Thursday, August 11, 2011

Primary or Caucus? Michigan Republicans Seem Close to Choosing a Primary

Paul Egan at Detroit News has the latest on the decisions facing the Michigan Republican Party this weekend at its State Committee meeting.

Primary or caucus (via Egan)?

A wave of Michigan recall efforts is expected to strengthen the case for a Feb. 28 primary when state Republicans meet Saturday to decide how and when to choose the delegates who will help select the GOP presidential nominee.

A "closed primary," as recommended by the party's policy committee, is seen as the most likely outcome when the 120-member Michigan Republican Party State Committee makes its decision at the Lansing Center.

Many Republicans from the party's conservative tea party wing, who support candidates such as Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota or Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, prefer a caucus — based on party meetings at the precinct level — to determine the presidential delegates and believe a primary favors frontrunner Mitt Romney, who appeals to a broader political spectrum.

But the prospect of holding a handful of recall elections for GOP and Democratic state lawmakers at the same time as a presidential primary expected to draw far more Republicans than Democrats is a recent development that's making the primary more attractive.

"That works against the Democrats by a four-to-one margin," said attorney Stu Sandler, a state party consultant who recently stepped down as interim executive director and is organizing recall efforts against more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers.

February 28 or some other date (again, Egan)?
Timing is another issue. National party rules say only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina can select delegates before Super Tuesday, March 6. Still, Michigan Republicans want to hold the primary early enough to be relevant. The policy panel recommended a date between Feb. 28 — already set for a Michigan election — and March 6. Many believe the national GOP will look the other way if the state only jumps ahead a week, or even if it goes earlier than that and Michigan's choice becomes the nominee.
FHQ will deal with the timing aspect first. As we have noted here several times, there is legislation before the Michigan state legislature to move the Wolverine state presidential primary to January 31. That said, the Michigan Republican Party has never really viewed that bill as a vehicle for changing the date. If anything, the state party has been wise to let Arizona and Florida threaten the calendar throughout 2011. All the while, maintaining the status quo -- a February 28 primary date -- has looked better and better. And while that date is still technically non-compliant with the national party rules, it would allow the first four states to fit their contests in within the rules in February. In other words, as Egan points out, the RNC would potentially be willing to "look the other way".

Egan also mentions the whispers among some in the Michigan Republican Party concerning going even earlier. That would be a gamble and one in which the state party -- as an organization -- has yet to show any public interest. FHQ just doesn't see the state party pulling the trigger on an earlier primary or caucus in 2012 and so boldly challenging the national party rules like it did in 2008. There will be a challenge, but it will be a more subtle one entered into under the premise that it is smart not to awaken the sleeping giant at a national party increasingly exploring the option of tightening the sanctions of rules-breakers.


As for the primary versus caucus question, Egan paints the debate in terms of developing camps: The Tea Party in favor of limited-access, [Tea Party] activist-heavy caucuses versus the state party establishment favoring a higher turnout primary that would also positively impact Republican recall efforts under way in the state.

Add to the mix a letter from Military Voters USA urging the party to nix the caucus idea altogether in favor of a primary.1 As we saw recently in West Virginia, activists can overturn the desires of the state party apparatus. In this case, however, it looks as if the primary will be the option on which the Michigan Republican Party State Committee will settle during its meeting this weekend.

...unless of course the Tea Party of Michigan cobbles together a sizable enough coalition on the committee to overturn the recommendation of the Michigan Republican State Policy Committee.

1 Here is that letter in full sent FHQ's way by Republican activist Soren Dayton:


For Those Who Sacrifice The Most


Dear Michigan Republican Party Leader:

We write on behalf of the thousands of military voters serving overseas and in many cases, risking their lives for our nation.

In the next few days you will make a decision about whether to hold a primary or a caucus in Michigan to determine the presidential preference of delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

We urge you not to disenfranchise military voters and wounded warriors as you make your decision.

Caucuses in their current form, without absentee balloting procedures, disenfranchise overseas military voters, as well as disabled military voters and veterans who cannot attend a caucus.

Shouldn't military voters deserve the same opportunity as other voters to vote for their party's nominee for Commander In Chief?

Your vote has consequences outside of Michigan. Other states may follow your lead. And ensuring that military voters are guaranteed the right to participate in the selection of their party's nominee should be a fundamental principle for the Party that led the fights for the 15th Amendment and the right of women to vote in America.

Please don't let the military voters of Michigan and America down!


Jill Buck

Delegate to the 2008

GOP Convention Rules Committee

Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, 1991-1997

Pleasanton, CA

Tom Davis

Former Member of Congress

Veteran, U.S. Army

Vienna, VA

Jessie Jane Duff

U.S. Marine Corps, (Ret)

Washington, D.C.

Ed Fitzmaurice

Past Chair National Mediation Board

Veteran, U.S. Marine Corps

Washington D.C.

Stanley G. Gray

Disabled Veteran, U.S. Marine Corps.


Tampa, Florida

Robert A. Laurie

Delegate to the 2008

GOP Convention Rules Committee

Veteran, U.S. Army

Placerville, CA

Chuck McDougald

Captain, US Army Special Forces, 1964-69

South San Francisco, CA

Harry T. Prestanski,

Executive Director Ohio Veterans United

Cincinnati, Ohio

Veteran, U.S. Marine Corps 1966-1969

David N. Rogers

RADM US Navy, (Ret)

Alexandria, Va

Matt Salisbury

Iraq War Veteran, U.S. Army Rangers

Nampa, Idaho

A tip of the cap to Mr. Dayton for passing this along to FHQ.

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