Showing posts with label nomination reform plans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nomination reform plans. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dogpile on Iowa and New Hampshire ...Again.

Is it that time again?

The time for everyone to pile on Iowa and New Hampshire for being the unrepresentative states at the front of the presidential primary and caucus line.

It seems that way. But now, instead of it being about the racial unrepresentativeness,1 it's about the urban-rural discrepancy and the resulting economic policy. The policy bit has been covered. Andrew Taylor showed -- without the quips about the position Iowa and New Hampshire occupy on the calendar -- that the earlier a state is the more it gains in promises from candidates and the more it gains in terms of candidates-turned-presidents' concessions once they are in the White House.

Now, a normative argument could be made for allowing other states to have a turn at the front to enjoy the fruits of being there. But that completely misses the point. So too, does Leonhardt's emphasis on the notion of one person-one vote in his New York Times take down of Iowa and New Hampshire on both urban-rural and policy concessions grounds. FHQ should go on record as saying that it is an advocate of one person-one vote, but primaries and caucuses or nominations for any office are not necessarily the domain of one person-one vote. Nominations, whether for president or dog catcher, are the business of the parties that conduct them. General elections, on the other hand, are about electing someone from one party or another to fill a particular office. The latter is democratic. The former isn't necessarily.

The idea of a general election is to let whomever wants to register to vote vote and have as equal a voice as possible. But nominating contests are not about that. Nominations are about the parties nominating someone to run in that general election. And the parties can choose whatever rules for govern that process that they want. It's their business.

Want to set the rules to produce the best candidate for the general election? Go for it.

Want to set the rules to produce the candidate who is the best ideological fit regardless of their chances in the general election? Again, go for it.

Want to set the rules to produce only balding, white males with yellow eyes -- so help me God, yellow eyes? Hey, more power to ya.

The point is that parties set the rules governing their nomination races. And no, they don't necessarily have to be democratic or fair. It just has to appear that way or appear enough that way. The courts have continually found in favor of the parties on this front (see the Tashjian case from the Supreme Court docket in 1986). The parties want to stick around for the long haul, and ideally to achieve that end they will have to be pragmatic and find enough electable candidates and minimize the Christine O'Donnells while still allowing for those sorts of results to occur.

But at the end of the day, it is up to the party to decide on the rules. And if that means Iowa and New Hampshire go first in the presidential primary process, then tough. When and if Iowa and New Hampshire produce a nominee that is unpalatable enough in the eyes of the party -- whichever party -- that a change at the front of the queue becomes necessary or even unavoidable, the party or parties will alter the rules. And honestly, I can't remember the last time someone argued that it was Iowa's and/or New Hampshire's fault that a certain candidate won a nomination and cost a party the chance at the White House. [It is usually the candidate that is thrown under the bus, not the voters who chose them eight or nine months prior.] Sure, that argument could be made, but it hasn't (or hasn't been effectively).

The bottom line is that Iowa and New Hampshire, despite their warts, do what they're suppose to do -- or at least do well enough at what they're supposed to do -- to keep their positions. If they didn't the parties would change it. And we may be approaching that point. All the talk about Iowa this time around has been about how the potential is there, due to the rightward "lurch" of the Iowa Republican caucusgoers, for an extreme candidate to win the caucuses and threaten Iowa's position as the first contest. FHQ cannot speak for the Republican deliberations that have taken place, but the Iowa/New Hampshire question was raised last summer at the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee meetings to set the 2012 delegate selection rules for the party. That idea was tabled, though, because the party's objective was and continues to be to reelect the president. The members of the committee did not want to rock the boat in 2012 by attempting to shake up the nomination system.

And until Iowa and New Hampshire drop the ball in some fundamental way, the parties are not going to want to rock the boat in any future cycle.

Is FHQ nothing but a shill for Iowa and New Hampshire? No, but we do know that the overlapping interests of state and national parties, not to mention those of state and national governments, make changing the presidential nominating process extremely difficult. Does that mean no effort should be made? Not necessarily, but please know that the parties hold a veto on any changes that are proposed (and that Congress, while technically able to intervene and effectively in the eyes of the courts has been very hesitant to do so).

There are bigger fish to fry.

The interesting thing is that primaries/caucuses/nominations got confused with the ideals we hold dear in terms of general elections. That confusion is attributable, FHQ would argue, to presidential primary reform. In their effort to comply with the new Democratic Party rules for presidential nominations, states opted for the convenience of state-funded primary elections as opposed to funding separate, party-funded contests. The fact that most of these presidential nominating contests are taxpayer funded blurs the line on this. That opens up a whole different can of worms, though.

1 The DNC opened the pre-window period up to both Nevada and South Carolina in 2008 in an effort to allow Hispanic and African American voters respectively have a larger say in the early presidential nomination process.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How many double-takes can one do in a split second?

I think I broke the record.

Last night as I was putting the finishing touches on the two posts I was working on, a Google Alert email came up on my phone. [Well, the buzz of my phone told me I had a message. I had to actually pick the phone up to see that it was one of the Google Alert variety.] Instead of totally interrupting my train of thought and clicking on the adjacent email tab online, I picked up my phone and this is what I saw:
Presidential Primary Process Reorganized
Kansas City Star

Instead of the traditional Iowa-New Hampshire-Super Tuesday trifecta, the 2012 cycle will be the first to use a rotating system among four region: ...
WHAT!?! How did I miss this? How was it not being more widely reported than in the Kansas City Star (No offense Star employees.)?

At that point my posts were forced to take a backseat to this new and necessary investigation. I switched to the computer, found the relevant Alert message in my email queue and clicked on it. Rapidly, I scanned the article for the headline I had seen on my phone. I located it and this is what I read:

Presidential Primary Process Reorganized

WASHINGTON | The two major political parties have announced the implementation of a regional primary system for presidential nominations. Instead of the traditional Iowa-New Hampshire-Super Tuesday trifecta, the 2012 cycle will be the first to use a rotating system among four regions: Northeast, Southeast, Northwest and Southwest. The first region to hold primaries next year will be the Northeast, which will go last in 2016.

This plan is the culmination of efforts from disparate advocates, including the National Association of Secretaries of States and former Florida Gov. Bob Graham. The intention is to increase diverse participation by ensuring that all areas of the country get an early say in the nomination process.

Again, what!?! First of all, how had a near impossibility -- the fact that both major parties had quietly altered their 2012 delegate selection rules after having settled on them already -- been left unreported to this point? Secondly, why was this only in the Kansas City Star?

