National Primary Day

This won't mean anything for this election, but for next time, the idea of a National Primary day, proceeded whatever sort of events the states want to hold, sounds good:

The simplest and most direct way to correct the worst elements of the current system would be to eliminate the entire charade of electing delegates to the conventions. Instead, we should hold one national primary, on one day, for both parties.

The national primary is not a new idea. It is a Progressive Era innovation first proposed by Alabama Congressman Richard Hobson in 1911 and endorsed by political science-professor-turned-president Woodrow Wilson. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt proposed it to William Howard Taft to settle which of them would be the Republican nominee; Taft, the incumbent, refused. From that time until 1979, the national primary has been put forward in Congress 126 times by a determined, dedicated, and tiny band of reformers, including Senator Estes Kefauver (D-Tenn.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Al Ullman (D-Ore.), the last big proponent of the idea.

But despite its small amount of support on Capitol Hill, the national primary has garnered majority support in nationwide polls. From 1952 until 1988, Gallup consistently polled Americans on their support for various nominating process reforms; the national primary always had wide support and never had opposition in excess of 27 percent. More recently, a 2007 New York Times poll found that 72 percent of Americans favored a single day for all primaries.

More here.

Tags: 2008 election, 2012 (all tags)

Comments

61 Comments

Re: National Primary Day

IF OBAMA WINS THE NOMINATION, IT WON'T COUNT, BECAUSE IT WASN'T A NATIONAL PRIMARY!!3@98!983~(

by jumbohoya 2008-02-18 12:31PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

Hell, we should just skip the nomination process and just use Zogby.  

Without people actually "voting," Hillary would have won a long time ago.

by IowaCubs 2008-02-18 12:32PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day
This would almost certainly mean that presumptive front runners like Hillary Clinton would win the nomination every time. Does that have anything to do with your support of it?
by Mullibok 2008-02-18 12:33PM | 0 recs
Yeah, we all know who we're going to support

in 2012, 2016, 2020...

It's a good idea because it makes sense, it's fair, and it allows the votes of regular people to be the deciding factor.

by JimR 2008-02-18 12:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Yeah, we all know who we're going to support
It's a bad idea because it allows the candidate with the most name recognition and machine support to win every time. This post strikes me as Jerome wishing it was that way in 2008.
by Mullibok 2008-02-18 05:04PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

Sorry, but I think this is a terrible idea.  I much prefer a rotating regional primary that would allow candidates with less funds - atleast initially - a chance to create name recognition and a following through retail campaigning.  

by HSTruman 2008-02-18 12:34PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

National Primary Day is a bad idea for the reasons several have mentioned. It favors the insiders, those with the greatest name recognition, the party establishment, the elite. Not that candidates in those categories can't be great nominees/presidents. I'm a Hillary supporter, and damn I wish her campaign managers had had the foresight to plan for a marathon.

As much as I hate aspects of the current system, it has allowed people a chance to get to see the candidates, and to see them in action. It forces candidates to respond to one another and to setbacks and advances. They have to hone their messages, answer questions, jab and feint. It has led the Obama camp to pursue ground-level strategies involving volunteers that have been extremely helpful to him, and which may help bring more people, especially young people, into the Dem party. Also, it may generate so-called momentum - momentum for the eventual nominee that continues into the General Election. With a National Primary Day, you wouldn't get any of that sense of a wave building (and ebbing). Let's face it, part of why people are so invested in the Dem race, so passionate about it, has to do with the structure of that contest. It has a kind of narrative arc.

I'm sympathetic to the motives behind a National Primary Day. These could, I think, be met by the 'rotating' primary system you suggest. What if, instead of Iowa and New Hampshire always being the first, we rotated among groups of states, big and small, and possessed of a variety of demographics. We would have clusters of primaries spread out over maybe a 2-3 month period, but each election season those clusters would change. This would also likely prevent the debacle we've had with Michigan and Florida.

by Imelda Blahnik 2008-02-18 05:04PM | 0 recs
Yeah, a national primary day for the rich

How democratic!

by richochet 2008-02-18 12:35PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

A national primary is a TERRIBLE idea because it would favor big money candidates way, way too much.

Better idea: traditional small states first (Iowa, NH, Nevada and SC or the like).

Followed by a series of "regional primaries" (like the Potomac Primary -- maybe one for New England, the Pacific Northwest, the Four Corners, a traditional souther Super Tuesday).

