Vox Populi
A Letter to the Editor

Follow up on a National Presidential Preference Primary
and Vice President Cheney's Health

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

by Dominick Schirripa

While I would love to follow up my previous 'vox Populi' about National Primaries, I tend to agree with the end-of-the-day conclusion that it won't happen, so there's no point. However, I wonder if I might call on The Green Papers for a little speculation.

As we all know, Vice-President Cheney has a history of health issues. As many, especially TGP readers, know, there have been suggestions that President Bush should replace him on the 2004 Republican ticket. While it does not appear that he will take the advice, I wonder if you might provide your thoughts on possible Republican replacements for the Vice President should he encounter health problems that might yet prevent him from running again or even force him to choose to step aside in these last couple of months leading to the election.

Since much has been said about the Democratic picture for the second spot I thought it might be interesting to see what might be out there on the Republican side.

Dominick Schirripa

New York, NY

Mr. Berg-Andersson replies to Mr. Schirripa:

I will try my best not to belabor the National Primary issue anymore either (unless someone else should now wish to compose yet another 'vox Populi' on this subject) but will here only note that at least one of the main reasons why a Constitutional Amendment might, in fact, be more desirable an attempt to effect a National Presidential Primary- or at least Regional Presidential Primaries- than merely relying on the Parties themselves to do so is the simple fact that Party rules have no authority whatsoever to trump State law. Yes, 'tis true that a Party could threaten to not seat delegates from a State that continued to defy any Party rules regarding an all-up/same day Primary (whether National or Regional) but I seriously doubt either Major Party would dare carry out such a threat were a confrontation to develop.

New Hampshire, for example, has State laws on the books which require its Presidential Primary to be held at least one week before any other State's Presidential Primary and there is absolutely nothing the National Committee of either Major Party can do to change that: therefore, only a Constitutional Amendment specifically giving Congress power to set the date(s) of a Primary(Primaries) directly affecting the nominating of candidates for the Presidency would be able to legally override this New Hampshire statute.

(A little history, if I might here, about New Hampshire's First-in-the-Nation Presidential Primary "tradition" [that last word in quotes because we are here in the realm of a political equivalent to a famous dictum of Peace Treaty Diplomacy: Borders are most sacred where they make least sense ], if only to further fill out my point:

As is the case with most such so-called "traditions", New Hampshire being first to hold a Presidential Primary is as much, if not more, the result of mere accident of History than it might be of grand design; indeed, when New Hampshire held its very first Presidential Primary [back in 1916], it was not only not the first [Indiana held its Presidential Primary that year the week before New Hampshire] but even shared its 1916 Primary date with at least one other State! New Hampshire had simply scheduled its Presidential Primary for the same date as annual Town Meeting in the Granite State- this being the second Tuesday in March- because it was most convenient, given the condition of rural travel in the earliest decades of the previous Century [especially during what New Englanders call "Mud Season"] to have the voters throughout the State select delegates to the two Major Party National Conventions when they were going to be in town for political purpose anyway; indeed, the Granite State held to that same date- the second Tuesday in March- for its Presidential Primaries from its first such poll in 1916 all the way through 1972!

That New Hampshire ended up being the first State to hold its Presidential Primary was much more due to its sister States choosing to push their Presidential Primaries further back into the Spring [largely because these States would hold their State/Local Primaries on the same date (Elections, as I've noted many a time on this website, cost money!) and, at least back then, nominating candidates for the November General Election some eight months before seemed to be too much time (New Hampshire, then as now, held its separate State/Local Primaries in the Fall: while the Granite State has long had that old-time New England Yankee reputation for well squeezing a quarter dollar coin until even the eagle on it cries, the coinciding of Presidential Primary with annual Town Meeting largely defrayed the costs incurred via the organizing and holding of another Primary Election come September)]