It was then that I looked up at the true headline (and just a section heading masquerading as one on a smartphone):
Oh, well that explains it. Perhaps this should be amended to read "Headlines that America deserves to see in 2014". That will be the next time we will see any sort of headline on a definitive change in primary organization. And maybe you've seen over the years, I'm not entirely bullish on that happening then or any other time. But 2014 would be the earliest possible time that we would see that.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Modified Delaware Plan

[Click to Enlarge]

The premise: Small states go first, large states go last.

The rules: Iowa and New Hampshire receive an exemption to continue going at the front of the pack. Following the lead-off, the ten smallest states hold simultaneous delegate selection events (primaries or caucuses) with the remaining states are split into three groups based on size. If the smallest states were to go during March, the small-to-medium states would go in April, the medium-to-large states would go in May and the largest states would bring up the rear in June. States could not go any earlier than their designated month, but could opt to hold a later contest if that was the custom in the state.

The history: This plan in its original form made some headway during the 2000 election cycle within the Republican Party. Its advance was quashed at the GOP convention that year to avoid a floor fight over the issue. The plan was later altered to provide Iowa and New Hampshire with the exemption depicted in the map above. Without that exemption, New Hampshire would end up in the group of smallest states while Iowa would hold its caucuses during the month designated for the small-to-medium states.

The pros: The Delaware Plan (modified or otherwise) would allow for retail politics and the potential for the building of a grassroots candidacy (during the election year). That is intended to maintain a certain level of competition in the process.

The cons: Obviously, densely populated areas are disadvantaged by this plan, and thus urban issues are potentially secondary in such a campaign (What kind of nominee does that produce?). Also, states organized by size are not all clustered together. That would potentially have the effect of advantaging the candidates with the most money to organize in and visit each of those states (Would that produce a result any different from the current system?).

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Presidential Primary Reform Week: Reading Room

This is part five in a series of posts this week dealing with presidential primary reform. As a refresher you can also look at FHQ's earlier synopsis of several of the various reform proposals that have been talked about and/or considered. The maps are a little clunky, but will suffice for now. I'm planning a revamping of them in the not too distant future. You can also find part one (National Primary with a Twist) here, part two (Two Birds, One Stone) here and the first installment of part three (Fair and Representative Presidential Primaries Act of 2009) here (second installment here). Finally, part four (covering the implications for reform based on the National Association of Secretaries of State change-over of power) can be found here.

I wanted to close Presidential Primary Reform Week with a heads up on some great reading out there on the subject. Yes, if you've tuned into this series of posts since last Monday, you've already been given a lot to look at and read, but there are a couple of books (one already out and one to-be-released book) that are on my wish list for the near future -- in times that are less dissertation-dominated.

The first book is an edited volume -- Reforming the Presidential Nomination Process by Steven S. Smith and Melanie J. Springer -- that the Brookings Institution released earlier this year. In fact, a made a similar claim about this book being on my wish list about a year ago before it hit the shelves. Eerie, isn't it? The entire process is seemingly broken down, but the book ends with chapters from Larry Sabato calling "reform by constitutional amendment," Thomas Mann dissecting the reform fallout from 2008 and Dan Lowenstein discussing congressional intervention in the process. I've mentioned the Lowenstein chapter before and it bears mentioning here again. It is the piece that breaks the system of reform down from a legal perspective and has the most usefulness for our discussions here. Highly recommended reading.

The details are sketchier for Barbara Norrander's new book on reform. It is, depending on where you look, it is due out either in September or next year sometime. However, around FHQ, this will be highly anticipated reading. Norrander has made a career in political science out of researching the nomination process (just look at her publications and this thorough list of primaries literature on her website -- pdf) and her upcoming book on reform shouldn't disappoint. Well, it won't disappoint me, anyhow. Here's the publisher's blurb on the book, Can Presidential Primaries Be Reformed?:
"Many people complain about the complex system used to nominate presidents. The system is hardly rational because it was never carefully planned. Because of the dissatisfaction over the idiosyncrasies of the current system, periodic calls arise to reform the presidential nomination process. However, the last major series of reforms from the 1970s produced many unintended consequences. Further, many of the current reform proposals are actually solutions for lesser problems and solutions for more major problems are highly unlikely to be enacted.

The main theme of the book is to be careful what you wish for. Reforming the presidential nomination process is as complex as the current system. In this book Norrander explores how presidential candidates are nominated, discusses past and current proposals for reform, and examines the possiblity for more practical, incremental changes to the electoral rules."

"Be careful what you wish for." Sounds like something uttered around these parts.

Anyway, both of these books get FHQ's seal of approval. If you're interested in learning more about the process, you probably won't have to look any further. Happy reading.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Presidential Primary Reform Week: The National Association of Secretaries of State's New President

This is part four in a series of posts this week dealing with presidential primary reform. As a refresher you can also look at FHQ's earlier synopsis of several of the various reform proposals that have been talked about and/or considered. The maps are a little clunky, but will suffice for now. I'm planning a revamping of them in the not too distant future. You can also find part one (National Primary with a Twist) here, part two (Two Birds, One Stone) here and the first installment of part three here (second installment here).

As was the case earlier in the week when I brought up the fact that Bill Nelson and Carl Levin had introduced the 2009 version of the Fair and Representative Presidential Primaries Act (FaRPPA), this post won't break any new ground (not in the way that the first two posts in this series did). However, it is an interesting bit of news -- just like the bill before the Senate -- that may have an impact on presidential primary reform.

Earlier this week (on Sunday in fact), Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson was sworn in as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. Now, this is a position that holds a two year term and rotates back and forth between parties each cycle. One cycle a Republican secretary of state will lead the group and in the next, a Democrat will. The twist on this is that this is the same Trey Grayson who has formed an exploratory committee eying the race for the Senate seat now held by John Bunning. The same John Bunning who is seemingly primed for defeat in his 2010 reelection bid.

No one seems particularly high on Bunning's chances of reelection (here, here and here to name a few), but also, no one can predict with any level of certainty what the Hall of Fame pitcher will do in terms of 2010. However, should he bow out and allow his heir apparent, Grayson, to fill the void, there are some implications for primary reform involved. This is completely speculative, as there are several steps involved to even get to the point where Trey Grayson is the junior senator from Kentucky. But in Grayson, the Senate would have another strong advocate of presidential primary reform. He would, however, be someone who would likely tout the National Association of Secretaries of State rotating regional primary plan as opposed to the plan in the FaRPPA legislation. In other words, Trey Grayson would be an advocate of the simpler NASS plan.

