**Note: This continues a discussion begun yesterday and continued in the comments section today. For a refresher or for the starting point follow this link.
I think discussions like the one here and the ones we've had in this space over the last weeks and months are constructive. For better or worse though, I'm one of those devil's advocate types. So I'm not trying to tear down any reform ideas so much as point out the obstacles those reforms may face.
Having said that, let's look at what everyone has brought to the fore this morning -- some interesting concepts, by the way.
Let's look first at the financial situation. The national party funding regimes that both Allen and Russ describe have one drawback that I can see: the discrepancy between the money either parties have on hand at any given moment. The DNC during this cycle -- and typically during most cycles -- has far less cash on hand than the RNC. That has implications for the effectiveness with which each party is able to implement a similar system.
This check-off system that Scott envisions is one way to get around that issue though. But again, we're talking about the difference between the national government and the national parties dealing with this.
Rob mentions the candidates "caving" and seating delegates anyway. I don't know that caving is the appropriate word to describe what is happening there. But it isn't any less of a problem. The act of (re)seating those delegates is a nod to the idea that unnecessarily preventing those delegates from participating -- especially when they are not consequential to the outcome of the nomination -- is just manufacturing divisiveness in the party. No one seeking the highest office in the land wants any divisiveness during the unfiltered PR blitz that is a convention.
But this gets at the dual nature of the delegate system. Delegates offer diminishing returns over the course of an election year. They are consequential to the point that the nomination is decided, but after that point, they really aren't of any consequence. Then penalty, then, if it is to include delegates, has to in some way wedge itself into that early period. But the penalties in 2008 (and 2012, it looks like) did that, but the penalty loses its bite if the nominee decides to seat those delegates. Yeah, back to that vicious cycle.
We really need to check into whether Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Wyoming will have half delegations in St. Paul this week, or whether McCain has opted to waive that penalty.
Let me raise one more issue that has yet to be brought up in any of our discussions. This was a factor that I found in my masters thesis and subsequent conference paper really affected a state's ability to frontload its primary. It has implications in our discussion here as well. Some states, California, Texas and Maryland, to name a few, have laws on the books that require primaries for president and primaries for state and local offices to be held simultaneously. Changing those laws and splitting those contests up cost money. Yes, that's not that big a deal if the national party or the federal government is picking up the tab, but it does raise another potential complication. What id the GOP wants the Maryland primary to go in May while the Democrats would rather hold the Maryland primary in March. First, that would deprive Maryland of the option of holding its state and local primaries at the same time as the presidential primary. Secondly, this is creating another election that Maryland wouldn't have to pay for but would have to administer. That puts a strain on state and local boards of elections to deal with that, adding some potential messiness to the process.
Now, I'll concede that Maryland could opt to hold the Republican primaries with the Republican presidential primary and likewise with the Democrats. That gives a jump start to one party's congressional candidate, for example, at the expense of the other party's. And if the advantaged candidate is an incumbent, that increases an already significant advantage they hold. Well, just hold the state and local primaries together at a time different from the presidential primaries; it won't cost any extra if the national party or national government is paying for the presidential election.
This looks like a minor problem from the national perspective, but at the state level could serve as a point of contention. The people making the decisions on this are the members of the state legislature, and their electoral fortunes are tied to the decision to some degree. Holding the contests -- presidential primaries and state and local primaries -- simultaneously increases turnout. Now, it is certainly debatable whether these guys want high turnout or not, but debated it would be.
Note: I'm going to try and get this revised Barr/Nader post up later today. Also, I've added a question to that, that I'd like some feedback on. If you have a chance, check in later and weigh in. Tangentially, it will have implications for the electoral college projections.
If Taking Away Delegates Won't Stop Frontloading, What Will?
Who's McCain Going to Pick? Why, Sarah Palin, of course.
Obama is the J.K. Rowling of Politics?