The Impact of California's Early Primary California will hold an early presidential primary in 2008. What does it mean for candidates in the race? The California primary will now take place Feb. 5, just three weeks after the first contest in the race, the Iowa caucuses.

The Impact of California's Early Primary

The Impact of California's Early Primary

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

California will hold an early presidential primary in 2008. What does it mean for candidates in the race? The California primary will now take place Feb. 5, just three weeks after the first contest in the race, the Iowa caucuses.


When Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack withdrew from the presidential race yesterday, he said the reason was, quote, "money and only money." The need for money will become even more urgent if California and other major states decide to move their primaries up in the schedule. That would seem to favor those candidates whose names and networks are enough to raise it, including Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama.

In presidential politics, money has often meant California. Candidates would fly in to L.A. or San Francisco to meet and milk major fundraisers, then fly out. But if California now holds its presidential primary on February 5 - just three weeks after Iowa - it becomes the single largest source of delegates too. NPR's political editor Ken Rudin joins us. Ken, thanks for being with us.

KEN RUDIN: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: California primary hasn't counted for much in the nominating process since, what, 1972?

RUDIN: That would be the last time. That's when George McGovern defeated Hubert Humphrey in early June and basically won the nomination that year. Barry Goldwater won the 1964 Republican nomination probably because he beat Nelson Rockefeller in the California primary. And in 1968 - well, of course we don't know what would have happened, but Bobby Kennedy won the primary then. But then there were only a handful of primaries stretched out between March and June. Now though, there are so many primaries and so early in the process, that by keeping their primary so late, as California has done in June, they have not been affected. Now in more recent years, they've tried to move up to March, but even then was too late. The nominations are usually decided shortly after Iowa and New Hampshire.

SIMON: Now, of course, the complaint has been for years you have Iowa and New Hampshire that are not demographically as diverse as the largest state in the union, California. Is the hope now that California will become a kingmaker in a way it hasn't been?

RUDIN: Well, there are a lot of candidates who would like to think that. Rudy Giuliani is one of the people who thinks that California, being such a diverse state with a lot of different kinds of Republicans, could be good for his candidacy. But the problem is, given the fact that not only is California talking about moving its primary up to February 5th, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida are also. You need to have a ton of money to compete. Iowa and New Hampshire and the early states - Nevada, South Carolina - they even become even more important because there's a bandwagon effect. If you win in Iowa, you win in New Hampshire, then basically it takes over for you. That's what we saw with John Kerry, 2004. That's what we saw with Al Gore in 2000.

SIMON: The logic of the system over let's say the past generation has been that in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, a candidate who doesn't have all the money can actually meet people, can project his or her personality to a relatively limited number of people and actually their candidacy can gain some ground. That hope has disappeared in the process?

RUDIN: Absolutely. Because in a multimedia market like California, you have to have a ton of money to compete in the north, in the south, and the expensive TV stations. Sure, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and John McCain and Mitt Romney, perhaps Rudy Giuliani, they could raise that money. But what about the other candidates, the Bill Richardsons of the world, the Chris Dodd's, the Mike Huckabees.

SIMON: Chris Dodd has a lot of banking money, one reads this week.

RUDIN: He does. That's exactly right. But all the candidates - if they don't have the hundred gazillion dollars you need to compete right away, what happens after you do well in Iowa and New Hampshire? Do you have enough time to raise that money? Not when California comes three weeks later.

SIMON: Are you going to get tired? I mean we're two years away from this and you're already in full flight.

RUDIN: Actually, I'm working on the 2012 elections. I'm starting any day now.

SIMON: NPR's Ken Rudin. Thank you.

RUDIN: Thanks, Scott.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Chicago's Long-Running Daley Show

If he wins (or, when he wins) on Tuesday, Chicago's Richard M. Daley will have a chance to break the city's all-time record for mayoral tenure ... hide caption

toggle caption

... breaking the record of his late father, who served 21 years until his death in 1976. hide caption

toggle caption

Illinois Congressman Phil Crane announced his 1980 presidential candidacy in 1978. hide caption

toggle caption

Thirty-two years ago today, ex-Nixon aides John Mitchell, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman are all sentenced to prison terms for their roles in the Watergate cover-up. hide caption

toggle caption

The charges are pretty clear-cut. Members of the mayor's administration, including his head of patronage, are under indictment for rewarding the mayor's campaign workers and allies with city jobs. In addition, a Water Management Department commissioner pleaded guilty to racketeering and tax fraud. Nearly two dozen people have been convicted in the ongoing probe of city affairs. The mayor's response: Wow, I had no idea about this, and I have nothing to do with any hiring.

