December seems like an eon ago, but it’s really been less than six months since everyone was feeling misgivings about the front-loaded primary season we were about to enter. You remember what was being said—that things were going to happen with lightening speed, that the front-runners possessed overwhelming advantages in name recognition and money and organization, that an early win or two would end the whole game.
Guess what? It didn’t happen. The GOP nominated John McCain, who began the year politically DOA, and the Democrats have all but nominated Barack Obama, whose sure-footed insurgency won early but more importantly won steadily in defeating a Hillary Clinton campaign that in most years would have been good enough to have chugged to victory.
But amid all the predictions about the problems with front-loading, no one pointed out the problems with having a six week gap squatting in the middle of the campaign season. More than a month has elapsed between next week’s primary in Pennsylvania and March’s contests in Ohio and Texas, and during that time, the real campaign—that is to say, the campaign about issues like the war and the economy–has been on hold. Instead, we’ve had these silly arguments about Clinton lying about snipers and Obama saying small town people are bitter. With no primaries—and no results—to keep the candidates (and the journalistic pack) focused on issues, everyone has wasted huge amounts of time on insignifica.
Remember how Florida rushed to push its primary to an earlier, more influential date in the process? And how they violated party by-laws in the process, and as a result, lost their votes at the convention? Just think how useful, how helpful, how influential it would have been to have had a Florida primary on April 8th or April 15th.