Advertisement
Forget Iowa. Make Florida the first in the nation primary. | Editorial
We’re bigger, more diverse and more engaged in national issues. It also isn’t snowing.
Why hold the first primary in Iowa when you can hold it in a much balmier, warmer state? Like Florida?
Why hold the first primary in Iowa when you can hold it in a much balmier, warmer state? Like Florida? [ Associated Press; Tampa Bay Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Feb. 6, 2020

With any luck, the Iowa caucus results might be nailed down before the first spring thaw. The caucuses already were terribly flawed, and this week’s fiasco should finally knock Iowa off its perch as the first state to vote in picking nominees for president. In 2024, why not make Florida the first state to vote?

Here are six reasons the Sunshine State would be so much better than the Hawkeye State to kick off the voting for presidential candidates:

1. We’re bigger.

The skyline of downtown Tampa
The skyline of downtown Tampa [ MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times ]

With 3.1 million people, Iowa is the size of the Tampa Bay region. The Democrat who wins the Iowa caucuses, if they ever count correctly and name a winner, will have fewer votes than the total number of votes cast in last year’s run-off election for Tampa mayor. A larger population, such as the 21.5 million in Florida, would better test the candidates’ message and campaign skills.

2. We’re more diverse.

Leissy Alvario, right, waves an American flag while singing along to I'm Proud to Be an American by Lee Greenwood during a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Tampa.
Leissy Alvario, right, waves an American flag while singing along to I'm Proud to Be an American by Lee Greenwood during a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Tampa.

Iowa is 90 percent white, 6 percent Hispanic and 4 percent African American. That does not come close to reflecting the nation’s diversity. Florida is 53 percent white, 26 percent Hispanic and 17 percent African American. Candidates should be tested on their ability to appeal to all voters.

3. We’re a purple state.

[ [EVE EDELHEIT | Times] ]

Floridians have evenly split between backing Democrats and Republicans for president since 1996. The diversifying population and economy make it a true battleground in razor-thin campaigns for Florida’s coveted 29 electoral votes. It’s not a blue state like California or a red state like Texas. The eventual nominees will end their general election campaigns in Florida, anyway. They might as well start here.

4. Florida’s issues are national issues.

The major issues of modern presidential campaigns play out here every day. Immigration policy affects everything from tourism, agriculture and workforce development to the growth of major metro areas. Health care is a pressing concern with Florida’s large population of seniors, the uninsured and the working poor. Few states like coastal Florida have a larger interest in smart, federal climate policies and tough standards for clean air and water. Florida’s heavy military presence also makes U.S. national security a serious - and local - concern.

5. We’ve already had our election meltdown.

A South Carolina man dressed as a clown in a judge's robe parades outside of the capitol building in Tallahassee after the 2000 recount.
A South Carolina man dressed as a clown in a judge's robe parades outside of the capitol building in Tallahassee after the 2000 recount. [ SCOTT ISKOWITZ | Tampa Bay Times ]

Floridians can sympathize with Iowans because we’ve botched vote counts, too. The 2000 election recount is nearly two decades old, but we have the scars and we have improved. The caucuses are a peculiar system run by volunteers. Florida has professional elections supervisors who are accustomed to actually counting votes and delivering accurate results in a timely manner. (We won’t mention Palm Beach County.) Our hanging chads are long gone, and state and local officials are strengthening cybersecurity.

6. The weather.

Palm trees during sunset at Pass-a-Grille Beach.
Palm trees during sunset at Pass-a-Grille Beach. [ SHADD, DIRK | Tampa Bay Times ]

Some 20 presidential candidates spoke at the Iowa State Fair in the dead of August, months before the caucuses. The Florida State Fair is going on now, and candidates could escape the cold and yack just before our first-in-the-nation primary. It was 79 degrees and sunny Thursday afternoon in Tampa. It was 34 degrees with snow in the fields outside Des Moines.

Florida’s first-in-the-nation primary. That has a nice ring to it. We love Iowa, but c’mon.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news