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Power to the Powerful!

The DNC's new primary calendar is designed to keep the rabble out.

12:00 AM, Sep 7, 2006 • By ANDREW CLINE
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Of course, Nevada isn't exactly representative of America. Nevada is 24 percent Hispanic and 7 percent black. The United States is 12 percent black and 14.5 percent Hispanic. Giving this heavily Hispanic state the second nominating contest will force candidates to cater to this emerging demographic. Also, Nevada is heavily union and just happens to be the home of the most powerful Democrat in the country.

But whatever changes the new calendar might cause at the margins for Hispanic and black voter importance, its first and foremost effect is to eliminate an outsider's chance of winning the 2008 nomination.

UNTIL NOW, an outsider candidate could compete in either Iowa or New Hampshire (or both) with little money or name recognition. A win in either state would propel him into a position to raise the big money necessary to compete in the states that followed.

The new calendar crams four contests into two weeks: Iowa on January 14, Nevada on January 19, New Hampshire on January 22, and South Carolina on January 29. It is 1,600 miles from Des Moines to Carson City--2,900 miles from Carson City to Concord--and just shy of 1,000 miles from Concord to Columbia. It will be nearly impossible for a candidate to compete in all four primaries without a large war chest. And there is no way a candidate can do any serious retail politicking in all four states. The campaigns will have to concentrate heavily on ad buys and endorsements from large organizations--such as unions and other traditional Democratic establishment groups.

If this calendar remains intact the nomination will be all but decided by January 30. Which is entirely the point. The DNC wants a nominee early in the process so that more money and energy can be spent on the general election. Front-loading the process with four contests 5,500 miles and 15 days apart will ensure this result.

SO MUCH FOR the "democratic" in Democratic party. And yet it gets even more ironic. The most vocal and impassioned backers of this new calendar have been the very liberal activists whom the DNC is trying to marginalize.

By presenting the calendar reshuffle as a needed correction to the unearned privilege New Hampshire's rural whites have enjoyed because of an unjustified tradition, the DNC recast the outsider's only opportunity to win a presidential nomination as the ultimate populist nightmare--a sinister combination of racism, unearned privilege and mindless tradition.

The netroots wing of the party has enthusiastically supported diminishing New Hampshire's influence. One of the most vociferous proponents of changing the primary was Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, who opposed the old calendar because "Iowa and New Hampshire are not representative of the nation." That's the same Markos who consulted for Dean's 2004 campaign and has strongly opposed Hillary Clinton--who may benefit most from the new calendar.

Zuniga and other left-wing bloggers have railed against New Hampshire for being too white and too privileged while simultaneously decrying the influence of money and Washington insiders in presidential politics. Without realizing it, they have helped make a run for president more expensive and less democratic, thus diminishing their own influence and consolidating the power of Washington insiders. All in the name of the people.

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader.