Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 20, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

CALIFORNIA OR BUST....California legislators have announced plans to move California's 2008 primary to February 5, just two weeks after the New Hampshire primary. Both parties are in favor, as is Arnold, so it seemingly has a pretty good chance of happening.

I'm all in favor for purely selfish reasons. In 30 years I haven't cast a single primary vote that mattered, and for once in my life I'd like to have a say. Since I don't plan to relocate to New Hampshire or South Carolina anytime soon, moving the California primary up is my only chance.

And since Hillary's announcement is the big news today, it's probably worth mentioning that this would be pretty helpful to her cause, right? Not only is she pretty popular among the fundraising set here, but she's one of the few candidates with enough money to seriously contest California and still run decent campaigns in the other early states.

At least, that's my initial reaction. Am I missing something obvious?

Kevin Drum 2:23 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (67)

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Comments

I would guess John Edwards would be the favorite in California.

Posted by: Jimm on January 20, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Back in '92 there was a long and uncertain fight that yielded Bill Clinton, an unquestionably talented politician. These days, the contest is big and fast, and it's over in a fortnight. The changes seem to make most of the race about money and name recognition - and luck and the biases of the Washington in-crowd. This is especially the case because there's so little hard news coverage. The only remaining retail politicking and hard - though regional - issues are in the traditional venues of Iowa and New Hampshire, where the candidates spend a lot of extra time a few years out.

I don't think New Hampshire or Iowa should get to keep their preeminence, but I also don't like the nomination being sewn up in two weeks. I also note that California is an awfully big and expensive state to come so early.

Couldn't there be some sort of lottery-based scheduling system, where primary dates spaced over a couple of months are assigned either to individual states or to regional groupings by chance? The best such design might be a difficult one to reach, but I'd really like to see a drawn out, evolving contest for the nomination.

Posted by: Warren Terra on January 20, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

And on the Republican side? I'm guesing it helps McCain over Giuliani.

Posted by: B on January 20, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree, Jimm. I think this was the death blow to Edwards. He needed to win big in Iowa, NV, and SC. CA will go to Hillary in a big way, cutting Edwards off at the knees.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on January 20, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Kevin, you're missing that Edwards is the candidate that this country needs, now.

Posted by: Tosh on January 20, 2007 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, this is bad.

An early California primary makes the nomination battle just about entirely about cash. Unless you are just about the top money-raiser in the race, you're screwed in California. It's just too big.

This would hurt Edwards - the best progressive in the race, and the best general election candidate - and help Hillary (a ton) and Obama (some). I don't like it.

Posted by: DivGuy on January 20, 2007 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

I doubt John Edwards will have the money to compete in California by then So it seems This will help the estableshed names of Obama & Hillery.

All this shifting of states in the primary calender is turning into overkill though. It seems they are bent on making all knowledge about the primaries is useless this time round. I'm not sure it'll be undoubtly positive to do so.

Posted by: Ernst on January 20, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

And DivGuy said it all before me...

Posted by: Ernst on January 20, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't it be better to have the early primaries in places like Texas which represent American values rather than California which represents San Francisco values? I'm sure that for fans of Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) holding early primaries in California would be a good idea, but I think it would be better if Texas moves its primaries earlier also so that American values wouldn't be thrown aside because candidates want left coasters in California to vote for them.

Al

Posted This

Posted by: cbklsff on January 20, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

It's not only too big. It's too different. The California right is pretty much like the Southern and midwestern right, so Republicans that can win in California do well nationally. But California Dems are not representative of national Dems.

Posted by: JR on January 20, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure who it helps in the deocratic primary. But I'm sure it helps the republicans and hurts the democrats in the general election. It forces the candidates in both parties to the left, which puts the reps closer to the center and the dems further away. It also helps the candidates with the most money coming in. In the case of the democrats in 2008, Hillary will have the most money, but Edwards is closer to California's mentality. But Obama could change everything. He's a charismatic blank slate. And he's avoiding strong positions until he knows what his situation will be. I think Giuliani is the big winner because people have figured out that McCain really isn't a moderate, especially on the social issues that are important in California.

Posted by: fostert on January 20, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Well not to sure about California Dems being less representative then say Texas Dems muself, but to put a reliable voting block first adds little to the candidate. Putting swingstates first might be a better idea, It might raise the profile of the candidate there and if the primaries are open to independents it'll probably help in the general elections. It's easier to swing independents to wards you when they already voted for you in the primery.

