After much speculation, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
officially moved the state's primary to Feb. 5, adding the delegate-rich
behemoth to the list of states vying for more influence in the
presidential nomination process.
our presidential primaries in June used to mean nominees were
locked before we ever had a chance to vote," Schwarzenegger
said after signed the move into law on March 15. "I'm happy
to say these days are over
.We will get the respect California
More than 20 other states, home to more than half the nation's
population, have moved or are considering advancing their presidential
primaries to Feb. 5, which could result in the first de facto
"national primary" that decides the presidential nominees
at a historically early date.
In addition to California, Electoral College heavyweights New
York, Texas and Florida, as well as smaller states such as Utah
and Kansas, are weighing pushing up their primaries to Feb. 5,
a date analysts have dubbed Super Duper Tuesday, Mega Tuesday,
Giga Tuesday or the Powerball Primary.
Both parties have tried various penalties and incentives to discourage
frontloading primaries, but state governments are still vying
for earlier primary dates to increase their political influence.
"One of the many reasons people are focusing on the campaign
with such an intensity and at an earlier stage is because people
realize its going to be, more than ever before, winner take all
early February," says Barbara Kellerman, a professor at the
Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Analysts on both sides agree that earlier primaries put increased
pressure on candidates to raise funds to increase name recognition.
They also expect campaign strategies to change from shorter meet-and-greets
to "tarmac-to-tarmac" stumping -- that is making larger
public appearances in major metropolitan areas before flying to
the next location. In addition, an increased importance on TV
and other mass media will bring with it rising costs.
"There's a barrier to get in," said Republican media
consultant Brad Todd. "The prospect of how much it costs
to compete now is more than a little daunting. Candidates have
to get in early to raise money to have enough to compete on a
Despite the temptation to move their dates up, some analysts
say larger states may go through the time and effort to move their
primary dates with little impact on their roles in selecting the
"The larger the state you are, the less impact you have
by moving your primary forward," said Todd. "Candidates
are always going to go to Florida, California and Texas."
Others think candidates -- and voters -- need more time.
"I would prefer to see a somewhat longer primary season,"
said political analyst Stu Rothenberg. "Give more people
time to look at the candidates. If some stumble, they have a second
chance, but now there's not time."
The Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary have been first for
more than 30 years, causing candidates to devote considerable
time and money there. Since 1976, the winners from Iowa went on
to win six of eight Democratic and six of eight Republican primaries
in New Hampshire. Seventy-five percent of Iowa winners became
their party's nominee.
The early primaries have also played critical roles in the battles
for the presidential nomination -- a poor showing in New Hampshire
by President Johnson helped force him to bow out of running for
reelection in 1968 and former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter beat several
better-known candidates on his way to the nomination in 1976.
But with Nevada and South Carolina moving their caucuses and
primaries before Feb. 5, New Hampshire has started rumbling about
changing its date to maintain its No. 2 spot.
Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have grown accustomed to "living
room" campaigns, with frequent opportunities to meet candidates
directly and ask questions. Opinions differ as to whether Iowa
and New Hampshire should keep their coveted slots, and some think
the role could be played equally well by any smaller state.
Starting in 1988, some within the parties began to group state
contests to better test a candidate's ability to appeal to a wide
array of voters. The first Super Tuesday was organized by Southern
Democrats who, according to political scientists, were hoping
to increase their region's influence in selecting the party's
"Super Tuesday was designed to test candidates' skills in
a general election," then-Virginia Gov. Chuck Robb told the
NewsHour in 1988. "[W]hat we wanted to do is to move away
from the individual approach, the so-called retail approach, and
see if a candidate could talk about issues and priorities and
presidential terms, and that requires an emphasis on organization,
on money, on the ability to motivate on a broad scale."
According to media reports, various campaigns that hold the early
lead in public opinion polls and fundraising have said earlier
primaries will help their candidates, but analysts remain skeptical.
"Some say the early schedule means that the candidate with
the largest war chest automatically wins," said Larry Sabato,
a political analyst at the University of Virginia. "But what
if one of the first few small-state contests propels a back-of-the-pack
candidate forward, as sometimes happens? Then the slingshot effect
takes over and money doesn't matter nearly enough. This is just
Todd pointed out that all candidates have been picked by March
for the past 30 years and said he doubted the difference between
February and March will have that much of an impact.
However, if the nominees are selected by Feb. 5, it may mean
one of the longest and most intense general election campaigns
Though there may be periods of voter fatigue, "there is
an appetite for [elections] in the country right now," said
Todd. "I think since 2000, voters in both parties have decided
there's a lot at stake and they've taken a pretty keen interest
Rothenberg said people can always turn the channel if television
ads become too nasty or too frequent.
"A lot of political reporters may be burnt out before the
public is," he added.