Friday, March 14, 2008

1980 vs. 2008

I've been in the "lab" this last week working with dissertation data and noticed a bit of a quirk in the nomination calendars of past cycles. [Yes, the exciting life of a person who examines delegate selection event positioning. Ooh and technical jargon, too!] The calendar for the 1980 cycle and the one for this current cycle are exactly the same. No, I don't mean that California went on June 3 during both years because California definitely doesn't have another presidential primary planned for this year [...that I know of]. The actual yearly calendars for both years are the same though. So it was interesting to look at where states were then versus where they have gone or will go this year.

Pennsylvania drew my attention to this. I looked and saw that the Keystone state held its nominating contest on the same April 22 date in 1980 that they will hold their contest on this year. And seven other states fit the same category in one way or another. Indiana, North Carolina (both May 6) and Oregon (May 20) are holding primaries for both parties on the same dates they did in 1980. Nebraska (May 13) and Idaho (May 27) Republicans are also holding primaries on the same dates they did twenty-eight years ago. Both are state funded primaries that Democrats have opted out of. Nebraska Democrats just this cycle abandoned that third Tuesday in May date for a caucus the weekend after Super Tuesday. Idaho Democrats have long shunned the state primary in favor of a caucus (every cycle from the 1980 onward). And though Montana Democrats (June 3) have switched back and forth several times between holding independent caucuses or state run primaries to select delegates, they have opted to employ the first Tuesday in June date on which the state's primaries are typically held. Finally, Kentucky has frontloaded its primary for 2008 versus 1980; moving up a week from May 27 to May 20 over the course of those twenty-eight years.

The question is: What stands in the way of these states moving like all the rest? Well, all of these states with the exception of Indiana have moved since 1980. North Carolina and Kentucky moved up for the Southern Super Tuesday in 1988. [Actually Kentucky switched to a caucus for 1984 and was a part of a Southern Super week. Following Alabama, Florida and Georgia's second Tuesday in March contests, Kentucky, Arkansas and Mississippi all held caucuses on the Saturday after.] The legislation in both cases called for temporary moves. Oregon moved to mid-March in 1996 and Pennsylvania moved to early April in 2000 before immediately returning to their traditional dates. And even though Idaho, Montana and Nebraska have maintained the same state funded presidential primary dates throughout this period, one party has consistently shown the willingness to opt out and hold a caucus independent of the state.

Why then is Indiana different? Part of the reason is that Indiana holds their presidential primaries simultaneously with its state and local primaries. Moving entails either moving all of the primaries or creating an all new election; both of which have costs. Incidentally, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania all are in the same boat. Both Alabama and Arkansas were in similar situations before both severed the bond between presidential and state/local primaries to hold a separate presidential primary in 2008. Those moves underscore a couple of trends that have emerged. First, more and more states have been willing to split primaries over this period. There has also been a movement away from temporary moves toward more permanent moves. I would argue that as the frontloaded/Super Tuesday model became normalized, states shifted from temporary moves to test the waters of the new process to permanent moves to be a part of the established system or be left on the outside looking in.

This split primaries issue is the basis of one of my dissertation chapters, the roots of which can be found in this paper from SPSA 2007.


Robert said...

I understand you and Paul are at a conference this week. I missed our discussion group today. I am looking forward to your post on the Jeremiah Wright situation. I saw the comments Lanny Davis has made at


I think the whole issue gets to a very serious underlying problem developing in our political culture. Here are the comments I made in response:

"Of all the people I expected to deliver this type of comment, the last one would be Lanny Davis. He wrote such a great book on "Gotcha Politics" and now he has become a purveyor of some of the nastiest "gothcha politics" we have seen in recent years. Think of the broader implications. Are we going to hold Mitt Romney responsible for anything a Mormon spokesman has uttered in the last twenty years? I am sure that someone could put together a YouTube video that would eliminate him as a VP candidate. The same with Huckaby's sermons. Much of the "Praise Jesus" language that is comfortable to those of us who attend down South would be offensive to our Norhtern brethern.

"I go to a small, moderate Methodist church that rotates its ministers every 3-5 years. I have listened to at least two fairly liberal ministers, one quite conservative that was strongly anti-abortion, another who was a combination evangelical/ liberation theology guy and a woman who once preached on M&Ms. I am sure that if someone went through tapes of all of the sermons I have heard over the 26 years I have been there, that my opponent could alienate a majority of liberals (anti-abortion), conservatives (liberation theology) and independents (Jesus talk). We need to keep our politics out of church and our churches out of politics. If we are to hold our politicians accountable to what is said in our churches and require us to attend churches that we only agree with that will be a very sad state. It is apparent that the best path for a Presidential hopeful is to speak religious platitudes and not attend church. It worked for Ronald Reagan. Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush would never have had a chance under these new rules."

