Nevada May Help Decide Next Democratic Presidential Nominee!

It was just announced that Nevada’s caucus has been moved up and will be held after Iowa and before New Hampshire! Here is the article in the local paper.

In the year 2000, about 600 people showed up for the Democratic Presidential caucus in Las Vegas, and then in 2004 over 6000 people showed up! They had to take the overflow crowd outdoors and into a football stadium. I was there and it was a great mix of old, young, white, black, Hispanic, male and female. Sadly, Bush carried Nevada by a very slim margin, but Clark County (the Las Vegas metropolitan area) went solidly for Kerry. I think the next election will show Nevada going for the Democrats.

At any rate, I am quite happy they have chosen Nevada for an early slot this time. Not only will it motivate the voters in the state, but I think the influx of new residents from all over the US will prove to be a good bell-weather situation and make the race quite interesting.

Of course, this means I will be seeing Hillary more than Bill does, and Al Gore will be pumping ethanol at the local gas station and Democratic candidates will be fighting to help me carry my grocery bags to the car in the Walmart parking lot.

Just when I thought I understood some of this “primary” business… could you please explain this thing about the order of the states?

It has always been somewhat of a mystery to me as well…Iowa has the first caucus (party members actually gather together in rooms/halls/football stadiums and choose by show of hands, more or less) and New Hampshire has the first state-wide primary ballot vote. Perhaps someone else can explain how those two states became the “darlings” of the Democratic party, I have no idea.

But it is a big deal…from a swarm of candidates, say 15 or so, those first states can build momentum and take a relative unknown and throw them into the national limelight and perhaps the nomination. One thing is for sure, if a candidate doesn’t do well in the first few primaries, the game is pretty much over. The later the vote in your state, the less exciting. Often it is a done deal by the time you vote in the primary as the other candidates have pretty much read the writing on the wall and have endorsed other candidates or simply removed their names from the ballots.

What this means for Nevada is that a large swarm of candidates will be spending a lot of time here, pouring money in for tv ads and print ads and billboards and pretty much kissing ass to get votes to carry them on to the next primary and get contributions along the way. For example, if Hillary (or any other candidate)doesn’t win Iowa or Nevada or New Hampshire, they will be in a very bad position to continue in other states, as well as be hard pressed to continue to get contributions for their campaign. But even is they win just one of those states, or place in the upper two or three in all the states, they can keep going.

By being one of the first states, Nevada will be spotlighted and the results will either build momentum for a candidate in the NH election, or cause a candidate to sweat it out and maybe see the tides turn against them. They will dissect our caucus and ask almost every person why they did or did not vote for a particular candidate…pundits will then declare, “Hispanics distrust so-and-so, or elderly voters didn’t believe so-and-so, or Gay voters backed so-and-so”, etc etc.

In other words, Nevadans will be wined and dined big time…but once it is over, like all hot lovers, they will never come calling here again…but it’ll be fun for awhile.

They aren’t the darlings of any party. They just hold their primaries (or caucuses) first, so they’re considered early indicators of what’s to come.

We have primaries for midterm elections, too. I voted in the Illinois midterm primary back in…March, I think. And I know from my friend Geobabe’s LiveJournal that they just had the Georgia primary last week. So there are wide changes.

Well, if you read the article I reference in the OP, you will see it is apparently not quite that simple…otherwise every state would be moving their primary up to be the first…it seems there is a lot of discussion and politics involved in moving a state up in the ranking of who has early Presidential primaries. Trust me, if it were that simple, every state would nudge theirs towards the top tier.

It’s certainly true that Iowa and New Hampshire have ended up with unbelievably distorted importance in terms of deciding presidential candidates, an importance that is magnified even further by the national media attention and frenzy of pundit speculation that surrounds these events.

As for other states “moving their primary up to be the first,” there would be a problem with that—apart from the obvious one of earlier and earlier primaries. New Hampshire’s status as first primary is actually enshrined in state law, and has been since 1977, so if any other state put its primary earlier, New Hampshire law would require the moving of its own primary date.

Which presents an interesting logical conundrum: if one other state adopts a similar state law, who wins the battle-of-the-state-legislatures? How about if all fifty states adopt that law? Eventually we’ll be seeing primary elections before the previous national election.

Depending on where the states are, time differences could provide an out. If California holds it’s primary at 10 in the morning, and New Hampshire at 11:00, then California is first chronologically and New Hampshire first in reality.

(Apologies if i’ve got the times incorrect. I think that’s right.)

To make a long discussion short, the primaries and caucuses are a holdover from a bygone era, as indeed are the party conventions during presidential election years. All of it harks back to the days when each state chose a slate of delegates, and there was actual debate at the convention about which candidate would be chosen. The national newsmedia has changed everything. Nowadays there aren’t fifty different debates about who should be the democratic nominee, just one national debate. Most of the process is just a classic case of going through the motions.

Actually, the primaries were a way of reforming the older system, where the convention delegates were chosen by party leaders, and the leaders controlled their delegation.

Primaries were set up so the delegates would be chosen by the people in open elections. By 1972, the Democrats pretty much eliminated convention delegates being picked by the leaders (there were and still are a few, but a very large majority of the delegates are chosen by primary).

Caucuses came later; the New Hampshire law gave that state a big influence on elections (as did the half-truth that no president was ever elected without winning the NH primary*). The system also ensured that the primary would determine the candidate, not the convention. In addition, candidates were often judged not on their performance in the primary, but how much better or worse their performance was than the pundits predicted: if the pundits were wrong, it was the candidate who would suffer (or get a boost).

Iowa started the caucuses partly to gain some primacy over New Hampshire. They were aware of the law that made NY the first in the nation, and started having caucuses a week or two before. The caucuses were not to pick a candidate, but rather were straw polls to show what the voters wanted. They meant very little until Jimmy Carter won one, and the press started boosting his candidacy (since they had been wrong on the pessimistic side).

I think most politicians agree the current system is a mess: they require too much campaiging and money in states that are relatively small. It’s also a crapshoot: Howard Dean went from phenomenon to joke in ten seconds (and since the pundits were wrong about him and he worse than they predicted, he suffered). Not that he would have been a great candidate, but it’s utterly absurd that a candidate becomes discredited over such trivia.

There’s also no reason to believe the current system gets better candidates than the old ones. In the old days, the political bosses were acutely aware of what their constituents wanted (how else to manipulate them?), and would get behind the best candidate even if he wasn’t exactly what they wanted. Nowadays, the parties are held hostage by those who vote in primaries – a small segment of the party, and one which is more extreme than the general party voter (more liberal than most Democrats; more conservative than most Republicans).

*It was true, but the winner sometimes didn’t even get his party’s nomination: Henry Cabot Lodge and Lyndon Johnson (who did defeat Eugene McCarthy, despite the myth), for instance.

Oy, my head is spinning. Here, the party membership, or the delegation at a convention, chooses the leader. Purely an internal process. Of course, that’s the Westminster system for you.