Tag Archives: Iowa caucus

Why Iowa is Still a Win for Edwards

Yesterday was the largest turn out for an Iowa Caucus ever and so many of those who came to caucus were young and as they would say “Fired up and ready to go”. And went they did. Obama won the night and his supporters are celebrating.


Elizabeth and John Celebrate their victoryBut there is a story that’s being ignored by the mainstream media, it’s still a two person race to them but in the eye of many Edwards supporters, last night was a victory for him as well. And no, Edwards did not concede in his speech last night, because it’s not over and I think that since he had the most attention he’s probably gotten so far by the MSM the last thing he wanted to do was talk about a “loss”. Rather than that, he focussed on what is so important to him and his focus for his campaign, Edwards continues to talk about the poor, the homeless and the disenfranchised in our Country. He wasn’t there to talk about candidates, but the people who still have no voice.

Edwards released a statement regarding Obama’s win and said that he called him personally to congratulate him.


“Earlier tonight, I called Senator Obama to congratulate him on his victory in the Iowa caucuses. Tonight’s results shows how clearly the American people are sick of the status quo and ready for a president who will fight for the bold change America needs. “

And, I sincerely believe that this is a win for all Democrats. Almost twice as many Democrats came out to caucus than Republicans and the race is tight right now to show that we have a tough decision to make, that we have three amazing candidates to chose from, there is no loss here for Edwards or for any Democrat.

If you did not have a chance to see Edwards’ post Iowa Caucus debate, please take the time to do so, it is at the end of my post. This is why this man inspires me, this is why I care so much about this election, more than I have ever before. And the good news is, more people are going to hear his message.

It also means money for his campaign. Today they released a statement saying that yesterday is “putting the campaign on track for its best online fundraising day to date.” And half of those who contributed were first time donors and more than 90% were donations under $100. This is the campaign that relies on small money donations rather than lobbyist and PAC money, every cent counts.

So, what does this have to do with California? In order for California to count we have to help Edwards win Nevada. I am planning to drive to Las Vegas on the weekend of the 12th in order to canvass and phone bank for Edwards and the Nevada supporters have pledge to come to California and help us do the same for our Primary on February 5th.

Just three more days to New Hampshire and this whole nomination process has been knocked on it’s butt. It’s no longer a two person race and thanks to Edwards, it’s no longer about “Politics as usual”.

Cross posted from The Liberal OC

Woo-Hoo!! Obama Victory Sends Message of Change

I got 5 hours of sleep, but managed to write this last night for Beyond Chron.

Barack Obama’s victory in the Iowa caucus last night sent a powerful message of change – as a record turnout (especially among young voters) picked him the winner with 38% of the total vote.  John Edwards, who likewise ran a populist campaign that emphasized change, came in second place with 30%.  When asked what was the most important factor in a candidate, voters picked “change” over “experience” by a 51-20 margin – giving Hillary Clinton’s establishment campaign a humiliating 3rd place finish at 29%.  Obama defied expectations by even beating Clinton among women and registered Democrats, which questions her viability as a candidate.  But while Obama’s insurgent campaign has crystallized the message of change, the dirty little secret in presidential primaries is that the establishment always wins.  As the fight moves to New Hampshire and other states, Obama’s campaign will have to defy historical precedent to dethrone the Clinton dynasty.  I believe he can prevail, but it will be a different story for Mike Huckabee – who won last night’s Republican caucus.

According to the mainstream media, the big story last night was the record turnout in the Democratic presidential caucus – 236,000, well over the 150,000 predicted and more than double the 120,000 in 2004 (which was nearly double the number from 2000.)  Sixty percent were first-time caucus-goers, and they overwhelmingly favored Obama.  Most incredibly, over half of Obama supporters were under the age of 30 – proving that heroic efforts to get Iowa students and other young people to come back from Christmas Break paid off.

