GO WEST, YOUNG MAN….In an unforgivable act of Golden State treason, Ezra Klein comes out against an earlier primary date for California:
There’s no way, within the context of the early-primary rush, for Democrats to seriously, thoughtfully, or comprehensively campaign within it. All they can do is spend money and rely on name recognition making it a competition between the famed and the funded. And that doesn’t mean we’ll just have a primary entrenching the likeliest outcomes: It means we’re going to ensure those outcomes. Any minor candidate seeking to remain even marginally competitive will exhaust their coffers in the first ad run through the Los Angeles media market.
He’s got a point, of course. On the other hand, consider this: there’s really no such thing as a dark horse candidate any more. Modern campaigns begin a minimum of a year before the first primary, and by the time California (or any other state) rolls around anyone who hasn’t been able to raise $30-40 million is plainly not someone who’s competitive. Maybe it would be better to figure that out earlier than later?
Like it or not, modern presidential campaigns are all about raising money and using the media, and I suspect we’re better off setting up a system that’s most likely to choose a candidate who can win a modern election. That means someone who’s demonstrated the ability to win in a big, impersonal state like California, not someone who’s demonstrated the ability to hold the most coffee klatsches in a single day.
Plus, maybe it would reduce the number of idiotic vanity candidates clogging up the early debates. Or am I just dreaming?
UPDATE: Atrios points out that an early big state primary also forces candidates to build big volunteer organizations, and it would be nice to find out who’s good at that.
I should add that all joking about California aside, I’d be fine with having any largish state early on. It doesn’t have to be the very largest. Maybe Michigan or New Jersey or Massachusetts or something like that.