First, the procedure. The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee passed a resolution fixing the beginning of the 2008 Dem primary and caucus schedule. Today it will be considered by the full DNC and is expected to pass. Details from the Trib:
Unless there is unexpected maneuvering, the Democratic calendar will begin with the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 14, 2008, followed by Nevada’s caucuses Jan. 19, New Hampshire’s primary Jan. 22 and South Carolina’s primary a week later. After Feb. 5, other states would be allowed to hold primaries and caucuses.
Why do schedules change? To pick winners. In 1988, Lee Atwater moved up South Carolina because he could deliver it for Bush. In 1992, Zell Miller moved up Georgia because he could deliver it for Bill Clinton.
Now Harry Reid is moving up Nevada because he can deliver it for … ? Note that Clinton is currently doing terribly in the polls in NH and is tied with Edwards in IA. But, especially in a caucus situation, Reid can almost certainly deliver his state. (On the other hand, Reid appears to have asked Clinton to take over leader in 08 because he has a tough re-elect in 2010) The NH Dem Chair confirms this (Hotline):
“Unless a rule is directly related to taking back the White House, or helping to build this party, I’m not sure why we should be considering it,” she said. “The rules and bylaws committee shouldn’t be in the business of hurting candidates for the nomination. We should be helping them.”
It also creates a more liberal and less white electorate:
While the consequences for selecting a nominee with this order of states are uncertain, adding Nevada as one of the early states could give union members a larger say, considering the number of hotel workers there. It will almost certainly also hasten the front-loading that has already transformed the contest from a months-long slog into a sprint lasting just a few weeks.
This has been reported as a big win for the labor unions, but this is a big win for SEIU and the service worker unions, not the industrial unions. The industrial unions hold sway in IA and MI. Now the other guys — the guys who are growing — have a say. NV is also much less white.
NH’s Manchester Union Leader titles this: “Dems Push Primary Penalty”. For them the story is that NH is getting the long end of the stick. You see, Bill Gardner, NH’s SOS has said, rules be damned, NH will be first. And, by law, he sets the date (more details here, care of NH Insider):
State law says the primary must be held seven days ahead of any “similar election.” Gardner has said that an additional caucus may fit into his broad interpretation that the law requires him to preserve the primary’s traditional impact on national politics, even though party-run caucuses are structured much differently than state-run primaries and may not be “similar.”
Ultimately, NH doesn’t matter because of convention votes, especially in a front-loaded, media-and-money-driven calender. It has a relatively small number in both party conventions. It matters for momentum. The press will report the winner, whatever happens. And it will have an impact on who wins the swing state in 2008 where 4 electoral votes really could make the difference:
Joining Sullivan in criticizing the measure was DNCer Alice Germond, who said she was concerned about the “unintended consequences of this,” including “repercussions that might result in our not winning that state in the general election.”