Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Oregon Republicans are Rethinking May Presidential Primary Date

The new 2016 delegate selection rules from the RNC have the Oregon presidential primary right on the new 45 day line between when primaries can be held and when the Republican National Convention may be held in 2016. That has Republicans considering their options.

They may find moving the primary tough with Democrats controlling all the levers of power in the state government.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

With RNC Rules Revised, the Ball is Now in the Democrats' Court

Now that the Republican National Committee has seemingly settled on the rules that will govern the selection of delegates in the 2016 presidential nomination race, it is time for the Democratic National Committee to get to work.

The history of the rules give and take between the two national parties in the post-reform era is an interesting one, and this latest iteration is more active, perhaps, than things have been for more than a decade. After all, it was the Democratic Party that fundamentally reformed the manner in which it selected delegates and determined presidential nominations following the messy 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. But four years later, in 1972, only the Democrats had a competitive presidential nomination race. The changes brought about by the McGovern-Fraser Commission had little to no effect on the Republican process that renominated President Nixon. Four years later, however, the Republican Party was dragged into the ad hoc and still developing -- from the states' perspectives -- post-reform nomination process.1 The Republican Party was largely on the sidelines again as Democratic-controlled state governments in the South shifted up the dates of their delegate selection events in 1988 in concert as a means of exerting maximum influence over the Democratic nomination process.2

[Now, the 1988 dynamics were not the result of a concerted national party effort to entice southern states into earlier slots on the primary calendar, but it was a move within the existing Democratic Party rules that had a fairly significant impact on the Republican race that year. George H. W. Bush was able to use a sweep of the contests in the southern states to take a commanding lead in the race for the Republican nomination that year.]

It was the DNC or Democrats, then, that had proven more progressive in altering the rules by which not only their nominees were chosen, but the Republican nominees as well. But that relationship did not and has not stayed the same over time. The Republican Party, for instance, allowed states to hold February contests well before the Democrats followed suit, allowing similar activity in 2004. The 1996 and 2000 cycles saw Democratic state parties forced into a caucus/convention systems in lieu of too-early and non-compliant primary dates that Republicans were able to take advantage of (but Democratic states were not due to DNC delegate selection rules). Take notice of the number of contests that Republicans had between New Hampshire and Super Tuesday in 2000. The Gore-Bradley contest had a long layoff between those two endpoints.

The RNC also flirted with a more fundamental reshaping of the rules governing the delegate selection process in both 2000 and 2008. The Bush campaign quashed the Delaware Plan at the 2000 Republican National Convention. Then, the McCain campaign basically followed that same script in 2008, shooting down the Ohio Plan that the RNC had given the thumbs up to earlier in the year.

The unique thing about both the 2012 cycle and to some extent the 2016 cycle is that both the DNC and RNC are informally coordinating their processes. The national parties are not moving in lockstep, but they are at the very least communicating about a set of shared problems across their respective processes. This was clearer to see in 2012 when the two parties agreed on the basic structure of the primary calendar.3 And while those best laid plans were ultimately dashed by a handful of rogue states, the failure did point to a glaring deficiency in the Democratic and Republican rules: penalties. Just as 2008 had done to the Democrats, 2012 highlighted the fact that the RNC did not have an adequate penalty in place to deter states from moving into non-compliant points on the calendar.

With the rules it passed last week, the RNC addressed the penalty issue by solidifying a more severe penalty on states that might violate the party's rules on (primary/caucus) timing. The party also moved to shift the back end of the calendar as well to accommodate an earlier convention. Both moves affect the Democratic Party and what the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee may think about when it meets at the end of February to more officially begin hammering out the DNC delegate selection rules for 2016.

Both the DNC and RNC are on the same page where the front end of the calendar is concerned. The parties have voiced a preference for a process that begins with a limited number of small states kicking the process off in February and the remaining states falling somewhere after the first Tuesday in March.4 But the back end of the calendar is not in synch across parties given the changes the RNC just instituted. That may or may not matter to the Democratic Party. It is not entirely clear what the DNC reaction to an earlier Republican convention will be. If the party is enticed into having a similarly early convention, then the Democrats may also move to push late states a little earlier on the calendar. [But the Democrats may not want to do that.]

That is one matter the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee will have to consider. Another is the penalties point. There was a discrepancy between the DNC and RNC sanctions on rogue states in 2008 and 2012, but not one that amounted to much difference. Despite the fact that candidate delegate totals were directly penalized (if a Democratic candidate campaigned in a rogue state), that did not significantly affect the calculus on the state-level. This was complicated in 2008 by partisan control of state governments as well. Republican-controlled Florida, for example, moved into violation of the DNC rules (with Democratic state legislative votes). Even the Rules and Bylaws Committee move completely stripping Florida of all of its delegates did little other than point out how little control one national party has when a state government is controlled by the opposition party.

