Monday, November 28, 2011

Pending a Likely Waiver, Minnesota Democrats Will Caucus on February 7

The original plan to hold caucuses on February 7 and release the results on March 6 is back on the table for the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. According to the party, that option was never off the table despite a change in the posted delegate selection plans. That same delegate selection plan is still posted on the DFL website, but both the events calendar and the party's official call for precinct caucuses/convention indicate that Democratic caucuses -- including a presidential preference vote -- will take place on February 7. To hold a vote on February 7, however, the DFL will need a waiver from the Democratic National Committee as that date violates the national party delegate selection rules on timing.

Now, this one is complicated because Minnesota is the rare state to have a law on the books that lays out a specific date on which a caucus is to be held. Usually caucus states are states where the state party not only picks up the tab for the contest but also has the latitude to set the date. In the case of Minnesota, the state party is opting into a state-funded option. It ends up being a caucus under the typical primary set up (in terms of funding). What this means for the parties in Minnesota is that they can opt into the state-funded contest or pay for precinct-level caucuses themselves. As is the case with primary states, the lure of a state-funded option is too hard to pass up.

Truth be told, any state party has the option of pulling out of a state-funded contest, but few do. For the Minnesota DFL, though, there is a conflict between the desire to use the state-funded -- February 7 -- option and the DNC delegate selection rules that prohibit contests -- in non-exempt states -- prior to the first Tuesday in March. The stars may align for the DFL. First of all, the race for the 2012 Democratic presidential nomination is not one that is all that consequential in the grand scheme of things. Presidential Obama will be renominated and will not face a serious challenge in the process. That makes the primaries and caucuses next year largely meaningless and as such the rules, more or less, take a back seat. The DNC, in other words, would be much more willing to look the other way in 2012 than in a year in which there was a competitive nomination race.

Secondly, "looking the other way" or not, he Minnesota DFL has a fairly strong argument for a waiver in the first place. Yes, the party did not seemingly propose an alternative to the state election law-triggered first Tuesday in February date before March 1 of this year, but Democrats in the Minnesota legislature did rush at the last minute to introduce legislation moving the caucuses back to the first Tuesday in March -- a compliant date under both the DNC and RNC rules. That legislation, however, gained no traction in either Republican-controlled chamber. And that lack of partisan control at the state legislative level is a factor that the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee considers when looking at a waiver submission. Democrats in the legislature, then, "took all provable, positive steps and acted in good faith to achieve legislative changes to bring the state law into compliance with the pertinent provisions in these rules" (Democratic Delegate Selection Rules, 20.C.7).

Finally, the fact that the Minnesota DFL is attempting to seal the results from the February 7 caucuses for release on March 6 demonstrates a certain willingness on the state party to meet the national party halfway. The DFL cannot comply with the timing of its "first determining step", but it can attempt to hold the results until the time at which the window for non-exempt states to hold contests begins.

In an earlier critique of this plan, FHQ wondered aloud about the precedent such a waiver from the DNC might set. That, however, was written at a time when it was unclear just how much of a threat Minnesota's caucuses on both sides of the aisle would affect the earliest states. Now that Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina are set -- for dates well ahead of Minnesota -- the February 7 date represents no threat. With the damage already done, Minnesota is much more likely to get a pass in 2012 on a non-compliant February date than if this had or will happen in a year when the Democratic nomination is at stake.

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

With September State Primary Set, Massachusetts Presidential Primary Looks Locked in on March 6

On Friday, November 11, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law H 3788, a supplemental appropriations bill for FY 2012. The bill itself is average fare, but the amendments added provide some hints as to the ultimate calendar location of the presidential primary. As FHQ noted recently, there has been some chatter on the local level pushing H 1972, legislation to consolidate the state primary and the presidential primary in June. Though that talk has increased -- at the local level -- and there is supposedly bipartisan support for consolidating the primaries in the General Court, the enactment of H 3788 casts doubt on the possibility of concurrent primaries in June.


The state primary, typically scheduled for the seventh Tuesday prior to the November general election, has been moved to early September. The September 18 date called for in Massachusetts election law was problematic for several reasons. First, it conflicted with the 45 day buffer between the general election ballot being set and mailed out to service personnel overseas and the general election itself. The 42 days between the primary and the general election was a clear violation of that MOVE act mandate. Additionally, the September 18 date also overlaps with Rosh Hashanah. As a result, talk of moving the primary focused on the week of September 3. September 4 is the Tuesday that week, but lawmakers were concerned with the financial impact paying elections workers overtime for setting up for election day on Labor Day on the 3rd. Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin requested that the primary be moved to a non-Tuesday date; in this case Thursday, September 6. An amendment (see p. 708) laying out such a move was added to H 3788 and subsequently passed by both houses of the General Court.  [It is worth noting that this date, or any date during that week, will conflict with the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.]

