Thursday, January 29, 2015

The 2016 RNC Super Penalty

From the 2012 Rules of the Republican Party (the delegate selection rules that will govern the 2016 nomination process):
Rule 17(a): If any state or state Republican Party violates Rule No. 16(c)(2), the number of delegates and the number of alternate delegates to the national convention from that state shall each be reduced by fifty percent (50%). Any sum presenting a fraction shall be decreased to the next whole number. No delegation shall be reduced to less than two (2) delegates and a corresponding number of alternate delegates. If any state or state Republican Party violates Rule No. 16(c)(1) of The Rules of the Republican Party the number of delegates to the national convention shall be reduced for those states with 30 or more total delegates to nine (9) plus the members of the Republican National Committee from that state, and for those sates with 29 or fewer total delegates to six (6) plus the members of the Republican National Committee from that state. The corresponding alternate delegates shall also be reduced accordingly.
The second half of that rule (bolded by FHQ for emphasis) describes the so-called super penalty to be levied on states that violate the timing rules laid out in Rule 16(c)(1). The reality is that the penalty is there to prevent states from doing that; going rouge. Instead of the flat 50% delegation reduction used in 2012, the RNC will shrink rogue delegations to 12 total delegates (in states originally with 30 or more delegates) and to 9 total delegates (in states with 29 or fewer delegates) in 2016. The party has traded that flat rate of reduction to a set point of reduction that places an increasing penalty on states as their delegations grow in size.

Now that the 2014 midterms have passed, the Republican National Committee has the data necessary to determine bonus delegates and thus the size of each state delegation.1 A firmer sense of the size of each delegation (via The Green Papers), in turn, provides the extent to which the super penalty would affect each state if a decision was made on the state level to break the rules prohibiting primaries or caucuses before the first Tuesday in March (March 1, 2016).2

Here is the percentage of the delegation lost if each state violated the super penalty (More below the figure):
With the exception of Delaware, Vermont and the four smallest territories, all states have a greater than 50% penalty for a delegate selection event scheduled before March 1. And even if, say, Delaware or Vermont decided to roll the dice and go rogue, the combination of nine delegates in Democratic Party-dominated states would likely not prove attractive to the candidates. Of course, that would assumes that those Democratic state governments would move the primaries into earlier and non-compliant calendar positions in the first place.

As the delegations grow in size, the effect of the penalty increases. States with delegations larger than 60 delegates would face an over 80% reduction in possibly being non-compliant. North Carolina, for example, moved up the list since our earliest look at the original super penalty. The state is now under unified Republican control and has gained bonuses as a result. But those in the Republican majorities on the state level also opted to separate the presidential primary from those for state and local offices and tether that presidential primary to the (likely February) primary in South Carolina. That means the Tar Heel state is currently staring down a substantial 83% reduction to their full 71 member delegation (tied for sixth largest delegation).

Past rogue states have already disarmed. Florida moved back. Arizona moved back. Michigan looks to be moving back. All moved after the original super penalty came out of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. Other states with February contests (New York) or ties to February contests (Colorado, Minnesota, Utah) have either moved back in the past (and are likely to do so again) or have options that allow them to avoid the problems attendant to non-compliant contests.

Upping the penalty seems to be having the desired effect from the RNC perspective.

...but it is not all the way there. All eyes on North Carolina.

--
1 Those bonuses -- determined by the guidelines in Rule 14(a)(5-7) -- are based on Republican electoral votes in the previous presidential election and Republicans' hold on US House and Senate positions, governors seats and state legislative control. Basically, the more Republican control there is in a state, the more bonus delegates are added to a state's at-large delegate pool.

2 This penalty does not apply to the carve-out states unless any of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and/or South Carolina holds a contest more than a month before the next earliest, non-carve-out state.


Recent Posts:
Back to the Future in Michigan: Another Attempt to Move Presidential Primary to March

Legislation Would Shift Illinois Presidential, Other Primaries from March to June

The End of the New Hampshire Primary? ...by Death Penalty?

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Back to the Future in Michigan: Another Attempt to Move Presidential Primary to March

After a failed attempt during last December's lame duck session, the Michigan state legislature has again initiated an attempt to move the Great Lakes state presidential primary into compliance with the national party delegate selection rules.

State Senator David Robertson (R-14th, Genesee) has introduced SB 44 which would change the date of the presidential primary in Michigan from the fourth Tuesday in February to the third Tuesday in March. The language of the bill is the same as SB 1159 from the lame duck session late last year with the same impact. It would bring the state back into compliance with the national party rules, helping both Michigan parties avoid sanction from either the DNC or RNC. That means a full delegation -- on the Republican side anyway -- for the first time in two cycles if the bill is passed and signed into law.

This would also push Michigan far enough down the calendar -- to March 15 for the 2016 cycle -- that it would be on the earliest date on which Republican states can utilize winner-take-all allocation rules. However, Michigan Republicans have already settled on an allocation plan that is not truly winner-take-all. Instead, the state party has authorized a conditionally winner-take-all system for 2016. If one candidate clears the 50% threshold in the statewide vote, then that candidate would be entitled to the full allotment of delegates from Michigan. If, however, no candidate wins a majority of the vote, the allocation is winner-take-all by congressional district with the statewide, at-large delegates awarded proportional to the candidates' shares of the vote statewide.

March 15 is a date that the Michigan Republican Party has endorsed and also falls at a point on the calendar that coincides with primaries in regional neighbor, Illinois.1 Missouri also has a presidential primary scheduled for that date. There has been talk of a midwestern primary and this may be a spot on the calendar where states open to that idea gather.

UPDATE (2/5/15): Bill passes Senate committee
UPDATE (2/12/15): Bill passes Senate
UPDATE (2/18/15): House passes amended version
UPDATE (2/19/15): Senate concurs with House changes
UPDATE (2/20/15): Governor signs bill (changes primary date to March 8, 2016)

--
1 If Illinois maintains that position.


Recent Posts:
Legislation Would Shift Illinois Presidential, Other Primaries from March to June

The End of the New Hampshire Primary? ...by Death Penalty?

Earlier Convention Forcing South Dakota to Push Presidential Primary Up?

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Legislation Would Shift Illinois Presidential, Other Primaries from March to June

For the second consecutive session, Illinois state Representative Scott Drury (D-58th, Highwood) has introduced legislation to move the primary election in the Land of Lincoln.

HB 193 would move the Illinois primary from the third Tuesday in March to the fourth Tuesday in June. Rep. Drury brought the same bill forward in 2013, and it went nowhere after being referred to committee. The 2015 bill would seem destined for the same fate. Illinois holds consolidated primaries, merging its presidential and other primaries. The move to June not only would mean a move to the very end of the calendar, but it would also mean that the primary would fall outside of the window established by the national parties.