Posted by: Ernst on January 20, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

I think that its a bad move as well because CA elections tend to be decided based on who spends the most money.

That said, I think Obama has a great deal to gain with California front and center. The latest poll shows Obama quite popular in California and the anti-Clinton left is based out of California. But of course she has a lot of money.

Richardson is a wild card. Will he be able to energize Latino voters?

Posted by: seank on January 20, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with DivGuy on this, although differing in presidential loyalties. The biggest thing this does is make the primary even more money intensive, which is a bad thing for politics in general and my favored candidate, Barack, in particular. It also helps Hollywood Dem's money/influence, which is not good for the party's image.

Posted by: Steve W, on January 20, 2007 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Does it strike anyone as ridiculous that we front-load the primaries so that the nominees are a settled question by spring, then have this lengthy "phony war" period through the whole summer waiting for the "official" nominations to kick off the actual national campaign? I'd favor a single national primary in September, get rid of the conventions (which don't actually do anything anymore) and then a national election in November. Compressing the campaign would make it cheaper, less baroque and more coherent.

Moving big single-state primaries to earlier in the year seems like just the opposite of what we should be doing.

Posted by: jimBOB on January 20, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

with perhaps the exception of the 76 pennsylvania primary, i don't think i've ever cast a primary vote where the nominee was in doubt. i don't think most of the country has either. the system stinks.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on January 20, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Go for it. In thirty years voting in California the most meaningful votes I made were for Gary Hart as an expression of reservations about Mondale, and Jesse Jackson, as an expression of reservations about Dukakis.

Now about the electoral college....

Posted by: Gene O'Grady on January 20, 2007 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, well IL is talking about moving their primary up too, so it will be a wash.

Posted by: Disputo on January 20, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

This is a nightmarish idea. The primary season will be over 2 weeks after it starts, with CA (and any other large states that choose to jump in early) selecting the nominee.

Rather absurd for Californians to claim that the influence of their state is not felt, when its impact is so huge. As for the idea that your individual vote doesn't count for much, Kevin...that's pretty much a given when you share a state with tens of millions of other citizens. Even if CA's primary is in early February, your own say in the selection of the nominee is by necessity so minuscule as to be almost impossible to measure. So, uhhmm, what are you personally gaining? Aside, I mean, from destroying the idea of a primary season?

Posted by: smintheus on January 20, 2007 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

California so early means that never again will a grassroots, momentum buulding candidate get the Democratic nomination. Only those candidates who have $100 million + already have a chance.

As far as the Dem race - remember that possibly a third to 40% of the potential Dem voters are Latino or (much smaller) black. The make up of the actual voters might be different.

Posted by: hopeless pedant on January 20, 2007 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

cbklsff: "Wouldn't it be better to have the early primaries in places like Texas which represent American values rather than California which represents San Francisco values?"

Anyone who would believe that Texas represents mainstream American values obviously has not been paying attention.

You should read Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room (or at least watch the documentary on DVD).

Was it mainstream American values that prompted those two pillars of Houston's business community, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, to rip off California to the tune of $15 billion, by conspiring with other Texas energy companies like Reliant and El Paso to concoct a phony energy crisis in that state?

Is it an American value to "fuckin' fleece Grandma Millie" in California, as Enron's energy traders so infamously bragged (and had the audacity to record such comments for posterity)?

Was it good old-fashioned mid-American virtue that led the aforementioned Lay and Skilling to conspire with Enron CFO Andrew Fastow to cook the corporation's books and rip off their stockholders and employees?

Do anyone in their right mind consider it representative of mainstream American values that some Texas white trash can chain a 49-yar-old black man to the rear bumper of a pickup truck and drag him down the road to the point of dismemberment?

And is it anyone's idea of a mainstream American value to support the white community in that Texas town where the aforementioned motorized dismemberment took place, when that white community tells the man's family that they "need to get over it"?

Thank you very much, but I'll take Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "San Francisco values" over Texans' warped perspective of Americana any time, anywhere. Any state that would oust a fine governor like Ann Richards in favor of the likes of George W. Bush obviously has a collective screw loose somewhere.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 20, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

The way to get around the whole "competing in California costs too much money" issue is for a candidate like Edwards to simply announce preemptively that he is not going to try to compete in California.

