May 14, 2005

Wonk food

Terry McAullife's front-loading of the primary schedule has always been controversial, and it certainly has a lot of downsides. Now Dems are attempting to find a better way.
Democrats, looking to reverse their fortunes after two straight White House defeats, met Saturday to hear competing proposals to revamp the election calendar used to choose a presidential nominee every four years.

The three major proposals would focus on regional primaries. Two of those proposals would allow Iowa and New Hampshire to retain their leadoff roles in the candidate selection process.

A third plan, offered by Michigan Democrats, would create a rotating series of six regional primaries. A different region would launch each presidential nominating season.

That plan would allow single-state contests to begin the process, but those states would be rotated. "Share the wealth," said Michigan Sen. Carl Levin. "I would not lock in specific states."

Activists from Iowa and New Hampshire vowed to fiercely defend their leadoff status, and said the problem the party faces is excessive "front-loading." In 2004, 30 states had held delegate selection contests by mid-March.

Former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen argued that the crush of early states takes influence away from voters in later states.

"I think front-loading is one of the issues we want to address," said Shaheen.

Tina Abbott of the Michigan Democratic Party argued that the leadoff roles of Iowa and New Hampshire give two tiny and unrepresentative states disproportionate influence on whom the party picks.

"This must be changed," Abbott said. "Under the current system, millions of votes in later states count for nothing."

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin defended his state's position. "It emphasizes face-to-face politics, not big money," he said. "There should be a role in the beginning of our process for the party faithful."

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch argued: "With 85 years of ingrained tradition, the New Hampshire primary forces candidates to answer questions. Having that opportunity not only makes them better candidates, it makes them better presidents."

Levin, however, said, "What's at stake here is nothing less than a struggle for political equality and political relevance." He blasted "this perpetual privilege that two states have."

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At 5/15/2005 12:22 AM, Blogger sailingtowindward said...

I think the Michigan proposal has merit. Why not try a series of regional primaries and caucuses for 2008. That would test real political strength, rather than put all of the test on two small states (no offense to Iowa).

The regional tests would test the candidates, and Democrats may end up with a stronger candidate.

But beware. Democrats love to tinker with the process. That may be part of their challenge, but they also need to look at their candidates and their message.

It is my humble view that our party has to nominate a candidate from either the south or midwest (and not the east coast). Our only two presidents since 1976 have been from the south (Carter and Clinton).

They should be progressive, charistmatic and able to generate excitement. But he/she should also be from the south or midwest.

That, in the end, may be more important than tinkering with the primary process.

At 5/15/2005 12:29 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Good opinions there, though in my opinion I think regionalism is becomeing less and less of a factor.
It may be preferable to have a candidate from the midwest (due to the fact that the midwest has emerged as the true battleground) or the south. But I'd be cautious in putting too much stock in results from decades ago.


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