The window in which non-carve-out states can hold primaries and caucuses without penalty runs from the first Tuesday in March through the second Tuesday in June. A fourth Tuesday in June primary would fall outside of that part of the calendar. With delegates directly elected in Illinois, a June primary would also likely be logistically infeasible given July conventions for both parties.

This one, like its predecessor, is likely not going anywhere.

--
UPDATE (2/24/15): Bill proposing July primary introduced


Recent Posts:
The End of the New Hampshire Primary? ...by Death Penalty?

Earlier Convention Forcing South Dakota to Push Presidential Primary Up?

Pair of Bills Propose Earlier Presidential Primary in Connecticut

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

Monday, January 26, 2015

The End of the New Hampshire Primary? ...by Death Penalty?

Former New Hampshire Republican Party chairman and current Granite state Republican national committeeman, Steve Duprey, set off a bit of a discussion about the New Hampshire presidential primary over the weekend. It did not get a lot of attention because it was inside baseball stuff.

...and everyone was paying attention to what was happening in Iowa anyway.

But given Mr. Duprey's position on the RNC from New Hampshire, there are some interesting delegate selection rules-related items buried in this that are worth exploring.1

It all stems from this via John DiStaso (at NH Journal):
Duprey also said there has been discussion about a “death penalty,” although it is not part of the current rules governing the 2016 cycle’s delegate selection process. He wrote in his report to the NHGOP that some RNC members have discussed a rule that would force candidate who campaigned or allowed their names on the ballot of a state that wasn’t following the RNC schedule to forfeit half of all delegates they earn nationally.  
The “death penalty,” said Duprey “is always out there as a possibility. If we find that we have an enforcement problem even under the current rule, it could be considered for 2020.”  
And Duprey wrote to the NHGOP, “Obviously the adoption of such a rule would end our primary.”
Now, obviously that last line is a bit provocative. But let's start from the top.

The RNC added for the 2016 cycle a super penalty -- the so-called Bennett rule -- with the intent of significantly curtailing states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina from holding primaries of caucuses before the first Tuesday in March. States with delegations of 30 or more would have their delegates reduced to just 12. The reduction would scale a little lower still -- a mere 9 delegates -- for states with delegations of 29 or fewer delegates. This creates a scaleable penalty that hits big states harder than small states while still maintaining a stiff penalty for all. A state like California, for example, would face a more than 90% reduction, but even a state like West Virginia would still be levied a more than 60% penalty. In both cases, the state would have a larger penalty levied on its delegation than the rules that governed the 2012 process would have allowed.

Even with that new, more severe penalty, the RNC considered for upping the ante even more with a death penalty. FHQ would be willing to guess that it did not quite work that way as the RNC finalized its rules for 2016. It is more likely that both options -- super penalty and death penalty -- were discussed, but there was more consensus behind the incremental step that the super penalty represented by comparison (to doing nothing or going nuclear with the death penalty).

Yet, the death penalty idea survived to apparently loom over the 2016 trial run of the new super penalty.2 And it -- the death penalty -- very much takes a page out of the Democratic National Committee playbook from eight or nine years ago. Faced with similar problems -- states potentially violating the timing rules with too-early primaries of caucuses -- the Democratic National Committee opted for a 50% penalty (while retaining the ability to increase that penalty) but coupled with a penalty placed on any candidate who campaigned in a rogue state. That combination not only hit the state delegation but choked off the attention any rogue state might like to get out of an early contest (because candidates would stay away from states where campaigning meant losing any and all delegates won in that state).3

The tabled RNC death penalty is a version of that Democratic rule on steroids. The candidate who campaigns in a rogue state or allows their name to remain on the ballot there under the death penalty would lose half of their delegates accrued nationally. Not just half in the rogue state.

That is a significant scare tactic to keep candidates out of states that have violated the rules. And it would certainly give states something to think about. Moving forward to hold a ghost town primary or caucuses may not prove to be all that attractive.

--
How much would this impact New Hampshire and the New Hampshire primary?

Not much. Mr. Duprey probably overstated the impact of a potential death penalty on New Hampshire. Under the current RNC rules, New Hampshire and the other carve-out states have one month ahead of the next earliest contest to schedule their primaries and caucuses. It is a sliding scale. If Florida jumps to January 1 then the carve-out states would have a window from then to December 1 in which to schedule their contests without penalty. Only if New Hampshire held a primary before December 1 in that scenario would the Granite state be subject to the effects of the proposed death penalty.

That's something that Mr. Duprey acknowledged in a follow up on Facebook this past Saturday (again via DiStaso):
Duprey continued, "Also note that if a party adopted a so called ‘death penalty’ rule it would only be the end of our primary if the national party did not accord us the honor of going first. As I added in my report to state committee members, support for the NH primary’s first in the nation status has never been stronger and a death penalty rule could actually add an even stronger protection to our primary if we were kept first on the schedule, which I believe we would be."
Unless some anti-carve-out state sentiment -- well more than the normal sentiment -- develops between now and, say, 2018, then New Hampshire will continue to be afforded the same privileged position it has always had in the presidential nomination process.

--
1 Mr. Duprey also headed up the committee that handed down recommendations for debates regulation during the Republican nomination process.

2 I try to point this out as much as I can, but often FHQ does not mix this in often enough. It is an important point though. The presidential nomination rules are always a trial and error process. The national parties do not have an opportunity to stress test them before the primaries and caucuses start. The trial part, then, is often by fire. The only test is a primaries and caucuses cycle. And by the time those start, it can often be too late (depending on if and how the states have spent the year prior to the presidential election year adapting to the national party rules). This super penalty is one such example. Right now, in January 2015, it looks like it is working, but that may be different in a month or in six months.

3 It should be noted that Obama, Clinton and the other 2008 Democratic candidates steered clear of states like Florida and Michigan. They may have been less about the rule than about the fact that the candidates and their proxies on the Rules and Bylaws Committee agreed to the addition of that candidate-specific provision.


Recent Posts:
Earlier Convention Forcing South Dakota to Push Presidential Primary Up?

Pair of Bills Propose Earlier Presidential Primary in Connecticut

Companion Bills Introduced to Move Mississippi Presidential Primary into SEC Primary Position

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

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Earlier Convention Forcing South Dakota to Push Presidential Primary Up?

Bob Mercer, reporter with Aberdeen American News, raises the question.

--
First of all, the answer seems to be no. Mr. Mercer details well the history of South Dakota legislators moving the presidential primary in the Mount Rushmore state up to the tail end of February (from June) for the 1988 cycle and maintaining that position through 1996. The motivation for the February move, as it always seems to be, was to garner more attention for South Dakota and South Dakota issues. The problem was that the earlier primary was not an effective draw to those candidates actually seeking the nominations. That precipitated a return to June and consolidated presidential and other primaries. From 2000 onward, South Dakota has been lumped in with a small group of states at the very end of the primary calendar.

That did not mean, however, that South Dakota has not revisited the idea of an earlier presidential primary in the time since. Like a great many states in the lead up to the competitive -- on both sides -- 2008 primaries, South Dakota considered legislation to shift the presidential primary to an earlier date on the calendar. Bills met resistance in the legislature and died in both 2006 and 2007, as Mr. Mercer describes.

The 2016 presidential cycle offers, perhaps, a new wrinkle to the date-setting calculus in the later states on the calendar. That decision-making process is typically leave well enough alone if not non-existent. States at the end of the process tend to have consolidated primaries and often find the cost savings associated with one contest difficult to give up. That is no different in South Dakota.

What is different for the 2016 cycle is the push from the national parties to schedule earlier national conventions.1 But the question Mr. Mercer poses from the South Dakota perspective is different now that the two major parties have scheduled July conventions than it was when the RNC was considering a June convention. A June convention really would have exerted some pressure on June primary states to consider earlier contests. That pressure -- mostly from the RNC side -- would have come in the form of a kind of backwards delegate selection process. For the logistics to work -- convention credentialing of delegates, etc. -- delegates would have to be selected, presumably via a caucuses/convention process, before the individual slots would be allocated to particular candidates based on the primary results.2 That can make the process feel more top-down than bottom-up to rank-and-file members of a party/primary voters.

But with June off the table and two July conventions, this appears to be less of an issue for the South Dakotas and Montanas and Californias of the process, all the way at the end of the primary calendar. July conventions are not anything new. In fact, July conventions for the party out of the White House were the norm as recently as 2004. Sure, the Republican National Convention is the earliest since 1980, but there were a number of contests on that first Tuesday in June (an equivalent amount of time, then as in 2016) ahead of the convention.

Will South Dakota move? Indications at the state legislative level seem to suggest no according to Mr. Mercer. The legislators that sponsored bill during the 2008 cycle are not actively pushing legislation and do not foresee any push. Beyond that, there is not any added pressure from the national parties. The conventions will be earlier in 2016, but not in June; a time that would really have forced the primary movement issue in South Dakota and other states.

--
1 The Republican National Committee was responsible for the majority of this push, considering June and July convention times before settling on a convention in Cleveland during the week of July 18, 2016. In a reactive move, the Democratic National Committee then set the date of their 2016 convention for a week later in a location yet to be determined.

2 This sounds worse than it probably would be in practice. The reversing of the selection and allocation processes would only be consequential (controversial) if a nomination race was still competitive at that late point in the calendar. The odds are against that, however.


Recent Posts:
Pair of Bills Propose Earlier Presidential Primary in Connecticut

Companion Bills Introduced to Move Mississippi Presidential Primary into SEC Primary Position

Primary Movement, 2015 v. 2011

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

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pair of Bills Propose Earlier Presidential Primary in Connecticut

Two bills introduced in the Connecticut state Senate this morning would alter the position of the Nutmeg state presidential primary in 2016. Both pieces of legislation were sponsored by minority party Republicans, but are not replicas of each other.1 One is actually quite unique.

Senator Joe Markley (R-16th, Cheshire) put forth SB 610, which would shift the Connecticut presidential primary from the last Tuesday in April to the first Tuesday in March. Now, it should be noted that Connecticut moved from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February for the 2008 cycle. That move brought the presidential primary there back to the earliest allowed date according to national party rules at the time. When those rules changed for the 2012 electoral cycle, Connecticut was one of those 18 states that had to move back to comply with the rules eliminating February contests. Instead of opting to move back a month to the then newly established earliest date -- the first Tuesday in March -- Democratic-controlled Connecticut decided to move back in to April to hold a primary concurrently with contests in Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.  Democratic states with non-compliant primaries were much more likely to move to late March and even April dates than non-compliant states under unified Republican control.

Now, it appears that at least some elected Republicans in the Nutmeg state want to reverse course and hold an earlier primary in 2016. But they -- along with Democrats in the state Senate -- will have a couple of options to discuss.

SB 610 shifts the presidential primary to the first Tuesday in March, but SB 599 -- introduced by Senator Michael A. McLachlan (R-24th, Bethel) and co-sponsored by Representative Richard A. Smith (R-108th, New Fairfield) on the House side -- would move only the Republican presidential primary in Connecticut and move it to the first Thursday in March.

This one is quirky for a couple of reasons:

First, the bill proposes splitting up the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries. The Republican contest would move to March while the Democratic contest would continue to be scheduled for April. This happens in some states, but typically it means that one party has opted into the state-funded primary election while the other major party has opted to fund its own (usually) caucuses to select and allocate delegates. We also see this in states where both parties conduct caucuses. Those cross-party contests are sometimes on the same date, but often not. With the exception of South Carolina, states do not often fund two separate presidential primary elections.2 It is expensive. That could be a roadblock to minority party Republicans trying to find support for this measure.

The other strange thing about this second bill -- SB 599 -- is that it seeks to move the primary from a Tuesday in April to a nontraditional Thursday position in March. This would appear to be a nod to the reality that the first Tuesday in March -- the earliest allowed date -- may be a crowded slot on the calendar. It does have a southern flavor to it at this point and looks to be getting even more so, but could be attractive to any state, southern or not, seeking to attempt to influence the presidential nomination races. Moving to a Thursday may achieve the attention while avoiding the crowd.

Of course, the expenditure for the separate contest kind of cancels out the potential good a nontraditional Thursday, March 3 primary might have.

Both bills offer something for Connecticut lawmakers trying to gain the state some influence in the process (if not just putting voters in a position to vote ahead of the point on the calendar on which one candidate wraps up the nomination). Moving to March 1 -- as called for in SB 610 -- would mean a primary on the likely SEC primary date, but all the non-southern states on March 1 are all northeastern neighbors of Connecticut -- Massachusetts and Vermont. Small though that collection of states may be, they would collectively serve as some counterbalance to the series of southern contests. Most likely, however, they would be ignored as most candidates focus on the southern states with more delegates.

That is what makes the Thursday option potentially more attractive -- minus the expenditure. Connecticut would be the only contest on that date in between the SEC primary and the Louisiana primary that following weekend. And the proposal is not as off-the-wall as it may seem on the surface. Both Georgia and Florida considered Thursday primaries in 2012.

Both bills now head off for consideration in the Joint Committee on Government Administration and Elections.

