(CN) - Forget all the talk about contentious brokered conventions and political rallies that devolve into outright brawls, when it comes to what's really going to decide the 2016 presidential election, there's no question it's going to come down to the nation's suburbs.
At least the contention of Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, and the longtime columnist on state and local politics for Newsday, a tabloid serving New York's Nassau, Suffolk and Queens counties.
"Every election has its controversies and uncertainties, but in the end for at least a generation it's been moderate 'swing suburbanites ' who have decided who the next president of the United States may be," Levy told Courthouse News.
The problem, as the dean sees it, is that the way the primaries and caucuses are arranged, the suburbs and suburban issues get short-shrift until several contests have been decided.
And by that time, many candidates who might have been expected to do well in the suburbs have been knocked out of the race.
Levy contends the primary season and the general election are two vastly different animals, and very little occurs especially in the early primaries and caucuses that reflects the will of the voters "who are going to decide this thing in November."
As proof of his position, he pointed to earliest contested states: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
"Iowa does have some suburbs around Des Moines, but they're not very big, and New Hampshire, if you look at the 1st Congressional District, has some suburban areas outside of Manchester, but these are not decisive areas in these states because they represent a very small portion of the overall population," Levy said.
"The same is true of South Carolina. There are suburban areas immediately outside of Charleston, but their influence is muted," he continued. "In primaries, for the Democrats, the decisive factor is typically the black vote in the central cities or deep rural areas ... and for the Republicans, it's white working-class voters and they are all over the place."
Indeed, Levy said, the first place suburbs play a meaningful role in the primary process is in Nevada, where prior to the housing market collapse, North Las Vegas was the fastest growing suburban community in the country.
But here's where analysis gets tricky. The way the contests are currently aligned, the balloting in Nevada and South Carolina occurred at roughly the same time (The Democratic and Republican parties held votes in each state on separate days over a two-week period), and in terms of attention from the candidates, the Palmetto State dwarfed the Sagebrush State.
The reason is South Carolina was seen a bellwether for both sides. For Hillary Clinton is was the state to build her support in the black community, a strategy that eventually enabled her to win every state in the Southeast while almost uniformly garnering 80 percent of the black vote.
For the Republicans, South Carolina represented an opportunity to burnish their conservative, pro-military bona fides.