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October 29, 2007
It’s Too Late for Early Primary States to Control the Game
hasn’t been so long since the presidential nominee for both parties has
come from a deal hatched in a smoke-filled room. It might not be too
long before the process is further widened to make a larger number of
states relevant, but considering how early the campaign got under way
this year, even that might not matter for too long.
conflict comes down to this – why do states with small populations have
such prominent places in choosing the nation’s president? The other
question is whether it really matters.
years past, there was focus on the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire
primary, and both states benefited by visits from nearly all candidates
in both parties. This year, focusing on the unfair nature of that, both
Florida and Michigan have tried to shoehorn their way into the front of
the line. But by the time anyone casts a ballot, it will probably be too
late, and whoever goes first will benefit only from the prestige of
Much of the reason for
this rests with how early the nomination process got under way. At a
time when potential candidates are just throwing their hats into the
ring, the first Republican – Sam Brownback – has already backed out.
Only one of them, Fred Thompson, has been officially on the campaign
trail for less than four months, and Thompson’s announced candidacy is
having trouble gaining traction among Republican voters.
On the Democratic side,
it appears increasingly likely that the nomination will go to Hillary
Clinton. The reason for this has less to do with whether anyone really
wants her as the nominee and more with Hillary the candidate.
Clinton has always been
the favorite to win the nomination for a couple of reasons above and
beyond her incredible name recognition. Like her husband, she generates
feelings of dislike and distrust on both sides of the political
spectrum, is despised by the right because of her last name and is
mistrusted because she comes across as nothing more than a pandering
opportunist on the left.
What she has that more
palatable candidates don’t is name recognition, campaign experience and
the Clinton knack at raising money.
She also has the
distinct advantage in being the candidate who has already been the most
fully vetted. It is impossible to imagine any new slur that her eventual
Republican opponent might produce to tarnish her name. In fact, back in
the ’90s, the right suggested that both she and her husband were
involved in the deaths of several people, including former Commerce
Secretary Ron Brown and attorney Vince Foster.
In short, you could
accuse Hillary Clinton of murder, and it would be old news. The
swift-boating of Hillary Clinton was tried in the ’90s, and it did
nothing except help get her elected to the U.S. Senate.
Things have gotten to this point not because Clinton is so popular, but
because the campaign has gone on for so long. The campaign for the 2008
election actually started in late 2006, and for much of the year, it
appeared that mistrust over Hillary’s positions might even out her
a normal year, when candidates announced their candidacies maybe six
months before the first ballots are cast, it might have been possible
for an insurgent campaign to upset Hillary, but that would have required
the energizing impact of ballot box victories.
This, in turn, has helped to even out the influence of New Hampshire and
Iowa on the nomination process. Neither state has had much impact on the
eventual nominee in a long time anyway, and this year isn’t going to
change that. And that goes for other states that might try to cut in
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