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Volume 15, Issue 13 ~ March 29 - April 4, 2007


Early Primaries: Good Reason for Buyer’s Remorse

If you think presidential election seasons are long and boring, you haven’t seen anything yet.

The stampede to move up presidential primaries — which Maryland aims to join — means that the general election campaign of 2008 likely will last from early February to early November. That’s nine months, enough for any of us —Democrat, Republican or Independent — to feel buyer’s remorse.

Unbelievably, 22 states aim to hold a primary or caucus next Feb. 5, moving the closest ever to a national primary. California, the Big Enchilada of American politics, assured that things will never be the same in presidential politics by also adopting the Feb. 5 date.

Maryland’s General Assembly has voted to move our primary forward by three weeks to Feb. 12, and Gov. Martin O’Malley supports the move. That’s the same date as Virginia; also the date being considered by the District of Columbia. That would establish a mid-Atlantic primary, backers of the moves say.

From California to Maryland, the reason is the same: State politicians want more clout in national politics and more wooing by White House wannabes.

So much for the days when Iowa and New Hampshire began the presidential season, and voters across the land had ample time to conduct job interviews.

We’ve watched presidential politics up close since the Ronald Reagan years, and it’s our judgment that early primaries are bad for voters and bad for democracy.

For one thing, they prevent anyone but the ultra-funded, PAC-loving politicians from getting elected. They assure that Jimmy Carter will be the last president elected without spending tens of millions of dollars, the cost of advertising early and heavy from coast to coast. (New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani says he will need $100 million by early next year.)

There are a couple of appealing proposals out there to stop this madness. The National Association of Secretaries of State wants regional primaries with the order of the regions rotating each cycle.

Meanwhile, the Center for Voting and Democracy is offering what they’re calling the America Plan, in which randomly selected groups of states would hold primaries at spaced intervals.

Yet Maryland and just about everybody is moving headlong in a rush to judgment of candidates for the most consequential job in the world.

Too bad.

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