Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wyoming GOP Split on 2012 Caucuses Date

FHQ has devoted a fair amount of space to the movement of presidential primaries and Democratic caucuses ahead of the 2012 presidential nomination race, but for the most part, the grapevine has been quiet concerning Republican caucuses. Very little information has come out of the state Republican Parties in Alaska, Kansas, Maine, North Dakota, Washington and Wyoming about the timing of their caucus meetings next year. Sure, the political science literature will tell us that primaries are more important than caucuses, but these states represent question marks on the landscape of the primary calendar. All six states held opening caucus meetings in 2008 at points that would not be compliant under the 2012 delegate selection rules if used again. For the record, that is not usually a good benchmark for determining when caucuses will be held from cycle to cycle. Indeed, caucus dates are so volatile, that past dates are little help at all. In other words, though we haven't heard much from these state parties regarding their caucus dates, the are question marks and not threats to jump early on the calendar.

Still, if we're trying to figure out the layout of the overall calendar, those dates are information FHQ is interested in. And while I do not foresee most of these states attempting to "stampede" to the front, there is some evidence that at least one on the list might try. Wyoming Republicans, who violated RNC rules in 2008 by holding January 5 caucus meetings, are signaling that they may be willing to repeat the rules-breaking in 2012. But the minutes from the Wyoming Republican State Central Committee meeting in April indicate a split within the group. Here's the description from the Wyoming Republican Party (emphasis is FHQ's):
Fremont County Committeeman, John Birbari, stated that he would like to see our 2012 caucuses moved once again to an earlier date. John Birbari made the motion to move the Presidential caucus to be held before the second Tuesday in March, 2012, Brian Scott Gamroth, seconded the motion. During discussion, Big Horn County Committeeman, Bernie DuMontier, said he enjoyed having the caucus early because he was able to speak to 5 Presidential Candidates. Natrona County Chairman, Miles Dahlby, stated he does not want it moved, due to penalties from the RNC. Jim Bunch agreed. Washakie County Committeewoman, Dru Bower-Moore, and National Committeewoman, Jan Larimer, expressed that they are against an early caucus date. Goshen County Chairman, Doug Chamberlain, made a motion to table the discussion until and the summer meeting. Johnson County Committeeman. Bill Novotny made the second to table the motion until the summer meeting. The motion was tabled until a later date.A Committee with Doug Chamberlain, Greg Schaefer, Brian Scott Gamroth, Bernie DuMontier, David Horning, Kevin Voyles, Diana Vaughn, Dru Bower-Moore and Jan Larimer was formed to work on the issue.
That tells us a few things. First of all, the caucuses are apparently set for the second Tuesday in March, though, there is nothing on the Wyoming Republican Party site to document that other than the reference above. Secondly, that is a date on which the Alabama and Mississippi primaries are scheduled as well as the Hawaii Republican caucuses. Finally, and most importantly, there is some support on the Wyoming Republican State Central Committee to move the caucuses to an earlier date as in 2008. However, there is opposition to that idea on the committee including from the state's Republican National Committeewoman, Jan Larimer.

There is, then, some support for moving up in Wyoming, and the opposition is based on the RNC rules. In any event, the discussion was table and will be taken up at the committee's summer meeting. That meeting is set to take place in Caspar on August 26-27.

Other notes:

Louisiana Presidential Primary to March 24

Bill Barrow of the New Orleans Times-Picayune is reporting that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) on WednesdayTuesday, June 2928, signed into law a bill moving the Pelican state presidential primary from February to March. HB 509 passed its last legislative test passing the state Senate on June 20. The bill shifts the Louisiana presidential primary from the second or third Saturday in February to the third Saturday after the first Tuesday in March.

[Click to Enlarge]

The new date will find Louisiana in its own niche between the Illinois primary on March 20 and the Maryland and Washington, DC primaries on April 3.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rhode Island Senate Passes Companion April Presidential Primary Bill from the House

In what will likely (hopefully!?!) the last presidential primary bill passed on a very busy legislative day, Rhode Island brought up the rear. The state Senate in the Ocean state, a night after having passed the House-amended version of its own primary bill (SB 399), passed HB 5653. Both bills would move the Rhode Island presidential primary from the first Tuesday in March to the fourth Tuesday in April to coincide with primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania.

On a 36-1 vote on the eve of the adjourning, the Rhode Island General Assembly sends to Governor Lincoln Chaffee (I) the second of two presidential primary bills.

Delaware House Makes Quick Work of April Presidential Primary Bill

The Delaware House spared no time in passing SB 89 after the bill emerged from committee earlier this afternoon. By a unanimous vote -- 41-0 -- on the day before the legislature is set to adjourn, the House passed and sent off to Governor Jack Markell (D) the bill that would move the First state's presidential primary back nearly three months (from the first Tuesday in February to the fourth Tuesday in April).

