Saturday, March 8, 2008

Wyoming Democrats, You're Up!: An Examination of Event Scheduling

It is interesting that the Wyoming Republican party moved their caucuses to January 5 and got lost in the shuffle; stuck between Iowa (Jan. 3) and New Hampshire (Jan. 8). Cowboy state Democrats, on the other hand, opted to wait it out and adhere to their scheduled March 8 caucus date, and they will end up receiving more attention than the GOP contest in Wyoming despite the move. Bill Clinton stumped for Hillary in the state on Thursday and both Hillary and Obama were in the state yesterday (see for a map of the stops).

Candidate stops are only part of that equation though. Clinton made two stops in Wyoming yesterday while Obama stuck to where he's been successful--college towns--with a stop in Laramie at the University of Wyoming. But that doesn't differ from the number of visits the Republican candidates made. Fred Thompson was in the state soon after he announced in September and Mitt Romney made three stops in the state on November 18 (see again the map linked above). So Republican visits actually outnumbered those of the Democratic candidates (Of course you'd have to control for the number of candidates still in the race at the time...if you were to use this as a measure of attention. More Republicans were in the race at the time of their Wyoming caucuses than there are Democrats now that their caucuses are being held.).

Media attention figures into this as well. Media attention though, is largely a function of candidate attention to a state. So why are Wyoming Democrats getting more "attention" now than their Republican counterparts in the state got in early January? Much of it has to do with timing. Both contests were the only events on their respective dates, but the Republican caucuses were sandwiched between Iowa and New Hampshire on the same day as bookend New Hampshire debates for both parties. In other words, the Wyoming GOP did not have a recipe for success. That the Democrats in the Cowboy state do, is more a function of the competitiveness of the Democratic race at this point than the state party's decision to hold a March 8 caucus. [Plus being between Texas-Ohio and Mississippi is a lot different than being between Iowa and New Hampshire.]

Typically, demand for calendar dates is frontloaded. So having a contest that is the only event on a particular date or week is a much more difficult proposition early on the calendar than later. The tradeoff though, is that those "only event" contests (those not named Iowa or New Hampshire) are, more often than not, on dates that come after the point at which the nomination(s) has (have) been decided. The outcome then is that attention wanes because the state is not decisive. Let's use Pennsylvania as an example. The late April primary date in the Keystone state has been outside of the "decisive zone" during the Super Tuesday era. So while the state is rich in delegates, it is not in decisiveness. Since the contest is still competitive for the Democrats this cycle and almost guaranteed to be when Pennsylvania rolls around on April 22, the state should receive more attention than is usual. In fact, you could argue that since both the Clinton and Obama camps are after Philadelphia ward leader endorsements this weekend, attention is already greater than it has been in the past.

Wyoming Democrats then are getting a bit more attention than you would otherwise expect this year. Caucuses got under way there early this morning with the last one commencing at 4pm (mountain time) this afternoon. Results may trickle out as the day progresses like they did for the Republicans in January, but won't be fully in until later this evening. There are already reports that (surprise) turnout is high at at least one caucus. Seven of the states 18 total delegates are on the line today.

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