Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Indiana Sec. of State on 2012 Presidential Primary

Recently, Indiana Secretary of State, Todd Rokita, sat down with Howey Politics Indiana to discuss a wide range of things. Given that the secretary of state's office handles election administration in the Hoosier state, the talk ultimately turned to the 2012 presidential primary calendar.

Here are the relevant points from the discussion (commentary appended):

HPI: Have you had conversations with party chairs Dan Parker (D) and Murray Clark (R) about when Indiana will have its 2012 presidential primary?

Rokita: I have and we hope to be able to study it this summer. Again, I am disappointed that the Senate resolution that crossed over to the House to do just that did not get heard, as far as I’ve seen yet. That’s OK, the Senate can do its own. I hope the Democrats come to the table. It was their party that benefited so much from having a contested primary this last year. Indiana mattered. That’s a great thing. I want it to be that way every presidential election.

Let me clarify a few things about this exchange and augment them to some degree. First, SCR 28, the Senate resolution setting up a committee to study the wisdom behind moving Indiana's presidential primary in future cycles, passed the Senate and moved over to the House where it has stalled. Rokita says as much, but adds that it is the Democratic Party that is holding the measure up. And that is certainly in line with FHQ's thinking concerning 2012. Republicans are going to be more active in presidential primary frontloading than are Democrats simply because theirs is the party with the competitive nomination race. It is completely understandable, then, that the Republican-controlled Senate was able to move the resolution while the Democratic-controlled House basically refused to bring it out of commitee. Also, the clock is running out in the Indiana General Assembly. The legislature is slated to adjourn tomorrow (April 29), which means that it is all but assured that the Senate will be the only body in Indiana's state government studying a frontloading move for the Hoosier state's presidential primary.

[I've already weighed in on Indiana potentially moving. See here, here and here. And I still need to model that 2000 primary season. That sounds like a summer project.]

HPI: Do you think this is going to be a state-by-state thing or is there a chance of regional presidential primaries?

Rokita: Since I am president of the national association (of Secretary of States) we’ve studied the regional primary and that’s the one you’ll see me continue to advocate as we rotate around the country. I think that has some very good implications to it. However, what I realized after going through a presidential election cycle with it, the parties really are the backstop. If the parties make some reform, like rotating regional primaries, they will make it happen. The Republicans are moving in that direction. They used to have very strict rules at a party convention. Well, the Democratic Party was able to have a Rules Committee on the fly so they can adjust in between their national conventions. You saw the Republicans move in that direction after Minnesota this past year. I’m hopeful, but it’s quite clear the parties will have to both agree on a plan if we’re going to have any reform in the nation.

Ah, reform. Given his position as secretary of state, it is no surprise that Sec. Rokita is pushing the NASS Rotating Regional Primary Plan. That certainly isn't as interesting as his last statement. Let's look at that again: "I’m hopeful, but it’s quite clear the parties will have to both agree on a plan if we’re going to have any reform in the nation." As I've tried to make quite clear in this space, if reform is going to happen, it will have to be something that both parties coordinate. If only one party moves, the door will be fully opened to an exponential increase in the incidence of Florida and Michigan-type moves of defiance in the future. So, it is good to see that at least one person in a position of power has come to this realization. The extent to which that thinking spreads will dicatate whether we actually see primary reform or not.

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