Durst: Why Iowa and New Hampshire?
And now the question that's been dancing on the lips of politically concerned citizens for decades — Who's the genius who chose Iowa and New Hampshire to be the first and most influential states in determining who becomes the next president? It was probably the same guy who figured out how to bundle subprime mortgages. Or related to the brewer who invented Cold Turkey Breakfast Beer. The idiot behind pay toilets on airplanes.
The premier production, the Iowa Caucuses, is a wild and wacky adventure that takes up an entire evening. First you find where your designated precinct gathering is being held in a school, church, library or neighbor's house, one of more than 1680 in the state's 99 counties on a dark February night. Which means motivating supporters to attend is an integral part of the campaign, making the promise of snacks incredibly influential.
Because the Hawkeye State is fiercely independent, the Republicans and Democrats have different rules. This is the first year the GOP announced a delegate count, which will be binding. Before, it was more of a "Santorum did well. Gingrich didn't," sort of thing.
All hell broke out last year, when Mitt Romney was declared the winner, but two weeks later it was revealed Rick Santorum had won, even though Ron Paul got the most delegates.
The Democrats huddle together with people who share a candidate preference. But supporters whose candidates don't cross a viability threshold (15 percent or so) can either try to convince other people to join their group, or disband and hook up with a different favorite.
It's the Tinder of electoral politics and places an emphasis on the art of hygienic schmoozing. A pleasantly odiferous group of followers holds a distinct advantage. People still talk about the delicious cookie smell that emanated from John Edwards' supporters back in 2004.
Then the action moves north and east to New Hampshire. In the Granite State they are fiercely independent and proud of traditionally being the first primary since 1920. They actually have a state law that mandates they remain first in the nation, even if they have to move it to the previous year and compete with July 4th fireworks to do it.
While the Iowa Caucuses are a game of musical chairs without the music and no chairs, the New Hampshire Primary is more straightforward. You just up and vote. The problem is who is doing the voting. Iowa is 87 percent white but New Hampshire is 91 percent. The two are as representative of the country as sushi is of Southwestern Cuisine.
Both have tiny populations and are so damn white the blue veins running down their outer thighs could be interstate roads on the map of prejudice. These guys make the Pillsbury Doughboy look like a Central American coal miner after a double-shift. We're talking about people who need SPF 50 to protect them from moonburn. If they were any more Caucasian, they'd be translucent.
Besides, in February, climate change notwithstanding, both the Hawkeyes and the Granitoids tend to experience a little thing we call winter. Needless to say, if it were up to the journalists, the first two primaries would be held in Hawaii and Guam.
Will Durst is a national columnist, comedian and margarine smuggler.