Iowa and N.H. enjoy a windfall with primary importance

Lindsey Parietti

With presidential primaries less than a month away, Democrats and Republicans alike are fighting to maintain their leads or close gaps in early-voting New Hampshire and Iowa.

But as the candidates sweat it out, Iowa and New Hampshire are basking in the political prestige, national attention and millions of dollars that come with hosting the nation’s first presidential contests.  

During the 2004 general election, Iowa received the most per-capita advertising dollars of any state according to FairVote, a non-partisan election reform campaign.   

New Hampshire ranked third after Ohio, a coveted state in the general election.  

This year, pre-primary spending will bring in an additional $1 million in New Hampshire sales and meals taxes alone, estimated Revenue Commissioner Phil Blatsos.  

In Iowa, food and drink-related sales tax revenue for spring 2007, the most recent quarter available, jumped nearly $3 million from the same period last year.  

Renee Mulvey, an Iowa Department of Revenue spokeswoman, said taxes may not give the complete picture because much of campaign spending, including advertising, is tax exempt.

“We are finding that what a lot of media and politicians have done is actually leased a place, an apartment or a condo or a home, and that’s not subject to sales tax,” Mulvey said.

To protect their first-in-the-nation status in 2008, Iowa moved its caucus and New Hampshire its primary from mid-January to Jan. 3 and Jan. 8, respectively.

Just three days into the new year, Iowans will gather in local precincts to elect the delegates who will vote at national party conventions later in the year.

A non-binding straw poll kicks off the 2008 elections by signaling which candidate is favored to win Iowa’s ultimate vote.

Any state that holds a primary earlier than Feb. 5, known as Super Tuesday, without permission from the national parties is penalized by losing delegates, and votes, at the party conventions.

Hoping to share some of the spotlight, Massachusetts moved its primary from early March to join 23 other states with Super Tuesday primaries.

Beacon Hill leaders said the move would make the Bay State more relevant, but the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau is not anticipating that it will translate into more attention or money.

“Absent a (possible debate), I don’t think there’s any evidence that it would drive any new revenues or expenditures into Massachusetts,” said bureau CEO Pat Moscaritolo, who estimated that a televised debate would bring in up to $500,000 in related spending.

CNN spokeswoman Edie Emery said the network has no plans to reschedule a Boston debate, which was scheduled for December, but cancelled because of the earlier-than-usual Iowa caucus.

During the peak months of the 2004 general election John Kerry and the Democratic Party spent less than 1 percent of advertising dollars in Massachusetts, while Republicans and George W. Bush didn’t buy any airtime, according to the FairVote report.

Neither candidate made any campaign stops in the Bay State during the six weeks leading up to the general election.   

The campaigns of Republicans Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani and Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama - the candidates with the largest campaign funds - did not answer requests for campaign spending by state.

MetroWest Daily News staff writer Lindsey Parietti can be reached at lindsey.parietti@cnc.com