WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kerry dismisses as "absolutely ridiculous" the notion that his support for Iowa and New Hampshire's prominent roles in the presidential nomination process means he thinks only the votes of white people count.
Many Democrats complain that the two early nomination elections winnow out candidates based on votes from small states with overwhelmingly white populations. The party is considering adding, during those early weeks, one or two states in other regions to draw diverse electorates into the process.
Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee for president and a possible candidate in 2008, wrote a column for the New Hampshire Sunday News arguing that "the special role that Iowa and New Hampshire play in presidential politics has strengthened our democracy by insuring that citizens at the grass roots engage directly with candidates for the presidency."
In an interview, the Massachusetts Democrat bridled when told an unnamed Democratic strategist said that, by supporting the status quo, "you're basically saying only white people's votes count in those early states."
"That's so much bunk," Kerry responded. "I don't know how to describe that comment in any other way than to say that that's absolutely ridiculous. The converse of that is to suggest that the people in New Hampshire and Iowa are insensitive to those issues and don't care about them."
Kerry scored a surprise victory in the Iowa caucus in January 2004 and went on to win the New Hampshire primary. He told ABC that Iowa and New Hampshire voters had served the party well by nominating good candidates in the past.
He wrote in the column, "I think my party is making a mistake in trying to 'fix' something that is not broken."
In March, Democrats agreed to a plan to place racially diverse states early in the voting. The Iowa caucuses would remain the first contest, followed by an additional caucus or caucuses, followed by the New Hampshire primary, traditionally the site of the first presidential primary. One or two more primaries would be added before the calendar was opened to all states.
On Thursday, 11 states — Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, South Carolina, West Virginia and Hawaii — and the District of Columbia asked to be considered for an early nomination contest. A decision is expected later this year.