In the primaries, it's all about managing expectations, and if he says he won't compete in California then expectations will be negligible and he won't be hurt by a poor performance.

He's such a well known candidate that I'm guessing that he'll get 15-20% of the vote in California even if he never sets foot in the state simply because he will get plenty of free media coverage.

Posted by: mfw13 on January 20, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

There needs to be a national primary and thirty days later, the election.

And as a Californian, my vote has never counted, much less have my primary options been worth voting for. It doesn't seem to bother the rest of the country to call the election when we still have time to vote. We have a lot of people, but we haven't been influential in a long time. We have been so unimportant that if it wasn't for propositions we wouldn't have any campaign commercials at all.

Posted by: Debra on January 20, 2007 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

"And since Hillary's announcement is the big news today, it's probably worth mentioning that this would be pretty helpful to her cause, right? Not only is she pretty popular among the fundraising set here, but she's one of the few candidates with enough money to seriously contest California and still run decent campaigns in the other early states."

This is precisely why we need regional primaries. I personally don't want the candidate with the most money early on running the table because they have the money. I want candidates to spend 3-4 weeks campaigning region by region on issues important to that region. Maybe it would force candidates to learn the issues beyond the people who give them money.

Posted by: Fred on January 20, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

California so early means that never again will a grassroots, momentum buulding candidate get the Democratic nomination.

Can anyone name a "grassroots" candidate that got the nomination, much less the presidency, in the past 25 years? The last, and probably only, modern President to fit that description was Carter, who barely eked out a win against the weakened Gerald Ford before losing in a landslide to Reagan. Is "more Carters" what we want to aim at nominating?

A national primary would force the candidates to demonstrate widespread national strength, not just build some momentum by furiously shaking hands in a couple of small rural states.

If we can't have a national primary, then get rid of these early symbolic contests in unrepresentative states like Iowa and New Hampshire. This system rewards the wrong things and draws out the campaign for far too long.

Posted by: jimBOB on January 20, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Debra: "We have a lot of people, but we haven't been influential in a long time."

And that oft-expressed political inferiority complex is but one good reason why the Old Amish Popcorn Factory in Terre Haute, Indiana is on the Department of Homeland Security's list of prime terrorist targets, rather than the California State Capitol Building in Sacramento.

If Californians ever decided collectively to assert themselves on the national stage, the rest of the country would surely take notice.

As a 5th generation Californian and former state resident, I would simply note that Californians pay over $70 billion more in federal taxes than they get in corresponding federal spending -- which means that you are clearly subsidizing the poor white southern trash of the old Confederacy that freely mocks California as "the Left Coast", and derides Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "San Francisco values" as though her principles constituted the first chapter in Chairman Mao's little red book.

You and your fellow state residents should be screaming at the top of your lungs to your congressional delegation about that particular fiscal travesty.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 20, 2007 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

That the primaries become so unimaginably front-loaded means we will have fucking MONTHS of dead air between February and July or whenever they are.

I live in Iowa, but their arrogance about the caucuses makes me want to vomit, especially since this is the result.

Posted by: MNPundit on January 20, 2007 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

jimBOB:

Agree with your comments. We need a national, or at least, regional primaries. The campaign season is entirely too baroque and drawn out -- and I agree that Iowa and NH reward the wrong kind of qualities. Big-money politics (winning CA with a huge media budget) is grotesque, but "retail politics" as its practiced in tiny farm states is not the answer, either ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 20, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

MNPundit: "I live in Iowa, but their arrogance about the caucuses makes me want to vomit, especially since this is the result."

And it was Iowa Democrats who in '04 decisively installed Sen. John Kerry as the party's front-runner -- an otherwise decent man whose utter failure to decisively confront the lies of George W. Bush ultimately proved him to be the weakest candidate in that year's Democratic field.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 20, 2007 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

As a former Californian, this is great news. It always seemed completely insane that the state with the largest population -- a full 10% of the U.S. total and with an economy large enough to be the world's 7th or 8th largest -- should basically have no say in the primary. By the time the primary got to California -- the candidates had been decided.

That all being said, we really should have either no primaries and instant run-off elections in the U.S. or national primaries and then a general election, but those are just dreams I suppose.

