Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The SEC Primary, Seriously Y'all

Via Tim Alberta at National Journal:
Because for the first time in the modern history of the Republican Party, the path to its presidential nomination takes an early and potentially decisive detour through the South. 
As the schedule tentatively stands, following the first four nominating contests in February—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada—the campaign speeds up with a March 1 Super Tuesday dominated by Bible Belt primaries. The calendar will not be finalized until October, but Republican officials expect that at as many as six states—Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas—could wind up voting in a bloc. (It has been dubbed the "SEC primary" after the powerhouse football programs in the Southeastern Conference.) Even if Alabama and Mississippi fail to move their primaries up to March 1, they're currently scheduled to vote just one week later, on March 8, along with Oklahoma. Plus, Louisiana is holding its primary March 5, giving the South enormous influence no matter how Super Tuesday shapes up.

First time in modern history that the Republican Party has had a primary calendar with such a swing through the South? I look back sometimes and wonder where the time has gone, but 1988 is still part of the modern period of presidential nominations. In that year, the entire South with few exceptions held primaries and caucuses on March 8, a date closer to the New Hampshire primary in 1988 than the comparatively smaller group of southern states will be next year.

George H.W. Bush swept them all in 1988. Huckabee and others hope for as much in 2016. The Democrats' split decision experience in the Southern Super Tuesday in 1988 might be a better comparison though.

Now let's look at that calendar of southern contests for 2016.
Mississippi's out.
The Alabama House has been sitting on their primary bill since April.
Arkansas failed to move during its regular session, but has hope for passage during a special session.

Oklahoma is currently scheduled for March 1 after a plan to move the primary back to April failed.

North Carolina and Virginia are out there as well. Virginia is set for March 1, and North Carolina may fall anywhere in the February 23-March 8 range.

No, the calendar is not set now, but we have a pretty good idea of what it will look like. Yes, Mike Huckabee did well in the South in 2008, but there are a number of candidates who might do well in the region. That may mean a repeat of 1988.

...the Democrats' version. That would make the South -- and the SEC primary -- less decisive.

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