When The Omnivore was but a young lad, stacks of pizza boxes fueled 48 hour Dungeons & Dragons (or other table-top roleplaying game) sessions. The Omnivore noted a phenomena. At first, when the pizzas arrived, there was a leisurely pace of taking slices and talking as we ate them.
First one box was gone--then another--and that last box? The veneer of civilization held until someone--anyone--a first mover--decided they weren't going to let themselves be cut out of the final slices and they pounced. As soon as this critical mass was reached--when there was enough left that someone would lose, what happened, well, it was like LORD OF THE FLIES.
But with pizza.
Today something similar is happening in the GOP primary. Months--literal months--a year--before it begins we don't just have quiet networking or Iowa speeches (that all happened last year). We now have bold, aggressive moves that result in headlines like:
- Chris Christie: Odd Man Out (will Christie's fund-raising all got to Mitt/Jeb?)
- Rand Paul Taps Rauner aide to lead potential presidential run
- Zogby on Romney: Ann Says Mitt Would Run as First Divorced Mormon (you read it here first!)
- Dates set for Republican National Convention in Cleveland; 4-day event will run July 18-21 (that's a month earlier than normal)
Let's look at that last one a little closer. Moving the date up moves up the time when funds gathered can be used for the general election instead of the nomination process. That was something that hurt the GOP against Obama and created an agonizingly endless seeming primary for GOP voters. Secondly, the shortening calendar favors big money--but a new rule states that from March 1 to March 15 delegates are proportional--meaning that a dark horse can stay competitive in the larger states if they keep picking up a good portion of the vote. States voting after March 15 can do whatever they want--and the new rules heavily penalize any state to move ahead in the voting process (which Florida did last election).
These are good rules and seem to have managed to keep most people happy but if first-mover advantage forces everyone into the fray in January of 2015 all that work is for naught. The pacing itself is also destructive: big moves for fund-raising will mean that everyone will be concerned about either being shut out (if the candidate in question thinks someone is poaching their fund-base) or overwhelmed (if your opponent has a 12 month head-start on you, you've got problems).
Quiet candidates like Walker or Jindal may feel compelled to get in the game immediately. If they do that, this can lead to gaffes, staffing debacles, and other black-swan (or, well, darkish-gray swan) events that would otherwise likely be preventable.
For the past ... week, about, we've had headline pacing at the same rate as a primary election season: about one major event a day that holds political headline space. The Omnivore assesses that if this continues we'll be having the first debates in June 2015.