How the Later Primaries Could Be Important

by on February 20th, 2007

Much has been said about the possibility that the 2008 presidential nomination process for both major parties could be over by next February. This is a viable possibility because of the fact that many states have already moved their primaries up to early February, and several large states like California, Illinois, Florida, and New Jersey are seriously considering the move.

We could end up with what CNN’s Bill Schneider calls a “Super Duper Tuesday” in early February, in which more than 70% of the delegate slate of both parties could be decided at once, with states scattered all over the country conducting simultaneous primaries. Under that type of scheduling scheme, it is quite possible (and probable) that the presidential nominees of parties will be selected on that day or shortly thereafter.

However, some states might want to keep their primaries right where they are currently scheduled — in March, April, May, or even June. This is due to the risk that scheduling so many primaries at one time could have the opposite effect of what everyone seems to think — it could create a long, three-way marathon for one party’s nomination (if not both of them). If that happened, then the importance of the later primaries would be magnified exponentially.

But how could something like that happen? Well, let’s take the Democrats first. Let’s suppose Barack Obama wins Iowa, Hillary Clinton wins New Hampshire, and John Edwards wins South Carolina (like he did in 2004). Then, when all of those other states vote at the same time, Obama dominates in the Midwest, southwest, and mountain west, Clinton dominates along northeast and west coasts, and Edwards dominates in the south. The delegates count at that point could be split nearly evenly among those three candidates.

A similar scenario could occur with the Republicans, with McCain winning Iowa and then taking the Midwest, southwest, and mountain west, Giuliani or Romney winning New Hampshire and then taking the northeast and west coasts, and Huckabee winning South Carolina and then taking the south.

While the odds are that this kind of scenario will not occur in either party, it remains possible. Some states would be wise to refrain from moving up their primaries — just in case.

Terry Mitchell