Should Governor Markell sign the legislation, Delaware's primary would coincide with primaries in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Ohio House Concurs with Elections/Presidential Primary Bill, Passes on to Governor

Ann Sanner of the Associated Press is reporting that the Ohio state House has voted to concur with the Senate changes to HB 194. The elections legislation would shift the presidential primary in the Buckeye state from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May. The Ohio Senate last week passed the bill with only minor changes after it had passed its own elections bill (that among other things did not include the provision moving the presidential primary). That Senate bill stalled in the House as the the Senate considered and passed the House version. Last week's Senate changes forced today's vote -- 59-40 in favor -- in the House.

HB 194 now moves on to Governor John Kasish (R) for his signature or veto. Assuming a signature, the Ohio presidential primary would coincide with primaries in neighboring Indiana and West Virginia, setting up a subregional primary just a week after the proposed northeast/mid-Atlantic primary (Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island).

New Jersey Senate Unanimously Passes Bill Eliminating Separate Presidential Primary

The New Jersey state Senate this afternoon substituted A 3777 for the identical S 2883 and then unanimously passed -- by a vote of 39-0 -- the bill to eliminate the separate presidential primary. The impact of this legislation will essentially be to move the New Jersey presidential primary from the first Tuesday in February to the first Tuesday in June, concurrent with the primaries for statewide and local offices.

This vote was the last legislative hurdle for the bill and it will now head to Governor Chris Christie (R) for his consideration. Christie has indicated some support for the idea in the past.

Delaware House Committee Advances April Presidential Primary Legislation

The Delaware state House Administration Committee this afternoon unanimously passed -- by a vote of 5-0 -- SB 89, the bill that would move the First state's presidential primary from the first Tuesday in February to the fourth Tuesday in April. As was stated earlier today in FHQ's post updating the situation in Rhode Island, that would place Delaware on a date shared by four other neighboring states (Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island), forming a small northeastern/mid-Atlantic regional primary.

The bill now heads to the House floor for consideration there by the full lower chamber.

Idaho Republicans Considering Super Tuesday Caucuses

Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman is reporting today that the Idaho Republican Party is discussing the possibility of abandoning the mid-May presidential primary for earlier caucuses. The party's State Central Committee will take up the caucus proposal passed by a subcommittee recently during its July 16 meeting.

Now, as the article states, Idaho Democrats have traditionally used a caucus in lieu of the state funded primary. State Democrats have already opted to once again hold caucuses, selecting an April 14 date. Republicans, too, now seem willing to give up that state funding by funding their own delegate selection event at a time on the presidential primary calendar that may provide the state with some measure of influence over the identity of the Republican nominee. That would leave a meaningless beauty contest Idaho primary in May at the presidential level. Idaho is a state that holds concurrent presidential and state/local primaries, and the latter contests would make the May primary partially meaningful.

One footnote that I would add to all of this is that this is an interesting development in light of Monday's late night news out of Utah. Recall that I made the argument yesterday that the Romney campaign would want a Utah primary on March 6, coupled with contests in Colorado and later Hawaii (March 13) to counteract the former Massachusetts governor's perceived weakness in the South. A Colorado/Idaho/Utah series of wins would partially counter losses in the host of southern states holding primaries during the first two weeks of March.

Theoretically, this sounds good. Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen recently tweeted that Romney is the "key to the Mountain West for GOP" in the general election. Further, he adds, "It really might be fair to say GOP nominating anyone other than Romney locks down 2008 pick ups of CO/NM/NV for Obama, puts AZ on the board." I should emphasize that this is in relation to the general election and not the primaries, so it isn't the same thing. However, Mitt Romney won nominating contests in all three (Colorado, Idaho and Utah) in 2008. Caucuses in Colorado and Idaho may be a different animal in 2012, though. They would be potentially more difficult to control. However, if all the other candidates are focused on the southern contests, Romney may be able to focus his resources on organizing in those three western contests with only moderate (or even token) expenditures in the South.

And yeah, I'm willing to bet that this caucus idea came up at least once during the fundraiser Romney held -- and mentioned in the Statesman article -- in Boise last week. Call it a hunch.

Rhode Island Senate Passes House-Amended, April Presidential Primary Bill

The Rhode Island Senate on Tuesday, June 28, passed by a vote of 34-2 a measure to shift the Ocean state's presidential primary from the first Tuesday in March to the fourth Tuesday in April. S 399 originated in the state Senate and was passed in April with no provision addressing the scheduling of the presidential primary. The House added that amendment to the bill and passed the package last week. Initially, the legislation was on the calendar for a vote on Wednesday, but with time running out in a legislative session due to adjourn at the end of the month on Thursday, the Senate got to it early.

S 399 now heads to Governor Lincoln Chaffee (I) for his consideration. The move would place the Rhode Island primary on the same date as the presidential primary in Pennsylvania next year. Legislation has already been passed in both Connecticut and New York to move those states' primaries to April 24 as well. Legislation eying the same date is also active in Delaware. Together, the moves would set up a five state regional primary in late April.

