Thursday, May 19, 2011

The 2012 Presidential Primary Calendar (5/19/11)

First of all, FHQ wants to be very careful with the 2012 Presidential Primary Calendar from this point forward. This calendar and those in the future will likely not go over well in some quarters, so let me explain the rationale behind where Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina are placed on the calendar now that Florida is officially without a primary date. The newly-created Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee has until October 1 to choose a date for the presidential primary. That date will be between the first Tuesday in January and the first Tuesday in March. Now, if the committee selects March 6 -- the first Tuesday in March -- like many other states, the dates the parties have set aside for the exempted four early states will hold. Those dates on the calendar below are denoted by a "based on national party rules" tag.

But there is an opposite end of that spectrum, too. If the Florida committee selects January 3 -- the first Tuesday in January -- for the Sunshine state primary, that will obviously have a very significant consequence. It would likely force the first four primary/caucus states into 2011. And due to the holidays, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina will be pushed into the first half of December. Right now, the best guess is Iowa on December 5, New Hampshire on December 13, and Nevada and South Carolina on December 17. That assumes that Nevada and South Carolina stay true to the 2008 precedent where both states' Republican contests were held concurrently. But that is something that is certainly unclear. South Carolina would conceivably be able to shift to the following Tuesday, December 20, but that would be cutting very close to the holidays.

Again, these are not definitive dates. Rather, they are contingency dates if Florida's Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee moves the presidential primary in the Sunshine state up to the earliest date allowed by the newly-passed law. FHQ, however, cannot stress enough that this is a contingency. Those December dates are the likely earliest dates on which the earliest states will hold their contests, but please take note that we have added dates for the latest possible dates -- those designated by the national parties' rules -- should Florida cooperate with those rules and choose March 6. When Florida selects a date, the options for the earliest four states will become clearer. But that means a long wait until as late as October 1.

[Click to Enlarge]

Reading the Map:

As was the case with the maps from past cycles, the earlier a contest is scheduled in 2012, the darker the color in which the state is shaded. Florida, for instance, is a much deeper shade of blue in January than South Dakota is in June. There are, however, some differences between the earlier maps and the one that appears above.

  1. Several caucus states have yet to select a date for the first step of their delegate selection processes in 2012. Until a decision is made by state parties in those states, they will appear in gray on the map.
  2. The states where legislation to move the presidential primary is active are two-toned. One color indicates the timing of the primary according to the current law whereas the second color is meant to highlight the most likely month to which the primary could be moved. [With the exception of Texas, the proposed movement is backward.] This is clear in most states, but in others -- Maryland and Tennessee -- where multiple timing options are being considered, the most likely date is used. Here that is defined as a bill -- or date change -- with the most institutional support. In both cases, the majority party leadership is sponsoring one change over another (February to March in Tennessee and February to April in Maryland). That option is given more weight on the map.
  3. Kentucky is unique because the legislation there calls for shifting the primary from May to August. As August is not included in the color coding, white designates that potential move with the May shade of blue. Georgia, too, is unique. The state legislature is considering a bill to shift primary date-setting power from the legislature to the secretary of state. The effect is that the Peach state has a dark blue stripe for its current February primary date and a gray stripe to reflect the fact that a change from that based on the bill in question would put the future 2012 primary date in limbo until December 1 at the latest.
  4. Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina are shaded on the map according to the latest possible date these states would have if Florida opts not to move their primary into compliance with the national party rules. Iowa Republicans and Nevada Republicans and Democrats have decided to accept the party-designated dates, but FHQ operates under the assumption that both will move to a point ahead of the earliest exempt state should one or more move or maintain a February or earlier date.
  5. States that are bisected vertically are states where the state parties have different dates for their caucuses and/or primaries. The left hand section is shaded to reflect the state Democratic Party's scheduling while the right is for the state Republican Party's decision on the timing of its delegate selection event.

Reading the Calendar:

  1. Caucus states are italicized while primary states are not. Several caucus states are missing from the list because they have not formalized the date on which their contests will be held in 2012. Colorado appears because the caucuses dates there are set by the state, whereas a state like Alaska has caucuses run by the state parties and as such do not have their dates codified in state law.
  2. States that have changed dates appear twice (or more) on the calendar; once by the old date and once by the new date. The old date will be struck through while the new date will be color-coded with the amount of movement (in days) in parentheses. States in green are states that have moved to earlier dates on the calendar and states in red are those that have moved to later dates. Arkansas, for example, has moved its 2012 primary and moved it back 104 days from its 2008 position.
  3. The date of any primary or caucus moves that have taken place -- whether through gubernatorial signature or state party move -- also appear in parentheses following the state's/party's new entry on the calendar.
  4. States with active legislation have links to those bills included with their entries on the calendar. If there are multiple bills they are divided by chamber and/or numbered accordingly.
  5. Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina appear twice. The earlier entry corresponds with the latest possible date these states would have if Florida opts not to move their primary into compliance with the national party rules. The second, later entry for each of the non-exempt states reflects the position the national parties would prefer the earliest states to hold their delegate selection events.

