Posted by: sweeneyblog | September 29, 2011

The Presidential Primary and Florida

Aside from campaign finance reform, the biggest thing that has an effect on the presidential race is the order in which states vote. Ever since Jimmy Carter swept the Iowa Caucus, a move that propelled him onto the national stage and into the White House, the order of elections has been supremely important for who is the final nominee and ultimately the presidency.

So imagine my general unease that Florida is considering moving up their primary date before Iowa’s, the first schedule primary in the nation. In 2008, they tried the same thing (along with Michigan) and it lead to their votes being somewhat invalidated at the national party headquarters, which then pissed off a whole slew of voters who bothered to turn out.

Right now, the schedule goes Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina . . . then everyone else. Breadbasket, New England, Rocky West and Deep South. If you were looking for variety in voter flavors, that’s a pretty good mix. Not my favorite, but a pretty good mix. I’m not certain about the Republican side off the top of my head, but it also provides some variety of contests on the Dems side. Iowa and Nevada both use the Caucus system (groups of voters meet in a school gym, and allocate votes by who shows up), while New Hampshire and South Carolina use a standard ballot box method. These states do have one thing in common, they are all medium-sized states with relatively cheap media markets. In short, television and radio, while expensive, don’t break the bank here.

Now these states are going to fight like the Dickens to keep their first in the nation status, but let us say, for a moment, that after all the hub-bub, they don’t get their wish, and Florida is placed with the other top four primary elections.  What then? Well, let’s look at Florida. It is a HUGE state. Tons of population, and because they have a ballot-box primary, there would need to be an incredible ground game by any of the candidates to turn people out. Second, they have one of the most expensive media markets in the nation. A television ad buy in Miami costs more than I’m probably going to make in the next decade. Campaigns would need to just POUR money into field offices, and radio ads. To fund this, they would have to hold many many more fundraisers to make it happen. Outsider and long-shot campaigns without national name recognition would have a very difficult time breaking into the field.

With the present cast of characters running for the Republican nomination, this move would most definitely help Mitt Romney. Romney has been having a difficult time with the GOP evangelical base and the Tea Party, two groups that are pretty influential in the Iowa Caucus. His strength has been senior citizens, and moderate republicans, of which Florida has plenty. Also, Mitt has been the strongest fundraiser in the field, raising gobs and gobs of money, which would easily allow him to thump Rick Perry or whatever opposition candidate is still standing. Bachmann, Huntsman, yes even Herman Cain, would have a great deal of trouble competing because of their lackluster fundraising and poor name recognition.

So is this good or bad? I’m troubled by anything that makes it harder for poor candidates to get nominated, on the other hand, we want to know if our person can fundraise before they step into the ring with the opposition. Part of the reason Huckabee had trouble taking off in 2008 was his poor fundraising skills (however, he ran a very cheap campaign and did well with how he spent his money, tip of the hat). I think if this change happens this year, you can count on Mitt Romney standing across the podium from Barack in October. But if it doesn’t Perry still stands a good chance.




  1. You seem to not factor much about Cain just winning the Florida straw poll a few days ago.

    • It doesn’t substantively matter. I considered it, but Bachmann swept the Iowa straw poll and is going to lose there by big margins. Most voters don’t know about straw polls and since Florida is a ballot state, it favors the low information voters.

  2. Really good analysis, Riley. It will be interesting to watch play out. Doesn’t Iowa’s state law mandate that they be a certain number of days before any other? Didn’t Florida pick a day in February that was going to force Iowa to have their caucus on Jan 31st? The other four states still get a say in the matter and they won’t just roll over on this.

    Plus the Right Wing ‘base’ have something to say about all this, no matter who wins in Florida. They aren’t going to just roll over and have Romney shoved down their throats either. This could easily backfire with a grassroots revolt, too.

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