As the 2008 presidential nominating process got underway, Iowa's coveted status as first-in-the-nation appeared increasingly in jeopardy, as states engaged in aggressive frontloading throughout 2006 and 2007. In the past, late March primaries in large states like Florida, New York, and California were irrelevant to the electoral outcome. To avoid a repeat in 2008, Florida moved its primary to January 29 and California moved to what is now being called “super duper Tuesday” on February 5 when nearly two dozen states will hold primaries. Under pressure from extra-early voting in Florida and other front-loading states, as we write this the Iowa caucuses are to be held on January 3, two days after New Year's. It seems possible that as a result of the nominating season becoming more condensed, there may be an increase in the importance of Iowa and New Hampshire, the opposite of what the states moving earlier wanted. If the first nominating events are now the starter's gun in a 50-meter dash rather than a mile run, who gets off the starting blocks first may well matter even more. As Hull (2007, 66) argues, Iowa's impact on New Hampshire and the national nomination process is a “wild, wired one.” In this rapid sea of a changing nomination process we take a close look at the Iowa electorate, both statewide registered voters and a subset of likely caucus attendees, to shed light on the underpinnings of support for the presidential candidates in the early stages of the 2008 campaign, using unique rolling cross-sectional data to track opinion change over time.
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