I would be interested in oyour thoughts.

Josh Putnam said...

Here is Rob's link from above.

Josh Putnam said...

I've been so busy the last two weeks that I really haven't had a chance to hash this all out.

But since I'm stuck in the PHX airport on my way back from San Diego, I have a few minutes (hours) to get some brief thoughts down (and to work on the post I had intended for last week).

Here's what we know: This issue combines both religious elements and racial elements. A deadly combination in American politics.

Are these discussions that need to be had in our society?


Is this the best forum in which this can be done?

Eh, I don't know. It doesn't seem like it is working out very well for the Democrats.

Has this hurt Obama?


And is it helping Clinton as a result?

Seems to be.

But Politico, citing sources within the Clinton campaign, handicaps Clinton's chances of winning the nomination at 10%. That's right 10%.

And all this is taking place in a week where McCain couldn't even get Al Qaida/Sunni and Iran/Shiites right for at least the second time. I hope the McCain camp makes sure to send Rev. Wright some sort of thank you gift basket for Easter. Because without him, McCain would really be in trouble over this gaffe.

Is this a problem in our political culture as you say? Yeah, it is, but things have been moving in this direction for a while now. As long as "gotcha politics" is effective, it will continue to be utilized. The issue then isn't getting candidates to police themselves and their campaigns, but to have the electorate stop buying into it. And it may be easier to get the campaigns to begin policing themselves.

Robert said...

I trust you returned safely this morning. Speaking of religion "Happy Easter".

I have only seen one reporter actually search out and read any of the entire sermons, Roland Martin of CNN. The unpretty site is

I have seen no attempt to investigate the religious habits of the other two candidates, although McCain's Texas preacher supporter has come under fire. I have generally been a defender of the press in past elections, but I don't see much interest in putting any of these events into context this year.

In general, the take is that the Wright sermon clips have severely wounded Obama, but the subsequent speech has helped him. The poll numbers in PA and NC have been favorable to Clinton which probably reflects the Wright flap. We will see if Obama gets a bounce out of the speech. Polls reported this week will give us an indication there.

I think a sweep of the remaining state contests by Clinton will probably sway enough superdelegates to give her the nomination. I don't think that the possibility of such an event is as low as 10%. I think it is just as likely to happen as the 11-state winning streak Obama enjoyed after Super Tuesday.

BTW my comments did not make it through moderation. It was probably the "Praise Jesus" and Jesus talk comments that bounced me.

I hope we will have something to talk about on Wednesday!

Josh Putnam said...

Your comments/response to that post live on here--sans moderation.

Here's that link from Rob.

That 10% chance seems a little low, but is not really that far off. David Brooks, in his column today, has dropped that to 5% after the events of last week (Obama surviving the Wright flap, FL and MI still in limbo and superdelegates buying the Pelosi argument that they should back the winner of the pledged delegate race). Plus, I don't see her running off a streak of victories like the one Obama enjoyed after Super Tuesday. The results seem a foregone conclusion in each of the remaining states (and territories) with the exception of Indiana and maybe North Carolina.

Obama wins in Oregon, Montana, South Dakota, Guam and a lean in his direction from North Carolina.

Clinton, on the other hand looks good in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia and Puerto Rico.

Such an even split favors Obama.

Robert said...

I agree. Her chances for the nomination require a complete collapse in his campaign. I still do not have a good feel for how he will pull out of this Wright situation. If he can score some victories, I agree she is sunk. I would not be surprised, however, if a large portion of the white vote deserts him and he goes on an extended losing streak. I think the margin of the expected Clinton victory in PA will give us a good indication of the damage he has received.

Josh Putnam said...

And I don't have a sense as to what that expected margin will be in PA. I glanced at Real Clear Politics today and Clinton was holding a sizable lead there, but I still think it is probably too early to set that number. The circumstances are different, but this contest has an Iowa feel to it simply because it will have been so long since the last contest.

If I'm Obama, I'm making the Politico piece a major talking point. And Richardson's comments fall in that general area, though not explicitly citing Politico.

Robert said...

I read the Brooks column, and it makes sense. There was a single poll in PA and one in NC taken at the height of the Wright crisis that showed a strong downturn for Obama, but the most recent poll suggests that his speech has allowed him to bounce back. Again these results represent one poll in in each state, so we need to be careful about drawing conclusions. If he has bounced back to pre-Wright levels, I think the race is over unless something else hits. Meanwhile, Clinton must deal with Bosniagate. If Obama got a free ride early on in the contest, Clinton has had pretty much of a free ride since Ohio and Texas. I think that is about to change. Also, Iraq seems to be heating up which is not good news for either McCain or Clinton.