How California Primaries Work Now

Remember how California switched to a top-two nomination system in 2012, ostensibly to lessen the role of parties? Well, as detailed here previously, the parties responded to that system by endorsing candidates prior to the primary, conveying to voters who the preferred Democrats and Republicans are. And it turns out those endorsements are pretty important, giving backed candidates an extra ten points or so in the primary election.

Here’s the beauty part: The candidates have figured out that those endorsements matter, so they’re starting to suck up to party elites to win them. As Roll Call reports:

California’s new top-two primary system was supposed to revolutionize the state’s political process. Instead, it’s forcing candidates to revert to an antiquated practice: competing for the state party’s endorsement.

I suppose reformers can take credit for helping to bring about greater competition in primaries. But it also appears to be the case that the top-two system has strengthened the hand of party leaders. Candidates recognize the value of the endorsement, and they’re willing to pay a price, perhaps ideologically, to win it.

(h/t Eric McGhee)

[Cross-posted at Mischiefs of Faction]

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Seth Masket

Seth Masket is an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver.