Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Follow Up on the 2016 Florida Presidential Primary

If you haven't read FHQ's take on the implications on the Florida presidential primary of the broad elections reform bill passed on the final day of the legislature was in session last week, start here.

There are a couple of additional points FHQ wants to add to the original discussion of the destination for the 2016 Florida presidential primary.

A) I tweeted this on Sunday, but it does bear repeating in this space. It really is striking the the 180ยบ turn that political actors in Florida have made over the last six years regarding the Sunshine state presidential primary. We have gone from an initial bipartisan adoption of legislation endorsing the idea that Florida has just as much right to be early as Iowa and New Hampshire in 2008 to a partisan Republican stance (among state legislative leaders and state party elites) that Florida deserves to be early and no later than the fifth state to hold a contest in 2012.

Contrast that with what was said about the backdrop for the last-minute amendment to the elections bill affecting the presidential primary. Rubio Florida state director, Todd Reid, reached out to FHQ over the weekend (...offering to share the language of the bill with me following my late-night tweet Friday).1 Reid has become a point man of sorts for discussions of the presidential primary rider on the elections bill passed last week and was kind enough to exchange emails with me on the matter. Again, contrast 2008 and 2012 above to Reid's reasoning for a move:
  1. The RNC superpenalty is too harsh.
  2. The grassroots (especially the actual delegates to the convention in Tampa) were unhappy with and vocal about the hotel and convention floor seating assignments situation.
  3. The grassroots was always hit or miss about the utility of the early primary. [Again, as FHQ stated above, it was a move pushed by state legislative and state party leaders; not the grassroots.]
  4. The Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee "was a newly created entity and no one was really wedded to it." [The parameters guiding the PPPDSC left up to chance to some extent that the Florida could end up violating the superpenalty.]
  5. There was some desire -- and this is the 180 -- to reduce uncertainty for rulesmakers and schedulers by having a decision on the date of the Florida primary before October 2015.
Embedded in the reasoning are two things: 1) the new penalty is having the desired effect (directly or not) and 2) Florida, contra 2008 and 2012, is signaling that it will play by the rules in 2016. Again, that is a striking reversal. And yes, that's the sort of thing that typically stokes the "He has to be running" chorus concerning Rubio in 2016. It is a move that is made with the most political of political moves serving as the backdrop.

B) FHQ made the point in the original post that there is some ambiguity to the new measure that could complicate its legal application in 2015-16. Then, I made the point that a discontinuity between national party rules could lead to the triggering of an earlier (February 23) primary under certain circumstances. [One could call this a discontinuity between the Florida law and RNC rules.] As FHQ stated at the time, all of that was dependent upon the maneuvering of the Republican Party of Florida. Drop the true winner-take-all allocation of delegates and that could open the door.

There are a couple of follow ups to this:
  1. Delegate allocation decisions by the Republican Party of Florida could push the primary forward a week further, but it could also push the primary back into April as well. There is no proportionality requirement in the RNC rules at the moment. But if that may/shall discrepancy is "fixed" then the RPOF could make the argument that the first Tuesday that the rules of the major political parties provide for state delegations to be allocated without penalty is the first Tuesday after April 1. But that brings us back to the original point... 
  2. On the clarity side, there would still be a potential argument with Democrats in Florida over the "true" date called for in the new statute. RPOF could make the case that the primary should be in April, but Democrats in Florida may desire a March primary instead. Call this the either/both issue proposed in the first post. Without the sort of guidance that the inclusion of either or both would entail in the statute, it is difficult to arbitrate the decision on when the primary should be held. And it goes without saying that the statute as currently constructed does not provide for an arbiter on the decision of when the date of the primary should be. 
    • Court could be one route, but depending on when this potential dispute arises, it could push up against when the primary season is to start (or more importantly when the filing deadlines hit for the candidates). 
    • It is also true that some states have proposed laws requiring prior agreement among state parties to a primary date. Otherwise, the secretary of state decides or a fixed date is invoked. This is the law regarding the scheduling of the Minnesota caucuses that was problematic in 2011. The new bill in Maine mimics this set up with reference to a proposed primary in the Pine Tree state. On the other end, the recently proposed Nevada legislation would give the secretary of state in the Silver state the date selection decision, not if the parties were in disagreement, but if another western state jumped ahead of the date for the primary called for in the statute (if the bill became law). 
As FHQ alluded to in response to the proposed change in Florida, the intent of the legislation is of real benefit to the national parties and carve-out states. However, the flexibility added to the statute may actually serve as ambiguity; shifting problems between the state and the national parties to a potential showdown between the two state parties.

...with no one to solve them.

As well-intentioned as the change is, the legislature will likely need to revisit this at some point. That is why it was good this was added now, rather than in, say, 2015 when it may have been more difficult to fix.

Stay tuned...

1 I want to point out the fact that I did not press (much less ask) Reid on the Rubio/2016/Florida primary shift point. FHQ will leave that to others to explore. The one thing I will add is that such maneuvering -- if there was a connection -- is not unprecedented in home states or elsewhere.

Jimmy Carter's nascent campaign in the lead up to 1976 was involved in arguing (in Florida) that the Florida presidential primary should remain early (then in March). During the invisible primary of the 1980 cycle, President Carter's team again was instrumental in urging both Georgia and Alabama to join forces with Florida at an early point on the calendar. The Ted Kennedy threat was apparent in the move as the southern subregional primary was seen as potential counter to any advantage Kennedy might gain in the two states after Iowa that year: New Hampshire and Kennedy's home state of Massachusetts. [As it turned out, Carter won Iowa, New Hampshire and the three southern states and encountered more trouble from Kennedy later in the calendar when the nomination was mostly wrapped up.]

Bill Clinton's campaign -- or Clinton himself -- used the Arkansas governor's connections from his time as head of the National Governors Association as an in with Georgia governor, Zell Miller. Miller helped guide through the Georgia General Assembly a bill to shift up the date of the Peach state primary by a week in 1992 (to the first Tuesday in March). This move was intended to give Clinton a southern boost after New Hampshire. [NOTE: The bill was proposed, passed and signed into law before Clinton had announced his candidacy.]

More recently and less obviously, the 2008 cycle saw Arkansas and Illinois move to earlier and seemingly more advantageous dates on the presidential primary calendar (for favorite sons/daughters candidates). There were Arkansans seeking the nominations in both major parties (Huckabee signed the Arkansas move into law in 2005.) and among the stated reasons for the move of the Illinois primary in 2007 was to help then-Senator Obama in the Democratic primary race.

So again, it has happened before. Whether that is the case with Rubio and Florida for 2016 is an open question.

Recent Posts:

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

No comments: