Who wins and who loses from SC moving its primary up?

posted at 11:05 am on August 9, 2007 by Allahpundit

I flagged this in headlines yesterday but in case you missed it, the South Carolina GOP’s going to leapfrog Florida (which had already leapfrogged South Carolina) to retain its “first in the south” bragging rights by moving its primary from February 2 to January 19. New Hampshire has a law that requires its primary to be first in the nation so now they’ve got to move up too, probably to January 8. Iowa, meanwhile, has its own law requiring the caucuses to be held eight days before any other voting, so to stay ahead of New Hampshire they’re looking at … late December of this year. My question to you: Who wins and who loses? The biggest impact would seem to be on Mitt, who’s leading in both Iowa and NH. He’s counting on the bounce from wins there to carry him into Mega Tuesday on February 5 but the more time there is in the interim, the softer the bounce will likely be. Then again, Mitt’s problem has always been name recognition, so you could argue that the earlier Iowa is, the earlier the national media has to cover his victory and get people seriously thinking about him. I think it’s a wash. The other guy on whom this obviously bears is Fred and his non-candidacy candidacy. I doubt he’ll declare any earlier because of it but he’s going to lose a couple of weeks that he could have spent introducing himself to national voters in order to focus on Iowa. He’s already planning his first visit, in fact.

Here’s the more interesting angle — not what happens before Mega Tuesday but what happens after:

The calendar changes are infuriating senior strategists for presidential candidates in both parties, who say it is forcing them to plot a path to the nomination through quicksand. The uncertainty is holding up decisions about where to campaign and to devote resources.

“If you’re facing a moving chessboard, it’s pretty difficult to know where to make your first move,” said Allan J. Lichtman, a history professor at American University. “Imagine playing chess if the board keeps changing.”

Lichtman said earlier voting could create the longest-ever general election campaign if the two party nominees are largely decided by mid-January. That would leave almost 10 months for the candidates — and any third-party entrant — to battle for the presidency before Election Day on Nov. 4, 2008.

“We could have the general election starting at a time when traditionally the nominees hadn’t been close to being selected,” he said. The primary campaign has so far done “anything but inspire the voters,” he added. “I doubt if a 10-month general election campaign will do any better.”

Doesn’t this make it even more likely that a third-party (and even a fourth-party) candidate will jump in? Hillary is walking away with the Democratic nomination; she may be the de facto nominee well before mid-January. The GOP race will be closer, especially with a guy like Mitt who’s currently in fourth leading in the early primaries, but if Fred or Rudy somehow emerge to take the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire and one of them looks like they’re going to sweep the board on Mega Tuesday, the public is going to get very bored very fast with a 10-month two-party slog towards November. It’s practically an invitation to Bloomberg to jump in and make things interesting. The media’s gratitude for a wild card in an otherwise dull hand would ensure loads of initial hysterical messianic Perot-ish good buzz and Bloomy’s got money to burn for an historic six-month lark. Why not do it? If he’s such a visionary “issues” guy, beholden to no ideology, it would be a grand opportunity for him to force his issues into the national conversation. After five years of him here in NYC I still don’t have the faintest idea of what “his issues” might be, but I’m sure he can come up with some in time for spring.

The guy most likely to try a third-party run is, of course, Ron Paul, but the media’s not any more enamored of him than most conservatives are. I almost hope he runs just to see how they’d handle him.

Update: Dean notes per Rasmussen’s numbers that Fred appears to be stalling.

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Why not just hold the primaries on the first Wednesday after a Presidential election?

Pam on August 9, 2007 at 11:11 AM

Yeah, this is getting ridiculous. What a huge distraction and waste of time for the country. I vote for a National Primary Day three months before Election Day.

CP on August 9, 2007 at 11:15 AM

“Imagine playing chess if the board keeps changing.”

I seriously believe that the undertow influencing this “chess move” is in response to the new World of Blogging.

It is so fast moving, keeping candidates accountable at the speed of light that some higher ups are panicking.

The main question is: How do you play chess on a Ouija Board?

Mcguyver on August 9, 2007 at 11:16 AM

We have long campaigns because the candidates need the money to pay for ads to influence the dumbest to vote for them. And, no, I don’t want to be forced to pay as a taxpayer for someone’s campaign I don’t support and who is undoubtedly a millionaire themselves.

Blake on August 9, 2007 at 11:22 AM

Fred is stalling because Fred is waiting too damn long to get in the game, and start debating.

Anyway, this jockeying for position on primaries is stupid. Either lock down when primaries occur, or do them all at once! This is ridiculous, we’ll be doing the next presidential primaries in ’09 at this rate.

Bad Candy on August 9, 2007 at 11:25 AM

Newt’s right. This is getting insane!

It’s insane to think that someone who doesn’t announce until September (think Fred) or October (think Newt), about when candidates used to announce, is “way behind” because they haven’t been in the race for 9 months.

Drudge has a link that the debate ratings are way down. Haven’t had time to read it yet, but it’s no surprise. People are already sick of it.

Leave the primary schedule alone and pass a law that no candidate can announce until 3 months before the first one. This has gotten WAY out of hand.

crazy_legs on August 9, 2007 at 11:26 AM

This is just getting downright stupid now. We need a single national primary day.

aero on August 9, 2007 at 11:28 AM

Thing is, how do we start a movement for a single, national primary day? The Constitution gives this to the states, doesn’t it? They’re not bound by anything at all to behave reasonably about this. We could petition each of the 50 states individually to try to get them to cooperate because the people want it, but I don’t see such a coordinated, sustained effort happening. Particularly in the states like Iowa and NH where the people ONLY feel important because they call firsties on presidential primaries.

aero on August 9, 2007 at 11:31 AM

It would require independent state organizations with a national coordination effort. It would be a very involved and complex process just to get the organizations to push for primary reform off the ground.

