Over the weekend six of the eight candidates for the 2008 Democratic nomination reaffirmed their support for the DNC approved four state early voting schedule. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd have all promised to skip states that hold primaries or caucuses early than February 5, 2008 without the approval of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The four states that the DNC approved for early primaries/caucuses were Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. The states of Florida and Michigan have each scheduled early primaries with out DNC approval. The state of Florida has threatened to sue the DNC if they are stripped of their 210 delegates as punishment for holding an early primary. 

The candidates who have been pushing the hardest for the original schedule to be honored are not surprisingly those with the least amount of money. Biden, Dodd, and Richardson were the first three candidates to pledge to honor the original schedule. “I believe that Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada offer a cross section of America and allow for voters to probe the experience and vision of candidates in a meaningful way,” said Dodd. “In this year, where the national media focus seems to be on celebrity and bank accounts, the role of these states is more important than ever. I am committed to the DNC nominating calendar and preserving the first in the nation status of Iowa and New Hampshire.”

Bill Richardson said bluntly, “This process is completely out of control and only an agreement by the candidates can restore sanity. I hope no candidate tries to manipulate this situation for his or her own purposes. The DNC rules were established for a purpose – to allow retail campaigning in a few early states and choose those states based on geographic and demographic diversity. Each candidate for President should do whatever possible to preserve the established rules. Anarchy in the nominating process does nothing to further the cause of changing America.”

John Edwards, whose fundraising is lagging far behind Clinton and Obama, also supports the current schedule. “This election, more than any other, is about real change and choosing the candidate who is going to fight for that change,” said Edwards. “Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina need to be first because in these states ideas count, not just money. These are places where voters get to look the candidate in the eye and measure their policies, ideas, and integrity. That’s why I am signing this pledge. This tried-and-true nominating system is the only way for voters to judge the field based on the quality of the candidate, not the depth of their war chest.”

Clinton and Obama have little to gain by supporting the current schedule, but if they supported Florida and Michigan, they would have risked alienating activists in the four scheduled early voting states. The Obama campaign asked the states have stepped out of line to comply with DNC rules. “To become the Democratic nominee for president, a candidate must secure a majority of delegates to the national convention,” said Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. “Because states that violate DNC rules will not be allowed to contribute to the delegate tally, we urge all states to ensure their compliance with DNC rules so they can participate in our Democratic nominating process. Our campaign will work within the rules established by the DNC to earn the support of Democrats across America and run a grassroots campaign to unite Americans around Senator Obama’s commitment to challenging the conventional thinking in Washington.”

Once Obama was on board, Clinton had to support the current schedule. “We believe Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina play a unique and special role in the nominating process,” Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle said. “And we believe the DNC’s rules and its calendar provide the necessary structure to respect and honor that role.” If the candidates stick to their promise, and stay out of Florida and Michigan, then their attempts to grab the national spotlight will be meaningless. Something had to be done because state leapfrogging had gotten way out of control. It was starting to look like the Iowa caucuses were going to be held in December.

Howard Dean and the DNC were completely powerless, and unable to stop the states who wanted to break the rules, so the candidates had to step in. My guess is that if the candidates stand firm, states like Florida and Michigan will change their plans. No one wants their primary to be rendered meaningless, but this is the prospect that these two states face if the candidates stay away. I think the frontloaded primary system has been a disaster, and the DNC would wise to go back to a longer primary season for 2012 and beyond. The current system rewards name recognition and fundraising over ideas and campaigning, and I think that it must be changed.

Dodd statement

Richardson statement

Edwards statement

Obama statement

Clinton campaign quote

Jason Easley is the editor of the Politics zone at www.411mania.com/politics His column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays

Jason can also be heard on The Political Universe Radio Show at www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse  every Sunday at 11:00 am ET.

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