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The Consquences of Twiddling

Some years back, the Democrats took a look at the process in Presidential elections - they were getting their keesters handed to them on a regular basis - and decided the way to fix it was to start the process early and get their nominee chosen much earlier. This decision resulted in Senator John "Magic Hat" Kerry getting nominated in 2004, and appears set to tap Senator Barack "Magic Suit" Obama for the spot this year. Kerry proved singularly inept as a candidate, and recent events have begun to show Obama's failings at a time where he can ill afford it. The decision to 'front-load' the primary process has produced candidates of dubious qualifications, but more to the point, no effective vetting, so that surprise collapses and mistakes are inevitable.

The Republicans also decided to front-load their own primaries this year, which is one reason for the very weak choice of McCain. The theory, based as near as I can tell on nothing more than assumptions and guesses, is that most voters choose a candidate to support early on, and so there is a strong advantage in getting your party's pick out first. The idea seems to be, that getting your candidate chosen first gives the voters more time to get comfortable with them, and makes your candidate appear more solid than his/her opponent. The problem with that, aside from the basic premise, is that front-loading the primaries only changes part of the process; the actual election date remains the same, and what's more, the convention is still held in late summer, creating a period where events and opponent strategy can defeat momentum and support. Also, a front-loaded primary system is responsible for the schism between Clinton supporters and Obama supporters, as Clintonites claim - loudly- that Senator Obama claimed primary victory before the voters really knew who he was and what he stood for. Obama's poor job at Saddleback takes that claim further, as the Fairy-tale Senator proved unable to answer questions about his opinion. That's not to say that Senator McCain has been at his best this summer, either. McCain was slow to figure out that Americans want secure borders and protection of strategic resources a lot more than they worry about the Global Warming fraud or getting along with the other major party. If McCain had been held to the fire a bit longer by his rivals, he would have discovered what the party cares about a lot sooner. And both Obama and McCain have been remarkably dull at times in noticing that what the average voter wants has very little in common with what CNN or MSNBC care to broadcast. In past elections, the nominees of both Republican and Democrat campaigns came out of the primaries with relatively clear stands on the issues, and specific programs planned for deployment. It appears to me that neither of this year's nominees can say that, and playing catch-up in the last couple months before the election just does not look, well, presidential.


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Comments (9)

Your analysis of the reason... (Below threshold)

Your analysis of the reasons behind the front-loaded primaries is way off. The primaries and caucuses this year were so heavily front-loaded because primary dates are set by state governments, and a bunch of state governments got tired of seeing the nominee effectively picked by only half a dozen or so early-primary states like New Hampshire and Iowa. So they started trying to one-up each other by setting earlier and earlier primary dates. The goal was simply to give more states a role in the selection process; a desire to get better general-election nominees had little to do with it.

McCain won the R nomination because he had a solid base left over from 2000 and 2004, while the anti-McCain voters were unable to agree on any one candidate. That, combined with the media's support and the support of the Rockefeller Repubs, knocked down the other candidates one after the other. McCain was just the last one left standing.

Nope wolf, it was a n... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Nope wolf, it was a national plan. See


for a good review of the change. Some states, when informed of the change, decided to jockey to be the first, but as Michigan and Florida discovered, the party's national committee holds the big stick.

OTOH, McCain is probably th... (Below threshold)
Baron Von Ottomatic:

OTOH, McCain is probably the only Republican who had a chance of beating Obama this year.

And funny thing about Michigan and Florida, if they'd held their primaries late in the cycle they would have ended up playing kingmaker. What a bunch of dopes.

If you accept the undeniabl... (Below threshold)

If you accept the undeniable reality that the base can't stand McCompromise, you'll see that the front loading allowed for the influence of the press and so called moderates/independents.

As for Obama, when I listen to his followers (yes, they are followers), it seems that his handlers had a brilliant strategy of harnessing the blind desire for change, regardless of what the "change" would actually be. Also, read Kevin McCullough , he's been predicting Obama as pres. for about 3 or 4 years now. He seems to be plugged in to what he's all about.

DJ,I have a commen... (Below threshold)


I have a comment I would like to make to you only, but I can't seem to find an email that goes directly to you? Can you email me so that I might reply to you that way?


Personal opinion, th... (Below threshold)

Personal opinion, this primary has left me a choice of voting for "who sucks less".

DonnaB:Go to DJ's ... (Below threshold)
Mark L:


Go to DJ's own blog (Stolen Thunder), and click on the "about me" section. You can get an e-mail address there.

D.J. - McCain is not a weak... (Below threshold)

D.J. - McCain is not a weak candidate - he is the only Republican who ran in the primaries that had a chance in the general election. Romney, Huckabee would be dowe double digits right now. Get over the fact that your horse lost.

Thanks Mark. Donna, my ema... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Thanks Mark. Donna, my email addy is [email protected]






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