The Jolt: Why Georgia, not Iowa, should go first in presidential contests

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., center, hugs Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., after Sanders walked up to the podium to speak during a campaign event Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, in Marshalltown, Iowa. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., center, hugs Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., after Sanders walked up to the podium to speak during a campaign event Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, in Marshalltown, Iowa. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez

Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez

The temperature in Georgia will peak today at a balmy 71 degrees. In Iowa, the high will be 36 degrees as caucus-goers gather – the warmest it will get all week.

Iowa is cold, relatively small in population, and 90% white. Why should its residents be the first to have a say in presidential elections, year after year after year?

Over at the Washington Post, Christina Greer, an associate professor of political science at Fordham University, writes that she has another state in mind:

Several of my students have asked me over the years just which state should have the honor of being the first state in the nation to set the pace for the presidential nomination process. I propose Georgia. Why? Georgia is a southern state with an economically diverse population, including rapidly growing Latinx and Asian American and Pacific Islander voting blocs. These diverse groups in Georgia reflect what the nation is becoming.

White Georgians' share of the electorate had been steadily declining while the African American share had been significantly growing. Given that black women have proved to be the backbone of the Democratic Party, the increase in registered black voters should not be ignored…

With a population [estimated at 10.7 million] that continues to grow, expand and look more like the nation as a whole, it is imperative to treat Georgia not just as a future opportunity for Democrats but as a necessity for electoral success. As Georgia goes, so goes the rest of the nation.

This kind of talk is a constant source of concern from Iowa Democrats, who fret every four years that a more diverse state will swipe its first-in-the-nation status and all the attendant clout that goes with it.

The Fordham academic isn't the only one making the point. This morning, Michael Tomasky of the New York Times makes the case for Michigan and Florida as the first-in-line states.

The candidates themselves probably wouldn’t mind a change. Former Vice President Joe Biden said weeks ago that the caucuses were not “representative” – a nod to the elaborate system of caucuses that can exclude elderly voters, young families and those working the night shift.

So, too, did Julian Castro before he dropped out of the White House race. He said Iowa was “not reflective” of either the country or the Democratic Party and said the state should lose its spot at the head of the line.


One of your Insiders is in Iowa, and has this advice for tonight's armchair analysts.


Likewise, our WSB Radio colleague Jamie Dupree has this warning:

If you think that you can tune in tonight and hear some simple numbers about who wins in Iowa - think again. That's because there are some new rules where Democrats will report three different sets of results - along with final delegate numbers. The three results are from different stages of the caucus, meaning it's possible multiple candidates could claim victory tonight. 


Georgia's Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay recently deployed a new type of nuclear warhead aboard one of its submarines, according to a respected independent monitor, renewing debate about the U.S. strategy for preventing nuclear war with would-be adversaries. From our AJC colleague Tamar Hallerman:

The Federation of American Scientists, a Washington think tank that aims to reduce the spread of nuclear weapons, reported Wednesday that one of the base's Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, the USS Tennessee, went on patrol in late 2019 with "one or two" of the new weapons, known as W76-2.


In the glow of the Kansas City Chiefs' victory in last night's Super Bowl, President Donald Trump placed the team in the wrong state. The Tweet was quickly deleted and corrected.

But there was another Twitter miscue. U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s campaign tweeted – then quickly deleted – an attempt to conflate the Chiefs’ exhilarating win with the Democratic-led impeachment trial nearing a close in Washington. Read the removed tweet:

"The only thing weaker than the 49ers' 4th quarter defense is Nancy Pelosi's impeachment case against @realDonaldTrump. Congrats @Chiefs!"

In related news, the incumbent’s Republican campaign released a list of co-chairs who will help steer her campaign stocked with allies of President Donald Trump and Gov. Brian Kemp.

One co-chair will be John Watson, the former top aide to Gov. Sonny Perdue and former Georgia GOP chairman, who is now well-connected lobbyist at the state Capitol. The other co-chair is Jaclyn Dixon Ford, the vice president of a gin company.

