Dear residents of Iowa and New Hampshire,

Please, have mercy on us.

I have been to your lovely, beautiful, wonderful states many times, though most often in winter and usually during presidential primaries or caucuses. I forgive you for the things you fry on sticks, dear Iowans, and your many, many pancake breakfasts, dear New Hampshirites. I know you to be resourceful, hard-working patriots.

I have written thousands of words in my lifetime about why every four years the nation focuses its political attention on what you, the good people of Iowa and New Hampshire, think, desire, say and do as aspirants to the White House flit endlessly about you like flies to cotton candy. I confess after years of on-site research and even the book-learning kind, I do not really understand why Iowa still has the first caucuses and New Hampshire is able to cling to the first primaries. I do not really know why remote Dixville Notch, the tiny hamlet that provides the first returns in New Hampshire, fascinates us so much.

In the past, you have had strange flings with those who court you. You have been infatuated with the likes of Michele Bachmann, who once won something called a straw poll, and Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee and Pat Buchanan.

In truth, Iowa and New Hampshire contribute only a tiny percentage of delegates to the Republican and Democratic national conventions that nominate presidential candidates. But a candidate who ignores Iowa and New Hampshire is consigning his or her political fate to the huge dung heap of political history. (Remarkably, Donald Trump can call Iowans “idiots,” and he still tops polls among the state’s Republicans, who really, really do not like establishment types this go-around.)

Sitting presidents usually win the early tests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Other than that, the Granite State and the Hawkeye State are not at all infallible at forecasting who will the final nominations. Think John McCain, Harold Stassen, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. and Buchanan, who all won New Hampshire. Think Dick Gephardt, Edmund Muskie and George H.W. Bush in 1980, who won Iowa.

Because of hyper media attention, Iowa and New Hampshire have made and broken many candidates. In 2012, there were 23 Republican candidates on the New Hampshire ballot, so, you see, this race is not historically ridiculous, although the exiting George Pataki did call it a gong show.

Thus, this unique quadrennial power of Iowa and New Hampshire that nobody can quite figure out but is loathe to tamper with is why we all must beg our dear friends in those states to vote responsibly this February.

We have some real oddballs (an Iowan colloquialism) seeking the presidency this time, which is probably why so many Iowans and New Hampshirites are excited — these pols are not like the others. They call each other names. They insult voters. They insult other nations. They insult the president. They tweet and rant and cajole and promise to smite the Constitution. It is clear they don’t know the first thing about governing, nor do they want to learn.

Frankly, we hope the delightful constituents of Iowa and New Hampshire are just having fun with the political process this year, toying with one crazy guy after another for our entertainment, or rather, the consumption of ravenous TV talk shows.

But, good people of Iowa and New Hampshire, we are getting nervous. Somebody is going to be president, and it would be nice to have an experienced adult who doesn’t hate government or ridicule the rest of the world or deny climate change or hate science or disrespect entire groups of people in the job or kiss up to dictators.

Some of the candidates have said such ridiculous things that the rest of us can’t possibly just chuckle and dismiss it saying, “Oh well, that was just Iowa caucus chatter and New Hampshire primary babble.”

And so, you exceptional, splendid folks in Iowa and New Hampshire, think of your children and grandchildren. Do the right thing and vote as if it matters, even if you are so fed up by now you are tempted to launch a dingbat or two at us.

Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at [email protected].

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