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.

Recent Posts:
2008 Primary and Caucus Grades, Part Two

2008 Primary and Caucus Grades, Part One

A Big Thanks to Demconwatch


Robert said...

They published my response in the Macon Telegraph on Sunday.

I am also opposed to shadow cabinets for three reasons.
1. It emphasizes star-power and name recognition over competency (shifting the cabinet to become more political thus detracting from the ability to govern).
2. It is hard enough to screen VP candidates, much less all cabinet posts.
3. It provides more distractions for the oppostion and press to concentrate on rather than the issues and character of the cabinet.

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to Rob's letter in the Macon paper.

If you've been reading the comments here, though,you've already read it.

Anonymous said...

Adding to your shadow cabinet comment, Rob, having them in place prior to the election places an electoral connection on positions that are not supposed to be filled by the electoral process. It is the Senate's job to vet these people (after the new president's team has already done so--unless you are Bill Clinton nominating Zoe Baird for attorney general).

Robert said...

Yes, I understand that it is the role of Congress to vet the cabinet appointments, but if they are announced during the campaign, some Pulitzer Prize seekers are going to try to find dirt on members of the shadow candidate. If dirt is found on say the proposed USDA secretary, the opposing candidate and the press will question the candidate's judgement rather than agriculture policy proposals etc.

Robert said...

I think the flap over Johnson the Obama vetter reinforces my point about shadow cabinets. McCain may lose some on his vetting team as well.

Also, it looks like Strickland has made his Shermanesque statement. So much for that one.


Anonymous said...

Here's the link on Ted Strickland from Rob.

Anonymous said...

I should add that I had an intuition about Strickland. That's why I didn't put him atop my VP list.


Yeah, I wish.

The Fix had an interesting (and somewhat bleak) on the Johnson resignation. Has McCain escaped? I doubt it.