With 'Super-Duper Tuesday,' Contrasting Views Emerge on Primary Season
With more than 20 states either staging their 2008 presidential primaries or caucuses on February 5 or seriously considering doing socreating a so-called "super-duper Tuesday" next yeartwo diametrically opposed schools of thought are emerging among the presidential frontrunners about how the new calendar affects the road to nomination.
One school holds that the earliest caucus and primary statesIowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and, for the Democrats at least, Nevadanow matter more than ever, since only three weeks separate the Iowa caucuses from the February 5 round of states, making it difficult for candidates to recover from weak finishes in those states. The theory also says that competing in so many states simultaneously on February 5 will be financially impossible, making early momentum essential.
But the other school says that the February 5 primaries greatly diminish the historic weight of the earliest caucuses and primaries, giving well-financed candidates the ability to compete in as many as a dozen or more states, even if they sustain losses in the earliest states.
Many campaign aides say that because the prospect of so many primaries happening so early is a new development, they are only beginning to grapple with how to adjust traditional campaign tactics. The primary nominating contest "used to be a game of checkers relying on early state momentum," says Kevin Madden, spokesman for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. "Now we have a game of three-dimensional chess, with so many dynamics at play and still a lot of unknowns."
Five states have already moved up existing primaries or caucuses or introduced new primaries or caucuses on February 5 or earlierjoining four states that held their primaries hard on the heels of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina in the last cycle. Another 17 states are seriously considering similar moves. "In 2000, there were nine states that voted by the end of February, and in 2004 that number jumped to 19," says Kay Stimson, spokeswoman for the National Association of Secretaries of State, which has been critical of the increasingly frontloaded primary. "By next year, it might be as high as 30 or more states."
Some of the presidential campaigns have already begun conforming their strategies to one of the two divergent theories of how the new nominating calendar changes the 2008 nomination battle.
Perhaps no frontrunner on either party's ticket sees as much advantage in the blizzard of February 5 states as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose liberal views on social issues may cause him trouble in early states like Iowa and South Carolina. The Giuliani team believes it can sustain a handful of losses in the early primary and caucus states and still win the nomination by finishing strong in the February 5 states. Such states include liberal California and will likely grow to include New York and New Jersey, which represent Giuliani's geographical power base.
The campaign of Arizona Sen. John McCain, by contrast, believes the frontloaded 2008 calendar makes the early states more important than ever before. "If you're not winning any of the early primary states, is your message going to be that even though we lost the first three primary states, we are still viable?" says a McCain aide. "It will be a difficult argument to make because you have so little time between then and February 5."
The Romney campaign believes it needs some strong early finishes to be seen as viable but has also identified its best opportunities in states that have moved up or are considering moving up their primaries and is hiring staff and building grassroots networks there. Those states include Alabama, California, Florida, Michigan, and Nevada.
On the Democratic ticket, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's fundraising juggernaut is positioning her to compete in many of the February 5 states, while her competitors may find it more difficult to raise enough money to do so. The campaign of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is already pledging to focus all but exclusively on the first four primary and caucus states: Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. "I subscribe to the theory that any candidate that wins three or four of the initial states will have such a tailwind that it will be difficult if not impossible to stop that candidate," says Fred Baron, finance director the Edwards campaign.
The campaign of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, meanwhile, says the new calendar has not been a major consideration so far. "We're not obsessing over February 5," says an Obama aide. "But we're monitoring the situation."