selection of the party nominee, pick the vice presidential candidate, and hammer out the platform. The original Packwood regional primary bill (later co-sponsored by Senators Mark Hatfield [R-OR], and Ted Stevens [R-AK]) leaves each state free to decide for itself on whether or not to hold a presidential primary. Thus, the states retain much wider latitude in the management and selection of their national convention delegates. And the viability of the national convention would be less seriously threatened than under the national direct primary reform.
Although public opinion polls have showed approval for regional presidential primaries, a final vote on such proposed legislation has never been taken in the halls of Congress. Nor has there been a public outcry for primary reform, such as the recent demand for term limits for members of Congress.
However, the national primary movement could be pushed along by a twin drive for a constitutional amendment to abolish the electoral college and substitute direct election of the president without regard to state lines. As explained by Austin Ranney, "Most of the arguments against the Electoral College and in favor of direct national elections can also be made against the national party convention and in favor of a direct national primary."12 Both the electoral college and the national convention, the critics insist, are artificial devices thrust between the sovereign voters and their choosing of a president. Both of these time-honored institutions make possible the selection of a president by a minority of voters, whereas direct election of the president and a national presidential primary will always reflect the popular will, the equally weighted votes of individual citizens.
Significantly, all recent primary bills introduced since 1977 rely on acts of Congress, not constitutional amendments, to federalize the presidential nominating system. Whether Congress has the power to overhaul the presidential nominating system without use of a constitutional amendment has never been fully established. But it is significant, as Ranney has pointed out, that none of the challengers to the constitutionality of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974 argued that Congress lacked the power to regulate presidential primaries. 13