Wednesday, December 22, 2004

New Primary Order 


EVALUATING DNC CHAIRS. Via Josh Marshall, I came across this Wall Street Journal profile of Steve Rosenthal, the political chief of Americans Coming Together. Rosenthal, according to the Journal, has some ideas about the primary calendar:

He suggests Democrats place the five closest states from the previous general election (Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, New Mexico, and Wisconsin) first in the 2008 primary calendar to help tune up for fall battles.

I agree with Josh that this is a pretty smart idea for the Democrats. And I think you could take it even further. Two points. First, a party that was thinking long-term and strategically about how to become a majority party would make a habit of this practice -- of continually shifting the primary calendar every cycle to put whatever states were closest in the last election at the top of the list for the next one. Such a schedule would put a premium on Democrats who fit the "persuader" type, who can win back the voters who in many respects should be voting for their party, but for various reasons did not.

Second, I think a stated willingness to reform the primary calendar, either a la Rosenthal or with some other system of rotation, should be considered a threshold qualification of any aspiring party chairman who wants to earn the "reformer" label. There are lots of things the party chairman doesn't have a lot of influence over and can't really be held accountable for. But this is one of the things he or she does have influence over. And the New Hampshire and Iowa potentates who insist, against all logic and reason, that they should be first on the schedule are no less a part of the party's problem than the Beltway class that gets so much grief.

These are the fresh ideas that the Democrats need, but what scares me is that there are some out there who still don't get it, and are willing to continue the status quo. The GOP doesn't have the biggest majority, yet the Democrats have to earn the votes, and not expect the GOP to just fall apart and cede the majority to the Dems.


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