There has already been a handful of states that have introduced or signaled that they would introduce state legislative bills to establish and/or move up a presidential primary for the 2012 cycle. Indiana and Kentucky have indicated that their May primaries could coincide with what would be Super Tuesday during the next cycle (should the same rules from 2008 be used then), the first Tuesday in February. The legislature in Kansas (here, here and here) has gone back and forth over the idea of establishing a presidential primary for 2012 and scheduling it for the Saturday before Super Tuesday. And Minnesota has discussed shifting from a caucus system to a primary, but would keep the contest on Super Tuesday for 2012.
Arkansas, however, becomes the first state to reconsider their decision to frontload the state's presidential primary for 2008. State Rep. Nathan George has already said that he will introduce legislation next year to move the newly-created, separate presidential primary election back to the late May date that coincides with the state's primaries for state and local offices (via Ballot Access News). Of course, had the Natural state held its primary where it had been since 1992, we'd be talking about Clinton's great chances next week in Arkansas and Kentucky and possibly of Obama needing to come through with a victory in Oregon to hold off a late Clinton charge.
Such a move is not without precedence. Arkansas moved its delegate selection back to the same May period for the 1992 cycle after a caucus in 1984 and a primary among the other southern states during the Southern Super Tuesday in 1988. In both instances the benefits of the move didn't necessarily match (or exceed) the costs. Both times Republicans benefited from the move Arkansas made. In 1988, George H.W. Bush used the southern swing as means of establishing himself as the front-runner (and nearly inevitable nominee) while the Democrats split the contests of that day. The 2008 Arkansas primary was an afterthought on the Democratic side because of Clinton's presence on the ballot. Meanwhile, favorite son, Mike Huckabee used his win there combined with his other southern wins on Super Tuesday to cast doubt on McCain's ability to appeal to the conservative side of the Republican Party. In essence, then, the Democratic-controlled state legislature in Arkansas has helped the Republican Party more with its moves (Though, with some potential division within the GOP bubbling below the surface, it could be argued that Arkansas helped to raise questions about McCain, if that division were to become more pronounced. But in a world of quick fixes and instant gratification, that's crazy talk. "Wait for the effects of these things before reacting? I don't think so. Let's move this thing back.").
I would wager that this decision in Arkansas over this proposed move (if, in fact, it is introduced) hinges on a couple of things:
1) Financial concerns: If the return on investment is viewed as sub-par, then the decision may be made to move back and save the money. Having an influence over who the nominee is before the decision is made, though, may outweigh that. Which brings up...
2) Will 2012 more closely resemble 2004 or 2008? If it is the former, Arkansas may value that influence even if it means scant attention from the candidates among a crowded field of contests. If 2012 looks like 2008, Arkansas could move back and get more attention.
I've maintained in this space before that 2008 is move aberration than anything and that 2012 will offer a return to the past in many respects; rapid-fire nomination decision(s) being one of them. More often than not though, what we've witnessed in the post-reform era is that once a state moves early, it stays early. The jury's still out on what Arkansas will do.
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