Hat tip to Philip Marcello at the Providence Journal for bringing news of the early vote to FHQ's attention.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Prominent Utah Legislators Don't Appear to Have a Desire to Appropriate Money for a Presidential Primary

Both the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune have followed up on the report that the Romney campaign is working to move the Beehive state's presidential primary up from its current late June date. Good local sources that they both are, they have dug a little deeper into the story. If the Utah presidential primary is to be moved a separate election will have to be funded ($2.5-3 million) and the date in the state's election law will have to be changed. The latter is more of a formality, but state legislators -- those who will actually have to make the changes -- have so far balked at the idea of spending up to an additional $3 million that Utah does not necessarily have.

While there is support among at least one legislator, both the president of the state Senate and the speaker of the state House were lukewarm to the idea of appropriating additional funds for a separate presidential primary earlier on the calendar. Via the Deseret News:
House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said she wasn't convinced an earlier primary is a good idea — or even one that lawmakers will be asked to consider.

"I've only heard rumors about it at this point, so I'm not even sure how serious it is," Lockhart said. "No one's made a request."

"There was not a big appetite because of the money," Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said. "We didn't think based on what happened before, it would have much of an impact."

Waddoups, a Romney supporter, said an early primary still isn't worth the money in what looks to be another tight budget year. "Where would they get it? Unless revenues are up, all the money's been spent."

Additionally, via the Salt Lake Tribune:
Senate President Michael Waddoups said Monday that he doesn’t see the point in spending the money to move the primary up. “I think you’d have quite a bit of convincing to do,” he said.
“We’re still balancing budgets,” said House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper, a Huntsman supporter. “If these operatives for people who want to represent the beltway suggest we’re to spend $3 million to have two primaries within a couple months, that’s a ‘nice-to-have,’ that’s not a ‘have-to-have,’ and we’re still in have-to-have mode in our budgets.”
As I said, there is support for the idea, but members of the both the state Senate and House leadership are openly resistant to paying for the contest. least initially. If the money can be found, it may open the door to the primary moving.

There Won't Be a Stampede to the Front of the 2012 Presidential Primary Calendar

Alex Burns at Politico had a slightly different take on the news that Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is open to the idea of following Florida to an earlier date if the Sunshine state bends the RNC rules for delegate selection. Said Burns:

The 2012 primary calendar was designed in large part to prevent a 2008-style race to the front of the line, where a whole crush of states move their primaries early in the year to maximize their impact on the process. That's why the RNC wants Florida to move its primary from Jan. 31 to after March 6, the first rule-sanctioned date when Florida could vote.

And as Georgia's secretary of state showed today, there's still the possibility of a calendar stampede if Florida gets to bend the rules.

I disagree with several points here. First of all, the 2012 primary calendar is in the process of being designed. States (governments) and state parties set those dates. They operate within a set of rules from the national parties -- something that was actually informally coordinated for 2012. It is those rules that are in danger of being broken. Now, it is true that the parties had a vision for what the calendar should look like, but as we saw with Florida and Michigan in 2008, states don't always have to go along with those rules. They pay a price, but some states are willing to take the penalty in order to have an influence over the nomination process.

Where I can't disagree with Burns more is on his comparison of what's happening in 2012 to the development of the calendar in 2008. There is no comparison and what is happening ahead of the 2012 cycle. That parties, as he said, wanted to "prevent a 2008-style race to the front of the line". The parties have succeeded in that endeavor. Of the states that have moved their delegate selection contests for the 2012 cycle, two have moved forward (Colorado and Idaho). And Colorado moved its caucuses up two weeks to March 6 (in compliance with national party rules) and Idaho moved up a week in May (also in compliance). All the other states that have moved (10 states), or will move (an additional 10 states), have moved back to comply with the national parties' rules.

Georgia and Florida have moved into limbo, having given the decision over to decision-makers outside of the state legislature. Michigan has active legislation before its legislature to move to January 31, and Republicans in the state will decide in August whether they will urged the Republican-controlled legislature to move on that plan. Arizona is technically locked into a February 28 primary and with its legislature adjourned can't move back. The Grand Canyon state is a candidate to potentially move up, though. Governor Jan Brewer, like Governor Janet Napolitano in 2004 and 2008, can move the primary up to an earlier date using the governor's power of proclamation. How open Governor Brewer is to that idea is unknown, but at the very least Arizona is scheduled for a date that is not compliant with the national parties' delegate selection rules. And then there's the Minnesota caucuses on February 7 that are compliant with RNC rules because that first step is non-binding on delegate selection (It starts a process of delegate selection rather than directly selecting delegates to go to the convention.).

