Sunday, August 26, 2007

Democratic Primaries: Argle-Bargle or Foofaraw?

REMEMBER MY POST ABOUT the primary reshuffling for the upcoming prez dogfight? The plot has emulsified, both because of a new proposed shift by the Michigan legislature, and the wrath of the Democratic National Committee against its electoral minions in the state that set off the scramble, Florida.

First, Michigan. The State Senate began mulling a date move last week. The target: January 15. This would fall one day after the Iowa caucuses if that state moves to Tuesday, January 14. Typically, Iowa schedules its beauty contest 8 days prior to any other race, so this would suggest a different date on their part. More confusingly, according to the NYT Caucus Blog, different factions of Dems are pushing for different methods of polling; Clinton's goons want a primary, whereas the Edwards camp wants caucuses. The Republicans have less of a problem with this affair than the Dems, and one could actually benefit: Mitt Romney's father George was once Michigan's governor. One thing is clear: Michigan's had a history of wanting an earlier primary, and now, emboldened by the recent date shuffling, they're feeling brave enough to grab an earlier date.

The DNC's response to Florida's move might temper their fire, though. (See this Times article for more details.) Some months ago, they moved their primary to January 29 in compliance with the (Republican) State Legislature's vote and GOP Governor Crist's signature. Despite this compliance, this defied a DNC ruling allowing only South Carolina and Nevada to shift their primaries, while preserving the positions of Iowa and New Hampshire as first and second in the process.

As punishment, the DNC has given Florida officials 30 days to change their minds or lose their delegates at the convention. Although that Times article speculates the nominee could choose to override this and seat the Sunshine State's delegates nonetheless, it projects an image of discord the Democrats can ill afford, less than one year after seizing Congress and facing the incredible gift of an incumbent Republican president at the nadir of his popularity.

(All of this electoral froth leaving you yenning for a graphic? The NYT delivers.)

This has great impact on the candidates, who even now must allocate their logistical and advertising dollars. It also casts Florida in the role of seeming to queer another election, especially if the candidates begin sniping at one another and the Republicans, as they did in 1968 and 1972, allow the freaks to make a spectacle of themselves, and slide past it into office.

Why worry about the nuts and bolts of the election four-and-change months before the first lever is pulled? I am rereading Stephen Elliott's criminally neglected Looking Forward to It, which I had the privilege to read as live, emailed dispatches he sent while trailing the Democratic contenders across the country. One tends to forget, after a candidate is chosen, how that person got there, and this makes a chronicle like Elliott's (or Hunter Thompson's) critical in reminding one's self of the bumpy road the race follows. I don't know if Elliott is undertaking the same thing for 2008. His website doesn't say so, and MySpace pages make me homicidal so I won't check what he says there.

It may fall to a skilled selection of blogs and newspaper links for me to get the same sort of daily-fix dosage of political wisdom that Elliott or Thompson offered. It may also be why I am noting these bizarre parliamentary manuevers on the part of the state caucuses, to have some record of the process written somewhere besides the shifting sands of public sentiment and fading memory.

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