Because we recently crossed the line that separates humanity from the next presidential election by a full seven hundred days and nights, now is the time for us all to be concerned about the inscrutable bureaucratic legerdemain upon which the entire presidential primary system is built. How are the Democrats doing, ridding this Earth of the scourge of superdelegates, for instance? Not well, thanks for asking! But today, it's time to worry about what New Hampshire and Iowa will do if they feel that their specialness is too encroached-upon by other states making their own claims of specialness.
See, long before any of us were born, the village elders who created this nation gathered around their cauldrons filled with turkey entrails and asked the great Sky God what they could do to win His favor, and ensure a bounteous crop yield come harvest time. And, lo, the turkey-bone goulash was sluiced atop the naked, heaving bodies of the village's virgins, and the augurs studied the arrangement of gristle and viscera and declared that they had received a message, that read, "Send your leaders en masse to the least hospitable places in the nation every two years, to flip pancakes and attend town hall meetings in the bitter winter cold."
And that's how I imagine it came to pass that everyone decided it would be best that the primary season start in Iowa and New Hampshire in the dead of winter.
Now, I have nothing against this, per se, as this arrangement provides an opportunity to finally punish the nation's political reporters for their various sins. Over time, however, voters in the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary have wielded an enormous influence over the larger race for the presidential nominations, with the winners of each anointed with "momentum," and thus a more favorable spate of coverage. (Some fifth place winners are accorded "Joementum," which matters nary a whit to anyone.) Other states bristle at this, because by the time the race for the nomination wends its way around to their voters, the game is basically over.
And so, there's always pressure to make the primary system more equitable. And some states take it upon themselves to straight up muscle in on the turf claimed by Iowa and New Hampshire. That creates a crazy situation where everyone is threatening to move up their primaries to earlier and earlier dates. And that's where we find ourselves today, per Michael Shear in The New York Times:
Officials in both Iowa and New Hampshire are talking once again about moving their contests earlier in 2012 as a way of ensuring that they will remain the first caucus or primary of the next presidential campaign.
As reported by the veteran political reporter John Distaso on Christmas Eve, New Hampshire's secretary of state, Bill Gardner, has warned that the Republican primary may have to be moved up because the proposed Feb. 14 date would land only four days before Nevada's Feb. 18 caucus -- a violation of New Hampshire laws that require the primary to take place a week before a "similar election" is held elsewhere. (Except Iowa, of course.)
If New Hampshire moves, that could force Iowa -- which has similar rules about putting some distance before another state's voting -- into January. That would break a gentleman's agreement between the two parties to try to keep the official start of the 2012 voting in February, where it was for decades -- before that, voting didn't begin in Iowa and New Hampshire until March.
I mean, wow. Nevada could violate the New Hampshire state law that forbids that a primary occur within a week of the Granite State's? For Pete's sake, people!
Shear says that the whole system really spoils the holiday season for reporters, which, as I said before, is something I do not care about very much. He also asserts that, "It's also not seen as a positive development among voters, who regularly complain that the campaign stretches on for too long." Of course, in 2004, John Kerry secured the nomination by March 11. And Al Gore secured his nomination on March 9, 2000. McCain dropped out of the GOP primary contest against George W. Bush on March 7, 2000. So, in terms of "regular complaints," I think Shear is referring to that one time in 2008 when the campaign actually did stretch on too long.
Anyway, as Wonkette's Jack Stuef warns, everyone should basically be prepared to vote in presidential primaries by next week at the latest.
States Jockey, Again, to Vote First in 2012 [The Caucus @ New York Times]
States All Looking To Have First Primaries of 2012 Election, Probably Next Week [Wonkette]