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October 29, 2007

It’s Too Late for Early Primary States to Control the Game


It 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.


The 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.


In 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 going first.

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 tremendous advantages.


In 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 line.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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