Friday, July 22, 2011

What a January 31 Arizona Primary Does to the 2012 Presidential Primary Calendar

The news last night out of Arizona is very likely to shake up the landscape on which the 2012 presidential primary calendar is forming. It is no real stretch to imagine how the various dominoes subsequently begin falling into place:
  • Governor Jan Brewer moves the Arizona primary from February 28 (where the contest is currently positioned) to January 31.
  • Florida takes going in the March 1-3 window off the table and begins looking more seriously at a primary on or before January 31 (in the January 3-31 window).
  • Michigan becomes more of a question mark. The recent discussion out of the Wolverine state has centered in on a February 28 (where the contest is currently positioned) to March 6 timeframe for its presidential primary. That said, Michigan Republicans require some help from the Republican-controlled legislature to make anything other than the status quo (February 28) a reality. Currently, there is legislation active in the legislature to move the primary to, you guessed it, January 31.
  • Missouri Republicans -- in the legislature and out -- seriously reconsider a veto override of the bill that would move the Show Me state's primary to March 6 and also the extent to which they will work in any special session to push a change that might move the state out of a prime February 7 position.
  • Georgia remains a free agent throughout. The secretary of state has until December 31 to set a date for the Peach state primary.
  • Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina wait it all out and go earlier than all the other states. But if Georgia remains a threat up until December 1, the four early states may be in a bind in terms of scheduling a primary/caucus and then having enough time to prepare for it.
With those guidelines laid out, let's look at some scenarios:
Scenario #1 (Doomsday):
Monday, December 5, 2011: Iowa
Tuesday, December 13: New Hampshire
Saturday, December 17: Nevada, South Carolina

January 3-31, 2012: Florida
Tuesday, January 31: Arizona, Michigan, Georgia (earliest date Georgia can hold a contest)

Tuesday, February 7: Missouri, Colorado

Tuesday, February 21: Wisconsin1

Tuesday, March 6: Less-Super Tuesday

Analysis: This is that absolute worst case scenario -- well, unless some other states attempt to move into 2011 -- from the national parties' perspectives. I suspect, first of all, that the Democratic parties in any rogue states will hold later and compliant (post-March 5) caucuses should the above calendar become reality, and secondly, that the RNC would come down severely on any states taking part in the violation. According to the rules (Rule 16.e.3), the RNC Standing Committee on Rules can levy additional penalties on states found to be in violation of the delegate selection rules. And this may include the early four states as well. ...may.

Scenario #2 (Pragmatism):
Monday, January 16, 2012: Iowa
Tuesday, January 24: New Hampshire
Saturday, January 28: Nevada, South Carolina
Tuesday, January 31: Florida

Tuesday, February 7: Missouri
Tuesday, February 14: Arizona2
Tuesday, February 28: Michigan

Tuesday, March 6: Less-Super Tuesday

Free agent: Georgia

Analysis: This is what I call pragmatic for a couple of related reasons. No, it is not what the national parties want, but it doesn't stretch into 2011 either. For starters, this alignment is not as compressed overall. That's debatable, but allow me to explain. It is very compressed up front; probably more compressed than it would be in reality if Florida ends up on January 31. The early four states may shift up a week to combat that. Of course, Florida could follow them (all the way up to January 3). Overall, though, this allows most of these states to go not only early, but early and on their own. That combination is a recipe for having influence; just ask the group of states who moved up to February 5 in 2008 hoping to have some influence. Early and concurrent with other states -- especially bigger and more significant states -- is not how you gain influence over the nomination process, not directly anyway. If you can carve out a position for your state that is early and allows for a stand-alone contest, then you have provided your state with the greatest opportunity to have an impact on the nomination.

Certainly, I could come up with any number of permutations for how the calendar may end up given this Arizona news, but these two scenarios represent the two extremes that we're dealing with at this point in July 2011. Neither party, especially the RNC, is going to like it, but they can opt for "not what we want" or as I've heard it described "all hell breaking loose". Again, pragmatic will carry the day and is something that, while it does not follow the letter of the law, would be at least moderately palatable to the party.

As always, we shall see...

1 The Wisconsin legislature is still deliberating on the date of the Badger state's primary. A plan to move the primary to April 3 has bipartisan support, but if there is a march to January and February by other states happens, Republicans in control of the legislature may reconsider their sponsorship of that legislation.

2 This date is based on a rumor I have heard. Arizona celebrates its centennial on February 14, 2012 (exactly 100 years after the state gained statehood). Again, this is just a rumor. Staying on February 28 may end up being advantageous to Arizona as well


astrojob said...

I don't get the sense that Florida is looking to "break" the primary calendar, by which I mean, go so early that Iowa and/or NH are forced into December. Based on past public statements by the politicos in Florida, it seems like the important thing to them is that they go 5th, and they're willing to be "cooperative" on the exact timing.

Thus if Arizona (and possibly other states) move up to Jan. 31, then I figure Florida would probably aim for Jan. 24, but probably no earlier. You'd probably end up with something like this:

Jan. 5 IA
Jan. 10 NH
Jan. 21 NV, SC
Jan. 24 FL
Jan. 31 AZ (+maybe GA and/or MI?)

The scenario in which Iowa is forced into December is the one where Michigan goes earlier than Jan. 31. So I guess the relevant question is when will Michigan show its hand relative to when the other states have to decide? Brewer has to announce a primary date at least 150 days in advance (which means early September if she's aiming for Jan. 31), and Florida has to decide by Oct. 1. What's the likely timeframe for Michigan?

Josh Putnam said...

As always, a good series of questions. And as always, my response was long enough for its own post.