I’ve been wondering what New Hampshirites and Iowans are thinking about people trying to steal their primary election thunder. Over on Grizzly Groundswell, the NH Groundswell Gov. did a post about how NH is being threatened delegates because they are preceding the earliest party-allowed primary date. They could go so far as preempting Wyoming’s current second-in-the-nation status and vote in December of this year!
All this has happened because of a lack of organization on a national issue. What says Iowa has the first caucus and New Hampshire the first primary? The federal laws don’t address an order of states in the presidential nomination process. Iowa law says “We go eight days before New Hampshire.” New Hampshire law says “Why shouldn’t we be first? Iowa sets their calendar by our schedule! We’re number one!” Party rules say, “Uhhh, there’s numerous years of tradition in Iowa and New Hampshire, and all this trying to get as early in the game as possible is really unhealthy for the system; if you go before this certain date which gives IA and NH a good cushion, you’re going to be charged a portion of your delegates at the national convention.”
The other 48 (sans IA and NH) don’t see why it HAS to be IA and NH then a few big states afterwards and nomination process is pretty well wrapped up. Besides state laws, what says IA and NH have to lead off? Do states west of the Central Time zone not matter if they don’t have a double-digit electoral vote? Without some kind of reform, the primaries are going to be front-loaded.
If all the states pick February whatever-it-happens-to-be, so as not to lose delegates at the national convention, only the high-vote states will get campaign attention. Bundled into that, you get the problem of a nominee being chosen before a lot of attention is being paid and you end up with a disgruntled voting block because instead of evaluating a handful (or a couple handfuls) of candidates within a party (GOP, Dem., 3rd), they are now down to evaluating the party nominees.
For the past several months, WYGOP has been waiting for you all in NH to set a date as we were going to coincide our (GOP) county conventions with your primary. We finally said, if we lose delegates, we lose delegates, first Sat. of 2008 will be our county conventions. National Party, take a hint: the system is broken; unless you want chaos in 2012 (you might say we already have it in ‘08), you better do something at the national convention this year.
The national parties are doing their best to have the state delegate selection process not so early by setting delegate penalties if you vote before a certain date. The only problem is that date then becomes a magnet. Some states do the math and say, “we’re not going to get caught in all that confusion, but if we go later, we have no influence; if we go sooner, the party penalizes us.” Most in that debate of thought are going to gravitate to an earlier date. Some states understandably see the penalty as unjust.
Please note: I do not support delegate prohibition. I do support reforming the system. States are typically going to value campaign attention, especially if they are smaller states that haven’t really played a role in the nomination process. You can threaten delegates until your blue in the face, but right now, it seems the only way to get the attention of the national parties is to do what they’ve allowed and make a mess of the process.
WYGOP’s leaders don’t care so much if we lose delegates because we’ve gotten part of what we want: Presidential Candidates making an effort for Wyoming support.
Sansonetti said the Wyoming party is prepared to suffer the loss of half its delegates if that’s what it takes to ensure that the state has a meaningful voice in national politics. He said party officials were aware of the risk of losing half its 28 delegates when they voted in August to leapfrog other states in the primary process.
“There was a solid consensus by everybody that the price of playing in the nomination process was worth the loss of the delegates,” Sansonetti said.
Playing by the rules and holding a county convention Feb. 5 or later, Sansonetti said, would “doom the Wyoming Republican Party to being a nonplayer, with no visits, no phone calls, no direct mail, by the national candidates.”
The Republican National Committee’s executive committee on Monday also recommended New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina and Michigan lose half of their delegates to the national convention. All those states except New Hampshire have scheduled nominating conventions in January. New Hampshire is required by state law to hold its primary at least seven days before any other.
So far, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has visited twice, Mitt Romney (R-MA), Fred Thompson (R-TN), and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) once, as well as a visit from then-contender, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS). We even had a Democrat candidate visit (Gov. Bill Richardson, NM), and the state Democrat party has not bumped their conventions to an early date!
Presidential nomination reform needs to be a national convention topic this coming summer, and if the national parties don’t get it, I’m tempted to say that the reform might have to be codified in the legislative process.