Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Killing off the Conventional Political Wisdom That Primaries are Always Bad

Every primary I hear representatives of political parties talking about how bad primaries are for a candidates' chances in the general election. It's gospel from the political handbook.

And it's flat out wrong.

Look at Indiana's U.S. Senate race. Dan Coats had a highly contested, difficult primary. Brad Ellsworth, due to I have no doubt purposeful timing of Evan Bayh, was able to avoid the Democratic primary all together. So of course, Ellsworth is beating Coats, right? Nope. Coats is winning easily.

Ellsworth has struggled the entire election from low name ID, a problem that would have been addressed in a primary. In addition to name ID, primaries sharpen the message of the candidates and give them a practice run leading into the primary. Going into a general election without a primary is like skipping pre-season and going straight to the championship game.

I remember in 2008, Indiana Republicans laughing at Democrats as Barack Obama had a highly contested primary here against Hillary Clinton. Republicans were confident they D's were doing themselves in by not settling on a candidate. Instead of being a negative, the Democratic presidential primary energized Democratic voters and brought into the fold tens of thousands of younger voters whose first ballot will forever be a Democratic one. Now Republicans are faced with changing the Democratic habits of those voters, not an easy task.

Yep, the conventional wisdom that primaries are always bad needs to be laid to rest.


Unigov said...

Since I don't belong to a party, I don't care whether there's a primary or not.

What I object to is the state government footing the bill for the primary vote. The state has no interest in this.

The only reason school board elections are in May is to provide cover for the state to waste money on primaries.

I may be wound up about this !

Cato said...

Primaries are horrible. They force taxpayers to pay for the elections of private clubs.

Primaries ought be private matters, and party names ought appear nowhere on any ballot.

Candidates of parties ought have no special access to ballot placement over any old Joe that tosses his name in the ring.

I just read Unigov's post. Amen.

Melyssa said...

Paul...flat out you are the best analyst of our local political process and what the 'populist' is thinking and how they will react.

Don't you think it is about time you put up a paypal link on your site like Gary does so that those of us who 'subscribe' to your blog can contribute the money to you since we don't buy the paper anymore?

Just sayin' I would contribute if there was Paypal link, just like I do to Gary's blog.

You are better than the paper, WIBC, and WXNT combined.

In my book you are up there with Russ McQuaid (who is getting paid).