December 5th, 2009
04:15 PM ET
10 months ago

Democrats consider new presidential nominating process

Clyburn said the presidential nominating process needs to be 'improved'.
Clyburn said the presidential nominating process needs to be 'improved'.

Washington (CNN) - National Democrats are considering changing the presidential nominating process, by establishing a new primary calendar and deemphasizing the influence lawmakers and political insiders have on choosing the party nominee.

The battle for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination was marred by controversy as the Democratic National Committee argued with some state parties over when they could hold their primaries and caucuses and candidates were forced to take sides in this important internal party dispute.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, said that the 2008 nomination contest "yielded a great candidate," but readily acknowledged the problems that arose.

"We need to improve a little bit in spite of the fact that we got a great candidate out of the process," Clyburn said Saturday at a meeting of a DNC working group tasked with drafting a new plan. "It was not very comfortable at various points along the way."

Democrats see an opening to change the system now, because this is "a rare cycle of no apparent Democratic presidential nomination challenge" in 2012 as President Obama is expected to seek a second term, according to the "Draft Report of the Democratic Change Commission," discussed at the meeting.

Commission members, who range from lawmakers and grassroots activists to President Obama's campaign manager, are charged with putting forth recommendations to help expand the Democratic base and increase more ethnic and regional diversity in choosing the party's presidential nominee in 2016 and beyond, assuming Obama seeks a second term.

A commission suggestion would be to allow the first four states that held nominating contests in the January 2008 maintain their early, privileged calendar positions. But these states - Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina - would be directed to delay holding their caucuses and primaries before February 1. All other states would be forbidden from holding their nominating contests until at least the first Tuesday in March.

Another recommendation in the report suggested grouping states by "region or sub-region."


"This would not be a mandatory obligation upon the state parties," the commission stated. "The commission recommends that these clusters be staggered throughout the window to allow for a deliberative process that benefits all voters and caucus-goers through the country."

States parties that abided by the DNC's calendar would be rewarded by getting special perks at the national nominating convention.

The commission also discussed how to reduce the influence of unpledged delegates – lawmakers and party insiders also know as superdelegates – who played a big role in the 2008 nomination contest.

"Unpledged delegates constituted 19% of the total convention and the presidential candidates were compelled to spend a substantial amount of candidate time and other resources to seek the support of these automatic delegates," the commission stated. "We learned that in a closely contested presidential race, the nomination could be decided by this category of delegates."

No formal solution dealing with superdelegates was arrived at Saturday and the commission will draft a plan to reduce their numbers in the coming weeks.

"The DNC must address the perception that there are too many unpledged delegates and those delegates could potentially overturn the will of the people, as determined by the state contests," the commission stated.

The commission is expected to vote on its final recommendations before December 18. The recommendations will then be sent to the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee for further debate and discussion.

Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, said he had no problem with reducing the number of superdelegates as long as state party chairs and vice chairs maintained their status and party leaders continued to play a role at the conventions.

But Brewer took exception to the idea of allowing four states to be granted a special exemption to hold their primaries before other states.

"From the perspective of Michigan and other states, it is unfair that any state have a permanent place at the top of the process," said Brewer, who attended the meeting but is not a commission member. "It is unfair to give any states or state a monopoly."

The Republican National Committee is also looking at how its party chooses its presidential nominee, and the DNC expressed interest Saturday in working with its political rival on a nomination calendar.


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soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. em

    very interesting

    December 5, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  2. Randy

    I always thought what they should do is start with the first four (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada) and let them have one per week for the four weeks in February.

    Then in the first week in March, start having four-five states at a time have a primary or caucus each Tuesday, starting with the smaller states, and working up towards the larger states. You save Super Tuesday for Mid-May when it is California, New York, Texas, Florida and Ohio. That way the smaller states get a voice, but it will be the larger states that ultimately decide the candidates.

    December 5, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  3. John, Brooklyn, NY

    As a loyal Democrat (but certainly not a party insider) I agree that the party needs to de-emphsize the influence of so-called Super Delegates that so marred the 2008 process.

    My suggestion is to allow the state parties determine who will represent them at the national convention rather than automatically assuming that Members of Congress, prominant mayors, national party leaders, etc. will be automatically full, voting delegates.

    Don't get me wrong...I LOVE Donna Brazile....but, frankly, she should be a delegate if Louisiana Democrats want her to be...not because she ran Al Gore's campaign.

    December 5, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  4. Hugo

    Yes, great idea, perhaps they should actually have a vetting process that discloses their candidates past history and political ideological positions.

    December 5, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  5. Ken, AZ

    Why not make the process completely fair and hold all primaries at the same time and the candidate with the most popular votes wins the nomination? Why should small states like Iowa and New Hampshire decide who the nominee is going to be?

    December 5, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  6. Gary

    I'm a loyal democrat too, but after living in SC for 4 years, I say do the opposite. They are true idiots, both party's, and they are the reason SC is rated the " worst " in all catagories of measuring a state. With the stupidity of Sanford, Graham, deMint and this fool, you can see why. Either side, true idiots!

