Make primaries a race, not a marathon
After more than a year of political posturing, advertising and media coverage, the presidential election process is finally underway. Iowa started with the first caucus Thursday, with the New Hampshire primary soon to follow Tuesday. Minnesotans ...
After more than a year of political posturing, advertising and media coverage, the presidential election process is finally underway. Iowa started with the first caucus Thursday, with the New Hampshire primary soon to follow Tuesday. Minnesotans will voice their opinions on "Super Tuesday," Feb. 5, along with residents from 19 other states.
This early in the primary process, it is still difficult to predict how early primaries will affect the outcome. After all, most experts predicted Howard Dean would carry the 2004 Democratic nomination before his loss in Iowa. Now all most people remember of him is his infamous "Dean Scream."
At the same time, early state primaries feel more like a finish line than a starting point for the 2008 elections.
By the time Super Tuesday arrives, several lesser known candidates will most likely have thrown in the towel. After Feb. 5, the rest of the primaries will be more of a formality than a selection.
The antiquated primary system, and especially the Iowa caucus, effectively renders moot the opinions of a large percentage of US citizens.
An estimated 200,000 Iowa voters will set the tone and winnow the field of choices for the rest of the nation. For Democratic candidates, options will narrow even further. In each of the 1,800 caucus precincts a candidate needs to receive the support of at least 15 percent of attendants to be considered viable and receive votes. In 2004, Democratic hopeful Dick Gephardt dropped out before the New Hampshire primary even began.
The 14-month slog leading up to the primary process, and ensuing news coverage, is enough to make people sick of the presidential campaign before it even begins.
Granted, the 2008 election is a somewhat special case. It comes at the end of an especially unpopular president's second term, with many urgent issues on the line. The field drew many contenders who deserve to be heard. However, the primary campaign season followed the trend of ever-lengthening campaigns.
One significant drawback to lengthy campaigns is the time it takes away from elected officials actually making decisions. All of the time spent on the campaign trail detracts some candidates from learning about and debating the pressing issues in Congress, or from managing a state.
The presidential primary should be compacted, both to give all states an actual impact and to allow elected officials to do their jobs. There is no reason to make the presidential nomination race a marathon.