Then, amid the regional primaries you have all the "big states" (California, New York, Texas etc) interspersed one by one.

But here's what it really comes down to: other than the traditional opening primaries and caucuses the order of big state and regional primaries is RANDOMLY determined every four years.

by Callimaco 2008-02-18 12:35PM | 0 recs
Randomly screw the other states

If you have any system with some states going before the others, the earlier ones get favored and the later ones get screwed. Everyone should have an equal vote and we shouldn't be satisfied with anything less.

by bolson 2008-02-18 12:42PM | 0 recs
Yeah, look at FL and MI

Right - just look at FL and MI this year.  If they hadn't move decisively to advance their primaries to the head of the pack...... they would be deciding the outcome right about now.  

Oops.

sPh

by sphealey 2008-02-18 12:56PM | 0 recs
They moved ahead

because they thought it was important. Kinda demonstrating the point that people think earlier votes are better than later votes. No one wants to have a later vote. I think no one should be semi-disenfranchised with a late vote.

by bolson 2008-02-18 01:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Randomly screw the other states

If it's random then it's fair.

Of, if you prefer, then rotate the order.

Either way, in the long run everyone will get screwed equally. Which is, in this instance, a good thing.

by Callimaco 2008-02-18 01:13PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

I hate the idea of a national primary.  Personally, while I've come to loathe Obama...partly a halo effect from his supporters, I admit...the idea of a string of primaries lets a candidate build support, work in states that don't require huge amounts of money to compete, etc.   A protracted process also can give time for the candidates to be scrutinized and tested.  

I don't like the idea of regional primaries much better as they still require huge amounts of money and favor name recognition.

The best idea I've seen is a series of five primary days, starting with the 10 smallest states first, then the next 10, etc.   Yes, there would be travel expenses for candidates determined to compete in all of them but at least each state could be competitive to a candidate without a ton of money.

by InigoMontoya 2008-02-18 12:39PM | 0 recs
National Primary on Rankings Ballot

Yes, it should be a national primary and it should be on a rankings ballot. We're likely to continue to have more than two candidates to choose from in the primary and it's absolutely crucial that we aren't stuck with the old out of date pick-one ballot that distorts people's votes.

by bolson 2008-02-18 12:40PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

A National Primary is the perfect way to ensure the insider, establishment candidate always wins.

No challenger could ever build the machine, momentum, and money necessary to knock off an establishment figure without the ability to pull off early wins and momentum

Consider Obama (and no, he hasn't won anything yet).

After a string of surprise wins early, some crushing wins on Super Tuesday, and rolling off an 8-0 streak since, we have only now seen him take a consistent lead in national primary polling against the establishment candidate.

No election process is going to be perfect, but this idea just sucks, and would be a great way to marginalize the growing strength of the netroots and the anti-establishment.

by Grady 2008-02-18 12:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Regional, not national, primaries are better

That would work for me.

by HSTruman 2008-02-18 12:43PM | 0 recs
I used to dislike this idea

But given the jockeying for first among the states this year, I think it'd be better to set the date sometime in April rather than deal with having the first contest the year before the general election.

Tho the problem of it basically awarding the nomination to the candidates with the most money remains.

by Drew 2008-02-18 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

A national primary will always favor the establishment candidates, whose name recognition would carry across 50 states. It will effectively eliminate the idea of momentum, and reduce the ability of candidates to reach and engage the electorate.

Bad idea. In Iowa candidates can cover all 33 counties or so in a week or so. Not possible with a national primary, where travel costs alone would make it prohibitive for upstart candidates to compete effectively in states like California, New York, etc. Moreovoer, only large population centers would get any real attention, ignoring the heartland of America which has significant elecotral influence in the general election.

by washingtoncritic 2008-02-18 12:45PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

I have a problem with the idea of an Iowan having significantly more political leverage than a New Yorker or Californian in the primary process. I understand and value that the super early states provide an opportunity for cash strapped campaigns to gain momentum, it just doesn't seem fair or just that Iowa gets to dictate the process simply because they feel some sense of entitlement to it.

by devoted1 2008-02-18 01:19PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

What if we broke the states down into 5 groups of 10 states, with each group having equal number of voters -- or as close as we could get.

The largest of the 5 states would not be allowed to be in the same group.

Every 4 years, we rotate which group goes first, et cetera. This would keep a state like CA or TX or FL from having front-loaded influence every time. And it would save us from having a national primary election that would last 2 whole years if we do it all at once.

by DoubleDs 2008-02-18 12:46PM | 0 recs
Read what Jerome said

He said it "sounds" good, not that it is actually good much less the optimal approach.