Posted by: DC1974 on January 20, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree, Jimm. I think this was the death blow to Edwards. He needed to win big in Iowa, NV, and SC. CA will go to Hillary in a big way, cutting Edwards off at the knees.

I live here, talk to people whenever I get the chance, and don't really see a lot of support for Hillary. I'm not saying she can't win it, but if Edwards plays it right he'll be a front runner here. I'm sure Hillary will be up there too.

Posted by: Jimm on January 20, 2007 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

I forgot about Obama there for a second...he'll likely be very popular too.

Posted by: Jimm on January 20, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

I don't keep up on the money issues so I'm probably dead wrong about all of this.

Posted by: Jimm on January 20, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that it takes something like $100 million to run for President and $10-20 million to buy a Senate seat is appalling. I don't think Jefferson, Madison, and the rest of the boys had this in mind when they conceived our "democracy."

Posted by: global yokel on January 20, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that it takes something like $100 million to run for President

I can't recall where, but I read a prediction that the 2008 race would cost each party $500M each, making it the first trillion $ Presidential election.

Posted by: Disputo on January 20, 2007 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

The obvious thing that you are missing, touched on by a couple of other posters, is that this is a race to the bottom -- more precisely, a race to the early -- that is no way to run a country. A co-ordinated national system that rotates the early primaries is the obvious solution. It is hard to work up much optimism about how soon we will get there.

Posted by: Ken D. on January 20, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

the 2008 race would cost each party $500M each, making it the first trillion $ Presidential election.

That would be billion rather than trillion. Sounds like a lot, but it comes to less than $4 apiece per citizen.

Posted by: jimBOB on January 20, 2007 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

New Jersey?

Big enough, small enough, urban enough, rural enough, mixed enough, purple enough?

And nobody has to pay fealty to a monoculture (agricultural or political) as in Iowa or New Hampshire.

Posted by: ThresherK on January 20, 2007 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

It all depends on what else happens. The 1968 CA primary was exciting because the nomination was still up in the air. In 2004, Kerry had an insurmountable lead by the time the CA primary was held. Had the previous primaries produced a more even split, the CA primary would have been the most important.

A defect in the campaign finance reform is that situations like 1968 are much less probable.

A defect of moving the CA primary ahead is that thoughtful Californians, the sort who turn out in primaries, will have less opportunity to learn about the candidates.

Also, California requires primary voters to be registered in the party whose primary they are voting in. That means that California swing voters have almost no say in whom the parties nominate. The primaries are even more dominated by the party hacks than in most other states, so each party is likely to nominate a candidate who is estranged from the middle: far left for the Dems, far right for the Republicans.

Posted by: calibantwo on January 20, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

That would be billion rather than trillion.

LOL. Duh. Thanks for correcting my typo.

Posted by: Disputo on January 20, 2007 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Please not Hillary. Please God, if there is one, or Great Cat. Please please please. Not Hillary.
Fuck me dead and activate my EC citizenship.

Posted by: Alan in SF on January 20, 2007 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Donald from Hawaii: you are clearly subsidizing the poor white southern trash of the old Confederacy that freely mocks California as "the Left Coast", and derides Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "San Francisco values" as though her principles constituted the first chapter in Chairman Mao's little red book.

You and your fellow state residents should be screaming at the top of your lungs to your congressional delegation about that particular fiscal travesty.

No, we understand that California has to pay more in taxes than we get back, just as rich people have to pay more than poor people, because we have more money. West Virginia just doesn't have the income to pay in taxes all it needs in services.

Posted by: anandine on January 20, 2007 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK
the best progressive in the race, …DivGuy at 2:51 PM
Unless Al Gore returns, the best progressive in the race currently is Dennis Kucinich.
Jefferson, Madison, and the rest of the boys had this in mind when they conceived our "democracy." global yokel at 5:29 PM
Although senators were appointed by state legislatures back then, they were expected to come from the privileged landed class, so in a way, we're back. Posted by: Mike on January 20, 2007 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

calibantwo: "The 1968 CA primary was exciting because the nomination was still up in the air."

And when the smoke cleared, the presumed Democratic front-runner lay mortally wounded upon the kitchen floor of a Los Angeles hotel, thus opening the road to the White House for Richard Nixon. We all know where the story goes from there.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 20, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Mike:,/b> "Unless Al Gore returns, the best progressive in the race currently is Dennis Kucinich."

