Wednesday, April 09, 2008

'Big Mo' and the Order in Which Primaries, Caucuses Fall

An eighty-six year old man told me on Sunday, "There has got to be a better way to pick a president than what we've got now." He added, "It's pitiful!"

I think he's right.

Sean Oxendine is appalled by the Democratic nomination process, which he reports that one of his friends calls, “like the electoral college, but more random.” But, Oxendine says, the most disturbing element of this "process" is the impact of the order in which primaries and caucuses fall on momentum, delegate counts, candidate withdrawals, and nominations. He writes:

Imagine, for example, where things would stand if Georgia, Alabama and a few caucus states hadn’t moved their dates up to Super Tuesday, but Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas had, in fact, moved up. This race would likely have been over February 3, with calls for Obama to get out reaching the same crescendo that the calls against Hillary are reaching.

Of course, the whole way we got to this position was Obama’s magical “ten in a row” during February. But Maryland, DC, Virginia, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Hawai’i, Maine, Washington and Nebraska were all races that he was supposed to win — and by large margins at that — with the arguable exception of Wisconsin. Imagine if those races had instead been Indiana, Kentucky, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and a couple of Super Tuesday states (say, MA and TN). The storyline would be completely different.

Jeremy Pierce says:

This is a criticism of the whole process, not just of how the Democratic primary does things. It's even clearer for the Republican primary. If Florida had been the first GOP state, followed by New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, Giuliani might have been the nominee. If Iowa had been followed by certain key Southern states without New Hampshire in between, Huckabee would have had a real chance. If South Carolina had been first, followed by Tennessee and perhaps Georgia, we might have actually seen Fred Thompson doing well in other states. If Michigan had been before Iowa, Romney would have had enough momentum that he could possibly have done a good deal better, and if more Western states were early on he might have had enough to get the momentum necessary to take states he lost by a large margin.

This process is highly sensitive to small changes in the order of states, and that seems to me to be a very bad thing.

Is this any way to elect a President?

[This is being cross-posted on my personal blog.]

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