As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Primary Woes

This rush to move up the states in the Presidential primaries is shortsighted, though inevitable. With such a calendar in place, whoever wins the primary right before Super Tuesday (CA, NJ, IL, FL) will win the election. Or whoever has the momentum. Without a doubt.

Think about it. There's a definite and measurable bump you getting out of winning Iowa and New Hampshire, it's in the range of 10 points or so. You have to then turn around in one week and compete in almost every large media market in the country, barnstorming from coast to coast. Do you really think anyone's going to get some kind of good sense about the candidates from that week? Hell no, whoever has the big mo' and the media imprimatur will carry the day. You think you're going to be able to mobilize a grassroots GOTV in four of the largest states in the country within one week after spending all your time and effort and money in the first four states on the calendar? And once you sweep Super Tuesday, the entire ballgame is over. So by February 6 we have a nominee. 9 months out. That worked WONDERS with John Kerry.

This may be in California's interest but it's completely contrary to the national interest. Wouldn't you rather want to learn about these candidates over months and months, ensuring that the best man or woman wins the day? Wasn't California at its apex of power when it went last in 68 and 72, when primary season was allowed to play itself out?

You're endorsing a process that will ensure that we get a well-funded, well-known candidate that has proven they can win Iowa. Some people think that you have to raise gobs of money for the general anyway, so this is good practice. I think this is a horrible, horrible idea.

Dan Conley is absolutely right.

Every four years, the wise men and women of the Democratic Party think about the facile Presidential nomination process they just went through and come up with a plan to make it better. And every four years, the end result is exactly the same:

* Iowa and New Hampshire go first
* Then everyone rushes to go next, leading to a multistate pileup

And never does any candidate -- after Iowa and New Hampshire -- have the time or ability to do anything but hop from one airport to another and run as many TV spots as they can afford. Democratic primary voters look at the Iowa and New Hampshire results and think, oh well, he (or she) looks as good as anyone else ... if you're not going to give me time to think about it, then let's just get it over with.

The worst idea of this campaign has just hit our doorsteps -- moving up the California and Florida primaries to a week after New Hampshire. If you ever wanted a plan for ensuring that only the richest candidates had a shot at winning the nomination and that no issues would be discussed in any depth whatsoever, this would be the perfect end result.

If we're going to run campaigns this way, we might as well have every state hold a national primary and get it all over with on one day. Because this is ridiculous.

And just remember that, for the Democrats in California, this will make two people in this state inordinately rich and powerful.

1) Garry South
2) Phil Angelides

There was a reason every Presidential candidate flocked to Angelides' side last fall, despite the polls. They wanted his donor list and his volunteer base. And South's one of the consultants who will be the recipient of the one-way flow of progressive movement money (that's a very important article from Chris Bowers, by the way. Consultants are getting rich from small-donor dollars while bloggers and movement activists starve, almost literally).

If this move would make CA go first, that's one thing. Lining it up right behind IA and NH doesn't fix anything. In fact, it just makes things worse. Iowa will still end up picking the nominee. In fact, that'll be more true if everyone moves up to Feb. What you need is a full reordering of the entire primary system. I'd like to see four or six regional primaries, rotated every cycle, spread about a month or so apart. That'd make sense. Frontloading makes no sense at all. It was making sense to me to add Nevada and South Carolina and dribble everything out. But they packed them in too tight. Jack Balkin at Balkinization called it the unintended consequence of federalism. Every individual state has the desire to make themselves relevant, but the nation suffers.

The money primary thing to me is secondary. It's the continuing to empower IA and NH though you claim to want the opposite. Unless you believe that some candidate will camp out in CA and skip Iowa (how'd that work out for Clark?) and be able to pull that off, losing out on all that free media from winning the early states.

Enjoy your primary.