Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Starting Gate: Not Waiting For ’08?

By Vaughn Ververs
17 October 2008

Now that we can start making our plans for New Year’s Eve, it’s time to think about where we’re going to be spending Thanksgiving. Dixville Notch anyone?

Iowa Republicans have made the decision to move their caucuses up from January 3rd, a week and a half earlier than previously planned. Iowa Democrats could follow or keep theirs at the original January 14th date. Now, the ball is in New Hampshire’s court and that means Secretary of State Bill Gardner. He alone has the power under state law to set the primary date and he’s making it clear that the possibility of moving it to December is no idle threat.

Moves by Michigan, South Carolina, Nevada and Florida have complicated the primary process for New Hampshire and Iowa to the point that making such a drastic move may be the best way to ensure the traditional roles Iowa and New Hampshire have become accustomed to. Gardner could decide to set the primary date for January 8th but that may not be acceptable from his perspective.

First, Wyoming Republicans have scheduled their nominating convention for January 5th, and the 8th would technically leave New Hampshire as the third contest. Practically speaking however, Wyoming appears to pose little threat to New Hampshire’s importance in the process. When’s the last time we saw a campaign ad in Cheyenne? A more important consideration may be space and time.

Holding the primaries on the 8th (putting it by rule a full week before the Michigan primary) means that candidates, at least on the Republican side, will have just five dasy in between Iowa and New Hampshire instead of having a full week or more. And that means less time, attention and money flowing into the state. Campaigns and the hordes of media that follow them spend hundreds of millions in the state each four years and a sizable chunk of it comes in the week or two leading up to the primary. If the state becomes sandwiched in between other contests, it may mean all that is literally here today, gone tomorrow.

Holding the primary in December (Gardner has hinted at a date as early as the 11th) could once again put the state in the center of the political universe for a sustained period of time – from Thanksgiving to the primary date. The state would literally be the only game in town unless Iowa Republicans sought to move again, something they’ve said they will not do.



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