--
1 This differs from the two bills introduced to move the presidential primary in Mississippi on parallel tracks, one in each chamber.

2 South Carolina has had separate dates for the parties' presidential primaries, but does that to provide some flexibility to state parties that are also attempting to maintain the first in the South spot on the calendar. There is legislation currently before the South Carolina legislature to merge those two primaries.


Recent Posts:
Companion Bills Introduced to Move Mississippi Presidential Primary into SEC Primary Position

Primary Movement, 2015 v. 2011

State Legislatures Move Most Presidential Primaries. ...But They Have to Change State Law First

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Companion Bills Introduced to Move Mississippi Presidential Primary into SEC Primary Position

On Monday, January 19, identical bills were introduced -- one each in the Mississippi state House and Senate -- to shift the date of the Magnolia state presidential primary up one week.

HB 933 and SB 2531 would move the Mississippi presidential primary from the second Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in March. This potential shift is noteworthy for a number of reasons. First, the proposed move would push the presidential primary up to the earliest date allowed by the national party rules; in 2016, March 1. This would also position the Mississippi primary in the proposed calendar slot for the so-called SEC primary.

Finally, this subtle repositioning, if passed and signed into law, would be the first time in seven presidential primary cycles that the Mississippi primary has fallen on a date other than the second Tuesday in March. Up to the 1988 cycle, Mississippi had had either later primaries or the state parties had opted to select and allocate delegates through a caucuses/convention system (see Mississippi Democrats in 1984).

Should the move come to fruition, it would place the Mississippi presidential primary alongside other southern primaries in Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.1 There are also primaries scheduled for March 1 in Massachusetts and Vermont.

--
Update (2/1/15): House bill passes committee
Update (2/4/15): Senate bill passes committee  
Update (2/11/15): House and Senate bills pass
Update (3/3/15): House bill dies in committee, Senate bill passes committee
UPDATE (3/11/15): Amended Senate bill passes state House


Related:
Will a Calendar Bump Up Mean More Candidate Visits in SEC Primary States?

--
1 There is legislation in Oklahoma, though, that would move the primary in the Sooner state back three weeks to March 22.

Recent Posts:
Primary Movement, 2015 v. 2011

State Legislatures Move Most Presidential Primaries. ...But They Have to Change State Law First

Oklahoma Bill Would Move Presidential Primary Back Three Weeks

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Primary Movement, 2015 v. 2011

2015 is not 2011.

Aside from a steady stream of light chatter throughout the late summer and fall about the proposed SEC primary, there just has not been much talk or, for that matter, action on the presidential primary movement front. Granted, while most state legislatures have convened for 2015 sessions, many have not settled in for the business-as-usual legislative work. Still, at this point four years ago, there was slightly more activity on the state-level to tweak the calendar positions of a number of presidential primaries. In mid-January 2011, there were bills that had been introduced to shift the dates on which presidential primaries would be held in 2012 in California, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia and other primary-date-related legislation in Washington.

From a numbers standpoint, things are not altogether different in 2015. The stream is more a trickle with only Arizona and Oklahoma proposing primary moves thus far.1 One reaction is that it is simply too early to tell any significant difference between the two cycles. Yes, we are talking about a 50% decrease from 2011 to 2015, but substantively that represents only a subtle drop from four to two bills across cycles. That may not be enough to warrant even a meh.

It is early, but there is reason to think that there will be far less primary movement in 2015 than there was in 2011. The bills aren't there, but neither is the chatter. There is no talk of what Florida might do. The Sunshine state pulled back from the 2016 precipice in 2013. The constant "will they or won't they" drumbeat about Florida in 2011 reverberated, affecting decision-making in other states (notably the carve-out states, but others as well).

The most striking difference between 2011 and 2015, though, is based on the rules. Both the DNC and RNC informally agreed to a calendar structure that had the four carve-out states with February contests and all other states following in March or later. That intention has carried over to the 2016 cycle as well. The baseline, starting point calendar was different in 2011 than it is in 2015. FHQ touched on this last week (see map), but it bears repeating if not some accentuation. In January 2011, there were 18 primary states with laws in place calling for February primaries. That is, there were 18 states that were non-compliant with the delegate selection rules of both national parties. Those states had to change to avoid sanctions.



That is missing in 2015.

There is far less urgency on the state level to comply with the national parties' rules. Only Michigan, New York and North Carolina are in direct violation of those rules. Even then, Michigan and New York are likely to move into compliance.2 Other states could be early and non-compliant, but have options built into state laws that provide them with some flexibility (see Colorado, Minnesota and Utah).

The transition from 2012 to 2016 -- from a primary movement perspective -- is a lot like the one from 2004 to 2008, but in reverse. Republicans had allowed some February contests beyond the carve-outs in 1996 and 2000, but that was limited because the DNC still set the first Tuesday in March as the earliest date on which states other than Iowa and New Hampshire could conduct delegate selection events. For the 2004 cycle, the DNC changed course, allowing February contests by pushing that "earliest date" from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February. The state-level reaction was not a tidal wave of movement forward for 2004. Some states moved up to that earliest compliant position -- Arizona, North Dakota and Oklahoma among them -- but the significant movement did not occur until the 2008 cycle when both parties had the prospect of active and competitive nomination races.

The change in rules in both national parties for 2012 was intended to eliminate the February issue. But as was the case from 2000-2008, reversing course can and usually does take multiple cycles. That is how it is in this iterative and sequential process. The national parties devise delegate selection rules often to fight the last war and the states react. Most react in accordance with those rules changes, but some do not. Those laggards are the ones the national parties target with rules changes in the next round; the next cycle.

That 2016 is about cleaning up the stragglers from the national parties' perspectives instead of affecting some wholesale change in state behavior is why 2015 is not 2011.

...and we probably won't get a repeat of this.

--
1 Oregon and South Carolina both have primary-related bills, but neither piece of legislation directly affects the date on which the presidential primaries will be conducted.

2 Michigan Republicans have endorsed a later date and New York shifted back from February to April for 2012 (but placed a sunset provision on the change). The primary is back in February, but unlikely to stay there.


Recent Posts:
State Legislatures Move Most Presidential Primaries. ...But They Have to Change State Law First

Oklahoma Bill Would Move Presidential Primary Back Three Weeks

Oregon Bill Would Split Presidential, Other Primaries

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

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

State Legislatures Move Most Presidential Primaries. ...But They Have to Change State Law First

Don Gonyea had a good background piece on the possibility/formation of an SEC primary this morning on NPR's Morning Edition.

However, Mr. Gonyea lost FHQ when he began to place odds on which southern states would join the potential southern regional presidential primary on March 1 of next year. Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi were deemed "sure things" while it was mentioned that the "lineup could include" Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas and Florida. This not correct.

