3 States, 3 Winners: Why Is That So Bad?
January 22, 2012, 09:12 AM
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So, Santorum won Iowa, Romney New Hampshire, and Gingrich South Carolina, with Paul hanging in there in all three. In other words, Republican voters haven't made up their minds yet, and why is that so intolerable? 47 states haven't had a say yet and the election isn't for almost 300 more days. 

There's such a market for media prognostications in election campaigns (Perry Is Obviously Unbeatable! Romney Has the Big Mo!) that there is always a lot of irritation when voters in the first few states don't wrap things all up. But why shouldn't primary campaigns go on for months and months like the Democrats in 2008?

Does it really do a party good to have momentum run away with the decision in the winter? For example, John F. Kerry's sudden emergence as the Inevitable victor in the winter of 2004 didn't do the Democrats any good. For about three weeks he appeared to be Mr. Unstoppable, but after that he just turned out to be as big a stiff as he'd been before his hot spell. John McCain fluked his way into the nomination by February 5, 2008 by winning narrowly in some winner-take-all states, and then just got older for the next nine months. 

The reforms that we really need are ones that would let new candidates get onto all future primary ballots after the first few states are done with. All we've learned so far is what we knew at this point in 2008: Romney seems like the most plausible President among the current contenders, but he doesn't inspire many people.

In this Computer Age, there's no reason that we need the huge lead times that dominate the current nominating process. The party that re-engineers the nominating process to be longer and more flexible, and thus more dramatic, would gain a modest advantage. In Presidential politics, nothing besides the economy, war, and whether or not the public is kind of sick of your party moves the needle much. But I could well imagine that the party that comes up with a primary process that climaxes in June rather than January on average might average a percentage point better in November over the long run.