What does this mean for the Massachusetts presidential primary currently scheduled for March 6? Though it is not outside of the realm of possibility, with the state primary already having been shifted once, it is less likely that it will be moved again even to consolidate that set of contests with the presidential primary in June. That means that the Bay state presidential primary is very likely to stay right where it is: March 6.

Hat tip to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for the link on local level support for H 1972.

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Housekeeping: North Carolina Legislation to Move Presidential Primary to March No Longer Active

With the North Carolina General Assembly convening only periodically to clean up redistricting legislation among other things, the bill (S 440) to shift the presidential primary in the Tarheel state from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May to the first Tuesday in March appears to be dead. This is particularly so given the fact that the crossover deadline -- to point at which legislation must have passed the originating chamber -- was June 9. That means a couple of things:

  1. North Carolina no longer has active legislation to move the date on which the presidential primary is to occur. As such, it has been reshaded on the 2012 presidential primary calendar map.
  2. However, just because that legislation seemingly died in committee, it does not mean that the effort to move the primary is dead. It is only mostly dead

To this second point, FHQ would add that time is running out and the willingness to actually shift the date of the presidential primary is lacking. The deadline for the state parties to submit candidate lists to the State Board of Elections is the first Tuesday in February. To maintain a similar three month cushion between that point and when the primary is conducted would mean that deadline would be pushed to -- as it was in the proposed legislation -- December. That point is quickly approaching and after the General Assembly session yesterday to deal with some technical issues in the recently passed redistricting legislation, there is only a full session date for both chambers listed -- on November 27 -- between now and December.

Additionally, if such a move was to happen, it would have to be pursued through an amendment to a current piece of legislation. There is a path, then, for the North Carolina presidential primary to be moved, but the willingness to do so is almost completely lacking within the legislature. And that does not even raise the issues associated with either creating a separate presidential primary election or moving up all of the primaries; something that would further decrease the likelihood of a move.

Massachusetts is the only remaining state where legislation to shift the date on which the presidential primary is scheduled is active.

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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ohio Presidential Primary Back to March? ...Again?

The presidential primary date -- and redrawn US congressional districts -- was (sort of) back before the Ohio state House today. Most of the furor will revolve around the tension between the Republican and Democratic caucuses in both Ohio chambers over the newly-drawn districts, but as is our custom, FHQ will focus on the implications of the proposed re-consolidation of the primaries in the Buckeye state.

HB 369 -- better summaries here and here -- would reverse the changes to the primary dates made in HB 319; moving the presidential and US House primaries from June 12 back to March 6 with the other primaries. If you are scoring at home Ohio has...

  1. ...moved the primaries from March to May (HB 194)
  2. ...returned them to March from May (HB 319)
  3. ...moved the presidential and US House primaries from March to June  (HB 318)
  4. ...proposed moving those two sets of primaries back to March (HB 369)

Got all that?

The new bill did not go much of anywhere in its short appearance on the floor today. The rules were suspended, and the bill is likely to be considered in committee next week -- the House is scheduled to hold committee hearings on Thursday, November 10. As far as attempting to game this decision out, assuming the committee -- to which HB 369 has not been referred as of yet -- is able to wrap up its consideration of the bill next week, the next opportunity the House has to pass the bill is on the next series of scheduled session days on November 15-16 and November 29. There is also December 6 session scheduled, but that comes just one day before the filing deadline -- one that would be reverted to if this bill passes -- for congressional and presidential candidates to file for a March 6 primary.

In other words, time is running out to cut a deal on redistricting that would allow Ohio lawmakers to eliminate the separate June primary for presidential and US House candidates.

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Hampshire Primary Scheduled for January 10

[Click to Enlarge]

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner this morning set January 10 as the date of the presidential primary in the Granite state. With New Hampshire in place -- behind the January 3 caucuses in Iowa and ahead of the Republican primary in South Carolina on January 21 -- the front of the 2012 presidential primary calendar is as set in stone as it will be. There may be some additional shuffling among a handful of states -- North Carolina and Massachusetts may move and Missouri Democrats may stick with the non-compliant February 7 primary -- but none will threaten the alignment that has now developed at the beginning of the calendar.
Tuesday, January 3:
Iowa caucuses 
Tuesday, January 10:
New Hampshire 
Saturday, January 21:
South Carolina Republican primary 
Tuesday, January 31:
Saturday, February 4:
Nevada Republican caucuses
Bill Gardner set the date of the 2012 primary three weeks ahead of the pace set in 2007. Thanksgiving eve -- the date on which the New Hampshire secretary of state set the date of the 2008 primary -- is three weeks from today.

Ten weeks from yesterday is January 10. That means there are 69 days until the New Hampshire primary. Set your itineraries accordingly, candidates.

December 2011 primaries or caucuses are now officially off the table. Not to worry. 2015 is right around the corner.

