Iowa and New Hampshire In December? Fine With Me

Currently, the Democratic primary / caucus calendar looks like this:
  • January 14th (Monday) Iowa
  • January 19th (Saturday) Nevada
  • January 22nd (Tuesday) New Hampshire
  • January 29th (Tuesday) South Carolina (Florida? Michigan?)
  • February 5th (Tuesday) National primary
Apart from the possibility of Florida moving up to January 29th, and the likelihood that Michigan would follow them, the sticky wicket preventing this calendar from being finalized is New Hampshire. Simply put, New Hampshire does not want Nevada to hold a caucus before them, and as such has threatened to move their primary to an earlier date.

However, what earlier dates could New Hampshire actually choose? A close look reveals they do not have many options. Consider the following conditions:
  1. New Hampshire will hold its caucus on a Tuesday. Or, at least I assume they will.
  2. Nevada is holding its caucus on Saturday, January 19th.
  3. New Hampshire will only move its primary to a point at least seven days before Nevada.
  4. Iowa will hold its caucus eight days before New Hampshire. Both Iowa and New Hampshire agree on this.
  5. Neither Iowa nor New Hampshire will hold their caucus / primary during, immediately following, or immediately preceding a major national holiday.
If New Hampshire wants to meet all of these conditions, it actually only has two options: Tuesday, December 18th, 2007 or Tuesday, December 11th, 2007. In order to meet condition #3, the latest Tuesday it could choose would be January 8th, 2008 However, since Iowa will not hold its caucus on New Year's Eve (condition #5), and would instead move to a period before the holidays, New Hampshire would follow and move its primary to an earlier date as well (condition #4). New Hampshire also would not hold its primary on either New Year's Day or Christmas--just not gonna happen. This leaves only December 11th, with Iowa on December 3rd, or December 18th, with Iowa on December 10th. Of those two choices, the latter is probably preferable to both Iowa and New Hampshire. For Iowa, it gives them a full two weeks after the Thanksgiving weekend before the caucus is held. For New Hampshire, it pushes them a little bit closer to the rest of the calendar, while also making it impossible for anyone to sneak in before New Year's.

In short, it seems as though has only two choices: accept the current primary / caucus calendar, or move back to December 16th. To tell you truth, I think I actually prefer a calendar with an earlier Iowa and New Hampshire to our current calendar. Check it out:
  • December 10th (Monday): Iowa
  • December 18th (Tuesday): New Hampshire
  • January 19th (Saturday): Nevada
  • January 29th (Tuesday): South Carolina, Florida, Michigan
  • February 5th (Tuesday) National Primary
I know it seems a little crazy, and I have long trashed New Hampshire and Iowa for their privilege, but... this... actually... works. Check out its many advantages:
  • New Hampshire and Iowa placated. They still get to go first--in fact, they get to go a lot earlier relative to other states in the current calendar. There is no way any state moves into a window that includes the holidays.
  • New Hampshire and Iowa reduced. The two "traditional" states will take place so much earlier than any other state, that whatever "momentum" candidates derive from those states will be significantly muted over five weeks later.
  • Diverse groups play important, early role. Nevada, South Carolina, Florida and Michigan will effectively function as a second set of early contests to immediately precede Super Tuesday. This will allow for significant, early state voting representation for African-Americans, Latinos, union members, Jews, and ever region of the country.
  • Frontloading significantly eased. In this calendar, the primary / caucus season lasts for fifty-eight days, instead of twenty-three. This will give voters more time to decide, and give candidates more time to build up a national operation. In 2004, Kerry was severely lacking in nationwide staff after his early victories, including in states like Ohio and Florida, and this deficit might have cost him the election. At the same time, the primary season was over pretty much the same day it began in 2004, but with this calendar, from the start of the campaign until Super Tuesday voters would have a lot more time to make up their minds.
  • Almost everyone gets a voice: The national primary on February 5th will give more people a real say in determining the nominee than at any nomination process in two decades.
  • Nominee still decided early. With nine months between Super Tuesday and Election Day, there is plenty of time to rally around the eventually nominee.
I would have no problem whatsoever if this ended up as the Democratic primary / caucus calendar. In fact, I think I would prefer it. Maybe fixing the primary calendar requires Iowa and New Hampshire to move to mid-December. I say they go for it.

Tags: President 2008, Primary Elections (all tags)



Re: Iowa and New Hampshire In December? Fine With

Now, my understanding is that Michigan is holding their caucus on February 9, same day as we're holding ours in Nebraska. Are they planning on moving up earlier?

by Dave Sund 2007-04-04 11:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Iowa and New Hampshire In December? Fine With

Michigan has an open-ended threat to move it's caucuses to an earlier date if any other state violates the current calendar. Basically, if NH jumps, Michigan will jump, too, possibly near the top of the order.

by blueflorida 2007-04-04 11:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Iowa and New Hampshire In December? Fine With

New Hampshire is working on legislation that would make it more nimble in setting its Primary Date.  The duty of setting that date rests with one person: Secretary of State Bill Gardner.

I believe they could set the date as little as three weeks before the Primary, leaving just enough time to print the Ballots.  I find it unlikely that Michigan will be able to reschedule their primary that quickly.

by nhcollegedem 2007-04-04 11:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Iowa and New Hampshire In December? Fine With

You're probably right, but Michigan is more flexible than most because they allow Internet voting.

by blueflorida 2007-04-04 12:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Iowa and New Hampshire In December? Fine With

Michigan has plenty of times to move up, especially because it is a so-called "firehouse caucus" system which means than far fewer "polling" places are involved.  They could move it up even if the decision was around Thanksgiving.

by howardpark 2007-04-04 12:15PM | 0 recs
My gripe has always been

That the calendar has always increasingly compressed.  Iowa and NH were both first when Clinton lost the first 13! contests in 1992.  The difference was there was time to look at results and  re-evaluate who was in the race.

My solution has always been a mandatory break of three weeks between multi-state primaries after NH.

My calendar would be
Iowa 8 day break
New Hampshire 3 week break
A combination of 4 states 3 week break
A combination of 8 states a 3 week break
A combination of 8 states a 3 week break
All remaining states.

The combo of states would allow for a majority of delegates to be awarded on the final primary.

With proportional awarding of delegates and no super delegates to be allotted until after the primaries, any candidate with a reasonable financial and popular background would have a shot.  And "Momentum" would be reduced.

by demiowa 2007-04-04 11:53AM | 0 recs
Didn't Florida already move?

Thought they already moved to 1/29? Or maybe its not final yet?

by okamichan13 2007-04-04 11:54AM | 0 recs
That works. And it undercuts all of this talk...

...about how "it's so early." If the Iowa Caucuses are a little over eight months from now, it's not early.

by MeanBoneII 2007-04-04 11:54AM | 0 recs
we're pretty much in full swing already.

why the hell not?

but let's have this be the very LAST time that those two states have such a powerful voice in this very important thing.

They are unrepresentative, overentitled and whiny.


by neutron 2007-04-04 11:55AM | 0 recs
I disagree.

The only reason we have such a prominent voice is because of the front loaded schedule.  Once again, look back to 1992.  When there is ample time for discussion between contests an actual choice can be made.

One can even argue that the 2000 GOP nomination was a good one because of the lull between NH and SC.  If SC had been a week after NH McCain would probably have won.

Timing, not what state goes when, is the deciding factor.

by demiowa 2007-04-04 12:00PM | 0 recs
Re: I disagree.

   Of course Iowa and New Hampshire are the most important states in the primary calendar, and we shouldn't let it happen again.  Cycle-to-cycle rotating regional primaries seems like a good idea.  I'm tired of my primary vote not counting at all, because my primary is in June.  Iowa and New Hampshire shouldn't get preferential treatment every cycle.

by cilerder86 2007-04-04 12:07PM | 0 recs
Re: I disagree.

"Timing, not what state goes when, is the deciding factor."

Then Iowa should hold it's caucuses in May of 2008 and Iowans can have their voice heard at that time.  If it's all about timing and spreading out the primary/caucus schedule let's move Iowa's back.  Help solve the problem Iowa.

by Double B 2007-04-04 12:10PM | 0 recs
Fine, but

replace Iowa and New Hampshire with 2 other smaller states where a ton of cash isn't a requirement to be competitive.  

Part of the reason someone like Dean ran in 04 was because he was sure he didn't need a ton of cash to start.

