Thursday, March 5, 2009

2008 Presidential Primary Calendar

Thursday, January 3:
Iowa caucuses (both parties)

Saturday, January 5:
Wyoming Republican caucuses

Tuesday, January 8:
New Hampshire primary

Tuesday, January 15:
Michigan primary

Saturday, January 19:
Nevada caucuses (both parties)
South Carolina Republican primary (party-run, state-funded)

Saturday, January 26:
South Carolina Democratic primary (party-run, state-funded)

Tuesday, January 29:
Florida primary

Friday, February 1:
Maine Republican caucuses (through February 3)

Tuesday, February 5:
Alabama primary
Alaska caucuses (both parties)
Arizona primary 
Arkansas primary
California primary
Colorado caucuses (both parties)
Connecticut primary
Delaware primary
Georgia primary
Idaho Democratic caucuses
Illinois primary
Kansas Democratic caucuses
Massachusetts primary
Minnesota caucuses (both parties)
Missouri primary
Montana Republican caucuses
North Dakota caucuses (both parties)
New Jersey primary
New Mexico Democratic primary (party-run)
New York primary
Oklahoma primary
Tennessee primary
Utah primary
West Virginia Republican state presidential convention

Saturday, February 9:
Kansas Republican caucuses
Louisiana primary
Nebraska Democratic caucuses 
Washington caucuses (both parties)

Sunday, February 10:
Maine Democratic caucuses

Tuesday, February 12:
Maryland primary
Virginia primary
Washington, DC primary

Tuesday, February 19:
Hawaii Democratic caucuses
Washington primary (Republicans only)
Wisconsin primary

Tuesday, March 4:
Ohio primary
Rhode Island primary
Texas primary (both parties & Democratic caucuses)
Vermont primary

Saturday, March 8:
Wyoming Democratic caucuses

Tuesday, March 11:
Mississippi primary

Tuesday, April 22:
Pennsylvania primary

Tuesday, May 6:
Indiana primary
North Carolina primary

Tuesday, May 13:
Nebraska primary (Republicans only)
West Virginia primary

Friday, May 16:
Hawaii Republican state convention (through May 17)

Tuesday, May 20:
Kentucky primary
Oregon primary

Tuesday, May 27:
Idaho primary (Republicans only)

Tuesday, June 3:
Montana primary (Democrats only)
New Mexico primary (Republicans only)
South Dakota primary

[Primaries in bold; Caucuses in italics]

States that are split vertically had different dates for different party contests. The shade to the left of that line corresponds with the month in which the Democratic contest took place and the right side represents the Republican contest.

[Source: The Green Papers and news accounts from 2008. The latter was used to double-check the dates or discover missing ones.]

A few notes:
1) The 2008 election ended up doing what 2000 did not. [No, it didn't prevent use of the butterfly ballot.] With no one from the incumbent presidential administration seeking the Republican nomination, both parties had competitive primary races. Granted the widening of the window to allow for February contests helped, but the removal of partisanship* from the frontloading decision-making process certainly didn't hurt the states' motivation to shift to earlier dates. In other words, state actors on both sides of the aisle opted for an "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" strategy. Republicans and Democrats in state legislatures were much more likely to get along on this issue operating under the assumption that, "Hey, if your contest is early it won't hurt our party as long as our contest is early too." Of course, hindsight being what it is, Republicans in some states may have had some reservations about shifting forward given the competitiveness of the Democratic nomination race and what that meant in terms of organization for the Obama general election campaign. In 2008, then, conditions were much better in terms of enticing states to frontload than they had been eight years earlier.

2) Obviously, the somewhat "happy" balance of contests from the 2004 calendar was slightly disturbed in 2008. Again, in terms of primaries, there were in 2008 24 primaries before March 5 during March and 10 after March. That differed from the 11-14-13 primary distribution across the same time periods in 2004. On its face, then, most of the frontloading -- in terms of primaries -- came from those during March states from 2004.

3) The real issue with the 2008 primary calendar was the fact that a handful of states decided to defy national party rules and hold their delegate selection events prior to February 5. Florida and Michigan got all of the headlines because of the severe penalty initially imposed upon both states by the DNC. Well, the initial rule called for a loss of half a state's delegates in the event of a timing violation, but the DNC wanted to make an example of Florida.

...and then Michigan. While that was the big story, lost in the shuffle was the fact that all of the states that held January contests on the Republican side received a penalty of half their total convention delegates as well. Iowa and Nevada were exempted because the first steps in their caucus processes did not directly allocate any delegates to the Republican convention. However, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Wyoming (and perhaps Maine. I'll have to check to see if the February 1-3 caucus in the Pine Tree state allocated delegates directly to the convention.) all lost voting rights for half of their delegations to the Republican convention in St. Paul (Read more about that situation here and here.). Moving forward to 2012 and beyond, though, the issue becomes whether or not this defiance was aberration or if there will be a greater number of rogue states challenging the national party rules.

*Florida Democrats may take issue with the phrase, "removal of partisanship." Granted, it wasn't until after the fact that the state had been stripped of all its Democratic convention delegates that Florida Democrats had a problem with partisanship. In this case it was a state government completely controlled by Republicans; Republicans who were unwilling to help Democrats out of the predicament. Of course, Florida's Democratic state legislators didn't really have a leg to stand on since the votes on HB 537 were nearly unanimous in both chambers of the Florida General Assembly.

Recent Posts:
2004 Presidential Primary Calendar

2000 Presidential Primary Calendar

Shoveling Out from Under...


Anonymous said...


I took a look at the Maine Question myself when looking at some of the 'rogue' Republican contests (like the Hawai'i and Louisiana Caucuses). The Maine Caucuses did not send delegates to the National Convention. It chose delegates to the state convention that was held in May. However, unlike in Louisiana and Hawai'i, Maine also conducted a straw poll of their delegates, thus it could be reported that someone 'won' a non-binding contest for state delegates. Since the straw poll was non-binding and the delegates only went to a state convention, Maine did not lose half their delegates to the Republican National Convention.

Anonymous said...

Ah, good. I dropped that comment and then completely forgot to check on the Maine situation. Thanks Jared.