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Sunday, January 01, 2012

[POLITICS] There's been the usual complaining here and there at the order of the US primaries. Why should 145,000 hard core Iowa voters get to decide who the Republican nominee should be?

Fairness is not really the point in politics. But strategically, the order of primaries doesn't make much sense either. The objective of a political primary is to find the best candidate: the candidate who embodies the vision of the party who is most likely to win the general election.

The crucial fact that the order of the various primaries ignores is that the candidate who is mostly likely to win the general is the candidate who is most likely to win the swing states. It doesn't really matter who pleases the voters of Iowa. Iowa is a fairly blue state. Iowa voted for Gore and Dukakis. By the time a Republican gets to Iowa, he's already riding a wave. A fortiori, South Carolina is completely irrelevant: it's a far-right-wing state that probably wouldn't go blue unless Anonymous hacked its voting machines. (Which, you know, they might.)

The states that either party really needs to win are Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. Win two out of three of these, and you're probably president. Win all three, and you're almost certainly president. Ohio and Florida were pretty close last time, even with Obama winning two out of three electoral votes.

So it seems to me that the parties ought to make sure the primaries for these three states come early.

I go back and forth whether the early states should be small ones. On the one hand, there's something to be said for a small number of voters really getting to see the candidates up close and personal. But up close and personal is not really how you win the general. A candidate that works in a living room may not close the sale on TV.

I do, however, believe in having a few caucuses in there. Caucuses are less democratic than primaries. Caucus voters spend all evening caucusing. They're much more hardcore. But to win the general, you need your party's hard core. They're the people who go house to house and get out the vote. GOTV may not make more than 4% or 5% of a difference, but the most elections are won or lost by that much.



It seems to me lilly-white, northern, rural states (ie, Iowa and NH) aren't the most representative of the US as a whole.

Back before Obama persuaded me to the contrary, I used to think the Democratic party cared about democracy. I thought they should model in their primary process what they'd like to see in the national election--a single national, popular election that employs best practices such as extended voting periods and something like instant-run-off balloting.

By Blogger David, at 8:31 PM  

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