Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Primary Madness Continues

This morning, Governor Granholm of Michigan signed a law moving her state's primary election to January 15th, a week ahead of New Hampshire and 1 day after the Iowa caucuses. New Hampshire and Iowa have yet to respond, but are expected to do so. NH law requires the primary be first in the country. Iowa law requires it to set its caucus 8 days before the first primary.

Now Wyoming Republicans announced on 9/1 they are moving their caucuses to January 5th. It is hard to see how we avoid December elections now.


Dr. Strangelove said...

Astonishing. My only question is, "Why didn't this happen sooner?"

The Law Talking Guy said...

When you say "this" you mean the jockeying for first place? I think the answer is that this is the first election in half a century where neither party has an heir apparent, so this is the first time state parties are more or less cooperating to push ahead of Iowa and NH. Also, the GOP wants to choose a candidate early to distract from a very unpopular president, and the GOP hasn't gone in without an heir apparent since 1968. Dems want to avoid fratricide by duking it out early.

Also, the primary system as we know it has really been in place since about 1972. Before that, most states had caucuses that were heavily dominated by certain interests, and very local news media made primary elections in those few states that had them quite different. The "favorite son" candidate used to be a governor or senator who would run for president in the local primary in order to win control of the state's delegates at the national convention where he was not actually a candidate. All local party bosses would rally support for the "favorite son." All that died in the reforms of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the past, what mattered was the number of delegates, so Being First was neat but Iowa and NH had few delegates to give.

Finally, I think the importance of Being First has gradually increased over time for a variety of reasons relating to television and coverage. The whole country can watch campaigning in IA and NH. So they do. In 2000 and 2004 the parties "learned" the lesson that if you win the first state, you win it all. Now that the importance of Being First has eclipsed delegation size, the Big States are rushing in.

Raised By Republicans said...

I like LTG's answer to Dr. S's question. The money issue is an especially big deal I think.

Being the front runner early means more free press from CNN, MSNBC, and FOX. It also means more money which means more paid advertising later one.

If all the primaries are in the same month though, I wonder how much value there will be to being first. If Wyoming is a week before California, where would you spend your time if you were a candidate?

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG interpreted my question correctly. Also like the answer. Kind of like the box office for opening weekend: it seems to be the only number anyone cares about anymore.

USWest said...

Let's not forget hat being first meant have the greatest choice of candidates since no one had dropped out.

The Law Talking Guy said...

My guess is that if all primaries were in the first month, it would matter even more to be first. You can ride "the big mo" (momentum) as G. Bush senior would say. "Momentum" really means avalanches of free coverage touting you as a winner. A longer primary season would allow buyer's remorse to set in. If the next serious primary were 30 days after NH, you might see that.

Notice also that NH and Iowa have not always picked winners.

1. Iowa: In 1980, Bush beat Reagan. In 1988, the winners were Gephardt (D) and Dole (R). In 1992, Tom Harkin (D) won. In 1996, 2000, and 2004, however, the Iowa picked the winners.

2. New Hampshire: 1984: Gary Hart (D) won. In 1992, Tsongas (D) won. In 1996: Buchanan (R) won. 2000 (R), McCain won.

In many of these contests , it was the second place "insurgent" or "strong shower" who got all the press. Clinton's 2d showing in 1992 (NH) is classic.