Let's have a look at the broad outline of that plan (What? Of course there's a revamped map included.):

[Click to Enlarge]

For the sake of laying this out, I'll compare it to the legislation currently in committee in the Senate. The NASS plan divides the nation into four regions (instead of six) and has all the states in one region holding their contests on the same date (as opposed to the subregional mix and match of FaRPPA). Off the bat, then, there are some noticeable differences between the two plans. The biggest is that the NASS plan continues to grant Iowa and New Hampshire exemptions similar to what the two major parties have been doing for the better part of three decades. Outside of that, the NASS plan has but four contest dates compared to the six subregional affairs in FaRPPA. Iowa and New Hampshire would likely hold their nominating contests some time in February with the four regional contests following in monthly intervals after the first Tuesdays in March, April, May and June. A lottery before the first election this was implemented for would set the sequence and regions would rotate in each subsequent election. If, then, the order for the first election was South, West, Midwest and Northeast, the next election would see the South move to the end of the process with every other region moving up a spot from the previous election (West, Midwest, Northeast and South).

NASS hopes to have the plan adopted by 2012 so that it could be implemented for the 2016 cycle. No, that's probably not what reform advocates have in mind.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Presidential Primary Reform Week: The Fair and Representative Presidential Primaries Act of 2009

This is part three B in a series of posts this week dealing with presidential primary reform. As a refresher you can also look at FHQ's earlier synopsis of several of the various reform proposals that have been talked about and/or considered. The maps are a little clunky, but will suffice for now. I'm planning a revamping of them in the not too distant future. You can also find part one (National Primary with a Twist) here, part two (Two Birds, One Stone) here and the first installment of part three here.

Let me level with you. I didn't like those maps I appended to yesterday's post on the Fair and Representative Presidential Primaries Act of 2009. First of all, they are based on a rudimentary online map-making program that I started using when FHQ got into the electoral college analysis business. And as I said, they are a bit clunky. But as it turns out, that wasn't the only issue.

I realized today that the link to the current legislation (S.1433) before the Senate (or in committee there) accidentally linked to a story on the bill's sponsor, Bill Nelson (D-FL). When I got the real link up and running I looked more closely at the outline of the legislation; specifically the region/subregion set up. What I discovered was that the subregion lottery process -- the one that had been in the example I based my maps on -- had been scrapped in favor of just setting the subregions from the outset. Well, that meant I had to change the map, which meant I had to update the map (Well, not had to so much as felt compelled to.).

Just for the record, then, let's set this straight:
1) First, the country is split into six regions.

[Click to Enlarge]

2) Then, one or more of the states from each of those numbered regions is selected to go during one of the six contest days throughout the March to June primary season. Each region, then, is represented on each of those contest days. As is the case with other regional primary systems, this plan also has a rotation. The first subregion group (subregion A) to go in 2012, say, would go during the last week in 2016 with all the other subregional groups advancing one week earlier in the process. Instead of going first, Iowa would go during the fifth contest day of the schedule during the first iteration, for example. So, by 2028, the Hawkeye state would back in the catbird seat. [That comment has just triggered riots in Des Moines, Davenport and Iowa City. Sorry guys.] This second map shows the proposed subregions from the bill and factors in the timing component as well. The earlier a state or subregion is, the darker it is shaded.

[Click to Enlarge]

Let me close with a request. The brown gradient makes sense on the subregion map, but I debated going with the gradient you see in the regions map or just six different colors. To me, the different colors just looked too "rainbowy." However, there isn't really a trend there and that's what gradients like the frontloading maps in the left sidebar are good at depicting. That isn't the case here, though. If you have a preference for one over the other then just let me know in the comments section.

UPDATE: It probably would be fair of me to include the alternative map I mentioned above as well. I mean, we do want people to make informed decisions, right?

[Click to Enlarge]

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Presidential Primary Reform Week: Congressional Action

This is part three in a series of posts this week dealing with presidential primary reform. As a refresher you can also look at FHQ's earlier synopsis of several of the various reform proposals that have been talked about and/or considered. The maps are a little clunky, but will suffice for now. I'm planning a revamping of them in the not too distant future. You can also find part one (National Primary with a Twist) here and part two (Two Birds, One Stone) here.

Today's post isn't so much about breaking new ground as it is about relaying some recent news that has been, to this point, lost in the shuffle. Two weeks ago, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) re-introduced the bill (with Michigan Senator Carl Levin as a cosponsor) that he put before the chamber during the first session of the 110th Congress (2007) and attempted to raise awareness of during heated negotiations over the Florida/Michigan situation in the Democratic nomination process of 2008. S.2024 lapsed when the 110th adjourned and would have established an interregional primary lottery system. As of July 9, that same plan was back, but in the form of S.1433, the Fair and Representative Presidential Primaries Act of 2009.

But what exactly is an interregional primary lottery system? Let's take a tour, shall we?

The basic premise is the same as the Dingell-Anuzis plan I described in this space a year ago:
Dingell-Anuzis Modified Plan:
This is the plan that has been introduced in Congress. It divides the nation into six regions and splits primary season into six contests that are three weeks apart beginning in March and ending in June. Under this plan, Iowa and New Hampshire lose their favored, early positions. The contests are not simply made up of the regions though.
[Click to Enlarge]

[Please excuse the maps here. They are badly in need of some refurbishing. Still, they get the point across.]
There are six contests, but a lottery determines what week anywhere from one to four states from each region will hold their contests. The map below shows one possible way that a lottery could split the states. The fifth week (in brown), for example, takes one state from each region: New Jersey from the Northeast, North Carolina from the South, Maryland from the Border states, Illinois from the Upper Midwest, Louisiana from the Southwest, and Oregon from the West. Believe it or not, the Michigan-based plan has Michigan going during the first week of the process during the first iteration.
[Click to Enlarge]

This plan didn't move in Congress in 2008 because of the election and likely won't go anywhere during the 111th Congress either simply because both parties are tinkering with their nomination rules at the moment. As long as reform from the parties remains an open issue (and we'll know by sometime in the summer of 2010), Nelson's plan will be in a holding pattern. However, should both parties fail to make at least some reforms, Nelson is apt to up his rhetoric on the issue. But in the meantime, this bill only serves to put some tangential pressure on the parties to get something meaningful done on the presidential primary reform front.*

Regardless, the bill is active and we have the means of tracking its progress (or lack thereof) from here on out.

*I say tangential because it is an open question as to whether Congress would even have the ability to intervene on this issue. But I'll have more on that on Friday.

