Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Nevada GOP Blinks Presidential Primary Calendar Scenario

A day ago FHQ looked at the post-Florida 2012 presidential primary calendar landscape. Contrary to a great many reports about "calendar chaos", FHQ is of the opinion that the Florida decision to hold a January 31 primary was 1) completely predictable and has been throughout much of 2011, and 2) provides calendar watchers with more information. In the case of the latter, with one more threat to the primary calendar officially on the calendar, the number of scenarios for the remaining states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- and the calendar are significantly reduced.

FHQ pegged the number of scenarios left at three or maybe four. Two of those require some give on New Hampshire's end: either breaking a state law that requires seven days between the primary in the Granite state and the next contest or moving the traditionally Tuesday primary to a non-Tuesday. Neither of those are likely. As FHQ noted yesterday, if there is to be any give in the conflict between New Hampshire state election law and Nevada Republican bylaws, it will be the latter.1

In fact, it looks as if Nevada Republicans are wavering, not because of any looming showdown with New Hampshire but because of Florida and the possibility of losing half of their delegates to jump and stay ahead of Florida. Yesterday's scenario analysis was predicated on the notion that the four "carve out" states would obviously move ahead of Florida. In the case of the Nevada GOP, however, that may not be the case. And as such, another scenario needs to be accounted for: a Nevada Republican caucus behind Florida, sometime in early February.

Here again are the previous scenarios with the new Nevada scenario at the end:

Option 1 (New Hampshire waits out Nevada and goes 11 days earlier)
Monday, January 2: Iowa
Tuesday, January 10: New Hampshire
Saturday, January 21: Nevada
Saturday, January 28: South Carolina
Tuesday, January 31: Florida

Option 2 (Nevada chooses a non-Saturday to hold caucuses)
Tuesday, January 10: Iowa (BCS championship on January 9 pushes Iowa to Tuesday)
Tuesday, January 17: New Hampshire
Tuesday, January 24: Nevada
Saturday, January 28: South Carolina
Tuesday, January 31: Florida

Option 3 (New Hampshire breaks its own law)
Tuesday, January 10: Iowa (BCS championship on January 9 pushes Iowa to Tuesday)
Tuesday, January 17: New Hampshire
Saturday, January 21: Nevada
Saturday, January 28: South Carolina
Tuesday, January 31: Florida

Option 3a (New Hampshire opts for a non-Tuesday primary date)2
Saturday, January 7: Iowa
Saturday, January 14: New Hampshire
Saturday, January 21: Nevada
Saturday, January 28: South Carolina
Tuesday, January 31: Florida

Option 4 (Nevada Republicans choose to stay in February)
Tuesday, January 10: Iowa (BCS championship on January 9 pushes Iowa to Tuesday)
Tuesday, January 17: New Hampshire
Saturday, January 28: South Carolina
Tuesday, January 31: Florida
Saturday, February 4: Nevada

New Hampshire and Iowa get what they want out of that potential calendar alignment, but I don't know that the "three contests in a week" possibility serves South Carolina, Florida and Nevada all that well. The results in South Carolina and Florida would have very little time to resonate before the next contest. We can call that the New Hampshire rule. Allowing for some time between one's primary and the next one to maximize the amount of attention paid to, in this case, New Hampshire is the primary reason state law in the Granite state requires the post-primary seven day buffer. But does that same rule apply or even count in South Carolina and/or Florida? In South Carolina, where there were overtures of coordinating a tandem move with Florida -- one with a similar three day separation between contests -- ahead of Arizona/Michigan in the past, that same buffer is not necessarily required, nor is it necessarily a party of the calculus. That, however, was before Florida made the jump into January, and all bets may now be off on South Carolina's end because of that.

As for the space between Florida and a potential February Nevada Republican caucus, we have to look at Nevada for answers. Florida is locked into January 31, and none of the early states are willing to do Republicans in the Sunshine state any favors. In other words, Florida cannot do anything if other states are considered "too close" to them. Nevada Republicans are the only ones with the ability to make a date change in that relationship -- between Nevada and Florida. Where it might hurt Nevada to go on, say, Saturday, February 4 is that candidates may not focus on Nevada as much as in a situation, alternatively, where Nevada goes on Tuesday, February 7, a week after Florida. That is three more days of attention. Yes, such a move would also put Nevada on the same day as the non-binding caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, but Nevada would be sharing February 4 with at least some caucuses in Maine as well. With delegates on the line at the precinct level, Nevada would be a bigger draw to the candidates on either date.

What does all of this mean?

Option 5 (Space between South Carolina, Florida and February Nevada is an issue)
Tuesday, January 10: Iowa (BCS championship on January 9 pushes Iowa to Tuesday)
Tuesday, January 17: New Hampshire
Saturday, January 24 or 28: South Carolina
Tuesday, January 31: Florida
Saturday, February 4 or 7: Nevada

This is the option with suboptions. If the length of time between it and Florida is an issue, South Carolina Republicans can move up as early as February 24 without pushing New Hampshire and Iowa up even further. Nevada will also have an option. They could follow Florida by just four days -- something they were willing enough to change their rules to do in relation to New Hampshire -- or shift back three more days to a week after Florida on February 7.

The Nevada Republican Party Central Committee is set to have another emergency meeting tonight and that may shed some light on all of this. It could also be that the party leaves it unsettled or jumps into January after discussions with the RNC and the other three early states.

--
1 New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, the one entrusted with the primary date decision in the Granite state, has nine previous cycles proven that he will take a "by any means necessary" approach to retaining the state's first in the nation primary status. Calling Gardner adept at maneuvering New Hampshire through countless calendar shuffles/threats over the years is an understatement.

2 We really should call this one the "news media hates the early states" option. All those consecutive Saturday contests would be a bear to cover.



Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

2 comments:

MysteryPolitico said...

January 2 will be a holiday for most people (since the 1st is a Sunday), and there'll also be numerous bowl games that day:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011–12_NCAA_football_bowl_games

So I doubt Iowa goes on that day. 2008 showed that Iowa is willing to go as late in the week as Thursday, in order to put up some separation with the New Year's holiday.

I'd say (if they're in the first week of January), Iowa goes on either Tuesday Jan. 3 (against the Sugar Bowl), Wednesday Jan. 4 (against the Orange Bowl), or Thursday Jan. 5 (a day of rest from football).

Josh Putnam said...

I see this slightly differently, but think you raise a good point.

I don't know how I feel about the holiday aspect of January 2. I can see that both ways. 1) It's a good thing. People don't have conflicts with work. 2) It's a bad thing. People are still out of town on vacation. And no, it isn't so binary as that. The truth is likely somewhere in between.

As for the football conflict, I'll go back to my comments when you raised the BCS championship conundrum. Iowa proved in 2008 that it doesn't mind going up against a BCS bowl. It overlapped with the Orange Bowl on January 3, 2008. But that bowl and any non-championship game is a completely different animal.

This is all about attention. Iowa loses attention against the championship game, but not against -- entertaining though they may be -- lesser BCS bowl.

The other big pieces of the puzzle are the time crunch and whether Iowa feels like there were any lessons to be learned from the scheduling of the 2008 caucuses. On the latter, were there benefits/detriments to having gone just five days before New Hampshire? I don't know what their thinking is on that. But the answer to that question coupled with the days that are actually available to them at the beginning of the year once New Hampshire is set will provide us with some answers.

...answers we will likely never get, but that's what is driving this. Iowa may not go on January 2, but I'm not willing to completely remove it as an option.