But the real message from last night’s result was that voters desperately want change, and Obama’s eight-point victory doesn’t come close to measuring how deeply that sentiment was felt.  John Edwards, who ran a populist campaign that emphasized economic justice and a shake-up of the status quo, came in a strong second at 30% — meaning that 68% of Iowans picked a “change” candidate when the alternative was a former First Lady who epitomizes the Washington establishment.  “The one thing that’s clear from this result,” said Edwards, “is that the status quo lost and change won.”

Even Clinton had to acknowledge this in her concession speech, as she gave credit to all candidates for having presented the case for change.  “We’re sending a clear message that we are going to have change,” she said, “and that change will be a Democratic President.” Throughout the campaign, Clinton had tried to re-invent herself as an “agent of change” – but the voters didn’t buy it.  She was left trying to feebly tie the message of change back to experience – as she stood there flanked by her husband and his former Secretary of State.

Clinton’s only legitimate basis for being a “change” candidate is that she would become the first woman President in history.  Her campaign had sought to use this strategy to bring many first-time women to the caucus, who were supposed to be her secret electoral weapon.  But among women, who comprised a healthy 57% of the Iowa turnout, Obama still beat her 35-30 – with Edwards lagging behind at 23.  There was a small gender gap, but it was practically nonexistent.

Clinton even lost 33-32 among registered Democrats, who were supposed to favor her while independents favored Obama.  The Clinton camp even tried to discredit a Des Moines Register poll earlier this week because its sample included a high number of non-Democrats, even though it made the most accurate prediction for the actual caucus.

But Obama did not win because independents and Republicans showed up to support him, which is what everyone anticipated.  As Chris Bowers pointed out, 76% of caucus attendees were registered Democrats – which was not too different from the 79% figure four years ago.  Despite his broad appeal among independents, Obama would have still won the Iowa caucus last night even if only registered Democrats were allowed to participate.

For Clinton, the front-runner who had hoped to get the Democratic nomination by inevitability, coming in third place was embarrassing and calls into question her viability as a candidate.  Bear in mind that she was not just the party’s anointed establishment front-runner, for every presidential primary cycle has one like that.  She is the wife of a popular former two-term President, and one who had cultivated her own career as First Lady and later as a U.S. Senator to merit her own formidable credentials.  

Obama’s Iowa victory will put to test a long-established rule about presidential primary politics (uninterrupted for over 30 years) that the establishment always wins.  In every cycle, a candidate like Obama captures the media’s attention as he tries to take on the party’s anointed leader.  They may win an early primary or two, but have always lost to the front-runner when Super Tuesday kicks in.  Mondale in 1984, Bush in 1988, Clinton in 1992, Dole in 1996, Gore and Bush in 2000 and Kerry in 2004 all faced insurgent candidates when they sought their party’s nomination.  But in the end, it didn’t matter.

Here is how Obama can defy this trend.  New Hampshire is only five days away, and a clear Iowa winner usually gets a momentum boost.  New Hampshire independents can opt to vote in either party primary, and if they go Democratic are likely to choose Obama. Republican John McCain’s poor showing in Iowa makes me think that independents are now even more likely to vote in the Democratic primary, which will give Obama a solid victory.  Therefore, he comes out of New Hampshire looking like a strong nominee.

South Carolina is on January 26th, and Obama is already tied with Clinton there with its high percentage of African-American voters.  Here is where an Obama victory in Iowa and New Hampshire would have a substantial ripple effect.  In the past year, almost every black person I have spoken to about Obama tells me that they don’t believe America is ready to elect a black man.  After white voters in Iowa have given Obama a solid eight-point victory, we should expect a huge black turnout in South Carolina.

Then comes Florida on January 29th, and the Super-Duper Mega Tuesday on Steroids on February 5th.  Despite favorable media coverage and a solid momentum boost from earlier victories, every insurgent candidate has lost the nomination here – as they simply get overwhelmed by the establishment’s money and institutional connections.  But Barack Obama has something that no insurgent has had – a huge campaign warchest, financed mostly from online donations.  With resources and momentum, he can still win.

