In the era of the 24/7/365 news cycle it is amazing, to me at least, how one word can have so much power. Electability. That one word seemingly catapulted John Kerry to the Democratic nomination in 2004. William Saletan, from Slate, details for us how Democrats in 2004 convinced themselves that they were better off voting for electability over values.
Howard Dean and John Edwards both ran in a virtual tie with Kerry when polling questions were about agreement with major issues. If short, if you voted for Edwards or Dean you believed they wanted to take the country in the direction you wanted it to go, if you voted for Kerry it was most likely because you thought he could beat Dub-ya. Once that idea took hold in the public’s mind it was impossible to stop Kerry from running away with the nomination.
Perusing some other blogs in conjunction with a recent story about my soon-to-be new home state, NJ, got me curious about this new primary cycle. Up until tonight I’d spent most of my time considering the candidates and tying to get a grip on who they were trying to portray themselves as, and what they’d done in the past. I’d ignored, to a large extent, the massive changes that we will see in the upcoming primary season. On April 1 NJ Jon Corzine officially moved up the NJ primary from June in ’04 to February 5th in ’08.
There have been a number of states that have done things similar (AR,IL…etc) but I hadn’t realized just how dramatically the primary landscape had changed until now. Here is a link to a side-by-side comparison of the ’04 primary calendar to the ’08 calendar as it stands. Crazy, isn’t it? “Super-Duper Tuesday” (Feb. 5) has been a term thrown around by any number of political pundits, but it isn’t just that one day. The entire schedule has shifted forward dramatically. California might even be relevant. In ’04 nearly half the delegates were still in play on April 1st, in ’08 only 7 states wont have completed their primary, with Indiana being the largest of those remaining.
What does all this have to do with electability? On February 10, 2004 Kerry had won 12 of 14 primaries and was all but assured the nomination. Why, because the momentum of his electabiltiy had taken hold. Iowa and New Hampshire will play their usual oversized roles in picking the candidates for ’08, but I’m curious what the most super Super-Tuesday of all time will mean to the idea of electability. Candidates will be able to garner momentum, but half of the delegates will be up for grabs on one day so incredibly early. Will we even have one candidate with the 50% needed to garner a nomination? Might we be in for the first convention since the ’70s where the outcome is in doubt?
To me, a large part of electability means having the ability to gain momentum, be it through garnering swing voters, being the most charismatic, or simply making the fewest mistakes. Being the most electable doesn’t mean the people want them in office, being the most electable is just some vague notion that a candidate is our best chance at victory. I, for one, think “Super-Duper Tuesday” just might take a little bit of power away from the word electability, and that’s just fine with me.