Two years earlier, it was reported that private trucking companies, paid by the city (and some with mob ties), did little or no work. One person, whose sister was married to a brother of the mayor's, pleaded guilty to taking bribes in the trucking scandal. The mayor said he was not involved.

Welcome to Chicago, where the latest Mayor Daley for Life, Richard M. Daley, is running for another term after 18 years in office. The election: Tuesday, Feb. 27. The chances of him being defeated, or being forced into a runoff: less than zero. For all the talk that the corruption issue would lead to some big-name Democrat challenging him this year (Congressmen Jesse Jackson Jr. and/or Luis Gutierrez had been mentioned), Daley's opponents this year are ... drum roll ... Dorothy Brown, the clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and William "Dock" Walls, a former aide to the late Mayor Harold Washington. Daley is white; his challengers are black (more on race in a moment).

How did Brown and Walls do in their debate against Daley? There were no debates. In fact, Daley has not debated any of his opponents since he was first elected in 1989.

How are Brown and Walls doing in financing their respective campaigns? Brown has about $100,000 on hand. Walls has about $4,000. At the end of last month, Daley had $5.6 million.

To be sure, trying to equate two political unknowns with the magic of the Daley name (and 18 years of his incumbency) is a bit silly. They really don't belong on the same stage, let alone the same paragraph. And trying to imply that Daley has not been an effective (or popular) mayor is equally foolhardy. Crime is down, business is booming. School construction is at a record high. There is no reason to think the mayor wouldn't win even against serious competition; that's probably why Messrs. Jackson and Gutierrez (and others) are sitting this one out.

The relationship between Daley and the city's African-American community is not especially warm, though it doesn't come close to the antagonism and hostility that existed between blacks and his father, Richard J. Daley, who served as mayor from 1955 until his death from a heart attack in 1976. And while blacks have complained that the business boom has come at the expense of the inner city, well, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) came by with a prized endorsement of the mayor, as did Congressman Bobby Rush, who ran against Daley in 1999. (Daley's relationship with Hispanics, on the other hand, is strong, and it is one that he has focused on since he was first elected. In fact, Congressman Gutierrez, his erstwhile rival, has endorsed him.)

Still, even with a sniff of corruption hanging around City Hall, Daley is as close to a shoo-in as possible. And when he wins, he will be on track to breaking the record tenure for a Chicago mayor – the 21 years set by his late father. The younger Daley will break the record on Dec. 25, 2010.

THE DALEY PLANET: Daley first ran for mayor in 1983, challenging embattled incumbent Jane Byrne in the Democratic primary. Daley's candidacy split the white vote, enabling Congressman Harold Washington to win — and become the city's first black mayor. Ironically, when Washington won (and swept to re-election four years later), the feeling was that Chicago would never be without a black mayor again. But Washington died in office in 1987, resulting in a split among African-American leaders. Daley took advantage of the disunity, ran again in 1989, and won. Here's a look at Daley's five electoral victories:

1989: (special election, to fill the remaining two years of Washington's term): Daley defeated acting Mayor Eugene Sawyer, an African-American, in the Democratic primary, 56-44 percent. Daley won a three-way general election in April against Alderman Timothy Evans, a black independent who called himself Harold Washington's political heir (and who was backed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson), and white Republican Edward Vrdolyak, a former Democratic leader. Daley won 56 percent of the vote, to 41 percent for Evans and 3 percent for Vrdolyak. (The last time Chicago elected a Republican mayor: 1927.)

1991: Daley easily wins the Democratic primary over Cook County Commissioner (and now Congressman) Danny Davis, who is black. Again, the general election is a three-way contest, and again it's a big Daley win: 71 percent, to 25 percent for Eugene Pincham of the Harold Washington Party and 4 percent for white Republican George Gottlieb.

1995: Daley easily beats Chicago water commissioner Joseph Gardner, an African-American, in the Democratic primary. In the general election, Daley coasts past former state Attorney General Roland Burris, also an African-American, 61-36 percent, with white Republican Ray Wardingley getting 3 percent.

1999: It's Daley 73 percent and black Congressman Bobby Rush 27 percent in the Democratic primary.

2003: Chicago mayoral elections become non-partisan. Daley gets 79 percent against three challengers.

