Watching the cable news shows, reading the national papers, and even following social media, you would think that the 2016 presidential campaign will begin in Iowa and end in New Hampshire.
This message is reinforced at every turn by pollsters, pundits, commentators, consultants, and, for the most part, candidates.
But the contests for the 2016 nominations of the Republican and Democratic parties are not going to be finished on February 1 in Iowa or February 9 in New Hampshire. Iowa’s caucuses begin a process that will select 46 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention. New Hampshire’s primary will select 24 pledged delegates. In a nomination contest will be decided by 4,764 Democratic delegates, these two states account for less than 2 percent of the total.
That is why, though most media outlets paid little attention to the story, Bernie Sanders was not in Davenport or Dubuque on the Tuesday before the Iowa caucuses. He was in Duluth.
Duluth, up in northern Minnesota, on the western shore of Lake Superior, not far from the Iron Range where the late Senator Paul Wellstone found some of his first and most passionate supporters.
Why Duluth? Because Minnesota will be caucusing on March 1—a day that will see hundreds of delegates selected in 11 states and American Samoa. (Democrats Abroad will also begin a week of voting that day.)
Minnesota’s open caucuses begin the process of identifying 78 pledged delegates to the convention—more than Iowa and New Hampshire combined. (Minnesota will also send 16 unpledged “superdelegates” to the party’s summer conclave in Philadelphia.)
This is the political reality of the evolving 2016 race: while the focus now is on Iowa and New Hampshire (and to a lesser extent on later February contests in Nevada and South Carolina), the road to the convention travels through every state and district, commonwealth and territory. And with polls suggesting that the Democratic race has grown more competitive, front-runner Hillary Clinton and Sanders are both adjusting to the prospects of a longer-haul competition. When and where this contest will finish remains to be seen. It still could be decided quickly, if one candidate posts a steady streak of early wins.