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Primary madness

Just when you thought the political primary and caucus picture couldn’t get any crazier, South Carolina Republicans up the insanity by moving their primary to Jan. 19.
That’s at least seven months before the 2008 nominating conventions and almost 10 months before voters actually go to the polls in November. Talk about your endless presidential campaign.
But it could get even crazier. When it comes to primaries, the domino effect means that one change inevitably sets others in motion. Thus, the New Hampshire primary, originally scheduled for Jan. 22, will now have to be changed. State law mandates the primary has to be held at least a week before any other nominating event in the nation (except Iowa’s). That means the New Hampshire primary may have to move up to Jan. 8. But hold on. That will affect Iowa, because that state requires its caucuses to be held eight days earlier than any other primary or caucus. That would push the Iowa caucus all the way back to Dec. 31 of this year ó or, more likely, even earlier, since nobody is going to want to mix New Year’s Eve revelry with the sober act of casting a ballot.
This latest round of primary maneuvering started when Florida, worried about being lost in the crowd of state contests scheduled for Feb. 5, moved its primary up to Jan. 29. Where or when it will all end is anyone’s guess. States could be picking presidential candidates during post-Thanksgiving sales. Whatever sanity or restraint once existed within the scheduling process has long since vanished.
An earlier primary season equals a longer electioneering season, which equals costlier and ó inevitably, it seems ó more negative campaigns. While a few individual states may gain more influence in the nominating process, the endless leap-frogging for primary position can’t be good for the electoral process as a whole. It simply gives voters another reason to tune out the noise earlier than ever.

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