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. mavcal

    yeah, now that we have a master of ceremonies in the White House instead of a commander-in-chief, now after Hillary Clinton's nomination was railroaded by all her so-called allies, now you want to change this? Politics sucks.

    December 5, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  2. Charles Pray

    Five primaries, ten smallest states first, then the next ten, and so on. This would allow candidates w/o the money or name to be heardon the issues, and build to the larger States capping it off. If a State increases or decreases in population thy would move into their grouping of size. We need to take the "big" money out and put "the people" in power of selecting candidate

    December 5, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    an interesting assumption that there will be no democratic challenger to barack obama in the next cycle. i'm not so sure i'd hedge that bet against a sitting democratic president who promised change, a 180 from bush policies and has not really delivered too much of anything significanlty different.

    on the road the other day, i saw a bumper sticker that played upon the "yes we can" mantra of presidential candidate obama. it said "no we really couldn't".

    a potential harbinger.

    December 5, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  4. Ken in NC

    Mama always liked the KISS program. Keep It Simple Stupid. Draw straws and let it go at that. The shortest straw will run for President and the second shortest straw will run for VP.

    December 5, 2009 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  5. peteyk

    After obama causes the democratic party to be non-existent very soon, it's to late for anything. Hang on for Sarah Palin to straighten us out!

    December 5, 2009 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  6. Perusing-through

    HERE IS A SIMPLE SOLUTION

    Allow the four states with Democratic Primaries in January to remain; but all 46 other states plus D.C. and U.S. provinces to hold their primaries only in the months of March or April.

    This ensures the Dems have their presidential candidate locked and ready to go. The Dems nearly lost it when the race extended into June. If McCain was wiser, he would have taken advantage of the long Dem campaign. Fortunately, McCain with all his "experience" could not see pass his nose to exploit the extended Dem race.

    December 5, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  7. Charlie, NJ

    About time.

    December 5, 2009 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  8. Don L

    Why not just throw darts at a big phone book to stock congress with far better than the Marxist tax cheats and friends of terrorists we have now?

    December 5, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  9. Atron

    Why not rotate the five early states among all 50 states?

    December 5, 2009 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  10. Sir No Name

    Who cares in the end it is always the same S.S.D.D.

    December 5, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  11. Nick in Virginia

    How many years have the Democrats been doing this? And no on complained until a black man defeated a white woman in the 2008 primaries?

    Curious.

    December 5, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  12. Richp from the poconos

    I agree, need to find ones that can follow the Constitution and what it means rather than what they think it means.

    December 5, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  13. D

    The process was faulty in many ways, ACORN activists were in control of open processes and in control of playing the race card whenever possible (caucuses), and no one wants to acknowledge this. We got a great democtrat candidate; the verdict whether we got a good president out of the process is still undecided!

    December 5, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  14. Daniel T.

    The Democrat's process has always been more open than the Republican's. Some thought it was too open when they nominated big losing candidates like George McGovern. Bill Clinton then governor of Arkansas helped start the DLC in the late 80's to nominate more moderate candidates like him.

    The problem is if you leave it too open you can get people like Dennis Kucinch nominated and they are not electable. Getting nominated and getting elected are not the same.

    I have a better idea, let's open the process up. Not have party nominees. Let anyone run that wishes. Then if no one gets 50% we have a national run off with the two top candidates. Get rid of the Electoral College.

    let's have a real DEMOCRACY.

    December 5, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  15. Eileen

    The schedule of primaries and caucuses isn't the problem; it's knowing the results of the voting that cause the early states to have more influence.

    If the voting results were kept private until the last primary, the last primary states would vote just as eagerly as the first ones. The winner would be revealed in June. This would give the entire country equal influence; just as if the vote all happened in one day and the results announced AFTER the polls close.

    December 5, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  16. Paul in Ohio

    I have a question, in all sincerity. Why don't all states do this on the same day? Why do certain states get the 'privelege' to go first? If we keep this current system, why don't the states rotate the initial contests? I honestly do not know the answer to these questions, but have wondered. Especially since several states were vying to move ahead of Iowa, New Hampshire, etc....? I seem to remember that Michigan was going to be punished and ignored because they tried to move their primary date ahead of the usual (only to be accepted later anyway).

    My state, Ohio, is always crucial. (not sure why) Others are Florida and Pennsylvania, states that make a difference more so than the first states...why them?

    Again, asking sincerely, why aren't primaries just like the Presidential election? One day, boom, it's over?

    December 5, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  17. Gabe Polson

    I'm a Democrat and I am ashamed of how my party nominates it's candidate. It's stupid and backwards. Explain to me why Texas has a caucus and a primary on the same day. How is that fair. A caucus is chaotic and unfair. The average democrat can't attend a meeting from 6pm to 8pm on a work and school night. Only the few get to be heard. It does not reflect the will of the people at all. How can we claim to be the party of "Count all the Votes" and then tell the candidate with the most votes that SHE is not the nominee. The people vote. Delegates have outlived their purpose. We did a huge disservice to this country in 2008. I voted for Obama in the end but I believe Hillary was the actual nominee. We told the rest of the world to live to one standard but we will live to our own. Time will tell.

    December 5, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  18. Just a person

    The voting should be like voting for the President. Just pick a day, and let everyone vote. It's stupid to have weeks of voting. caucuses and primaries, delegates, pffft just let us all vote and then the one with the most votes wins.

    December 5, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
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