Will California's 'top 2' system breed more moderates?

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Residents turn out to vote in mid-term elections at a polling place inside a luxury car dealer in Beverly Hills, California, on November 2, 2010. California's new primary system being put in place this Tuesday to encourage more moderate candidates, and one skeptic political scientist doesn't think it'll work.

Tuesday’s election is the debut of California’s novel primary system known as “Top Two,” a method meant to encourage more moderate candidates. But one political pundit isn’t so sure.

Under the new system, the top two finishers in congressional and state legislative races will face off in November, even if they’re from the same party. UC Berkeley political scientist Bruce Cain refuses to call Tuesday's election a primary "because it’s not a primary system."

Cain says California really has created a two-stage general election. Backers of “Top Two” believe that if candidates from the same party face off in November, voters from the other party will choose the more moderate candidate.

Cain is skeptical.

"How different are they when push comes to shove?" he asks, rhetorically. "How much independence will we really see?"

Cain says there’s one other wild card to consider: the new rules allowing unlimited independent spending on political campaigns.

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