Primaries, the New Electoral College

Andrew Rice sends in this email about what the primaries might look like in 2008:

You know, I realize it’s way early to even be thinking about this, but it occurred to me yesterday morning when I was reading about California moving its primary up that one possible outcome of all this frontloading could be the return of another one of those mothballed political traditions, the brokered political convention. In years past, the way it played out is that the eventual nominee builds some momentum in early contests, wins big on Super Tuesday, and then runs the table as the rest of his contenders drop out (or are hounded out by calls for party unity).

But if big delegate states like California and New York move ahead in the calendar, there might not be time for this shaking-out process to occur. It’d effectively be a national primary, taking place over the course of a couple weeks, and you could certainly imagine a scenario where Edwards takes the south, Hillary wins New York and the northeast, and Obama wins Illinois and California –in other words, a return to the kind of fractured regional politics that made the smoke-filled rooms of the old conventions such interesting places to be.

It’d be cool for journalists, but maybe a nightmare for the parties. Imagine the prior scenario — no one has a majority of regional delegates, so let’s say two candidates– Obama-Edwards? Edwards-Obama? — get together in an anyone-but-Hillary coalition. But the math is not so simple because way back in the 1970s the Democratic Party instituted a “superdelegate” system, as a check on insurgency campaigns. As you know, most of the superdelegates are party elders–the very sort of people who might be beholden in some way or another to the Clinton machine. So all of a sudden, you have candidates spending the spring courting the likes of Tony Coelho. Journalists everywhere have to start familiarizing themselves with the arcana of delegate selection. The Huffington Post starts a “Draft Gore” campaign. It’s chaos–and everyone realizes that the nomination process, though it pretends to be democratic, is really a relic of the party boss era.

So there you have it, my off-the-wall prediction for 2008: The new primary process is going to replace the electoral college as everyone’s least favorite anachronism.

On to Denver!

– Josh Benson