"...Never thought they'd go the distance..." - Lex Luthor in Superman II
We live in interesting times. For one thing, this is February and the Primaries aren't over yet.
I've complained before about how by the time the voting gets to Florida, there's no choices left. Well, this time we are heading into Super Tuesday (the mass bulk of Primaries across 21-22 states) and both parties still have a few knock-down drag-out fights to go. Something we've haven't seen in decades.
For the Republicans, there's still four candidates: McCain now the media front-runner, Romney the last of the 'conservative' standard-bearers (and to call him the standard-bearer means the conservatives in the party are seriously screwed), Huckabee the Socio-Religious Spoiler, and Paul the Clueless Geek Who Knows the Party Hates His Guts But Is Sticking Around to Cheese People Off. For the Democrats, it's come down to two: Hillary Clinton, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, and Barack Obama the Boy King of Destiny.
That we still have so many candidates left in February shouldn't really be a surprise: for one, there were so many candidates in both parties to begin with (roughly 10 for Republicans, roughly 8 for Democrats) that the natural weeding process of the strung-out Primary system got strung out further. The second thing, for the first time in a long time, the individual states holding their own early voting did not agree on a single front-runner, splitting enough delegates between the surviving candidates that some of them could well survive into the conventions. Neither McCain nor Romney have delivered a death-blow to the other, with Huckabee holding his own: Hillary and Obama are almost neck-and-neck.
Of course, by the end of the evening tomorrow the math may straighten itself out, and a front-runner on both sides could emerge. But does this all contradict my earlier rants about how screwed up the Primary system is?
No. One of my strongest concerns is that not all of the states are getting a fair chance to choose a candidate they like, simply because there has still been drop-outs in this year's race. Possibly strong candidates like Edwards and Thompson, or Dodd and Biden, all of whom didn't attract enough support in the first few voting states... but for all we know they could have done well if they held on to campaign in upcoming states like California (who's to say that Fred!'s Hollywood ties wouldn't have helped him out?). The later states voting are stuck with fewer choices... and the rumblings from the Republicans about McCain suggest there's enough dissatisfaction about the choices that *are* left to cause problems down the line.
Another problem rearing its' head is that each state's Primary, and also their Caucus, do not follow uniform delegate distribution. Nevada, for example, had a complex math for dividing up Democratic delegates that Obama actually ended up with 1 more delegate than Clinton who actually won the overall state. Penalties on Michigan and Florida meant their delegates aren't being counted for the Democrats. Florida's Republican Primary became a Winner-Take-All whereas all other states are dividing up delegates by percentages. The delegate selections are uneven, and in some cases unfair.
There's been a few more blog postings out there about how screwy this Primary season has been. Sadly, the blogs I've seen still think the 'Solution' is to have regional primaries, rotating between regions. That doesn't resolve the issue of front-loading, essentially the issue of candidates dropping out before EVERY state and EVERY voter gets a say. And it doesn't fix the problem of having inconsistent Primary voting methods and delegate distribution.
We still need a One-Day Primary. All states, all voters, getting a chance to choose all at once. Also making sure the rules are uniform across all states and all primaries (no more Caucuses, those things get too complicated). And making sure the delegate selections directly reflect who wins what and where. We need to make sure the system allows every voter an opportunity to have their choice count.