Iowa risks millions of dollars as it faces losing first-vote status

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Iowa risks millions of dollars as it faces losing first-vote status

With Democrats moving from Iowa to South Carolina for the first vote in their primary cycle, the Midwestern state will be the poorer for it.

People at the Iowa state fair
The decision by Democrats to opt for South Carolina over Iowa for their first vote in the presidential campaign cycle follows mounting pressure from activists to select a state more demographically representative of the nation [File: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

By Andrew Buncombe

Published On 6 Oct 20236 Oct 2023

Des Moines, Iowa, United States – When Michael LaValle talks about the Iowa caucuses, he remembers the glory days.

He recalls when the likes of Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw, major TV news anchors, would descend on the state, ready for wall-to-wall coverage of the caucuses, the first big event in the United States presidential primary calendar. His children got to meet legendary news host Dan Rather.


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The 70-year-old event space manager has seen lots of change in the seven election cycles he has lived here – and from his perspective, it has not all been for the better.

More recently, there have been fewer visitors. And because of the nature of digital news, journalists and the campaigns sweep through in a couple of days rather than occupying hotel rooms for months on end.

But now that change is going to get a lot worse. This year, Democrats voted to shift their primary calendar, naming South Carolina — and not Iowa — as their first official party contest in all future presidential races.

LaValle is one of Iowa’s business owners decrying the decision because it will cost him. In previous presidential election years, Des Moines, the state capital, had seen its coffers boosted by as much as $11m in just the one week leading up to the caucuses.

The loss will not be felt much in the 2024 cycle. Republicans are still holding their first vote in Iowa in January, and Democrats are not holding a full-on primary contest, given that President Joe Biden faces few serious challengers from within his own party as he seeks re-election.

But LaValle doubts the state will see the hustle and bustle of election years such as 2016 and 2008 when neither party had an incumbent running and both spent heavily in the state.


After all, winning in Iowa at the time could set the tone for the rest of the primary season, signalling whether a candidate had popular appeal — or not.

LaValle has had a good per

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