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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Frontloaded Primaries Provide Advantages

Chris Bowers has a pair of posts at MyDD in support of frontloaded primaries, and provides a couple of compelling arguments in his first post. Regarding frontloading’s longer focus on candidates:

If anything, frontloading and the long campaign are actually good things for our democracy…Giving the public more information on the candidates vying to hold our most important elected office, and more information on those candidates, are also good things for any democracy…

Concerning the financial advantages of frontloading, and who gets them:

…Inexpensive, early states are still just as available to every underfunded, longshot candidates as they ever were. If you have a full year and several million dollars, your inability to break through to 35% of the small caucus and primary electorates in Iowa, where only 50,000 caucus goers would be enough to win, or New Hampshire, where 100,000 primary voters would be enough to win, is not the fault of a corrupted political system. In 2004, even Dennis Kucinich raised $13,000,000, which would be enough to spend over $85 on each of the voters needed to win both states. Don’t come cryin’ to mama about frontloading, a long campaign, or too much money in the process if you can’t win in Iowa or New Hampshire.

In his second post, Bowers provides data from a recent Pew poll showing that voters are already paying a high level of attention to the presidential campaign, thus the argument that there isn’t enough time for voters to make thoughtful choices is bogus. Bowers notes further:

This increased public interest in the campaign is matched by the rapidly increasing amount of campaign donors and the number of people attending campaign rallies, both of which are easily on record pace compared to other recent elections.

Bowers predicts:

…significantly higher levels of voter turnout than previous primary/caucus seasons. This also means voters will spend more time, not less, making a decision on who to support. And yes, because of the frontloading, far more people will potentially have a say in who is nominated. Increased turnout, more informed voters, a greatly expanded electorate and increased grassroots activism — this is why it is a good thing the campaign is receiving so much attention early in the season.

Democratic bloggers and opinion leaders seem to be evenly divided pro and con about frontloading, and it would be interesting to see a poll of rank and file Democrats on the topic. Meanwhile, it’s a done deal, and candidates have to factor it into their ’08 strategy. The turnout in primaries will be a fair measure for evaluating frontloading, and a Democratic victory in November ’08 will make it a permanent part of presidential campaigns.