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We need a fresh start with our primaries
By ERNEST HOOPER
Published June 15, 2007
In a classic R&B tune, singing duo Mel & Tim tells us that "starting all over again is going to be tough."
Tough hardly describes the difficulty we would face in trying to create a new presidential primary system, but we definitely need to start over.
I just shake my head as Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean continually declares the Florida primary won't count because the state moved its primary to Jan. 29. Dean sounds like a schoolboy with his hands over his ears shouting, "I'm not listening, I'm not listening."
State party officials, meanwhile, sound frighteningly like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, insisting we will not be ignored.
In the end, somebody's rabbit could get cooked, and I think it's the voters.
You can trace the roots of the dispute to states continuing to leapfrog each other in an effort to be one of the first to hold a primary.
Leaders from Florida and other states have grown weary of Iowa and New Hampshire playing a pivotal role in the election by holding their respective caucus and primary first. In this new age of information, those two states all but picked the Democratic nominee in 2004.
Our state, with a diverse population that more closely mirrors the nation's makeup, has every right to think it should be at or near the top. However, the willy-nilly random process of states jumping ahead of each other like children waiting in line at a water fountain is ridiculous.
People, we're talking about electing the most powerful leader in the free world, not homecoming queen.
Lakeland's Robert Charles Pickering, a political junkie who has his own blog, recently wrote me to propose five regional primaries between January and May. Three-week intervals would divide each primary, and the order would rotate every four years. If Pickering's southeast region (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi) went first in 2008, it would go last in 2012.
"In addition to making it easier for candidates to schedule events within the primary region and travel, this idea would also allow them to focus on issues of specific importance to voters in the area, " Pickering wrote in an e-mail.
Another possibility? Balance each primary day between two or three states from each of the five regions. That way, each region plays a role in each primary and early trends aren't established by a single state.
This approach could allow candidates to stay afloat if they are strong in one or two particular regions and extend the process from a sprint to a marathon.
If you're drafting an e-mail right now pointing out the flaws of these suggestions, you're missing the point. We need to start a dialogue. Unless, of course, you're comfortable with the current haphazard method that could result in the nation's fourth-largest state not having its votes counted.
And we need to start over now, no matter how tough. The Bush years teach us we can't be cavalier about who holds the highest office. The president's decisions have a profound impact on our lives and the world. The primaries are a bigger factor than the general election, and we can't wait until 2012 to fix these problems.
If we elect the wrong person in 2008, there might not be a 2012.
That's all I'm saying.
[Last modified June 15, 2007, 07:23:34]
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