That's five states (out of 25 that will have moved not including the four early states). And none of them have moved forward as of yet. It is still possible -- likely FHQ would argue -- that those states will all go later than they did in 2008. In fact, the safe bet is that the RNC "allows" these states to go throughout February, pushing Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina into January. Now, that wouldn't be the ideal calendar for the RNC -- at least not relative to the rules they laid out for the process -- but it will produce a far less frontloaded calendar than in 2008. The process may start just as early or maybe a hair less early in 2012 than in 2008, but that's really the only similarity between the two cycles. There will be no stampede. There may be a handful of states that push the issue, but it won't open up the floodgates. In fact, for the first time since 1996 or even earlier, there will be a fairly good distribution of primaries and caucuses across every month from January through June (assuming my prediction comes to pass). 2008, on the other hand, saw a mad rush at the beginning and then a trickle of contests from March until June.

The RNC won't get what it wants, but it won't have another 2008 on its hands either.

Where Georgia's Presidential Primary Might End Up

The AJC's Jim Galloway touched base with Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp today and chatted about the presidential primary in the state. Their discussion revolved to some extent around the thinking behind the secretary's upcoming decision to set the date of the Peach state's presidential primary. This is certainly a rare glimpse into the date-setting decision-making calculus. The only other secretary of state in a similar position is New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner. And Gardner has typically played it close to the vest, holding out until the last possible threat to New Hampshire's primacy has settled on a date.

Kemp, however, broke with his Granite state counterpart and revealed some of his thoughts on the primary in reacting to recent primary news out of neighboring South Carolina and Florida.

On the possibility that the South Carolina GOP, facing financial constraints, would have to switch from a primary to a caucus, Kemp volunteered to move Georgia into the first-in-the-South primary position according to Galloway.

On Florida being allowed by the RNC to hold a primary in March, but before the allowed March 6 starting point, Kemp basically asked, "Why not Georgia?" This is a possibility that FHQ has speculated on in the past as well.

All told, what does this tell us that we didn't already know? Well, not all that much. The reason Georgia's legislature ceded the power to set the date of the presidential primary over to the secretary of state was to give the state some added flexibility in scheduling the primary; something an early adjourning legislature often prevents. There was some evidence -- circumstantial perhaps -- that Georgia was willing to potentially go rogue on the national parties. But Kemp's comments to Galloway provide us with some concrete evidence that selecting a date outside of the parties' designated window for nominating contests is a possibility in the Peach state.

It should also be noted that South Carolina is not likely to willingly surrender its first-in-the-South status, and though the Republican Party in South Carolina won't have state funds for their primary, they will have a primary and not a caucus. A for the possibility of an early, but out of window March primary in Florida, that possibility will depend on what the feelings in the Sunshine state are to the potential moves in Michigan and Arizona. Regardless, I think aligning the Georgia primary with Florida's is an attractive option to Kemp. What remains to be seen is whether Florida's Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee is amendable to the idea. They may be out of luck though. The deadline for the committee in Florida to select a date is October 1. Kemp has until December 1 with the decision in Georgia.

Again, we now have an idea that Georgia is willing to join the early, but rogue group of primary states.

NOTE: Please note that Galloway incorrectly identifies the date of the South Carolina primary as January 28. That is not the date of the primary. The DNC set aside February 28 as the date of the South Carolina Democratic primary, but Republicans in South Carolina don't have to hold a primary on the same date as the Democrats. The RNC rules just specify that a South Carolina primary can take place in February some time, without setting a specific date.

More Talk of a Non-Tuesday Presidential Primary in Florida

One thing that made it around political circles on the internet Monday was the rehashing of a story from three weeks ago that came out of some questions to and comments from RNC chair, Reince Priebus about the scheduling of the Florida presidential primary. The basic premise is that Florida would hold a primary in early March -- according to Andrew Smith in early June, it was Thursday, March 1 -- but before the window period begins for other non-exempt states on Tuesday, March 6. The theory goes that Florida can somehow avoid the full brunt of the RNC penalties if the Sunshine state primary is scheduled in a way that leaves Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to hold their contests throughout February as planned with Florida carving out a niche between those contests and the other states.

As theories go, this isn't a horrible one. But there are gaps in it that should be addressed. First of all, it has focused on the wrong players. Obviously, Chairman Priebus should technically have some say in the matter. He does have a small amount of leeway in terms of the doling out the sanctions on a non-compliant Florida delegation, but ultimately that may not be enough to get the powers-that-be in Florida to act in accordance with the national party's delegate selection rules. The latest round in the this story has focused on statements by Florida Republican Party chair, David Bitner. Again, like Priebus, Bitner has no real say in the matter. He, all along, has maintained that he wants Florida to be compliant and to preserve its full delegation, while having no real power to move the legislature and now the Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee to do what he wants as state party chair. Of Governor Scott, Speaker Cannon and President Haridopolos -- the men entrusted with staffing the committee -- the latter two have been quite outspoken in their "Florida will be early and have an influence over the Republican nomination at all costs" stance.

