August 21, 2007

The Stampede To January Continues

Michigan has now caught the same Primary Fever as Florida, California, and several other states that want more influence on the presidential selection process. Both Democrats and Republicans in Michigan want the state to change its primary date to January 15th, perhaps even earlier than that, if Carl Levin has his way. The move will put even more pressure on New Hampshire and Iowa to go backwards -- possibly into 2007:

Michigan is poised to move its presidential primaries to Jan. 15 or earlier, becoming the latest state to leapfrog to the front of the voting calendar in the ongoing battle for relevance in choosing the next White House occupant.

The move by Michigan lawmakers is the latest to push the campaign season ever closer to New Year's Day and the holiday season, and renews the possibility that Iowans could be gathering to vote in December, despite pledges from state leaders to keep their caucuses in January.

Democratic leaders in Michigan privately agreed to the Jan. 15 date in a conference call late last week, according to sources on the call. Michigan Republicans quickly said they would support a move to that date. Legislation enshrining the decision could be passed in the state Senate as soon as tomorrow.

Michigan's senior U.S. senator, Carl M. Levin (D), is pushing for his state's primary to be held even earlier. Levin, who has for years decried the influence of Iowa and New Hampshire at the beginning of the primary schedule, is pushing for a Jan. 8 primary, according to sources familiar with the senator's thinking on the subject.

This stampede to gain advantage over one another started off as being amusing, segued quickly to annoying, and now may be damaging the entire process. Whatever real problems plagued the primary process in years past, a lack of arbitrariness and capriciousness was not among them. Now we have states asserting some sort of phallus-measuring mentality about their own importance as compared to the rest of the Union, and it's turning the process that selects our head of state into even more of a circus than ever before.

Eventually, this will damage the federalist principle of states conducting their own elections for presidential primaries. The irresponsibility of states to adhere to rational schedules and the resultant winter election dates will create pressure on Congress to pursue a national schedule for presidential primaries. It will be wrong to do so, but at some point the states will lose whatever moral standing they have to insist on the federalist view. Voters will pressure their representatives to do something to keep the political class from creating a two-year election process.

The fault lies mainly with the political parties. They have the power to punish states that play musical chairs with primary dates by reducing their delegate allotments, undercutting the power plays the states are making this season. No one really believes the national party committees will follow through on their threats to enforce their own rules.

Pragmatically, who gets a boost from an early Michigan primary? On the Republican side, even though Mitt Romney's father served as Governor here, Rudy Giuliani has a slightly higher favorability rating, according to Rasmussen. John McCain also edges Romney in that measure. Hillary Clinton would almost certainly beat any of the other Democratic candidates handily in Michigan. In other words, the establishment candidates will benefit most.


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Comments (14)

Posted by superdestroyer | August 21, 2007 6:57 AM

If all of the primaries and caucases are in January, the apparent winner will be chosen by the end of January. Given the tremendous advantage that the Democrats have, a scenerio could develop where everyone will know who the next president is a full 12 months before the inaugural.

Posted by MarkD | August 21, 2007 7:04 AM

There should be a law against any political campaigning more than one year prior to the election. And a requirement that no primary be scheduled more than six months prior to the election.

There are a whole bunch of people getting paid to do a job who are campaigning for office instead.

Posted by chsw | August 21, 2007 7:07 AM

The extended primary season is now a waste of time and resources. Moreover, it will hamper every succeeding by extending the re-election process and the lame-duck period of a second term. I will vote for whichever candidate comes out and says that that the process is now nonsensical. I will contribute money to whichever governor says that he will enter a "favorite son" slate in order to use his state's delegates to influence his party's choice at the convention.


Posted by MarkW | August 21, 2007 7:18 AM

The parties will have to take control of this process.
The only way to fix it would be for the parties to declare that any primaries held prior to (pick a reasonable date) will be ignored. Their delegates will not be seated at the convention.
And they will have to stick to it. Otherwise, this race to be first will continue until we are having primaries for one election prior to the general for the previous.

I have always favored a system that rotates which states go first.