That does also highlight the problem of states (governments or parties) being able to exploit the differences across the two national parties. That is exactly why the RNC last week made an allowance for late states -- those that may have contests that fall in the window 45 days before the convention -- controlled by the Democrats. But if there is a significant amount of variation between the two parties' sanctions on rogue states, it does potentially provide the states with another point of exploitation.

Now that the super penalty is set in stone, the Democrats may consider following suit. In fact, FHQ has been told that such an item -- a more severe penalty -- will be on the table when the Rules and Bylaws Committee convenes to begin hashing out the Democratic delegate selection rules. That said, there may still remain an issue where enforcement is concerned. There is a philosophical difference about enforcement that exists across the parties. The RNC has taken a hardline approach, enforcing its penalties directly at the convention. Break the rules, lose the delegates. The DNC approach is less severe and may hamper even a more severe penalty if enacted.

Assume for a moment that the Rules and Bylaws Committee recommends to the DNC a penalty similar to the RNC super penalty. While the RNC would strip a state delegation down to twelve or fewer delegates (depending on the size of the state) at the convention, the DNC would not.5 The DNC views this as a penalty for the primary phase of the campaign. The party sees the damage as having been done if the penalty merely affects the delegate count in real time during primary season. The assumption is that by the end of the process, the party will have settled on and lined up behind one candidate and the delegate count is a non-issue at the convention and reducing delegations only serves to hurt those who are working hardest on the state level. In truth, history is on their side despite the quadrennial rush of brokered convention stories in the news. Still, such a view does potentially lend itself to festering conflict between two presidential aspirants. The type that would not necessarily bode well for the party overall.6 The delegate issue would not be closed until the convention if it is unsettled.

But again, the invisible primary phase the 2016 cycle is currently in and the primary season itself typically resolve those matters. Regardless, there are a couple of fairly significant matters the RNC has given the DNC to think about now that it has settled on its delegate selection rules. Such is and has been the give and take between the two national parties over the presidential nomination process over time.

Now it is the DNC's turn.

1 The short version of this is that the Democrats had for 1972 made the votes in state-level contests -- whether primaries or caucuses -- binding on the delegates who would attend the national convention. Rather than determinative decisions being made at the convention, the action shifted to the newly empowered delegate selection process. That initiated a period of learning for the candidates, states (state parties and/or state governments) and the national parties themselves.

2 Even 1988 was the product of several cycles of movement. Alabama, Florida and Georgia had concurrent primaries in early March 1980, and four years later in 1984, a handful of late primary states adopted a caucus/convention format and moved into various points in March (see Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Oklahoma).

3 This is mostly due to the fact that the Democrats did not have a stake in the nomination season. The party was nominating a sitting president with no serious opposition.

4 FHQ will have more in clarification on this March point in a future post.

5 Now granted, the Republican nominee and his or her campaign has some say in this as well. That campaign will control the convention and the delegates ultimately seated, but the RNC has enforced those penalties at the convention the last two cycles. They got creative with it in 2008, allowing all the delegates to be seated but with half the voting privileges. In 2012, the affected delegations were reduced by half as called for by the rules.

6 Yes, this may be a complete dead end point if Hillary Clinton both decides to run for and coasts to the Democratic nomination. But bear with me on the point about the difference in philosophy.

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Snapshots of Reactions to RNC Rules Changes from Around the Country

FHQ's inbox has filled up with news on the RNC rules changes over the last few days. Here are a few of the state-level reactions to the alterations:

California needs and will have an automatic waiver from the RNC if the Golden state primary stays in June.

Michigan looks to be staring down some stiff penalties without moving its February primary.

The gamble in Alabama is whether the state will matter on the second Tuesday in March. The Alabama Republican Party thinks it will.

As soon as North Carolina anchored its primary to South Carolina's in August, the talk shifted to moving it back. North Carolina Republican National Committeeman, Dave Lewis, says that is likely to happen in May.

South Carolina's safe.

FHQ will add more reactions as they are available.

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Myth of Republican Proportionality Change

Before FHQ digs into this, go read James Hohmann's piece at Politico on the 2016 delegate selection rules changes the RNC enacted this week at its winter meeting in Washington.1 Then check out Marc Ambinder's reaction to the new rules at The Week.