It was a small section in an otherwise solid story, but it is misleading about how the presidential primary calendar forms from cycle to cycle. Some states are constant date-tweakers. New Hampshire, for instance, has to be able to change the date of the presidential primary there to stay at the front of the queue every presidential election year. They move dates every cycle. But the majority of states are not like New Hampshire: They stay in the same position if not every cycle, then for multiple cycles. Indiana has held its presidential primary on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of May for the entire post-reform era (1972-2012), for example.

Part of the reason why is that the motivation is not always present in a given state to move the date on which a presidential primary is held. The benefits are not readily apparent. And even when the benefits of added attention and candidate spending are somewhat clear, the decision still has to filter through two chambers of a state legislature and garner a governor's signature. That introduces the layer of state-level partisanship and possible partisan gridlock (which FHQ discussed in some detail recently).

But here's the thing: When a state legislature cannot pass legislation moving the date of the presidential primary or has not passed legislation the default position of such a contest is the position described in state law. That very definitely affects the odds of a state joining a proposed regional primary or in moving a primary to an earlier date as has been the fashion for much of the post-McGovern-Fraser reform era.

State laws in Tennessee, Texas and maybe Florida currently indicate that those states are "sure things" for March 1. There is nothing fluid about that. There are no discussions in any of those states about changing the state laws concerning the dates of presidential primaries.1

Arkansas may join the SEC primary, but it could be tough. In any event, the calculus is different in the Natural state than it is in any of the other states on the SEC primary list.

There is unified Republican control of the state governments in both Alabama and Mississippi and appears to be support for the idea of bumping the primaries up a week in each state. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann indicated to his Georgia counterpart, Brian Kemp (who is behind the SEC primary concept), that everyone in the Magnolia state is "on board".

Georgia is unique in that the legislature does not factor into the presidential primary date-setting decision. Like New Hampshire, the secretary of state sets the date of the primary in the Peach state. That streamlines the decision-making process and mean that Georgia is only a formal declaration away from a March 1 primary date next year.

But again, if we're trying to place odds on which states will be involved in this southern regional primary, then look to the state laws first. Tennessee and Texas are the sure things. State laws in each say so. There's still work to be done -- and potential roadblocks -- in the other states (though there does not seem to be much resistance to moving up in most of those states).

--
Here are some related posts on the intricacies of the formation of the SEC primary:
Why is Florida on March 1 and Not March 15?

Will a Calendar Bump Up Mean More Candidate Visits in SEC Primary States?

Why Getting Arkansas into an SEC Primary is More Difficult

But Southern States Will Have to Be Proportional

Louisiana not inclined to join 'SEC' presidential primary day in 2016

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

--
1 There may be a discussion in Florida at some point about clarifying the law, but the state legislature does not convene in the Sunshine state until March.


Recent Posts:
Oklahoma Bill Would Move Presidential Primary Back Three Weeks

Oregon Bill Would Split Presidential, Other Primaries

Has the RNC Set a Later Starting Date for the First Primaries and Caucuses?

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

Monday, January 19, 2015

Oklahoma Bill Would Move Presidential Primary Back Three Weeks

The Oklahoma legislature has yet to officially convene, but already there is a bill pre-filed to shift the Sooner state presidential primary back three weeks in 2016.

The legislation, SB 233, was pre-filed/introduced on Thursday, January 15 by state Senator Brian Crain (R-39th, Tulsa). If passed by the legislature and signed into law, the bill would move the  Oklahoma presidential primary from the first Tuesday in March to the fourth Tuesday in March. For 2016, that would mean moving the Oklahoma primary out of the shadow of not only neighboring Texas but the other southern states endeavoring to cluster in the so-called SEC primary on March 1.

But does shifting the primary back three weeks offer Oklahoma voters relief from the possibility of being lost in the shuffle on March 1 with Texas, Florida, Georgia and Alabama; all with larger Republican delegations -- delegates -- than Oklahoma? It could. The calendar spot three weeks later on March 22 is far less crowded than March 1 looks to be.1 Arizona is the only other state currently occupying that slot. Less competition among states on March 22 -- at least as of now -- may translate to more attention for Oklahoma and Oklahoma issues should the races for the Democratic and Republican nominations still be unsettled that deep into March.

However, that may not be the only motivation behind the proposed move in Oklahoma. At least part of what drove the Arizona primary from the last Tuesday in February to the first Tuesday following March 15 in legislation passed last year was the preferred method of Republican Party delegate allocation in the the Grand Canyon state.2 Arizona Republicans have for the last few cycles utilized a winner-take-all allocation of delegates. To preserve that, Arizona shifted its primary back beyond the March 15 winner-take-all threshold detailed in the RNC rules (Rule 17.a).

Oklahoma could be moving in a similar direction (or at least motivated to move in a similar direction). That does run counter to the traditional delegate allocation method in the Sooner state. It has been common for Oklahoma Republicans to allocate congressional district delegates in a winner-take-all fashion based on the vote tally in each congressional district. The at-large delegates were similarly allocated winner-take-all based on the statewide vote.3 That, too, would comply with the post-March 15 RNC guidelines, but would not mean that the statewide winner would be entitled to all of the Oklahoma delegates (as in Arizona or Florida in 2012).

Hat tip to Richard Winger for passing news of this legislation on to FHQ.

UPDATE (2/12/15): Bill passes Senate Rules Committee
UPDATE (3/3/15): Bill passes Senate

--
1 As the earliest date on which non-carve-out states can hold delegate selection events, March 1 is attractive not only to southern states attempting to form a regional primary, but all states.

2 The other was that the Arizona primary would have violated the RNC rules on timing with a February primary which would have greatly penalized the state's delegation size.

3 That was the method used in 2008. In 2012, the Republican Party in Oklahoma made some attempt to proportionalize the delegate allocation; a move that was beyond the bare minimum required by the RNC rules that governed the 2012 process.


Recent Posts:
Oregon Bill Would Split Presidential, Other Primaries

Has the RNC Set a Later Starting Date for the First Primaries and Caucuses?

Post-2014 State Government Partisan Control and 2016 Presidential Primary Movement

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

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Oregon Bill Would Split Presidential, Other Primaries

This past week in the Oregon state Senate, legislation was introduced to shift the dates on which primary elections in the state take place.

On Monday, January 12, SB 328 was introduced. The bill would take the consolidated primary elections set for the third Tuesday in May in even years and separate them. The presidential primary would stand pat, but the state and local primaries would be shifted from May to the third Tuesday in September.

