What if someone gives a Primary election and nobody came? The Great State of Michigan may find out. I guess I'm pretty disappointed with the Republicans and Democrats in the legislature and the governor. File this under the heading "This Is Not Helping."
First of all, I fully understand Michigan's point -- and Florida and California, ad infinitum. Who wants to hold a Primary after it's all decided? And why do New Hampshire and Iowa get to go first? Etc.
The problem is, this has no solution. Unless you move to a Single Primary Day, like the November Election Day, someone will go first, someone will be last and there's a good chance that by some point in the cycle that one candidate may emerge in each party. And the point is?
Spread out the Primaries. Because even if a candidate has a lock, there can still be campaigning because that's the only thing in the news cycle. Put too many states on the same day and it's too easy for some/all of the candidates to skip the marginal states because they would be spread too thin. For that matter, I like the idea of Regional Primary Days, because flying between, say, California and South Carolina all week is just plain stupid. Stumping through the South or the Northeast or the Midwest or the Plains or the Northwest -- much easier.
Second, Michigan passed this thing even after the national parties threatened Florida and anyone else with a "campaigning death penalty" if they move up too far. Yesterday and today I heard Michigan party officials from both the D and R sides claim that they didn't think candidates would really skip/boycott Michigan.
Oh really? Because I'm thinking that...
Third, the fact is that Michigan is an embarrassment. Frankly I think the candidates will be relieved to boycott campaigning in Michigan, because in all honesty I don't know what they'd say. Michigan's economy has been lagging for a long time. Oil and quality drove a lot of Americans to the Japanese car companies, and the Americans have improved tremendously. But the American car companies have also given their customers what they wanted -- the minivans and the SUVs and the full-size pickup trucks. Moneymakers all. Now, in addition to the whole wage/retirement/health costs they are saddled with, we have a growing mortgage debacle which is driving many Americans to rethink buying that new car. Even Toyota's sales were down in August!
The candidates were all surely looking for a reason to skip Michigan or else hit it briefly so they could get in and out with their standard stump speech and not do too much damage. If the state is either boycotted or ends up in a too crowded Primary day early on, the candidates are not going to be fighting amongst themselves to rack up more time in Michigan. This is Third Rail politics -- touch it and you die.
Fourth, moving up too early in January is going to cause Iowa and perhaps New Hampshire to jump ship from 2008 and end up in December 2007. This damned campaign already started Way Too Soon for anybody to care, and is wasting gobs of money and inspiring voter fatigue.
Finally -- who the hell is going to care if all the Primaries are early and a candidate has it locked up and it's six months to the convention, let alone the general election. Not only does it look like right now that we don't have One Great Unifying Candidate yet, it really can't do anyone any good if November 2008 comes down to Who Cares?
I Like A Little Historical Rationale
There is something symbolic about a new year, and candidates and reporters tromping through the snows of January in Iowa and New Hampshire. You know, the voters in those two states who've been through this early dog-and-pony show do not appear to me to be stupid, uninformed voters. Do they not represent all the ideals of voters everywhere? No, why should they? But the candidates have to spend enough time in those two states to develop more than just one or two ideas. They need to cover the whole range. And those who just pander to the conservatives of NH/IA will find themselves in deep doo-doo come the other states.
And as to the Michigan genius legislator who was complaining that a bunch of wood burning stove New Hampshirites weren't representative of Michigan I should point out: (1) Parts of NH are perfectly high tech and modern, just like Michigan and (2) haven't you ever been to the U.P.? Michigan's Upper Peninsula is chock full of wood burning stoves -- and the U.P. economy has been in the toilet a lot longer than Southeast Michigan.
For many of the Presidential elections in my lifetime, it took time for the eventual candidates to emerge. Just starting the campaigning two years out is not the same as a good couple of months of Primary Season before we head toward the national elections.
I say give NH/IA their place and then everyone else back off. There are other ways to reform this electoral process than just shouting Me First, Me First! at the top of your lungs.