Ahead, it's Bush, Gore

Post-Super Tuesday: McCain, Bradley announcements point to need to overhaul primary system.

March 10, 2000

FOR Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, it was Super Thursday.

Both John McCain and Bill Bradley, for all intents and purposes, called a halt to their maverick campaigns for the presidential nominations of the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively. To varying degrees, the McCain and Bradley candidacies invigorated the process.

For that Senator McCain of Arizona and former Senator Bradley of New Jersey deserve the electorate's thanks.

Mr. Bradley called his campaign a "joyous journey," as he announced its end. Meanwhile, he vowed to continue to fight for universal health care, which had been his central issue.

Mr. McCain suspended his campaign -- a subtle difference -- with a pledge to "keep trying to force open doors where there are walls ... be they walls of cynicism, or intolerance, or walls raised by self-interested elite who would exclude your voice from the highest councils of government."

Both men should be thanked, too, for pointing out through their insurgent campaigns a key flaw in the primary system.

The nominating process was more or less over earlier this week, on Super Tuesday, despite the fact that voters in half the states have not yet had their chance to express a preference.

The National Association of Secretaries of State has a plan for rotating regional primaries that would address this problem. Under the plan, the country would be divided in four regional groupings that would hold primaries on the same dates in presidential election year. The group that goes first in, say, 2004 would then move to the bottom of the rotation.

And, oh yes, there are exceptions: Iowa and New Hampshire would be allowed to retain their coveted early balloting.

As tough as it will be to get the other states to agree to such a plan, the fundamental unfairness of the current system must be addressed.

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