Please don't get me wrong here, because I truly admire Dennis Kucinich for the commitment and unbridled passion he brings to issues, but it's preciselt that near-messianic missionary zeal that renders him unwilling to seek out compromise with allies and adversaries alike.

While that has served him well in the halls of Congress, where his voice thunders above most of his 434 House colleagues and gets him heard, this otherwise-alienating trait doomed him to mediocrity as Cleveland's mayor in the 1970s, and makes him an even lousier presidential candidate today -- his valiant and noble opposition to the Iraq War notwithstanding.

Far better that he remains in Congress, where such passion gives a capability to be the legislative voice for those Americans who otherwise have enjoyed little or none on Capitol Hill. His unique talents as a sorely-needed political gadfly are singularly ill-suited to what is required to run an effective administration as a chief executive.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 20, 2007 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

anandine; "West Virginia just doesn't have the income to pay in taxes all it needs in services."

Believe me, I'm all for helping those who are less fortunate, as I enjoyed a privileged upbringing in Pasadena and my grandparents always stressed the importance of sharing your good fortune with your brethren.

However, I also would like to see California afforded some long-overdue recognition for all it brings to the American table.

It's simply ill-mannered, and betrays one's lack of proper breeding, to repeatedly insult and/or curse those who provide for or assist you. Far better that we instead expend our money, time and energy for those who will truly appreciate it.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 20, 2007 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

Having a large and diverse state, California or maybe Illinois or Florida, early in the process is a a great idea. Winning in California requires money, organization and a good media operation all things necessary to win the general election. Unless the party wanted to concentrate on the purple states at the beginning of the primary season, putting a media driven state in the front is the next best thing.
It probably hurts candidates who are great pressing the flesh, but the nominee should be well prepared for the general.

Posted by: Need Better Ads on January 20, 2007 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

Can anyone name a "grassroots" candidate that got the nomination, much less the presidency, in the past 25 years? The last, and probably only, modern President to fit that description was Carter.

Clinton was just as much a "grassroots" candidate as Carter. Both were governors of modest-sized southern states (Georgia was a lot smaller then than now). People use the term "grassroots" too loosely. If you mean "virtually unknown until the campaign started" then I agree, Carter's the only one. But I'm not sure if we should really care whether or not our system is unkind to "unknowns". Perhaps, given what's at stake, we ought to be glad there's a strong bias against a little-known candidate gaining the White House. I'd be content if our system merely made it possible for "politicians who are not the overwhelming establishment favorites three years prior to the election" to have some chance at winning. By this measure, I reckon we pass the test. Obama, after all, was unknown nationally a mere 2.5 years ago, and now stands a pretty good chance at winning. Howard Dean, too, stood a credible chance, and might conceivably have won, but for bad concession speech.

Posted by: Jasper on January 20, 2007 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

Jasper:

The "bad concession speech" was an epiphenomenon of a bad local TV sound feed.

Had there been ambient mikes to mix in the crowd sound, Dean's fabled scream would've seemed as appropos as screaming at a sporting event.

The handheld cartoid feed, which put only his voice on the tape, made him sound like a lunatic.

Only because you weren't in the gymnasium.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 20, 2007 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

Having a large and diverse state, California or maybe Illinois or Florida, early in the process is a a great idea. Winning in California requires money, organization and a good media operation all things necessary to win the general election. Unless the party wanted to concentrate on the purple states at the beginning of the primary season, putting a media driven state in the front is the next best thing.

I largely agree with this. Here's my proposal.

1) A single, national primary is a very dangerous idea. The rigors of the several month long, arduous primary season used to be an effective filter against either party's choosing a fatally flawed candidate. It wasn't perfect, but, given the stakes, it was mostly effective. The fact that we're effectively making the primary season ever shorter is bad. A national primary day in September would be mighty risky.

2) To some extent the long, arduous primary has been replaced by the long, arduous, year-long pre-primary. I regard this as an acceptable stop gap, but we'd still be better off with something closer to what we had 20 or 30 years ago.

