Three delegates to the national convention will be awarded on a winner-take-all basis to the candidate who gets the most votes, even if only a plurality, in each of California's 53 congressional districts. That means three delegates will go to the candidate who gets the most Republican votes (independents probably will be excluded) in, say, the 49th district in a heavily Republican portion of San Diego County. And three will go the winner who gets the most Republican votes in Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco district -- where there may be only three Republicans, probably bused in to achieve "diversity."
A somewhat protracted delegate selection process minimizes the chance that voters will suffer buyers' remorse. This is so because a protracted process tests truly presidential attributes -- physical stamina and the abilities to think strategically, to be tactically nimble, to select good staff and use its advice and criticism, and to respond to surprises and setbacks.
The parties could create less helter-skelter processes. One proposed plan would divide the nation into four regions voting on monthly intervals, with the order of voting rotated every four years. Another plan, which would not provoke the Almighty, would preserve Iowa's and New Hampshire's solitary grandeur as places where the least well-known and well-funded candidates find the lowest barriers to entry into contention. Then voting would occur over 10 two-week intervals, with the largest states coming last, or in some randomized or rotating clusters.
The mistakenly deplored fact that campaigning in the 2008 cycle has begun so early gives voters a sort of protracted process, particularly if voters mean what they say when they tell pollsters (73 percent in a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll) that they are paying close attention to the campaigning.
But people learn most when the debate intensifies and the process begins to winnow the field of candidates. Unfortunately, in 2008 all the winnowing might happen at once. If so, perhaps by 2012 the parties can concoct a better system. We live and, sometimes, learn.