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Since 1972, Iowans have been the first to cast votes in the presidential nominating process. But California will hold its presidential primary on March 3rd next year. And while that’s still a full month after Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses on February 3rd, the state’s outsized influence over which candidates ultimately win their parties’ nominations, could be significantly altered.
With early voting in California scheduled to begin on the same day as Iowa’s caucuses, candidates might just skip Iowa and focus their early campaign efforts on California, which offers a far bigger reward.
“Candidates will not be able to ignore the largest, most diverse state in the nation,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D).
But some are more optimistic about next year’s caucuses. Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price suggested California’s move would draw more media attention to all the early nominating contests, which would include both Iowa’s caucuses and New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primaries.
“I think that when you front-load the calendar with a bunch of delegate-rich states, I do think that it actually makes these early contests even that much more important,” he said.
Price also said competing in Iowa would help candidates run in other Midwest and Rust Belt states that were key to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016.
“It’s one of the reasons why I think that Iowa having the role that it does is going to help make our candidates stronger going into the general election,” he said.
Price and Josh Putnam, a lecturer at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington who specializes in campaigns and elections, also said Iowa’s caucuses could be crucial for candidates who lack the resources to compete effectively in California.
“To the extent we’re going to see folks begin to focus on California, it’s going to be folks that have the resources to do that,” said Putnam.
And Putnam also noted that while it’s still early, “candidates are doing things now” that “tend to indicate they’re doing the kind of traditional things of going to Iowa and New Hampshire.”
For instance, the first trip U.S Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) made after becoming the first top-tier candidate to announce a potential presidential bid last year was to Iowa. And days after U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) announced her intention to run for president next year, she was standing in a coffee shop in Sioux City, saying, “We are planning on spending a lot of time in Iowa....” (DES MOINES REGISTER, REUTERS)