Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Governors on 2008 Frontloading

I originally had this in with the morning post, but it grew into a post of its own.

With the nation's governors in Washington
this week for the National Governors Association meeting, got the some state executives to comment on the effects of moving their states delegate selection events (I know, it is weird for this blog to actually shift back to its stated purpose of covering frontloading, but still.). Most governors from states that moved forward seemed to be pleased with the results of moving. Tennessee governor, Phil Bredesen was the lone exception (at least among those cited in the article). He complained that Tennessee got lost in the shuffle on Super Tuesday. Of course he and the state legislature could have left well enough alone. In the lead up to 2004 the state moved to the second Tuesday in February. That would have been February 12 for the 2008 cycle; a far less crowded primary day with only the three Potomac contests being waged that day.

On the other hand, governors in later states came across as bitter
, wanting to scrap the whole system of presidential selection. Why blame the system for the inner-workings of the states standing the way of that primary movement? Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania fell into that category, but the Keystone state is one that has had a legislature divided, with one party controlling one chamber and the other party the other chamber, for years now. Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, also favored looking at alternative methods of presidential nominee selection. Of course the Magnolia state has been mired in a court dispute over the requiring of photo IDs at polling places that has been split along party lines. Waiting on that decision and whether it would be applied to the presidential primary next month affected the state's ability to move its primary.

It is funny to me that caucus state governors are touting their state's moves so gleefully. First of all, caucuses are traditionally (outside of Iowa) the redheaded stepchildren of the delegate selection process. With Obama's success (And Romney's too. No one is really taking about that. He did do well in caucuses.) in caucuses, that form of delegate selection has gotten a lot more coverage during this cycle. However, caucuses are easier to move than primaries (...the majority primaries that are controlled by state legislatures at least. Even party-run primary strongholds like Utah and South Carolina have opened the door to the state funding of those contests during this cycle.).

Caucuses typically fall under the control of the individual state parties and those entities can hold their delegate selection events any time they want to within the rules of the national parties. That effectively removes the fetters of partisanship from the equation. From time to time there will be division within the state party on a primary/caucus move, but not often (The Michigan example from this cycle comes to mind.). It is all about getting those benefits of being early and a state party can pull that off much more easily than a state legislature can, especially if said legislature is divided in some way between parties (And keep in mind that we haven't introduced the complexity of a governor affecting this decision also.).

I'll have more on this in the coming weeks and months as my dissertation on the subject progresses. With the Western Political Science Association's annual meeting looming, my paper on who is making these frontloading decisions will definitely work its way into the discussions here (See, it already has.) among other things.

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