BY SUSAN ESTRICH
So, at least on the Democratic side [and since much of this is state law, the two systems have more in common than they should], we created something called “the window,” which tried to confine the selection process to the election year and [with some reluctance] enshrined the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary as the first in the year, with the rest of the states following suit until the first week of June.
The idea was that the nomination process should give unknown, insurgent candidates a chance to build momentum, unlike a national primary in practice, since primaries and caucuses [especially caucuses] tend to be dominated by activists/ideologues. The democratic – small “d” – system ended up favoring candidates who ran the risk of being too liberal or too conservative for the electorate. Also, late states rarely mattered: The game was usually over by then. So there was another answer with unintended consequences: the Democratic Leadership Council [we called it the “White Boys Caucus”] convinced a bunch of Southern states to move up to the first available post-Tuesday date [which became “Super Tuesday”] to give moderates a bigger voice in the process. The first big winner of Super Tuesday: the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Primaries and caucuses in Southern States tend to be dominated by African-Americans.
But as things have worked out, the “voting,” such as it is, will begin long before the cold Monday almost a year from now when the buses roll in Iowa.
The pundits have voted.
So have the bundlers.
The winner is California Sen. Kamala Harris.
And their votes matter more than yours.
The pundits are grading on at least two factors. One, of course, is who had the best opening. Even the president gave that to Harris – after all, she had the biggest crowd. But she had more than that: She had the best message. She is not Hillary 2.0; that would be closer to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who announced that her campaign will be centered on gender. Harris is a woman of color, but she didn’t say her campaign would be based on that. Crime is her big issue, and it’s a great one for a Democrat.
And, as I’m sure Sen. Gillibrand knows, crime is a woman’s issue.
“Bundling” used to be a dirty word. Actually, for a while, it was considered a violation of the campaign finance laws. Lew Wasserman, the legendary King of Hollywood, used to take pride in having huge fundraisers to which no people came. The candidate came and picked up a “bundle” of checks. They used to be listed alphabetically by employer. How do you stop it? Bundlers are people who not only have money but also know how to put it together. Another word is “ambassador.” And the bundlers are all over the papers, talking up Kamala Harris.
In the first two primaries – the pundits and the bundlers – she is two for two. Bernie who?
In California, people are mostly pretty excited. It was never going to be Eric Garcetti, much as the mayor of Los Angeles danced. The whispering is quiet: Is she ready? Does she have the gravitas? Campaigns are long and grueling. Most candidates develop gravitas. Or they don’t.
My money is on Sen. Harris. It’s the most hopeful I’ve felt in months.
– Susan Estrich’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer