Caucus and primary dates getting a bit ridiculous.
When I think of the fight over which state will have the first primary and caucus, the picture that enters my mind is one of children having a shoving match in line, each one calling out: “Hey! I was here first! No fair!”
In other words, this is getting a bit ridiculous.
Traditionally, Iowa has the first caucus and New Hampshire the first primary. Now South Carolina Republican Chairman Katon Dawson has moved up the GOP primary to January 15, and in response, Iowa Republicans moved theirs to January 3. While the Democrats have not yet responded, senior officials are saying they will stick with January 14, as set by the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Even more ridiculous than this is the fact that in the fight to be “first-first,” there is talk that New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner will move their primary to December 2007 — a full 10 months before the general election.
Michigan’s primary was on Feb. 7 in 2004; they have now moved theirs up 3 weeks to January 15. Not to be outdone, Florida moved theirs from the beginning of March to the end of January.
As of now, the presidential nominees should be known by mid-February. Only 14 states are holding their primaries later than February 19.
With a full 4 or 5 months until the nominating conventions, and almost 9 months until the general election, we will have a two-person race. What issues does this raise? Why should we care?
First of all, let’s consider the timing of those states vying for the spotlight. Should New Hampshire choose to hold their primary at the end of December, it will fall in the middle of the holiday season. So not only will they be asking voters to think about which candidate they want to represent their party in the general election, which candidate they believe can lead our nation out of war, out of a health care crisis, immigration debate, and energy crisis, but they want them to do so during the most hectic time of the year.
This could mean that along with the heartwarming ads full of homecoming, family and Santa we will have negative ads featuring Hillary Clinton as the Grinch. Perhaps in with the Christmas card from your best friend will now be a direct mail piece with Romney’s name on the “Naughty” list, a lump of coal in his stocking, or Giuliani as Scrooge and the Radcons portrayed as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
The first caucus will come right after the New Year when everyone is clamoring back to work, trying to exchange the snowman sweaters from their grandmothers, still out of town, or watching the bowl games. They will now be expected to turn their thoughts to November.
Second, consider campaign financing. With a heavily front-loaded primary schedule, the money is going out as fast as it’s coming in at this point. Many campaigns have already spent more than they took in during the third quarter. Presidential candidates are having to spend money on TV, radio and mail sooner than ever — bigger media markets, more expensive media buys, and a greater number of them at one time. Much of the citizenry of the early primary states may well be writing “thank you” notes to the makers of TiVo this season.
Third, Democratic candidates Clinton, Edwards and Obama signed a pledge with the DNC not to campaign in any primary states other than Nevada, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa. This is the DNC’s attempt to push back when other states try to push to the front of the line.
Apparently that wasn’t enough to stop Florida, however, as the DNC then ruled to strip Florida of its 210 convention delegates, making their primary merely an act of show-and-tell. In response, Florida officials have filed a lawsuit against the DNC challenging the ruling. Democratic candidates have until October 31 to withdraw their names from the ballot.
The same has been threatened in Michigan. Five of the Democratic candidates have already withdrawn their names from Michigan’s ballot: Obama, Biden, Richardson, Edwards and Kucinich. If Michigan state officials do not withdraw their pre-February 5 primary date by November 14, and move to a caucus system (which would allow all candidates to be returned to the ballot), then they too will lose their convention delegates.
It’s a tough call. Does the DNC bend to the whims of the states, or do they stand tough and risk early favor for their candidates? In neither state will voters be pleased at the prospect of their vote counting for naught (after all, Florida voters have experienced this once already). Republicans are already playing to this frustration, telling voters they should register Republican so their “vote counts.” Again, the Republicans are such experts on this subject in Florida.
Michigan is a unique state. Every one of the approximately 7 million registered voters are Independents. Michigan voters tend to make their choice in the primary and remain loyal throughout. By removing them from the official process, these Independents may well turn their allegiance to Republicans, and the name Mitt Romney is being spoken with more and more frequency.
By not engaging in either state, Democrats are giving up the opportunity to build their base. They have given up the needed time to win support in two very important swing states. At the same time, they are standing tough, something the party is rarely given credit for being able to do.
It really is a no-win situation, that is, of course, unless the states decide to stop shoving each other and play nice.