Posted by Jazz | August 21, 2007 8:10 AM

This whole thing angers me. We've finally identified a problem: Some states, even very small ones, have a disproportionately huge inflluence on who makes it onto the final ballot. The solution is obviously not to have states leapfrogging each other and pushing an already tediously long election season further and further back.

We hold national elections all on the same day. We hold primary elections whenever we like and they certainly could be held on the same day in each state. Why, oh why, couldn't the fifty states get together and determine that all of them will hold their primaries for each party on the same day... say sometime in April of the election year? Show me the downside to that! What... the candidates won't be able to focus on all of the states equally? Too bad! Have a message that resonates with the most voters across the country.

Yes, it would mean that most candidates would probably focus most of their efforts on the big electoral hitters, but they couldn't just ignore the rest of them. They'd just have to hit them earlier. Then this nonsense could be ended once and for all.

Posted by Ktuk | August 21, 2007 8:27 AM

There was plan proposed that called for primaries to go in order of state populations(the delaware plan). On one day, the smaller states would hold their primaries, then the mid-population states, then the large population states. However, it was rejected. Which is too bad. This would give all the states a say and the candidates time to campaign.

The GOP has already threated several states with loss of delegates and chairpersons at the convention. From what I gather, they are serious and some states will be in for a rude awakening when the party holds them accountable. Don't discount them yet.

Posted by Nugai | August 21, 2007 8:51 AM

I'm thinking about starting a petition to have the 2016 primary held sometime in 2009, just to illustrate the absurdity of this whole thing. At the rate we're going, the 2012 candidates are going to announce the formation of their campaign committee about 12:05 (EST) on January 20, 2009.

Posted by LarryD | August 21, 2007 9:04 AM

No nugai, Jan 20 is when they'll hold the primaries, the campaigning will start on Nov 8th.

Posted by ss396 | August 21, 2007 10:51 AM

This whole "early Primary" imbroglio is missing a key alternate strategy. The fear among the states is that they will not be a recipient of the candidates' affections because the candidate will have been already selected if said state does not participate in this dance. But if the candidate has already secured a majority of delegates to the convention without needing those of said state, how important was the state to begin with?

And if the candidate(s) do not have a majority going into, and coming out of, this early primary scheme will they not spend that much more time and energy wooing the non-participant state delegations?

This early primary bandwagon is more reflective of herd mentality than of careful political strategy.

Posted by leftnomore | August 21, 2007 11:49 AM

"Phallus measuring"? This is why I read this blog everyday... Ed really knows how to create a visual!

Posted by Rose | August 21, 2007 1:48 PM

Posted by: Jazz at August 21, 2007 8:10 AM

July or August would be even better. April would leave such a huge gap for Dim versus GOP campaigning. That is asking way too much of our forebearance.

August Conventions is early enough.

Posted by Gene | August 21, 2007 2:18 PM

This process will have to be laid at the feet of the Democrats. For all of the ebb and flow of elections in the last 30 or so years, the Democrats have been more on the losing end--especially with the White House.

Ever since the Reagan revolution, there is a critical mass of political force that questions the fundamental role of government in all aspects of domestic issues. This proves to be a continual hurdle for the Democrat agenda. Prior to Reagan, the debate between Democrats and me-too Republicans was a debate of degree. Since Reagan, the debate between the Democrats and the (some) Republicans is now a debate of kind.

So, now the Democrats feel that they need to get their message out and by selecting a nominee sooner, concentrate their resources on the general election. In the process, a very necessary vetting of weak candidates will be shortcircuited.

The Democrats will need to find out the hard way. But, its going to take a senario like Hillary as the presumptive nominee as of January 15th 2008 all of a sudden becoming toxic because of a damaging revelation on Feb 1st. Under the old system, the one that actually kept a nomination in play well into spring, you could change course. We'll see........

Posted by Thanos | August 21, 2007 4:29 PM

The real rancor will set in as the electorate in these states are pummeled with campaign ads through Christmas.

Posted by Nels | August 21, 2007 5:08 PM

Why not just have the primaries for every state on Election Day, the first Tuesday of November, the year before the general election? There wouldn't need to be a special election, people wouldn't be voting based on how other people voted (so-called "momentum"), and nobody's holidays would be ruined by campaigning and ads.

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