This week, as convention season has kicked off, we've cast an eye on the various sanction regimes that could be employed to deal with the frontloading of presidential primaries and caucuses in the future. Along the way I've done my fair share of mocking the current hollow sanctions. One question about 2008 remained though: Would the McCain campaign and the RNC let the sanctions slide for Wyoming, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina and Florida? All five had their delegations cut by half for holding nominating contests prior to February 5.
[What about Iowa and Nevada? They went early too. They did, but both held caucuses, the first steps of which were not determinative. No delegates were directly chosen in those January precinct meetings. In Wyoming on the other hand, nearly half the state's delegation was chosen in the January 5 meetings.]
Well, the word out of Wyoming is that those sanctions are alive and well. Furthermore, those from the Cowboy state will be sitting in the back of the hall in St. Paul (That rhymes a bit too much. I feel like Jesse Jackson describing what he felt was the "inclusion illusion" at the 2000 GOP convention now.) with the other states in violation. The obvious question now is, does it really matter? Would any of these five states have changed what they did? I doubt it.
But sticking to their guns isn't something the GOP will be able to highlight with any great effectiveness this week. They can't come out and say, for example, "The Democrats flip-flopped on this, but we didn't. We're the party of reform." Well, I suppose they could, but they'd risk turning off some people in hotly contested states like Florida, Michigan and New Hampshire. They would not be able to fall back on the excuse Florida Democrats used in defense of their position to remove the stripping of all of Florida's delegates by the DNC. In other words, they wouldn't be able to blame it on the actions of the other party. Florida's state government (legislature and governor) is controlled by the Republicans. In Michigan, Republicans also had their hand in the state's move, though not to the extent that Florida Republicans did. Only New Hampshire's move was solely due to the decisions of Democrats. But that's due to the quirk of New Hampshire election law that leaves the decision up to the secretary of state, Bill Gardner -- a Democrat. He was given the ability by the Granite state legislature in the 1970s -- Yes, he's been the secretary of state there the whole time -- so that the state could quickly and efficiently to deal with challenges to their first in the nation status.
This want see the light of day this coming week in the press, but given our discussions here this week, it is certainly worth noting.
NOTE: I'll be back later in the day with a later-than-usual Sunday update of the electoral college projections.
The Barr/Nader Effect Revisited
The Links (8/30/08): Sarah Palin/GOP Convention Edition
More Thoughts on Penalties to Prevent Frontloading