Why are the primaries scheduled the way they are?

Apologies if this is a naive question, but why exactly are the primaries conducted on the schedule that they are? Who is perceived as benefitting from a process that is so long, with such substantial gaps? It seems to be primarily styled in a manner to unnecessarily increase the amount of money that must be solicited and spent. And it doesn’t seem styled to direct the flow of public interest in any predictable manner.

Short answer: The state legislatures did it.

Long answer:

A more orderly, systematic and shorter primary process would be better – but who is to bell the cat? Congress has no jurisdiction here.

The primary season ended in early June back in the ‘olden days,’ that is to say, before the McGovern Commission reforms. The main change to the length of the calendar has been the beginning of the season: NH used to be at the beginning of March. Iowa wants to be the first caucus, NH wants to be the first primary, but so do other states as well. So anytime another state moves its primary or caucus earlier than those states, they move theirs up to be earlier than the interloper.

This is why the DNC decided to allow only a few primaries and caucuses ahead of a fixed date, and penalize those states that violated that rule: to prevent a seemingly infinite regress of the beginning of the primary season back to sometime in the middle of the year before the election.

Is there a logical reason why all of the presidential primaries aren’t held on the same day?

Why aren’t the primaries held on the same day for all states?

What are the reasons/justifications for drawn-out primaries?

Yeah, I read such articles, but still didn’t quite figure out who has ultimate control over the process, and why they let it develop as it has.

I mean, as it is, they are all from early Jan til early June. So presumably, there is a set “season.” A beginning and ending date, as it were, within which the states can schedule them.

I understand (kinda) why many states may all want to be “first” - but I don’t understand who benefits from the first primaries being in January rather than - say - March. Or, if someone decided there is merit to having primaries begin 11 months before the general election, then why not move the “closing” date up as well, and have them all end in April. Is whichever state votes last saying “No way we’re gonna have a primary until June!”

It just seems like the system we have is the worst of all possible worlds, with the primary benefits of encouraging spending as much money as possible, and distract incumbent candidates from the business of running the government as long as possible (unless that is the goal!)

And it seems weird to have this sizeable “gap” in the middle of the primaries. Unless someone can explain to me why it is a “good thing” to allow the candidates and voters to regroup, carefuly reassess things, debate Obama’s bowling prowess, etc.

The parties, at least in theory, have control over the process. However, the states run and pay for primaries, so they’re the ones who decide when they hold them.

The current MI/FL imbroglio demonstrates the difficulties involved in the parties’ actual exercise of their theoretical control over the primary calendar.

The ending has been fixed at some point in the first week or so of June since Lord knows when. That’s when the primaries ended in 1964 (the earliest year I remember how the primaries played out), and ever since, and probably for some years before.

Nobody, really. It’s just that it’s hard to prevent the competition to be first having the consequence of an increasingly early beginning to the primary season.

I’m sure the handful of remaining states left their primaries in the late April to early June period out of sheer inertia.

There is one rationale I can think of for a longer primary season than they had 40 years ago: more primaries. Back in the 1960s and earlier, I think maybe six or eight states would typically have primaries. Now, of course, every state either has a primary, or a caucus that’s a wide-open event, rather than a bunch of state party bosses in a room.

But I don’t think that’s a strong rationale. There’s really no good reason why the end of the calendar couldn’t be pushed 4-6 weeks earlier. Maybe the Dems should try that next time - they could conclude their primaries by the end of April, and hold their convention in early June.

The old system was worse. Hubert Humphrey nominated despite winning not a single primary? The current system is confusing, irrational, and too damned long, but it’s far better than the old one.

A good part of the ‘too damned long’ aspect, though, is due to the media’s tuning in absurdly early. It seemed to me that even during the first half of 2007, an inordinate amount of attention was being paid to the early stages of the race, compared to 2003, 1999, 1995, etc. 2003 is a weak comparison, because there was a war starting up, but I don’t recall the upcoming Presidential election getting nearly as much play in early 1999, and the big story in early 1995 was Newt & Co. taking over Congress.

Oddly enough, the comparable story of Pelosi, Reid, and the Dems taking over Congress in 2007 seemed to have to fight for coverage with the Presidential campaigns. I remember the Washington Post’s Outlook section the Sunday after the 2006 midterms. I fully expected to read volumes about what the Dem takeover meant, and what Pelosi etc. would try to do with their new power. Instead, I was greeted with a “Hillary v. Obama” cover.

And there’s not much we can do about the media. It’s that pesky “First Amendment” thingy they seem to think is such a big deal. :wink:

Thanks for the explanation.
Seems a kinda - mmm - odd system for something that is so important.

I agree. A group of second-graders could organize a better, more rational system.

But they couldn’t get it enacted by 50 state legislatures.