The ironic thing was he got a ton of cash and outspent Edwards I believe 8-1 and lost to him.

The important part of the first tier of contests is to open it up to everybody.

by demiowa 2007-04-04 12:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Fine, but

For 2008 we have a system where it is 99.9999% certain that the nominee will be Clinton, Edwards, or Obama at this point in time. We will now have a system where the nominee will essentially be chosen long before the first vote by narrowing the field to only those who can raise the most money and assemble large databases of contributors and volunteers. Candidates who cannot raise money at the pace of $80 to $100 million a year will have no chance. If this had been in place in the past it would have elminated a number of nominees in both parties and other candidates who made an impact on the race by raising important issues.

by robliberal 2007-04-04 12:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Fine, but

You need a ton of cash to be competitive anyway.  Do you have a vision of Mike Gravel or Chris Dodd stunning the world and winning Iowa?

If you want to argue that our system of requiring obscene amounts of cash to win the nomination is wrong--no problem.  I couldn't agree more.  But the reality for right now and in 2008 is that it does require money.  A lot of it.  Having the first contests in Iowa and NH doesn't change that.  1976 was an aberration in a completely different age when you didn't need to raise tens of millions of dollars 20 months before the actual election.

by Double B 2007-04-04 01:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Fine, but

I think it is good that the candidates have been able to raise the  amount of money they have so far. The nominee will have a donor base that could even end up far ahead of the GOP in the general election if these trends continue.  

What I am saying we have dramatically changed the system even from 2004 by eliminating most of the field long before any votes are cast. In past election cycles many candidates had not even announced at this point. Dodd for example in other years would have perhaps been considered a viable candidate as would Biden. Under this system candidates such as Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, etc. would never have emerged. I would consider Kucinich and Gravel more along the lines of insurgent anti-war candidates.  

by robliberal 2007-04-04 01:50PM | 0 recs
this presidential campaign is just ridiculous.

We might as well have all the presidential primaries and caucuses the day after a mid-term election.  or perhaps two weeks before.

What a waste of time, money, and energy.

What was so wrong with the drawn-out schedule starting in February and ending in June?

by d 2007-04-04 12:01PM | 0 recs
Re: this presidential campaign is just ridiculous.

  Nothing.  But since New Hampshire and Iowa have been so selfish about going first, other states finally decided to take it upon themselves to end their huge influence.  

by cilerder86 2007-04-04 12:09PM | 0 recs
Re: this presidential campaign is just ridiculous.
Getting 50 states to agree is a difficult thing.
by Chris Bowers 2007-04-04 12:09PM | 0 recs
Re: this presidential campaign is just ridiculous.

Without passing legislation, it won't happen and even if it was passed, I don't know if it would be constitutional...

We need an amendment for a National Primary for all 50 states, Full Public Funding of the primaries and general and getting rid of the electoral college.

by yitbos96bb 2007-04-04 01:47PM | 0 recs
No Absentees & Backfiring

one thing that hasn't been discussed much:

There are no absentee votes in an Iowa Caucus or under most Caucus systems.  On certain dates that effectively disenfranchises most students and many holiday travelers.  

The Backfire Factor

Chris made some good points but ignored the many, many ways the current or worse) front loaded calender could backfire.  One potential backfire is the lack of vetting during the shortened primary season. Frankly, I think this was a problem in 2004.  The nominee may not be tested enough during the process.  The media will do thier "character" stories AFTER the nominee is picked -- that is bad, though this time it could affect both parties.

Another potential backfire is the alienation of independents.  The front loaded system holds the vote before most regular voters will pay attention meaning that motivated partisans will form a greater part of the caucus/primary electorate.  That is mostly bad.  It means that candidates like Kerry, who had solid appeal with "regular" Democrats but who had less appeal to independents, do better.  I like open primaries as in Wisconsin and, with more hoops, New Hampshire.

One other potential backfire, off the top of my head, is the potential for Unity '08 Perot style wild cards.  Deciding the nomination soooooo early leaves PLENTY of time to organize a Perot style campaign.  That really could bite us (though it ended up helping Clinton in 1992).  Deciding the nominee later, say in May, leaves much less time to organize a half-baked alternative.

Anyway, at least in December it's usually before the worst of winter hits in Iowa & NH.

