- The window of time in which presidential nomination contests are held
- The impact of superdelegates
- The caucus system
Before we turn to the numbers, let's revisit my back-of-the-napkin analysis from when the commission was named in March.
The MembershipFirst, let's augment this with a look at the caucus states representatives on the Democratic Change Commission (DCC). Of course, we should probably start this by noting that proportionally there are far fewer caucus states than primary states. About a quarter of the states (12) held Democratic caucuses in 2008. On the DCC, six of the members are from caucus states and that amounts to just under a sixth of the total membership.
My first inclination is to look not at who specifically these 37 commission members are, but to focus on where they are from and what that says about the group collectively. Let's look at it by the numbers:
Now, what does any of that have to do with the changes this commission may bring about? Well, it has a "take care of your own" feel to it. The membership hails from the Obama coalition of states and of those outside that coalition, most are states that were within ten points last November. These states won't necessarily have privileged positions on the 2012 calendar but they will be represented on the commission. Part of the Obama success story was primary season organizational efforts that paid dividends in the general election. The flip side here is that the membership isn't a reflection of future goals (in terms of states to target), but represent states where those organizational efforts were the strongest/most vital.
- 37 members (2 co-chairs and 35 members)
- Representing 26 states (plus DC, Puerto Rico and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe)
- 7 members are from 7 red states
- 24 members from 19 blue states (and four more from DC)
- Of the 15 states within ten points in the presidential election, 13 are represented on the commission (only Indiana and North Dakota are excluded)
- All of the January 2008 Democratic contest states are represented (Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida)
Prognosis: The likelihood of some change to the caucus system -- uniforming the process across caucus states, for example -- actually has few obstacles.
How about superdelegates? How many former supers are on the DCC? From the 2008 cycle, 12 former superdelegates are among the members of the commission and that is roughly a third of the membership. However, just because there are a fair number of superdelegates on the commission doesn't necessarily mean that they'll stand in the way of some change to the superdelegate formula.
Prognosis: Perhaps less likely than a change to the caucuses, but the chances for change are not bad on the whole.
And primary/caucus timing? It'll never happen. Frontloading is here to stay. I'm kidding, but when you look at the numbers there may be a significant obstacle here. This, after all, is the most difficult plank on this three-pronged platform to change. How can we quantify this, though. For our purposes, I'll look at DCC members from states that held contests prior to March. [Yes, I know. That's over half the country.] And there are 28 members from pre-March states out of the 37 person group. That's quite a few. But the obstacle theory doesn't necessarily hold here. If all or most states are already early, as they were in 2008, those early states are more likely to be amenable to just moving everything back a month if no one is better or worse off for the move. Texas and Ohio and the other handful of March states get something of a boost (Well, that's debateable given the likely March logjam. But it isn't a given that at 2012 or 2016 race would play out and last as long as the race in 2008.) and all those February states just shift back a month. Basically, things would, on the Democratic side, revert to their pre-2004 levels.
However, we could also see members complain about the difficulty of pushing such a shift through unreceptive (read: Republican-controlled) legislatures. In other words, state legislators wanting their constituents -- the Republican ones at least -- to have an influence over the 2012 Republican nomination would basically thumb their noses at the Democratic rules if they asked for there to be such a February to March shift. In fact, such legislators may even see that as an opportunity to keep their state in a less crowded, more advantageous position on the calendar.
One final thing we can look at here is how pre-2008 February states are represented on the committee. By this logic, new early state's in 2008 may be more willing to go back to the way things were with the 2004 calendar. This seems less likely now that I'm typing this out, but I've got the numbers and I'll go ahead and share them. Instead of 28 members from pre-March states, there are only 16 (a little less than half) that were from pre-March states in 2004.
Prognosis: There are a lot of early states represented on this commission and that may or may not bode well for some reform on this particular aspect of the group's plan. However, this group was handpicked (possibly making the above numbers moot), so if they desire to make a change -- like the February to March shift -- then they are likely to be able to push it through. But they'll have to tackle the issue of the problems that could create with the RNC. There have been some contacts kept between the parties on this, but without bipartisan action, it is unlikely that we'll see any sweeping reform to the system.
Democratic Change Commission Meeting This Weekend
Why the Sanford Thing Matters
How Not to Emerge as a GOP Darkhorse, Part II