Ya'll are biting at every tiny bit of bait.

by demondeac 2008-02-18 12:49PM | 0 recs
An atrocious idea ...

... nearly as bad as the current mess ... indeed, pursuit of the Mass Media dominated National Primary Day would seem to be the best tin-foil-hat conspiracy rationale for how badly messed up the current system is ...

(... except, of course, Democrats do not need a conspiracy to mess something up this badly ...)

The ideal would step up by size of state ... and, no, that does not mean that all the first states are out in the sticks ... Rhode Island and Deleware have smaller populations than Iowa.

March: the 10 smallest states can hold primaries if they wish
April: the 25 smallest states can hold primaries if they wish
May: the 40 smallest states can hold primaries if they wish
June: All states must have their primaries completed by the end of June.

No caucuses.

by BruceMcF 2008-02-18 12:52PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

I would move to a rotating regional primary system with an election each month for 4-6 months. But I would pick 2-3 leadoff states that comes from the closest general election results (percentage-wise) in the last two general election i.e. New Hampshire, Wisconsin, New Mexico etc).

I would definitely get rid of caucuses. They are not representative and disenfranchise many who cannot spend 1-2 hours sitting around somewhere and with no secret vote.

by gomer 2008-02-18 12:54PM | 0 recs
So we'll end up with Idaho and Vermont.

Big deal. The DNC isn't going to give up their death grip on the nomination process.

Let regular people choose a candidate without being "educated" by party activists along the way? Get real.

by JimR 2008-02-18 12:55PM | 0 recs
Re: So we'll end up with Idaho and Vermont.

you could do a LOT worse than vermont

by Doug Tuttle 2008-02-18 03:34PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

It's a terrible idea, because underfunded/outsider candidates have even less chance to compete than in the current system.

Again, here is a balanced solution: do 4 weeks of 1 small-mid state a week, semi-open primary.  One of these can be IA/NH, pick the other 3 randomly.

Then have bunches of 3 states every week or 5 states every two weeks until you're out of states.  Rotate states randomly.  Not sure about geographical clustering in  these bunches.  On one hand, it lowers costs; on the other hand, it might lead to a candidate having the home-field advantage for a couple weeks in a row.

by Nissl 2008-02-18 12:58PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

I would vehemently oppose a national primary. IT would mean whoever has the best name recognition and most cash wins.

To heck with that.

by Walt Starr 2008-02-18 01:02PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

No national primary.
No regional primary.

I urge everyone to read and support The American Plan:
http://www.fairvote.org/?page=965

Both parties have expressed interest in using this plan. The future of the nomination process should be decided at the conventions this summer.

by middlemind 2008-02-18 01:02PM | 0 recs
Establishment & Money vs Democracy

If you're afraid that making the process more fair (giving everyone an equal vote) will just lock in the establishment and money crowd, then you might as well give up on democracy and hope your lord is good to his serfs.

Come on people, we need more democracy. A better informed population who knows their votes count and who can vote for all the candidates they like on rankings ballots.

The staggered primary schedule means that people know some votes are worth more than others. The delegate system where representation is proportional to state population and not turnout means that tiny turnout caucus voters have a bigger vote. Unequal votes breed cynicism and this must stop.

The compromise of voting for someone who isn't really your favorite breeds cynicism and must stop. There's no need for it when we could just as easily cast a first-place vote for our favorite and a second-place vote for the next and so on.

All of the above things could be done by fiat of changing the system, and I hope they would encourage more voters to be self educated in the best way possible. Interested and engaged people are high-information voters. Of course there are media and campaign finance issues too that should be addressed to make sure everyone has a fair view of the candidates.

by bolson 2008-02-18 01:08PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day


One more time, people:  political parties are private organizations.  They happen to hold a duopoly in our modern-day politics, but they are not constitutional enitities.

One party or the other is perfectly free to institute a "national primary" if it wants to organize and fund the effort itself.  It may be a good idea to do so.  But the notion of legally mandating one is problematic.  For instance, would this national primary be "open"?

-- TP

by Rethymniotis 2008-02-18 01:10PM | 0 recs
parties enacted by law

The Two Parties are written into law in special ways. In California there are hundreds of pages of state law governing them. They have a sort of special status similar to corporations but with different governance and direct tie-ins to the electoral functions of the government.

You could easily argue this shouldn't be and that we should take a Libertarian approach to the parties, let them nominate through whatever structure they want (on their own dime) and have their fair shot at ballot access through generic means, but that's not they way it is now.

by bolson 2008-02-18 01:15PM | 0 recs
Re: parties enacted by law


I know parties are written into various laws.  Leaving aside the irony of a two-party government writing parties into law, the question here is a national primary.  So CA and MA, not to mention IA and NH or Alabama and Wyoming, would all have to obey the same law.  Okay, I repeat: would that law call for an open national primary?

-- TP

by Rethymniotis 2008-02-18 01:27PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

The bad thing about national primary day is the amount of money it would take to compete. A larger better organized system of primaries must be established, but I fear that one single day would make money even more powerful than it is now.

An organized national system of choosing is a necessary idea but if it is going to be herding cats as it is now there is no point.

I cannot believe we let the mess we have have now, with all its controlled and managed 'democracy'.

Why cant people be involved in an intimate and community manner in the governing of the nation. I like that cafe's hold discussions on the approval of Presidents. Its the best part of Iowa. Lets make the whole process Iowa.  State by sate in a fair and equitable manner building always toward larger states that cost more money seems best to me.

Think about the fact that people are still counting votes in New York even today, finding thousands of mistakes, and compare that to a single day of Visa taking your money and moving your money, and paying your money. Democracy is more important than bills so why the hell do we tolerate such a hodge podge of barely explainable, let alone defensible, tricks and electronic cheats?

by inexile 2008-02-18 01:12PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

I'm opposed to this idea because it would heavily favor the wealthiest candidates in the race (or those who can raise the most funds).  There should be 4 regional primaries, starting in mid January and going for 4 consecutive weeks.  The schedule should rotate every 4 years so that the northeast goes first one year and then last the next, etc.  This would be the fairest way to implement a primary system.

by titanrw 2008-02-18 01:13PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

A variation would be to create 5 to 6 groups of states that each have a representative cross section of Americans with each group hopefully having both a similar regional and racial balance.

Schedule a primary or caucus on the same day for a particular group.

Space the group primaries/caucuses every 2 to 6 weeks for example. This allows more time to evaluate any debates, candidate statements and policy positions.

Rotate the groups at each Presidential election cycle.

Because population patterns change, reevaluate the group composition after a complete rotation through all of the groups.

by DavePDX 2008-02-18 07:06PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

A national primary is a name recognition primary and that blows.

by snaktime 2008-02-18 01:17PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

"and that blows."

LOL! excellent, succinct analysis! 'nuff said.

by Imelda Blahnik 2008-02-18 05:11PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

Terrible idea. It would totally eliminate the possibility of an insurgent candidate. Do you realize that Giuliani would have the Republican nomination right now?

The best solution is for the DNC/RNC to approve a national schedule beginning with the smallest states first, and then let proceed to regional primaries of maybe 2-5 states every couple of weeks on through the rest of the winter and spring.

Oh, and reshuffle the order within the categories every cycle.

by dmc2 2008-02-18 01:23PM | 0 recs
All for it

I'm behind this idea 100%.

People need to understand that we don't live in 1976 anymore. The fundamentals of launching a national candidacy are different than they were 30 years ago. A National Primary is not only morally justified, but it's completely feasible and equitable.

Money is a non-issue: We're completing the third presidential primary cycle in a row where the main insurgent candidate have either out-raised or been very competitive with the frontrunner candidate. Frontrunner status no longer guarantees that you'll raise more than an insurgent with a passionate following.

Strategy-wise, a national primary finally allows candidates to be much more creative and comprehensive in introducing themselves to a national audience. One of the problems of the IA/NH duoply is that it prevents candidates communicating with the whole of the nation and really stirring robust debate. It makes it possible for the full diversity -- ethnic, but mostly, ideological -- of the party to be on display and to play a role in influencing the debate as well.

by blueflorida 2008-02-18 01:27PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

This is right on- "A National Primary is the perfect way to ensure the insider, establishment candidate always wins.

No challenger could ever build the machine, momentum, and money necessary to knock off an establishment figure without the ability to pull off early wins and momentum"

But also it disenfranchises ANY candidate without national name recognition.

I would ask Jerome, if he still responds to comments, to explain why as a "progressive champion" he would support this regressive, insider idea?

