And the Winners Are: Clinton, Edwards and Nevada
Democrats' effort to bring more geographic and racial diversity to the presidential nomination process took a large step forward over the weekend, with a key party committee approving the addition of two states to the first weeks of the 2008 primary calendar.
Under the proposed schedule, Iowa's caucuses will still lead off the nomination fight on Jan. 14, 2008. Nevada will then follow with a caucus on Jan. 19. New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary is scheduled for Jan. 22, followed one week later by a primary in South Carolina. The Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee approved the changes, leaving final, formal approval to full DNC members, expected to come at their upcoming meeting in Chicago (August 17-19).
Here's a look at the winners and losers from this weekend's vote:
John Edwards: No single candidate benefited more from the addition of Nevada and South Carolina to the calendar than Edwards, the party's 2004 vice presidential nominee and former senator from North Carolina. Edwards is a South Carolina native and won the state's primary in 2004. Harold Ickes, a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee and a confidant of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, protested the inclusion of South Carolina because it would be a "walkover" for Edwards. In Nevada, Edwards enjoys a strong relationship with perhaps the most influential union in the state -- UNITE Here, which represents hotel and service workers. Right now Edwards can claim strong backing in three of the four early states (Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina) -- a claim few other hopefuls can make.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: The prospect of four states voting in a 15-day period makes Sen. Clinton's financial and organizational advantages all the more important. Clinton should begin with 2007 with between $10 million and $15 million in the bank and has the capacity to raise double what any of her competitors will be able to bring in. That kind of financial advantage will allow her to play simultaneously in all four states, both on television and on the ground with a full complement of staff. If, as expected, the nominee will be decided by Jan. 30, 2008, Clinton remains the strongest bet.
Harry Reid: Most people in the know expected Nevada to get the caucus, but the Senate minority leader still deserves credit for making it happen. Reid spent most of the day Friday working the phones and meeting one-on-one with members of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee. He also deployed a lobbying team that consisted of chief of staff Susan McCue, state director Rebecca Lambe Jolley, senior advisor Darrel Thomson and press aide Jon Summers. Nevada's victory means that Reid will be relentlessly courted by every 2008 contender for his endorsement. He'll be at the center of the melee -- just how he likes it.
Change To Win: The seven unions that splintered from the AFL-CIO to form the Change to Win coalition dominate the organized labor world in Nevada. The largest and most influential labor group in Las Vegas is the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 -- a member of UNITE Here. Win their backing and a candidate has a built-in force of grassroots activists. "In Nevada, workers with a strong union movement have made work pay again," said Change to Win president Anna Burger. "Now their voices and votes can't be ignored."
Jon Ralston and Lee Bandy: The leading political reporters in Nevada and South Carolina, respectively, can expect to be lavished with attention from candidates and national media over the next 18 months. Bandy is somewhat used to the star treatment after the 2000 Republican presidential primary and 2004 Democratic contest in the Palmetto State. But it will be all new to Ralston, who has created his own media empire in the desert. A phone call to the Des Moines Register's David Yepsen or the Manchester Union Leader's John DiStaso might provide all the tips Ralston needs.
New Hampshire: New Hampshire's advocates made it very clear that they opposed any changes to the 2004 calendar -- in which only their state and Iowa voted before Feb. 3. The Rules and Bylaws Committee showed little empathy for the supposedly sacred tradition of the New Hampshire primary, but the Granite State may have the last laugh. Under state law, no presidential contest in another state can be held seven days before or seven days after the New Hampshire primary. Secretary of State William Gardner believes a caucus in Nevada would trigger the law, forcing him to move the date of his state's primary.
Any Democratic Presidential Candidate Not Named Edwards or Clinton: The frontloading of the process and the additions of South Carolina and Nevada to the early primary/caucus schedule make it that much more difficult for Sens. Evan Bayh (Ind.), Russ Feingold (Wisc.), Joe Biden (Del.) and Chris Dodd (Conn.) to make a big splash, and the same goes for former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner. Let's say Bayh manages a first- or second-place finish in Iowa. Unlike in 2004 when he would have eight days to build financial and grassroots momentum before the New Hampshire primary, he would have just five days between the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and then just three more days between Nevada and New Hampshire. The process could be over before Bayh ever truly capitalized on a strong showing in Iowa.
Michigan's Carl Levin/Debbie Dingell/Mark Brewer: No state played a larger role in forcing the Democratic National Committee to reexamine the primary calendar than Michigan. Sen. Levin, along with Dingell, the vice chair of the General Motors Foundation, and Brewer, chairman of the state party, worked doggedly to advance the date of Michigan's primary but were unable to rally any real support on the Rules and Bylaws Committee. Michigan must now wait until the DNC takes up the primary calendar again, at least another two years.
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