March 5, 2007

New York Pushes for Earlier Pres. Primary

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New York has recently joined a slew of states pushing for an early 2008 presidential primary.

Both Democrats and Republicans have been discussing plans to move their presidential primary up by one month from March 4 to Feb. 5.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s (D) spokeswoman, Christine Anderson, told the Associated Press that the governor is still reviewing the idea of changing state law to advance the state’s primary. Legislative leaders of both parties, however, support the move.

The delegate selection process for the 2008 presidential election will begin with the Jan.14 Iowa caucus, followed by the Nevada caucus on Jan. 19, the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 22, and the South Carolina primary on Jan. 29. Under the Democratic National Committee’s approved proposal last year to implement changes in the 2008 primary calendar, the earliest possible primary for all other states is Feb. 5.

Alabama, Delaware, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Utah have already established Feb. 5 as their primary date. In addition to New York, three other large electoral states — California, Florida and Illinois — have also made clear the likelihood of advancing their presidential primaries.

In response to the constant talks of primary calendar compression and in trying to uphold its traditional status as the location of the nation’s first primary, New Hampshire officials told the New York Times that they will schedule their primary as early as necessary, perhaps even before Jan.1.

Some Cornell students expressed concerns that justice will not be served in the event of an earlier New York primary.

“The Electoral College was a practical necessity in 1800, but in the modern era it only muddles the system, causing candidates to disregard voters in non-important states and manipulate the system rather than truly get a majority vote,” said Andrew Loewer ’09, president of Cornell Libertarians.

“This move by New York is just another move in a series of moves that will happen this election that are aimed to play the system.”

Overall, however, an earlier New York primary date is viewed favorably by members of the Cornell community.

“As such an incredibly powerful state in terms of electoral votes and finances, it is time to change the process into one that empowers the New York State voter,” said Megan Sweeney ’07, president of Cornell Republicans and a Sun columnist.

Tompkins County Legislator Nathan Shinagawa ’05 (D-4th District) agrees that moving the primary would boost the chances of New York candidates.

“We need as many states that represent the true diversity of America to move up their primaries so that all people are heard in their choice of candidates,” he said.

Early primaries are seen to benefit already well-financed and well-known candidates, Shinagawa continued.

“When we move primaries to major media markets like New York and California, it means that only the most financed candidates can win,” he said.

An earlier New York primary date could boost the already highly advertised campaigns of fellow New Yorkers and presidential hopefuls, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Sweeney said the move would help Giuliani in his bid for the presidency.

“Securing a victory in such a major state earlier in the primary season can only help him win over Republicans who may be on the fence,” she said.

Adam Gay ’08, president of Cornell Democrats, offered a different viewpoint.

“I am concerned about the implication of this change on the current Democratic primary race as Democrats from across the U.S. are far from solidly committed to one candidate,” he said. “There seems to be a broad support for Barack Obama across campus and among young people nationwide, and it would be unfortunate if he, as well as other Democrats, were severely disadvantaged by a technical change to promote Hillary Clinton, since the early primary would obviously favor her.”

On the other hand, Prof. Elizabeth Sanders, government, said that, despite the fact that front-loading, the campaigning practice of collecting widespread interest as early as possible, offers an advantage for the big names, less determinate results could be seen.

“Normally, this front-loading would be expected to reward the early front
runners,and the early successful fundraisers,” she said. “But I suspect that the Democrat who fits that profile, Clinton, will run into trouble despite those advantages, and it doesn’t seem at this point that there is a clear front runner in the works for the GOP.”

If the aforementioned states do indeed advance their primaries, candidates face the prospect of an overwhelming single-day race for presidential nomination. Candidates for president could very well be determined by mid-February.

An early New York primary would bring more attention not only to the State, but potentially to the Cornell campus as well.

“I think this would be helpful in attracting high-profile speakers and events to Cornell and New York since prospective candidates would court our vote and our support,” Gay said. “It is often difficult to convince national politicians to come to upstate New York, [since] in recent history our primary has not had much influence.”