Skip to main content

Commentary: A few states shouldn't decide presidency

  • Story Highlights
  • If candidates fail in Iowa, New Hampshire, media attention turns away from them
  • Roland S. Martin: Handful of states shouldn't pick president for rest of U.S.
  • Martin agrees with states such as Florida that have moved up their primaries
  • As alternative, he suggests five states vote for candidates each week of January
  • Next Article in Politics »
By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

(CNN) -- The nation's two political parties have done a pretty good job over the years of keeping voters in line by deciding the order in which states will vote on their presidential candidates.


Roland S. Martin: Why does New Hampshire believe it has the right to usurp other states in the primary process?

But that respect for tradition -- Iowa and New Hampshire have always been first in line -- has gone out the window, and the Republican and Democratic national committees have struggled to keep order.

Folks, this cat is out of the bag, and it's never going to be the same again. And frankly, it shouldn't.

I've listened to many of the pundits this election season remark that if Sen. John McCain doesn't win New Hampshire, his candidacy is toast. Former Sen. John Edwards has put a lot of the emphasis on Iowa, and the prognosticators say that if he doesn't bag the state, he might as well hang 'em up. Michelle Obama has said on the campaign trail in Iowa that if her husband doesn't win that state, the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama is also toast.

But former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is attempting to defy conventional wisdom by ignoring the early states and focusing on delegate-rich states such as New York and California.

As a result, we've seen many states jockey for position by moving up their primaries. Michigan, Florida and others have seen their state officials change the law to force their primaries to the top of the election calendar so that they might have a greater say in who is president.

These moves have led both parties to threaten to strip the rogue states of delegates to the national conventions.

While these changes have created a huge mess for the campaigns -- they are not sure exactly when the voting will take place -- I must admit that I'm on the side of the states. It is grossly unfair for the first four states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- to pretty much decide the presidency. But in all honesty, it boils down to the first two.

If a candidate doesn't do well in Iowa and New Hampshire, the media attention turns away from them, and then the political dollars dry up, and the packing begins.

Yet this is no way to choose a president. Fine, I know all about that tradition crap, but honestly, no one should have such a stranglehold on the process. Of course, the hard part is coming up with a plan to which everyone will agree.

Instead of having one primary or caucus one week and another the next, why can't five states vote each week during January? That means by the end of the month, we will have nearly half of the states make their choice for president, and we can have a much better idea what the will of the American people is. That will no doubt cause the campaigns to raise more money to run a national campaign, but hey, you've got to have a trade-off.

The folks in New Hampshire won't be happy because their constitution calls for them to be the first state in the nation to hold a presidential primary. I'm still trying to figure out how in the world one state believes it can usurp every other state and the political parties go along with this nonsense.

Iowa and New Hampshire residents want to keep saying it's about tradition. I think it's about money. The TV stations, newspapers, hotels, restaurants, sign companies and other businesses make a ton of dough off these candidates, and they don't want that cash cow to feed others.

Unless the political parties come up with a solution that incorporates more states, and get away from this exclusivity, the other states will get even more aggressive, and we will potentially have every state trying to hold its primary the first week of January.

Americans want fairness, and there is nothing fair about less than 10 percent of the states in America choosing the next president for the rest of us.

Roland S. Martin is a nationally award-winning journalist and CNN contributor. Martin is studying to receive his master's degree in Christian communications at Louisiana Baptist University, and he is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith." You can read more of his columns at

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About U.S. Presidential ElectionNew HampshireIowa

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print