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Young Elephant
Monday, September 1, 2003
The Primary Process, Clark and the Density of Trolls

By Steven Taylor @ 1:33 pm

(Pet Trolls are useful for one thing: if one responds to them in one’s comment section, it often leads to post-worry text. Although the problem with such postings is, of course, like feeding a stray cat, it means said Troll likely sticks around… I guess it is the professor in me that makes it difficult to not want to correct poor thinking).

For anyone struggling (and I know at least one person who is) as to the way the primary process works, and why I say it is likely too late for Clark to have a legit shot at the nomination, here’s some elaboration. I think there are other reasons (e.g., money and the general lack of hard knowledge about him), but here are some systemic reasons why he will have hard time winning the Democratic nod. Although, like I said yesterday, I could see a Dean-Clark ticket emerging from all of this (certainly moreso than a Dean-Kerry ticket :).

Clearly all the relevant Democratic constituencies will coalesce around the eventual nominee. That isnt the issue. The issue is, especially given the highly compressed nature of the nomination process, that to get nominated one needs a clear constituency immediately. If one does not, garnering the nomination is difficult, because one will lose the early primaries.

For example, if Gephardt initially captures the labor vote, it isnt available to other candidates. Certainly once a nominee emerges, the labor vote will throw itself behind that person. However, that is how the primary process is different than the general election: in the primary, the parties break up into various groups which seek out their preferred candidate. The question I raised the other day was what was Clarks natural constituency amongst primary-voting Democrats, and my answer was: there isnt one, and if there is Dean has most of it (the angry at Bush crowd) and Lieberman has a lot of it (the moderate security-conscious crowd).

Since the lack of a natural constituency will make it difficult for Clark to win early, before the field is culled, he will have trouble winning over the long haul as well. If one loses the early primaries one loses precious media coverage, one loses contributions (people dont give money in large quantities to losers) and one loses voters (the downstream, so to speak, primary voters tend to be less inclined to vote for someone who won 3% of the vote early on than someone who won 30% or 40%).

Theres a reason why these candidates spend so much time in Iowa and New Hampshire, and, to a lesser degree, South Carolina. It certainly isnt because of their vast populations.

I challenge anyone to 1) demonstrate how the above has anything to do with my particular partisan leanings, and 2) demonstrate how it is empirically incorrect.

Ranting is not allowed, but research is. Grades will be issued at the end.

Filed under: US Politics

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  1. John McCain officially announced his bid for the presidency on September 28, 1999 in a crowded field. The Conventional Wisdom then was that McCain and Bush would battle for the “moderate” vote and the other candidates (Bauer, Hatch, Quayle) would compete for the “right-wing” vote.

    It ended up being a two-man vote between Bush and McCain - even though the CW had them fighting for the “same constituency” - with McCain eventually winning New Hampshire.

    Comment by pathos — Monday, September 1, 2003 @ 4:40 pm

  2. Bill Bradley announced on September 8, 1999.

    That means that the two main competitors to the eventual nominees were not yet candidates 4 years ago today.

    If 2/3 of Democrats can’t name a single candidate, I don’t think what late entrants have to lose except the chance to burn out early.

    Comment by pathos — Monday, September 1, 2003 @ 4:51 pm

  3. The rather major difference is that this go ’round the process started months earlier. And while voters are not fully tuned in, donors and the bigwigs at key interest groups have been.

    Haven’t you noticed the IG tour the Nine have been on for months now?

    More later…

    Comment by Steven — Monday, September 1, 2003 @ 6:36 pm

  4. The process certainly started earlier, but I don’t see that necessarily changing the outcome - or even hurting a late comer. The “process” has primarily consisted of a bunch of cattle calls where the candidates stand in front of a required special interest group and spout the party line: Tell the pro-choice people you’re pro-choice; tell the minorities you’re pro-minority; tell the labor people you’re pro-labor; tell the anti-war people you’re anti-war. Nobody actually picks up votes there - they just lose them if they skip the event (Lieberman at the NAACP) or say the wrong thing (say, supporting the war).

    I don’t believe too many important groups have made endorsements, yet. (Gephardt may be the “union candidate", but he doesn’t have an official AFL-CIO endorsement).

    And when you’re discussing “constituencies", don’t forget the most important one of all - the “electable” constituency who says, “I want whoever can beat Bush: I may like Dean/Kerry/whomever more, but I think Clark has the best chance of beating Bush.” Clark brings instant foreign policy street cred, which is more than anyone else does, and has the added advantage of not actually having to take a position on the war as a candidate.

    With no one over 25% or so, and 2/3 undecided, there’s enough time to prove you’re more Dean than Edwards and start the money rolling in.

    By October 15, there will be three candidates in double digits in the early primary states: Dean, Kerry, and Clark.

    BTW, I’m a registered Democrat, but not a Clark supporter, and have never had a candidate I voted for in a primary get the nomination. (Bradley, Tsongas, Gephardt v.1988 . . ., the list goes on)

    Edwards 2004!

    Comment by pathos — Monday, September 1, 2003 @ 7:49 pm

  5. Pathos easily beat me to the punch. When I read Steven’s challenge, I immediately thought of McCain and Dubya.

    Where was Dubya’s “natural constituency?”

    After all, McCain was a war hero, anti-abortion, a fiscal conservative, and all the things required to worship at the altar of Ronald Reagan-with the possible exception of campaign finance reform.

    Dubya’s “natural constituency” appears to have been his winning of the sperm lottery.

    Nope, despite all Steven’s flailing-this is about Clark presenting a threat to Steven’s president.

    Steven, like Rush Limbaugh, prefers bumpersticker analyses to what are significant issues and problems. As an example: Steven claims Dean’s constituency is “people who are mad at Bush.”

    Wow. This is the kind of analysis that makes you wonder if Texas A&M hands out Poli Sci doctorates along with big foam “We’re No. 1″ fingers on the way into football games at Kyle Field.

    *All* of the candidates running for President are “mad at Bush” with the possible exception of Lieberman.

    Comment by JadeGold — Tuesday, September 2, 2003 @ 11:32 am

  6. Well, Bush entered into the race with a substantial amount of the Republican establishment, was a highly successful fundraiser, and appealed the conservative wing of the party. Being gov of a large state and the son of a former president certainly helped.

    And McCain was considered a moderate. His pro-choice bona fides were suspect, and he was clearly not aligned with the evangelical wing of the party.

    I would recommend some remedial reading on the 2000 campaign.

    Again, the comparison was specifically with Clark in the context of the current race.

    And again, the response has to be: you really aren’t answering the question.

    I would also recommend looking up ad hominem argument.

    Really, I should be sending you a bill for all the free tutoring

    Comment by Steven — Tuesday, September 2, 2003 @ 12:53 pm

  7. Wrong again, Steven. McCain had no “pro-choice bona fides.”

    On the issue of abortion, McCain was far to the right of Bush and may have been as extreme as Bauer is or as Forbes became.

    While McCain wasn’t aligned with the loony Christian right-typlified by pandering to Bob Jones-he wasn’t a moderate by any means.

    Comment by JadeGold — Tuesday, September 2, 2003 @ 5:01 pm

  8. I meant to type “pro-life” bona fides. My fault.

    However, you get an “F” on this response. McCain was considered the moderate in the 2000 race, and further, was not considered the more pro-life candidate. Yes, his voting record is pro-life, but for a variety of reasons, from some of his statements just prior to the campaign and some of his advisors, many pro-life groups and pro-life voters to questioned McCain’s dedication to the pro-life position. For example, check out this link from the National Right To Life Committee, entitled “How John McCain Threatens the Pro-Life Cause”.

    You really need to come prepared for class.

    Comment by Steven — Tuesday, September 2, 2003 @ 5:26 pm

  9. During the 2000 campaign McCain was viewed as center to left by the press and the GOP, note his performance with Gov. Ventura in Minn. Also one of the “attractive” parts of the Straight Talk Express was the appeal to independent voters. McCain ran to the left of Bush, while that helped early in the northeast it killed him in the south.

    Second McCain had been view, before the race, as a liberal because of McCain/Finegold. No discussion of where the candidates started on the political spectrum can be complete without an extensive discussion of campaign finance.

    As for the other candidates;
    Gore started campaigning just after January 1997, so to state that he was not in the race by Sept.
    1999 is disingenuous at best.
    Bradley had been endorsed by Sen John Kerry on July 4, 1999 and had articles in the NY Times and Salon as a challenger to Al Gore in April of 1999. There was even an article on Bradley in the NY Times titled A cautious entry into an uphill race against Gore dated December 5 1998.

    So clearly the 2 main Democrat challengers had been running long before September 1999.

    Comment by Robert — Tuesday, September 2, 2003 @ 8:13 pm

  10. Robert-good points all.

    Comment by Steven — Tuesday, September 2, 2003 @ 8:32 pm

  11. Wesley Clark is the most electable of the candidates in the Dem perception. They want to nominate the most electable candidate. Therefore, Clark wins.
    This is not rocket science.

    Comment by sym — Wednesday, September 3, 2003 @ 4:27 am

  12. Wesley Clark is the most electable of the candidates in the Dem perception. They want to nominate the most electable candidate. Therefore, Clark wins.
    This is not rocket science.

    Comment by sym — Wednesday, September 3, 2003 @ 4:27 am

  13. First, at this point we really don’t know enough about Clark to say he is the most electable or not.

    Second,the primary process doesn’t always produce the most electable candidate.

    Third, there will be disagreement amongst Democratic voters as to whom it is they think is most electable.

    Fourth, partisans don’t always support the most electable candidate, even if they know he/she is the most electable. Evidence? The Republicans in CA who are splitting up their support in the CA recall.

    This may not be rocket science, but it is more complicated than making simple declarative sentences.

    Comment by Steven — Wednesday, September 3, 2003 @ 6:28 am

  14. In Steven’s defense, we all can’t be Asst. Profs of Poli Sci at Troy State. That’s for the elite of academia. It takes years of rigorous study and research to come to the conclusion the economy just *happens*.


    Rocket science involves authoritatively declaring: “If it was that easy to make the economy grow, won’t all presidents make sure that the economy grew?”

    Comment by JadeGold — Wednesday, September 3, 2003 @ 5:42 pm

  15. You’re repeating yourself.

    zero points.

    Comment by Steven — Wednesday, September 3, 2003 @ 9:14 pm

  16. Steven - your points are well taken, but the classroom/teacher/grading analogy is just a bit grating.

    Comment by Jason — Thursday, September 18, 2003 @ 1:02 pm

  17. Jason,

    As you may note, that particu;ar rhetorical device was really targetted at a particualr individual.


    Comment by Steven — Thursday, September 18, 2003 @ 3:54 pm

  18. Comment by Deleter Spy — Monday, July 12, 2004 @ 2:54 am

  19. Comment by Anonymous — Tuesday, August 10, 2004 @ 3:01 pm

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