Primary Schedule - 2016

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By Jessica Calefati
jcalefati@bayareanewsgroup.com
Posted: 01/30/2016 – 01:24:46 PM PST

After months of nonstop cable TV chatter and a political story line worthy of an Aaron Sorkin parallel universe, it’s finally time for the country to start picking its presidential nominees. But this time might be different — Californians’ votes could really count for the first time in decades.

As the Iowa caucuses scheduled for Monday and the early primaries that follow begin to shape one of the most unpredictable presidential contests in years, California’s political junkies are licking their chops about the possible impact the state’s huge cache of delegates could have come June.

“It looks like there’s a greater than usual chance that we’ll matter,” said Jack Pitney, a political expert at Claremont McKenna College.
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley during a campaign stop at his field office in Sioux City, Iowa on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016. (Justin
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley during a campaign stop at his field office in Sioux City, Iowa on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016. (Justin Wan/Sioux City Journal via AP) ( Justin Wan )

The reason: It’s totally conceivable that both the Democratic and Republican primaries could stretch on for months. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are locked in a tight Democratic race that no one imagined a few months ago. And three or four strong GOP candidates in a still-crowded field could easily emerge from the battles of Iowa and New Hampshire as front-runner Donald Trump continues to amaze and confuse most political observers.

Independent voter Daniel Lambton, a 58-year-old San Lorenzo resident, couldn’t be more thrilled.

He said the limited influence that California’s late presidential primary typically carries is an injustice to the 38 million people who live here. “The whole political system is so screwed up,” said Lambton, a retired Alameda County worker who hopes to see Trump become the GOP nominee. So “a close election where Californians’ opinions count would be a great thing.”

But experts caution that all the theories about a long, politically hot spring could still fall apart. So they advise waiting at least a few weeks before getting too excited.

By then, we’ll know if Sanders is able to upset Clinton in Iowa and whether Ted Cruz managed to wrest any victories away from Trump ahead of Super Tuesday on March 1, when voters in 11 (12 for Republicans) mostly Southern states will cast ballots.

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