Friday, February 8, 2008

A Tale of Two Peninsulas

Q: I don’t really understand what happened in FL regarding the primary, delegates, etc. Can you give me a brief explanation? Why did FL move their primary?

A: Traditionally, Iowa is the first caucus and New Hampshire is the first primary. But other states are jealous of that, as they think that gives those states extra influence. So this year a number of states wanted to move up their primaries. The states can make their own rules about that. However, the national political parties get to decide how many delegates a state can send to their convention, and whether to admit the people who might show up claiming to be the duly selected delegates.

The two parties made some rules which said states couldn’t hold their primary before February 5, unless they were one of the traditional early states. Michigan and Florida (and South Carolina for the Republicans) decided to flout those rules (you make your rules, we make our rules). The punishment from the Republican Party was for the state to lose half their delegates (tough, but fair?). The punishment for the Democratic Party was for the state to lose all their delegates (real tough).

Why did Florida and Michigan do this, knowing they would be punished? Maybe they thought the extra influence of going early was worth it, or maybe they thought the rule wouldn’t stick, or maybe they had some inside game going. For example, McCain won Florida for the Republicans, and the momentum helped him win on February 5. Will he show his gratitude to Florida if he gets elected President?

On the other side, can the National Democratic Party make their rule stick? Obviously, if you are a delegate from Florida or Michigan, you might well show up at the convention, stand outside, and shout until they let you vote. And maybe some of your friends will show up and shout with you. And maybe your allies inside the convention will also stand up and shout. And since Florida and Michigan both voted for Clinton, they might have a lot of friends inside. And, of course, maybe the threat of that will exert enough pressure that the rules get changed before the convention.

I saw Michael Moore on Larry King last night. He is from Michigan, and is not happy the Michigan delegates are not getting counted. On the other hand, he seems to be an undeclared Obama supporter. So maybe he won't organize a demonstration.

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