Although since Jerome is also supporting Hillary (which is obvious from other posts) it might legitimately be a pro-establishment trend.

by scottforamerica 2008-02-18 01:35PM | 0 recs
Agree with the Commenters

The candidate with the highest name recognition would always win a national primary, and there'd be no battle testing, resulting in a weak general election candidate. No thanks.

Here's my preferred formula for 2012 and beyond.

All states should be chosen randomly. States include D.C., Democrats Abroad, American Samoa, etc., and all are eligible in any position. (Yes, American Samoa could be the next Iowa.) A single state should go first. It should be in early March. Then two weeks later two more states go. Then two weeks later 4 states. Then two weeks later 8 states.  Then two weeks later 10 states.  Then two weeks later another 10 states. Then two weeks later 10 more states. Then two weeks later all the remaining states, which concludes the contest in June.

All delegates are awarded proportionally in each Congressional district, and all Congressional districts receive equal numbers of delegates according to the following formula:

First state: 5 delegates in each district
Second week: 7
Intermediate weeks: 9
Last week: 13

The non-states (e.g. Virgin Islands) receive delegate allocations as if they were one big (or small) Congressional district according to population at the previous census rounded up or down to the nearest odd number of delegates and proportionally awarded across the entire territory. There would also be a proportional adjustment for going early or late (as above), again rounded to the nearest odd delegate. In no case would any non-state receive fewer than 3 delegates (except as penalty as below). The non-state exception is Democrats Abroad which is treated as a single full Congressional district (5, 7, 9, or 13 delegates depending on its calendar position) since its population is basically impossible to determine fairly. Viability rules apply at either 10% or the proportional minimum for the district, whichever is higher.

All voting would last one week with at least one day allowing in-person voting during second shift and another day allowing in-person voting during third shift. Voting would start on a Sunday and end on a Saturday, and there would be a minimum of 48 hours of in-person voting scheduled throughout the week. There would be common in-person voting hours across all districts. Voting would be allowed through Internet, mail, and in-person (a la Democrats Abroad). All voting would be through optical scan paper ballots, tabulated manually in areas with no optical scanners. Ballot position is determined randomly per district (or per voter on the Internet). Each candidate is allowed one hyperlink to his/her Web site next to his/her name on the Internet ballot. Internet voting physically prints an optical scan paper ballot at the tabulating center and allows the voter to print a duplicate copy which he/she may (optionally) postmark to the tabulating center. Internet registration would be allowed up to 10 days in advance, and same-day in-person registration would be allowed. All primaries would be open to anyone who has not pledged fealty to another party, such as voting in another party's primary or registering in another party. Candidates would appear on the district's ballot if they (the candidate; no "draft" organizations) submit at least 100 signatures of residents in the district at least 30 days prior to the primary. Candidates may remove their name from the ballot from any district they wish at least 10 days prior to the primary. No write-in votes are permitted.

The superdelegates would stay relatively intact, with the same qualifications to become one. However, there would be two major rule changes. First, each would only receive half a vote. Second, none would be eligible to vote unless and until there is a second ballot at the convention. (Same for vice president.) Superdelegates may not vote in other matters, such as platform or rule changes. Delegate pledges are binding on the first ballot, with the exception that candidates who drop out may release their delegates who are then uncommitted and free to vote as they wish.

The DNC could assess penalties for states violating these rules. Violating a calendar date -- jumping out of line -- would result in a mandatory stripping of all the state's superdelegates and reducing each district to 1 pledged delegate. Also, any state that jumps out of line will automatically be ineligible for random selection next cycle except in the last two rounds. Other rule violations could result in delegate reductions, starting with superdelegates, up to the maximum penalty. Candidates are free to campaign as they wish in penalized states.

by BBCWatcher 2008-02-18 01:50PM | 0 recs
A Couple Other Bits

1. The random selection of states would occur no sooner than November 15th of the calendar year prior to the cycle. This would prevent the campaign season from starting (in earnest) more than a year before the general election, and it should also minimize strange "home state" effects and maximize the pool of candidates. The campaign is already too long.

2. In 2012 only, Iowa and New Hampshire must be selected in one of the first three rounds (i.e. they both must be among the first 7 states).

3. For states with more than 10 Congressional districts, jumping the line would result in a mandatory penalty reduction down to 0.5 delegates per district. That would put more bite into the penalty for large states that might otherwise be tempted. Thus California, which has the most Congressional districts, would be penalized down to 26.5 delegates for the entire state (and zero superdelegates), down from a typical 477 delegates.