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Presidential Primary Reform Week: Two Birds, One Stone

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Presidential Primary Reform Week: Two Birds, One Stone

This is part two in a series of posts this week dealing with presidential primary reform. As a refresher you can also look at FHQ's earlier synopsis of several of the various reform proposals that have been talked about and/or considered. The maps are a little clunky, but will suffice for now. I'm planning a revamping of them in the not too distant future. You can also find part one (National Primary with a Twist) here.

A couple of months ago I got an email from Matthew Sanderson (former McCain-Palin campaign finance counsel) with another innovative idea for presidential primary reform. Up until now, I didn't know what to do with it, but since the news on reform has quietly ramped up of late (more coming later in the week), I have an opportunity to put Mr. Sanderson's idea out there. Here's the premise as Matt laid it out to me. [As always, you can read the full proposal here -- a forthcoming article in the Virginia Journal of Law and Politics. It is a pdf file, but is freely available. And yes, it's a lengthy read, but is chock full of great background research.]

Two Birds proposes a package of reforms that would pivot the Public Funding System away from its current emphasis on spending limits and retool it to combat frontloading in the presidential nomination process. The proposed reforms include: (1) delaying the System's matchable-contribution and disbursement dates until October 1st of the pre-election year and April 1st of the election year, respectively; (2) forcing candidates to compete for a single pool of funds, with no guaranteed maximum or minimum amount; (3) transforming the general-election grant into a matching-funds program, similar to that currently used during the primary-election period; (4) eliminating the grant to political parties for national conventions; and (5) creating new, unconventional benefits for public funding participants, such as automatic ballot access.

First of all, if you thought the FairVote plan discussed yesterday was ambitious, it has nothing on Matt's plan to overhaul not only the presidential nomination process but to fix campaign finance as well. Also, there's more to it, but for our purposes I'll try to focus on just the frontloading and presidential primary finance mechanisms. If you have thoughts on the other portions of the proposal feel free to sound off in the comments section.

At face value, I love this idea. As the title implies, two birds (frontloading and campaign finance), one stone (well, several small stones thrown together really). The entire idea is predicated on motivating the presidential candidates -- especially the main contenders -- to opt into the changes to the campaign finance system and that states' hands will be forced as a result, moving them into compliance vis a vis primary and caucus scheduling. That's not necessarily a complicated process, but getting there would be a real battle. Let's put the pieces together:

1) Move the matchable contribution date from January 1 to October 1 in the year prior to the election and move the disbursement date from January 1 to April 1 of the election year. I can buy that. If contributions are not matchable until the October prior to primary season kicking off and matching disbursement checks are not handed out until April of the election year, then participating candidates would be unable effectively campaign in many states earlier than April. As such, states would be motivated to shift to a point in the calendar when candidates would and could actually pay them some mind.

That's all well and good, but how do you get candidates to opt in? That's the big question, right? Fixing frontloading, as detailed here, can only be fixed if the major candidates accept the terms of the enhanced system.

2) Well, that piece of the puzzle is dependent on a handful of factors. First, the stick. If you opt in as a candidate, you are in for both the primary phase and the general election phase. None of this opting out for the primaries and crawling back in for the general election (see Bush, George W., Kerry, John and McCain, John). But there's also the carrot (multiple ones actually). First, participating candidates can take advantage of a cap-less pool of money and can do so to the detriment of their opponent. That is, instead of the $160+ million cap on 2008 general election funds for example, there would be no cap. On top of that, if you raise more than your opponent, you get more than your opponent. Furthermore, if your opponent goes it alone outside of the proposed system, you get everything in the pool. Oh, and there is a 4:1 matching fund ratio to sweeten the deal.

Not bad, huh?

No, it isn't. But the one problem I have with all of this is this: What if, as a candidate, you know you can out-raise your opponent and what he or she can gain from the new system? Even if Barack Obama had ceded the entire $168 million in federal money to John McCain in 2008, the then-Illinois senator still would have been able to out-raise/out-spend the Arizona senator. But that's somewhat underhanded of me. This system applies to both the primaries and the general election. Obama didn't necessarily know in February 2008 that he could outdo McCain financially in the general election. He would have been more concerned with Hillary Clinton at the time. More to the point, he would have been interested in how he'd stack up financially compared to the former First Lady. Would the promise of matching money in the fall have been enough pie in the sky to bring Obama to the table in the Two Birds-One Stone system? Perhaps.

Here's the thing: The more I think about this, the more I think of how perfectly it would have worked in the 2008 environment. But what about other elections? If you're an incumbent and see a close election on the horizon, maybe you'd jump in (Bush 2004), but if you saw a comfortable win coming, you might just as soon opt out (Clinton 1996). Well, that's a fair number of elections right there. It is and we haven't even tackled the open seat elections. Opting in in those cases would be conditional as well, though. In 2008, sure, this system likely would have worked. I can see Clinton and Obama and McCain opting in. But in 2000, I don't think so. Gore and Bush were heavy favorites and would have quickly eschewed the parameters of this system. Both were comfortable frontrunners who were fine with the status quo in both the primaries and general election.

The key would be getting this up and running and strategically, you'd be better served doing it ahead of an open seat presidential election with no clear frontrunners. Maybe that's 2016, maybe it's not. But you would face a major obstacle in pushing this when an incumbent who can raise lots of money is running for reelection and can shun the system. Of course, I have Obama in 2012 in mind as I'm writing this. But that money could very well dry up to some extent if the economy isn't trending in the right direction by then.

But if the candidates don't buy in, then we're right back to square one with campaign finance and frontloading.

Interesting stuff, Matt.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Presidential Primary Reform Week: National Primary with a Twist

This is part one in a series of posts this week dealing with presidential primary reform. As a refresher you can also look at FHQ's earlier synopsis of several of the various reform proposals that have been talked about and/or considered. The maps are a little clunky, but will suffice for now. I'm planning a revamping of them in the not too distant future.

On Friday, FairVote went public with a novel idea for presidential nomination reform. Here's their idea (and please follow the link above to read the full explanation of the proposal):
"The entire political universe, from the heights of the Washington establishment to the depths of the grassroots, agrees that our presidential nominating process needs to be reformed. But while there is broad consensus that a problem exists, there are myriad diagnoses as to what actually needs fixing. As the parties begin internal and interparty discussions about what elements need tweaking, it‘s time to take a serious look at more extensive and comprehensive reforms that will truly fix the process. The parties should begin to debate a plan that includes traditional state-based nomination contests culminating in a final, decisive national primary." [Emphasis mine]
I really like this idea, but for a few things...

