A foreigner could be forgiven for being mystified by the punishment clause in the new primary election rules promulgated by the Democratic party central committee:
Any Presidential candidate who campaigns in a state that does not abide by the new calendar will be stripped at the party convention of delegates won in that state.The trouble is that the dates of the party primaries are established by the states, often by state officials rather than party officials. This odd entanglement may arise in part from the lack of formal recognition of political parties in our constitution.
So far as the new schedule goes, the Iowa and New Hampshire races remain where they are, but Nevada now has been sandwiched between them, and South Carolina has been added shortly afterward. The need for the punishment clause is that New Hampshire does not want to go along. New Hampshire law requires that there be no race within 7 days of their own, which the Nevada and South Carolina contests would now violate. Of course, New Hampshire really does not have many delegates--the reason people campaign there is for momentum--so a number of candidates may well accept the penalty to campaign in hopes of acquiring the win. Bayh of Indiana has already said he will campaign in New Hamphsire regardless, and Kerry and Edwards have made similar noises. So the change in rules may change little: just one more step in the dance between the state and national committees.
My biggest complaint is that all these contests are set for January! As states jockey for influence, their primary contests keep creeping earlier, but an eleven month election season already far too long for anyone to maintain momentum. I wonder if the lengthening season has anything to do with the tendency toward 50/50 splits in the Presidential vote?