...then come back and allow me to be nitpicky for a while.

Regular FHQ readers will recall that I spent a great deal of time and space pushing back against the nature of change that the introduction of the proportionality rules caused before and during the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. John Sides and I even showed that it was the calendar changes and not the proportionality requirement that was the culprit -- if a rules-based change was to be blamed -- that drew the process out. And while many continue to harp on the "rebrand" the Republican Party has undertaken with regard to issues, most forget that one of the findings of the Growth and Opportunity Project was that impact of delegate allocation rules (ie: proportionality) is dynamics-dependent. In other words, every nomination race is different and the ways in which those delegate allocation rules affect the process are different because of it.

That said, I think a number of analyses are overstating the changes the Republicans put in place this week. And much of it has to do with the supposedly new proportionality requirements. Hohmann mentions this "new" rule that allows a (proportional) state (before March 15) to award all of its delegates to any candidate that clears the 50% threshold statewide. Additionally, Ambinder hints at the 20% of the vote that states can now require candidates to hit in order to receive any delegates.

Both changes sound like they could have some impact on any race; 2016 or otherwise. But they aren't new. In fact, both thresholds are the exact same as they were in 2012. The only real change is that both have been officially added to the broader list of rules. That wasn't the case in 2012 when the office of the RNC legal counsel provided a memo to states and other ne'er do wells about compliance with the new requirement. That memo was the guide for compliance.

Section III deals with the proportionality requirement and parts iv and v set the thresholds:
iv. A state may establish a minimum threshold of the percentage of votes received by a candidate that must be reached below which a candidate may receive no delegates, provided such threshold is no higher than 20%. 
v. A state may establish a minimum threshold of the percentage of votes received by a candidate that must be reached above which the candidate may receive all the delegates, provided such threshold is no lower than 50%.
Again, this is the 2012 set up and it is no different than what the RNC officially added to the rules this time around. There was no widespread rush on the state level to up the threshold described in part iv above in 2012 (see Alabama as an example) and states like Idaho and Mississippi were among the handful of states that experimented or retained rules that allowed for a winner-take-all allocation of delegates if one candidate received a majority of the statewide vote. In fact, as I pointed out in 2011 and 2012, most states took the road of least resistance in reaction to the rules changes put in place for 2012. That is, states only changed what they had to. Where they complied with the RNC rules, they left well enough alone. This was especially true in states where the minimum threshold for gaining any delegates is set lower than 20% by state law (see New Hampshire and North Carolina for examples)

Now, another cycle of this proportionality requirement being in place may mean that states (state parties and/or state governments) have had additional time to see the true nature of the possibilities. States may have learned some in other words. But that has not really been what has been witnessed over time. Are there changes that take place that seek to exploit -- for the state's gain -- the new rules? Sure, but more often than not, they end up being exception rather than rule.

Will these "new changes" have a pronounced effect? Well, we'll see. FHQ is guessing no, since they aren't really changes for 2016 anyway. In the meantime, let's all be careful about what has changed with these rules and what it may or may not mean for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination race.

One last thing:
Hohmann's conversation with North Dakota national committeeman, Curly Haugland is somewhat misleading. Haugland bemoaned the fact that the RNC did not take up proposed changes to correct the increased Rule 40 requirement on the number of state delegations a candidate has to control in order to have his or her name placed in nomination at the convention. This was a contentious part of the rules discussion in Tampa. Paul-aligned delegates were upset that that number of states was raised from five to eight.

The little secret here is that that rule is untouchable as are all the other rules that deal specifically with the next national convention (Rules 26-42). Rule 12, which was added in Tampa, allows for amendments to be made between conventions to Rules 1-11 and 13-25, but all the other rules -- Rule 40 included -- are off limits (to amendments) until the 2016 convention. That eight state requirement, then, could not be changed at the winter meeting of the RNC and cannot be changed until the 2016 convention.

1 This one is probably the best summary of the changes I've read.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

RNC Passes 2016 Delegate Selection Rules Proposals

The full RNC voted early this afternoon to pass a series of changes to the national party's delegate selection rules; the rules that will govern the process by which the party selects its next presidential nominee. Neither the Rules Committee process nor the full RNC consideration today were all that contentious. In both meetings where the changes were considered -- and ultimately passed -- there were just a handful of dissenting votes.

In other words, there was some consensus within the RNC membership behind the changes that the Rules subcommittee devised and submitted for consideration at this winter meeting.

FHQ will certainly have a more robust analysis about the exact changes made in the coming week(s), but for now some reactions to, well, the reactions to these alterations.