Obama’s win can finally end that streak – showing that it is possible to take on your party’s establishment and win the presidential nomination.  I believe that Obama can make history, but I am convinced that the same will not happen on the Republican side.  Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is also an insurgent who beat the establishment in Iowa last night, but does not have the financial resources that Obama has.  Huckabee will suffer the same fate of other insurgents – he’ll be the media sensation for about a month, but will lose the nomination.

Obama’s victory speech last night felt like we were on the cusp of a historic moment, and the people I was with at the San Francisco victory party believed that this was unlike any other Election party we had attended.  “They said this day would never come,” said Obama in Iowa.  “The sights were set too high.  They said this country was too divided.  At this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said you could not do.  You have done what America can do in this new year.”

As Randy Shaw predicted last year, America may be at the forefront of a new progressive era.  And Obama’s victory last night in Iowa could be the beginning of better things to come.  After all, it did show that America is thirsting for a change – now the trick is to keep the momentum going.

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Hillary’s Planted Questions vs. My Question at Yearly Kos

I wrote this for today’s Beyond Chron.

If you work for Hillary Clinton and your candidate’s ahead in the polls, your job is to avoid unpleasant surprises – even if it means planting questions in the audience.  Last week, Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff, a 19-year-old college student, attended a campaign event in Iowa – where a Hillary staffer asked if she wanted to ask a question.  When Muriel told them what question she wanted to ask, they said “no” and gave her a typed query – one that would not make news, and allow Clinton to repeat her campaign talking points.  I got to ask Hillary a tough question at the Yearly Kos Convention in August – but Clinton has done her best to avoid such unscripted moments, as her “inevitable” nomination rolls along.  After Muriel got some media attention, the Hillary camp asked her to stop talking to the press.  Kind of reminds me how two Clinton staffers confronted me after my exchange with the Senator.  Hillary’s campaign is running a tight ship, but planting questions to control the message speaks volumes about a candidate we simply can’t trust.

I really feel for how Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff went along with what the Clinton camp asked her to do.  Ten years ago, I was a politically minded college student myself – eager to attend events and talk to high-level politicians.  Right now, candidates in Iowa are swarming the state to win the presidential caucus in January – so being a college student in Iowa is very exciting.  Muriel attended a Clinton campaign event because she wanted to learn more, and was thrilled to be asked if she had a question.  “I thought it was a great opportunity,” she told CNN.  “[Hillary] might be our next President.”

But when the camp asked Muriel before the event what her question would be, they were not happy with what she had in mind.  She wanted to ask how Hillary’s energy plan compared with what her Democratic opponents’ had to offer, but an aide said he wasn’t sure if Clinton knew enough about the other plans to give an intelligent response.  So he pulled out an official binder, tore out a page with 8 pre-written questions – and told her to ask the one that was under the heading “college student.”

The question they told her to ask – “As a young person, I am concerned about the long-term effects of global warming.  How does your plan combat climate change?” – was a softball question that allowed Hillary to give a detailed response about her platform.  Politicians don’t like questions that make the news, because it takes them off-message.  They would rather repeat their talking points that reporters will jot down, and avoid anything that could shift the outcome of an election.  The question they gave Muriel allowed Clinton to do just that.

In fact, it sounds a lot like the first question Hillary got asked at the Yearly Kos Convention that I attended.  That question – “How will you reform No Child Left Behind?” – allowed Hillary to give a long-winded nine-minute response in a break-out session where only 30 minutes were allotted to take questions.  I don’t know if that first questioner was a plant, but it certainly ate up time where Clinton could have been grilled about Iraq in a crowd skeptical about her presidential campaign.

My question at the session put Hillary on the defensive – where she got stuck defending the less pleasant parts of her husband’s Administration (Defense of Marriage Act, Telecommunications Act, NAFTA and Welfare Repeal), and quite a few media outlets picked up on it.  But it’s almost as if I got called on by accident.  Out of five lucky people who asked questions, I was the only one her Internet Director did not call out by name – as he instead addressed me as “the man in the red shirt.”