Now, this means very little for the 2016 presidential primary calendar and Oregon's place in the process (toward the end). Well, it means very little directly. But if this bill gains any traction at all, there would almost have to be some consideration of repositioning the presidential primary. The rationale behind consolidated primaries is twofold. First, it is traditional in some states like Oregon (or Indiana or formerly North Carolina). It is just the way things are and have been done. That said, much of that tradition had to do with the expenses associated with elections in the first place. Holding a presidential primary concurrently with the primaries for state and local offices is a cost-saving mechanism. States that conduct a separate presidential primary have the added flexibility of being able to shift the date of it around from cycle to cycle. There is, however, a price to pay: the cost of the  added election.

If Oregon legislators find it prudent to move or seriously consider moving the state and local primaries to a later date, it undermines the cost-savings rationale. If the other primaries move to September, then why not move the presidential primary up to a potentially more influential date? There would already have to be an expenditure associated with the election. Why stay at the end of the calendar?

This bill is one to watch because, again, if it gains any traction, it becomes a potential avenue toward shifting the presidential primary date.

Recent Posts:
Has the RNC Set a Later Starting Date for the First Primaries and Caucuses?

Post-2014 State Government Partisan Control and 2016 Presidential Primary Movement

If Primary Season Began Today: A Note on the 2016 Presidential Primary Calendar

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

Friday, January 16, 2015

Has the RNC Set a Later Starting Date for the First Primaries and Caucuses?

Dan Balz and Philip Rucker had a really nice piece up yesterday on the soon-to-be-revealed RNC rules for 2016 Republican presidential debates. FHQ weighed in on this a year and a half ago and will look at the specifics when they are released later.

But there was one -- probably throw-away -- sentence toward the end of the article that was just plain wrong and bears some isolated consideration:
"The RNC has also set a later starting date for the first caucuses and primaries."
Now, the point was to say that the debate rules in combination with the calendar rules were intended to affect the nomination process and produce a nominee who could win in the general election. Point taken, but the RNC, when it finalized its rules last August, did not include any new provision in terms of the start of primary season.

The intention of the rules in 2016  (see Rule 16.c.1), as was the case in 2012, was to have the carve-out states go in February and every other state follow in March or later. Of course, mentioning the intention of a rule more than hints at the coordination game political parties play in the effort to nominate a presidential candidate. The national parties create the rules to govern the nomination process and the states decide how to fit into those guidelines with their portion of the process or whether ignore/flout those guidelines.

What the RNC did do was twofold:
1. First, the RNC made the carve-out states more mobile in 2016 than they were in 2012. The 2012 rules confined Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to February. The four could not earlier than the first Tuesday in February without also risking penalty from the national party. In 2016, that point is not fixed to a particular date on the calendar. Instead, the carve-out states can go as early as a month before the next earliest contest (without penalty). If North Carolina, for instance, holds a January 1 primary, then the four carve-outs could go as early as December 1, 2015.1 This provides additional protection to those four states and essentially ensures that they will not be penalized.

2. Speaking of penalties, to prevent the carve-outs from being forced into dates earlier than early February, the RNC also added a more severe penalty for non-carve-out states. The super penalty -- via the new Bennett rule (see rule 17.a) -- would reduce a state delegation to just 9 or 12 delegates, depending on the size of the delegation.2

So it is all ideally sequential.
1. Non-carve-out states, warded off by the super penalty, stay out of February.
2. The carve-outs then have February to themselves.
3. The start of primary season is in February and not right after New Year's.

But it is all ideally sequential. If states opt to break the timing rules or cannot find a path to compliance (North Carolina?), then it all breaks down. The RNC, then, has not set a later start to primary season. It has set rules that they hope will facilitate such a start, but it will be up to the states to decide if they want to play along with that.

--
1 No, this not likely.

2 States with delegations of 30 or more would be reduced to 12 delegates while those with 29 or fewer delegates would see them cut to just nine.

Recent Posts:
Post-2014 State Government Partisan Control and 2016 Presidential Primary Movement

If Primary Season Began Today: A Note on the 2016 Presidential Primary Calendar

RNC memo gives Iowa Straw Poll a green light


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

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Post-2014 State Government Partisan Control and 2016 Presidential Primary Movement

Four years ago, the story coming out of the 2010 midterm elections was what newly Republican-controlled state governments would do in power. The tale from the 2014 postmortems has been much the same. Indeed, Republicans now control both chambers of state legislatures and gubernatorial seats in 23 states (see map below).1 That can and will have a significant impact on policy-making in states covering most of the regions of the country.

It could also influence the way in which the 2016 presidential primary calendar develops and hardens throughout 2015.

Whether a state government is unified or divided along partisan lines is a factor in the calculus that state governmental actors go through when making the decision to shift the date of the state's presidential primary.2 Again, Republicans have stretched their advantage in state government over the last four years. Yet, conditions are different in 2011 than they are in 2015. State governmental control may play a role in any subsequent primary movement, but it plays a smaller role than other factors.

That is consistent with what FHQ has found for the 1976-2008 period. Throughout that span structural, state-level factors played a much larger role in the determination to shift the date of a primary. For instance, a state such as Arkansas in 2015 is forced to decide between moving the presidential primary together with the primaries for state and local offices or creating a separate presidential primary election that can be moved more easily but incurs the cost of funding that new, separate election. That is a sterner test than in a state like Florida where the presidential primary was separate at the outset of the post-reform era. The costs of moving are greater in Arkansas than in Florida.

Incumbency in the White House also matters in this calculus. This may differ in the currently more polarized era, but in the 1976-2008 period, the floodgates have tended to open up in terms of primary movement in years in which both parties have competitive presidential nomination races. In other words, if there is no incumbent seeking reelection, both parties members in state government are potentially more motivated to help their party -- whether candidates, their state or the partisan voters in the state -- to gain some advantage. Actors on the state governmental level are hypothetically more cautious when an incumbent is running for reelection. Partisan conflicts are more likely to occur when one party is attempting to reelect a president while the other is trying to determine which candidate would be best suited to unseating that incumbent. The I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine mindset gives way to its every man for himself.

The interesting thing is that the 2012 and 2016 cycles may break from that pattern to some extent. 2012 saw a significant amount of primary movement for a year in which an incumbent was seeking reelection. By comparison, 2016 is off to a much slower start (despite both parties having open nomination contests). The reason is the semi-coordinated rules changes between 2008 and 2012. Both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee allowed states to hold delegate selection events in February for the 2008 cycle.3 That resulted in a primary calendar in 2008 that began on the heels of New Years, stretching the calendar and in some respects the process out. Neither wanted repeat of that in 2012. The solution was an informal agreement to shift the start point back to February with the majority of states -- those other than the four carve-out states -- being restricted to March or later dates.

