One thing that becomes clear in the letter from the two party chairmen -- Keith Downey (R) and Ken Martin (DFL) -- and their subsequent comments on the move is that the national party rules and their attendant penalties were a part of the decision-making calculus.
The letter specifies that the agreement was reached "to meet the requirements for the 2016 Presidential nominating process set forth by both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee."
Minnesota Republican Party chair, Keith Downey, added in interviews later:
"This new date respects the traditional early-primary states’ status, and positions Minnesota’s caucuses to be part of a potential newly emerging March 1st group of states. We hope it will increase Minnesota’s stature in the Presidential nominating process for both our parties next year, which all-around is good for Minnesota voters."...and...
"The March 1st date allows us to meet the respective presidential nominating calendars of each party, and we believe it will make Minnesota more relevant in the process."All told, compliance with the national party rules was a meaningful layer added to the decision, but that was balanced with a desire to make the caucuses relevant (on an early enough date). The problem is that if March 1 maintains and enhances its current southern flavor, then Minnesota could be hard-pressed to find any attention from candidates otherwise drawn to a geographically concentrated grouping of contests. But notice that Chairman Downey said "relevance" and did not mention that Minnesota was chasing the attention or financial benefits motivating potential moves in states like Vermont or New Mexico.
This is a balancing act being witness elsewhere across the country as well. The Michigan Senate has passed a bill that would move the primary in the Wolverine state back to March 15, but on the House side, some are wondering whether that will be too late for the Michigan primary to matter. That speaks to the fact that decisions are being made at the state-level on the dates of these nominating contests, but that that process takes place in an environment of uncertainty. One state does not know what another state or group of states will do necessarily. Michigan might gamble that March 15 will be a competitive date on the calendar (and not after the point at which one candidate has developed a healthy lead) that will bring candidates into the state, but Minnesota seems to be making the "safer" move. They may not get the attention of other March 1 contests, but that date is more likely to keep Minnesota caucusgoers in a position to vote while the nomination is or appears to be undecided.
Second Bill to Reestablish Presidential Primary Emerges in Idaho
Washington Legislation Would Move Presidential Primary to March
Minnesota Parties Jointly Agree on Compliant March 1 Caucuses
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