1) Coordinated action. This is another idea that will require coordinated effort from both national parties. I don't see this as the monumental roadblock that I once did. Folks from both sides seem to be mindful of the fact that now is the time to hammer something meaningful out on reform. Of course, one man’s meaningful is another man’s useless.

2) $$$$. The idea of moving congressional primaries to coincide with the national primary is ingenious. It is also imperative. Without that, states would be confronted with footing the bill for another (separate) election. I’m not sure, but I’m fairly certain that this current period is not the proper time to be pushing an additional election to be paid for with taxpayer money. Call it a hunch. The other side of this is that it probably wouldn’t just be congressional primaries moved but all primaries. And there may be some complications there because that would obviously include state legislative primaries (in most states). If any perceived negative impact surfaces there, state legislators — the folks primarily tasked with initiating these election date changes — may put their own self interests above the national party’s. Now, what could be seen as a negative impact to state legislators? First and foremost, the most problematic aspect is turnout. Some legislators might prefer lower turnout primary elections. Those conditions are to their advantage, after all.

3) Delegates/conventions. One major piece missing from this puzzle is the delegate calculation. What effect does the national primary have on the allocation of delegates? Are the state contests merely just the first round (beauty contests)? Does the national primary determine the allocation of all the delegates or just a certain percentage? And finally, what does this do to the convention? I suppose the same rules apply, but this national primary idea has an air of finality to it. "The delegates are allocated. Let the general election begin!" This last point is a minor issue. If this plan was instituted, the parties, I'm sure, would go on having their conventions as if nothing had happened. It isn't as if the conventions have been decisive of late (though they could have been in 2008 if Hillary Clinton had kept her campaign going throughout the summer).

4) Candidates. What does this plan do to candidate strategy? Would candidates drop out as they do in the currently configured system? Super Tuesday does have a way of winnowing the field down to (usually) one candidate. But I don't know. Candidates may opt to tough it out. After all, the candidate who places second at the end of all the primaries and caucuses moves on to the runoff national primary. Money would be the determining factor there, though. If you don't have any money you can't go on. What a national primary like this does accomplish, though, is basically a reset. Things kinda sorta go back to the way they were prior to the McGovern-Fraser reforms in one respect: there's a prize at the end of the calendar. Look at the allocation of Democratic delegates in 1976. The date on which the most delegates were at stake was the last one on the calendar. This proposed system, however, would have all of the delegates (it seems) at stake on the final date. In that regard, some of the same dynamics that prevailed in the earlier iterations of the McGovern-Fraser system would return in the revised system. Mainly, that would mean that, sure, candidates would drop out as they do now (when they aren't catching on), but it would also potentially mean that you would have candidates jumping in the contest midstream (depending on how frontloaded the calendar is -- If the calendar is like 2008, it wouldn't have made sense for, say, Jeb Bush to have jumped in after Super Tuesday's delegate giveaway. There likely wouldn't have been enough delegates left to counter McCain's lead after February 5.) as well. Essentially, then, this proposed system would offer two opportunities for buyers' remorse: once by giving a late-arriving candidate a chance to catch on and then again in the national primary when the second place finisher goes against the frontrunner (the winner of the most contests).

5) Turnout. One last hypothetical and I'll wrap this up. What if candidates continue to drop out of the race as they do now and the winner becomes a foregone conclusion? Not only that, but what if the party is satisfied with the "presumptive nominee"? Does the national primary, then, become something akin to the conventions now: a formality? If the national primary is a formality, then that is likely going to be a low turnout affair, which is something, I think, that would be against the wishes of those who have crafted the idea. Another argument along these same lines is that the national primary, in such a situation (low turnout), would become an election ripe for insurgency. Again, let's look at the 2008 Republican nomination contest. Let's assume that everything was the same about the contest, but that there was a national primary at the end. Why would Republicans go to the polls on the national primary day? The contest is over, right? Yes and no. Seemingly McCain has won, but technically, he hasn't. What if Ron Paul was able to quietly (or perhaps not so quietly) call on his supporters to turnout and vote? Would his loyal following amount to enough to overcome a low turnout in favor of McCain? Maybe, maybe not, but here's guessing that the GOP wouldn't even want to consider the possibility. [Of course, 2008 would have played out differently had there been a national primary at the end. Neither Huckabee nor Romney would have withdrawn from the race, I suspect.]

I don’t know that any of these things are deal breakers, but I do think they are factors that would have to be ironed out to some extent to avoid any unintended consequences. And despite the fact that I often come down hard on these reform plans, what I ultimately want to avoid are unintended consequences that make matters worse. But some might argue with me about the ways in which (or whether) things could get worse in the current presidential nomination system.

Hat tip to Matthew Shugart over at Fruits and Votes for the link.

Part Two of this series tomorrow will deal with another new and sweeping reform proposal. Stay tuned...

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Join FHQ for Presidential Primary Reform Week This Week

Democratic Change Commission and Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee meetings notwithstanding, there has been enough news about the parties' methods of nominating presidential candidates recently to warrant an entire week devoted to the process, and perhaps more importantly, the process of reform. Each day this coming week, then, FHQ will discuss one reform proposal specifically or some relevant news about the process that really has not seen the light of day yet. We'll start tomorrow off with an interesting new proposal I caught wind of late Friday and progress from there.

Also coming this week:

1) Tomorrow starts the week off with a bang and no, not just because of the announced series of posts above. [I've got better things to do than worry about that sort of thing.] Public Policy Polling will be releasing their July numbers for the 2012 general election trial heats (Obama v. Gingrich/Huckabee/Palin/Romney) on Monday. Be on the lookout for an update of our 2012 graphs and additional analysis soon thereafter.

2) Also, on Tuesday or more likely on Wednesday, PPP will have some numbers out of Louisiana. There's likely to be an Obama/Jindal head-to-head poll in there, but I may be guilty of having misinterpreted the intent of that poll in an earlier post. The line from the PPP blog read, " Bobby Jindal more popular in his home state than Tim Pawlenty?" Now, that seems like there is going to be a head-to-head between Pawlenty and Jindal in Louisiana, but was likely a reference to Pawlenty's position in an earlier survey the company did in Minnesota. If your hopes skyrocketed because of my post, I apologize. [But it does read that way. It should have been written, " Bobby Jindal more popular in his home state than Tim Pawlenty was in his?"]

3) There may also be a vote on the Sotomayor nomination sometime this week. Thus far, FHQ has remained quiet on this issue. That's mainly because the vote in the Senate is what I've been waiting for. Only that is likely to shift candidates' electoral fortunes in the future. If that hasn't been hammered to death by the blogosphere, then I may have something to say about a select few races (depending upon how the vote goes).

