Thursday, February 17, 2011

If they were deciding today, where would they choose to go? A Note about the 2012 Presidential Primary Calendar

It has become apparent since FHQ's cameo appearance on The Fix earlier this week that the content here has been opened up to a broader political insider audience than before. It has been truer in this instance than in some of the other more general pieces in which I have had quotes on the primary calendar appear. That fact has been driven home by some push back I have gotten on the 2012 presidential primary calendar that we update when primary dates are changed. At issue seems to be where we have Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and until the state Republican Party changed the date in December, Nevada.

Nevada has preemptively moved to the mid-February date -- February 18 -- that the national parties have reserved for it. Well, the DNC specified that date while the Republicans allow more leeway, allowing the four exempt states a window of February 1 through the first Tuesday in March to hold a delegate selection event. In other words, the choice is up to the states. Nonetheless, Nevada Republicans opted for that date. That said, the Silver state Republicans have selected a date.

The other three have not. Each is waiting, as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina typically do, for the other states settle in on dates before deciding on their own earlier dates. This is not news. And while that is not news, it doesn't change the fact that those states and possibly even Nevada will look at which non-exempt state is earliest and make the decision as to the timing of their primaries or caucuses based on that information.

Ideally from the national parties perspective that will be no earlier than the first Tuesday in March 2012. But that conflicts with the reality of the situation from the states' perspective. Election laws already on the books specify when presidential primary elections are to be held and it will take state legislative action to alter that. But unless or until that reality changes we have to operate -- we do around here anyway -- under the aforementioned assumption. Florida election law currently has the Sunshine state's presidential primary scheduled for January 31. That is currently the earliest non-exempt delegate selection event and if Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina were to have to choose today on which date each would go next year, the decision makers in those states would choose based on that information. The latest possible dates for those states to go with Florida and others -- those other states scheduled to hold contests throughout February -- standing in the way of national party delegate selection rules is right where FHQ has them.
Monday, January 16: Iowa
Tuesday, January 24: New Hampshire
Saturday, January 28: South Carolina (and perhaps Nevada)
And even that is questionable because New Hampshire law requires a week long cushion on both sides of its primary. That proposed South Carolina date falls just four days after the primary in the Granite state and if Bill Gardner, the New Hampshire secretary of state who has the date-setting power there, wants to be a stickler, he could inch the state's primary up an additional week to January 17 and push Iowa to January 9. That, however, has yet to play out.

So no, the dates for those three states are not official -- something that has been noted in the sidebar calendar and in posts since I first posted them in December 2008 and is highlighted even more clearly now -- but until the information changes (read: Florida moves back), the dates FHQ lists for Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina are the latest possible dates on which their contests will fall in 2012.

NOTE: A link to this post will be added to all archived and future updates to the calendar that appears here.

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