Monday, April 6, 2009

Earlier is Better (And not just during a presidential primary race -- After it too)

There's a lot of talk around these parts that the earlier your state's primary is, the more, I don't know, candidate attention your state will receive. That's certainly what FHQ has stressed in its discussions of this, but it neglects one other valuable asset in all of this: what a president is able to do for states after they've been elected.

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas in Presidents as Candidates: Inside the White House for the Presidential Campaign shows that presidents exert their power through executive agencies to reward states and constituencies valuable to their reelection efforts. Iowa and New Hampshire receive, for instance, what Mayer and Busch (2004) call special policy concessions because of their privileged position at the front of the presidential primary queue. If a president running for reelection is able to secure added procurements for an early states, all the better for his or her chances.

Obviously, that's only part of this equation, though. What if states get rewards for picking the winning presidential candidate during the primary phase? Here is a constituency within a state or states that has been with a candidate the longest. And the later a state is, the easier the choice is as the candidate field is winnowed. Early states, then, have a tougher choice. From the presidential candidate's view it's, "Hey, you chose me all the way back then out of all those candidates." Under those circumstances, it could certainly be hypothesized that earlier states could get policy concessions and added procurements for their state simply by having chosen correctly in the primary phase. Well, that's exactly what Andrew Taylor has found. Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina can look for their check in the mail. New Hampshire, on the hand, can keep waiting since the Granite state opted for Hillary Clinton over Obama.

What Taylor finds evidence of is that...
"If the first state chooses the ultimately victorious presidential candidate in a competitive nomination ... it receives $35.29 more in procurement per capita than if it had picked a loser." In comparison, the benefit if the eighth state picks the eventual winner would be approximately $22.05 more in procurement per capita. Beyond the ninth contest, Taylor says, the benefits are no longer statistically significant.
So it isn't simply a matter of buttering up some valuable constituency for a reelection bid. It's also a matter of what have you done for me. Another way for Obama to keep score, I suppose.

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