Monday, January 28, 2008 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dave Barry / Syndicated Columnist

An insider's guide to Florida's primary

On Tuesday, millions of Florida voters will head for the polls. Being Floridians, many of them will become confused and drive into buildings, canals, cemeteries, other Floridians, etc. But some will actually make it to the polls, where they will cast ballots that will play a crucial role in the presidential election. Or, in the case of Democrats, not.

It turns out that the 2008 Florida Democratic primary doesn't count. Florida will be sending the same number of delegates to the 2008 Democratic convention as Uzbekistan.

This may seem unfair, but there's a simple, logical explanation: The whole primary system is insane. Consider the process so far ...

First Iowa held "caucuses," in which Iowans gathered in small groups at night and engaged in some mysterious Iowan ritual that for all we know involves having intimate relations with corn. Right after that, Wyoming had a primary, but it was only for Republicans, because Wyoming Democrats (apparently there are at least two) will hold their primary on March 8.

Most of the candidates ignored Wyoming and focused on the New Hampshire primary, except Rudy Giuliani, who's following a shrewd strategy, originally developed by the Miami Dolphins, of not entering the race until he has been mathematically eliminated. After New Hampshire came Michigan, where the ballot listed all the Republicans, but only certain Democrats, including Chris Dodd, who had already dropped out of the race, but NOT including Barack Obama or John Edwards.

After Michigan came the Nevada caucuses, in which Hillary Clinton got more votes, but Barack Obama got more delegates. (If you don't understand how that could happen, then you have never been to a casino.)

Then came the South Carolina Republican primary, which of course was not held on the same day as the South Carolina Democratic primary, which will be Monday. Then comes Florida, in which Republican voters will elect some delegates, although the total will only be half the number Florida was originally supposed to get.

Meanwhile Florida Democrats, as I mentioned, will have the same impact on their party's nomination as if they fed their ballots to ducks.

I am not making any of this up: This is our actual primary system, except (I hope) the part about the corn. We're selecting candidates for the most important job in the world via a process that's less rational than the one used to choose Miss Kumquat of Pasco County.

How did we end up with this ridiculous system? We got it through endless petty squabbling, in both parties, over the issue of which states get to go first. That's right:

When confronted with what should be a minor procedural problem, the leaders of our major political parties can't even work intelligently with their own allies, let alone their opponents. This is why, no matter who wins in November, I am optimistic about the future of the nation. (I'm referring to Uzbekistan.)

Anyway, for those of you who plan to vote Tuesday, here's a quick overview of the political situation:

The Republican race — It's still wide open. Mitt "Mitt" Romney holds a slight edge in delegates, plus a heifer he got for winning Wyoming. Right behind him are John McCain, Chuck Norris and the late Ronald Reagan. Bringing up the rear is Rudy, who needs a win and has been frantically courting Florida voters. He's mowing your lawn right now.

The Democratic race — It's down to Obama vs. Clinton, and it's getting nasty. They hate each other, with the kind of passionate hatred that you see only between two people who hold essentially the same positions on everything. Edwards is still running, but at this point they don't even bother to put a microphone on him for the debates. He just waves his arms to indicate how he's going to take on the big corporations.

So that's the situation, Floridians. On Tuesday, it's your turn to stand up and be counted, unless of course you're a Democrat. But whatever you are, you should get out there and vote, even if you have no earthly idea what or whom you're voting for, or why, because that's what democracy is all about.

Also, Rudy, if you're reading this: My hedge needs trimming.

Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may write to him c/o The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132.

2008, Dave Barry


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