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US Presidential Election 2024 – How Important Are Primary Elections in Iowa?

The primaries begin in the state of Iowa.

The primaries begin in the state of Iowa. (IMAGO / ABACAPRESS / IMAGO / Nickinson Julia / ABACA)

Iowa is in the news far less than New York, California or Florida: the state is almost as big as the three largest German states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony. However, only 3.2 million people live there, less than one percent of the total US population. 90 percent of them are white. Agriculture is particularly important economically. As such, Iowa is a small, underrepresented state in the U.S.—and yet it's traditionally the first place for primaries, the outcome of which determines which candidates the Republicans and Democrats will send. Race for the US presidency.

How do Iowa caucuses work?

In the US you can roughly distinguish between two practices: most states call primacy. All eligible voters (“open primary”) or party members (“closed primary”) are invited to vote in the traditional manner at a polling station. Iowa is one of the few states that has only one caucus. Party members are invited to an open debate on who to field.

Meetings will be held Monday evening in about 1,700 precincts across Iowa. Schools, churches, libraries, gyms and sometimes even private living rooms are available. It can be uncomfortable in places like cold sports arenas or snow-covered streets.

What are the primaries for Republicans and Democrats?

For Republicans, each of these meetings ends with a secret vote on whether to nominate Donald Trump or one of five other candidates. However, Iowa gives only 40 of the 2,470 delegates to their nominating convention — overall, the state has more symbolic weight for them. Trump and his rivals Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramasamy and Asa Hutchinson spoke at events in Iowa.

It's a given that Democrats will nominate President Joe Biden again. Maybe that's why they changed the practice this year: debates should focus on other political topics as well. And instead of a secret election, there will be an electronic voting process lasting several weeks, the results of which will not be announced until early March.

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Why is there still so much attention on Iowa?

Democrats, fearing no serious challengers to Biden, are trying to weaken the Iowa caucuses' key position with their new process. It's different for Republicans: A win in Iowa could affect the dynamics of the next primaries. Former President Trump, who is leading in the polls, could somewhat cement his favored role. Former U.N. For Ambassador Haley or Governor DeSantis of Florida, a good performance could mean new inspiration.

What happens next in the primaries?

A circus of candidates and media travel from Iowa to the tiny state of New Hampshire in the northeast, where the first real primary will be held a week later. There are individual dates throughout February before the race heats up on March 5: primaries are traditionally held on “Super Tuesday” in many states. 17 states and territories also have heavyweights like California and Texas.

Republicans will choose their nominee in Milwaukee in mid-July, and Democratic delegates will meet in Chicago a month later. In September and October, the opponents will meet in a total of three live debates before the next US president is elected on November 5, 2024.

Deutschlandfunk's current reports on the US elections can be found here.

This message was sent on January 14, 2024 in the Deutschlandfunk program.