And that leads to the second area where there are holes in this early March theory. If Florida is going to claim its position as the fifth state they may have to deal with Michigan, Arizona and to a much lesser degree, Minnesota for that role. The way this is being reported, Florida can slide into a spot between the early states and everyone else and all will be mostly right with the world. But if actors in Florida mean business about being fifth, then Michigan and Arizona stand in the way of that coming to fruition. There have been rumblings of Michigan moving to January (and legislation has been proposed in the legislature to that end) and Arizona is locked into February 28 at the latest. Those are both dates that would be ahead of that early, non-Tuesday March contest, Florida is supposedly eying. FHQ has heard enough from Haridopolos and Cannon to convince us that those states pushing ahead of Florida will not stand. That, in turn, means that Florida moving even earlier in their first Tuesday in January to first Tuesday in March window becomes much more likely.

Obviously, that has implications for where the first four states will end up on the calendar as well. And around and around we go...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Romney's Pushing for an Earlier Utah Primary?

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that the Romney campaign is working to get the Utah presidential primary moved up from the late June date Utah Republicans settled on earlier this month. There is a lot to talk about here. For our purposes at FHQ, we are more concerned with the movement of the primary, but there are also strategic implications as well. Let's take the the primary first.

Moving the primary
The complicating factors for moving the presidential primary are 1) the legislature has already adjourned for 2011 and 2) the budget the legislature passed in March (and was later signed into law) did not appropriate any funds for the presidential primary. What, then, is the mechanism by which the Utah primary date can be altered? Technically, the legislature is still somewhat in session. The body wrapped up the bulk of its work in March and has set aside two days each month (except April, August and December) for committee and task force meetings. A move can be made, but there is a very narrow window in which the legislature has to work. More problematic perhaps are the budgetary roadblocks. Not only will the legislature have to pass (and have the governor sign off on) the appropriation of the necessary $2.5 million in funds for the presidential primary, but it will have to change the date of the contest as well. The "Western State Presidential Primary" is still scheduled for the first Tuesday in February. The only thing that changed that when the legislature adjourned, having not acted on the primary, was that it had not set aside the money necessary to hold the contest. That set in motion the move to June when there was already a primary scheduled for statewide offices. It was a matter of efficiency and cost savings. The financial implications are understood, but what was left out in the Tribune article was the fact that the date will have to be changed in the current law.

The legislature was not amenable to that idea when it was in session, and it isn't clear that the legislature would be any more open to the idea now. The Romney campaign is making the case for why the late date could hurt Utah in terms of influencing the nomination.

Kirk Jowers, an adviser to the Romney team, said the June primary is so late in the presidential nominating process that it would make Utah meaningless.

“Utah now knows what it feels like to be relevant in a presidential contest,” Jowers said, referring to the state’s February 2008 primary in the last election. “I can’t imagine Utah wants to go back to being irrelevant.”

That provides the state with the motivation -- or some perceived motivation -- to move, but what's in this for the Romney campaign. That is not particularly clear.

Campaign Strategy
I really have no idea what the aim of the Romney camp is on this one, but we can speculate. They have run a fabulous campaign thus far, but this move is something of a head-scratcher. The Huntsman-Romney angle was played up in the article but I'm skeptical of that. Is the Romney campaign really threatened by the Huntsman candidacy to the point that it needs to beat the former Utah governor on his own turf to eliminate him from the competition? To me, that only unnecessarily elevates Huntsman now when his campaign hasn't gotten off to the best of starts. No campaign is going to do that.

No, I don't think that is it. Even if it was -- as an insurance policy -- just in case Huntsman ever took off, it would be like playing with fire. Huntsman is only going to ever take off at Romney's expense. No, what I'm looking at is what little the Romney campaign is saying on the subject. Note the line from the campaign to supporter and Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell (R) who asked "Is this [moving the primary] important to you?": "A win is a win and delegate votes may really count," he was told in response by the Romney folks. Indeed. That is evidence that it is more than just Huntsman; that the Romney campaign is playing it close to the vest and eying a potentially long, drawn-out battle for the nomination. But if that's the case, why not leave Utah as the last contest; the ultimate insurance policy? If things are closely knotted between Romney and anti-Romney at that point, Utah plays the kingmaker. That is one option, but the Romney team is willing to divvy up a proportional Utah pie (all pre-April contests are to have some proportional element to them, sort of) earlier as a means of building something of an early lead that will prove insurmountable to the rest of the field.

Honestly, I think this is a nod to the calendar that is most likely to develop. Let's assume that Romney wins New Hampshire and Nevada, as expected, and some other candidate takes Iowa and South Carolina. Florida, Michigan, Arizona and Minnesota will, in my opinion, hold February or earlier contests (More on this later in the week.) after the other four go in January. Those are all good states for Romney potentially, but they will all be proportional contests and are likely to be sanctioned in some form (The current penalty is a 50% delegate deduction). That is not a formula for building an insurmountable lead. A lead yes, but not an insurmountable one.