A few of the talking points emerging in reaction to the changes are nothing new. They tend to fall in at least a couple of categories. On the one hand, there is skepticism that it will ever work in their intended fashion; in this case, to rein in not only a chaotic calendar formation process, but to tweak the overall nomination process. On the other, there are comments about the national parties fighting the last war; mistakenly making changes to account for problems from the last cycle.

I don't know. Those observations certainly aren't wrong, but in both cases, miss the all-too-important nuance. The "last war" line strikes me as off base in the narrow context of the relationship between the national parties and the states (whether state parties and/or state governments).1 Of course the national parties are fighting the last war when they assemble to devise a delegate selection plan for an upcoming presidential nomination cycle. They move forward with the uncertainty-addled information they have. This is, and has been since the 1972 cycle, an iterative and sequential process. The national parties make rules and the states (and candidates) react to those rules -- some in compliance, but some, and usually only a handful, not. Wash, rinse repeat.

Only, it really is not that simple. There is no way of testing these rules changes ahead of their implementation. The only laboratory is either the experience from previous cycles or the combination of the invisible primary and primary season for the next cycle in real time. A national party does not know and often cannot (adequately) rectify midstream (see Florida and Michigan in 2008) problems that may come up along the way. That is the sequential part of the process. The national parties have to have their rules in place so that the states can react to them, to plan for the upcoming election. Only, some states don't play by the rules, or haven't in a select set of cases over the 2008 and 2012 cycles.

And that is where the probably-warranted skepticism comes in to play. State actors may behave seemingly rationally; moving a primary up and out of compliance with national party rules under the assumption that delegate sanctions will not be enforced. That line of reasoning was used numerous times in 2012 during the formation of the Republican presidential primary calendar. But for the second consecutive cycle, the RNC actually did enforce its penalties. And this is where the national parties have become more sophisticated in their responses to rogue activity. The combination of enforcement and an incremental closing of loopholes that states have exploited in the past have made it harder to states to misbehave.

FHQ spent a lot of time in 2011 and 2012 talking about the work both parties had done to coordinate the basic structure of a presidential primary calendar. We spent still more time talking about the fact that a lack of meaningful and coordinated penalties. One of the missed opportunities in 2012 was the fact that both parties had seen the ineffectiveness of the 50% delegate reduction penalty on states. It worked for most, but some were willing to take that type of hit to their delegation in order to impact the nomination process.

States may not be similarly willing to take a much deeper cut at their delegations in 2016. Nine (in the case of small states) or twelve (for big states) total delegates is a significant reduction. But you know what is missing from a lot of the reaction pieces penned in the wake of the RNC rules changes? The Democratic Party.

Oh, sure, there are certainly some light comparative mentions -- usually having to do with the respective fields of candidates and she who must not be named -- but nothing that comes close to identifying the impact the DNC's eventual delegate selection rules will have on whether the RNC will be successful in its endeavor. On the surface, that's a strange concept. It almost sounds like the DNC would be helping the RNC. [That would never happen!] But that isn't the case. This is more a matter of shared interests -- common nuisances -- among the two national parties. If the DNC ups its penalties, for example, it would go a long way toward determining whether the RNC will get the type of primary calendar it is angling for.

But if you want potential unintended consequences, look to the potential for cross-party differences over some of the Rule 20-based changes the RNC just made. These are the rules pushing up the end of the primary process. Now sure, the RNC made allowances for waivers for Democratically-controlled states that may not be able to comply with those rules (depending on what the DNC does).

That's not all of the unintended consequences either, but FHQ will save that for another time.

The bottom line for now is that the national parties are doing exactly what one would expect them to do. While they are still susceptible to rogue states, the national parties have gotten more sophisticated in their responses to them. The traditionally-exploited loopholes have largely been closed. Want rogue states in 2016? Look at the usual suspects FHQ has been mentioning for months. It won't be Florida. It'll be Arizona, Michigan, Missouri and North Carolina.

And start looking to the end of the calendar too. We may see some creative rogue states in 2016. The reactions the curbs on late May and early June contests may provide for some unconventional "rogue" activity.

1 In the broader context of the overarching delegate selection process, there may be something to this. Again FHQ is reminded of John Sununu's comments on this at the National Association of Secretaries of State meeting in January 2013. I'm paraphrasing here, but he mentioned that national parties often tread this line of managing or controlling the delegate selection process. He said that when parties attempt to control the process rather than manage it, they often get themselves into some form of trouble. Whether what the RNC has done this week falls into the control or manage category likely is in the eye of the beholder.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Round Up on RNC Rules Committee Meeting

There weren't any surprises at the RNC Rules Committee meeting in DC this afternoon. Here are a few takes on the proposed 2016 delegate selection rules changes, post-meeting:

Zeke Miller at Time says the rules moves are all about the money.

