Local Politics

Political Calendar Booked With Early Primaries

Posted August 27, 2007 5:23 p.m. EDT
Updated August 27, 2007 7:16 p.m. EDT

— States continue to move up the political calendar to get a piece of the political action before the 2008 election, prompting complaints to change the nomination system for presidential candidates.

Over the weekend, Democratic National Committee threatened to take away nominating delegates from Florida if the state moves its presidential primary to January. North Carolina lawmakers flirted with the idea of moving the state's May primary to an earlier date to matter more, but they didn't act this year.

Earlier primaries mean money and national media exposure because candidates focus their attention – and their advertising budgets – on those states to gain an advantage.

North Carolina 4th District Congressman David Price, who chaired a national group to clarify the primary process, said the push for early primaries is a chaotic rush to judgment that needs to change.

"It's a mess right now," Price said of the primary calendar. "There's even talk of leap-frogging into December, which would be foolishness. The whole thing needs to start later."

Iowa and New Hampshire will likely remain first in line early next year. But Democratic and Republican party leaders moved up Nevada and South Carolina to add diversity.

Florida and Michigan want to move up, and several other states are poised for early February primaries.

"It dilutes, I think, the emphasis on grassroots politics, retail politics," Price said. "It really isn't fair to a state like North Carolina to have all this front-loading."

Political analysts said the only way North Carolina will matter in next year's presidential race is if the front-loaded primaries don't produce clear winner.

"(It) leaves North Carolina even further back in the dust," said Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University.

Packing the primaries into a few weeks early next year also raises the stakes in the money race, putting pressure on former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who's betting his political future on Iowa, Taylor said.

"You need lots of money. You need to be organized and ready to go in lots of places very quickly," he said.

"That's going to put a real challenge before (Edwards) because other candidates are better financed right now," Price said.

National party leaders are expected to talk after the 2008 election about possibly changing the primary system to a rotating regional primary.