Planning for 2008

Tuesday, 17 May 2005, 14:03 | Category : Politics
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Democrats are beginning to think seriously about the 2008 primary season – not about the candidates, but about the primaries. And once again, New Hampshire and Iowa are being targetted by the other states. Some are wanting to rotate the honor of being the first primary/caucus. Iowa and New Hampshire, naturally and understandably, are adamantly resisting this. I don;t think anything will change – I don’t think anything should change, not concerning these two states. They should remain the first contests. As I wrote in January 2004,

“After months and months of polls, Iowa is the real thing; at least, it’s the most real thing until the next real thing, the New Hampshire primary, which is a bit more of a Real Thing because more people participate…. So, what’s so special about Iowa? I think, mainly, it’s the flip side. Candidates who unexpectedly do poorly in Iowa are generally finished. George Bush in 1988 is the exception, but Iowa nearly finished him. The field of candidates usually shrinks a little after Iowa, and barring remarkable comebacks, those who do poorly in Iowa don’t last long afterwards. So think of Iowa as a sort of personnel department, doing those first-line job interviews so only legitimate candidates are presented for the later, serious interviews. Somebody’s got to winnow the field, and cold, windy Iowa in January every four years steps up and does the job.”

The problem isn’t which states come first. The problem is how rapidly the other states follow. Until fairly recently, the primary season stretched into June, with California finishing the race. There was time to assess candidacies, to see how candidates reacted to changing events and situations. There was time to study a candidate’s positions and ideas. There wasn’t such a mad rush towards a candidate with early momentum. It was a better process, and produced better candidates. When you choose your candidates in a 45-60 day span, there’s no time for anything but the 30-second sound bite, and the process plays into the hands of the spinmeisters. Stretching out the primary season won’t solve all the problems, but it will at least give the solutions time to develop.

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