WaPo's Reid Wilson and USA Today's Susan Page talk calendar compression.

Benjy Sarlin over at MSNBC frames the changes as an attempt to reduce the odds of a divisive primary.

FHQ will weigh in when we have had a chance to see the actual language of the changes. In the meantime, the package of revisions that passed the Rules Committee on a near-unanimous voice vote today heads off for consideration in the full RNC tomorrow. To pass, the series of changes will require a three-quarters vote. That is a pretty high bar, but the Rules Committee vote signals pretty close to a consensus on the changes. The committee reports will be made to the full RNC a little after 11am tomorrow morning.

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The RNC Already Increased Penalties on Potential Rogue Primary States

There is a lot of chatter this morning about what the RNC will be up to these next couple of days in Washington, DC. One thing neither the Rules Committee nor the full RNC will do -- despite the bulk of reports today -- is to increase the penalties on states that move their delegate selection contests ahead of the March 1 threshold or state parties that do not allocate delegates in accordance with the rules laid out by the national party.


Mainly, the RNC will not be upping the penalties because it has already done so. Some seem to have conveniently forgotten the struggle over the rules in the Rules Committee meetings in the week leading up to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. Perhaps the increased penalties got lost in the shuffle of Rule 40 changes that had Ron Paul delegates up in arms during the actual convention.

But the point is, the Bennett rule -- named for former Ohio GOP chair, Bob Bennett who devised the penalty -- had already been added, stripping rogue state delegations down to nine delegates (12 including the automatic delegates) for holding primaries or caucuses too early. The rules coming out of Tampa also included a 50% penalty on states that did not follow proportionality requirement. None of that is new. None of that will be new after the RNC winter meeting concludes.

What will potentially be new is:
1) The proportionality requirement will see some changes. The rules package will reduce the window of the proportionality requirement from all of March to just the first two weeks of March. Additionally, the language of the rule (described in Rule 16(c)2) will be ever so slightly altered. As it is now the word "may" appears, suggesting that states allocated delegates in a proportional manner before March 15. The new rule will, as was the case in 2012, mandate this with the word "shall". All that is doing is insuring that there is an actual proportionality requirement for the 50% penalty already described in Rule 17 to apply to.
2) The super penalty described in the Bennett rule will be tightened up to close a loophole that a very small number of small states could have exploited. FHQ has covered those discrepancies for nearly a year.

There are some other matters -- particularly Rule 20 -- that may be noteworthy during the Rules Committee meeting today. But that rule has nothing to do with penalties. It is something that will from the RNC perspective help lay the groundwork for an earlier convention. Everything else will be about tightening up the language for the penalties that are already there.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Morton Blackwell on RNC Rules Subcommittee Proposals for 2016

Virginia Republican National Committeeman, Morton Blackwell, has posted over at RedState an open letter to RNC Chair, Reince Priebus, concerning the forthcoming Rules subcommittee proposals tweaking the 2016 delegate selection rules. The prevailing sentiment is opposition to the changes. Yet, even that is nuanced.

Some of it takes the form of a suggestion box entry. There is a call for clearer language in Rule 16(a)(1) where there appears to be an allowance on the part of the RNC for either proportional or winner-take-all allocation rules (regardless of timing). That is perhaps not completely consistent with the restrictions on winner-take-all allocation laid out later in Rule 16 and penalized in Rule 17.1

Other points -- like the one on the width of the proportionality window -- show some resistance, but not outright defiance. The impact of an all-proportional March versus a half-proportional March (March 15 cutoff) is indeterminate. It may or may not slow down or speed up the pace with which the ultimate nominee accrues delegates. Much of that depends on the dynamics of the race -- who is still in the race, what the terrain is (what the sequence of events is).

The fact the tone is this way on these proposed rules changes may be a function of either the scale of the change or the fact that the issues in the proposed changes have been discussed and find some consensus within the Rules Committee and/or the RNC.

The new wrinkle, and where the discussion in the Rules Committee gathering at the RNC winter meeting this week in DC is likely to be interesting,2 is the change proposed to Rule 20. Peter Hamby brought this up in his rundown of the proposed changes a few weeks back. This is the rule that accounts for the certification of the election/selection of delegates.

The reason that this is somewhat contentious is that this is the potential provision that would allow state Republican central committees to select delegates in states with late primaries that may conflict with the logistical requirement of having delegates in place 35 days before the convention. In other words, this is something that is necessary in order to lay the groundwork for a late June or early July convention. [FHQ has more on this here (in the discussion of providing incentive to late primary states to move up).]

Blackwell views this as an overreach of the RNC, infringing on a state's ability to select delegates to the convention as it sees fit. Whether this is eventually a contentious discussion at the meeting remains to be seen. Much will depend on the calculus of RNC members present and voting on the change. Will they see Blackwell's way or will they value the earlier convention that Chairman Priebus and others with the party want?

1 Mr. Blackwell also points out the inconsistency regarding automatic delegates in Rule 17 that FHQ described here.

2 FHQ does not necessarily mean heated or controversial here. Rather, it may take some time to unpack and explain everything on the proposed rules change in the context of the meeting.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

For RNC Members, A Rules Contradiction That Would Affect Them in 2016

The Republican National Committee is on the eve today of another annual winter confab. This meeting will likely see the Rules Committee take up and consider -- if not vote on and send to the full RNC -- a series of tweaks to the 2016 delegate selection rules that came out of the party's Tampa convention in August 2012. This will not be the first time the Rules Committee and then the full RNC has revised those rules.1 However, this time around, the changes are likely to be more substantial both in terms of quality and quantity. That is a function of the alterations coming out of a special rules subcommittee that was tasked last August -- at the summer meeting -- with reexamining the process by which the Republican Party nominates its presidential candidates; the delegate selection portion anyway.

One seemingly minor change that is likely to be included in the full series of proposed rules changes concerns the convention voting rights of the automatic delegates. Recall that the automatic delegates are the three members of the RNC from each state: the state party chair, the national committeeman and national committeewoman. In most but not all cases, these delegates are free to select any candidate of their choosing. They are an unbound part of the state delegation to the national convention.

That said, there has been some discussion as to how these automatic delegates should be treated at the convention should the state they represent violate the delegate selection rules on timing. In 2012, the rules the Republican Party utilized removed the voting privileges of the RNC members/automatic delegates from states in violation of those rules (Rule 16.e.1). On its surface, then, the penalty was supposed to strike at a group of people -- those RNC members involved in state party politics -- in a position within the national party to presumably deter state-level moves that would bring a state into violation of the rules. This obviously is something that is easier said in rule-making than done in practice. Regardless, the stick was put in place.

The effectiveness of such a penalty is not entirely clear, but it can be quite difficult for a state party chair or national committeeman/committeewoman to prevent a state legislature and governor -- potentially of a different party -- from acting in a manner consistent with the Republican National Committee delegate selection rules. Still, that language persists in the rules that will govern the 2016 Republican presidential nomination process.

Rule 17.f.1 (the same exact language as Rule 16.e.1 in 2012):
(f) If a state or state Republican Party is determined to be in violation:
(1) No member of the Republican National Committee from the offending state shall be permitted to serve as a delegate or alternate delegate to the national convention.

Yet, that seems to be undermined by the language describing the new super penalty earlier in Rule 17. Here's the relevant portion of Rule 17.

Rule 17.a (emphasis FHQ's):
If any state or state Republican Party violates Rule No. 16(c)(1) of The Rules of the Republican Party with regard to a primary, caucus, convention or other process to elect, select, allocate, or bind delegates and alternate delegates to the national convention by conducting its process prior to the last Tuesday in February, the number of delegates to the national convention shall be reduced to nine (9) plus the members of the Republican National Committee from that state...

Now, regular readers will be acquainted with what may be perceived as an annoying practice: FHQ's insistence on saying that the super penalty reduces a state delegation to nine delegates plus the three automatic delegates should a state violate the nomination rules. That is a function of the above language. Yet, that language in Rule 17.a is contradicted by the two-part rule fully described in Rule 17.f.1-2.

The RNC members -- the three automatic delegates from each state -- have convention voting rights in one section of the rule but not the other. The RNC is aware of this issue, but it remains to be seen what the ultimate remedy will be. The penalty stripping RNC members from violating states of their convention votes is one that has passed muster with the group in the past, but given the out -- and given the reality that RNC members may have very little sway in how the timing of their state's primary, for instance, is decided -- the RNC may also opt to retain the voting privileges of their membership at the expense of other delegates from the a violating state's delegation.

Again, it is not clear what proposed changes the RNC rules subcommittee will bring to the Rules Committee on this issue and a number of others, but details will emerge as the RNC convenes tomorrow.

