Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ohio Presidential Primary Back to March 6

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FHQ alluded to the rollercoaster ride that has been the process to set the date of the Ohio presidential primary for 2012 yesterday. And it was yesterday that the Ohio Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee opted to take no action on the recently-passed House bill to move the date -- for the second time -- from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May. That insurance policy bill (HB 318)1, introduced originally because a petition drive to overturn the enacted omnibus elections legislature, imperiled the presidential primary date change contained therein.

After a nearly nine month saga, the Ohio presidential primary is right back where it started: March 6, 2012. And the newly-enrolled redistricting bill (HB 319) reflects that date.

A couple of thoughts:
1. Ohio potentially just became a real prize on March 6. Prize or not, it will likely be the battleground on that date. Now, that statement is predicated on the notion that this will be a Romney-Perry race at that point. The expectation would be that Perry would do well in the southern contests that day (Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and possibly Missouri) while Romney might be better served focusing his efforts on western caucuses in Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming with Perry-like expectations for victory in Massachusetts and Vermont. That leaves Ohio -- and the midwest more broadly -- as the potential tiebreaker on that day (and later on in the race overall). I don't think this is something that should be understated. Ohio just inadvertently became a pretty big presidential primary. Despite falling on a crowded date -- not as crowded with contests as Super Tuesday 2008, but crowded nonetheless -- Ohio is well-positioned to gain quite a bit of attention in this process.

2. Far be it from me to look forward -- way forward -- but that's kind of what we do around here. What happens to the 2016 Ohio primary? Nothing if the aforementioned petition drive is successful, gets the new election law on the November 2012 ballot and is subsequently voted down by Ohio voters. But if the drive fails or the ballot measure is not voted down, the primary will be set for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May.2 That may mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, but at the very least it means that the legislature may be forced to revisit the primary date in 2015 if there is no consensus behind that May date. Time will tell.

1 FHQ should also note that there was an equivalent bill introduced in the Senate (SB 217).

2 September 29 is the deadline, so we will know relatively soon whether the petition has received the requisite number of signatures.

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