Primary Objectives

The way America chooses its presidential candidates isn't set in New Hampshire granite.

Change is in the air as Democrats, responding to complaints that the season of state primaries is too long, plan to shorten them for 2004.

But if their proposal is approved as expected this weekend, it will have one big effect: Candidates would need to decide to run, raise money, and campaign at an even more breath-taking speed than what has passed for "normal" (See story, page 1.)

The plan is to hold a blow-out primary on Feb. 3 in almost all the states, while still allowing the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 19 and the must-be-first New Hampshire primary on Jan. 27.

This could produce a different type of candidate, one even more beholden to big-money donors paying for intense, multistate TV advertising.

Democrats say such a setup would help them against an incumbent Republican president seeking reelection. And that they're just hoping to match the GOP, as it, too, held earlier primaries in 2000, even though that was against GOP rules.

Shortening the primary season is no way to go about creating better politics, or politicians. A supra-Super Primary will discourage lesser-known politicians from running. They won't have the time to raise money.

Both parties need to avoid this mistake, and give voters time to think.

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