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Editorial: Why Iowa?

Earlier this week, Republican voters gathered in schools, fire houses and community centers throughout Iowa to officially begin the 2012 political season. Next week, it will be New Hampshire’s turn. Then come the rest.

Turning away from the immediate analysis of winners and losers, there’s a more fundamental question about America’s system of presidential primaries and caucuses. Why Iowa? Why New Hampshire?

The short (and wholly unsatisfying answer) is tradition. Iowa and New Hampshire have been ordained, by both parties, to start the process because … they’ve always started the process. This is the textbook definition of circular reasoning. While some forms of circular reasoning may have some validity (such as the popular refrain, "Because I’m your mother, that’s why"), in this case it is completely unjustified and runs counter to the democratic spirit of the election process.

The expected voter turnout from these two states...

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