Under this system, the earliest states would still get enormous attention, but they would have the least consequence in terms of number of delegates. A candidate could stumble and still rebound in the next week’s contest, at least for a little while. Because of their small population (and, often, geographic size), the early process would still involve retail politicking with a lot of personal interaction with primary voters. Early state victories in relatively inexpensive places such as Delaware and Montana might translate to influxes of funding and momentum, so the idea of an underdog rising to the top would be more plausible. But the steady week-by-week drumbeat of increasingly larger midsized states (Indiana, Colorado, Arkansas) would require candidates to demonstrate that they’re more than just a flash in the pan.
The biggest states, California and Texas, might lament that under this system they’re destined to go last. But one or both could very well end up with the “kingmaker” role, putting one of the leading final contenders over the top. They would be more than just ATMs that are visited by candidates for fundraisers but largely ignored in terms of actual candidate campaign stops.
Under this system, the 2016 Republican primary process would look something like this:
Jan. 26: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont (65 delegates). Notice that everyone in the political world gets to enjoy their holiday season and New Year’s, with nearly the entire month of January to prepare for the first contests.
Feb. 2: Delaware, the District of Columbia (36 delegates). Contests can’t get much smaller or cheaper than these. If an underfunded but talented candidate can’t break out through retail campaigning in contests that consist of a city and three counties, they really can’t expect to break out anywhere.
Feb. 9: South Carolina (50 delegates). It retains its first-in-the-South status under this system.
Feb. 16: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming (111 delegates).
Feb. 23: Iowa, Minnesota (68 delegates).
March 1: Nevada, Utah (68 delegates).
March 8: Oregon, Idaho, Washington (103 delegates).
March 15: Connecticut, Rhode Island (47 delegates). These delegate-poor states were moved back several weeks to prevent five of the first 13 states being in New England; also note that because of the cost of the New York and Boston media markets, these would be the first expensive primaries.
March 22: Arizona, New Mexico (81 delegates). This would be the end of the “small state” portion of the contest, with every remaining state having at least 30 delegates and more expensive media markets, with a pair of exceptions.
March 29: Michigan, Indiana (106 delegates).
April 5: West Virginia, Kentucky (76 delegates).
April 12: Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas (111 delegates).
April 19: Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama (172 delegates). This is about as close as it gets to Super Tuesday on this calendar, and the contest consists of four contiguous, relatively inexpensive states with similar cultures and economic concerns.
April 26: Maryland, Virginia (86 delegates).
May 3: Massachusetts, New Jersey (91 delegates).
May 10: Wisconsin, Illinois (111 delegates).
May 17: Florida (99 delegates).
May 24: Missouri, Oklahoma (95 delegates).
May 31: Hawaii, Alaska (47 delegates). These are the exceptions. Geography will make these states challenging for candidates at any point in the calendar; some candidates may choose to skip these contests entirely. The Tuesday after Memorial Day weekend seems like as good a time as any to have the candidates travel outside the 48 contiguous states.
Former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., candidate for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, holds his hand over his heart during the singing of the national anthem as he waits to take the stage for his town hall campaign rally with Sen. John McCain at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H., on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014.