Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Florida and Michigan: I'm With You In Spirit

You know, the loss of Bill Richardson from the presidential race has me thinking about how I’d run the show if anyone would let me. We’d do it in shifts, over the course of three months. All the states would have a primary or a caucus (whichever floats their boat), with states getting mixed into a group first by size and then by area.

States with few electoral votes would be in the first two groups. They’d have their fights on the First and Last Tuesday of February; I think in here we’d place the “single-digit” states, the ones with 9 or fewer electoral votes, your Alabamas (9), your D.C.s (3), your Maines, New Hampshires and Wyomings (4, 4, 3).

That’s 30 states, or 15 per Big Tuesday, or 158 electoral votes, total. Those two groups would be geographically diverse (mix New Hampshire with Wyoming and D.C.).

But that’s not the best part of my idea. The best is that the 15 that go on the First Tuesday this year go on the Last Tuesday of February four years from now. They flip and flop like that every cycle. (And maybe we’d have to divvy it up into three groups of 10 and do it over six weeks, instead of four.)

Your March states would include your 10s and 20s, to 21, or 233 of the electoral votes. That’s 17 states, from Pennsylvania (21), to Arizona (10), Michigan (17) and Massachusetts (12). Again, divide them into two groups with Second and Fourth Tuesdays in March. Again, you flip which group goes first every election cycle.

That leaves the biggest four: Florida , New York, Texas and California (27+31+34+55= 147 electoral votes). They go all in one swoop, or we could even break them up (Fla./Calif. and N.Y./Texas) and do the same in April as we did in February and March.

See, I can totally understand Florida’s exasperation. Why should some waitress in New Hampshire get to meet every presidential candidate since Johnson, while a similar waiter in Florida never meets any? And why always New Hampshire? Why not Wyoming, Alabama or some other smallish state? Let the hash-slingers of Delaware meet the next Leader of the Free World for once.

Why should Iowa and New Hampshire, every year, get to force one or two people out of the race before Virginia even gets a chance at him or her?

Florida, in my little outline, would still come up in the last batch of primaries. But I’ve been thinking a few things on this. The first is that Florida probably wouldn’t feel quite so badly if they knew that more people had had a shot at the candidates, and second that a head-to-head bout like the Clinton/Obama meet might still make it down to Florida. With the candidates actually having to go to many different states and think about a full platform (not just “ethanol is the Holy Grail of American Energy Policy, Iowans”) they might just hit on things the larger states like Florida care about.

The other option, if the Big Four get snooty, is to mix them in with some of the other mid-level states. Make the middle group 10 to 20 electoral votes, and 21 to 55 in the final, or something like that. And I’m not against the idea of mixing it up even more, with some double-digit states in with the single-digit ones, or allowing one of the bigger groups to be on one of February's Super Tuesdays in some sort of rotation.

There are other ideas out there like this, no doubt, and I know I’m not the first to ask the question of why New Hampshire gets all the luck. But why don’t the major parties do this (other than they don’t read the HeraldTrib)? They don’t care if we all have a voice. It’s set up to keep the powerful in power.

Don’t believe me? Look at Virginia Republicans. The Republicans will vote in a caucus to make Jim Gilmore their candidate for Senate, keeping Tom Davis at arm’s length. That will get them the candidate the higher-ups in the party want (but boy is it going to be a blood bath. Warner will tear him to shreds come November.)

And I’d love to say the Democrats are better in all this, but you know they’re not.

None of the Big Three Democrats have actually campaigned in Uppity Michigan because Michigan went against the party and bumped their primary to yesterday. That's what wanting to have a fair shake gets you--nobody.

Michigan Democratic leaders don't seem to care, however, if the Democrat I heard on NPR is right. They're doing this as a protest to change the primary idiocracy. I'm with you, Michigan, I'm with you!

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