Change the Primary System?

Back in 2012, the GOP looked back and realized that it needed to compress the GOP primary schedule and have fewer debates to make sure no radical, insurgent candidate would knock off the Establishment choice. That worked out splendidly…so, now the GOP is floating a few new ideas:

…Party leaders are even going so far as to consider diluting the traditional status of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina as gatekeepers to the presidency. Under one proposal, those states would be paired with others that voted on the same day as a way to give more voters a meaningful role much sooner.

But in a move that would sharply limit who could participate in presidential primaries, many party activists are also pushing to close Republican contests to independent voters, arguing that open primaries in some states allowed Donald J. Trump, whose conservative convictions they deeply mistrust, to become the presumptive nominee…

I do actually like the idea of “pairing”, but I’d carry it a step further – have IA, NH, AL and ID be the first States, all on the same day. All of them are relatively small population States and they represent the Midwest, the Northeast, the South and the West. The second set would be, say, Minnesota, Maine, South Carolina and Nevada. Third set Wisconsin, Vermont, Kentucky and Arizona. Do this over a mere 3-4 week period. After that, take the remaining 38 States, divvy them up by rough thirds based on population and do a series of “Super Tuesday” primaries two weeks apart starting with the lowest population group going to the largest population group. And close the primaries – no one but voters registered as Republicans as of January 1st of the election year can participate.

My idea here is to have a set of low-population States go first because that is were an insurgent campaign can have a chance to gain traction. Having four States from around the country can also help sift out who has the best national appeal. It also forces the candidates to have a message which resonates across the nation rather than, as now, just trying to figure out what Iowa and New Hampshire are thinking. Having a series of low-population contests keeps it cheap enough to run until we’re down to two or three – who would then be able to gain the resources to keep fighting in the larger population areas until one person gets it all – or, it stays so closely divided that it goes to the Convention. And if one candidate does manage to sweep or near-sweep the first 12 contests then that would be a solid indication that the candidate is the party’s choice…meaning, someone who can do that well in that diverse an electorate is someone who has captured the GOP imagination and should be the GOP nominee. It is also, as you can see, about a 10 week process. Start it on January 15th, done no later than March 31st. Have the Convention on May 1st – this makes sure that the GOP Candidate never has a period of months – as Romney had in 2012 – where he is subjected to attack ad bombardment without being able to respond until a Convention held months later.

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Change the Primary System?

  1. Amazona May 25, 2016 / 11:23 pm

    i think you made some very good points. However, we also need to address the question of just how much weight do the votes carry? Do primaries choose the nominee, or are primaries just testing the waters to let the GOP the direction people would like it to go?

    • M. Noonan May 26, 2016 / 12:19 am

      I’d prefer the parties to just figure out their own way of getting delegates to the Convention without primaries…but, that probably wouldn’t fly in modern America. How to make sure that there is a clear “winner” is more difficult – except in those times when someone just rolls to a massive victory, there will always be a way to shout “unfair” at the winner.

      • Amazona May 26, 2016 / 9:29 am

        I think it is important to know how the people view a potential candidate—someone who looks absolutely wonderful to the people in the Beltway Bubble might not appeal to the people and would have a poor chance of being elected. Primaries give the people a chance to express their preferences, and the party a chance to take the temperature of the voting public. Probably just as important, they provide a way to evaluate how a potential candidate does on the campaign trail. Just being a smart guy with good ideas (Dr. Carson) is clearly not enough, and a primary season lets the potential candidates get a taste of campaign battle, having to deal with challenges and defend positions.

        On the other hand, primaries are very expensive, and if there is a true desire to cut down on the impact of money on our election process this would be a good place to start.

        I don’t think any primary process is going to be very effective as long as our debate format remains the same. We have seen how the debates have shaped the rest of the cycle. In my opinion they distorted and manipulated the cycle. Scott Walker, for example, one of the best candidates on the stage, was essentially ignored by the mediators, while the least likely candidate up there, Donald Trump, was given center stage time after time till the impression was created that he was the real one to watch. Even the lineup, with Walker and Bush at the end and nearly off the edge of the stage, created an impression of who really counted. Merely focusing on the stage show and shoving the quality people to the side is, I think, the primary factor in what we seem to be stuck with now, and I lay it all on the debates. I think the other people on the stage would have been able to adapt to the infantile approach of Trump, who instead of offering coherent policy ideas spoke in bumper sticker terms and schoolyard insults, and once they realized that one of the people on the stage was not debating but just calling them big old poopy-heads they could have handled it—IF the mediators had handled it properly.

        I don’t know how to fix this. If we let the beltway boys run the debates, they will be slanted toward their favorites, who will probably be the same old same old. But clearly when we let the media people run the show, they will be drawn to what provides the most “entertainment” and spectacle, policies be damned. This doesn’t even get into the bias of the mediators, which as we saw ranged from Candy (“Will Work For Food”) Crowley feeding answers and slanting questions to formerly-perceived-as-conservative Megyn Kelly expressing outrage at some answers and inserting herself into the debate.

        Does anyone really doubt that a serious one-on-one debate between Cruz and Trump would have changed the course of the primary election cycle? That is something Republican voters had a right to see, and the GOP had the right to make it a criterion of qualifying for the nomination. What could be more “fair” than a head-to-head matchup between the two top contenders? Maybe we need to go to elimination rounds in debate—the winner of each one-on-one debate stays in to go up against a winner of another debate, and so on, till there are only two left, and then they slug it out in one or two hour-long matches.

        I also think we need to demand of the party that mud-slinging intra-party cannibalism will not result in being chosen as a nominee. We should have an official policy that the party, itself, will make its choice based on the policies promoted by the candidates and the public’s support of those policies, but name calling and gratuitous insults and personal attacks will, essentially, disqualify a person for nomination. We need to make it clear that this is the territory and strategy of the opposition and will not be a part of our own selection process.

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