3) So, I like the idea of a series of multi-state big contests, but I wouldn't make them regional. Rather, I'd simply choose roughly one quarter of the delegates one day each month for four consecutive months. Choose, in other words, 25% of the delegates on, say, the third Tuesday in February, then another 25% the third Tuesday in March, etc. Ideally, since there are fifty states, we could have four mega-primaries each comprising a dozen or so states from different parts of the country. In this way each of the four super primaries would have a truly national -- rather than regional -- flavor (I think this is a much better way to go as the presidency is, after all, our only national office). If we wanted, we could still have a mini early primary (perhaps at the end of January) to allow the retail politickin' traditions of Iowa and New Hampshire to continue. But I'd require those two states to share the same day, and I'd also add a small Western State (Alaska, say) and a small Southern one (say Mississippi) to the mix (to complement the Midwestern and New England flavor; it might not be a bad idea to let D.C. have its primary that day, too, to give an early voice to urban America). So, we'd have a preliminary small state primary in late January, followed a month or so later by a big, 11 or 12 state national primary, and then three more national primaries -- each following a month later in succession.

Such a system would give us ample time (30 days) between each of these events to actually discuss the issues and digest the results of the previous contest, as well as the relative peformance of the various candidates.

4) I'd rotate and remix the compositions of the various national primaries every four years so as not to do exact repeats of the previous election's primary schedule. Every state, in other words, would get a chance to participate in February's primary, just as every state would have to take a turn in May's.

5) One advantage - because of the national nature of each of these big primaries -- would be the importance of free media. This might actually prove to a substantive equalizer against the early, huge advantage currently enjoyed by the ultra well-funded candidate in today's system.

Posted by: Jasper on January 20, 2007 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

And when the smoke cleared, the presumed Democratic front-runner lay mortally wounded upon the kitchen floor of a Los Angeles hotel, thus opening the road to the White House for Richard Nixon. We all know where the story goes from there.

Is that an argument for an early primary? If so, how?

Posted by: calibantwo on January 20, 2007 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

New Hampshire wasn't elected to go first. It just took it. The objective ought to be to break the New Hampshire -- Iowa monopoly, and the only way to do that is for some state somewhere to say that enough is enough.

So here is my proposal: Let California declare that it will hold its primary on the exact same day as New Hampshire's (or if we really want to be audacious, either a day or a week prior to New Hampshire's), make it state law, and resist all the nonsensical threats that the Democratic Convention might disallow the California delegation.

The easiest way to do this is to set the primary for the same day as the first primary or the first caucus in any other place. A California primary on the day the Iowa caucuses start would be the coup de gras to the two-state monopoly.

Neither state has shown much talent for picking outstanding candidates. For all New Hampshire's preening about its special relationship with candidates, New Hampshire picks a candidate from one of its immediately adjacent states at least half the time for the past forty years or so (check it out). The number of Senators from Mass or Maine that have been picked by NH is way out of proportion tho their abilities.

By the way, it wouldn't have to be California -- some smaller state like Oregon or New Jersey would serve just fine -- but if we want to break the monopoly, why settle for a date two weeks after NH? Sure, the Democratic Party will puff and bluster about the right of the Democratic National Committee to set party rules, but that is a house of cards that long since needs to be blown down.

Posted by: Bob Gelfand on January 20, 2007 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I'm happy for you and all California Democrats finally having a chance to have a primary vote that might matter.

I'm very sad about the amount of money that will be spent to contest the state. Sickened, even.

Posted by: Nell on January 20, 2007 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

I wish we would move ours up in NY too (and Hillary would not do as well as expected here). We never get to pick--it's already decided by the time it's our turn.

Posted by: amberglow on January 21, 2007 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a Californian, too, but just two weeks after New Hampshire means it's all about millionaires and senators with war chests. Do we really need to make this additional effort to see that only a wealthy elite pick our presidents and are our presidents?

Posted by: catherineD on January 21, 2007 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

"I'm a Californian, too, but just two weeks after New Hampshire means it's all about millionaires and senators with war chests."

And how is this different from the status quo?

Posted by: mrgumby2u on January 21, 2007 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

Re: Only Millionaires

The candidates all come to Los Angeles to beg for money, but then they spend it in New Hampshire and Iowa. I'm not afraid of having a primary election in California that will mean something, and our voters have shown that they can sort out complex issues a lot better than the voters of New Hampshire (notice how they make nuanced choices on our idiotic system of ballot initiatives).

