Chicago Tribune: The presidential primary season is beginning to feel a lot like the Christmas shopping season. It starts way too early. In fact, it may not be long before the voting moves into the Christmas season.
Ten years ago, New Hampshire held its first-in-the-nation primary on Feb. 20. Four years later, the Granite State's primary moved up to Feb. 1. And four years after that, it was nudged up to Jan. 27.
The Democratic National Committee at a recent meeting in Chicago moved New Hampshire's 2008 primary up to Jan. 22, eight days after the Iowa caucuses. But the DNC also wedged Nevada's caucuses into Jan. 19 and moved South Carolina's primary up to Jan. 29. New Hampshire Democrats could live with Iowa, but Nevada too? There has been talk of New Hampshire moving the Democratic primary into 2007 to stay ahead of the pack. National Democratic leaders set rules to punish candidates who go along with such a move.
Black, Hispanic voters
There is some method to the changes. Democrats want to give black and Hispanic voters more influence on the early nominating process. Nevada and South Carolina help to do that.
But there are risks too. With that much action crammed into a couple of weeks, a candidate conceivably could just about lock up the nomination before Groundhog Day. A candidate who looks alluring in January (think, Howard Dean) can wear out his welcome before the full campaign season starts. Pushing primaries and caucuses earlier and earlier leaves voters less time to acquaint themselves with the candidates and more time to experience buyer's remorse.
Bunching primaries and caucuses close together gives an advantage to candidates with pockets of cash to wage big ad campaigns. It leaves less time for the door-to-door presidential campaigning enjoyed by New Hampshire and Iowa (and by the rest of the country, thanks to C-SPAN cameras).
Republicans don't plan major changes in their primary calendar. Democrats have decided to tinker and bunch. Maybe, by 2012, the major parties will get a better idea for some order in the process.