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

2012 Primary Reform: Previous General Election Margin as a Means of Setting the Calendar

FHQ was lucky enough to have Will Bower (of PUMA fame) stop by to add his primary reform system to the comments section of our recent 2012 Primary Calendar Projection. Below is my rather lengthy response to the shape of the system and his plan in particular.

It's funny, Will. I had this same thought during the summer of 2007 when a group of Democratic Ohio state senators introduced a bill that would have moved the Buckeye state's primary from March 4 to January 29 (the same day as the Florida primary). That would have put the decisive state from the previous two general elections near the front of the 2008 primary queue.

Having said that, let me offer one suggestion and some other comments.

Suggestion: I glanced through your original post on this subject as well as some of the comments and it seems to me that some people had issues with the potential for constant rotation.
So why not cut down on the some of the volatility inherent in focusing on just the previous election and focus instead on the last two/three election cycles? Average the margins in each state over that time and set the calendar by rank order accordingly. [I'd actually like to see how the calendar(s) would differ.] That would control for anomaly elections yet still allow for some movement but not a wholesale upheaval from one election to the next.

My impression is that there are generally two things we know about voters and their perceptions of the presidential nomination process:

1) They like knowing when they are going to vote. We already know because the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November is election day that the next presidential general election is on November 6, 2012.

2) They also like knowing that their vote has an impact. If you're voting in a primary held after the point at which a nomination has been decided, that vote isn't making that much difference.

The "easiest" remedy to these two potentially contrasting ideas is a national primary. Everyone knows when they are voting and that their vote matters. The disadvantage is that voter learning would be quite low with the end result that the front-runner would carry an even more decisive advantage into the election.

As I have documented in this space, there are also several rotating primary (whether regionally aligned or not) ideas as well. There are several drawbacks to these ideas:

1) It increases the likelihood of regional candidates that may not have broad appeal (Something that your plan admittedly addresses.).

2) Depending on the plan, it increases the travel constraints on the candidates (And no, I don't buy your argument that Iowa and New Hampshire are far apart. The candidates know that those states are going to be first and invest their time and money wisely well in advance (years not weeks) of those contests.). This also favors the candidates with the most money and name recognition.

3) Here's an issue that I haven't seen addressed anywhere in regards to these rotating primary plans. What happens when your party's nomination is not being contested in a year when your region/grouping is going first. Depending on the plan, it could take twelve years for the process to work its way around to you. And then, there's no guarantee that the same situation won't arise again. This also doesn't seem quite fair.

In a lot of ways, these plans have unintended consequences written all over them.

But the thing is we do have some evidence of support for each of these ideas. A survey of 1285 people conducted pre- and post-Super Tuesday in 2008 asked respondents about their support for primary system reform. Over 70% supported each plan with the national primary idea having slightly more support. Surprisingly though, when given the option, respondents preferred a regional primary system that continues to grant Iowa and New Hampshire an exemption over a such a system where their "first in the nation" status is stripped. [A national primary was still preferred to each.] For more on this survey and some other interesting analyses on it, please see the Tolbert, et al. piece in January's PS.


But what about a primary system based on margin in the previous cycle? Yes, it is a potentially good way to vet candidates for the general election, but at the same time it insures that the spotlight is on the same group of states for the entire election year -- primary and general elections. There's something about that that doesn't seem fair.

The main issue I see is that to coordinate this or any of the rotating plans is requires either federal intervention or both national parties working in concert to impress upon state governments and parties that one of these plans is better than what we've currently got or a national primary. And I'm not convinced the parties would go along with this (whether it is the right plan or not). Let's assume for the sake of argument that this plan is adopted as is for 2012. That means that 14 of the first 15 states (and 20 of the first 25) will be states that were all red in 2004. Is the Democratic Party going to sign off on a plan that allows the Republican Party a chance to actively campaign and organize in all those formerly red states? Possibly, because it keeps them from organizing the way Obama did in red (caucus) states in 2008 in similarly cast blue states. But I doubt they would.

And even if the parties did, what would prevent cast-off, non-competitive state governments/parties from shifting their contests into more relevant positions? In other rotating systems, even those states would have their day in the sun every few cycles. It isn't like Utah, Oklahoma and Idaho can will themselves to be more competitive. Nor can Massachusetts, Rhode Island or Vermont. State governments dominated by particular state parties in those states, in fact, would resist that idea out of hand because it would entail helping the opposition party build itself. It is a lose-lose situation for those decision-makers; a situation that would make them seriously consider defying the calendar rules.

One thing to consider here is allowing for these states to have a seat at the table as well. Thomas Gangale's American Plan aligns states according to size but allows for a couple of the later groupings to shift into earlier positions. So instead of California being stuck at the end in perpetuity, the Golden state has a possibility of going as early as the fourth grouping of the process. That could apply to your plan as well, but it would mean shifting in some of the least competitive states into a more meaningful position.

The first step is seeing what the GOP's Temporary Delegate Selection Committee comes up with between now and the summer of 2010. Their decision will have a large say in whether there will be significant reform before 2012 kicks off.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

More on the Effort to Curb 2012 Frontloading

What, two frontloading posts in one week?!? Yeah, let's take a break from the vice presidential hysteria for a bit. That will obviously take care of itself. Though I will say that in my classes today I played the "wisdom of the masses" game that the good folks over at the Monkey Cage played yesterday and Biden won in each (for what its worth).

Anyway on the heels of my comments the other day following Obama's and the DNC's charting of a potential course for presidential nomination reform, there were a few more interesting tidbits that emerged around a similar theme. The Washington Post ran a great story reiterating some of the issues confronting the GOP's Ohio Plan at the party's convention in a little over a week. And some of these issues cut right to the heart of some things that have plagued the United States since its inception, mainly the divide between big states and little states. [Can you tell I'm teaching an intro to American Government course now? It's fresh in my mind.] So, on the one hand you have arguments about the system being broken:
"Most people believe that it's broken," said Ron Kaufman, a member of the RNC rules committee. "The question is, how do you fix it in a way that doesn't have unintended consequences?"
And on the other you have the big states' view voiced by perennial primary season also-ran, Michigan:

"I would rather stay with what we got," [Michigan Republican Party chairman, Saul] Anuzis said.

I playfully juxtaposed those two quotations from that article, but that's the order this discussion is going to go in at the convention. So, the system is broken, but is broken enough that the biggest states can be shunted to the back of the queue? I doubt that the big states that represent those last three primary day groups under the Ohio Plan are going to allow that idea to pass without a fight. Let's recall that those large states still have the largest number of delegates (even if that number is adjusted based upon how the state has supported the party in past elections) and that math stands in the way of the Ohio Plan.

