Nevada under scrutiny

Since Nevada was recommended for the slot as the second state to hold Democratic presidential caucuses—right after the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses and ahead of the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary—editorial writers and political columnists have been chewing over that recommendation.

Manchester Union Leader (New Hampshire): “New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson wowed the crowds in New Hampshire last week by pledging his undying devotion to our first-in-the-nation primary. ‘I believe New Hampshire has had a special place in Presidential politics,’ he said. Evidently it is not special enough for him to forgo campaigning in Nevada, which soon will have its 2008 Democratic caucus moved to the week before the New Hampshire primary. Richardson did what most candidates do when they come here. He praised the primary and said how great and important New Hampshire’s tradition is. That’s awfully sweet of him. What he failed to do was pledge to campaign in New Hampshire instead of Nevada. … Gov. John Lynch and state Democratic Party Chairman Kathy Sullivan have refused to ask candidates to pledge loyalty to New Hampshire. They said the timing wasn’t right. Well, the nominating calendar is about to be completed. If now is not the time to ask for a pledge, when is?”

Robertson County Times (Tennessee): “While the changed calendar would make early primary events more representative, having four events so early in the year would front-load the system and lock in a nominee earlier than ever. Only candidates who start with tons of money and name recognition would have any chance. There is a far better way, if only party officials would take it. The National Association of Secretaries of State has been pushing for a system that divides the nation into four geographic quadrants and holds regional primaries in March, April, May and June. As a matter of fairness, the regions would rotate order each election. Nevada and South Carolina may be more representative than Iowa and New Hampshire, but an entire quadrant would be most representative of all. But the quadrant system can’t be adopted until politicos muster the nerve to push Iowa and New Hampshire out of the spotlight. When will that happen? Without great pressure from the public, never.”

Scripps Howard political writer Lisa Mascaro: “It drives them nuts—the prospect that strippers and gamblers, coffee shop waiters and blackjack dealers could play a central role in choosing the next Democratic nominee for president. Ever since the Democratic Party announced plans to give Nevada a slot early on the 2008 presidential primary calendar, Iowa and New Hampshire have had hardly anything nice to say about the Silver State. They bash Nevadans as civic slackers—people who care more about slot machines than voting machines. They complain that the state has no abiding tradition of political involvement or activism, and is unlikely to develop any by 2008.”