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Kos Is Talking Krazy.

Friday, March 23, 2007
In reaction to Florida's planned move of its primary to January 29 (!), he says the following:

1) Candidates will have to campaign all over the country rather than just NH and IA

2) It encourages "people-powered" candidates

3) We should be selecting candidates who can raise money

4) It drives NH and IA crazy.

Okay, how do I say this? Kos is just wrong. Totally wrong. Completely and irretrievably wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

1) It's very possible that IA and NH will move their primaries up even more. So it might not change anything. And even if they don't, it is just as likely that the impact of NH and IA will be magnified by the new Super Tuesday. The "momentum" effects could easily be enhanced, candidates could decide it's cheaper to invest resources into IA and NH than 10 huge states 2 weeks later (relying instead on free media), and the national press would much rather cover IA and NH's cozy confines than suburban sunbelt sprawl.

2)& 3). Kos has this strange notion that internet fundraising has ended the role of big money in American politics. His model is the Dean campaign, which was able to raise substantial sums without lots of institutional backers. But how likely is it that the the "netroots" will rally around just one candidate again? If they splinter, then internet fundraising will be a useful auxiliary to a candidate's campaign, but scarcely crucial.

And who are these people-powered candidates? Most of the candidates running now are so-called "first tier" candidates, and they are attracting both the most institutional support AND the most internet support. Given that candidates are unlikely to become grassroots favorites without media coverage, why does Kos think that the internet favorites won't be the same as the media favorites? This is not some dinky little congressional primary we're talking about here.

Look at the simple math of the situation. If you're running a presidential campaign, would you rather spend 10 hours raising 10 checks of $1000 each or 10 hours raising 10 checks of $100 each. How much more time will "people-powered" candidates have to spend just raising money?

4) Um, Kos? Have you noticed that IA and NH happen to be 2 of the most competitive swing states in the country? Why would you want to piss them off? And why wouldn't you want swing states to pick the nominee, assuming you're interested in winning?

As far as I'm concerned, the emergence of the national primary is disaster. The requirements of assembling a national campaign organization is going to squeeze out any candidate who can't raise $100 million. And if the metric for competitiveness if money, why in the world does Kos think that the wealthy and corporations won't be advantaged??????
Posted by Arbitrista @ 1:46 PM
  • I'm with you on this, but there seems to be an emerging counter-narrative on the issue - it's not just kos. Did you see Jonathan Cohn's piece at TNR? He essentially says that nobody can predict what will happen, but it's as likely as not that the frontloaded schedule could actually lengthen the primary campaign into the later states. It doesn't address the problem that you need a massive amount of dough by January, though.

    Cohn also mentions something that The Politicker once suggested - that the new primary schedule could end up bringing a return to the brokered convention. Which would be great theater, but not so great for grassroots democracy maybe.

    By Blogger Paul, at 11:45 AM  
  • I really enjoyed a commentary, I think it was by Molly Ivens, that appeared many many years ago, about how basically the country should go to Iowa every four years because she found the people there so genuinely nice and decent that even the most cynical of journalists and handlers had to stop acting like assholes (she said it better) when they were there due to the pangs of their conscience. Then she related a story about how she and a group got stranded in the snow, taken in, fed, and housed (I think overnight) by an elderly farmer and his wife, who thought nothing of it.

    I always think of that commentary whenever this comes up....yes, IA and NH are atypical, but maybe there is something in that atypicalness that deserves attention.

    By Blogger Chaser, at 5:46 PM  
  • Paul: I think that there is a scenario for a brokered convention, albeit a remote one. It would require that Edwards wins Iowa, Obama wins New Hampshire, and that Hillary's resources are sufficient to withstand both in Florida, headed into a 3-way tie on "Super Tuesday." Every 4 years it looks like there's going to be a brokered convention, but it never happens. It's possible - but extremely unlikely.

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 6:33 PM  
  • Chaser: The nice things about IA and NH is that the people there take their role in vetting the candidates extremely seriously. I wish every state were that way. It's not necessarily fair that those particular states have so much influence, but SOMEBODY has to do it. If you create a national primary, the media and big contributors will usurp the responsibility instead. Better IA and NH than those folks.

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 6:35 PM  
  • I don't see what all the fuss is about. Let's think aboutthis in two ways: (1) the actual impact ofthe NH primary,and (2) the ideal situation.

    (1) NH has generally failed to pick the party's nominee for the past 20 years. In 1992, Bill Clinton came in 2nd. In 1996, Dole came in second. In 2000, Bush came in 2nd. All three became the nominee.

    (2) The "ideal" presidential primary would operate as follows: First, the candidate with the most support among ordinary voters, not millionaires and celebrities, would win the nomination. Second, since the candidate would have support among ordinary voters, the candidate's policies would benefit ordinary voters. These policies would include a way to reduce health care costs, improve education, improve the military, reduce economic dislocation from globalization, and, most important, change the political system so that ordinary voters can run for office and win. The best way to change the political system is to mandate free advertising,or equal advertising, for all candidates in newspapers, radio, and television. The ideal candidate would attract enough volunteers to make the costs of the campaign very low. Those volunteers would come from every voting age group, every economic group, and every religious persuasion.

    A national primary would actually come close to this ideal. Since the schedule would be compressed, the ideal candidate must start the year before to gather attention and volunteers. The person who has the most volunteers should also have the most money through small donations ($20 or more). If there are 100,000 volunteers in every state, each contributing $20 (2 million dollars x 50 states), the ideal candidate receives $100 millionon the basis of 5 million volunteers. It takes a year to acquire that many volunteers.

    2008 will probably be an aberration because an ideal candidate requires ideal circumstances: No global or national crisis to fix, no heir apparent for either party. However, Obama comes close to being the ideal democratic candidate because he has the ability to attract volunteers in sufficient numbers.

    By Blogger Marriah, at 1:17 PM  
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