Colorado Might Switch Back to Presidential Primary?

First there was talk about Colorado moving up the date of its caucuses to join a Super-Duper Tuesday on February 5, 2008.  Now, Karen Crummy of the Denver Post reports that Colorado might also switch back to a primary, rather than the less expensive caucus system adopted for the 2004 election.  Read on for more…
  Crummy further reports that Colorado could be among 21 states that hold their presidential primary elections or caucuses on February 5th, including:

Alabama
Arizona*
Arkansas
California*
Colorado*
Delaware
Florida
Georgia*
Idaho (Democratic)
Illinois*
Kansas*
Michigan*
Missouri
Nevada (Republican)*
New Jersey
New Mexico
North Carolina*
North Dakota (Republican)
Oklahoma
Tennessee*
Utah
*Not finalized

In thinking about Colorado making this change, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

1) Cost:  Crummy reports that the cost of the 2000 primary was $1.8 million.  The cost of holding caucuses is generally born by the party, rather than the state.

2) Delegates: Whether through a caucus or a primary, this is all about selecting the delegates to the Democratic and Republican national conventions.  The delegates have the official say as to who the nominee of each party is.  Of course, winning early has more to do with picking up momentum and news coverage, as opposed to taking a big initial delegate lead.

3) Party: Democrats do not have a winner take all system for each state, whereas Republicans do.  The MSM likes to report the winner of a caucus or primary for each state, which is appropriate for Republican contests.  For Democrats, though, a candidate who comes in third with 25% of the vote will still get about 25% of the delegates from that state, even though they won’t get the news coverage or the glory of having “won” the state.

4) Volunteers:  In Colorado, the parties rely heavily on the party caucuses to fill precinct committee slots and recruit volunteers.  Selecting the delegates for president is a powerful draw for party activists to show up for the caucuses.  If Colorado selects delegates through a primary instead, then the caucuses will still happen, but the turnout will likely drop considerably.

5) The Schedule: 

First up for the Democrats will be the Iowa Caucuses, followed by the Nevada Caucuses, then the New Hampshire Primary, and finally the South Carolina Primary.  Democratic party rules do not allow any other state to hold a caucus or primary before Feb. 5 and still have their delegates to the national convention counted.

For the Republicans, the early schedule is somewhat less clear.  Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina would still be among the early state, but Florida is considering a move to the same date as New Hampshire, and Alabama might move to join South Carolina on Feb. 2.

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Mark Mehringer

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