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Missouri keeps trying hard to be a major player in the presidential nomination race but, once again, it is near the back of the bus.
The state thought it had positioned itself well by being among the first to schedule its primary for February 5, the first date allowed by the two major parties for all states except Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. That would put it within three weeks of the kickoff—the Iowa caucuses.
But up front is not turning out to be near the top. As the February 5 ranks grew, many other states — including larger ones like California, Illinois, and New York — also opted for that date. That dilutes the influence of medium-sized Missouri.
Then, large states like Florida and Michigan decided to ignore the party rules and schedule their primaries for January. Iowa and New Hampshire thrive on being at the head of the pack, feasting on their every four-year spotlight on the national stage. They leapfrogged the leapfroggers: Iowa will now hold its caucuses on January 3rd, followed five days later by the New Hampshire primary.
So, when it comes to deciding who the Republican and Democratic candidates will be, Missouri remains largely on the outside looking in. What will probably be a battleground state in the general election is but a minor skirmish in the race for the nomination.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Terry Jones is Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.