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May 26th, 2010

A New Presidential Primary System

By James Johnson

The presidential nominating process of both major political parties has become stale, predictable, and ill-suited for the times.

Democrats will not change their primary system, because parties with absolute power seldom see things as broken. But Republicans have an opportunity to add 30 million new members to their ranks over the next two presidential election cycles.

Today, Americans are discontent with government, distrustful of career politicians, and dissatisfied with the political establishment. Polls show it, and primary elections prove it.

Washington is losing. And so is the DNC and RNC. Anything perceived as “shutting out the little guy” is losing its hold on the American nation.

Citizens who were previously unengaged are now eager to get involved in elections. And if the Republican National Committee is smart, it will scrap its 20th century model and move to a 21st century one.

I would propose a bold plan for a five-month, 50-state primary system, which would make every state relevant to the process, and every Republican own the franchise.

Right now, the GOP nominee spends four weeks each presidential election year running at breakneck speed, only to spend the next nine months losing the attention of the American people and giving gotcha journalists an interminable amount of time to make even Gabriel look like Lucifer.

The plan that the RNC should adopt would place Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina in February, then place the remaining 47 states and territories in the following four months according to size, going from smallest to largest in population.

Candidates would not be able to cherry pick, because ignoring states would mean a voter backlash within those states. Also, it would give a candidate who had not been able to raise $100 million by February a fighting chance to pick up victories, gain momentum, and create a people’s movement.

In this model, anticipation would build, the GOP would dominate the news for four months, and Democrats would be virtually forgotten. People would register as Republicans just to be a part of an exciting, building, national event, with the eventual winner not emerging until the June primary.

Also, this model would give a Senate Effect on smaller states, preserving their right to participate in the selection process, and a House Effect on the larger states, reserving for them greater sway in the final month. Thus, dignity is preserved for the smaller states, and glory for the larger states.

The Johnson Plan would look like this:

FEBRUARY (1st, 2nd, 3rd Tuesdays): Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina.

MARCH (3rd Tuesday) — Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Maine, Idaho, Nebraska.

APRIL (3rd Tuesday) — West Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Kansas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Oregon, Kentucky, Louisiana.

MAY (3rd Tuesday) — Alabama, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, Indiana, Massachusetts, Arizona, Washington, Virginia.

JUNE (3rd Tuesday) — New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida, New York, Texas, California.

In this present Civic Awakening, the Republican National Committee must look beyond the 2010 midterm elections and see the generational prize. There is more at stake today than the control of Congress. There is the opportunity to welcome tens of millions of citizens to a Political House that they can actually own.

About the Author

James M. Johnson
James M. Johnson is the president of the Iowa Republican Assembly, which works to get constitutionally minded conservatives elected to leadership positions in the Republican Party, and to elective office on the local, state, and federal level. He has worked on over 50 political campaigns and holds an M.A. in public policy with a concentration in political communication.

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