As Muriel left the Iowa campaign event, she overheard another attendee say that he too had been told by the Clinton camp to ask Hillary his question.  Only four people (out of 200) at the event got to ask the Senator a question, so Hillary’s campaign managed to plant half of the questions – as the national press corps simply looked on.  “The question-and-answer sessions in Iowa are really important,” said Muriel in a later CNN interview.  “But if you’re planting the questions in advance, that takes the voters out of it.”

Muriel said in the interview that she didn’t know if other campaigns pursue such tactics, but that if one does it the others probably do as well.  The Obama, Edwards and Richardson campaigns have all denied planting questions at their events – and I believe them.  At Yearly Kos, Hillary had her Internet Director call on people during the break-out session – whereas the other candidates blindly called on audience members.  John Edwards even allowed follow-up questions.

It’s an unfortunate part of this year’s primary season as Hillary plows ahead with the Democratic nomination under the guise of “inevitability.”  If she can avoid unscripted moments, she will be the next President because no unpleasant surprises means no momentum change for the other candidates.  Her campaign juggernaut is a machine that simply moves in cruise control – even if it means planting questions in the audience.

After they got busted in Iowa, the Clinton camp asked Muriel to keep things quiet.  When she told a college reporter about the planted question, Muriel asked as a courtesy that he notify the Clinton campaign – proving that she does not have an axe to grind with anyone involved.  Suddenly she got a call from Hillary’s Iowa Director of Publicity.  While they politely confirmed Muriel’s account of what happened, their last comment to her was “the campaign would like you to not talk about it anymore.”

Sounds like the contact I had with Hillary’s campaign after my question at Yearly Kos.  On the final night, as the delegates were all drinking at 1:00 a.m. to celebrate a great Convention, I suddenly got approached by two Hillary staffers – a man and a woman – who started a “good-cop, bad-cop” confrontation with me.  The woman thanked me profusely for “asking such a smart question,” while the guy said, “I’m not going to leave you alone until you become a Hillary supporter.”

Needless to say, he was not successful — and after we talked for about five minutes, he yelled “you’re helping the terrorists” and they both walked away.  Apparently, getting unscripted moments is just too much to handle for Hillary Clinton – as her campaign machine chugs along to win the nomination.  Question-and-answer sessions that give the appearance of “dialogue” are treated like TV commercials, and people who break through their machine are “problems” that need to be dealt with.  That is not the type of democracy that we deserve — and are brought up to respect.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To read Paul Hogarth’s self-serving advice on how to ask a tough question, check out this article.  Send feedback to [email protected]

Florida’s Sneak Attack Proves Folly of an Early California Primary

(I come at this from about the opposite direction, but I think it will make for some good discussion. – promoted by blogswarm)

I wrote this for today’s Beyond Chron.  I’m sure many folks here will disagree.

Several months ago, I opposed moving California’s Presidential primary to February 5th because (a) there’s no guarantee it will give us major influence in picking the next President, (b) it will front-load the primary schedule so that lesser-funded candidates have no chance in hell, and (c) California would be a “magnet” for other states to have an early primary – creating a primary season that starts early and ends early.  Now Florida has snuck ahead by pushing its primary to January 29th, despite sanctions from both national parties that the Sunshine State will get fewer delegates at the national conventions.  South Carolina is furious because Florida has jinxed its game, and now New Hampshire plans to exercise its God-given right of “always being first” by pushing its primary back to December – almost a year before the general election.  While it’s easy to get mad at Florida for crashing the party (and who doesn’t hate Florida when it comes to Presidential elections?), California and 24 other states have no one to blame but themselves for this fiasco when they pushed up their primaries to February 5th.

There are many good reasons for giving California more of a voice in selecting our presidential nominees.  We’re the largest and most diverse state in the union, but because we’re a solid blue state we are pretty much irrelevant in the general election.  Presidential candidates love coming here to raise gobs of money, but they don’t talk to voters because the nominees are always decided by the time California’s primary comes around. 

But when California unilaterally pushed its primary to February 5th, a lot of other states had the same idea.  As of this writing, California will vote on the same day as New York, Texas, Illinois, Oklahoma, North Dakota, New Mexico, Missouri, Delaware, Arizona, Michigan, Tennessee, Utah, Rhode Island, Georgia, Connecticut, Kansas, Alaska, Colorado, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Oregon, Arkansas, Alabama and New Jersey – just three weeks after the Iowa caucus and two weeks after the New Hampshire primary.  Forget the “Super Tuesday” primary – now it’s “Super Duper Tuesday on Steroids.”

Why February 5th?  Because the Democratic National Committee, in a feeble attempt to “control” a chaotic primary schedule where every state wants to have the most impact, set up some ground rules about when states could have their primary.  Iowa will have its first caucus on January 14th, followed by Nevada on January 19th.  New Hampshire will still have its first-in-the-nation primary on January 22nd, followed by South Carolina on January 29th.  No other state could go before February 5th – or else get penalized with fewer delegates at the national convention.

But along came Florida who (like 25 other states) had decided to move up its primary to February 5th.  Sensing that it will get drowned into oblivion by sharing its primary on such a crowded day, the Florida legislature unanimously voted this week to push up its primary a week earlier to January 29th – on the same day as South Carolina.  Just like California, Florida has argued that a big, diverse state should have more of an impact in picking the presidential nominees.

And getting fewer delegates at the convention is a small price to pay, they concluded.  “At the convention, people get invited to a big party where they drop a balloon and wear funny hats,” said Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio. “But they don’t have any role to play.”  Which is true – delegates at the National Convention don’t get to decide who is the party nominee.  The states who have the earliest primary get that privilege.

Naturally, South Carolina went berserk.  “South Carolina will name a date that keeps us first in the South,” said state Republican chairman Katon Dawson. “It could be as early as Halloween, and our own version of trick-or-treat, if we have to.”  Meanwhile, New Hampshire has a law that requires it to be the first primary in the nation – and its Secretary of State has said that they will move up their primary before any other state, going back into 2007 if necessary.  At this rate, the nomination could decided by Christmas and California’s February 5th primary will be irrelevant.

None of which is healthy for democracy.  We’re still more than eighteen months away from the next Presidential election, and already candidates are raising obscene amounts of money – while those who can’t compete are dropping out.  Ending the primary season by February 5th is also not good, because it then leaves a nine-month period before the general election.  Voters get bombarded with information, and eventually lose interest.

In contrast, France just had their presidential election – with only a two-week gap between the first and second rounds (i.e., primary and general elections.)  Having a smaller window of time makes the general election more interesting for the casual voter.  While we bemoan low voter turnout in this country, France had an 86% turnout in a race that was decided by only six points.

Some have argued that if all the states are moving up their primary to February 5th, why not simply have a “national primary” so no state gets an unfair advantage?  But if so, why does a national primary have to be nine months before the general election?  If we’re going to have a national primary, it makes more sense to shorten the amount of campaigning and bring it closer to the general.

But hasn’t California already benefited from an early primary?  After all, practically every candidate was at the state Democratic Convention two weeks ago – highlighting the importance that our state will have in picking the next President.  Not really.  In 2003, when we had a later presidential primary, all the major candidates came to Convention anyway.  I doubt the candidates would have ignored the convention if we hadn’t moved up our primary.

Which brings us back to Florida’s mischief.  Twenty-five states – including California – have sabotaged themselves in a vain effort to get “more attention” in the presidential primary by moving up earlier that they will end up getting no attention.  So Florida got clever and decided to move it up sooner.  It’s easy for everyone to get mad at Florida, but let’s get real – they figured out what a sham this system is, and decided to game it to their own advantage.

It didn’t use to be that way.  In the 1970’s (and even the 1980’s), presidential primaries were more drawn out so that a grass-roots candidate with low name-recognition could steadily pick up support and win the nomination.  Jimmy Carter would have never won the Democratic presidential nomination under today’s front-loaded schedule.  As I’ve argued before, we’re never going to clear up this madness until the national parties set a schedule of state primaries that is drawn out, fair to big and small states alike, and allows everyone to have a meaningful impact in the nomination.

There is a potential solution – the American Plan.  Created by S.F. State Professor Tom Gangale, the American Plan would stretch out the primary schedule over several months, with a randomly selected number of states holding primaries every two weeks.  This would allow a marathon – rather than a sprint – of presidential primaries that avoids front-loading and gives every state a fair shot.

The Democratic Party likes the American Plan, and is looking at implementing it for the 2012 election cycle.  That’s great, but I think it should be put into effect for 2008.  But when talking to members of the D.N.C., they told me that trying to use it for the upcoming cycle “could cause pandemonium” as states will not be prepared for a completely new primary election schedule on such short notice.

But it sounds like we have chaos already.  And Florida’s just proven how insanely broken the system is.

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The Case Against a California February Primary

(Another no to the 2/5 primary. I think we’re running about even. By the by, welcome to Paul, who does a great job at Beyond Chron, one of the best sites on SF politics around. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

I wrote this for today’s Beyond Chron, San Francisco’s Alternative Online Daily.

As Ben Franklin said, the definition of “insanity” is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Once again, California politicians complain that our state never gets to choose a presidential nominee because the race is over by the time it gets here. Now the state legislature wants to push up our presidential primary even earlier than before – in the vain hope that we will decide from a wide-open field in 2008. But other states have the same idea too and we may end up having a national primary on February 5th – only one week after New Hampshire. While a February primary could be seen as a boon for progressive activists, the subsequent low-turnout June election poses grave risks, particularly given the attempt to qualify a statewide initiative to ban rent control.

The February primary is a bad idea for many reasons, and California should not fuel the madness. First, it is unlikely that California will get to decide the outcome of the presidential race, even with an earlier primary. Second, a front-loaded schedule puts insurgent candidates at an insurmountable disadvantage, virtually guaranteeing that the establishment candidate (i.e., Hillary Clinton) will win. Third, pushing the whole primary schedule further back forces candidates to campaign even earlier and raise even more money. Fourth, having two California primaries (the presidential one in February and the legislative one in June) will help right-wing propositions sail through in a low-turnout election.

It’s unfair that Iowa and New Hampshire — two rural, predominantly white states — have an unreasonable say in picking presidential nominees and that California repeatedly gets left out. But 47 other states feel the same way, and we’re not the only ones who want to move up our primary to “maximize” influence. If California moves its primary to February 5th, it will join Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, Delaware, Missouri, New Jersey – and probably Florida and Michigan as well. To say that we will somehow have comparable influence in selecting the nominee as Iowa or New Hampshire is absurd, because candidates will have to split their time between here and eight states (some on the East Coast) within the short span of one week.

California has repeatedly pushed up its primary in the past – and it still didn’t maximize our influence. In 1996, the state legislature moved it from June to March 26th – but with Bob Dole having beaten back Pat Buchanan’s challenge a few weeks earlier, the race was effectively over by then. So in 2000, the legislature pushed it back to March 7th – putting California on the same day as Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont. The result? Al Gore already had the Democratic nomination in the bag, and George Bush finished off John McCain with an avalanche of campaign spending. In 2004, we saw the same result happen again.

The effect of moving California’s primary is that it so front-loads the schedule that under-funded insurgent candidates have no chance of winning, and the establishment candidate quickly gets the nomination. In 2000, John McCain upset George Bush in New Hampshire, only to get overwhelmed within a month in other states. In 2004, John Kerry’s early victories in Iowa and New Hampshire allowed him to solidify his establishment status, and he went on to win the nomination without much trouble.

The problem isn’t that Iowa and New Hampshire go first – it’s that so many states follow them right afterwards. If an insurgent wins one of the early states, they simply get overwhelmed later due to lack of resources. If an establishment type wins an early state, the insurgents have no chance later on because it gives the front-runner an insurmountable lead. Either way, the establishment candidate always wins.

In 2004, Howard Dean pursued the only strategy that an insurgent candidate could be expected to do. Because Iowa and New Hampshire were immediately followed by a series of front-loaded primaries, he spent resources ahead of time in Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma — which had primaries one week later. It could have worked, if Dean had won Iowa. But with his third-place finish in the Hawkeye State and his infamous “scream,” Howard Dean had no money, no time and no momentum left to score a comeback and win the nomination.

A front-loaded primary season effectively ends the nomination process in early February. It’s insane that in January 2007 we already have so many declared presidential candidates, but they’re just facing reality – the nomination will be over in a year. That doesn’t give much time to raise gobs of money to spend it at lightning speed when the front-loaded primaries start hitting next January. No campaign manager would tell a candidate not to declare right away.

It didn’t use to be that way. In 1992, the primary schedule was more drawn out and allowed more states to have a say in the Democratic nomination. After Tom Harkin won the Iowa caucus on February 10th, Paul Tsongas won the New Hampshire primary on February 18th. Bob Kerrey won South Dakota on February 25th and Jerry Brown won Colorado on March 3rd. Bill Clinton started racking up victories in the coming weeks, but on March 24th Brown stalled his momentum by winning Connecticut. Finally, Clinton sewed up the nomination on April 7th with the New York primary.

Of course, California didn’t have a say in 1992 because its primary was in June. But a two-month marathon – rather than a one-week sprint -allows for a more dynamic process where more states can have their vote really matter. A longer nomination process allows candidates to hone their skills and get battle-tested. It would also generate more interest and excitement among voters.

But why does New Hampshire always get to be first? New Hampshire law requires that its presidential primary be first-in-the-nation. As other states try to get an early seat in the action, New Hampshire has pushed its primary further and further back — from March 12th in 1968 to February 1st in 2000 to January 27th in 2004. That’s not healthy for anyone because it forces campaigns to start earlier.

I think it’s better to have a state like New Hampshire go first. New Hampshire is small enough that a presidential candidate can run a grass-roots campaign and talk to voters – rather than raise tons of money and throw it on commercials. New Hampshire allows insurgent candidates to get their foot in the door and expand the scope of debate. The problem is that they later get clobbered when the nomination shifts to a media war of mega-state after front-loaded mega-state.

So what’s the solution? The national parties should sit down with their state parties and forge a compromise. They probably can’t do anything about Iowa and New Hampshire – but they can prevent the leap-frogging and front-loading that happens every time. Establish a firm schedule stretching out over several months, so that each week you only have one or two state primaries.

This will allow each state to have a real voice in the nomination process. States that are unfortunately placed last will get a higher placement four years later, and states like California that have always been shut out would get a priority placement. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than what we have now.

Furthermore, California progressives should be alarmed at how a presidential primary in February could have a derivative effect on state politics. Speaker Fabian Nunez wants to place a proposition in February to relax the state’s term-limits law (a good idea), followed by a legislative primary in June. But this will pose the danger of a low voter turnout in June, giving the right-wing an opening to pass dangerous propositions.

Already, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is gathering signatures to place a “son” of Proposition 90 on the ballot – probably for June 2008. While its language makes it sound less extreme than Prop 90, it is actually worse because of its retroactive effect and would eliminate rent control in California. The religious right will also try to place an anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot – it would also likely be voted on in June 2008.

California’s a very blue state – but past elections have shown that a low turnout can pass right-wing propositions. In March 2000, California had a low statewide turnout — the average voter’s age was fifty – and the state passed a legislative ban on gay marriage (Proposition 22) and a drastic juvenile justice initiative (Proposition 21) by healthy margins.

The same thing could happen again – if the state legislature foolishly pushes the presidential primary up to February, in the virtually nonexistent hope that California will better influence the next presidential nominee.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Hogarth actively supported Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2004. Send feedback to [email protected]