Primary Colors

PRIMARY COLORS….Back in the early 90s, when a friend told me that Europe was likely to approve plans for a single currency, I didn’t believe it. Like peace in the Middle East, it was one of those things that people talked about constantly but never actually made much progress on. Needless to say, though, I was wrong. A few years after the Maastricht treaty was signed, the euro was introduced and it’s been sailing happily along ever since.

This is pretty much the same way I feel about the endless talk of creating a new primary to be held before New Hampshire: we hear about this every four years, but then it slips silently away when the good people of the Granite State threaten to secede from the union if anyone dares to take their first-in-the-nation primary away from them.

But guess what? It looks like it’s really going to happen. Apparently either Nevada or Arizona are the front runners. Prepare the fireworks!

I’m all for this, though not primarily because New Hampshire is so unrepresentative of the country as a whole. It’s mainly because of comments like this:

The potential loss of pre-eminence for New Hampshire ? a state that demands retail politicking skills of its candidates ? has upset the state Democratic leaders and stirred resistance among some familiar names.

It’s time once and for all to put an end to this. Modern national campaigns depend on media skills and large-scale organizing, not retail politics. That may or may not be a good thing, but it’s reality, and maintaining a process that picks candidates who are good at retail politics but not necessarily good in a larger setting is insane.

Modern campaigns begin upwards of two years before the first vote is cast, and that’s plenty of time to prepare for a truly national, media-based operation. It’s penty of time even for small-state governors like Bill Clinton and Howard Dean. I say: front-load the schedule, make sure the first few primaries are from different regions, and find out which candidates are best at running the kind of campaign they’re going to have to run if they want to win the general election. And may the best candidate win.

POSTSCRIPT: One question, though. How is it that the DNC gets to decide this stuff? Don’t the Republicans have to agree as well? Arizona isn’t going to run two separate primaries, after all.