Would Clinton have prevailed in New Hampshire if Obama had been her only opponent? Do not go off self-satisfied with the assumption that the problem would be solved by contriving a means of eliminating the factor of Edwards et al. That could be done by reforms mandating a runoff between the two top vote-getters, as they do in France. But that would leave unanswered the question: Are the voters in a local primary being deprived of representation consistent with their potential strength in a national contest?
One approach would grant points to primary candidates, to be added up at the end of the line. So that such as Mr. Edwards don't just get eliminated; they store up points which they can invoke at the final clearinghouse of the national convention.
Well, most of these projected reforms, whatever their theoretical appeal, simply aren't going to happen unless a demonstrable distortion should wrench from favor existing procedures. But of course our system has means of coping with, if not eliminating, crippling paradoxes. It was not so long ago, in American history, that the next candidate of the party in power was simply the person ordained by the incumbent. It was in part a recognition of the awful likelihood that Henry Wallace would be the Democratic candidate succeeding FDR that brought on the switch to Harry Truman as vice president in 1944.
We do not face such contingencies in 2008. What we do face is several more months of the kind of confusion that can frustrate the modern American voter.