The problem for Romney is what comes next. The battle heads South after that with contests in Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, Virginia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi all in the first two weeks of March. Romney doesn't have a clear winner in the bunch there. His campaign would have the Colorado caucuses (which would couple nicely with a Utah primary on March 6) and primaries in Massachusetts and Vermont which the remaining field would cede to the former Massachusetts governor and later the Hawaii caucuses. [Recall, Romney did quite well in the caucus states in 2008.] That is much of a firewall against what is likely to be a bloodbath in the South (and the development of a Southern problem narrative in the media).

Utah, then, isn't necessary in March for Romney, but it would help to stop the bleeding after what would likely be a setback in the South in March. That would give way to more hospitable contests in Illinois and Maryland through late March and early April and the regional primary in the northeast (Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island) in late April. That is the wave of contests that could actually settle this nomination and are all favorable to Romney.

That's the best I can come up with. Does Utah need to move? Need is a strong word, but the Romney folks have apparently thought enough of the idea to work toward that end in Utah. It would be part of a counter, though not a complete one, to potential losses when the calendar swings south. That is their concern, not eliminating Huntsman.

An Update on the Situation with the South Carolina Presidential Primary

Well, that caucus thing isn't happening. According to Danny Yadron at the Washington Wire blog:1

“That is not on the table and will not happen,” state GOP Executive Director Matt
Moore told Washington Wire. “We got a good start on fund-raising.”

Later, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson clarified the issue of either of the state parties contracting the South Carolina Elections Commission -- the institution that carried out the 2008 presidential primaries for the state/parties -- to do the same in 2012, but with state party funding. Wilson's statement:
"Unless the statute is repealed, or a court concludes otherwise, we believe the answer to your question is yes," the opinion states. "The State Election Commission possesses the authority either to conduct the Presidential Preference Primary itself, or, in the alternative, to contract with the parties to do so."
That frees the South Carolina Republican Party to use the commission, but still puts the party in the position of having to raise the money necessary to hold a primary in 2012. The only remaining piece of that puzzle is how much of the estimated $1.5 million will the party have to raise. Nearly $700,000 left over from the 2010 cycle had been earmarked in the budget that passed the state legislature as available for the primary. The question was whether Governor Nikki Haley (R) would veto that part of the bill. The answer, due tomorrow, appears to be yes according to anonymous sources close to Haley.

In summary, then, there will be no last minute substitute caucuses, and the party-funded primary can be run by the South Carolina Elections Commission.

1 Yadron also tagged the line, "The state Democratic Party doesn't plan to hold a 2012 primary." onto the end of the post. The South Carolina Democratic Party's 2012 delegate selection plan proposal seems to refute that notion. There may not be a competitive Democratic primary in the Palmetto state, but it looks like they intend to hold a primary.

Mindful of Huckabee in 2008, Will Romney Go on the Attack in 2012?

Michael D. Shear at The Caucus asks:

Is it time for Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, to turn his firepower on Representative Michele Bachmann?

Four years ago, Mr. Romney’s shot at the Republican nomination was dealt a nearly fatal blow when Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, emerged late in the game as a favorite of conservatives to win the Iowa caucuses.

Well, for the answer, we can go in a couple of directions. First of all, 2012 is not 2008. Mitt Romney's strategy for 2012 is fundamentally different than the direction the former Massachusetts governor's campaign took in 2008. Iowa was a big part of the 2008 strategy, and while the Hawkeye state is not completely off the radar for Romney in 2012, the state has been deemphasized. Romney will take his trips to states like Iowa and South Carolina, but his campaign has taken a calculated risk in deemphasizing them. If he can win them, great, but the Romney camp is betting that Romney can raise a boatload of money and win New Hampshire and Nevada (and perhaps rogue Florida and rogue Michigan as well), and if that doesn't winnow the field down to Romney and some token opposition, those wins (and money) will propel him into Super Tuesday.

Secondly, the political science literature tells us that it is a fool's errand for a frontrunner to go on the attack (see particularly Haynes, Flowers and Gurian, 2002). Why? There's no need to stoop to the level of your opponents' level. It is a sign of vulnerability. Now, this isn't to say that a frontrunner won't respond/attack if attacked, but generally we see that frontrunners act as if they are above the fray. Leave the attacking to someone else.

Let's put those two pieces together now. If Iowa has been downgraded strategically within the Romney campaign, then why go on the attack there? Nominal or not, Romney is the frontrunner in the race for the 2012 Republican nomination (as of June 2011 -- That could certainly change.). It just does not make a whole lot of sense for the former Massachusetts governor to attack Bachmann or anyone else in Iowa or anywhere else. Iowa is much more important to some other candidates. If anyone is going to attack Bachmann, it should probably be Tim Pawlenty or anyone else gunning for a caucus win in the Hawkeye state. And that's why Romney won't attack Bachmann. This isn't 2008 and Bachmann is not Huckabee. She doesn't represent to Romney what Huckabee did in 2008 anyway.

Wisconsin Assembly Has Until Thursday to Pass Presidential Primary Bill, Avoid Delay

The Wisconsin legislature is staring down an extended recess break after Thursday closes the month of June. With both the Assembly (AB 162) and Senate-passed (SB 115) versions of the legislation to move the Badger state presidential primary from the third Tuesday in February to the first Tuesday in April stuck in the Assembly Committee on Election and Campaign Reform, time is running out to some degree.1 Wisconsin has a year-round legislative session, but for all intents and purposes that means that the legislature meets periodically throughout the entire calendar year. For most states with year-round sessions there is a concentrated period of activity during the first half of the year with more sporadic meetings occurring across the back half of the year.

Now, this in no way means that the legislation to move the primary is dead. What it means is that the legislature, if it doesn't act this week (prior to July 1), will have a small window of time in which to push the bill/bills the rest of the way through the legislative process. Given that the Republican Party requires notification of states' delegate selection plans by October 1 (see pg. 20), this most likely means that the Wisconsin legislature would have to act in the ten day window from September 13-22.

The practical implication of this is that the primary situation in Wisconsin will remain uncertain into the fall. This comes at a time (the first half of this year) when most states will have settled the timing of their primaries for 2012. Like the field of presidential candidates, the more time that passes, the more certainty we have about who will be in or out. The same is true for the 2012 presidential primary calendar: things are more certain now than they were in January, but there are still a decreasing number of states providing some uncertainty.

FHQ will have a run down of the status of the calendar -- a midpoint status report -- out sometime this week.

UPDATE: A tweet from Wisconsin DNC member Jason Rae made me realize something I left unsaid, or at least unclear, above. I fully expect this legislation to pass. The only question at this point is when. The legislature doesn't have anything on the session calendar after Thursday until September, so it will be either this week or then unless they convene during the intervening period. There is an August 4 deadline to submit bills to the governor in there as well.

1 There is currently no meeting of the Committee on Election and Campaign Reform scheduled for any time this week.

New Jersey Senate Budget Committee Sends Bills to Eliminate Separate Presidential Primary to the Floor

The New Jersey state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee this morning voted in favor of S 2883 and A 3777, the bills that would eliminate the separate February presidential primary. Both identical bills would return the presidential primary to the first Tuesday in June to be held concurrently with the primaries for statewide and local offices. Eleven of the thirteen committee members voted for a bill (bills including the simultaneously considered Senate version) that unanimously passed the state Assembly in May.1

Having passed the committee hurdles in the Senate,2 the bills now head to the floor for consideration by the full upper house. Both are expected to pass.

1 The way the committee tabulated the votes in realtime on the audio feed during the hearing was to count the votes in the affirmative. The remaining two members either voted no or abstained. Once FHQ has a better idea of the complete final vote tally, we'll update the post. Regardless, there was more than enough support for the bills to pass them.

2 Due to the fiscal ramifications in these bills -- a savings of $12 million -- both had to go through the State Government Committee and then the Budget Committee as well.

Gubernatorial Signature Expected on New York Presidential Primary Bill

According to the Associated Press, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) is expected to sign the recently passed SB 5753, the legislation to shift the New York presidential primary from February to April. The governor, or surrogates from his office, huddled with legislators of both parties to determine the date for the primary. Governor Cuomo's signature, it seems, is nothing more than a foregone conclusion.

That said, FHQ takes exception with the last statement in the AP account:
The state Board of Elections says a new bill is passed every four years to establish the date of the presidential primary.
Now, we have gotten wind through back channels that our 2012 presidential primary calendar had, in earlier months, been frowned upon by some within the New York state Board of Elections. Having been asked about New York defying national party delegate selection rules, the response was always what you read above: Something new is done every four years about the presidential primary election law and this current law is part of that trend. Notice that I didn't repeat what was said exactly; specifically in regard to the date. It is true that the legislature quadrennially tinkers with the process governing the election of delegates to the national conventions, but that does not always include changing or resetting the date every four years.

The archives for legislation on the New York legislature's information website go back as far as 1995 (the year a date would have been set for the 1996 elections) and there is nothing to indicate in those laws changes that the legislature creates a new law every four years regarding the presidential primary. In fact, in 1995, 1999 and 2003 nothing was done to change section 8-100 of the Laws of New York. Nothing was done to change the date of the primary from the first Tuesday in March until 2007 when the legislature passed legislation moving the primary from that date to the first Tuesday in February. And even that legislation said that that date could not be changed other than through an act of the legislature.

As I said the other day in the post about the situation in New York, the way the law would be after this legislation is signed, it specifically names April 24, 2012 as the date of the primary. That wasn't how the law was changed in 2007 and would require an act of the legislature to alter it in 2015. In other words, the primary date was clear heading into the 2012 cycle -- the first Tuesday in Febuary -- but it won't be in 2015.

And I'll be more than willing to accept any more concrete evidence that the Board of Elections in New York has to throw at this matter. FHQ will not tell them their business. But as it stands, it is not at all clear that the legislature changes/resets the date as a custom every four years.

What's Happening with the Funding of the South Carolina Primary?

Not much really.

