It’s late October 2007 and we still do not know when the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa Caucuses will be held. Twenty states have been moving forward into early 2008 their primary election voting date. It is a game of election day calendar chess. The intent of the states is to provide more early election exposure in the 2008 Presidential election by being first or close to the first state to vote in the election. The Democratic party has been trying to control the states game of moving primary dates by threatening not to seat a state’s delegates at the Democratic convention.

However, nobody really takes that threat seriously at the moment. So we have the potential prospect of Iowa and New Hampshire moving their caucuses and primary into December 2007 to insure that their citizens vote first. The most likely compromise is that Iowa caucuses will be scheduled on January 3, 2007 with New Hampshire immediately following.

The uncertainty of the states’ primary voting schedule is playing havoc with the candidates campaign strategy and planning. The American public has disliked this primary voting process in public opinion polls for the last twenty years. Seven out of 10 have consistently said that it would be better to have one national primary day with all states holding their primaries at the same time. In this year’s poll, 72 percent say they want a national primary. Only 20 percent prefer the current system. Those results are exactly what voters said in polls conducted in 2000, 1996 and 1988. There are no significant differences between Republicans and Democrats.

The movement of states to an earlier primary voting calendar in 2008 could create the longest general election campaign in history. Over fifty percent of the convention delegates will be chosen by early February 2008. The primary election will probably be decided by early February. That would leave almost 10 months for the candidates (and any third-party entrant ) to battle for the Presidency before Election Day on Nov. 4, 2008. It would also mean more than two years on the campaign trail for most of the major candidates in their quest for the White House. In the Parliamentary system of the United Kingdom, elections can be declared and “go to country” in thirty days. To elect a President in the United States now takes nearly 30 months.

Then we have the campaign itself. Consider the problems with the television debates and fund raising process the candidates must endure to compete. Newt Gingrich outlines the problems with clarity in these recent remarks: “These aren’t debates. This is a cross between (TV Shows) ‘The Bachelor,’ ‘American Idol’, and ‘Who’s Smarter than a Fifth-Grader’. These (debates) are auditions. By definition, the psychology of an audition reduces the person auditioning and raises the status of a television moderator like Chris Matthews. Missing from the debate are substance and solutions. The 34 pages of rules that dictated the 2004 presidential debates … have reduced the presidential debate process to 30-second sound bites and rehearsed, consultant-crafted talking points. What’s the job of the candidate in this world?. The job of the candidate is to raise the money to hire the consultants to do the focus groups to figure out the 30-second answers to be memorized by the candidate. This is stunningly dangerous.” Gingrich said presidential debates have become “almost unendurable.”

Candidate fund raising continues to be problematic as well. Norman Hsu was a major fundraiser for the Democratic Party. He also was a fugitive from justice for fifteen years for fraud and grand theft until his recent arrest. Most of the money Hsu raised for the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign was returned to donors. Many of the donors Hsu sponsored have never been located.

On 10/19/2007, the had another story of campaign finance problems with the Hillary Clinton campaign. The Times examined the cases of more than 150 donors who provided checks to Clinton after fundraising events geared to the Chinese community. One-third of those donors could not be found using property, telephone, or business records. Most have not registered to vote, according to public records.

Problems with fundraising practices have been prevalent in both parties in elections dating back for two decades. Recent campaign finance reform has not been effective in solving the issues. Future additional reform is needed throughout the whole process of election campaign financing.

Reform is needed in the primary election calendar where individual states are constantly moving their scheduled primary dates. The television debate rules are carefully crafted for candidate sound bites and photo opportunities. This comes at the expense of a real discussion of the issues of substance. Campaign contributors that cannot be found and a major political party fundraiser that is a legal fugitive indicate that more reform is needed in campaign financing.

It’s clear that the United States Presidential election process is broken and needs to be reformed in many areas. In the Presidential election of 2008, the road to the White House is in need of repair.

James William Smith has worked in Senior management positions for some of the largest Financial Services firms in the United States for the last twenty five years. He has also provided business consulting support for insurance organizations and start up businesses. He has always been interested in writing and listening to different viewpoints on interesting topics.

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