Why Almost Nobody Will Defend the Iowa Caucuses

Others made more a parochial argument: It is good to be first.

“If Iowa changed to a primary, we’d be dead,” said Claire Celsi, a Democratic state senator from West Des Moines. “There would be nothing special about it, so I’m against that. I think we should stay a caucus state, as long as we can figure out the inclusion piece — because without that, the caucuses are no good.”

Donna Brazile, the former D.N.C. chairwoman, has been traveling to Iowa since she worked for Jesse Jackson’s first presidential campaign in 1984. She said Iowa could be trusted with first-in-the-nation status because the state’s well-informed electorate takes the responsibility of choosing a presidential nominee more seriously than voters elsewhere.

“While it doesn’t look like America, when they take into consideration the qualities and values we’re looking for in a candidate, I believe that they represent what is truly best about our country,” Ms. Brazile said. “They’re smart and they take this seriously.”

Still, grievances from other states are growing louder.

In Texas, the nation’s second-largest state and one where a majority of Democratic primary voters are likely to be black or Hispanic, Gilberto Hinojosa, the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, said he was having trouble getting presidential candidates to commit to attending a planned January forum before the March 3 primary. They all have told him they’ll be too busy in Iowa.

“It is not right that we have a caucus in Iowa that makes it difficult for people to vote, and right after that a primary in New Hampshire, in a little tiny state that does not represent the diversity of America,” Mr. Hinojosa said. “It is bizarre. It makes absolutely no sense except for tradition, and sometimes tradition doesn’t get us anywhere.”

Mr. Hinojosa said he planned to push to change the nominating calendar before the party’s next contested primary.

Elaine Kamarck, a member of the D.N.C.’s rules committee who wrote a book about the presidential nominating process, said concerns about caucus accessibility and a lack of diversity in Iowa have long been outweighed by a belief that “there’s a quality to the participation in a caucus state that you don’t get in a primary.”

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