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State Versus State: Sizing Up Candidates' Focus on Iowa Over New Hampshire

Today’s the day — Iowa residents will caucus starting at 7 p.m., effectively establishing the stakes in New Hampshire and other contests that follow in the race to the White House.

Or, as Face The Nation’s John Dickerson put it over the weekend:

While Iowa and New Hampshire have both been subject to the parades of political activity that precede their respective nominating contests, the states haven’t always captured candidates’ attention equally.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the more conservative the Republican candidate, the more he or she will favor campaigning in Iowa — with its large share of evangelical voters — over New Hampshire. The more a candidate wants to cultivate appeal among moderate Republicans or even across party lines, they’ll tend to favor New Hampshire — with its open primary and relatively large chunk of undeclared voters.

The Democratic divide is less clear-cut, but it’s safe to assume that Iowa is a critical proving ground for those candidates, too. Right now, both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are duking it out to determine who will be able to build off of the momentum afforded by an early win there — and who will enter New Hampshire as an underdog.

So how have the states stacked up over the past year?

  • According to National Journal’s Travel Tracker, Iowa edged out New Hampshire when it comes to the number of days candidates spent in the state during 2015. Overall, by its count, presidential candidates spent a collective 588 days campaigning in Iowa — Democrats clocked in 95 days, Republicans 493. In contrast, candidates spent 456 days on the campaign trail in New Hampshire in 2015 — Democrats spent 75 days, Republicans 381.
  • Some clearer strategies emerge when you look more closely at individual travel patterns. Only four candidates — Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Lindsey Graham (who’s no longer in the race) — spent more time in New Hampshire than Iowa in 2015. All other candidates, Democrats and Republicans, spent more days in the Hawkeye State, according to National Journal’s tallies. Of course, these totals leave out the all-important final month leading up to the caucuses and the primary — and a quick look over the NHPR campaign calendar in recent weeks should alleviate any concern that Granite State voters aren’t getting their fair share of attention, too.
  • When it comes to television advertising, Iowa’s television market also far outpaces New Hampshire in the sheer volume of spots aired. According to an analysis from the Center for Public Integrity (using data from Kantar Media/CMAG), Iowa and nearby markets have seen some 80,791 ad spots so far this primary season. New Hampshire, on the other hand, has seen about 45,255. Iowa’s larger than New Hampshire and has more television markets — so that skews things a little. When you compare the major markets for each state, the numbers are more comparable: Des Moines saw 23,776 spots, and Boston saw 21,575 spots. 

For more reading in the final hours before Iowa, check out these items:

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