Too early, way too early!

As John Hitchcock noted, in response to Florida moving up their primary date, South Carolina has done so as well, to earlier than Florida’s. Nevada moved up their caucuses (cauci?), and Iowa and New Hampshire will have to follow suit.:

RS McCain has reported the news that the South Carolina Primary will be held on January 21, ahead of the leap-frogging Florida Primary (January 31), and Nevada has tied their Caucus to be held the week following the New Hampshire Primary. This as a result of Florida moving their Primary up at a cost of half their delegates. RS McCain declared that’s exactly what would happen. So did I. And so did The Underground Conservative.

Tina Korbe writes:

South Carolina became the first of the four early voting states to officially move its primary ahead of Florida’s contest, which, as of last Friday, is set for Jan. 31. South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly this morning announced the decision to move the Palmetto State’s primary to Jan. 21.

“Last Friday, a nine-person committee brought chaos to the 2012 calendar,” his statement read. “Today, South Carolina is making things right.”

South Carolina is also forcing Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada to schedule their primaries even earlier. New Hampshire will be next to decide, as Nevada party rules require the Nevada primary to take place four days after New Hampshire and Iowa state law requires the Iowa caucuses to occur at least eight days before the next contest. New Hampshire’s likely looking at Jan. 3, 10 or 17. If the state selects Jan. 17, Nevada and South Carolina will fall on the same day. But if NH chooses the earliest date — Jan. 3 — that’ll push the Iowa caucuses into December of this year.

At some point, and I think that it is a point we have now passed, this bovine feces starts to get ridiculous. Every state wants to be of greater influence in the process, and every state wants the attention, and every state wants the money.

The attention and the money, I guess that they’ll get. The influence? Maybe not so much: party rules call for docking Florida half of its delegates to the Republican National Convention for it’s against-party-rules move.

Our nomination system, with the Iowa caucuses first, followed by the New Hampshire primary, isn’t perfect, but it has one solid virtue: it’s better than all of the other suggestions! I’ve seen proposals for national primaries, for regional primaries, just all sorts of things, and none of them are really improvements over what we’ve had for so many years. Our drawn out primary system allows the voters to better vet the candidates, eliminating the weakest ones first, and narrowing the choices to the strongest candidates, from whom the selection is finally made. The best illustration was the 2008 Democratic presidential campaign, where the also-rans were eliminated early, leaving the field to the top two contenders. It isn’t a perfect example, because the math generated by Senator Barack Obama’s early victories made it virtually impossible for Senator Hillary Clinton to catch up, but the nomination battle continued nevertheless through the late spring.

The first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary used to be held in March. President Johnson withdrew from the 1968 campaign on 31 March 1968, after not doing as well as expected in New Hampshire. The 1968 California primary, after which Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated, was on June 4th, and the nomination (even had he not been killed) was not sewn up by then. In 1972, Senator George McGovern didn’t secure the nomination until June; the New Hampshire primary was, again, in March.

It seems to me things ran better then. But as we have had a succession of states all trying to get ahead of New Hampshire, we’ve seen the primaries and caucuses move ever-earlier; “Super Tuesday” is March 6, 2012, a day earlier than the New Hampshire Primary was held in 1972. By the end of “Super Tuesday” next year, twenty states will have held either their primaries or caucuses.

Good LORD, we actually had a Republican Presidential candidate debate on May 5, 2011, 15½ months before the 2012 Republican National Convention. That’s just ridiculously too early. Representatives Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Ron Paul (R-TX) and Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) are current office-holders running for President. We have never disqualified current office holders from running for President, which wasn’t too bad when we didn’t start the campaigns so early, but I have to wonder how well Representative Bachmann is representing her constituents when she has had to be on the campaign trail since last June? Governors have more control over their own schedules and duties than legislators, which means that it’s easier for someone like Mr Perry, but no one could (seriously) contend that his attention to his job isn’t being distracted.

And, of course, while it’s the Republicans this year, the Democrats were doing the same thing in 2008; how well was Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) able to represent his constituents when he started his presidential campaign on February 10, 2007? How much attention was Hillary Clinton able to pay to her duties as a Senator from New York when she announced her candidacy for President on January 20, 2007, a full two years before the 2008 winner would be inaugurated?

It’s part of politics that office holders are going to be running for office while still in office, and we should not change that. But I think that we hurt our candidates, hurt the process, and hurt ourselves by stretching out the process so long.

The states, of course, control their own elections, and it is the states which have helped stretch out this process. It would be wholly inappropriate for the federal government to intervene in such state decisions, and I know of no other way to compel the states to do things differently, but responsible state leaders should do the right thing, and shorten the process for 2016.

4 Comments

  1. The way to solve this is for the FEC to announce dates available for Primaries, then hold a lottery for spots. I am tired of two states holding the cards for the Primary season. Iowa is a farce with the caucus since a candidate can import their troops. To me, NH is too small and not representative of the nation. And Open Primaries introduces a skewed results with all the crossovers. A primary is to see who represents the party. Dems voting in a Rep Primary and vice versa introduces a skewed result. And if you can’t commit and select a party, go away on a primary. If you have no convictions, your thinking is not worth an opinion.

  2. York’s on the right track here. I’d institute a rotating primary system with five cohorts of 10 states each, occurring in a different order each time. That way, everyone’s guaranteed a crack at the vetting process if they wait long enough. No caucus crap – everyone holds a primary. Open primaries should be up to the state, but crossover voting should be out (if you’re registered Dem, you can’t vote in GOP, and vice versa).

  3. Jeff:
    I’d institute a rotating primary system with five cohorts of 10 states each, occurring in a different order each time. That way, everyone’s guaranteed a crack at the vetting process if they wait long enough.

    That’s better. I like the ten rotating system.

  4. The problem is, Jeff, what you suggest is hardly likely to happen, because the decisions on primaries rest with each individual state, according to the Constitution, as I am sure you know. Campaigns translate to money coming into a state, therefore this will usually be the primary (no pun intended) consideration regarding primary dates and the like.

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