- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Republicans are ridiculing the Democratic Party’s proposed changes to the 2008 presidential nomination schedule, which now appears to further enhance New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s prospects.

“The Democrats would be a lot better off focusing on developing an agenda than fiddling with the calendar,” said Scott W. Reed, a Republican presidential campaign consultant.

He was referring to the Democratic Party’s rules committee announcing on Saturday that the 2008 Nevada Democratic caucuses would be moved up to follow the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.

“They seem to think the problem is the manner in which they select their nominees rather than the policies of their candidates,” said Paul Adams, Nevada’s Republican Party chairman.

The committee also said that the South Carolina Democratic primary would be advanced to follow New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. Both changes await almost certain final approval at the party’s annual summer meeting next month.

“At first blush, this change makes no difference,” Republican consultant Craig Shirley said. “In fact, front-loading the primary like this favors a strong, highly funded front-runner like Hillary.”

Republicans fear that Mrs. Clinton, the Democrats’ most prodigious fundraiser who now faces no serious Republican challenge to her re-election in November, may be able to hoard her Senate campaign kitty and apply it to her expected presidential run in 2008.

Some Democrats have long complained that Iowa and New Hampshire have populations that don’t represent the rest of the nation yet they play overly important roles in determining the party’s standard-bearer.

Democratic officials said the changes do not threaten the state party in Iowa or New Hampshire and are acceptable to both.

“The state party is pleased with the outcome because that was accomplished and Iowa and New Hampshire remain the first,” Iowa Democratic Party spokeswoman Erin Seidler said.

New Hampshire’s secretary of state is authorized to re-schedule that state’s primary so that it remains the first in the nation. In 2004, the primary was held Jan. 27.

“New Hampshire has no problem with South Carolina’s primary as it will come seven days after the New Hampshire primary in accordance to our state statute,” said Nick Clemons, New Hampshire Democratic Party executive director. “What we do have a problem with is the general front-loading of the calendar, which will essentially eliminate the say of the voters of the 46 states who hold their contests after February 1st.”

Some political analysts think the changes benefit Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

“Score one for Harry Reid and the union leaders,” Mr. Reed said.

But Mr. Shirley finds the image of Mr. Reid as party kingmaker implausible.

“There are no elected political bosses, including Harry Reid, in today’s politics,” he said. “The bosses are the consultants, the money men and the media.”

The Republican state parties, though they deny it, are maneuvering to front-load their own delegate selection for 2008.

“At this point, the Democrats’ changes don’t affect our calendar,” said Brian Jones, communications director for the Republican National Committee.

But Mr. Adams, the Nevada Republican Party chairman, said, “We will consider the Nevada Democrats’ caucus change as one of the factors in setting the date of our delegate-selection convention.”

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