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After one recent Democratic presidential debate, a couple of people told me they were impressed by Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd. One even liked Dennis Kucinich. (Clearly, some counseling is in order there.)

Too bad you can’t vote for any of them. Or anybody else, for that matter.

Because of the way our nominating system and elections have evolved, North Carolinians have no vote for President. Repeat: We have no vote for President.

The nominations are settled long before our primary. And, as a reliably Republican state in presidential races since 1976, we have no impact on the fall election. That may change if North Carolina becomes a battleground state in future years, as some experts predict.

But we still would have no voice in who wins the nominations.

Think for a minute about Iowa. Think about the enormous power Iowans will exercise on January 3. And think about how they pick a winner:

  • On that cold, snowy night, about 100,000 people will gather at over 2,000 precinct caucuses – in homes, church basements and community centers.

  • They won’t vote by secret ballot. Instead, the caucus-goers will gather in groups supporting their candidates. Those on the short end will be implored to join other candidates’ groups. The results are always unpredictable and sometimes incomprehensible.

  • The next morning, the media will proclaim the winners – as chosen by people who hardly look or think like the rest of America.

  • The winners will take a head of steam in New Hampshire five days later. Then to Nevada, South Carolina and Florida. Then to Super-Duper Tuesday in February.

After that, it will all be settled. Once again, we’ll be sitting in the cheap seats watching the action on the field.

The last times North Carolina’s primary made a difference were 1972 for Democrats, when George Wallace embarrassed Terry Sanford, and 1976 for Republicans, when Tom Ellis and Carter Wrenn breathed new life into Ronald Reagan.

Those were the good old days. This is insanity.

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