CHICAGO TRIVIA QUESTION: We know (because we read the chart above) that at least two Democratic House members, Harold Washington (who won) and Bobby Rush (who didn't) ran for mayor of Chicago. Who was the last former Republican member of Congress who ran? (Answer later in column.)

And there's no reason why questions have to come from only me. Which leads to ...

Q: Who were the two Democrats who voted against the House resolution opposing Bush's Iraq war policy? – Andy Craig, Burlington, Vt.

A: In the 246-182 vote that was held on Feb. 17, 2007, two Democrats voted no: Jim Marshall of Georgia and Gene Taylor of Mississippi.

At the same time, 17 Republicans — considerably fewer than anticipated — broke with their party and voted for the non-binding resolution: Mike Castle (DE), Howard Coble (NC), Tom Davis (VA), John ("Jimmy") Duncan Jr. (TN), Phil English (PA), Wayne Gilchrest (MD), Bob Inglis (SC), Timothy Johnson (IL), Walter Jones (NC), Ric Keller (FL), Mark Steven Kirk (IL), Steve La Tourette (OH), Ron Paul (TX), Tom Petri (WI), Jim Ramstad (MN), Fred Upton (MI), and Jim Walsh (NY).

But here's what really struck me about the vote: Every Republican whose election on Nov. 7 was initially too close to call — Vern Buchanan (FL 13), Heather Wilson (NM 01), Robin Hayes (NC 08), Jean Schmidt (OH 02), Deborah Pryce (OH 15), and Barbara Cubin (WY At-Large) – voted against the resolution. On the other hand, most of the 17 Republicans who voted for the resolution were easily returned to office last year.

Q: Is Texas Congressman Ron Paul running for president as a Republican or, as he has previously done, a Libertarian? — David Inman, Eagan, Minn.

A: While Paul ran as the Libertarian nominee in 1988 – where he got 432,000 votes nationwide (0.5 percent of the total) – he is running as a Republican for 2008. And I erred in last week's column by saying that Paul is the only remaining Republican House member of the six who voted against the Iraq war in 2002. As John Bell of Oak Ridge, TN, James Crabtree of Pflugerville, Texas,, and others pointed out, Rep. Jimmy Duncan (R-TN) also voted no (and did so again last week, as did Paul). The other four Republicans who voted no in 2002 (no longer in Congress): John Hostettler (IN), Amo Houghton (NY), Jim Leach (IA), and Connie Morella (MD).

Q: My impression is that presidential candidates these days are announcing their intentions a lot sooner than was traditionally the case. However, your "this day in history" feature about Sen. George McGovern announcing his candidacy on Jan. 18 [1971] surprised me. Have many candidates announced prior to Jan. 18 of the year before the election? – Kerry Kleiber, Lafayette, Ind.

A: Not many, but there have been some. Then-Rep. Phil Crane (R-IL) was the first to declare his candidacy two calendar years in advance; he announced for the 1980 Republican nomination on Aug. 2, 1978. In his bid to become the 1988 GOP nominee, former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont announced on Sept. 16, 1986. And in the race for 2008, Democrats Tom Vilsack, Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards all declared their candidacies in 2006.

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION: The last former Republican member of Congress to run for mayor of Chicago was Timothy Sheehan, who challenged incumbent Democrat Richard J. Daley in 1959, just months after losing his own House seat.

"POLITICAL JUNKIE" CONTINUES ON NPR'S 'TALK OF THE NATION:' Despite popular demand, the "Political Junkie" segment on TOTN, NPR's call-in show, continues to run every Wednesday on NPR at 2:40 p.m. Check local listings to see if your NPR station carries TOTN. If not, (1) remove the station from your will, and (2) listen to the program on the Web at This week: Politics and the West, a look ahead to Chicago, and the latest on the 2008 presidential wannabes.

PODCAST REVELATION: Please note that neither Ron Elving nor I – the co-hosts of NPR's weekly podcast, "It's All Politics" – is running for president in 2008, nor are we claiming to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith's daughter. That makes us part of a rare breed in Washington. And that makes the podcast a must-listen. Check out the new edition every Thursday afternoon at

Don't Forget: If you are sending in a question to be used in this column, please don't forget to include your city and state.

This Day in Political History: Former Attorney General John Mitchell, ex-White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman and former Nixon domestic affairs adviser John Ehrlichman are all sentenced to prison by Judge John Sirica for their role in the Watergate scandal cover-up (Feb. 21, 1975).

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: