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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

What If They Gave a Primary and No One Showed Up?

The Democratic candidate boycott of the outlaw Michigan and Florida presidential primaries that was negotiated last week theoretically takes those states off the table. But as Robert Novak notes in a column today, the vote will still be held in MI and FL, and the results are likely to reflect the national standing of the various candidates, absent any personal campaigning.
The Dark One, quoting Bob Shrum (who is also being boycotted by the presidential candidates, and thus gets plenty of exposure as a “neutral” pudit), goes on to suggest that could help Hillary Clinton offset possible losses in IA and NH, which are still certain to move their dates back to the first week of January, in part because there is at this point no Republican boycott of MI and FL.
What Novak and Shrum seem to miss, oddly enough, is the extraordinary impact that results in the first two states typically have on the national standing of presidential candidates, most notably in 2004, when John Kerry went from single digits in national polls to an overwhelming lead after NH. If Edwards or Obama or Richardson, or some combination of the three, beats Clinton in IA and NH, then her current big lead in national polls is likely to vanish, and the perfect mirror of the national race offered by a campaign-free Michigan will reflect that. FL is also likely to reflect the cumulative state of the race after SC.
The larger issue is whether anyone will care what happens in these two pariah states. It will be an interesting test for the chattering classes: if Republicans do compete for MI and FL, it will be impossible to simply ignore them, as unauthorized “beauty contest” primaries have sometimes been ignored in the past. And it’s also likely that the Democratic candidates will find some way to run surreptitious under-the-radar campaigns in IL and FL, even as the candidates themselves stay aloof.

2 comments on “What If They Gave a Primary and No One Showed Up?

  1. ducdebrabant on

    With regard to the decision of Floridians to move up their primary, I’m appalled by the rhetoric coming out of the state of Florida. Governor Crist, Senator Nelson, the Florida newspapers, et al. keep portraying a conflict which is
    (a.) Entirely of Florida’s own making, and
    (b.) Entirely predictable, give the DNC’s stated rules, as ….
    (1.) A crusade against Florida by the Democratic Party,
    (2.) A crusade entirely emanating from Governor Dean, despite the Committee’s unanimous vote to sanction Florida for deliberately flouting party rules,
    (2.) A disenfranchisement of Florida voters.
    What a bunch of whining, dissembling, trivial, selfish and childish demagogues. Have they learned nothing from 2000? Do they not realize that posturing for one another and the home folks is blackening the reputation of Florida politics all over again? This is a cynical, arrogant and naked assertion of electoral power masquerading as victimization and martyrdom. Basically, Florida is saying “We don’t care about the rules; we dare you to stop us; we dare you to punish us; you don’t dare.” I hope the party DOES dare, and I hope the Republicans do exactly the same. People who have to have their own way, damn everybody else and damn the country …. I thought they were only in the Republican Party. Not in Florida.

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  2. Albert Whited on

    I worry what the effect of this boycott will be in the general election. Already the media are trumpeting it as an economic blow to both FL and MI, in essence robbing those states of revenues. Will this tip undecided voters against the Dems in a measure of defiance and/or punishment in Nov? Already these states have proven battlegrounds in recent elections. Is preserving the IA/NH/NV/SC pride of place worth tipping the balance in Fl and MI, each of which dwarfs the other four combined in electoral votes?

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