Bad Candy on August 9, 2007 at 11:39 AM

so the general election begins on what date?

Mojack420 on August 9, 2007 at 11:41 AM

IIRC, RNC rules already state that any state that moves it’s date before Feb 5th loses half it’s delegates; states don’t think they’ll follow through.

It’s time to crack down, because this is getting ridiculous- two small states have laws saying that they have to be first. Enough is enough- they need to pass a rule (and stick by it) that no state votes before Feb 5th, and if they do they get ZERO delegates. If they don’t move to Feb 5 or later, their vote doesn’t count at all. We don’t vote in the general election one state at a time, we should do so in the primaries.

This business with candidates trying to outspend and out campaign each other in IA and NH (combined electoral votes: 11) is counterproductive, essentially making the votes cast in IA and NH count more than they do in other states- most of whom have more electoral votes.

Hollowpoint on August 9, 2007 at 11:41 AM

I have this sneaking feeling that I am going to wake up one morning just after Labor Day and see a headline that the 2008 election has already been held.

Always Right on August 9, 2007 at 11:43 AM

This all reeks of Dem “strategy”. The GOP would not be messing with the rules even if it benefited them, ergo it is all designed to help the Hildebeast take over.

bbz123 on August 9, 2007 at 12:06 PM

I have a feeling one or both parties is going to be very unhappy with their candidates. These early primaries are too far away from the election. There is not enough time for voters to make a real choice. Who wins? The fringe. who loses? people who only vote in the general. They are gonna be stuck with 2 bad choices. 2009-2012 is going to be a very long presidency.

lorien1973 on August 9, 2007 at 12:16 PM

The political landscape of a trisected nation split 33.3%,33.3%,33.3%. Who will get the,.03% advantage? Probably won’t get this squeagy close, but should make for some interesting jockeying. New world of tripartisanship?

captivated_dem on August 9, 2007 at 12:22 PM

This is what happens when Moulitsas, Matthews and Olbermann are given credence. The country is already asleep. By the time it’s over we’ll be in a perpetual coma and ant colonies will have political forums, with assumed significance.

Entelechy on August 9, 2007 at 12:24 PM

Big winners in moving earlier: Professional campaign advisors.

Big losers in moving earlier: Everyone else.

Hollowpoint on August 9, 2007 at 12:24 PM

I think it’s fair to say South Carolina would have been the REAL “First in South” primary even if they hadn’t moved the actual date. A state over-run with relocated Yankees doesn’t get to be called “Southern”…EVAH! Just ask any home grown Southerner!

SouthernGent on August 9, 2007 at 12:31 PM

Hey now, don’t pick on Yankee refugees! They can’t help their home states have been overrun by liberal cranks.

Bad Candy on August 9, 2007 at 12:40 PM

Fred! is quickly becoming Fred¡

Valiant on August 9, 2007 at 12:43 PM

This all reeks of Dem “strategy”. The GOP would not be messing with the rules even if it benefited them, ergo it is all designed to help the Hildebeast take over.

bbz123 on August 9, 2007 at 12:06 PM

When I first heard politicos talking about shifting the primaries around several months ago, this is exactly what I told my family.

As soon as I saw Kerry choose Edwards as a running mate back in 2004 and sealing his defeat, I resigned myself to a Hitlery presidency in 2008.

angryoldfatman on August 9, 2007 at 12:43 PM

SouthernGent on August 9, 2007 at 12:31 PM

Does South of South Dakota count?

captivated_dem on August 9, 2007 at 12:44 PM

angryoldfatman on August 9, 2007 at 12:43 PM

As soon as I saw Kerry choose Edwards as a running mate back in 2004 and sealing his defeat, I resigned myself to a Hitlery presidency in 2008.

I don’t want to say, “It’s not over until the fatman sings.” Clinton/Obama is too scary a combination to concede defeat to.

captivated_dem on August 9, 2007 at 12:54 PM

Okay, what if a whole bunch of states were to pass laws saying they have to be first, like Iowa did? The state laws would be directly in conflict with each other, which would force the situation to the Supreme Court, right? Maybe that’s how this stupidity will eventually have to be solved. Some brave state(s) will have to go head-to-head with Iowa and force a showdown in the SCOTUS.

aero on August 9, 2007 at 12:59 PM

Fred is stalling because he hasn’t really started campaigning yet. Once he officially declares, there will be a whole new buzz about him, there will tons of talk on how his candidacy affects television syndication (accompanied with tons of footage of his roles), and he will have to start ACTING like a candidate.

Up to now, he’s been doing the whole “outside-with-some-observations” thing… it’s stale, but it won’t last much longer. He could–potentially–come out of the box sounding like a Reagan conservative and change the race as an official candidate.

DaveS on August 9, 2007 at 1:08 PM

What we need is to go back to “Nominating Conventions”. They had a lot of problems but they were better than what we have now. At least they tended to delay the start of things to an almost reasonable date.

duff65 on August 9, 2007 at 1:37 PM

Pretty soon elections are going to be done in a way that’s going to queue up presidents. You’ll be a lame duck before you’re even in office.

– The Cat

MirCat on August 9, 2007 at 2:59 PM

Don’t forget that there are voting differences in primaries. In NYS, we can only vote in the primary of the party we are registered in. In GA, you can cross party lines and vote for the weaker/weakest candidate of the opposing party. Never quite felt like that was ethical. Are there any other differences in state primaries?

Connie on August 9, 2007 at 4:51 PM