David Leonhardt has a column today arguing that the undue weight of New Hampshire and Iowa in the presidential nomination process leads to an undue neglect of America’s large metropolitan areas where most people live and that produce a disproportionately large share of our GDP. Note that the issue here isn’t “cities” as such. The action in the United States is largely in the suburbs of big cities, but Iowa and New Hampshire really stand out as not having any of those either. I have some doubt as to the scale of the real impact here, which I imagine is dwarfed by the mind-blowing anti-metropolitan bias of the United States Senate. That said, presidential campaigns do tend to do a lot to shape the national agenda, so it probably matters through that channel.
Jamelle Bouie is concerned that scrapping the small-state early primaries would make it harder for lesser-known candidates to make a name for themselves. But I think there’s a relatively easy solution to this. A lot of America’s big metropolitan areas are located in the very large states of California, Texas, New York, and Florida. One exception to this is Boston. Massachusetts is substantially bigger than New Hampshire, but it’s only a bit larger than Iowa or South Carolina. What’s more, campaigning effectively in New Hampshire already required buying TV ads in the Boston media market in order to reach people in Nashua.
If Massachusetts replaced New Hampshire as New England’s entrant into the primary campaign sweepstakes, then we’d probably see candidates saying something about traffic jams, mass transit, regional planning, etc. instead of all farms all the time.