That change put 18 primary states in the national parties' crosshairs in January 2011. 18 states had laws calling for February (or earlier) presidential primaries. That significantly reshaped the primary movement calculus in those states. Those states had to move in order to comply with the new rules and avoid the penalties associated with violating them.

As the map below demonstrates, that same pressure from the national parties will not exist in 2015 as the 2016 primary calendar is being finalized in state capitals across the country. There are only three states -- Michigan, New York and North Carolina -- that are officially slated to hold non-compliant presidential primaries in 2016. Michigan has already signaled that a move to March is likely there. And New York is only back in February because the 2011 primary date change was passed with a sunset provision. That leaves only North Carolina.

...and other states that might want to go rogue, breaking the national parties' rules on timing.


But that brings us back full circle to the unified control factor.

One could hypothesize that with so many Republican-controlled states and a significant increase in the Republican penalty associated with holding a pre-March primary (or caucus) that the stars have potentially aligned to produce an orderly primary calendar. Perhaps put more precisely, the parties may have devised the best way of combatting such frontloading activity than has been the case in the past.

There are 23 Republican-controlled states that the more severe RNC penalty may help keep in line. Past scofflaws (and Republican-controlled states) -- Arizona, Florida and Michigan -- have either disarmed or look to be in the process of disarming. However, attempts at going rogue during the 2016 cycle have thus far occurred in Republican-controlled states (Arizona, North Carolina and Utah). The fact that Arizona is on both lists says something about intra-party divisions. That is not something confined to just Arizona either. North Carolina has seen a number of issues put its Republican-controlled Senate at odds with its Republican-controlled House. On the surface, then, it may look as if the combination of more severe RNC penalties and an expansion of Republican-controlled states would help reign in any potential 2016 rogues. But it is more complicated than that.

If we really want to see the potential impact of partisan control of state governments on this process, the best test may not in Republican states where there is a willingness to break the rules. Rather, the better test may be in Republican-controlled states and the ease with which they form regional and subregional primaries.

--
1 That is a slight increase over the 20 state governments the Republican Party controlled following the 2010 elections.

2 To see a similar examination of these factor from 2011 see here and here.

3 That was not new in 2008. Both parties allowed February contests in 2004, but only the Democratic Party had a nomination race that cycle.


Recent Posts:
If Primary Season Began Today: A Note on the 2016 Presidential Primary Calendar

RNC memo gives Iowa Straw Poll a green light

Arizona Bill Introduced to Again Attempt to Schedule Presidential Primary on Iowa Caucuses Date

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

Monday, January 12, 2015

If Primary Season Began Today: A Note on the 2016 Presidential Primary Calendar

There is a method to how FHQ assembles its 2016 presidential primary calendar that bears repeating now that the process is getting into the thick of primary/caucuses movement (or at least to the point in the cycle when most of said movement is typically witnessed). That method boils down to a simple question:
If primary season began today, where would the various primaries and caucuses fall on the calendar? 
To answer that, let's first think about another couple of related (if not redundant) questions. What do we know? What information do we have? FHQ answers these questions first before it sets a preliminary calendar. And what we know at this point is what state laws or state party bylaws tell us. In the vast majority of primary states, state law clearly lays out a date on which a presidential primary election is to be conducted (using state funds). The exceptions are the carve-out primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina along with a handful of other states that have options layered into state law that provide (or were created to provide some scheduling flexibility).1

Caucuses are slightly different. State parties set the dates of the caucuses/convention process and often that is not something that is codified in the state party bylaws. In fact, those states where a date is codified well in advance of a presidential election year are the exceptions. Hawaii Republicans, for instance, set a date in their party bylaws. Colorado and Minnesota have caucus processes that are guided by state law insofar as the dates are concerned.

Currently on FHQ's calendar, there are 35 states with known primary dates. But that is not the extent of our knowledge on the matter. We also know that...
  • Colorado parties have a choice between the first Tuesday in February and the first Tuesday in March for their precinct caucuses.
  • Minnesota parties have to agree on a date for Democratic and Republican precinct caucuses in 2016 by the end of February 2015. If they cannot come to an agreement, the caucuses will be conducted on the first Tuesday in February. 
  • The carve-out states are protected by the national party delegate selection rules. The DNC has set specific dates for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, but the RNC lets the process play out between those four states (and others). The RNC, however, does protect the carve-outs. And in 2016 that protection is more robust. Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina have a month before the next earliest contest in which to schedule their primaries or caucuses. If New York law is not changed, then the carve-out states would have a window of a month before February 2 -- when the New York primary is scheduled -- to set the dates of their contests. The other part of that protection is that the national parties have more severe penalties they can use in 2016. The DNC gives its Rules and Bylaws Committee the power to increase the baseline 50% delegate penalty and the RNC rules would strip rogue states of all but 9 or 12 delegates depending on the delegation size. 
  • New Hampshire will want to be before every state but Iowa.
  • Iowa will want to be first.
  • South Carolina will want to be ahead of all southern states by at least a week (more likely ten days if the parties in the Palmetto state stick with Saturday primaries).
  • North Carolina is a problem right now. The primary in the Tarheel state is tethered to South Carolina's. The state law passed in 2013 calls for the North Carolina primary to be the Tuesday after the South Carolina primary (if the South Carolina primary is before March 15. It will be.).  If South Carolina plans to keep a Saturday primary, the Tuesday after that -- and thus when the North Carolina primary would be scheduled -- would violate that seven day buffer the South Carolina parties like (but is not called for in law). 
  • New York moved for 2012 from February to April, but came to February back when the law expired at the end of 2012. 
  • Michigan has signaled that it will move out of the end of February.
FHQ also assumes that Colorado, Minnesota and Utah -- states with options -- will choose the later and rules-compliant dates available to them and that New York will repeat its move back to a later date in 2016.

What that means is that the states that are on the calendar from March-June have contests scheduled for 2016. The dates are set in stone unless they are changed. That is why the currently convening state legislatures are important to the calendar formation process.

But...

[...and this is a significantly big BUT...]

The carve-out states plus North Carolina currently have no specified dates. Given what we know from above, though, we can make educated guesses about where they would end up on the calendar. The first domino to fall would either be South Carolina or Nevada. South Carolina would be more problematic because of how the North Carolina primary is anchored to its primary. South Carolina would not, for instance, opt for a Saturday, February 27 primary and allow a North Carolina (and other southern states already schedule there) to hold contest just three days later on March 1. South Carolina would at the very least draw North Carolina into the penalized portion of the calendar (i.e.: February), so that the potential penalty would pressure the North Carolina state government into making a change to the law (or barring that, force the state parties to conduct caucuses to avoid penalty).

