Mike the Mad Biologist

Let the Primary Go to the Convention

One of things I don’t get is why so many Democrats are worried about the primary continuing to the Democratic convention. This is the best thing that could happen to the Democrats.

First of all, don’t underestimate how important it is to rank-and-file Democrats that they can actually cast a vote that might actually mean something. But more importantly, it’s actually stalled the Republican Slimedozer. Why? Because there’s no oxygen left in the room for Republicans. Various people keep pointing out the Republican attack strategies that keep getting trotted out–and they’re not sticking. It’s almost June, and to paraphrase John Paul Jones, the Republicans have not yet begun to successfully slime (although I think they’re banking on closet racism).

Yet there’s another factor too. Imagine you offer someone three options: a vacation package to Paris that includes airfare, a vacation package to Rome that includes airfare, and a vacation package to Rome that does not include airfare. Compared to the situation where people are presented the two airfare-included options, more people will choose the Rome package (with airfare). The comparison between the two Rome package predisposes people towards picking the Rome package. I think something similar is happening here: as long as people are deciding which Democrat is better, that’s a win for ‘Brand Democrat.’

Finally, Matt Stoller makes a very good point about the mistaken conventional (no pun intended) wisdom that contested primaries are bad:

In every state with both a well-contested Senate campaign and a late presidential primary, the wave of Democratic energy that the Clinton vs. Obama titanic struggle brought to the area gave the Democratic Senate candidate a huge, double-digit boost. Contested primaries at all levels thus served as tremendous party-building activities, as hundreds of thousands of new Democrats were created in every single state listed above. The net result of the creation of hundreds of thousands of new Democrats in each of these states are five more states where Democrats have a good chance of picking up a Senate seat.

Primary campaigns of all types should be understood as useful, party building and candidate testing activities, rather than as a waste of limited resources. Consider that in Minnesota, a state that held a Super Tuesday caucus instead of a late primary, and where Al Franken’s main opponent for the nomination, Mike Ciresi, dropped out more than two months ago, Franken has actually been dropping in the polls. Without the benefits of either a contested Senate primary or the energy of a late presidential nomination contest, Democrats are struggling, relatively speaking, in Senate campaign like Maine and Minnesota, both states that were thought to be top-tier targets in 2007.

Contested primaries build the party. As the primary season draws to a close, one of my only laments is that Maine, Minnesota, Colorado and Alaska held early February caucuses, rather than primaries sometime in the spring. If Clinton and Obama had duked it out in those states as intensely as they did in the post-Wisconsin primary states, right now we would probably have ten senate pickups in the bag, rather than only six.

Don’t worry about democracy in action: it always looks ugly.

Comments

  1. #1 Jessika
    May 30, 2008

    I was just telling someone this the other day. I used the analogy of the Olympics. You wouldn’t tell someone who is competing in the Olympics to quit just because they will probably come in 4th and not get a medal. Hillary made it this far, with only a couple weeks to go, let her finish it out and all the benefits you presented will come along for the ride. (This is coming from a Day One Obama supporter, too.)

  2. #2 T. Bruce McNeely
    May 30, 2008

    Just speaking for myself, I find that watching a hotly contested party convention live on TV is more exciting than a sports playoff game. This perhaps is more usual in Canada, where we don’t have primaries, and the results are usually more suspenseful till the final round of voting. If the Democrats have to slug it out in the convention, there’s going to be a huge audience. You can’t buy that kind of publicity.

  3. #3 chezjake
    May 30, 2008

    I’m not sure it will get all the way to the convention, although that would not be a bad thing. The longer it goes on, the more people (including Hillary supporters) are seeing the demanding “I want it my way” side of her and concluding she’s not really presidential material. The latest poll shows that at least 51% of New York Democrats (like me) think it’s time for Hillary to give up, and it’s New York Republicans who want her to stay in the race.

    I also think that the longer Hillary keeps going, the less likely it is that she’ll be offered the veep slot (pretty unlikely anyway, IMHO).

    Even if Hillary manages to keep going until the convention, there’s little doubt that Obama will get the nomination, so I suspect the convention will not be very interesting in any case.

  4. #4 DaleP
    May 30, 2008

    It depends on what Hillary does. Obama is not publicly pusning, just collecting delegates. If Hillary raises unrealistic expectations in her supporters or says if Obama is picked, it was rigged, she will damage Obama’s general election campaign. So you are narrowly right, a good campaign through the election is fine. But Hillary is very close to the line.

  5. #5 k
    May 30, 2008

    I agree with DaleP, in that I have fears that, even if things are ultimately left to the convention, whomever (ahem) loses will have supporters there to make a stink before a salivating press corps. While some sour grapes would likely have been seen even if Clinton dropped early, the fresh wound seems the most likely to sting the most.

  6. #6 Joel
    May 30, 2008

    Speaking of sour grapes. What about the Clinton supports who are ticked off and are considering hoping over to McCain?

    Just wondering…

  7. #7 Michael
    May 30, 2008

    There’s no reason for this to go to the convention, and nothing gained by it. After June 3, Hillary Clinton will have had an opportunity to participate in every state contest, but she will not have a majority of delegates. At this point the delegates can simply reveal their intentions and it is over. All that Hillary Clinton can do to prolong matters further is to encourage delegates to keep their intentions secret or beg them to change their votes. Neither looks good, it would be better to make a graceful concession.

  8. #8 seks shop
    February 13, 2010

    I’m not sure it will get all the way to the convention, although that would not be a bad thing. The longer it goes on, the more people (including Hillary supporters) are seeing the demanding “I want it my way” side of her and concluding she’s not really presidential material. The latest poll shows that at least 51% of New York Democrats (like me) think it’s time for Hillary to give up, and it’s New York Republicans who want her to stay in the race

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