4. It might be worth awarding 2 extra delegates to each state, awarded to the winner of the statewide popular vote. That would better mimic the Electoral College which gives the smaller states a little extra voice.

by BBCWatcher 2008-02-18 02:21PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

I've been saying this for a while now. One national primary for both parties on the same day. And make primary day, as well as election day, a national holiday so that anybody who wants to vote will be able to.

by georgiapeach 2008-02-18 02:02PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

Should election day and primary day be national holidays?  I love the idea of most people being off work to vote but should the government shut down when it might be needed most? Judges may be required to rule on voting hour extensions or other irregularities.  I imagine some how the government bueracracy would be needed (yes I know).  Seems like a sticky issue, but not one that couldn't be solved if it was done uniformally and with a lot of thought, but when does that ever happen.

by goodleh 2008-02-18 02:56PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

Those are good points that I hadn't thought of. Maybe there should just be a law that forces employers to make accomodations for people to be able to vote. I used to work 12 hour shifts in a spinning mill. 8a.m. to 8p.m. I missed being able to vote several times. That's why I don't like the idea of a caucus. This was before we were able to early vote in my state. Mandating early voting in every state would work for me to.

by georgiapeach 2008-02-18 03:40PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

National Primary Day is a wonderful idea.

by Larissa 2008-02-18 02:05PM | 0 recs
Put it this way

Opponents of a single national primary date basically feel more comfortable with Chris Matthews and Tim Russert having decisive influence on who gets to be the Democratic nominee than they are with having a national electorate of Democratic party rank-and-file.

Any primary system that has any sort of staggered sequencing, is a system controlled by media-bestowed 'momentum'. "Momentum" is a fraud and I'm tired of clownish pundits deciding who is and who is not a legitimate candidate.

by blueflorida 2008-02-18 02:09PM | 0 recs
That's Ridiculous

Political pundits would have even more power over a national primary. Remember the trashing Gore took in 2000? I think you have it exactly opposite from reality.

A national primary would mean tens of millions of low information voters. I'm not particularly fond of Iowa always going first, but having one small state go first does serve a useful purpose in vetting candidates. See my delegate selection plan for 2012 upthread for an example of a system that should work quite well.

by BBCWatcher 2008-02-18 02:25PM | 0 recs
Re: That's Ridiculous

On one minor point:


A national primary would mean tens of millions of low information voters.

We did away with poll taxes and literacy tests in this country for a reason. Generally, a basic tenet of the Democratic party (or at least it used to be) is that more voters = better, regardless of how much time they have to surf DailyKos or attend campaign rallies.

As far as media control of the process, I just disagree. We've had situations in the past where insurgent candidates have done everything they were supposed to in terms of winning or being strongly competitive in early contests, but have been denied the blessing of momentum because whims of the MSM or the dictates of a particular media cycle made it more interesting to cover their front running opponent. If everyone votes on the same day, then the media no longer has the power to "interpret" the winner. There's a hard standard that can't be undone by flack spin or hack interpretation. And, ultimately, I don't think that the path for an insurgent is fundamentally harder in a national primary than it would be during an staggered process.

by blueflorida 2008-02-18 03:33PM | 0 recs
No, It's Not

Our system of representative government, notably the Congress, is based on connecting (higher information) voters more directly to the federal government. That's why we have hundreds of representatives serving in Congress, not one.

As noted downthread, Bill Clinton would not have been the Democratic nominee in 1992 in a national primary system. That would have been a bad outcome since he was one of the best presidents in history.

Having one state or even one district go first has several benefits. One benefit is that those voters will weed out non-viable candidates, like Joe Biden this cycle. Also, candidates get to learn and grow, to become better candidates. Candidates must interact directly with voters, providing them with valuable information about real people and helping voters learn far more about the candidates than they ever would in a national 30 second ad. (In Iowa you can actually meet a candidate in a living room.) Scandals that could damage the nominee get aired early, and if the scandals stick then that weeds out the weak candidates. Candidates get some executive experience managing campaigns and appointing people to handle various aspects of the campaigns. Candidates must present detailed issue agendas. More candidates run because more candidates think they have a shot, expanding the pool of talent.

Also, voters in later states get to decide whether the early states made a mistake -- whether there's any "buyer's remorse." Voters get to pause and reflect, to weigh more evidence, to consider more carefully. These are all good things.

