Iowa kicks off primary season, Ohio’s set for March 17

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — With January 2020 out of the way, there are six weeks that stand between Ohio voters and the state’s primary election day, when Ohio residents get to decide who they want to be the next presidential nominees.

But first, the Iowa Caucus — set for this Monday, Feb. 3 — gets to kick-off the presidential primary season.

Lasting up until June 6, the lengthy process that is the primary season features 57 elections and caucuses that ultimately choose each party’s presidential nomination. The first four state caucuses are often seen as early indicators of a candidate’s viability, but while they may influence subsequent races, the majority of delegates for each candidate are chosen afterward starting with “Super Tuesday,” or March 3, when multiple states cast their ballots.

“Obviously, the nation pays attention to the first vote to see how the candidate is doing, then you get into the Super Tuesdays. That’s when the real decisions will be made,” Allen County Republican Party Chairman Keith Cheney said.

Ohio’s state primary election is set for March 17, or two weeks after Super Tuesday. That timeline sets Ohio up for at least some influence in the final selection.

For Democrats, that means that Ohio, and consequently Allen County, could be a stopping point for presidential candidates, and while there’s no appearances currently on the calendar, Allen County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rex said he’s been coordinating with the campaigns to see what could be organized between now and then.

On the Republican side, Cheney said he doesn’t see any debate on who the Republican nomination will be. While primary challenges exist in Joe Walsh and Bill Weld, Cheney rattled off a list of economic indicators as a demonstration of President Donald Trump’s strength with the current Republican Party — points that will most likely peg him as the nominee without too much challenge.

“While I don’t make his schedule by any means, there’s a very strong chance that we’ll see the president in northwest Ohio during the campaign season,” Cheney said.

With the Republican race practically decided, that leaves the brunt of the primary season focused on Trump’s Democratic challengers.

Rex said he doesn’t put too much emphasis on the results of the first race, the Iowa Caucus. He estimates the top four candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg — will most likely remain in the top four spots, while some of the lower-ranked candidates, such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar, will be trying to show that they have the ability to make headway against the front runners.

Instead, Rex said he’s looking to see the results of the Feb. 29 South Carolina primary, where Democratic candidates will face additional challenges in convincing more middle-of-the-road voters to come out in support.

“Iowa is only important because its first,” Rex said.

While the primary season is already complicated enough, Democratic primaries also add the “automatic delegate” complication into the mix.

Unlike Republic primaries where winner takes all of a state’s delegates if the candidate wins the majority, Democratic primaries parse out Ohio’s 136 delegates in proportion to the votes received. Ohio’s Democratic Party also has an additional 17 “automatic delegates” that come into play if a single candidate is unable to grab at least 1,990 pledged delegates.

If such a situation plays out, those delegates would participate during a second round of voting at the national convention.

“We’ll see how it goes in March. The primary is six weeks away. A lot could happen that can make or break a candidate,” Rex said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Final nominations will be officially announced at each party’s national convention. To win the Democratic nomination, a candidate has to win at least a majority of the total 3,979 delegates available.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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