Florida Still Stuck With “Stupor Tuesday”

Once again Florida has been relegated to “Stupor Tuesday” status.

In the aftermath of Sen. John Kerry’s “Super Tuesday” triumph, Florida is again left to ponder its irrelevance in the primary system. Before Florida’s meaningless, anti-climactic vote this week, 30 states already had cast ballots. All but two — South Carolina and Vermont — for Kerry.

Critical enough to be a “battleground” state and significant enough to be decisive during the general election, Florida is less important than Iowa or New Hampshire in determining actual nominees. The Sunshine State is a primary black hole.

Nothing, mind you, against the old fashioned, participatory politics of caucus-going, demographically skewed Iowans, the silo minority. And it’s hardly New Hampshire’s fault that it’s as tiny as it is unrepresentative of the rest of the country. But it’s a farce that such electoral vote-challenged states are major players in the nominating process.

And Florida isn’t.

Once again we are reminded that a presidential primary system front-loaded with Iowa and New Hampshire is good for pollsters, pundits — and the media self-interest of the two states. The media get to play momentum kingmaker as they poll recycled Cedar Rapids’ “undecideds” and Manchester malcontents to declare who leads the horse race, who is “electable,” and who may have done himself in with a campaign rally “primal scream.”

When New Hampshire voters cast their ballots, their choices included: Gen. Wesley Clark, former Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. John Edwards, Rep. Dick Gephardt, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Sen. Joe Lieberman, former Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, Rev. Al Sharpton — and Sen. John Kerry. When Florida Democrats voted this week, they were, in effect, handed a rubber stamp. Kerry may as well have been running against Ralph Nader. Or Ralph Kramden.

It’s enough to rouse nostalgia for a brokered convention. Remember John F. Kennedy only won seven primaries in 1960.

Both parties need to get serious about a primary system that ill serves its nominee-picking charge. Iowa and New Hampshire exercise an inordinate amount of influence. It’s time, candidly, to look at holding regional primaries on the same day. Would even make for less local pandering.

Prior to that, candidates can face the crucible of Don Imus for a real-world reading of their “electability.”

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