    December 5, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  7. Palermo

    Here's a crazy idea...how about letting the voters directly vote for the candidates in the primaries, and then directly vote for the candidates in the general election, instead of electing proxies in both elections that are not even legally bound to vote according to the will of the voters. It is a ridiculous system originally devised to make sure the power brokers could elect whomever they pleased if it didn't go their way.

    December 5, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  8. Tammy

    and be sure to get everyone's birth certificates verified.....

    December 5, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  9. Independant Vet

    Being Acorn has not back filled all the Gaves , They have to find a way to count them as they return.

    December 5, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  10. Stephanie

    They need to divide the country into four or five regions and rotate the order of their votes every four years. Iowa and NH do not deserve to get to choose the nominee, nor do Nevada and South Carolina. State delegates should not be all or nothing. The should reflect the votes of the people i those states.

    December 5, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  11. Lynne

    Is CNN going to balance their recent poll by publishing the results of today's Gallup poll showing President Obama's approval rating at 52 to 41? Gallup also includes the wording of the questions asked and a breakdown of the party affiliation of those who participated.

    That CNN should be using their poll as the sole "decider" is irresponsible!!

    December 5, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  12. Dennis

    Obviously, something is wrong with the system. See what we got?

    December 5, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  13. Nick - Arlington, VA

    Here come the PUMAs lol.

    December 5, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  14. LG

    "Why not make the process completely fair and hold all primaries at the same time and the candidate with the most popular votes wins the nomination? Why should small states like Iowa and New Hampshire decide who the nominee is going to be?"

    The down side of a national primary is that it gives too much power to the established national politician who has a wallet big enough to finance a national campaign. In the early months, a candidate like Obama was not that known and was able to leverage the small early states to build a national following.

    Personally, I'm intrigued with some of the alternate voting systems such as rank ordering the candidates. That prevents a splinter candidate from winning because the center is split among two or more similar candidates.

    December 5, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  15. Nea

    The Democrats just need to get their act togther peroid! All the confusion and criticism within their own party needs to stop.

    December 5, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  16. Jason B.

    I agree, in part, with John from Brooklyn. But instead of just limiting the influence of super delegates, drop them completely. What's the point of going through all the nomination process if a privileged few can override the will of the people?!

    I'm all for overhauling the process though. Personally, I'd rather see it all done in a shorter time frame. I get SO tired of hearing campaign news day after day for months. And run it more like a true job interview like we, the "little people", have to go through. All people seeking the job fill out an application. They go through a number of job interviews via town hall meetings. We find out you lied on your application or hid anything, you're dropped from the process.

    December 5, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  17. nugun

    "The Republican National Committee is also looking at how its party chooses its presidential nominee"

    As it had a horrible candidate. *LOL*

    In fact, as a resident of Pennsylvania we didn't even get to vote in the primary.

    Frankly, I am of the opinion ALL primaries should be held on the same date with one exception. I believe any state that uses a caucus system in the style of the Iowa Democratic caucus can hold their primary election 1 month earlier.

    I believe that the Iowa Democratic Caucus is probably one of the best election methods in our nation (this comes from a Libertarian Republican).

    The voters stand in support of their candidate. Then if their candidate does not meet a minimum level of viability they go and caucus for the viable candidate they want to support.

    I think such a system allows for a lot more lesser but better candidates to have a shot. People often don't vote for the candidate they want because they don't think they have a chance. The Iowa caucus helps reduce this situation.

    December 5, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  18. Jim

    I don't care how they do it..just be sure the nominee is actually BORN IN THE USA.. not Kenya

    December 5, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  19. Scott M

    Hey, how about giving the winner of a state all the delegates, instead of fewer delegates? Obama "beat" Clinton because he got almost as many (and sometimes MORE) delegates than Clinton in states that SHE WON (e.g., Nevada, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, on and on and on). AND DO AWAY WITH THE CAUCUSES that Obama abused and only a fraction of the voters participated in! I don't see either of these HUGE problems being addressed in this proposal!

    December 5, 2009 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  20. lynne from nc

    Ken, AZ has the right idea, but I'd go further. Why can't both parties just pick a day like the first Tuesday in February, March, April or even May and whomever gets the first votes is the nominee? Then no one hears about election stuff until after Labor Day. Stop wasting money with the conventions and the number of primaries. The system now is the just the fruits of idiots running the asylum.

    December 5, 2009 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  21. Stu

    All primaries should be held on the same day, for all parties.

    December 5, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  22. Tristan

    All primaries on the same day. And maybe a direct winner, not based upon delegate counts. Our whole system is so out of date...

    December 5, 2009 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  23. Full Disclosure is Required

    Require full disclosure of all income, financial ties, supporters, religious affiliation, tie to forgein citizens and governments, proof of illegability, proof of citizenship (just like we have to do when we apply for a job).... these rules would apply to both challengers and incumbents... full disclosure to the American voter.

    If they can not be up front with the Amercian voter they should not seek the office.

    The should also eliminate the super delegate process and set the number of delegates to equal the number of senators. Every state would have an equal say.

    December 5, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  24. notforsale

    The Democratic party should hold the primaries in the urban population centers first.

    December 5, 2009 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  25. jeff

    i agree with Ken Z. they should be at the same time, with a popular vote. no super delegates, and no "special" states

    December 5, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
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