Here is one way to make things a little fairer: Apportion delegates based on percentage of the vote received rather than winner take all. A mid-level candidate would win more delegates in California than the total number available in New Hampshire, and the leaders would split a fairly large number. Any reasonably close result (fairly likely, actually) would be viewed not as the triumph of a single candidate, but rather as the start of a real contest. For example, Obama might win 31%, Vilsak 26%, Hillary 22%, and the remainder picking up the scraps. That would make for a nice three-way race rather than the coronation that New Hampshire provides.

Posted by: Bob Gelfand on January 21, 2007 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

This strikes me as "the Hillary Clinton" change.

First, it's a lot of electoral votes assessed early.

Second, it's going to benefit cash & name recognition over skills, ideology, or substance. Great.

I'm in favor of breaking the NH and IA dominance, but why not through NV or NM or even PA or VA? Why not the largest and most expensive state?

Posted by: MDtoMN on January 21, 2007 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

"Am I missing something obvious?"

Yup. That California is almost certainly in the bag of the official Dem candidate anyway. Would be much better if swing state voters would decide the primary.

Posted by: Gray on January 21, 2007 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Seems to me the idea (of having the California primary early) is for corporate America to lock up the presidency, so no grassroots movement could ever have a chance of offering up a really good candidate to America.

$ Rules

I guess corporate America still likes the direction America is going (during this god-forsaken Bush era), even if most Americans don't.

Posted by: MarkH on January 21, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Why don't they do regional primaries that go first or second in different presidential years or increase the number of delegates needed so that the race isn't decided so early on. Its a shame people in the West have no impact on the primaries because Easterners and Southerners decide the process. The future of the Democratic party is the West not the south or east so they need to figure it out soon.

Posted by: aline on January 21, 2007 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Is California a winner-take-all state? If so, this front loading is bad because it will officially kill the conversation about what sort of nominee we should have before most people have a chance to think about it. It's profoundly undemoncratic. I'm sure the money people like it, because the flyover people don't really get a voice in the process.

Posted by: Bucky on January 21, 2007 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Jimm: I would guess John Edwards would be the favorite in California.

Not according to this California Presidential Preference poll of likely Dem primary voters if the trend holds up. Note the Independents. Hillary and Obama are out in front but still a lot of undecided voters.

Got the link from new statewide polls at Pollster.com/blogs/, a good resource site.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on January 21, 2007 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK
And since Hillary's announcement is the big news today, it's probably worth mentioning that this would be pretty helpful to her cause, right?

Frontloading the primaries probably helps an early frontronner because it reduces the impact of a expectation-busting loss in an early primary state, OTOH, it probably increases the chance of her losing an early primary state, so I'm not sure how it works out overall.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 22, 2007 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

One thing to be careful about is drawing conclusion from polling now; right now name recognition is the big factor, and polling results mostly tell you who has been getting national free media so far. It tells you almost nothing about anything else relevant to the prospects of the candidates in an actual primary election.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 22, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think Hillary has a lot of traction here in California right now, but I'm not at all sure that it's going to stay that way. I think in terms of her viability in the primary that she's a known quantity and so support for her is as high as it's going to get. Obama and others do have a chance to get out there and make themselves known; the bad part is, as other posters have noted, that it'll take money.

Posted by: cyntax on January 22, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

I don't usually keep replying, but the subject is important and the conventional wisdom is unwise.

California is not optimal as the state to break the New Hampshire monopoly, but it is potentially available as the instrument. It would be unlikely that California would be allowed to continue to hold a monopoly of its own -- once New Hampshire is dethroned, it will open up a negotiating process that will rotate the rights around from election to election -- but first, somebody has to take the initiative.

Of course any such power grab should involve dividing up the delegates based on percentage of the vote. This, more than anything else, would dethrone New Hampshire, because even a fourth place finisher in California would win more delegates than the entire NH slate combined. Any legislative act by California to change the date of the election must include this proviso.

If any other state is willing to take the lead, more power to it. But until that happens, we should push for California to go first, whether or not the Democratic National Committee consents. The day after the election, it will be amusing to see the two or three winning candidates explain that the California delegation absolutely, positively will be seated at the convention.

Posted by: Bob Gelfand on January 22, 2007 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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