After an on again, off again flirtation with re-establishing and frontloading a presidential primary for the 2008 nomination cycle, the Kansas legislature is at it again. This time though, they have the 2012 elections in mind. The House passed a bill on Friday to permanently set establish a presidential primary on the first Saturday in February every presidential election year. That bill [H 2683] subsequently passed the Senate in the form of an amendment to a committee report (I'm not a fan of the Kansas legislature's web page, but if you want to track the progress of the bill just enter "2683" in "Track a Bill" search area on the right side of the main page.). During yesterday's session, that report was referred to the House where a conference committee between the chambers was requested and then agreed to by the Senate.
So Kansas joins Kentucky, Indiana and Minnesota as states that are already casting an eye toward the next presidential election cycle (...while the current one is still in progress). The Kansas legislature has been a bit more clever (or not so clever) in its approach to 2012 though. First, the proposal places the primary on a weekend as opposed to the usual Tuesday position that most states use. And with the calendar set up as it is in 2012, that means this primary would precede the first Tuesday in February (the time when most of the states that moved for 2008 will be going in 2012). If the national parties stick with their 2008 rules--the same rules that make the first Tuesday in February the earliest point at which a non-Iowa or New Hampshire contest can be held--then the 2012 Kansas primary would be in violation and subject to sanctions. Kansas, I'd like to introduce you to Florida and Michigan.
Of course, there are a couple of other considerations here as well. Will the parties keep the same sanctions for 2012 or will they alter them in some way? Both parties decided to penalize states in violation in 2008 half their delegates. The Democratic party also sought to sanction candidates campaigning in violator states and then tried to make an example of Florida and then Michigan. Given the situation that has arisen out of the Florida and Michigan moves, the DNC may revisit that sanction regimen at this summer's convention.
The Kansas legislature doesn't seem to be bothered by the threats anyway--no matter which form they take. The proposal on the table for 2008 called for a February 2 primary which would have broken the current rules (costing them half their delegates on the Republican side and more than likely all of them in the Democratic race). Kansas then, appears to be making the same gamble that Florida and Michigan made, and in the process have signaled that they value the exposure such a contest brings over representation at the conventions.
The question has already been asked of me but I'll pose it here in this forum: Will states change their strategy for 2012 given the way 2008 has gone? In other words, will some states consider moving to later dates in anticipation of another 2008-like contest? So far, all the evidence points toward no being the answer. Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana and Minnesota lawmakers all seem to think that the system will return to the "earlier is better" model typical of the Super Tuesday era.