Editorial: Early caucus a bigger problem than solution

Editorial Board

The Florida Republican Party’s move last week to move its primary to Jan. 31, ahead of Iowa’s set caucus date of Feb. 6, has spurred the Iowa GOP to move its caucuses to only a few days past the new year. This commotion about caucus dates is misplaced.

After 40 years of being first in the nation there is no reason to insist on having them first yet again, except vanity. Sure, it’s a nice tradition for an otherwise next-to-unimportant state, especially if we happen to select the candidate who goes on to win his or her party’s nomination or even the White House, but our insistence on being first state to hold caucuses is just a self-deluded attempt bestow importance upon ourselves.

What happens if we choose wrong? Our stock as accurate judges declines. The farther away our caucuses are from the real tests of the election, the less chance there is that our judgment will be accurate. Locking ourselves into a choice nearly eight months before the nominating conventions and 11 months before the general election is a horrible idea.

What happens if our candidate is exposed for a sex scandal, swindling money from his church or tax evasion? What if the candidate we choose to support shows incompetence on at later campaign events? We’ll be stuck with our choice – and labeled across the country – as that state who supported him and his fraud of a reputation.

Deferring our choice to some later date avoids these problems. Who cares whether Florida or another state votes ahead of us? Choosing at a later date may actually be a greater show of independent judgment. While momentum commonly builds behind whichever candidates win or do well in early contestsm, waiting both gives us more time to vet candidates and interact with them and it gives us time to weigh the opinions in other states and re-evaluate our own position.

Aside from these theoretical considerations, there’s the date itself: Jan. 3, 2012. What an awful time of year. If the Republican Party of Iowa wants to perpetuate itself, to be a force in coming election years and decades, it needs young people to carry some of its standards. The youth vote in 2008 was critical to President Barack Obama’s success in that election.

Having the caucuses over Christmas Break, in the middle of it, two days after New Year’s Eve, is just ignoring students and the role they ought to play in present and future politics. We members of the Editorial Board probably still will be hung over from Dec. 31 when the caucuses happen.