Syracuse Professors Discuss Importance Of New York Primary

This story was written by Nicole Loring, Daily Orange
The New York presidential primary is typically an open-and-shut case.

But this year, it's anybody's to win.

After fiery debates, mudslinging ads, five primaries and one caucus, New York voters are finally getting a chance to weigh in on who they want to be the next president. But the question still remains whether New York's delegates will affect the results of the national conventions this summer.

As part of delegate-loaded Super Tuesday in six days, New York, along with 21 other states, will hold its presidential primary election.

"This is probably the most wide-open nomination process that has existed in quite a while," said Jeffrey M. Stonecash, a professor of political science at Syracuse University.

Historically, New York has not been a particularly important primary state, said Kristi Andersen, a political science professor.

"In years past, it's been very little contest, or we know who's going to win," Andersen said. "This is unusual in the sense that there are contests in both parties, that the winner in both parties won't have been presumptively decided by the time we vote."

In past elections, there have been linear results in which the same candidate takes each primary and caucus, making them a clear front runner in the election.

"When you have elections like this one in which different people have won different states in both parties, it gives support to each of the candidates, since anyone has the potential to win," Andersen said.

Democrat front runner Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) had won 232 delegates to Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) 158 and Sen. John Edwards' (D-NC) 62, according to

For the republicans, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is leading with 97 delegates, former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney has 74 and former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee has 29.

In order to win the party nomination for president, a candidate has to win the majority of votes by the delegates attending their party's national convention. Delegates' votes are assigned to the winners of the state they are from and are split up by district. Most states use a winner-take-all method of assigning delegates, so it is possible for a candidate to win the majority of delegates in a state even if they lose the popular vote.

For instance, in Nevada's primary, Clinton won the popular vote, but Obama won several counties that had more delegates than in the counties that Clinton had won. Even though Clinton received more votes than Obama, she received 12 delegates to his 13.

Some are questioning whether New York comes too late in the election process to really make a difference in the election results.

Danny Hayes, an assistant professor of political science, said New York's size makes it a somewhat important state to the candidates.

"They want to win New York because that gives them a lot of delegates," he said. "However, those delegate counts are probably less important than the perception that the candidate is doing well and has the popular support of their party."

Hayes went on to say that some candidates may have given up on winning New York, since it is the home state of Clinton. If Clinton were to win the state, it would be an obvious victory, he said.

"If she lost, then it would become very important, because the story that would emerge here from New York is, `Oh my gosh, Hillary Clinton can't even win her own state -- look how strong Barack Obama is,'" he said.

"It's not the lynch-pin for any particular candidate, but it is certainly more important than some of the smaller states," Hayes said.

The economy will probably be the most important issue to New York voters of those that have been addressed by the candidates during this electio, said Carol Dwyer, a professor of public affairs. Dwyer said she hadn't yet heard any concrete economic policies proposed by the candidates.

"It really is going to come down to, who do voters think has the greatest capability to handle the economy and which one will make us cross our fingers and hope that this person has the knowledge to do something dramatic, but also has the ability to work with Congress to get things done," she said.

It remains to be seen whether young voters will vote in New York in the same overwhelming numbers as they did in earlier primaries.

"They will probably vote more than normal in this primary, but young voters always come out more for the presidential election than the primaries," Stonecash, SU professor said. "If there's one race in America that draws the highest amount of attention, it's the presidential election. Primaries draw much less attention."

Andersen said young voters are concerned with the same issues as older voters.

"Students are probably not investing in the stock market, and they aren't homeowners, but they're still worried about the economy," she said. "They're concerned with, 'Will there be job opportunities when I graduate?' 'Will the economy be growing or shrinking?'"

Whether they participate or not, young voters will be greatly affected by the outcome of this election, Dwyer said.

"This election is critical to people who are young. This is their future. The next president in this country has to do some very dramatic things to turn around what has happened during the last eight years of the Bush presidency," Dwyer said.

Dwyer said the current conditions will have a long-lasting effect on the nation.

"In every way, people who are in college today will be dealing with all of these issues, she said. "If the person who is elected does not deal with those issues, it could be devastating for the next generation."
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