Well, Florida has gone and ruined the holidays. The Grinches in the Florida Legislature who moved their GOP primary up to January have stolen Christmas. That’s just the first item on the bill of indictment that is being drafted at the Vatican even as you read this. Expect papal arrests soon. Good-natured Iowans and New Hampshire residents have been charitable enough to spend their vacations and retirements in the Sunshine State. How about some reciprocity and fair play? Enough is enough when it comes to diluting their nomination influence.
Let’s be honest, despite the pious bent of many conservative Republicans, there must be a lot of secular humanists (the 25 percent of Florida GOP primary voters who never attend church) in the backroom running things because someone has trampled on the Advent season. Christmas caroling in Iowa and Hanukkah songs in New Hampshire will be disrupted by the constant ringing of the phone and doorbells as desperate campaigners try to line up their voters. To hell with the frontyard crèche. Put up a 4-by-8 campaign sign in the front yard to tell neighbors how to vote. If Wise Men from the East bother to show up again, they’ll be harassed this time around by Ron Paulistas and Tea Partiers out stalking illegal immigrants. Oh, the horror that Florida has wrought.
Getting serious in a secular way, frontloading the process has all sorts of horrible economic consequences. First, it robs some of the early states of an expected financial windfall that comes from months of campaigning and media coverage. This move by Florida’s legislators literally takes bread off the table of Iowa and New Hampshire business operators like hoteliers, restaurant owners, TV- and radio-station ad-sales staffers, billboard owners, etc. I might add that it does the same in Florida. Candidates are already campaigning and spending in Florida. The Legislature’s actions just cut that spending by 20 percent or so.
The problem, too, is that unless everyone moves up their primaries, there will be a hole in the calendar that will bedevil campaigners. Any momentum and excitement that the early contests create will be extinguished during the dead time left by Florida’s move. Campaigns will burn several weeks of budget just flailing to stay relevant and staffed for the days that follow. Even if a winner is found in Florida, he or she will have a longer general-election campaign to fund — not a good scenario against an incumbent with deep-pocketed supporters.
David Hill is a pollster who has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.