Tuesday, March 18, 2008

There's been a lot of talk...

about how unimaginably long the Democratic primary season is lasting this year, and what damage it could do to the party or the eventual nominee, etc.

The truth is, a lot of states get to have primaries and caucuses that at least kind of matter this year, and that's a bit new. As a native New Hampshirite I suppose I should favor a one-primary season (Iowa votes for some populist nutball, NH votes for someone respectable, that person becomes the front-runner and just has to walk through to a coronation), but there's really not that much to be said for the idea. Allowing more states to have their say seems to me at least a tolerable idea.

But as for the thought that the season is just lasting so long that the nominee won't have enough time to prepare for the general election campaign, or that there won't be enough time before the convention to heal differences, or anything like that, I think people are forgetting just how early and compressed the primary season has been this year.

In 1992, Clinton didn't tie up the nomination until April, and in mid-March Jerry Brown was still effectively and plausibly challenging him..

In 1988, Super Tuesday had barely happened by this time, and Jackson, Gore, and Dukakis were all still in the race; it wasn't de facto over until late April. New York and, yes, Pennsylvania cemented Dukakis' win and knocked Gor out.

In 1984, Hart won California in June, and closed to within 40 delegates of Mondale, who lacked a majority at that time.

Things are different in races that are really only two candidates from the outset (in 2000 Bradley dropped out in early March), but initially multicandidate fields yield late Democratic seasons. Under a system of proportional representation and superdelegates, it would be difficult for it to be otherwise, no? Anyway, this year's nominee won't face any unusually short prep time before the convention.