I do subscribe to the conventional wisdom that the front-loaded, pushed ahead system makes it very hard, if not impossible, for a little known challenger to emerge like Carter in 1976.  I think that is bad.  Chris is effectively on the side of the Democratic establishment which is politically allergic to little known challengers.

by howardpark 2007-04-04 12:11PM | 0 recs
Re: No Absentees & Backfiring

You are implying that the old system of Iowa/NH and everybody else a few weeks later is "good."  That system sucks.  It has sucked for 32 years and it will continue to suck as long as we have it.

First off it's not 1976.  Do you have a vision that some unknown is going to win the nomination and Presidency by sneaking up in Iowa in 2008?  I don't.  I think we can all agree that politics is vastly different than it was then (money, communication, etc.)  Things change rapidly in this country and what seemed quaint 30 years ago is just obsolete today.

Anything that begins to change the process to all but remove Iowa and NH from it is a very, very good thing.

by Double B 2007-04-04 12:20PM | 0 recs
Re: No Absentees & Backfiring

So you actually think that this solution is better?

Yes, I still think a relitive unknown could emerge in Iowa but agree that that is not likely in this cycle.  Yes, I also think retail campaigning, as in New Hampshire is good.  It's not good that Iowa & New Hampshire are unrepresentative states.  If I had my way the early slots would revolve among states but that type of system is practically impossible without a consitutional amendment putting the nomination process into federal jurisdiction & that ain't gonna happen.

by howardpark 2007-04-04 12:34PM | 0 recs
Re: No Absentees & Backfiring

Yes, I do think it's better.  It's not great.  It's not even good.  Hell, it's not even average.  But it is better.

Why do candidates need to engage in retail politics?  Of what value is that when the country has over 300 million people.  Winning requires leadership, organization, mass communication, and a boatload of money.  Being able to hold court with fifty voters at the local diner is all but useless.

by Double B 2007-04-04 01:10PM | 0 recs
Re: No Absentees & Backfiring

We can agree to disagree but I *DO* think there is an advantage to retail politics -- meeting real voters, answering real, not staged questions, hearing real stories, going to events at small town diners & such.  Under a national primary the only people the candidates will meet are big contributors & cameramen.  Anyway, now we know what we disagree about.

by howardpark 2007-04-04 02:12PM | 0 recs
Re: No Absentees

Speaking in front of a huge audience in rallies and on television requires a different skill set than getting along at the local Elks Club.  There just aren't a lot of people with both of those skill sets.  Why would we have a primary process that rewards skill set and a general campaign that rewards another?  The idea is to find the best candidate to win the Presidency.

by Double B 2007-04-04 02:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Iowa and New Hampshire In December? Fine With

What are the odds at this point that Iowa and NH might move into December? Or even earlier?

Perhaps we could even have the first primary and caucus results by the Fourth of July.

by robliberal 2007-04-04 12:22PM | 0 recs
how about before this memorial day?

by d 2007-04-04 12:27PM | 0 recs
Iowa THIS June, NH this September

I've been proposing this for months now.

Followed by South Carolina in October, and Nevada in November.

The way I figure it, the campaign's already well underway; we might as well get some primaries and caucuses out of the way THIS year.  Besides, it'll break up the media narrative somewhat.

Also, instead of all those slogging-through-the-snow-and-dark campaign dispatches from Iowa and New Hampshire, the early state primaries and caucuses could be at times of year when those states are kinda pleasant.  (Which means SC and NV should wait for fall.)

by RT 2007-04-04 01:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Iowa THIS June, NH this September

How about having a national primary on april fool's day four years before the general election?

That would give them four extra years to raise money.

by d 2007-04-04 01:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Iowa and New Hampshire In December?

Your system seems to suppose Michigan and Florida sit by if IA and NH move up.  That doesn't seem likely.  

by MassEyesandEars 2007-04-04 12:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Iowa and New Hampshire In December?
They have to pass laws to make that happen. If Iowa and New Hampshire make their announcements in, say June or July, there won't be much time for state legislatures to get behind passing yet another law to move their primaries up further. also, with New Hampshire coming just before Christmas, there would be at least a three week break between New Hampshire and any state that moved up anyway. Probably at least four weeks.
by Chris Bowers 2007-04-04 12:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Iowa and New Hampshire In December?

