The perfect idea for making Kentucky relevant in presidential politics
As the presidential primaries and caucuses go on around the nation, Kentucky is nowhere to be found. By the time we hold our primary in May, the nominees will probably already be known and our election will be merely an afterthought. We won't be hearing from the candidates, unless on the off chance the Republican nomination is still up in the air and our delegates would make a difference, and the national media won't be giving us the same scrutiny they give Iowa and New Hampshire and the other early primary states.
Secretary of State Trey Grayson is pushing the idea of rotating regional primaries to make Kentucky a player in the presidential nominating process, but that is probably a non-starter. Kentucky really doesn't need to be spending money on what amounts to a statewide special election when, due to the legislative election schedule, we'll still be holding a May primary.
In 1988, Kentucky tried moving its presidential primary to February as part of the "Super Tuesday" election day to make our state's votes count. That turned into an expensive failure. The election was just as costly as the regularly scheduled May primary, and voter turnout was abysmal with only one race on the ballot. So the state wisely abandoned the February presidential primary for 1992.
This year's presidential campaign has been very unusual. Unlike most elections, there is no incumbent involved. George W. Bush's two terms are up and Vice President Dick Cheney is not running. This is the first truly wide-open presidential race the nation has seen in 40 years. As a result, the process became very front-loaded. Candidates announced earlier than ever and began their campaigns earlier than ever. Conventional wisdom had it that if you waited too late to get into the race -- "too late" being defined as the time when under normal circumstances most candidates would just start their campaigns -- you were toast. (Fred Thompson may be Exhibit A). As a result of this front-loading, states were racing to hold the first caucuses or primaries and the media scrutiny was more intense than ever in those early voting states. This further erodes Kentucky's relevance in the process.
We have the ultimate solution to make Kentucky a player in the presidential primary game. We recommend moving Kentucky's presidential primary to coincide with the general election in the year prior to the presidential general election. At the same time voters are going to the polls to elect a governor, they could cast their votes for their party's presidential nominee.
This would be perfect. It would not cost the state one extra cent, and it would propel us to the forefront of the national political stage. Candidates would flock here and the attendant national media would as well.
There's nothing sacrosanct about Iowa or New Hampshire (or even Wyoming, which held caucuses this past weekend totally out of the national spotlight). Why should those states be first to pick nominees? Why not Kentucky?
The enabling legislation to move the presidential primary from May of the general election year to November of the year prior should include a prohibition against the political parties punishing Kentucky for jumping ahead of the existing pecking order by docking the state delegates. Elections are a function of state government, not political parties. The parties should not dictate to states how or when they conduct their elections; to the contrary, states should be setting the rules and agendas and the parties should abide.
How about it? The General Assembly is now in session. It's too late to do anything for this year, but for the 2012 presidential election, we'd love to see the presidential primary coincide with the 2011 general election. It makes perfect sense.