Brokered Conventions: The Votersí Strategy for 2008

After thirty years of matching funds and campaign finance reform, money has never been more important in politics than it is today.Not surprisingly, the major effect of the reforms has been to make it virtually impossible for anyone who is not personally a millionaire to make it into elective office.

This year, both parties have rearranged the primary calendar to, in effect, make it impossible for anyone without a national reputation to win the presidential nomination of either party.Bunching all the primaries together in the early winter, under the rubric of each state demanding to have more of an influence on the presidential selection process, is going to result in a dangerous increase in the power of the media to choose presidents.

In years past, the New Hampshire Primary and Iowa caucuses required candidates for president to really get out and press the flesh: to shake hands, to sit down in livingrooms with a dozen neighbors for hours and really let the voters get to know them.Because New Hampshire and Iowa are small states, they winnowed the field on the basis of personality.

Then, with the primaries in the big states were strung out from February to June, a relatively unknown candidate, like John Kennedy or Jimmy Carter, could emerge from the pack and win the nomination.Not so this year.

By the time voters have had the opportunity to digest the results of New Hampshire, a majority of the delegates needed for nomination will already have been chosen.Therefore, the job of the voters this year is to keep all of the viable candidates in the race through the conventions this summer.

Consequently, voters are going to hedge their bets by giving victory to one candidate in one state, and to another in another, to ensure that no candidate has the nomination sewn up before the conventions this summer.This is going to be truer in the Republican Party than in the Democratic Party.Hillary Clinton will probably be the closest to nomination, but not without a long hard slog through the primaries.

So, for the first time in 50 years, there will probably be a brokered convention to select the presidential and vice-presidential candidates.Ironically, given the power of polling and the penchant for partisan impeachments, the smoke filled rooms may be, in fact, more democratic than the primary circuit where money and the media control.

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf