Today, the South Carolina Republican party has officially moved up their primary date from February 2nd to January 19th. This has instantly begun a chain of events which pushes the so-called “protected” states, Iowa and New Hampshire, to reasses their placement in the calendar.
From The New York Times blog, the Caucus:
“Fasten your seatbelts, as Bette Davis once advised, it?s going to be a bumpy ride.
South Carolina Republicans have now officially moved their primary up to Jan. 19 from Feb. 2.
They made the announcement today in New Hampshire, of all places, a move that will inevitably increase the pressure on Iowa to push up its caucuses to December.
Iowa is now faced with a choice here between two dates ? one that could make it irrelevant and another that could make it less irrelevant. But no one is sure which is which.
Iowa could be merely irrelevant if it votes in January but does not vote first. If Iowa falls after New Hampshire and South Carolina, candidates could decide to skip it as they gear up for bigger prizes in Nevada, Florida and then 20 very important states, including California, New York and Illinois, on Feb. 5. Iowa might think that it would be less irrelevant if it moves its caucuses up to December, thereby continuing its tradition of being the first state in the nation to vote.
That would be a first all right. But it could also be a big risk. Candidates might not perceive campaigning in Iowa as worth the trouble of trying to make themselves heard in the pre-holiday bustle. Is there a candidate alive who wants to be running around to debates and pumping out ads on the airwaves in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Is there a voter who wants to watch them?”
Now, this getting utterly ridiculous. In the 2000 presidential election, 11 states had primaries/caucuses (cauci?) before March 1st of that year. In 2008, the number will reach 31 before March 1st.
This is breeding a culture of nonstop campaigning and fundraising. While political junkies enjoy the early action, I fear that normal voters may suffer from sensory overload. Political fatigue is an issue, and may actually cause people to feel less vested or simply uninterested in the process. Also, lesser known candidates will certainly have a difficult time establishing campaigns and the role of money in politics (already obscene) will be the ultimate factor in waging a campaign.
There is one completely sensible reform being offered by three senators. Democrat Amy Klobucher of Minnesota, Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Lamar(!) Alexander of Tennessee introduced legislation this week that would create regional primaries beginning in the 2012 cycle. While protecting NH and IA, this system would divide the country into four regions and allow each region to hold primaries in all of their states on the first Tuesday of March. The next region would all hold their primaries on the first Tuesday in April, next region May, and the final region in June. Every four years, the regions would rotate in their placement so that every cycle another region would hold the lead off primaries.
This is a great compromise and completely sensible. It sets a fine precedent for including more states in the process and allows a much-needed diverse perspective in terms of geography and voter make-up (let’s face it: New Hampshire and Iowa are among the least representative states of the rest of the country). This is good policy and the right thing to do. Let’s hope it catches on in Washington.
Cross posted at: http://mattomalley.b…