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Hoisted from Comments: Jim Gimpel

- January 12, 2008

In response to my earlier post, Jim Gimpel offers this take on the consequences of frontloading in 2008:

bq. There are very good reasons for why a highly compressed primary schedule may not winnow the candidates as quickly as everyone expected it to.

bq. It’s because winnowing requires momentum, and building momentum requires time, days and weeks to drag out, between contests. People need time to process information so as to vote in sophisticated, (e.g., voting for a second or third favorite candidate); vs. sincere ( e.g., voting for their first preference) fashion.

bq. What this new schedule has done is allowed each of the top 3-4 candidates to now focus on their own distinct pocket of electoral support: SC, FL, MI, NV, etc.

bq. So, for example, on the GOP side, Huckabee goes for SC, Giuliani hopes to take FL, Romney wants a win in Michigan, and so forth. Romney and Giuliani, in particular, are only a token presence in the other states.

bq. This development, oddly enough, could delay winnowing, not speed up the winnowing process like so many expected it to. That’s because without time for momentum to build, and sophisticated voting to kick-in, voters cast ballots according to their sincere (first) preferences, and each of the top 3 or 4 candidates each take a state, or two, and claim to be on their way to the nomination.

bq. So suppose Giuliani takes FL, Huckabee takes SC, Romney takes Mich, perhaps. McCain is still in. Still no frontrunner.

bq. Now tell me that ISN’T what is happening this year in the GOP? If so, it could be awhile before we see the nominee. Ironically, it might have been a faster route to the nomination under the former, non-compressed, system.

bq. Yes?

bq. Now let’s see how long it takes for political scientists to figure this out and actually start writing about it. No doubt it will take years, decades perhaps!

Let’s hope not! Thanks to Jim for these comments. Any thoughts in response?

[“Hoisted from Comments” brazenly stolen from Brad DeLong (example).]