Well, surprise, surprise: FHQ is quashing yet another presidential nomination reform proposal. [C'mon, that's not my intent.] Yeah, but there is some work being done out there to reform the system. And you know what? It is a bipartisan effort. Earlier this week, at a meeting at the National Press Club in Washington, the chairs of both parties' rules committees met with the president-elect of the National Association of Secretaries of State (Trey Grayson, R-KY) and Don Means, the Director of the Open Caucus Institute and together called for a "vigorous and widespread discussion and deliberation about how best to reform the current primary election calendar for 2012." Calling for and getting that reform are two different things, but the fact that at least some notable (and influential) members of each party are coalescing to make this effort is at least promising. And yes, I count the chairs of the DNC's and RNC's rules committees as influential.

But not as influential as the guys actually chosen through the current system to run for president. Obama has obviously voiced some concern over certain aspects of the system, but, as the Post article says, McCain and his campaign have been quiet on the issue. And what they say means a lot to the delegates making decisions on these matters (at least with respect to the GOP). Typically, those who win nominations in a certain way are not apt to want to change a system under which they were successful. I think both candidates can agree to the start date for primaries and caucuses being pushed back in 2012 and beyond, but beyond that, I'd question how far either is willing to go to shake up the rest of the system.

The Republicans have to, by their rules, deal with the issue of 2012 at their convention. We'll know something about 2012's calendar then. And what I'm really interested in is how the parties are going to keep states in line on this. Those sanctions have to matter otherwise, frontloading isn't going anywhere. We keep hearing this threat that action needs to be taken now lest 2008 repeat itself in 2012. For the record, (the act of) frontloading will not be as widespread four years from now. States will be less motivated to frontload because 1) most already have and 2) only one of the parties, barring the unforeseen, will have a contested nomination then. The outcome -- the crowding of contests -- may be, though.

I can, then, easily envision the window in which these contests are held being scaled back in 2012, but I'm skeptical of anything beyond that.

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

About Those Rules: What Obama's New Florida/Michigan Stance Means for 2012 and Beyond

Now, the Credentials Committee will have some say in this, but...

Obama's decision to call for a full seating of the delegates from Florida and Michigan has opened up a Pandora's box. Yes, it was clever of his campaign to come out with this now, after Hillary Clinton had been out of the spotlight for nearly two months. For delegates to go against two months of effort on behalf of Obama as the presumptive nominee and opt for Clinton, would be tantamount to ceding the election to McCain. Timing-wise then, it was a good move to make the call now (if he was going to do it at all). At this point, the intra-party tension has been sufficiently minimized, so that it is only likely to elicit a response from the most vocal Clinton supporters/Obama detractors.

To me though, that isn't real issue here. And, as is often the case with the Democratic Party, rule changes lead to some discernible differences, but also leave them vulnerable to any number of unforeseen, unintended consequences. If the Credentials Committee gives the green light to Obama's wishes for full voting rights for Florida and Michigan at the convention later this month, then states wanting to challenge Iowa and New Hampshire's first in the nation caucus and primary status in 2012 are going to be given a real morale boost.

Said one fictitious state legisltor:
"Delegates, schmelagates. If the sanctions don't mean anything anyway, let's move our primary way up so that we at least have some influence over who the presidential nominee is. The convention is only a PR extravaganza anyway. The delegates there only rubber stamp the decision made in the primaries; the early primaries."

And that's the catch here. This opens the door to any number of challenges to Iowa and New Hampshire. The Credentials Committee, then, can seat those delegates with full (not half) votes, but they had better hope that the Rules and Bylaws Committee does something at the convention to address 2012 and beyond (and they will. We just don't have any idea of to what extent they'll do something.). Either that, or rely on the GOP to debate the Ohio Plan at their convention or hope the federal government intervenes. Otherwise, states are going to move into the down-time between cycles -- when the frontloading decisions are made -- with an ability to move with impunity.

If Obama wins in November, this is a moot point.

...until 2016.
...unless things go badly and he is challenged in the primaries in 2012 (Could Clinton/Obama II be like Carter and Kennedy in 1980?).

If McCain wins, 2012 could be ugly for the Democratic Party in terms of how it will deal with states which will be tempted more than ever to hold a primary of caucus ahead of the earliest point that the party will allow (currently the first Tuesday in February).

So sure, Florida and Michigan matter to the Democrats' fortunes in 2008, but are they thinking ahead to 2012 and beyond? And while we're on the subject, is unity between those two states and the Democratic nominee a real problem now? Michigan is tight in the poll, but still favors Obama. And Florida is trending in the direction of the Illinois senator. What is gained from giving these delegates their full voice and is that really going to turn the tide in either state? Yes, I realize there is a sense of fairness and democracy here, but I'm talking about this in terms of how this affects the party's nominee in the election. Does that gain outweigh the potential headache 2012 frontloaders are going to provide? That is the question. Apparently it does.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Frontloading Under Fire, Part II

And here you thought, presidential primary (and caucus) frontloading was off the agenda until, say, 2011. No, as I mentioned in the initial installment of the "Frontloading Under Fire" series [Yeah, I didn't know there would be other ones either. But I opted to rehash the title instead of coming up with something snappy or forcing something boring.], frontloading in 2012 is very much on the agenda these days. The GOP are forced to confront the issue now -- as in, at their convention -- because they can only debate and make such rule-changing decisions from within the confines of the convention. The Ohio Plan (see a discussion of it and other reform plans in the right hand sidebar)that the Republicans are forwarding would grant Iowa and New Hampshire their customary positions at the front of the line with a series of small state contests to follow. The remaining, bigger states would be split into three groups with each group holding contests a few weeks apart (after the small states). We are just a few weeks off from the GOP convention, so one piece of the 2012 puzzle will be in place then.

Another piece of that puzzle is the potential for a regional primary system. The one proposed by the National Association of Secretaries of State received some attention this past weekend as the group met in Grand Rapids, MI for its annual summer meeting. Given what transpired in Michigan during primary season, Grand Rapids was an interesting location for the meeting. Really, all that came out of the meeting in regard to the primary system was that NASS was still in favor of the rotating regional primary. But hey, it was in the news (...buried under all that McCain and Obama talk and perhaps some other stories as well.).