What's most unfair about the current process is that Iowans always go first. Iowans aren't particularly good at selecting Democratic nominees. As a modification to my comprehensive delegate selection plan, I could support a randomized system where Iowa goes first and New Hampshire second, but they only maintain those positions as long as they pick general election winners. (That is, if the candidate they choose as #1 gets the nomination then loses, then they're done.) If they don't choose wisely, they go back into the random pool to be chosen no earlier than the third round. Loop, repeat. If those states are so good at picking nominees, as they claim, then they should be happy to prove it each cycle. Put up or shut up.

For example, this year Iowa chose Obama and New Hampshire chose Clinton. If Obama wins the nomination then loses the general, Iowa gets thrown back into the random pool and is ineligible to be among the first three states in 2012.  If Clinton wins the nomination and loses the general, then New Hampshire suffers the same fate.

by BBCWatcher 2008-02-18 04:49PM | 0 recs
Re: That's Ridiculous

I think the "low information" voters are actually showing more sanity this year.

by georgiapeach 2008-02-18 03:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Put it this way


Who is the "Democratic party rank-and-file"?  Does it include those Obamaniacs and Hillarybots who swear they'll stay home in November unless the Democratic party nominates their own favorite?

As for "staggered sequencing", I am reminded of a physicist's quip that "Time is nature's way of preventing everything from happening all at once."  There's no way to avoid "staggering" of some sort, unless you decree that no candidate can announce before another, campaign before another, solicit contributions before another.  If you allow those things, then the Russerts and the Tweetys will still have a horserace to blather about.

I do accept this problem with staggering: there's no way to know, today, whether every person who voted for X a few weeks ago still supports X today.

-- TP

by Rethymniotis 2008-02-18 02:44PM | 0 recs
possible idea to fix the mess we have now

should march 4th pass without a clear nominee, coudn't the states that vote next change the day of their primaries/caucuses?  if they can, why not move all of the remaining primaries up to april 22 with pennslyvannia?  then, when that's done, if no one has the minimum number of delegates needed, see what the SD's do.  frontloading got us into this, and it might be able to get us out.

by Doug Tuttle 2008-02-18 02:28PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

How about a national primary with some sort of preference voting?  That should be doable with today's technology.

by Cindy 2008-02-18 03:23PM | 0 recs
The National Primary Result for 1992

In 1992, a national primary almost certainly would not have selected Bill Clinton as the Democratic nominee. Paul Tsongas or possibly Tom Harkin probably would have won the nomination instead. (I would guess Tsongas because he won a number of the early states, while Harkin had a home state advantage.)

Bill Clinton came in third in Iowa largely because he was dealing with the Gennifer Flowers scandal at the time. That scandal nearly wiped him out and would almost certainly have done so if every state voted the same day.

Think carefully about whether you want future candidates like Bill Clinton to be wiped out in the cradle thanks to a national primary.

by BBCWatcher 2008-02-18 04:29PM | 0 recs
Re: The National Primary Result for 1992

From a January 27, 1992 Time Magazine cover story titled, "Is Bill Clinton For Real?":


Yet now, before a single caucus or primary ballot has been cast anywhere, the national press and television have anointed Bill Clinton as the front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Some pundits are speculating that he might even have the prize locked up in another eight or nine weeks.

....and more:


Even now, though Clinton has rocketed from 5% in a November poll of New Hampshire Democrats taken by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center to 23% in a resurvey of the same voters two weeks ago, he still trails "undecided" (26%). Similarly, in a nationwide poll taken last week for TIME by Yankelovich Clancy Shulman, "not sure" led with 24%; Clinton tied for second with ex-California Governor Jerry Brown at 22%. But Brown, who started out with far greater name recognition, has probably topped out, while Clinton is rising.

From a mid January 1992 New York Times article:


Only Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas and former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. of California had support in the double-digits among likely Democratic primary voters nationwide. And while Mr. Brown is the best known Democrat in the field, his critics outnumber his admirers by almost two-to-one in his own party.

Gains by Clinton

Mr. Clinton has clearly made some strides in the past few months: 14 percent of the self-described Democratic primary voters now say they would prefer him as the Democratic nominee, up from 6 percent in November. Mr. Brown was preferred by 13 percent; Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska by 7 percent, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa by 3 percent and former Senator Paul E. Tsongas by 2 percent. Gov. L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia, who dropped out of the race Wednesday night, was the choice of 6 percent.

