This strikes me as a wise way of going about this process. Why not look into the prudence of shifting the primary instead of just moving along with everyone else? [Who says a legislature can't be a deliberative body?] Indiana isn't California, so the candidates aren't necessarily going to flock to the Hoosier state if the state government there opts to shift its presidential primary to Super Tuesday, say.
But what is Indiana likely to gain by moving up versus staying put? Let's take a step back for a moment and discuss this situation. Overall, this is akin to the study that Travis Ridout and Brandon Rottinghaus had in PS early last year (Fortunately, that pdf link is not gated, but I'll link it here anyway.). Their goal was to predict the benefits a Western Regional Primary would receive based on varying levels of "crowdedness" and proximity to the New Hampshire primary. The benefits of the regional primary dissipated both the further away the bloc primary was from New Hampshire and the more frontloaded the calendar of contests around that regional primary got. It could be instructive to follow their lead -- taking the data from 2000, 2004 and now 2008 to predict what Indiana would get from moving earlier in 2012 -- but I'd argue it'd be just as instructive to see what Indiana would have gotten in 2000 and 2004 if they had moved up a certain number of weeks and with far fewer assumptions.
The same rules basically apply: We can regress the same group of variables Ridout and Rottinhaus did on the candidate attention variables. That information will allow us to simulate what Indiana or any other state would have gotten by simply shifting both its proximity to New Hampshire and how big of a crowd there was on the date where Indiana "moved." Fortunately I have most of this data and should be able to put something together over the coming weekend.
But first, what factors matter in this equation?
- Delegates: As I alluded to above, size maters. California is likely to get more attention from moving than Indiana.
- Primary or caucus?: Despite all the chatter about caucuses in 2008, primaries still garner the most attention from candidates.
- Event Scheduling: This site is pretty much predicated on the idea that in the current system, earlier is better.
- Number of candidates: Obviously, the greater the number of candidates in the nomination race at the time of a state's contest, the more attention that state is likely to get.
- Number of simultaneous events: A crowded field of contests on any one day translates into candidate resources stretched thin. Look no further than Arkansas on this one.
- Number of events in the same week: The reasoning above holds true here as well. If a state has a contest on the weekend following Super Tuesday, it may receive short shrift from the candidates than if it had not been as close to so many other contests.
- Number of nearby states on the same date: Finally, resources are hypothetically more efficiently spent if a cluster of contests in neighboring states occur simultaneously. If John McCain is already in Missouri it is much easier (and more likely) to go campaign in nearby Oklahoma or Arkansas or Tennessee prior to February 5, 2008.
And before we get into a statistical model, it would probably be best, not to mention instructive to look at some descriptive statistics for similar states that also recently frontloaded. That's where I'll turn tomorrow.