January 31, 2007
These points on the money primary, coming from the other Klein, are sound:
I think that [money is] less important than it's been in recent campaign cycles for several reasons. I mean, why do politicians feel compelled to raise gazillions? To buy television advertising, mostly negative...Negative advertising, which was used overwhelmingly by Republicans, didn't seem all that effective in 2006, which may be a sign of things to come. Of course, candidates do need to raise some money--the Democrats' ability to respond cleverly to Republican trash was an important aspect of their 2006 victory--but they don't need to raise as much as they think they need to raise.
Second, I think the perambulations of various money people--Bob Farmer, for example--are less important than they used to be. I'm far more interested in money raised on the web as a thermometer for what's going on in a campaign.
So why do journalists obsess about The Money Primary? Because it's quantifiable. Journalists overvalue things you can count: money, poll ratings (which are completely meaningless at this point--except, perhaps, in places like Iowa and New Hampshire) and endorsements.
That's all true, at least so far as the primary election goes. Competing in Iowa and New Hampshire just isn't that costly an exercise, remember where Dean's millions got him. Better, candidates who excel in either testing ground will find their coffers full by lunchtime the next day -- particularly given the internet's capacity for accelerating and absorbing funder excitement.
That said, if California does move up to February 5th, money becomes significantly more important. A few days ago, I opposed the primary move for just that reason. A few other bloggers (Kevin and Atrios, I think?) suggested that, in fact, what the Golden State would test were the real operative skills of modern campaigners -- media control, fundraising ability, and telegenicism. But while a California primary may let Obama, Clinton, or even Edwards demonstrate their media savvy, it won't do the same for potentially adept candidates the press hasn't already decided to cover. If a candidate expertly dodges a question, but no reporter was there to hear it, did he even make a sound? Moreover, fundraising skill is fine and well and good, but it relies more on expectations of electability than talent, and a small candidate facing the California primary is going to present a dim bet. That said, covering primaries is the sort of thing my job allows me to do, and so it's hard for me to really oppose moving California, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico into more prominent positions.
Sadly, I agree that there are many good reasons not to have a state like California first in the primaries. Now, with that said, I'm sick and tired of the dog and pony show in New Hampshire and Iowa. Neither state is a bellwether of much anything and their self-inflated importance is getting irritating. If there was a very good reason for forcing the candidates to spend so much time there, let's say, both states contained the most aggressive and best press in the country, then maybe we would at least learn something. As it is now, it's an utter waste of time for more everyone who do not live in New Hampshire or Iowa (or whichever "small" state is going to try to be early in primary game to raise their media profile).
I'd really like to see us redesign the primary process in some manner that would actually help us elect the best candidate.
I know, it's a funny notion but there it is anyway.
Posted by: ice weasel | Jan 31, 2007 10:21:47 AM
Maybe my thinking has been clouded by the final great campaign episodes of "The West Wing," but to offer a counter idea, wouldn't the Internet be a great tool to give a true darkhorse a chance? As long as someone could make it through and gain enough exposure to make a decent showing, why is it impossible for him to gain a footing through Internet funding? Or is it that while this is possible, it's unlikely because the idea of raising so much money scares people away?
"I'd really like to see us redesign the primary process in some manner that would actually help us elect the best candidate."
Is there a better way to do this than pick a group of five or six states from different areas and/or that are different in size and rotate them every few years?
Posted by: Briian | Jan 31, 2007 10:31:01 AM
The post is simply wishful - I'd love it if money weren't important (I'd also love it if we all lived in sunny fields every day making necklaces out of daisies - also not very likely to happen), but it is. Millions and millions of dollars will be spent on Iowa and New Hampshire alone. TV advertising continues to be the backbone of political campaigning - and while I think it's mostly useless and silly, no one's come up with a successful alternative.
Personally, I don't think the money chain will be broken until big donors put their collective foot down and ask hard questions about greater accountability and wiser spending by the people to whom they donate. Nothing else in the current political process is made to put pressure on candidates to spend less, raise less, or use the oney they get in better, more economical fashion.
The reality is that the primaries will winnow down to two candidates, most likely the two who have raised the most funds; surely it will be someone who will have raised - and spent - tens and likely hundreds of millions. The two finalists, in turn, will spend boatloads of money to win the general. And while the one with the most money may not be the one who wins, that will not prove that money was not the issue. Only that how they spent it may well have been a waste.
Posted by: weboy | Jan 31, 2007 11:28:14 AM
I'm no historian of primaries, but I think that if primary season is a process, then you don't want too many people eliminated too quickly. You need time to get everyone's skeletons out of the closet, otherwise you might get stuck with a candidate who has a fatal flaw that only emerges in the general. Part of the point of a well-contested primary process is to avoid that.
Money will always matter under current conditions, but if you start with small states at least you don't eliminate too many too early. Start with a TV market like LA and you could kill off the campaigning ability of all the small candidates before the big ones get any real examination.
Finally, since the national press is on the case in Iowa and NH the scrutiny there is as good as anywhere. Now, to improve it (since the nationals aren't that good) the blogs have to pick up the slack...
Posted by: Meh | Jan 31, 2007 1:07:38 PM
Three years ago, the total lack of mentioning countries with national primary races, like France, would shock me. Today I'm just accustomed to that level of parochialism.
Posted by: Alon Levy | Jan 31, 2007 9:15:32 PM
Posted by: JUDY | Sep 26, 2007 4:01:10 AM
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