What the Front-Loaded Primary Schedule Means

The upcoming 2008 primary season has seen radical changes, with many large states moving up their primaries to avoid being made irrelevant. On Tsunami Tuesday (2/5), huge states such as California and New York are holding their primaries. Over 50% of all the Democratic pledged delegates will be awarded on that day.

Let’s take a look at the Republican top tier: Romney, McCain, and Giuliani (we’ll leave Thompson out for now because he hasn’t officially entered yet, so his campaign strategy isn’t known). Romney, the most conservative of the three, is focusing his efforts on Iowa and New Hampshire, establishing strong organizations and hitting the airwaves. His impressive infrastructure in Iowa, coupled with the financial commitment necessary, led Giuliani and McCain to pull out of the Iowa Ames straw poll this summer. Giuliani, the most liberal of the three, is the one directing his efforts toward February 5th, when moderates make up a significant bloc of the primary voters. Talk even surfaced about his campaign completely skipping Iowa. McCain, in the middle on ideology, also seems to be in the middle on where to concentrate resources.

Now to the Democratic top tier: Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. Edwards, the most liberal, is banking his campaign on a victory in Iowa, devoting his time and resources there. Like Romney, Edwards is relying on momentum to propel him to victories later on. Clinton, the most centrist of the three, had a campaign memo leak in which her deputy campaign manager, Mike Henry, proposed completely skipping Iowa. Although she quickly dispelled that theory, Clinton isn’t leading in Iowa. However, she has big leads in Florida, California, and New York, and can pick up numerous delegates there. Obama, right of Edwards and left of Clinton, is spending time in Iowa and New Hampshire, but also visiting Florida, California, New York, and other large states.

How the front-loaded primary schedule plays out has tremendous implications for each party’s nominees. If Iowa and New Hampshire play a more significant role than ever, candidates farthest from the center have a better chance of being nominated (Romney & Edwards). If February 5th turns out to be a decisive declaration of the nominee, the most moderate candidates have the best chances of representing their party (Giuliani & Clinton).


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