Much has been made over the last week about the fate of the South Carolina primary. The "will it be funded/not funded?" question is not a new one. On Friday, FHQ exchanged emails with Politico's Kendra Marr and my general sentiments have not changed since then given the most recent news from south of the border here in North Carolina. Here's what I told her:
I don't think I'm as pessimistic about SC as some of the things I've read about the situation there this week. I think the most important thing to note is that the state parties in SC have traditionally picked up the tab for their nomination contests. 2008 was the first time the legislature stepped in to pass legislation to institute state funding.

My take home is that the SC GOP will find a way to fund the contest and that it will be just as important to the Republican nomination as it always has been (assuming there is enough time between the FL primary and SC's).
The important thing is to take a step back and provide some context. The fact that state funding of the presidential primary was new in 2008 is extremely important in this instance. FHQ made the case back in March in our write up of the final days of the South Carolina state House's final consideration of the budget that the funding of the primary was new and was expendable because it had not been institutionalized as it is many other states. That is still the case, but let's look between the lines of what the various (Republican -- the ones in power) political actors are saying in the Palmetto state.

No, wait. I won't even give you the run down. Let's say that you, as a party, had funding for the contest in 2008 (or as an individual or interest group on a particular issue or project) and your funding was being threatened. Wouldn't your first order of business be to make the case for why said funding was necessary and what the "dire" consequences would be if that funding was stripped. In the instance of the South Carolina Republican Party, you may even have to mention that holding a caucus was necessary and that that would affect the amount of money and attention the presidential candidates and media would pay to the state.

It might come up.

Oh, it already has:

“It would be the death of a tradition that began after Reagan,” [Columbia-based GOP operative, Richard] Quinn said of ending the primary, which developed the reputation as “the place where presidents are chosen. It would be a tragedy,” Quinn said.

Quinn added a caucus likely would not include the independent voters whose turnout built the GOP primary, which does not require voters be registered Republicans to vote.

Again, FHQ just isn't that pessimistic about the situation. And we should be just as careful in our discussions of South Carolina's contest as we have been with Iowa's caucuses and the doomsday warnings about how candidates wouldn't pay attention to a contest in a state that is "lurching" to the right. The problem is the same really. Switching to a caucus would not be the "death knell" for South Carolina. It may be the death knell for Jon Huntsman's presidential aspirations -- a death knell that is likely to come before the nomination race reaches the Palmetto state anyway -- but it wouldn't necessarily be the end for South Carolina's role in the nomination process. Do caucuses, all other things equal, receive less money and attention from the candidates and the media than primary states? Yes they do as Paul Gurian's research has shown us. But allow me to stand on the shoulders of giants here with my own research. Early states matter more. Early states that have the spotlight to themselves matter even more. South Carolina, whether primary or caucus, will have one of those first four spots. Even if Florida's Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee decides to hold a January 3, 2012 primary, South Carolina, along with Iowa, New Hampshire and probably Nevada will jump the Sunshine state or any other state attempting to infringe on their first in the nation turf. That is just how this thing works until the national parties decide to adopt a different strategy for the nomination process.

And that brings us back to the point I was trying to make in drawing a line between Iowa and South Carolina. What we're really talking about here is that the frontrunner, Mitt Romney, is not spending the "requisite" amount of time in either state and that is being viewed as an indication of the downfall of these contests as important players in Republican presidential nomination races. Well, Mitt isn't doing that bad in either Iowa or South Carolina. His strategy is working for now and may work for 2012. But that doesn't demonstrate that Iowa and South Carolina won't be significant players in future nominations if the parties continue to protect their privileged positions. It would indicate that Romney made a calculated decision after his 2008 experience and did what was necessary to win a nomination (assuming the former Massachusetts governor does end up winning the nomination -- anything but a foregone conclusion) in the 2012 cycle. That's it. If Romney wins both Iowa and South Carolina, they will have been important. He will have won where he was not supposed to and that will essentially end the race.

Now, let's get back to South Carolina's situation. This discussion is nothing more than a last ditch effort to secure funding for the South Carolina Republican Party to hold a primary. If they cannot save that funding, I fully expect to the state party to do what former chair, Katon Dawson, said they would do:
“Raise the money and partner with the Election Commission,” Dawson said, when asked what the S.C. GOP should do. “They’re going to have to man up and get the thing done.”
And if the party doesn't do that, FHQ expects them to hold an early stand-alone caucus that won't include independent voters and won't hurt anyone but candidates seeking those independents' votes. Romney might like them, but it will likely really hurt someone like Huntsman who is counting on those sorts of voters to help him in New Hampshire and South Carolina to propel him into Florida. Romney doesn't necessarily need South Carolina for the nomination. He has other paths. Other candidates don't.

This has been a lot to look at. What's the take home? South Carolina will hold an early primary or caucus and the contest will have an impact on the outcome of the Republican nomination race. And that will be the case whether Governor Nikki Haley strikes the primary's funding from the budget via her veto or not.