A long list of “honorary” co-chairs includes legendary University of Georgia coach Vince Dooley, running-back Herschel Walker, former GOP chair Sue Everhart and former state Senate majority leader Eric Johnson. All are allies of Kemp, who appointed Loeffler to the seat.

Other notable names include Harold and Jamie Reynolds, financiers with close ties to the governor, and Rey Martinez, one of Trump’s Latino surrogates.


An interesting line of attack has surfaced against U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, in his challenge to U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga. Critics are using his support for criminal justice reform to paint him as soft on crime and not Republican enough to lead the party.

You may remember that Collins worked with U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., on an early draft of the reform law signed by President Donald Trump in 2018. The First Step Act has been held up as an example of bipartisan compromise and Republicans' willingness to embrace changes that reduce the number of people in prison.

Now, that draft is being described on one conservative news site as a black mark on Collins' records. A report on said the bill was "radical" and wrote that it "would have allowed violent criminals to roam free."

“Rep. Collins' support of this HR3356 is alarming, and speaks to his dangerous legislative priorities,” the Townhall reporter wrote.

Of course, there was pushback to the pushback.

Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs for FreedomWorks, called the attack on Collins "pitiful" and said it misrepresented the initial drafts of the bill. FreedomWorks is a conservative advocacy group that backs prison reform.

An essay on another conservative website, Hot Air, described the initial Townhall report as "bizarre" and pointed out that criminal justice reform has been embraced widely by Republicans, including the president.

Here's the most ironic aspect of the attack on Collins: Trump aired two re-election videos during last night's Super Bowl. One touted presidential backing of criminal justice reform.


Democrat Teresa Tomlinson's campaign released a new digital video this morning that knocks Republican Sen. David Perdue for backing President Donald Trump "95% of the time." Says Tomlinson:

"I love and respect my husband, and yet I don't agree with him 95% of the time. But David Perdue is in desperate need of Donald Trump's approval and he does that to the detriment of the people of Georgia."

One of her Democratic rivals, Sarah Riggs Amico, is attempting to needle Perdue, who has shown little interest in town hall or other gatherings, by challenging him to one debate every two weeks.


The U.S. Senate voted Friday night against interviewing new witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. And the vote happened largely along party lines, with both of Georgia's senators siding with fellow Republicans.

The trial is now set up to end on Wednesday with a Senate vote on acquittal, and it is likely to result in a similar party-line vote in the president’s favor. But that schedule means Trump will deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday night still facing charges, even if conviction seems unlikely.


Candidates for federal office faced a Friday deadline to turn in their fundraising numbers for the last three months of 2019, and the AJC tracked the numbers for most of the candidates in both U.S. Senate races and two highly contested congressional races.

In Georgia's 6th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath raised three times as much as Republican Karen Handel, who she unseated in 2018. McBath also has twice as much money in the bank. It's too early to tell if outside groups will take as much interest in the toss-up seat as they did two years ago when McBath unseated Handel.

In the crowded Seventh District congressional race to fill the seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux leads the field in fundraising for the quarter. On the Republican side, Lynne Homrich and Mark Gonsalves raised the most cash during the period.


The Georgia Senate is expected to consider this morning a resolution from 7th District candidate and state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, that expresses support for protesters in Iran and accuses national Democrats of turning their backs on Iranians "yearning for freedom and democracy," our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu reports.

During a committee discussion on Senate Resolution 554 last week, Senate Democrats said the resolution was playing to "obvious politics."

One of Unterman’s Democratic rivals in the Seventh District race is state Sen. Zahra Karinshak of Duluth. Her father fled Iran.

Over the weekend, Karinshak said she will introduce an amendment in hopes of removing the language by Unterman that criticizes Democrats ahead of Monday’s floor vote on the bill.

“Senator Unterman's attempt to use this resolution to launch a political attack to advance her campaign for Congress is beneath the dignity of the Senate and the type of nasty politics the American people are tired of,” the Duluth Democrat said.

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