Friday, August 22, 2008

More on the Effort to Curb 2012 Frontloading

What, two frontloading posts in one week?!? Yeah, let's take a break from the vice presidential hysteria for a bit. That will obviously take care of itself. Though I will say that in my classes today I played the "wisdom of the masses" game that the good folks over at the Monkey Cage played yesterday and Biden won in each (for what its worth).

Anyway on the heels of my comments the other day following Obama's and the DNC's charting of a potential course for presidential nomination reform, there were a few more interesting tidbits that emerged around a similar theme. The Washington Post ran a great story reiterating some of the issues confronting the GOP's Ohio Plan at the party's convention in a little over a week. And some of these issues cut right to the heart of some things that have plagued the United States since its inception, mainly the divide between big states and little states. [Can you tell I'm teaching an intro to American Government course now? It's fresh in my mind.] So, on the one hand you have arguments about the system being broken:
"Most people believe that it's broken," said Ron Kaufman, a member of the RNC rules committee. "The question is, how do you fix it in a way that doesn't have unintended consequences?"
And on the other you have the big states' view voiced by perennial primary season also-ran, Michigan:

"I would rather stay with what we got," [Michigan Republican Party chairman, Saul] Anuzis said.

I playfully juxtaposed those two quotations from that article, but that's the order this discussion is going to go in at the convention. So, the system is broken, but is broken enough that the biggest states can be shunted to the back of the queue? I doubt that the big states that represent those last three primary day groups under the Ohio Plan are going to allow that idea to pass without a fight. Let's recall that those large states still have the largest number of delegates (even if that number is adjusted based upon how the state has supported the party in past elections) and that math stands in the way of the Ohio Plan.

Well, surprise, surprise: FHQ is quashing yet another presidential nomination reform proposal. [C'mon, that's not my intent.] Yeah, but there is some work being done out there to reform the system. And you know what? It is a bipartisan effort. Earlier this week, at a meeting at the National Press Club in Washington, the chairs of both parties' rules committees met with the president-elect of the National Association of Secretaries of State (Trey Grayson, R-KY) and Don Means, the Director of the Open Caucus Institute and together called for a "vigorous and widespread discussion and deliberation about how best to reform the current primary election calendar for 2012." Calling for and getting that reform are two different things, but the fact that at least some notable (and influential) members of each party are coalescing to make this effort is at least promising. And yes, I count the chairs of the DNC's and RNC's rules committees as influential.

But not as influential as the guys actually chosen through the current system to run for president. Obama has obviously voiced some concern over certain aspects of the system, but, as the Post article says, McCain and his campaign have been quiet on the issue. And what they say means a lot to the delegates making decisions on these matters (at least with respect to the GOP). Typically, those who win nominations in a certain way are not apt to want to change a system under which they were successful. I think both candidates can agree to the start date for primaries and caucuses being pushed back in 2012 and beyond, but beyond that, I'd question how far either is willing to go to shake up the rest of the system.

The Republicans have to, by their rules, deal with the issue of 2012 at their convention. We'll know something about 2012's calendar then. And what I'm really interested in is how the parties are going to keep states in line on this. Those sanctions have to matter otherwise, frontloading isn't going anywhere. We keep hearing this threat that action needs to be taken now lest 2008 repeat itself in 2012. For the record, (the act of) frontloading will not be as widespread four years from now. States will be less motivated to frontload because 1) most already have and 2) only one of the parties, barring the unforeseen, will have a contested nomination then. The outcome -- the crowding of contests -- may be, though.

I can, then, easily envision the window in which these contests are held being scaled back in 2012, but I'm skeptical of anything beyond that.

Recent Posts:
The Links (8/21/08): National Party Convention Bounces

Blog Note

Back to the Future: The February Frontloading Experiment is Over


SarahLawrenceScott said...

Relevant news.

Josh Putnam said...

Ooh, an excellent addition, Scott.

The comments throughout that article are enlightening. This calendar issue a real tough one. We may see some forced backloading in 2012, but the real difference as this alludes to will be in the influence of the superdelegates and in the rules regarding caucuses. The thing is that neither of those are really going to matter unless things are tight like they were this year. And honestly, that just isn't that likely...unless they are able change the timing issue.