Thursday, August 09, 2007

Starting early

From The Washington Post:

South Carolina's Republican Party will move its 2008 presidential primary forward to Jan. 19, sources said yesterday, a decision almost certain to spark a cascade of calendar changes that could push the start of voting to New Year's Day or even to before Christmas.

The move, set to be announced today, is likely to cause the
New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucuses to be shifted at least to early January, and other states are actively angling to stake out spots earlier in the process. The maneuvering has injected a new note of uncertainty into what is already the earliest-starting presidential campaign in history, and top strategists for the candidates said it would force them to revise their carefully worked out plans.

Katon Dawson, who heads the South Carolina GOP, made the shift to retain the distinction of holding the "first in the South" presidential primary balloting. Dawson's move was sparked by the Florida legislature's decision to upstage South Carolina by moving the state's primary to Jan. 29. South Carolina had been scheduled to vote Feb. 2.

Under some scenarios, the decision could lead Iowa to hold its caucuses in mid-December, creating an unprecedented situation in which convention delegates are selected in the calendar year before a presidential election.

The move is certain to trigger action by New Hampshire Secretary of State William M. Gardner, who is compelled by state law to set the date of his state's primary at least a week before any other. That could push New Hampshire's primary, currently scheduled for Jan. 22, to Jan. 8.

In Iowa, state law requires presidential nominating caucuses to be held at least eight days before any other voting.

There are a great many people who lament this speeding up of the primary season. I am not one of them. The fact is that the office of the president has become a great deal more powerful and influential than the Founders envisioned. To a very great extent the character of the American government is determined by who sits in the White House.

By the end of the year every Republican and every Democrat who cares enough about the process to even cast a primary vote will already know which of his party's candidates he intends to vote for.

By getting the primary out of the way as soon as possible the two candidates who represent the major parties will have the maximum chance to make their case before the American people, and the people will have the maximum chance to evaluate them.

I do not believe that the time period from the end of January to the first of November (nine months) is too long to think about such an important decision. It is very difficult for a person who is under close observation under great stress for a long period of time to pretend to be something they are not and never have the mask slip. A long campaign will do a very good job of showing us just what the candidates are made of.

Of course it isn't making the candidates happy. They are having to rethink their entire strategy in light of the earlier primaries. I especially want to see if this causes Fred Thompson to rethink his plan to announce as late as possible.