"Dangerously Front Loaded Primary Schedule Could Determine Nominees Early And Favor Front Runners And Candidates With Large Bank Accounts"
I don’t know about you, but the presidential campaigns seem to me to be already pretty much in full swing much earlier then ever before. I cannot recall such a media frenzy of coverage and pundit prognostications happening to this degree this early when I think back to past presidential campaigns.
Chris Matthews daily frothing at the mouth about the elect-ability of Hillary or the chances of having a black president seem premature, but are they? I’m afraid the media in general has been forced to jump on the bandwagon to propel the presidential races forward in time to adjust for the new primary schedule. Hourly reports on the whereabouts of Clinton and Obama fill daily jabber on cable news hours. Talking heads talk on the meaning of this and that.
Like the candidates they also realize that any Johnny come lately maybe a dollar short and too late to effectively have a chance at having their message resonate with voters in time for the frontloaded primary season. The candidates must get their message out earlier when the schedule could very well end up determining who the nominees are as early as February 5th, 2008.
Another question that arises is does this front loaded primary voting serve our democracy well. Probably it does not. It most likely will favor candidates who can raise the most money who already are perceived to be the front runners.
Two dates stand out. February 5th and March 4th, 2008. As it stand now 17 states will vote or caucus on February 5th and another 10 states have their elections on March 4th. This arrangement has to favor the candidates with the biggest bank accounts because it is estimated that it will take $20 to $50 million to cover the TV time alone just for February 5th in the super primary states voting that day.
State legislatures and politicians who in the past had primaries in the late spring have felt like they were left out of the action. They have moved their primaries forward. Effectively. all though it is not yet set in stone, it appears that something like a national primary will take place on February 5th, 2008. Therefore March 4th 10 primaries may turn out to be totally insignificant by the time they happen. Because the nominees have already been determined by the primaries and caucuses on February 5th.
It would appear that the only way a candidate, who is not considered a front runner or does not have unlimited money like John Edwards for instance, will succeed is to win early in Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire and hope for the snowball effect that will carry him to victory in South Carolina and Florida and into the 17 state super primary on February 5th. This maybe the reason Edwards has spend more time in Iowa then most of the other candidates. He realizes it is crucial. Winning these early caucuses and primaries will surely bring millions of dollars worth of free media exposure and project the candidate forward and possibly ahead of front runner Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. This scenario also holds for the lesser known Republican candidates. They will probably have to win early to overtake front runners McCain or Giuliani.
Another wilder scenario could be that there is no clear winner determined even after the 10 state March 4th super primary. This could make states like Oregon and Washington with late primary elections powerful players in determining who the nominees will be in the end.
One thing that looks sure is that the presidential campaign, once the nominees are determined, will be longer and more contentious due to the new primary schedule where the candidates are determined so early. Nominees will start campaigning nearly a year before the actual election. Americans, who tend to not like too much political discourse, could become annoyed and be turned off or become even more apathetic about the system.
The following schedule of primaries was compiled from Larry J Sabato’s Crystall Ball and is a work in progress. As the final dates of many of the primaries are still not determined.
January 14th Iowa caucuses
January 19th Nevada Democratic caucuses
January 22nd New Hampshire primary, Wyoming Republican count conventions (POSSIBLY)
January 29th South Carolina Democratic primary, South Dakota primary (POSSIBLY), Florida primary (POSSIBLY)
February 2nd South Carolina Republican primary, Oklahoma primary (POSSIBLY)
February 5th Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California (POSSIBLY), Delaware, Florida (POSSIBLY), Idaho (POSSIBLY), Illinois (POSSIBLY),Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey (POSSIBLY), New Mexico, North Carolina, Utah primaries; Nevada Republican primary; North Dakota caucuses
February 9th Louisiana Republican primary (POSSIBLY)
February 10th Maine Democratic caucuses
February 12th Tennessee, Virginia primaries
February 19th Wisconsin primary
February 26th Hawaii Democratic caucuses
March 2nd Hawaii Republican caucuses
March 4th Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont primaries; Minnesota caucuses
March 7th Colorado Democratic primary
March 11th Mississippi, Pennsylvania primaries
March 8th Wyoming Democratic caucuses (POSSIBLY)
March 11th Washington Republican primary
March 15th Alaska Democratic caucuses
March 21st Maine Republican caucuses
April 1st Kansas primary
April 15th Colorado Republican primary
May 6th Indiana primary
May 13th Nebraska, West Virginia primaries
May 20th Kentucky, Oregon primaries
May 27th Washington Democratic primary