FHQ has South Carolina on Saturday, February 13, but that could just as easily be a week later on February 20. [We have made the editorial decision to hold off on such a move until after Michigan moves its primary. ...if Michigan moves its primary.]

There will be some interesting cross-party jockeying between South Carolina and Nevada as well. The DNC rules put Nevada first among the two (third overall on the calendar), but South Carolina Republicans have, by custom, gone in that third position on the Republican calendar. The point is that South Carolina and Nevada represent four contests, not two. That's four contests -- different potential dates for each party in both states -- that have to get squeezed into that month-wide window the RNC rules provide.

FHQ currently places a unified Nevada set of caucuses ahead of a unified set of South Carolina primaries (until more information is known later in 2015).

Iowa and New Hampshire will ideally (from their perspectives) settle on dates earlier than the others once the dust has settled on all of the above.

Right now that means, speculatively...
Monday, January 18: Iowa
Tuesday, January 26: New Hampshire
Saturday, February 6: Nevada
Saturday, February 13: South Carolina
Tuesday, February 16: North Carolina

All of that is speculative. Repeat: SPECULATIVE. Given what we know, though, that is a reasonable guess about where those contests would end up.

...today. That's the huge caveat.

Much will change between now and when Iowa and New Hampshire settle on dates for 2016 later this fall. As information changes, so will the calendar.

--
1 And even then, New Hampshire is a state that has options. State law calls for a March primary or allows the secretary of state the discretion to set the date if the presidential primary in the state is not the first primary on the calendar. South Carolina state law only guides the funding of the presidential primary in the Palmetto state. The state parties select the date or dates on which the primaries will be held.


Recent Posts:
RNC memo gives Iowa Straw Poll a green light

Arizona Bill Introduced to Again Attempt to Schedule Presidential Primary on Iowa Caucuses Date

Update on 2016 DC Presidential Primary: Off to June

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

Thursday, January 8, 2015

RNC memo gives Iowa Straw Poll a green light

Jennifer Jacobs at the Des Moines Register has the story.

--
FHQ has already commented on this on Twitter, but I'll rehash some of that and expand on it here.

First of all, this argument/concern from within and around the Republican Party of Iowa that the Ames Straw Poll would violate the Rules of the Republican Party always seemed a bit overblown. On the one hand, one could consider it a statewide vote of sorts, which would put the contest in violation of the RNC rules cited above (Rule 16.a.1).1 Again, of sorts. But while it is an event conducted by the Republican Party of Iowa -- the state party -- it is not and has never been a part of the party's delegate selection process. RNC legal counsel, John Ryder, says as much in the memo drafted as a response to RPI's query on the straw poll.2 It is an event; a fundraiser for the state party.

Now, none of this is to say that Ames does not matter. The real question is how the straw poll matters. Value is placed on the contest, unscientific though it may be, by the media and some campaigns not because it is a straw poll but because it is a straw poll in the state that holds the first delegate selection event on the primary calendar. Other state parties hold -- and will hold in 2015 -- straw polls of their own. But Ames is the one that is associated with the caucuses in the Hawkeye state. No, Ames is not decisive. No, Ames is not predictive of what will happen later in caucuses. Ames is a winnowing contest. It may not weed out a frontrunner, for instance, but it is part of the process in the lead up to primary season -- the invisible primary -- that finds an often robust field of candidates shrunk down to a decreasing number of players. Ames winnowed Lamar Alexander in 2000, Sam Brownback in 2008 and Tim Pawlenty in 2012. It claims its victims, but so do other events as well as just plain old poor campaigns/candidates.

The Republican Party of Iowa -- memo from the RNC in tow -- will make its decision on the fate of the Ames Straw Poll in a meeting on Saturday.

--
1 It would be a violation of the RNC rules if the the Republican Party of Iowa failed to allocate delegates based on the straw poll results. ...if the straw poll was part of the delegate selection/allocation process.

2 Below is the full memo from the RNC's Ryder (via Jacobs):


Recent Posts:
Arizona Bill Introduced to Again Attempt to Schedule Presidential Primary on Iowa Caucuses Date

Update on 2016 DC Presidential Primary: Off to June

Bill Introduced to Merge Democratic and Republican Presidential Primaries in South Carolina

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

Arizona Bill Introduced to Again Attempt to Schedule Presidential Primary on Iowa Caucuses Date

Arizona is at it again.

Representative Phil Lovas (R-22nd -- Peoria, Glendale), just as he did two years ago, has prefiled a bill in the Arizona House to schedule the presidential primary in the Grand Canyon state on the same date as the Iowa caucuses. HB 2015, if passed and signed into law, would move the Arizona presidential primary from the first Tuesday after March 15 to whatever date the Iowa caucuses fall on.

This all sounds like a bigger deal than it really is. It sounds as if Arizona wants to break the national party rules on timing, threatening Iowa's position at the front of the presidential primary (caucuses) calendar queue. But that likely is not the case.

First of all, Lovas tried this in 2013, and it didn't go anywhere. It garnered not only a first in the West response from Nevada, but it also drew the attention of the RNC.1 When that RNC delegation came to Arizona, Lovas opted to back off the move, but also left open the possibility that he would return to it in the future. The future is now.

However, this is destined to be a case of history repeating itself. For starters, Arizona has already moved its primary back for 2016. During the 2014 state legislative session, a bill was passed and signed into law that moved the Arizona primary from the fourth Tuesday in February to the first Tuesday after March 15. That bill passed the Arizona House unanimously on its way to becoming law. Lovas voted in favor of the move. Furthermore, it should be noted that if this bill shows any signs of going anywhere, it is very likely to once again draw the ire of the Republican National Committee.2 And any envoy delegation from the RNC would likely carry the added muscle of RNC Rules Committee chairman, Bruce Ash, who also happens to be the Republican National Committeeman from Arizona.

This one appears to be an escalation of the same old calendar madness witnessed in 2008 and 2012. Lovas is not alone in his desire to see Arizona at the head of the pack, but FHQ does not think this bill will end up going much of anywhere. It is fun to consider the implications though. But we already did that two years ago.

In any event, we will start getting a better handle on the strength of this bill when the Arizona legislature convenes to kick off the 2015 session next Monday.

--
1 Find more on the implications of the legislative dust up between Arizona and Nevada here.

2 The DNC would likely be interested as well, but would have little sway with Lovas or others in Arizona's Republican-controlled state government.


Recent Posts:
Update on 2016 DC Presidential Primary: Off to June

Bill Introduced to Merge Democratic and Republican Presidential Primaries in South Carolina

California: Damned if you do, Damned of you don't [Move] in Presidential Primary Politics

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