be virtually unstoppable. If Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul wins, they will instantly become a more serious candidate and the race will likely become a battle between whichever one wins and Mitt Romney, who will almost certainly win in New Hampshire.
Why should that many voters, especially from such a small and unrepresentative state, have so much influence over the process? And why do both political parties appear to be so averse to doing anything to lessen that influence? When other states threatened to move their primaries up to compete with Iowa in 2008, the Democratic party got so irate about it that they decertified the delegates from Michigan and Florida (later allowing them back after a deal was brokered).
The same question can be asked about New Hampshire, of course. It doesn’t really make much sense to me. Why would the parties want it this way? What is the benefit to them? Wouldn’t it be better for party unity to have something like Super Tuesday as the first wave of primaries?