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Panel Offers "Incremental" Changes to '08 Democratic Calendar

The Democratic Party's Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling convened this morning in Washington, D.C., to issue their final recommendations on changing the 2008 presidential primary calendar and, in the process, managed to narrowly dodge a last-minute attempt to abolish the first-to-vote status of Iowa and New Hampshire.

The panel, composed of politicians, political science professors and political operatives, spent the morning debating and amending their recommendations, which would simultaneously reaffirm the first-in-the-nation privileges of the Iowa caucuses while adding one or two caucuses before the New Hampshire primary, which, technically would also preserve that state's first-in-the-nation primary status. The panel also proposed adding an additional one or two primaries after the New Hampshire vote but before any other states would allowed to schedule contests.

"We wanted to change the status quo," explained commission co-chairman David Price, a congressman from North Carolina. "We want a sequence of singular early contests that will expose the candidates to a broad diversity of the electorate." Nevertheless, Price conceded that the recommendations amounted to an "incremental change" in the Democratic primary process.

A proposal by Democratic National Committee at-large member Maria Echaveste to eliminate the first-in-line status of Iowa and New Hampshire threatened the commission's overall proposal and prompted a lively debate that provided a rare moment of on-the-fly politicking by the panel members.

Minority members of the commission, led by Echaveste and Donna Brazile, joined with southern (Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln) and midwestern (Michigan Sen. Carl Levin and Debbie Dingell) members to back the proposal. The opposition was led by Democratic consultant Steve Murphy and former Iowa Democratic Party chairman Jerry Crawford, who said such a radical change proposed with little advance notice would invalidate the delicate balance put forth by the commission. They said the proposal would produce unintended consequences, such as discouraging candidates from campaigning in any small states. The Echaveste measure failed on an 18-9 vote though not before several minutes of genuine uncertainty among the commissioners.

Before the vote on the Echaveste proposal, former top Clinton White House adviser Harold Ickes offered an amendment to move the Iowa caucuses up to Jan. 7 -- a week earlier than what was specified in the recommendations forwarded by the commission. Ickes proposed the change in order to avoid violating statutes in Iowa and New Hampshire that mandate that no state be allowed to vote within a week of their contests. It failed by a 17-7 vote.

The flare-ups exposed the simmering tensions between several of the commission members.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin (D), whose protests in 2004 led to the commission's creation, said he thought the recommendations did not go far enough to add diversity -- geographic and racial -- to the primary process. He called the blueprint a "barely a crack in that wall that Iowa and New Hampshire have surrounded themselves [with]."

On the other side, former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) voiced her opposition to the plan, which, she argued, left unresolved both how many states would be included in the early voting process and what "sequence" in which those state would vote.

In the end, the commission managed to protect Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus but left New Hampshire Democrats unhappy along with Democrats who wanted a wider variety of early contests.

The commission's recommendations will be forwarded to the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee, which must vote to affirm or reject them. DNC Chairman Howard Dean will have the final say over the adoption of the changes.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 10, 2005; 1:55 PM ET
Categories:  Democratic Party , Eye on 2008  
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Where's Bill Clinton? When his campaign was sinking in January 1992, he pleaded with New Hampshire voters to give him another chance, famously saying, "If you stick by me, I'll stick by New Hampshire until the last dog dies." Has he forgotten that promise? Did the last dog die some time ago and no one told New Hampshire? He's been silent as the DNC moves to destroy the New Hampshire primary. Pres. Clinton, New Hampshire Democrats stuck by you. It's time for you to fulfill your promise.

Posted by: Athena | December 12, 2005 1:33 PM | Report abuse



Posted by: | December 12, 2005 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I have to agree with the comments about NH. Having worked on campaigns there in both 2000 and 2004 I can assure you it is a very unique experience. Likewise, NH, particularly in the last decade, has become much more developed and is increasingly representive of a typical exurban/suburban environment as Greater Boston continues to spill across the border. I also feel the primary process is much more open and honest than a caucus. Having attended caucuses for state level elections I can tell you that they are frequently dominated by the personalities in the room, rather than the capability of the candidates. Personally I would love to see NH moved to the very first position to be followed by other mid sized, diverse, PRIMARY states from other regions of the country. Florida, Washington, Ohio, and Arizona immediately come to mind.

Posted by: Jason Davis | December 12, 2005 11:47 AM | Report abuse

DNC Commission - GO POUND SAND!
Mark Hounsell, NH Insider

"Nobody gave us this primary, and nobody's going to take it away," Governor John Lynch, NH, December 7, 2006.

I was born in New Hampshire in February 1952, the month and year Candidate Dwight Eisenhower made something out of the New Hampshire First in the Nation Presidential Primary.

Over the years I have watched as Granite Staters made something big out of something minor.

I heard Ed Muskie weep; I heard Reagan correct Mr. "Green"' (Breen); I saw Clinton the Comeback kid gain life back to a campaign on the ropes.

Johnson quit; Carter won and so much more.

I often tell people, politics is to New Hampshire what Basketball is to Indiana. We may be small - but we are very good at what we do (screening presidential wannabes) and because of that the entire nation benefits.

The conniving untrustworthy political so and sos forgot something as they plot to steal our tradition. The New Hampshire Presidential Primary has been made important and great by years of hard work and diligent effort by the New Hampshire people - as such it is ours. Nobody gave it to us and nobody's going to take it away - not now, not ever!

Take away our primary? Not without a fight. A fight we will win.

Posted by: Mark Hounsell | December 12, 2005 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if Merna could get Pat Roberstons blessing to go ahead and craft a disaster for all those Democratic Communists. What a diatribe for a disallusional right wing zealot. As ususal the Right never have their facts straight. It was a Conservative court that made the biggest mistake on invasion of individual property rights. Scalia, Rehnquist, and Thomas were the ring leaders. Why, because they want to line the pockets of developers and will trample of individuals rights at every turn. After all it was this pathetic group that over stepped their constitutional rights to appoint one of their own as President. So do us all a favor Merna, save the hypocrisy for your Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, and Savage interviews. Better yet, get good shrink and clear the cobwebs that have formed in your head

Posted by: ImpeachBushNow | December 12, 2005 2:33 AM | Report abuse

What the Democrats want to do is further rig their ability to steal elections they can't win.
It's called stacking the deck in their favor.
They want to give fellons the right to vote as the polls show the majority of fellons (people who have proven themselves without sound judgement) are Democrats.
They don't want national voting regulation, that negates their ability to vote more than once, or in more than one state, or stuff ballot boxes, or lose opposition votes on re-counts.
They object to using the Social Security number, which they made sure is stamped on every babies butt at birth, for making sure our elections are fair.
They don't mind using your Social Security number to attack you through their agents in the IRS, or to steal your credit-report to use against you like they did to Lt.Gov. Ssteele.
They don't mind redistricting when they are the ones doing it, but scream bloody murder when it becomes the Republicans turn.
They don't mind that Clinton put ACLU Ginsburg, who said a female child of twelve should be the age of consent, ( was that why Clinton wanter her on the bench?) but do mind the Republicans chosing judges that will uphold the constitution, rather than legislate your right to own your own home away from the bench.

The Democrats are moving us closer and closer to a communist state. This last straw by the liberals on the Supreme Court should wake up even the most brain-washed Democratic followers.
Think about it, they gave the state the right to take your property for any reason they want.
Right now in the of the bluest Democraticly held area's by Democrats in New London Conn., N.J., Santa Monica Calif, and a Democratic Mayor in Riviera Beech Fl. are taking private homes in order to build con-do's, up-scale shopping, up-scale appartments and yachting marinas.

George Carlin (a Democrat and alledged entertainer) said the moronic masses needed to be told what to do.
Do you really want the Democrats turning this into something like Cuba? or Russia? or China? Where you are told what to do and when to do it?
Our so called free-press is almost state controlled as the Democratic-elite either own most of it, (Sumner Redstone-media mogal, Democratic operative, ex-Military intellegence officer whose very private company National Amusements owns media giant Viacom, Ssimon & Schuster publishers, and much much more,) (Dissney/ABC, yup Democrats) (NBC=Democrats) or have the sympathies of those running it.
Don't take my word for it, research it yourself!
Hollywood and TV producers don't make a movie or sitcom without slaming or sliming a Republican. It's propaganda, designed to get the masses to distrust Republicans so mucch the Democrats can get away with anything they want.
Do you think that Will Smith's character in "Enemy of the State said "damn righ-wingers" by accident?
This new female president on ABC even has pants stuffer Sandy Berger on it's staff!
If you like being brain-washed, go ahead screming into the night that Republicans are evil and make sure to kiss that Democrats toes correctly when he comes to steal your home through his Supreme Court given right of Eminent-Domain.
Wake up, Big Brother is alive, well and a Democrat!!

