You might say there have been two presidential primary campaigns in 2007. One is the race by candidates to win their partys nomination. The other is the battle by states to hold their primary elections before their rivals do.
State officials have been scrambling this year to leapfrog each other on the 2008 primary schedule. The intense struggle has resulted in a front-loading of elections that may prompt intense campaigning in some states during the holidays.
Behind all this commotion is the desire for relevance, prestige and money. Many states feel they have been relegated to the electoral backwater by the traditional starting-gun states of Iowa and New Hampshire, which enjoy status and a huge flow of campaign dollars. They believe the party nominees have been essentially chosen by the time the campaign reaches their turf and resent being treated as fly-over territory by major candidates.
Long-standing complaints about a lack of diversity in Iowa and New Hampshire prompted the Democratic Party to switch Nevadas caucus to mid-January. Party officials selected Nevada because of its growing Hispanic population and strong unions, and because its a Western state, the Democrats would like it in their column next November.
In some cases, political ties among state leaders and presidential candidates have influenced dates. In Illinois, for instance, the state has moved up its primary to help favorite son candidate U.S. Sen. Barack Obama in his quest for the Democratic nomination. Lawmakers advanced the states primary from mid-March to Feb. 5, when more than 20 states are holding elections.
At deadline, the date of New Hampshires primary was still unknown. The state, seeking to maintain its status as the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, was expected to move up the contest to early January. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has said that he wont set the date of his states primary until litigation over Michigans contest is resolved. Michigan had tentatively set its Democratic caucuses for Feb. 9, but the state is seeking to move that date up. Michigan received a boost last week when the state Supreme Court ruled that it could move the date to Jan. 15.
This year, both Democratic and Republican national officials have threatened to sanction states that hold their primaries too early. Democrats and the GOP have said at times that they would strip all or some convention delegates from Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Wyoming. Most political observers believe the parties are unlikely in the end to alienate voters from important states by refusing to seat delegates.
While the 2008 primary schedule is highly unsettled, the map on this page shows the most recent information on the contests. The graphic information comes courtesy of State line.org, an independent element of the Pew Research Center. (A chart comparing the 2008 and 2004 primary schedules appears on our Web site, modernhealthcare.com.)