1 There was a cosmetic change to Rule 16.a.2 at the 2013 spring meeting that clarified the procedure for dealing with potential rogue delegates and their votes at the national convention.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Iowa 2016, Today

With the 2014 Iowa caucuses set to convene tomorrow, the caucuses two years hence are on the minds of some out there.

Jennifer Jacobs at the Des Moines Register has a rundown on a few things that are on the line in those caucuses tomorrow. Two of them -- points one and four -- have a bearing on the 2016 presidential nominations.
1. The GOP fight over who’s in charge
The central battlefield will be the party leadership elections.
Current party leaders, who view themselves as hard-line conservatives with a liberty movement orientation, try to frame this battle as an ouster attempt by more middle-of-the-road politicos favored by establishment Republicans, including Branstad.
But the coalition of Republicans who want to push aside those leaders represents a broad cross-section of activists, including Christian conservatives, fiscally minded business Republicans and longtime party stalwarts. They say the context has little to do with deep divisions in the party. Instead, it’s about the desire to have a competent, well-oiled party machine that’s laser-focused on wiping out Democrats.
4. The movement to kill the GOP’s Iowa Straw Poll
The leadership group elected at Tuesday night’s caucuses will decide the fate of this widely criticized summertime Republican Party fundraiser.
Some say the straw poll represents an albatross around the presidential caucuses, which take place five months later. Dave Levinthal, senior political reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, said the straw poll is viewed as a silly sideshow.
“The straw poll did itself few favors in the efficacy department when the gold, silver and bronze went to Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and Tim Pawlenty,” Levinthal said. Two of the three were out of the race by early January.
One 2012 straw poll write-in candidate, Rick Perry, beat eventual nominee Mitt Romney. The eventual nominee in 2008, John McCain, placed 10th.
“Middle school student council races are often more deliberative,” Levinthal said.
Reid Wilson at the Washington Post builds a richer story behind Jacobs' point about the fight for control of the leadership apparatus within the Republican Party of Iowa.

Both pieces are well worth a read.

One quibble with Wilson's discussion of the delegate selection process the Republican Party of Iowa will use in 2016. The characterization of the process from Wilson (emphasis FHQ's):
Expanding turnout at precinct caucuses is important to Branstad and to presidential candidates who will run in two years, because the caucus process extends long beyond January. Delegates selected on caucus night head to county conventions, then district conventions, the state convention and, finally, in a presidential year, the Republican National Convention, where they cast votes for a presidential candidate of their choosing.
Now, in the past, this sequence of events has been the standard operating procedure within the RPI caucuses/convention system: precinct caucuses, county conventions, district conventions, state convention, followed by the national convention. Delegates are chosen at each level to move on to the next successive step. But the wheels come off -- at least relative to how things will be in 2016 -- once that final sentence gets to that last clause.

The sequence of events will likely be the same, but due to a change in the delegate selection rules now in place for Republican nomination process (via the Republican National Committee), the Republican delegates from Iowa will not be able to "vote for a presidential candidate of their choosing," as Wilson indicates. The change -- the addition for 2016, really -- in question is to Rule 16.a.1-2:
(a) Binding and Allocation.(1) Any statewide presidential preference vote that permits a choice among candidates for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in a primary, caucuses, or a state convention must be used to allocate and bind the state’s delegation to the national convention in either a proportional or winner-take-all manner, except for delegates and alternate delegates who appear on a ballot in a statewide election and are elected directly by primary voters. 
(2) The Secretary of the Convention shall faithfully announce and record each delegate’s vote in accordance with the delegate’s obligation under these rules, state law or state party rule. If any delegate bound by these rules, state party rule or state law to vote for a presidential candidate at the national convention demonstrates support under Rule 40 for any person other than the candidate to whom her or she is bound, such support shall not be recognized. Except as provided for by state law or state party rule, no presidential candidate shall have the power to remove a delegate.
Most of this language was added in Tampa at the 2012 Republican National Convention, but some of it was modified at the Spring 2013 RNC meeting in Los Angeles. The bulk of the changes were added to tamp down on the shenanigans some within the RNC saw coming from the Ron Paul backers in 2012. Essentially, delegates are now bound -- something that was a point of contention in Tampa and at the LA meeting in 2013 -- based on any statewide election. Presumably, this would include precinct caucuses in Iowa and other states that formerly used and/or allowed for unbound delegates to go to the national convention. Part two of the rule takes matters a step further by preventing would-be rogue delegates from attempting to cast a convention vote for a candidate other than the one to whom they are bound. The delegate votes are announced and recorded in accordance with how the delegates were bound based on the statewide step -- precinct caucuses -- of the process.