Posted by: Merna | December 11, 2005 8:37 PM | Report abuse

I hope DNC Chair Dean returns the favor and puts Iowa in its rightful place---not up on a first-in-the-nation pedestal, but back down in reality. It's time for the Dem primary process to better reflect the rich regional and ethnic diversity of our country. Caucuses in Iowa should be held on the first Tuesday in January---along with simultaneous caucuses in these small states: one on the West coast (Oregon?), one in the Rocky Mountains (Colorado?),one in the southwest (New Mexico?), one in the south (Arkansas?), and one in the north-east (Maine?). Plus, on that same day, there should be a caucus in a large state with a diverse population, like Michigan. Then, on the first Tuesday in February, we should have the first primaries: not just in New Hampshire, but also in a small West coast state (Washington?), a small Rocky Mountain state (Nevada?), a small south-west state (Arizona?), a small southern state (South Carolina), a small midwest state (Wisconsin?), and one large state with a diverse population, like Florida. Caucuses and primaries for the remaining 36 states should be held, 9 at a time, on the first Tuesday of each following month (from March to June), using a lottery system to determine each state's turn in a specific primary / caucus year. By doing this, we will enable better geographic and ethnic representation, while also making sure to even out the negative effects of the current compressed process.

Posted by: ProgDem | December 11, 2005 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Bill, agreed, 'cept it was closer to 500k. :)

Posted by: FairAndBalanced? | December 11, 2005 12:00 AM | Report abuse

So why can't any other state offer grass roots campaigning? How is it that Iowa and New Hampshire have a monopoly on this? I would argue that it is these "Royal States" that are claiming their divine rights over the rest of the country. if they really believe in democracy they should share the limelight.I can understand the arguement against large States like mine, but there are other smaller states that could have the same face to face style of politics.

Posted by: Andy CA | December 10, 2005 10:53 PM | Report abuse

Is there any reason why Democrats make it their mission to show division in the party at every possible venue? This thing should be decided by a few head honchos in a smoky room somewhere and should not be allowed to simmer in the media which once again portrays the Democrats as divided and indecisive

Posted by: Andrew Gold | December 10, 2005 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to asbury for a brilliant observation, and here's hoping that America wakes up before a few bitter Dems are able to put out of commission the last truly grassroots tradition in this country.

New Hampshire's intense tradition, much more than that of Iowa, is the humanizing experience every "front-running" prospective American president should pass through, and every upstart candidate (so many of our best presidnets) should have opportunity to pursue, for our government to remain at least minimally related to democracy.

Posted by: strangebrew | December 10, 2005 10:40 PM | Report abuse

I recall the 2004 Republican Convention....the well-dressed and pious in the NY location saying "George W. Bush" over and over again, while about 150,000 New Yorkers were out front on the street as protesters. As for which group had the best grip on reality and common sense, I'll go with the 150,000 New Yorkers on the street.

Posted by: Bill | December 10, 2005 7:46 PM | Report abuse

How sad that on the day that Eugene McCarthy, the insurgent presidential candidate who ran on an anti-Viet Nam war platform, dies, the primary commission votes to make it impossible for any other insurgent candidate to get a fair hearing in the Democratic Party nominating process.

Posted by: asbury | December 10, 2005 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Whatever their other scheduling and timing decisions, the Democrats must be certain to hold their 2008 nominating convention AFTER the Republicans. If that means postponing the convention or changing its venue at the last minute, so be it.

It is absolutely vital that the current GOP leadership not again be allowed to come up behind and devot its national air time to fearmongering and smearing the Democratic ticket by name.

Posted by: Tria | December 10, 2005 4:45 PM | Report abuse

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