The presidential primary season is becoming more and more of a joke. I have been one of the few politicos to defend the Iowa and New Hampshire status as firsts”, mainly based on the premise that their influence is vastly overblown, and when a regional or dark horse candidate does win one of them, a true front-runner is usually able to retake their advantage by Super Tuesday anyway.
With our campaigns being more media and money-driven than ever, the Iowa’s and the Wyoming’s are insignificant. Even if a fly-over state was up for grabs, it would take an election like 2000 for 3 or 4 electoral votes to truly effect the campaign.
Regardless of this, we are seeing more and more states unable to control their jealousy and move their primaries up on the calendar. In 2008, the earliest vote to ever take place happened on January 3rd in Iowa, with the holiday season being cluttered with advertisements.
30 years ago, potential candidates did not even bother to announce their candidacy until the calendar year of the election. For most of the 20th century, the first votes were not tallied until March. But now in our 24-hour news cycle, it is no-holds barred for the power to shape public policy and the global economy.
While in theory the order of the states could drastically change the outcome of a nomination. This is especially true back in an era when the Internet and TV made regional candidates important, or in contrast now, where the national media continues to give candidates polling at 1-2% all year real coverage by allowing them into big debates. In theory it could effect the outcome, but let’s look at a snapshot at how usually our states are not all that different:
IA: Cain, 25% – Romney, 23%
NH: Romney, 37% – Cain, 18%
NV: Perry, 29% – Romney, 27%
SC: Cain, 26% – Romney, 25%
FL: Cain, 34% – Romney, 28%
CO: Romney, 20% – Perry, 20%
MN: Bachmann, 18% – Romney, 12%
These are the primaries scheduled for January and February, most of which have moved their dates up and are likely to be penalized by the GOP. These look very similar to the national polls. You could say that if Minnesota was first, she might be able to ride the momentum to the nomination. However, that would more likely be perverting the process, since she is sitting in single-digits in national polls.
Cain, Romney, and Perry are the three front-runners and they are leading in the states that are not home states for a candidate. I hate to think that this is about money, prestige, and attention for these states — but that’s really the only explanation.
I have never supported a national anything when it comes to our Presidential process. I believe almost a dozen states have pledged their electors to the winner of the national popular vote. We are the United States of America, we were not meant to make decisions based on an entire country. In the words of the fictional Leo McGarry, “The Republic comes first.” and we need to adhere to model of federalism, as that is the basis of our entire system. More about this in a future post.
While I think it is important to represent our decentralized political system, I am starting to think that a national primary is the only way to fix this problem. However, our political parties are private entities and while we have to regulate our elections — it is difficult for me to allow the government to mess with how an organized group of private citizens choose their candidates.
So, maybe the primaries should not even be regulated by the government at all, thus removing the power of the state legislatures from moving their dates up and allowing the party itself to set their standard. Either way, there needs to be a fix. It is quite possible that for the first time in history, a primary will be held in December, likely the same week of Christmas.
I should not have to explain why that is ridiculous.