Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A Primary Proposal

This year, the primary system, which is still a work in progress, seems to have finally begun to break down. Florida and Michigan have run afoul of party rules because, in a bid for relevance, they have moved their primaries into January. "Too early," the parties say, and they're right.

But does it make sense for South Carolina, dark, fire engine red South Carolina, to have as much influence over the candidates as it does? And this year, Florida, which would have gone for Gore in 2000 if your grandmother's bridge club had brought their glasses with them to the polling place, can't even select which Democrat party candidate it prefers.

Republicans face a similar dilemma, although they only stripped half of Michigan and Florida's delegates. Meanwhile, both parties give voters from every state a relatively equal voice. Obama was propelled into the forefront by his win over Hillary in South Carolina. South Carolina?? Who cares which Democrat they like best? Democratic voters in the Palmetto State don't count in November, any more than they count in Mississippi or Alaska. And why should New York or Massachusetts get a say? They'll vote for the Democratic candidate regardless of who it is.

The only states that should really count are Florida and Ohio, and maybe Pennsylvania, since those voters really could go either way. In fact, let's take a look at the 2004 election results. According to Wikipedia, the states most evenly divided between Republican and Democrat voters were:
  1. Wisconsin, Kerry, 0.38%
  2. Iowa, Bush, 0.67%
  3. New Mexico, Bush, 0.79%
  4. New Hampshire, Kerry, 1.37%
  5. Ohio, Bush, 2.11%
  6. Pennsylvania, Kerry, 2.50%
  7. Nevada, Bush, 2.59%
  8. Michigan, Kerry, 3.42%
  9. Minnesota, Kerry, 3.48%
  10. Oregon, Kerry, 4.16%
  11. Colorado, Bush, 4.67%
So. What if we gave THESE states more influence over who we choose? After all, don't we care about who Wisconsinites and Ohioans are more likely to get excited about? Don't we want to know who will motivate them to go to the polls in November? Screw Connecticut and Idaho. We already know where their electoral votes are going.

Reorganize the primaries so they're done in order of closest races in the previous election first.
January 3: Wisconsin and Iowa (yes, Iowa keeps their first spot)
January 8: New Mexico
January 10: New Hampshire
January 17: Ohio and Pennsylvania
January 22: Nevada
January 24: Michigan and Minnesota

You get the picture. It would benefit both parties to know which of their candidates is most electable. The only slight, insignificant problem is the fact that the states, not the parties, control their own primary dates. And it would be hard to convince New Hampshire to give up their first spot without, say, a constitutional amendment.

But it's nice to dream.