Just to elaborate on what I mentioned above, Michigan runs a "firehouse primary" which is officially a caucus system, but it is run like a primary. Anyway, the state party sets the election date.

by blueflorida 2007-04-04 12:55PM | 0 recs
When first primary election for 2012 held in 2009

I get to blame you!


by jc 2007-04-04 01:41PM | 0 recs

Any one else ready to tell New Hampshire and Iowa to just fuck off?  I'm tired of their whining...

by yitbos96bb 2007-04-04 01:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Iowa and New Hampshire In December? Fine With

Iowa and New Hampshire going first means the same morons who gave us Kerry in '04 & Gore in 2000 will set the tone again. Its worth noting that the only  Dem president of the last quarter century lost Iowa & NH  
by Illinoisan 2007-04-04 01:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Iowa and New Hampshire In December? Fine With


Not only are these states unrepresentative of the electorate and small, they do a horseshit job of giving Democrats viable candidates.

In a perfect world, Iowa would never be involved in the nominating process again after making John Kerry the frontrunner in 2004.

by Double B 2007-04-04 02:33PM | 0 recs

They're all moving in the OPPOSITE direction... Our primaries should be wrapping up in Summer, we have the [meaningless] convention in late August, run a 2 month-long general campaign...

Under this, the primaries are gonna be stretched out between December and June, a July Convention, followed by a 3-4 month general campaign.... it's way too long, and costly.  Leave Iowa and NH in the front so those WATB will shutup, but push them all forward, into say March, or late February.  Move all the primaries closer to the general so there's less dead time in between.

This is just insane.

by themann1086 2007-04-04 02:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Nooooo...

I'd be fine moving the general election up, and next the inauguration, just this one time.

by MassEyesandEars 2007-04-04 02:38PM | 0 recs
Attack Focus

One thing I like about a decent primary is the fact that the GOP doesn't get a chance to focus their oppo-research as quickly. Imagine if we didn't know who the Democratic nominee was going to be in 2004 until early August (or all the way to the convention, as was often the case in the past).

The Rovian attack machine would have had 2 or 3 guys to spend time researching, spreading out their resources. With less time to fine-tune, this would have weakened their general election attacks as well.

(I'll bet the "flip-flopping" sound-byte wouldn't have even been a big factor had Kerry not wrapped up the nomination so quickly.)

Instead, we're gonna get the GOP's Hilary- or Obama- or Edwards-bashing by the middle of Feb.

2008 is gonna be a looong year.

by LiberalFromPA 2007-04-04 02:56PM | 0 recs
Nice theory

It's a well thought out idea, but they have calendars in NH and Iowa too. I think the reason this isn't going to happen is the precise reason you say it's a good thing - that the influence of the two early states will be reduced.

And for 2012, the primary system needs to be totally reformed. The national party should set the calendar  every four years, making sure everybody's vote counts in as many years as possible and that the cheaper and more representative states tend to come first, and anybody breaking the calendar should be told that their delegates won't have their credentials accepted at the convention.

by Englishlefty 2007-04-04 02:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Nice theory
Hey, if they dont do this, they they have no choice but to accept the current calendar. Basically, do this, or they should shut up and stop whining.
by Chris Bowers 2007-04-04 05:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Nice theory

You are assuming that they are not "whining" as a threat to try to get the party to enforce the original calendar and rules, under which delegates selected by, say, Michigan or Florida prior to Feb 5 would not be seated and candidates campaigning in those states for those events would be punished.

The real solution might be to stick with the four they picked, and then have primaries escalating in size. Say, of the 46 remaining states, the ten smallest in February or later, the twenty smallest in March or later, the thirty smallest in April or later, any state in May or June.

Under the game theory logic that states have been working on, the result would be a series of Super Tuesdays of increasing size on the first Tuesday of the month, and then a month's of campaigning for the next slate of states, with the occassional state realizing that it could get more individual attention by scheduling outside the big group.

But any solution along those lines will come in a later Presidential campaign season, as part of the backlash against the current nonsense.

by BruceMcF 2007-04-05 04:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Iowa and New Hampshire In December?

This reminds of those logic games I had to take for the LSATs...

by DCDavid 2007-04-04 05:48PM | 0 recs


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