Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Florigan question

It seems increasingly clear that Florida and Michigan are headed for a rerun. The main questions are: what type of election should be held, and who will pay?

On the first matter: Clinton will resist caucuses, which she regularly loses. Sentiment in Florida seems to be coalescing around a mail-only ballot (doubtless preferable anyhow for Florida’s gray-haired throngs). It will also cost far less—estimates are running around $4 million, versus more than $20 million for a conventional primary. Michigan would be wise to consider a similar system.

As for who will pay: It won't be the states. Michigan's economy is hard up, and Florida is controlled by Republicans who will refuse to spend state money to fix the Democrats’ mess. Nor will private donors pay, because that would lead to charges of vote-buying.

The candidates could split the cost. However Clinton has obvious incentive to resist: she won both contests and has less money than Obama. The other potential funder is the Democratic National Committee. Thus far, the DNC is refusing to bail the states out, since Howard Dean wants to save his cash for the general election. However, the DNC may come around. As a speaker Polprint heard today observed, spending $4 million to keep Florida sweet is essentially a general-election expenditure.

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