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Democrats Meet in New Orleans - Playing Politics with Location

Saturday, 22 April 2006 12:00 AM

Two years ago, Republicans came roaring into New York City for their national convention in a frank effort to remind people of 9-11 and underscore the party's advantage on the issue of terrorism. It worked: After four days in which Ground Zero was mentioned repeatedly, George Bush emerged from the convention with a commanding lead in the polls and a decided advantage on the issue of terrorism.

Now, however, the Republicans are crying foul over the Democratic National Committee's decision to hold its spring meeting in ... New Orleans.

Democrats are combining rebuilding activities - literally going out with hard hats and shovels - with party business. The purpose is clear. Taking a page from the GOP's book two years ago, they are using location to play politics - this time, negative politics. The goal is to underscore one of the Republicans' greatest perceived failures: the Hurricane Katrina problem.

One of the reasons George Bush's approval rating is at historic lows is because his administration is perceived to have failed at preventing the disaster, dealing with it at the time and rebuilding in the months since.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Republicans will be lucky if all the Democrats hold in New Orleans is a spring DNC meeting -- there are many who are pushing for the city to be the site of the 2008 convention, even though Bush won't be running then and, hopefully, the city will be in better shape.

The decisions made in the business portion of the New Orleans meeting may, however, determine who will be nominated in 2008, wherever that convention is held. The most important business going on at this meeting is the consideration of the schedule for the 2008 convention. The big issue at this meeting is which state or states will be allowed to move up caucuses to sometime between Iowa and New Hampshire.

Allowing one or more states to move up is a compromise between Iowa and New Hampshire, which have fiercely guarded their first-in-the-nation status - Iowa as the first caucus and New Hampshire as the first primary - and those who have criticized these small states for having too much influence and, frankly, being too white.

Far from reducing the influence of Iowa and New Hampshire, which is its purpose, moving one or more states to the week between the two will probably increase their clout. A candidate who wins Iowa, the in-between states and New Hampshire will have the nomination locked up before what is called the "window" - the official opening of the process - even opens up.

In the history of rules reform, the one thing that has held true is the rule of unintended consequences. Conservatives created Super Tuesday, moving most of the South to the same day, only to see Jesse Jackson as its prime beneficiary. Worse, in many subsequent rounds, the contest didn't even last that long.

In New Orleans this week, some 10 states are making presentations to the Rules Committee that they should be allowed to move up to the week between Iowa and New Hampshire. The gist of most of the presentations, from states ranging from Nevada and Arizona (emphasizing their Hispanic populations) to South Carolina (emphasizing its African American population) is that they are more "representative" than Iowa and New Hampshire. Representative means less white.

Of course, the problem Democrats have winning general elections is winning white voters. But Democrats have never quite decided whether the goal of the party should be to reward its loyalists or win necessary converts. The decision to go build in New Orleans is a positive step in the direction of persuading new voters. But the continuous fumbling with the rules, which is likely to produce exactly the opposite of the intended result, makes clear that Democrats are still Democrats when it comes to rules.

COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.

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Two years ago, Republicans came roaring into New York City for their national convention in a frank effort to remind people of 9-11 and underscore the party's advantage on the issue of terrorism. It worked: After four days in which Ground Zero was mentioned...
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2006-00-22
Saturday, 22 April 2006 12:00 AM
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