Listen To The Story

Steve Chiotakis: Florida has moved next year's Republican presidential primary to late January, putting it ahead of other traditionally early caucus and primary states. Those states may move up their primaries too, because campaigning candidates bring in a long of money.

From Washington, here's Marketplace's John Dimsdale.

John Dimsdale: New Hampshire state law requires that its presidential primary be the nation's first -- one week before all others. Iowa holds the first party caucuses, even before any primaries.

Larry Sabato: It's not simply a matter of prestige. You can't eat prestige.

Election expert Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia says there's plenty of money at stake.

Sabato: When you look at what these primaries and caucuses produce for the early states, it's really remarkable. Somewhere between tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars for the local economies.

Hotels, restaurants and TV stations are big winners in early presidential primaries. A study of New Hampshire's 2000 primary -- when both parties had contests -- found candidates and their entourage of campaigners and media earned the state $264 million.

But the financial benefits may be exaggerated. In 2008, Iowa State University professor Dave Swenson figured he'd measure Iowa's windfall that year. When he looked closely at what campaigns were spending, he was underwhelmed.

Dave Swenson: They spent most of their money in Virginia and Washington D.C. And what were they buying with that money? First off, they have to raise money, and New Hampshire and Iowa aren't where you're going to go to raise money. So you're going to hire media consultants and fundraisers and you're going to go to where money is. Again, that's not Iowa and New Hampshire.

There's another benefit to an early primary: A state can get attention for a pet issue. Exhibit A, says Larry Sabato, would be ethanol subsidies that don't do much for energy conservation, but are a big help for Iowa's corn farmers.

Sabato: Candidates are going to do anything they have to do to win one of those early contests. If that means promising things to special interests that make no sense for the national interest, most of them are more than happy to do it.

Without Iowa's early caucuses, some wonder whether ethanol would be in our gasoline at all.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.