In any event, no one outside the New England Region paid all that much attention to the New Hampshire Presidential Primary- even though it happened to be first in the Nation- until 1952 when three things coincided to firmly put the Granite State's Primary on the proverbial "map": first, the Granite State added an Advisory Presidential Preference "beauty contest" to its then-still-existing Delegate Selection vote [thus adopting what would later come to be termed a "Loophole" Primary]; second, in the voting on the Democratic side come Tuesday 11 March of that year, Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee bested incumbent President Harry S Truman [thus, well before Eugene McCarthy vs. Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1968, forcing an incumbent to reconsider his run for re-election to the White House]; and, finally, on the Republican side that same day, then-still-NATO Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower came out ahead of the favorite for the 1952 GOP nomination, Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio [overnight making Eisenhower a viable presidential contender that year]. From that year on, New Hampshire's Presidential Primary was to be the major early event of any open presidential nomination race [the only change since 1952 being the fact that, beginning in 1980, New Hampshire abandoned its "Loophole" Primary for a pure Presidential Preference delegate allocation vote].

The Granite State only began to move its Presidential Primary up in time from Town Meeting day beginning in 1976: that year, largely as a response to recommendations within the first wave of [the so-called "McGovern-Fraser"] reforms in the Democratic Party, Regional Presidential Primaries were encouraged where practical [so, at least one of the two Major Parties once did try to- however unsuccessfully- implement that which Mr. Schirripa talked about in his 16 June 'vox Populi']. For instance, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas specifically scheduled their Presidential Primaries in order to hold a "partial Upper South Regional" on the same day- as did Idaho, Oregon and Nevada, scheduling a similar "partial Northwest Regional"; unfortunately, these six Primaries were all scheduled for the same day, 25 May [which rather defeated the main reason for holding Regional Primaries to begin with!].

Likewise, in that same year of 1976, there was a move to schedule an early "partial New England Regional" [Rhode Island, which had held its very first Presidential Primary late in May four years before, had already opted for an early June date for 1976; Connecticut and Maine had yet to hold their first Presidential Primaries and, in fact, would not be doing so in the Bicentennial Year] for 2 March [this date having been chosen because Vermont's annual Town Meeting day was the first Tuesday in March: the Green Mountain State was holding its first Presidential Primary since 1920] and the hope was that New Hampshire might willingly join its neighboring New England Presidential Primary States in this endeavor.

However, New Hampshire clearly saw this proposed "partial New England Regional" as something of a threat to its by-now-"traditional" prerogatives and opted, instead, for State legislation mandating that its Presidential Primary always be at least a week before that in any other State [though, at the same time, the Granite State willingly put up with Iowa's first-tier Caucuses being held prior to its own Presidential Primary (at least in part because Iowa's Caucuses did not directly choose, as did New Hampshire's Primary, actual National Convention delegates)], thus automatically moving its 1976 Primary up to 24 February. Since then, of course, the Granite State's presidential nomination poll had become scheduled for earlier in February and now, as of 2004, up into late January! The two Major Parties themselves have acquiesced to this and it is now virtually impossible for a State outside of Iowa and New Hampshire to hold so-called "first step delegate selection events" until after these two States have already held theirs--- again, absent a Constitutional Amendment allowing Congress to override this situation!)

As for your asking for speculation as to who might replace Vice President Cheney on the 2004 Republican ticket, I strongly feel that such speculation is rather moot right now because, if Mr. Cheney were to be replaced at the #2 spot in the ticket, it would already have been done (or, at least, would already be in the works- that is, about to be done: as you yourself have pointed out, there is no indication that this is about to happen). Should the Vice President's health become an issue as the 2004 Presidential Campaign progresses, there are already procedures in place to deal with this even should it come up after the GOP Convention in New York City at the end of this Summer: the Republican National Committee could always confirm a replacement named by President Bush, were that to even be necessary; and, should President Bush be re-elected, then the processes outlined in the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for the President nominating and Congress confirming a new Vice President would have to be utilized. Therefore, because of this- combined with the many miracles of modern medical technology, I don't really think Vice President Cheney's health is at all an issue that would force him, at the last minute, to not be a candidate for re-election.

However, I will say this (and this also applies to whomever John Kerry might yet choose as his running mate [still unknown, as of this typing] as much as it does to any hypothetical replacement for Dick Cheney): the "usual suspects" are, ultimately, usually not among the ones actually chosen to be Vice President!


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