2012 Presidential Primary Calendar

December 2011

Monday, December 5:

Iowa caucuses1

Tuesday, December 13

New Hampshire1

Saturday, December 17:

Nevada caucuses1

January 2012

Tuesday, January 31:

Florida (bills: House 1, 2/Senate) (moved to no date: 5/19/11)

February 2012

Monday, February 6:

Iowa caucuses (moved: 2/8/11) (based on national party rules)

Tuesday, February 7 (Super Tuesday):

Alabama (bills: House 1, 2)


California (bills: Assembly)

Connecticut (bills: House)


Georgia (bills: House) (moved to no date: 5/13/11)


Minnesota caucuses (+28) (moved: 3/1/11)

Missouri (bills: House 1, 2, 3/Senate)

Montana Republican caucuses

New Jersey (bills: Assembly 1, 2/Senate)

New York




Saturday, February 11:

Louisiana (bills: House)

Tuesday, February 14:


New Hampshire (based on national party rules)


Washington, DC

Saturday, February 18:

Nevada Republican caucuses (-28) (moved: 12/16/10) (based on national party rules)

Nevada Democratic caucuses2 (-28) (moved: 2/24/11) (based on national party rules)

Tuesday, February 21:

Hawaii Republican caucuses (+88) (moved: 5/16/09)


Tuesday, February 28:


Michigan4 (bills: House)

South Carolina (based on national party rules)

March 2012

Tuesday, March 6:

Massachusetts4 (bills: House)

Ohio (bills: House)

Oklahoma (-28) (bills: House 1, 2, 3/Senate 1, 2) (moved: 5/3/11)

Rhode Island

Tennessee (-28) (bills: House 1, 2, 3/Senate 1, 2, 3) (moved: 5/9/11)

Texas (bills: House/Senate)


Virginia (-21) (bills: House 1, 2/Senate) (moved: 3/25/11)

Sunday, March 11:

Maine Democratic caucuses (-28) (moved: 3/27/11)

Tuesday, March 13:

Hawaii Republican caucuses (+67 and -21) (moved: 5/14/11)


Utah Democratic caucuses (-35) (moved: 3/25/11)

Tuesday, March 20:

Colorado caucuses5 (bills: House)

Illinois (-42) (bills: Senate) (moved: 3/17/10)

April 2012

Tuesday, April 3:

Kansas (bills: House/Senate -- cancel primary)

Maryland (-49) (bills: House/Senate 1, 2) (moved: 5/10/11)

Washington, DC (-49) (bills: Council) (moved: 4/27/11)

Saturday, April 7:

Hawaii Democratic caucuses (-46) (moved: 3/18/11)

Wyoming Democratic caucuses (-28) (moved: 3/16/11)

Saturday, April 14:

Nebraska Democratic caucuses (-60) (moved: 3/5/11)

Sunday, April 15:

Alaska Democratic caucuses (-70) (moved: 4/4/11)

Washington Democratic caucuses (-64) (moved: 4/30/11)

Tuesday, April 24:


May 2012

Saturday, May 5:

Michigan Democratic caucuses (-111) (moved: 4/13/11)

Tuesday, May 8:


North Carolina (bills: Senate)

West Virginia

Tuesday, May 15:

Idaho (+7) (bills: House) (moved: 2/23/11)


Oregon (bills: House)

Tuesday, May 22:

Arkansas (-107) (bills: House) (moved: 2/4/09)


Kentucky (bills: House) (died: legislature adjourned)

Washington (bills: House 1, 2/Senate -- cancel primary) (canceled: 5/12/11)

June 2012

Tuesday, June 5:

Montana (GOP -121) (moved: 6/18/10)

New Mexico6 (bills: Senate) (died: legislature adjourned)

North Dakota Democratic caucuses (-121) (moved: 4/21/11)

South Dakota

1 New Hampshire law calls for the Granite state to hold a primary on the second Tuesday of March or seven days prior to any other similar election, whichever is earlier. Florida is first now, so New Hampshire would be a week earlier at the latest. Traditionally, Iowa has gone on the Monday a week prior to New Hampshire. For the time being we'll wedge South Carolina in on the Saturday between New Hampshire and Florida, but these are just guesses at the moment. Any rogue states could cause a shift.

2 The Nevada Democratic caucuses date is based on both DNC rules and the state party's draft delegate selection plan as of February 24, 2011.

3 In Arizona the governor can use his or her proclamation powers to move the state's primary to a date on which the event would have an impact on the nomination. In 2004 and 2008 the primary was moved to the first Tuesday in February.
4 Massachusetts and Michigan are the only states that passed a frontloading bill prior to 2008 that was not permanent. The Bay state reverts to its first Tuesday in March date in 2012 while Michigan will fall back to the fourth Tuesday in February.
5 The Colorado Democratic and Republican parties have the option to move their caucuses from the third Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February.
6 The law in New Mexico allows the parties to decide when to hold their nominating contests. The Democrats have gone in early February in the last two cycles, but the GOP has held steady in June. They have the option of moving however.


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