Did the Calendar Doom Clinton?

Who can Hillary Clinton blame for her defeat? Michael McDonald of the Brookings Institution says that it's those pesky state legislators and state party officials ...
by | June 6, 2008

Who can Hillary Clinton blame for her defeat? Michael McDonald of the Brookings Institution says that it's those pesky state legislators and state party officials who came up with the primary schedule:

If states had not moved up or "frontloaded" the date of their primaries and caucuses, under the misimpression that doing so would give them a greater voice in the 2008 nomination, Clinton might be the Democratic nominee.

She would have received more delegates from Florida and Michigan, two states that she would have likely won if all Democratic candidates had vigorously campaigned, but was denied a full slate because these states violated party rules by holding their elections too early. Counting these contests was important for her delegate count and to her argument that she had won more popular votes than Obama.

If states had not frontloaded their primaries and caucuses, she would have recovered from her early stumbles before it was too late. She would have minimized damage from her disastrous February, when Obama racked up an impressive string of victories even in Virginia, where she might have done better given her later strength.

(Hat tip: Election Law Blog)

I don't completely buy this argument. Obama might have won Michigan if his name had appeared on the ballot and he'd been able to campaign. More broadly, the Democratic nomination campaign was, to a significant, impervious to momentum.

Still, the point that McDonald is making -- that the nominating schedule matters (and not just to whether the candidates talk about ethanol or Yucca Mountain) -- is a good one. Would John McCain be where is today if South Carolina and New Hampshire had switched places in the calendar? 

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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