- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

Democrats are moving some key 2004 presidential primaries to February in a shift that could result in a decision on the nominee in less than a year.
The more front-loaded primary schedule will save the party money, Democrats say, and give their candidate more time to make a case against President Bush's bid for re-election.
Party strategists, however, say the accelerated nominating process could edge out lesser-known candidates who need more time to raise money and build support.
With the Democrats' emerging primary schedule, the nominating contest could be all but over by late February or early March.
"It is possible that by early March of 2004 we should be able to see who the nominee will be," said Guillermo Meneses, chief spokesman for the Democratic National Committee.
The Iowa caucuses will be held Jan. 19, followed by the New Hampshire primary Jan. 27. Michigan Democrats are pushing to break into New Hampshire's half-century monopoly on the nation's first primary and hold theirs Jan. 27, too, but DNC officials have told The Washington Times that is not likely to be approved when the DNC meets in June.
After that come primaries in Arizona, Delaware moved back from Jan. 31 Missouri and South Carolina on Feb. 3, followed by elections in Virginia and Maryland on Feb. 10. Maryland must enact legislation designating the date, but a top DNC official said, "It is a done deal."
Oklahoma will hold its primary Feb. 17, followed by Washington state Feb. 24.
A week later, on Super Tuesday, the year's largest number of delegates will be at stake in eight mostly northern primaries in California, New York, Ohio, Georgia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont.
That will be followed by five pivotal Southern primaries March 9 in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee that Democratic strategists say will all but end the party's contest for the nomination.
Rumors have other states attempting to move up their primaries. Democratic Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, one of the major delegate prizes in the nominating process, has sent signals that he would like to hold the state's primary Feb. 3, though that also seems unlikely.
Still, a party official said: "Stay tuned. This process can be very fluid."
The changes and prospective changes are keeping the Democratic presidential candidates in a perpetual state of re-evaluating their primary-campaign strategies.
"If a big state like Pennsylvania goes to February 3, that's going to change the primary calendar significantly," said a strategist for one of the Democratic front-runners. "We're willing to play by the rules, but the rules are up in the air right now."
Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said the changes will turn the nominating battle into a speed race.
"By March 9, almost a year from now, over 2,000 delegates will have been chosen, almost half of all the delegates. Most of them from the Northeast and some from the Midwest," she said.
That could benefit a front-runner, such as Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, whose liberal ideals have their strongest appeal in the Northeast and industrial Midwest.
Other strategists, however, said that even with a compressed primary schedule, the nominating contest could take longer than anyone expects because of a large field of candidates.
"I could see a scenario where Dick Gephardt wins Iowa, comes in second to Kerry in New Hampshire, which catapults him into the next round. But what if Gephardt wins Iowa, Kerry wins New Hampshire and Senator John Edwards wins South Carolina?" said a campaign strategist for one of the front-runners.
"Some scenarios make it quick, and some could make it long. Later this year, we'll have a better idea of the direction this is taking," he said.

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