Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Arizona Presidential Primary Situation (8/30/11)

If you have read the news out of or surrounding Arizona over the last week or so,1 then there seems to be one take home message from all the stories: Governor Jan Brewer is running out of time to move the Grand Canyon state's presidential primary to January 31 if that is her preferred date. And according to the extremely consistent statements from her spokesperson, Matt Benson, "the governor continues to lean toward January 31". Any of the periodic updates that have emerged in the time since Governor Brewer raised the possibility of moving the already non-compliant Arizona primary -- something that has still not been dealt with either by the press or the RNC -- have said the same thing.

But what is new in the AP story by Paul Davenport is that Brewer -- according to her spokesperson -- while leaning toward January 31 is considering other options as well. Here's the money quote:
"The governor has indicated her priority here is to give the biggest platform to Arizona voters and Southwestern issues," he said. "You could potentially see a potential presidential preference election date other than Jan. 31 and accomplish the same thing."
As FHQ mentioned back in late July, Arizona was/is forcing the RNC to the negotiating table. The January 31 move was an opening offer. And we're beginning to see evidence of that in Benson's admission that the state can likely carve out an attention-maximizing position on the calendar on a date other than (read: later than) January 31. Now, that isn't to suggest that Brewer will not ultimately decide to move the Arizona presidential primary to January 31 on or before this coming Friday or Saturday. However, FHQ will go to great lengths to urge folks to consider that there are other options on the table.

Essentially, what we are left with for this week are a handful of options:
  1. Brewer moves the Arizona presidential primary to January 31. That forces a reaction from Florida. And that triggers a response from Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. The outcome is that the process gets pushed up into the front half of January (or earlier depending on how particular other states are about the space between contests).
  2. Brewer moves the primary to a date other than January 31 some time this week. Again, Arizona will likely have much of February to itself. Missouri and New Jersey are going to move from February 7 barring something unforeseen and Wisconsin has active, Republican-sponsored legislation to move its primary to April 3. That leaves February 7, February 14 and February 21 as possible dates that are earlier than the February 28 position Arizona now currently occupies. Much of this calculus on Arizona's (and other states') parts is going to depend on how much space they desire between their primaries and others. Finding a week to itself would prove more difficult and force Arizona to January 31. But if the goal to to get Arizona a stand-alone date with a half of a week buffer between it and other contests, then one of the February dates is likely workable.
  3. Brewer lets Friday/Saturday come and go without an announcement. That signals that she has set her sights on a later date. FHQ isn't particularly high on this option simply because Brewer loses some potential leverage in the process. The threat becomes less severe if the governor lets the decision stretch beyond this week. By the same token, that could also win her some points with the RNC; by reducing the threat. That keeps things within the negotiations narrative.
I don't know that I have a gut feeling one way or the other. However, I do want to highlight the read-between-the-lines quote from Brewer's spokesperson. There are other options on the table; despite the leaning towards January 31 talk. What else would you expect a state bargaining for a piece of the early presidential primary calendar pie to say? Of course they are leaning toward January 31. That's the biggest threat and that would net them the largest potential concession -- a prime spot on the calendar -- from the RNC.

1 It is funny that a seemingly innocent Arizona/Brewer reply tweet to Andy Barr last week prompted Emily Schultheis at Politico to follow FHQ on Twitter and in turn begat an Arizona story which begat First Read's Calendar Chaos story which begat the most recent AP account. I'm just glad folks are paying attention to the Arizona situation.

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