Early Primaries Hurt Election Process

Mccain won the Republican nomination after a surge in later primaries

Mccain won the Republican nomination after a surge in later primaries

Reese Levine, Staff Writer

There has been a disturbing trend in the last few presidential elections towards earlier state primaries. While this practice provides advantages for individual states, early state primaries are damaging to the credibility and relevance of the primary system as a whole.

States such as New Hampshire and Iowa, which are traditionally the first states to hold primaries, have long benefited from the increased media exposure and monetary gains that comes with going early. Thus, other states have seen these benefits and have begun to hold their primaries earlier as well.

In 1972, the earliest state primary was held in February. Now, New Hampshire is now debating whether to hold their primary in December of 2011, which would make the first time a primary would take place the year before the actual election. New Hampshire claims that they must have the earliest primary due to state law, but in reality, New Hampshire does not want to give up its exalted early position.

However, early primaries are problematic for many reasons. Since there is so much time between the primary and the actual election, there is the possibility that many will change their mind and renounce their support for the candidate they originally voted for. There have also been many mid-campaign scandals, including Howard Dean’s media gaffe and John Edwards’ extra-marital affair. It’s entirely feasible that the candidate for president could end up not having the support of the people because of premature primaries.

The credibility of early state primaries has already been compromised. Neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama won the New Hampshire primary, and both went on to become president. In 2008, John McCain placed only fourth in the Iowa caucus, yet he still managed to grab the Republican nomination.

Another lesser known danger of early state primaries involves Political Action Committees, or PACs. When someone wants to contribute to a campaign, the most direct way is to give right to the candidate. However, these contributions cannot exceed $2500 and are disclosed immediately.

Super PACs, which rose to prominence in the 2010 election, are different. They can raise an unlimited sum of money for a candidate, and are only required to disclose where their money came from a few times a year. Due to these disclosure rules, there is the possibility that if a state holds its primary in early January or December, the PACs will not have to disclose where their money came from until after the primary.

With the campaign contributions undisclosed, it will be impossible for voters to know what special interest groups and companies are supporting which candidate. While a voter may like a candidate based on what he says, knowing whom they will be supporting when they get into office is very important.

The early primaries will eventually hurt candidates. Republican nominee Jon Huntsman, is already in trouble because. He hasn’t been able to raise as much money as quickly as the big-ticket nominees. He is currently threatening to boycott the Nevada primary because of its early date.

It is time to get rid of the old traditions that keep states like New Hampshire in the limelight. A rotating system, which gives every state a chance at the earliest spot, makes the most sense. Every state would benefit from increased exposure, and it would reduce all the bickering that currently dominates the political arena. All the primaries should move later in the election year, which will increase their importance and shorten the lengths of presidential campaigns.

States have been allowed to run unchecked for years, and the result is a flawed system that is not good for American politics. By attempting to increase their own relevance, each state has in turn dragged down the entire nation, turning presidential campaigns into long, drawn out affairs.