Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Couple of Reasons the 2016 Texas Presidential Primary Isn't Going Anywhere

There's been a nice call and response between James Hohmann at Politico and Patrick Svitek at the Houston Chronicle over the 2016 presidential primary in Texas the last few days.

Hohmann's deep dive on the proposed SEC primary sharing a date with primaries in Texas and Florida included this side note:
Some GOP insiders believe that Florida and Texas will opt to push back their primaries until later in March. Under the new RNC rules, states that wait until March 15 can have “winner take all” primaries, with the candidate receiving the most votes collecting all of a state’s delegates. The potential presidential candidates from Florida and Texas are likely to prefer that.
The response from Texas Republicans was a mix of "meh" and "we're not moving' (from March 1)".

FHQ tends to agree with Texas Republicans for a few reasons. I don't know who the GOP (RNC?) insiders Hohmann spoke to, but the proportionality rule has not played out at all as an enticement to larger states moving back to later dates on the primary calendar. [The statement seems more like wishful thinking than theory of presidential primary movement.] State-level actors have not reacted by both moving back and adopting winner-take-all allocation rules. States may shift the dates of their primaries and caucuses around. However, most state parties tend to choose the path of least resistance when it comes to their method of delegate allocation. Most of the time that translates to states not changing the rules they used the last time unless they are forced to.

States that move back are not forced to adopt a winner-take-all allocation method. Those states do, however, have that option. They just tend to stick with what they had allocation-wise the previous cycle, though.

Look no further than Texas in 2012. Had the redistricting process not gotten bogged down in the courts, the Texas presidential primary would have been the first Tuesday in March (as called for by Texas law). Since the redistricting battle dragged into 2012, the Texas primary got forced back into May. The shift did not come with a switch to winner-take-all rules. In fact, Texas Republicans kept the true proportional method of allocation the party passed in late 2011. Once that change was made, Texas Republicans were resistant to changing it, mainly because the state party rules prevented them from making a change outside of a state convention setting.1

Of course, Texas delegate allocation methods are not the only area of the delegate selection rules where Texans have been slow to react over the years. This also extends to the state government moving the primary date around. This is something that Texas Republican National Committeeman, Robin Armstrong in Stivek's piece seems to be projecting onto states that are part of the SEC primary proposal: state legislatures derailing a potential move. Texas moved its primary to the second Tuesday in March for the 1988 cycle -- the Southern Super Tuesday. That was the date used for the presidential primary in the Lone Star state through the 2004 cycle. Then, when other states were moving up into February -- when it was still allowed by both parties -- for 2004 and 2008, the Texas legislature managed to bump the primary up to the only the first Tuesday in March; just a week earlier.2

So, FHQ is not of the opinion that the Texas presidential primary is going anywhere in 2016. No one has been eager to jump back on the calendar in order to get winner-take-all rules and Texas has had a history of resisting these sorts of changes (calendar and delegate allocation).

There is also an additional reason, but I'll save a discussion of that for a separate post in the next week or so.

Let me also weigh in on Armstrong's theory that only a couple of states will move into this SEC primary slot on March 1. That has always been likely. Georgia has the flexibility to move there because the secretary of state in the Peach state sets the date. Additionally, Alabama and Mississippi seem likely to move as well. Arkansas has conflicts as FHQ has discussed previously and Louisiana has already shifted its primary up to an earlier Saturday in March than it used in 2012. The Pelican state is unlikely to move again.

1 There is an exception for emergencies, but a switch to winner-take-all rules is not necessarily an emergency.

2 The move to that date had been made before and for the 2004 cycle, but redistricting kept that from coming to fruition for 2004. 2008 was the first cycle that law was implemented. Redistricting then pushed the primary date back to May during 2012.

Recent Posts:
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