Thursday, July 25, 2013

One More on the North Carolina Presidential Primary

While the North Carolina Senate is in recess before taking up the third reading of HB 589, allow FHQ to add one additional footnote to the potential presidential primary move called for in the bill and its implications.

The funny thing -- or perhaps it isn't funny depending on your perspective -- is that the presidential primary provision, if passed, is ultimately going to be all for naught. FHQ explained yesterday that anchoring the North Carolina primary so close to South Carolina's is a recipe for disaster. In a perfect world for North Carolina, the RNC rules (with loophole) would stay as is, South Carolina would allow the primary in the Tarheel state to follow just three days after the primary in the Palmetto state and no other states would threaten the delicate balance the national parties and carve-out states have in the month or so before Super Tuesday on March 1. But the world isn't perfect. The RNC rules are apt to change in some way. South Carolina is also likely to frown upon a North Carolina primary so close to its own. Oh, and who knows what other states will do in terms of the scheduling of primaries between now and, say, October 2015.

Translation: North Carolina can pass the law, but is very likely to get drawn into a non-compliant point on the calendar and get hammered by the RNC (and DNC).

Where does that leave the Tarheel state? That's the funny part.

At that point -- again, say, late 2015 -- the legislature would have to eye a rather quick fix to the legislation in early 2016 (giving elections administrators across the state more than enough headaches as far as their election preparation is concerned). Barring that -- and that kind of fix is no sure thing -- North Carolina would be stuck. The law would call for a primary immediately after South Carolina's. That would put both parties in the state in a bind and with limited options.

They could go the waiver route (as Missouri and Minnesota Democrats did in 2012), but only Democrats in the minority in the state would likely probably stand a chance at gaining a permission from the DNC to hold a February primary. State Republicans, having spearheaded the primary move in the first place, would likely find great difficulty in convincing the RNC that a waiver is warranted.1

The caucus route is another option. That is what Missouri Republicans did in 2012 when the primary in the Show Me state got mired in legislative gridlock. That is also what happened with North Carolina Democrats in 2004 when a court battle over newly drawn congressional and state legislative lines forced the hands of Democrats in the midst of a competitive presidential nomination race. That may or may not be the preferred option for either party in the state.

Finally, North Carolina -- if the state legislature can't pass a measure to move the primary to a compliant but still early date in 2016 -- may go the Utah route. Utah legislators in 2011 purposely did not fund what would have been a non-compliant February presidential primary in their annual appropriations bill and added the presidential race to the state's June primary for state and local offices. If FHQ had to guess, I'd say this is the most likely option.

So yeah, the North Carolina General Assembly can go to the trouble of changing the primary law, but the end result -- like the scheduling of the 2012 Florida primary -- will likely be that the primary ends up right back where it started: the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May.

1 The great unknown is whether the RNC would grant a waiver to North Carolina Republicans if the DNC had already done so with Democrats in the state. There would be pressure on the RNC not to let Democrats gain an advantage in the state (whether one was to be had or not -- Perception often trumps reality in these situations.). There is, after all, a provision in the RNC rules (Rule 16(f)3) that allows for waivers to be granted if "granting such waiver is in the best interests of the Republican Party". That does provide the national party with some latitude.

Recent Posts:

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

No comments: