Monday, March 21, 2011

Feb. 7 Minnesota Caucuses with March 6 Results?

That is exactly what the Minnesota Democratic Farm-Labor Party is proposing in the draft of its 2012 delegate selection plan (Section III.A). Ordinarily, FHQ would take a skeptical stance on this plan -- with the skepticism based entirely on the scant chance that the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee would sign off on it. In this instance, though, I think DFLers in Minnesota are likely to "get away" with this. First of all, the Democratic nomination is unlikely to be contested. That in turn means that no one in the media or otherwise is going to be clamoring to find out the results of a contest that is likely to be between President Obama and himself. In other words, there's no news there.

I have had this idea come up in the course of conversations about frontloading in the past: the notion that a state would hold its contest early, but release its results later. It doesn't matter in the least for Democrats in 2012 because the results don't matter, but I wonder how open the Rules and Bylaws Committee will be to opening up that Pandora's box. The idea sounds good in theory, but it also seems like something where states or state actors would or could cheat -- leaking their results -- as an attempt to have some influence over the process. That's a slippery slope. If you're looking for a guide as to how likely this is to pass muster with the RBC, pay attention to Iowa Democrats and to a lesser extent New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner. The extent to which they feel threatened and further whether they act on that threat will determine to some degree how the Rules and Bylaws Committee will come down on this one. [At this point, Minnesota is but one of those worries with Florida being more of a threat at the moment.]

The easy out is for the RBC to punt until the 2016 cycle by allowing Minnesota to implement the plan as outlined. The argument that it won't blunt Iowa and New Hampshire's impact in a year in which the Democratic nomination race is settled is solid. But that doesn't mean that Iowa and New Hampshire won't come out against the idea in relation to the 2012 calendar (but be looking ahead to 2016).

UPDATE: It should also be noted that even though the provision in Minnesota state law placing the caucus on the first Tuesday in February was triggered on March 1, the law could still be changed. Could be. However, with Republicans in control of the Minnesota legislature -- and with a contested nomination race -- that is unlikely. With the Democratic delegate selection rules calling for state legislators to do whatever they can to bring the timing of states' delegate selection events in line with the national party rules, a bill could be proposed but would probably not go anywhere. That could, in turn, be part of the Minnesota DFL's defense of the February 7 date. However, that argument would more than likely prove to be less than effective considering the party pays for the caucuses and has the ability schedule the contest when and where it desires.

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