Dick Morris on the importance of the front-runner
The nominees for the 2008 presidential race will be selected in 2007. The tempo of the new political process, driven by 24-hour cable news, Internet bloggers, conservative talk radio, and liberal NPR is so rapid that the nomination race cannot exist in stasis waiting for Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina to get around to holding their votes in early 2008. Well before they open their caucuses or polling places, this nomination, in each party, will have been decided by the national media coverage during 2007.
What is the role for the early, small caucus/primary states in 2007? They will not have held their primaries or caucuses yet, but the state-by-state polls published regularly in 2007 become the equivalent of virtual primaries in each of these states. But to win these polls, it doesn’t matter so much what happens within each small state but what is going on nationally.
The old model — a Jimmy Carter labors in obscurity in the Iowa vineyards and then is discovered nationally after he wins there and sweeps all remaining primaries — is quaint but obsolete. Now you have to win the American Media Primary of 2007 and then your victory is ratified in the primaries and caucuses of 2008.
The key for the candidates is to become the early front-runner and hold the position for the first three quarters of 2007. Once that is accomplished, the nomination is probably in the bag. No clear front-runner, except for Rockefeller in 1964, has ever failed to win the nomination since the primary process became pivotal in party nominations in 1960.
Among Democrats, Kennedy in ’60, Humphrey, once he entered the race, in ’68, McGovern in ’72, Carter in ’76 and ’80, Mondale in ’84, Dukakis in ’88, Clinton in ’92, Gore in ’00 and Kerry in ’04 were front-runners who held their leads. Mondale, Clinton, Gore, and Kerry were front-runners who were briefly shaken by challengers (Hart, Tsongas, Bradley and Dean) but held on to win their nominations
Among Republicans, Nixon in ’60 and ’68, Ford in ’76, Reagan in ’80, Bush in ’88, Dole in ’96, and Bush in ’00 were all front-runners going in and the nominee coming out. Only Goldwater can be said to have pulled off an upset in 1964 by toppling Rockefeller.