U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today testified before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration that his bipartisan legislation establishing a rotating schedule of regional primaries and caucuses would bring much-needed reform to the broken, front-loaded presidential nominating process.
Alexander, a member of the committee, likened the current “broken system” of picking nominees to a professional football season without the five months of 16 games that determine the Super Bowl champion, stating if “professional football were presidential politics, SportsCenter would pick the Super Bowl teams after three or four preseason games.”
“The presidential nominating process uses the equivalent of two preseason games in Iowa and New Hampshire to narrow the contest to two or three – and sometimes pick the winner,” Alexander said. “At least 20 states will choose delegates in a one-day traffic jam on February 5 next year. Our legislation requires states to spread out the primaries and caucuses into a series of regional contests over four months.”
Alexander said the Regional Presidential Primary and Caucus Act of 2007, introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Alexander, and Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) would de-compress the primary schedule to allow candidates more time to focus their efforts and to give voters in all states the opportunity to have a meaningful voice in the selection of party nominees.
“The dream that ‘any boy or girl can grow up to be President’ should be the most important symbol of our country’s natural optimism,” Alexander said. “Yet every four years the presidential nominating process does well to attract five or six credible candidates for the biggest job in the world – all but two or three of whom are eliminated after two contests.”
The Regional Presidential Primary and Caucus Act of 2007 (S. 1905) would create a region-by-region primary system where, on a rotating basis, states in the West, Midwest, South, and East take turns hosting the first batch of primaries and caucuses. Beginning in 2012, primaries and caucuses would start on the first Tuesday in March, continuing on the first Tuesday in April, May, and June until each region has chosen candidates for the party conventions. The next presidential election year, a different region would have a chance to go first — rotating through each region every 16 years.
Alexander said that, out of respect for their historic role in the nomination process, Iowa and New Hampshire would not participate in the regional rotation and would remain the first caucus and primary in the nation.
Cosponsors of S. 1905 include Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).
Alexander also said today at the hearing that he would offer an amendment to the legislation to allow presidential candidates start-up funds to raise $20 million in individual contribution amounts of up to $10,000. Alexander said the current limit of $2,300 makes it too difficult for many worthy but unknown candidates to raise enough early money to mount a serious campaign.
“Together, these two reforms – spreading out the primaries and allowing a “start-up” fund for candidates – will increase the pool of good candidates willing to run for the White House and give more Americans the opportunity to hear their ideas and to cast a meaningful vote,” Alexander said.