I bring the Ohio Plan and the regional primary plan up together because I only really take the former seriously. Why? Well, the national parties are more likely to have some say in the issue than even this bipartisan collection of secretaries of state. The ball has always been in the parties' court on this issue. The decision is made based on the interaction between state parties/legislatures and the national parties. The national parties set the rules and the state-level actors operate under them. Secretaries of state work independent of that relationship unless, of course, you are talking about New Hampshire, where it is the secretary of state and not the state parties/legislatures making the decision.

Unless the regional primary system is being pushed by the parties, it is likely going nowhere, and it will continue to go nowhere until Congress intervenes. And that won't happen, will it? Sen. Nelson (FL-D) has brought something similar to the NASS plan in the Senate, but talk of his electoral reforms (the bill includes electoral college reform as well) has been pushed to the side since the Democratic nomination race was decided. But does Congress even have the right to make a decision on this matter? That was the topic of a recent posting by Dan Tokaji on the Election Law Blog. A forthcoming book chapter from Brookings by Dan Lowenstein tackles the issue:
The drawn-out contest for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 may temporarily mitigate but is not likely permanently to end pressure to halt or reverse the front-loading of presidential primaries and caucuses, including pressure for action by Congress. In this essay, written for publication in a forthcoming Brookings volume, REFORMING THE NOMINATION PROCESS edited by Steven S. Smith and Melanie J. Springer, I take no position on the desirability of reform, other than to support a ban on nominating events prior to a specified date in February or early March. Rather, the essay concentrates on congressional power to regulate the timing of nominating events.

I argue that some commentators have underestimated the structural arguments against any implied power by Congress to regulate presidential nominations. However, relying on the 12th Amendment, I come to the same conclusion as most commentators, that Congress does have the implied power. With respect to possible limitations on Congress' power deriving from the parties' associational rights, it is necessary to consider who the likely complainants will be. The most likely entities to object to congressional regulation are state governments and state parties. But the former have no first amendment rights against congressional action and the latter's claims would be quite weak. National parties could have stronger constitutional grounds for objecting to congressional regulation, though it is far from clear that they would prevail. More importantly, the prospects for congressional action are not particularly great in any event and the chances that Congress would act over the strenuous objection of one or both major parties are remote. Regulation is not unconstitutional on associational grounds unless the affected association objects. Therefore, whatever the national parties' theoretical associational rights may be, there is little likelihood Congress will regulate in an unconstitutional manner.

In a brief final section, I suggest that despite the probable constitutionality of congressional regulation, substantive regulation is undesirable, with the possible exception of setting a starting date. If Congress feels under political pressure to do something more, it would be better advised to facilitate joint deliberation and negotiation by the two major parties and to assist them in enforcing their own rules against the state than to impose a mandatory system on the parties and states.

Needless to say, I'll be lined up outside the bookstore for that one when the time comes for its release. More to the point, though, that adds some insight to the reform discussion we've been having here. Congress does have the ability (and likely the upper hand in court) should it decide to wade into the issue of scheduling presidential nominating events. However, normatively (at least in Lowenstein's eyes) that may not be the preferred route to reform.

...unless it includes his earlier capping of when states can actually hold their contests.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The What If Primary: Louisiana Politics Goes National

This past Friday, the Macon Telegraph ran a letter to the editor calling on the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees to walk the walk now that each has talked the talk on a post-partisan approach to the presidency.


Walk the talk

The presumptive presidential nominees, Barack Obama and John McCain, have promised, if elected, a bipartisan administration. They must also walk their talk, and it can done by two methods.

First, Obama and McCain must urge the passage of a constitutional amendment requiring a non-partisan primary election for all 50 states. This political reform would allow Independents to run in the primary election against Democrats and Republicans. The two top vote-getters would run in the general election.

Second, McCain and Obama must provide a list of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who they would appoint as cabinet secretaries and to White House staff.

In a nutshell, politics as usual must stop in Washington.

Roy Wetherington


I can take or leave the suggestion of having shadow cabinets or prospective shadow cabinets in place before the November election, but the idea of having a national non-partisan primary is an interesting one to say the least. This would be the equivalent of having the Louisiana political infrastructure in place on the national level. Candidates of all stripes are thrown into one chaotic election and the top two voter getters make the runoff (general election). In 2008, for example, a year with both enthusiasm and competitiveness gaps in favor of the Democrats, we would have seen two Democrats vying for the Oval Office in November (Both Clinton and Obama had in excess of 17 million votes while McCain had just under 10 million votes.). It should be noted that had Republican voters known they had to vote to get one of their own in the general election, McCain's total would have been higher.

How would other past primary seasons run in this manner have come out? A quick glance at America Votes gives us a pretty good idea. Though caucus votes are excluded, we still have a rough sense of who would have appeared in the general election runoff following what would have been a national, non-partisan primary.

Obama: 17,535,458
Clinton: 17,493,836
McCain: 9,902,797
Barr: n/a
Nader: n/a

Kerry: 9,870,082
Bush: 7,784,653
Edwards: 3,135,373
Nader: n/a

Bush: 10,844,129
Gore: 10,626,645
McCain: 5,118,187
Nader: n/a
Buchanan: n/a

Clinton: 9,694,499
Dole: 8,191,239
Buchanan: 3,020,746
Perot: n/a

Clinton: 10,482,411
Bush: 9,199,463
Brown: 4,071,232
Perot: n/a

Dukakis: 9,817,185
Bush: 8,254,654
Jackson: 6,685,699

Mondale: 6,811,214
Hart: 6,503,968
Reagan: 6,484,987

Carter: 9,593,335
Reagan: 7,709,793
Kennedy: 6,963,625
Anderson: 1,572,174

Carter: 6,235,609
Ford: 5,529,899
Reagan: 4,758,325

1972 Nixon: 5,378,704
Humphrey: 4,121,372
McGovern: 4,053,451
Wallace: 3,755,424

Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, there aren't that many changes from the general election match ups anyway. The changes that do appear underline some caveats that would have to be considered to look at this thoroughly. For starters, incumbents running unopposed would have to be controlled for in some way. There's no way, for example, that Reagan would have missed out on the 1984 general election, but his vote totals in the primaries were down because he ran virtually unopposed. Without that competition, there was less motivation to turn out GOP voters. The flip side of this is whether incumbents would even be included. Would it be the case that an incumbent would occupy one spot while the other candidates (members of the incumbent's party included) would run for that spot opposite him.

I'm going to try to look at this a but deeper in the next few weeks and months, so be on the look out. Putting some additional numbers in would definitely create an interesting analysis. Now, if only my dissertation will allow me to spend time elsewhere.

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A Big Thanks to Demconwatch