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Primary thunderbolts

Conventional political wisdom loses in this presidential primary season, but voters gain.

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This presidential primary season has turned conventional wisdom on its head. Last week's unique "national primary," which gave more voters than ever an early say, is one example. Others abound, creating an upside-down political world – one that actually looks pretty good.

One enduring theory blown to bits is that the most money wins. Underfunded John McCain disproved that when he became the undeniable GOP front-runner on Super Tuesday, forcing the exit of multimillionaire Mitt Romney.

Oh, money's still king. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the candidates competing for the White House raised and spent more money in 2007 than in each of seven of the last eight presidential elections. But it's nice to know that voter preference can checkmate checking accounts.

Also debunked – the idea that going negative works. The Clinton and Obama campaigns took a detour down this bumpy road before the South Carolina primary. But they found it a dead end with voters, and got back on an upbeat track.

Another premise swept aside: The early front-runner in public opinion polls cleans up at the actual polls. Remember last summer when everyone presumed a Hillary-vs-Rudy contest was inevitable?

A flawed campaign strategy (not a good idea to skip Iowa and New Hampshire), a wide-open field with no incumbent or vice president running, as well as message and tone – these help explain the upset in the Republican contest and the neck-and-neck race between the Democrats.


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