A few states shouldn't decide the race for president

The nation's two political parties have done a pretty good job over the years of keeping voters in line by deciding the order in which states will vote on their presidential candidates.

But that respect for tradition &

Iowa and New Hampshire always have been first in line &

has gone out the window, and the Republican and Democratic national committees have struggled to keep order.

Folks, this cat is out of the bag, and it's never going to be the same again. And frankly, it shouldn't.

I've listened to many of the pundits this election season remark that if Sen. John McCain doesn't win New Hampshire, his candidacy is toast. Former Sen. John Edwards has put a lot of the emphasis on Iowa, and the prognosticators say that if he doesn't bag the state, he might as well hang 'em up. Michelle Obama has said on the campaign trail in Iowa that if her husband doesn't win that state, the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama is also toast.

But former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is attempting to defy conventional wisdom by ignoring the early states and focusing on delegate-rich states such as New York and California.

As a result, we've seen many states jockey for position by moving up their primaries. Michigan, Florida and others have seen their state officials change the laws to force their primaries to the top of the election calendar so that they may have a greater say in who is president. These moves have led both parties to threaten to strip the rogue states of delegates to the national conventions.

While these changes have created a huge mess for the campaigns &

they are not sure exactly when the voting will take place &

I must admit I'm on the side of the rogue states. It is grossly unfair for the first four states &

Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina &

to pretty much decide the nominations for president.

But in all honesty, it boils down to the first two.

If candidates don't do well in Iowa or New Hampshire, the media attention turns away from them, and then the political dollars dry up and the packing begins.

Yet this is no way to choose a president. Fine, I know all about that tradition crap, but honestly, no one should have such a stranglehold on the process. Of course, the hard part is coming up with a plan to which everyone will agree.

Instead of having one primary or caucus one week and another the next, why can't five states vote each week during January? That means by the end of the month, we will have nearly half the states make their choices for president, and we can have a much better idea what the will of the American people is. There is no doubt that will cause the campaigns to raise more money to run national campaigns, but hey, you've got to have a trade-off.

The folks in New Hampshire won't be happy because their constitution calls for them to be the first state in the nation to hold a presidential primary. I'm still trying to figure out how in the world one state believes it can usurp every other state and the political parties go along with this nonsense.

Iowa and New Hampshire residents want to keep saying it's about tradition. I think it's about money. The TV stations, newspapers, hotels, restaurants, sign companies and other businesses make a ton of dough off these candidates, and they don't want that cash cow to feed others.

Unless the political parties come up with a solution that incorporates more states and get away from this exclusivity, the other states will get even more aggressive, and we potentially will have every state trying to hold its primary the first week of January.

Americans want fairness, and there is nothing fair about fewer than 10 percent of the states in America choosing the next president for the rest of us.

Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN contributor and the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith." Please visit his Web site at . To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at .

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