Killing the Presidential Primary

Why It's Good for Democrats.






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Publication: The Stranger
Author: Sanders, Eli
Date published: April 20, 2011

The fight over canceling the 2012 presidential primary in Washington State has been like an episode of the Twilight Zone. Partisans who once hated it now favor it, state officials who once favored it now hate it, and those who lobbied hardest this year to keep it now stand to benefit the most from its demise.

A brief overview:

Republican secretary of state Sam Reed used to love, love, love an expensive presidential primary, because these late-winter primaries draw 10 times as many voters as the cheaper, more-chaotic party caucus system. But now Reed wants to scrap the presidential primary in 2012, saving the state $10 million. "We're well aware of the irony," says Reed spokesperson David Ammons. "It's strictly a budgetary concern."

On the other side is state Democratic Party chair Dwight Pelz, who spent a lot of time praising the caucus process in 2008, back when caucuses were the darlings of the Obama campaign (and the death knell for the Hillary Clinton for president effort). This year, Pelz has been trying-unsuccessfully- to get legislators not to cancel the 2012 primary election. "I'm a convert," he admits, now criticizing caucuses as too unruly and too unfriendly to voters who can't get off work that day. (The Washington State Republican Party didn't respond to requests for comment.)

Now the legislature and governor seem poised to move ahead with plans to cancel the 2012 primary, tossing aside their old highminded arguments about what's best for democracy because of a $5.1 billion budget shortfall. And, even though this is not what state Democrats officially wanted, it should be good for them.

Picture it: President Obama will likely sail through Washington's Democratic caucuses as the clear front-runner. Meanwhile, the farright fringe of Republican caucus-goers will tangle with a clown car of Republican candidates, putting the party's extremists front and center (and on camera) as kingmakers. Remember, these are the same sort of people who picked Pat Robertson as their man in 1988. Should be a great show.

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