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Archive for Saturday, April 7, 2007

S.D. poised to be last ‘08 primary

April 7, 2007

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— Like rival siblings fighting for the biggest piece of cake, states are elbowing past each other to grab the first spots on the 2008 presidential nominating calendar. Not South Dakota.

The home of Mount Rushmore is content even if it will be dead last with its presidential primary on June 3, 2008.

"The saying goes, 'You either want to be first - or last,' so we'd be one of those," said Max Wetz, executive director of the South Dakota Republican Party. "The worst-case scenario would be they (candidates) would ignore us like any other year."

The head of South Dakota's Democratic Party, Rich Hauffe, calls it a "nonstarter for us" with a mere three electoral votes to try to compete with vote-rich states such as California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas that are stampeding toward an early primary date of Feb. 5.

So far, eight states are confirmed voting for presidential candidates or having nominating caucuses on Feb. 5, 2008. In all, at least 23 states are angling for that date in what is becoming known as "Super-Duper Tuesday," far outpacing the 1984 "Super Tuesday" that involved 14 states. Coincidentally, Feb. 5 in 2008 also will be the final day of Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, adding a different dimension to the party atmosphere of the day.

In what is shaping up as the earliest start to a presidential election in history, as many as 29 states may weigh in with Democratic and Republican presidential picks between Jan. 14 - the Iowa caucuses - and Feb. 5. By comparison, nine states had weighed in by the first Tuesday in February 2004, sending President Bush and U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts on to their party's nominations.

While some of the proposed calendar changes could fall by the wayside, this will be remembered as the election when sibling states got fed up with all the attention paid to Iowa's early caucuses and New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

The first leak in the floodgates came last year when the Democratic National Committee agreed to squeeze a Nevada Democratic caucus between the Iowa and New Hampshire contests in 2008. The idea was to address complaints that the two states had disproportionate influence on the presidential field but failed to reflect the diversity of the rest of the country.

With its 55 electoral votes, the most in the country, California moved up its March 2 primary to Feb. 5 in a bid to give the country's most populated state more political clout. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the measure March 15. New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine just signed a bill leapfrogging New Jersey from its last-in-line primary to the newly popular Feb. 5.

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