We, as voters and election-obsessed bystanders, made it past the first two contests in this eons-long presidential primary, but seven candidates weren’t so lucky.
The winnowed-down field has now moved on to the warmer vote-seeking climes of Nevada and South Carolina. Before moving on too, I’d like to consider what this election has now proven: Iowa and New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation status is not only obsolete, it’s bad for our democratic process…
— NYT Opinion (@nytopinion) February 16, 2016
But the idea of holding one national primary is difficult, as it could even the playing field in some ways, while still disproportionately benefiting candidates who can campaign across 50 states without their money running out—or who are skilled enough media personalities that they don’t need to rely on showing up in person. It would also mean there is no gradual winnowing of the field, which is arguably the best purpose the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries serve.
A staggered primary system, by contrast, helps candidates build that all-important yet intangible “momentum,” giving donors and voters more time to assess which candidate best fits their values.
Another asset of the staggered primary system is it gives us a chance to see how candidates interact with real live voters on the campaign trail before we cast our votes. John C. Fortier, the director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Democracy Project, says that while our current system may not be ideal, Iowa and New Hampshire do serve the political process by requiring candidates to meet with voters one-on-one and address their concerns.