New Hampshire is (almost) No. 1!!!

Washington (CNN)When it comes to presidential politics, four states matter more than all the others: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. (Sorry, all 46 other states!)

That quartet of states kicks off the presidential nomination fight every four years, giving them inordinate influence over the identities of the men and women both parties put forward to be president. Every four years, the other 46 states complain about the prime position these four get, insisting that they are not terribly representative of the country as a whole and don't deserve the power they have.
Which is, well, a worthwhile debate. And one that is hard to arrive at any sort of definitive conclusions on.
But, thanks to US News & World Report, we can -- at the very least -- rank the four states against the other 46, and see who comes out on top! The magazine's latest rankings came out this week, based on "thousands of data points to measure how well states are performing for their citizens." (Full explanation here.)
    And the clear winner is New Hampshire! The Granite State is ranked as the second best state in the country, behind only Washington State. It's the second time in the last three years of US News rankings that New Hampshire has been ranked second; the state was fifth in 2018. It's ranked No. 1 in "Opportunity;" "Today, the old mills and warehouses lining the Merrimack in Manchester have gone high-tech," the writeup on the state reads. "Smart manufacturing' and high-tech industries account for the largest sector of the state's economy today, much of this concentrated along the seacoast and Merrimack and Upper Valleys."
    Iowa, which will start the nomination process on February 3, 2020, experienced a major dip between the 2018 and 2019 rankings. The Hawkeye State went from first in 2018 to 14th in 2019. It got dinged for its "Natural Environment" (41st in air and water quality, 25th in pollution) and its economy (32nd). On "Opportunity," though, Iowa only trailed New Hampshire!
    The other two early-voting states fared, um, less well. Nevada was ranked 37th overall and South Carolina 42nd. Nevada is 45th in education and 46th in "Natural Environment," while South Carolina is 43rd in education and 46th in "Crime & Corrections." Ouch!
      If we allowed the four "best" states -- as judged by US News -- to lead off the presidential primary process, we'd kick things off in Washington State, then go to New Hampshire, Minnesota and Utah. Which would be, uh, something.
      The Point: These rankings, like all rankings, are somewhat subjective. But damn are they fun to argue about!