And from late January 1992:

While the poll outlines extraordinary opportunity for the Democrats, it is just that. The survey shows that less than a month before the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 18 only one Democrat, Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, has broken from the pack in the race for the Presidential nomination.

Among those who said they were likely to vote in the Democratic primaries nationwide, Mr. Clinton's support has jumped to 22 percent, from 5 percent in October.

In fact, it was Super Tuesday, the nationalized phase of the primary, that saved Bill Clinton's candidacy. One basic lesson of 1992 (like other years including 2004) was that it was possible for a candidate to go from unknown to  national frontrunner in the space of a few months before anyone ever voted.

by blueflorida 2008-02-18 08:56PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

National primary day and especially a national General Election Federal Holiday are great ideas!!!  

It would maximize participation, making it like Xmas or Thanksgiving would be AWESOME!

I can't imagine anyone who could be against such an idea.  Please letss not turn this into another way for HRC/BO infighting.

Some thoughts:

I went to the HRC event tonight, to hear her...to give her the respect she deserves and to give her a chance to win me back.  

For starters, the room was cordoned off to give the appearence of it being "past capacity".  She squeezed about 3000 people into a space that could have fit 4 times that number.

Secondly, there was not that much excitement in the air. The crowd was well...subdued.  We actually got numerous reminders from staff walking around to "whoop it up"...especially when the cameras came on, to create the appearence of unbridled exictement.

Thirdly, her speech was like a batter taking a mighty chop at a fastball and whiffing.  I'll give her credit for swinging for the fences, but her message was convoluted as she was clearly attempting a more populistdelivery in attempt to appear more like her rival.

It wasn't a TERRIBLE night for her.  She had some of the 2nd tier Wisconsin players with her...though Tammy Baldwin is an A-lister!

Bit here;s the thing...I attended Obama's Madison event as well, and if you look at my critique of this event...you'll notice as I have just done...that the word "appearences" figures largely.

Where HRC's campaign has been and still is about appearences (appearing inevitable, appearing to be the incumbant, appearing to be a change agent, appearing to be an orator, etc.), her rival's campaign is about inspiration and leadership.

One thing to note on the PLUS side for the HRC supporters:  Take Heart Hillraisers!

A local conservative radio show host, Viki McKenna, has told her sizable local audience that she and her producer are going to go vote for Hillary and is encouraging others to do so as well.

Wisconsin is an OPEN primary, meaning that the independents and GOP can vote in the Democratic race AT WILL.  Given the fact that it is well-known that Hillary will be the preferred candidate for the right to run against, and given the further fact that the Wiscosnin race is rather tight... this could be trouble.

We Barack supporters out there must reach more new voters and get them in the voting booths than Viki and her ilk can mobilize.  The right knows what Obama's supporters know...that is that he is (regardless of race or gender) the strongest general election candidate.

This has me spooked.

One other note:

From Websters:

pla·gia·rism     Pronunciation[pley-juh-riz-uhm] noun
1.    the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work.

Please.  If this is what HRC is going to focus on then she and her supporters are lost.

by a gunslinger 2008-02-18 06:07PM | 0 recs
A national Primary

is insane! How are you going to run a 50 state campaign by 8 Democratic candidates and 8 repubs? How would they be able to afford it?

Talk about truly making it only for the rich!

Also, if you are going to do that, why not just make it the GE and use IRV?

Nope... bad idea!

I like my idea.

50 states.

10 primaries of 5 states each picked by a balance of demographics and location. These would rotate as to which group is first, second, etc. each election cycle

My idea would still be difficult but it would stop them from spending all thier money and time in Iowa and NH for a friggin year.

by kevin22262 2008-02-18 07:09PM | 0 recs
Re: National Primary Day

but you are talking about this cycle, aren't you?

by cargocult 2008-02-19 03:10AM | 0 recs
Reform needed

Can't fix the date of the primaries without reforming the process.

Number one is campaign finance -- all campaigns should be publicly financed.

And primaries should be closed. If you want to vote,  register for that party first. Even have a 30 day waiting period like in PA. It won't completely stop gaming, but it will cut down on impulse gamers -- people who decide to show up and vote for the other party's worst candidate for laughs at the last minute.

Next, how about outlawing political ads? I hear they don't allow political campaign ads in Britain -- sounds like a great idea to me. Less marketing and hype. Make the candidates stick to debates.

by votermom 2008-02-19 07:43AM | 0 recs

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