Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Let the Backloading Begin: 2012 Arkansas Primary

There has already been a handful of states that have introduced or signaled that they would introduce state legislative bills to establish and/or move up a presidential primary for the 2012 cycle. Indiana and Kentucky have indicated that their May primaries could coincide with what would be Super Tuesday during the next cycle (should the same rules from 2008 be used then), the first Tuesday in February. The legislature in Kansas (here, here and here) has gone back and forth over the idea of establishing a presidential primary for 2012 and scheduling it for the Saturday before Super Tuesday. And Minnesota has discussed shifting from a caucus system to a primary, but would keep the contest on Super Tuesday for 2012.

Arkansas, however, becomes the first state to reconsider their decision to frontload the state's presidential primary for 2008. State Rep. Nathan George has already said that he will introduce legislation next year to move the newly-created, separate presidential primary election back to the late May date that coincides with the state's primaries for state and local offices (via Ballot Access News). Of course, had the Natural state held its primary where it had been since 1992, we'd be talking about Clinton's great chances next week in Arkansas and Kentucky and possibly of Obama needing to come through with a victory in Oregon to hold off a late Clinton charge.

Such a move is not without precedence. Arkansas moved its delegate selection back to the same May period for the 1992 cycle after a caucus in 1984 and a primary among the other southern states during the Southern Super Tuesday in 1988. In both instances the benefits of the move didn't necessarily match (or exceed) the costs. Both times Republicans benefited from the move Arkansas made. In 1988, George H.W. Bush used the southern swing as means of establishing himself as the front-runner (and nearly inevitable nominee) while the Democrats split the contests of that day. The 2008 Arkansas primary was an afterthought on the Democratic side because of Clinton's presence on the ballot. Meanwhile, favorite son, Mike Huckabee used his win there combined with his other southern wins on Super Tuesday to cast doubt on McCain's ability to appeal to the conservative side of the Republican Party. In essence, then, the Democratic-controlled state legislature in Arkansas has helped the Republican Party more with its moves (Though, with some potential division within the GOP bubbling below the surface, it could be argued that Arkansas helped to raise questions about McCain, if that division were to become more pronounced. But in a world of quick fixes and instant gratification, that's crazy talk. "Wait for the effects of these things before reacting? I don't think so. Let's move this thing back.").

I would wager that this decision in Arkansas over this proposed move (if, in fact, it is introduced) hinges on a couple of things:
1) Financial concerns: If the return on investment is viewed as sub-par, then the decision may be made to move back and save the money. Having an influence over who the nominee is before the decision is made, though, may outweigh that. Which brings up...

2) Will 2012 more closely resemble 2004 or 2008? If it is the former, Arkansas may value that influence even if it means scant attention from the candidates among a crowded field of contests. If 2012 looks like 2008, Arkansas could move back and get more attention.

I've maintained in this space before that 2008 is move aberration than anything and that 2012 will offer a return to the past in many respects; rapid-fire nomination decision(s) being one of them. More often than not though, what we've witnessed in the post-reform era is that once a state moves early, it stays early. The jury's still out on what Arkansas will do.

Recent Posts:
Did IN/NC Deal Clinton a Death Blow in the Electoral College?: The Electoral College Maps (5/14/08)

20%!?! That's the Bar in West Virginia?

Would McCain Have Won Under the Ohio Plan?


Robert said...

Did you see that Edwards has finally endorsed someone?

Anonymous said...

I was out of the office this afternoon but did see that the Obama camp had a "big endorsement announcement" set for this evening before I headed out.

Edwards' endorsement is just in time for Nor...oh wait. Well, it's in time for Oregon/Kentucky anyway.

Robert said...

It supports the contention that he is gunning for a cabinet position. The idea being floated that he wants to run as the VP candidate is unlikely. I wonder if Elizabeth would like to endorse Clinton. There has been some talk about Hillary holding out for Obama's pledge to push for universal healthcare. John Edwards could be a key in negotiating that piece of the puzzle.

I'd like to see some backloading, but I don't see the big rush that we had over frontloading. As I said earlier, I think we are headed for a national primary.

Anonymous said...

I just don't see Edwards as the VP choice again. It doesn't do anything for Obama. Now, attorney general? That I can see.

There will be no march to the back (or even middle) of the calendar in 2012. This bill won't go anywhere in Arkansas unless the legislators really value saving the money (and they might). States that go after February in 2012 will be irrelevant if the rules from 2008 carry over to the next cycle.

...unless there is reform that forces the states' hands.

...unless McCain wins in November and only serves one term (meaning both parties have competitive nomination battles.)