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Electoral Vote Counting 53 Weeks in Advance

FHQ doesn't know that any new ground was broken yesterday when both the RNC and an anonymous Obama administration official revealed at least some information about their likely target states for the 2012 presidential race. I say that simply because none of it is terribly revealing in the first place. A look at FHQ's Electoral College Spectrum -- particularly the middle column -- shows that the list below is predominantly comprised of states that were the most competitive in 2008.

Table 1: The Electoral College Spectrum1
1 Follow the link for a detailed explanation on how to read the Electoral College Spectrum.
2 The numbers in the parentheses refer to the number of electoral votes a candidate would have if he won all the states ranked prior to that state. If, for example, McCain won all the states up to and including Colorado (all Obama's toss up states plus Colorado), he would have 275 electoral votes. McCain's numbers are only totaled through the states he would have needed in order to get to 270. In those cases, Obama's number is on the left and McCain's is on the right in italics.

3 Colorado is the state where Obama crossed the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election. That line is referred to as the victory line.
4 Nebraska allocates electoral votes based on statewide results and the results within each of its congressional districts.  Nebraska's 2nd district voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

That the RNC is going on offense in traditionally close states and states that flipped to Obama and the Democrats in 2008 is no real surprise. Nor is it a stretch to consider that Obama is staring down the reality of playing more defense in 2012 as a known quantity -- as an incumbent. The only target for offense mentioned in the Obama administration official's thoughts was Arizona. But let's have a look at the states listed in the RNC strategic memo:

Table 2: 2012 RNC/DNC Targets -- Presidential Battleground States
StateEVsRed to Blue in '08?Traditionally Blue?Traditionally Red?2004 Margin12008 Margin2












1 Source: Leip's Atlas
2 Source: Leip's Atlas

Note that, as is the custom in this time of the cycle, the RNC has cast its net widely. That is not to suggest that the DNC is not also considering states Obama may or more appropriately may not win next November, but it is usually the party on offense that can be and actually is a bit more aggressive in terms of the states it is considering. There were times in 2008, for instance, when the polling looked not necessarily good but promising in states like the Dakotas, Montana, Georgia and even Alaska before Palin was added to the Republican ticket in the late summer. Did that mean that Obama would have won those states after all was said and done on election day? Probably not, but there comes a time in every general election campaign where the tough decisions have to be made about which states to focus on. North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado were much more realistic to Obama than, say, Georgia or Arizona. In the same way, the RNC is able to throw a few states on the board that the eventual nominee may not win, but are intriguing possibilities nonetheless.

[Note also that the fifteen states in the table immediately above are ordered roughly in terms of how close the margin was between Obama and McCain in 2008. Another way of thinking about this is that the closer a state was in 2008, the hypothetically easier it will be for the Republican candidate to flip it in 2012. Those states moved largely in line with the national average shift in the vote from 2004 to 2008.]

Some states, however, are more or less intriguing than others. The "Red in 2004, Blue in 2008" states at the top of the table are more realistic targets for the GOP than some of the "lean blue" states that may be close in a more competitive presidential election year but crested above a 10% margin in Obama's favor in 2008. Are they pie in the sky states for Republicans? Perhaps, but they are steeper climbs for the Party of Lincoln than they are for Obama and Democrats to maintain. If the average shift in the vote is large enough they may shift too, but that would require a larger shift.

History is not always the best predictor -- Obama did win longstanding red states like North Carolina, Indiana and Virginia in 2008 -- but the states at the bottom of Table 2 are states a Republican candidate has not won in most cases in over 20 years. New Hampshire flipped to George W. Bush in 2000, but has been reliably Democratic since Clinton carried the Granite state in 1992. Michigan and Pennsylvania have been fairly close in some election cycles over the last generation but both been in the Democratic column in the time since George H.W. Bush won the Keystone and Wolverine states in 1988.  For Wisconsin and Washington, one has to go back to Reagan's 1984 landslide to find the last time a Republican carried either state. And on the other side of this, Arizona voted for Bill Clinton in 1996, but for the last time the Grand Canyon state went blue, one has to go all the way back to 1948.

That said, those are all macro views that may fail to capture trends on a more micro level: that for instance Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania (not to mention New Hampshire) saw large Republican gains in offices across the states in the 2010 midterm elections. [Is that a function of something growing at the grassroots for Republicans or was it attributable to Obama not being on the ticket?] All this is to say that this is a big list of swing states (185 total electoral college votes). There will be additions and subtractions over the course of the next year, but the list will contract more than it will expand. The contraction is more likely to include Arizona and Pennsylvania on one end of the list and Indiana and North Carolina on the other than it will for more traditionally volatile states like Ohio and Florida.

Note: Shockingly -- or not so shockingly -- enough, no one seems to be saying much of anything about former bellwether, Missouri.

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