One thing is for sure: The RPI leadership that emerges from the 2014 caucuses will have some effect on the the rules that the party adopts for the delegate selection process in 2016. Stated differently, said leadership will shape the state party reaction to the RNC rules.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Unclear What Shape Final RNC Super Penalty May Take

With the 2014 RNC Winter Meeting looming toward the end of the month, and some consideration, if not vote, on a new set of rules proposals likely to occur, it appears as if the intricacies have not been fully settled on. There is no doubt in FHQ's mind that whatever rules the RNC subcommittee comes up with in regard to the 2016 Republican presidential nomination debates will grab all or most of the headlines. But there will be other rules or rules changes that come out of the RNC meeting that will warrant some discussion as well.

One of those rules is the new super penalty the RNC passed in Tampa in August 2012. Recall that the Republican National Convention implemented for 2016 a stricter penalty (Rule 17) for states willing to violate the timing rules (Rule 16) by scheduling their delegate selection events earlier than the first Tuesday in March. Instead of stripping a state of half its delegation as was the case in 2012 and before, the RNC would reduce a rogue state delegation to just nine delegates (plus the three party/automatic delegates). The intent is to shrink the potential power of any rogue state down to something smaller than what any of the four carve-out states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- would have to offer in terms of their individual number of delegates. That, in turn, keeps the candidates away and focused on the carve-outs.


However, as FHQ noted once that super penalty came to light in January 2013, there was a loophole for a select few small states. The more draconian penalty would actually have been severe for big states, but less than the 50% penalty those same states would have been subject to in 2012 and before. The new proposals includes a provision to correct that discrepancy.

But it isn't clear what exactly this fix is.

As was originally reported by Peter Hamby last month, the RNC subcommittee remedy was to penalize rogue states by knocking them down to nine delegates (plus the three party/automatic delegates) or one third of their originally apportioned delegates, whichever is number is smaller. That one third provision was the remedy to the original super penalty intended to target those smaller loophole states.

Yet, in Saturday's New Hampshire Union Leader, Garry Rayno describes a slightly different penalty for those very same smaller states. Instead of being left with one third of their delegates, smaller rogue states with fewer than 30 apportioned delegates (originally, pre-penalty) would be stripped of all but six delegates (presumably plus the three party/automatic delegates). That is not a huge difference, but that is a different penalty than the one Hamby detailed in December.

Let's look a state or two under both plans (Hamby and Rayno descriptions) and the original super penalty. In 2012, there were 17 states and five territories with 30 or fewer delegates. Given that 30 delegate threshold in Rayno's description there are two groups of states to examine. States in the 25-30 delegate range and those with 24 or fewer delegates in their delegations.

  • State in the 25-30 delegate range: Wyoming (28 delegates in 2012)
Let's assume that Wyoming opts to hold (what will now have to be binding) precinct caucuses in February 2016. That would run afoul of the new RNC rules.
Original super penalty reduction: 9 delegates (plus the three party/automatic delegates); 12 total. That is a 57% reduction.
Hamby super penalty reduction: 9 delegates or one third of original delegation (9.33 delegates), whichever is smaller. Most of the rounding rules for 2016 indicate that fractions would be rounded down. That would leave Wyoming with 9 delegates (plus the three party/automatic delegates); 12 total. That's a 57% reduction.
Rayno super penalty reduction: 6 delegates (presumably plus the three party/automatic delegates); 9 total. That's a 68% reduction.
  • State with 24 or fewer delegates: Maine (24 delegates in 2012)
Let's assume that Maine opts to hold (what will now have to be binding) precinct caucuses in February 2016. That would run afoul of the new RNC rules. 
Original super penalty reduction: 9 delegates (plus the three party/automatic delegates); 12 total. That is a 50% reduction.
Hamby super penalty reduction: 9 delegates or one third of original delegation (8 delegates), whichever is smaller. That would leave Maine with 8 delegates (plus the three party/automatic delegates); 11 total. That's a 54% reduction.
Rayno super penalty reduction: 6 delegates (presumably plus the three party/automatic delegates); 9 total. That is a 62% reduction.
  • State with 24 or fewer delegates: Delaware (17 delegates in 2012)  -- Smallest state/non-territory delegation
Let's assume that Delaware opts to hold a primary in February 2016. That would run afoul of the new RNC rules.
Original super penalty reduction: 9 delegates (plus the three party/automatic delegates) [NOTE: less than 50% reduction]; 12 total. That is just a 29% reduction.
Hamby super penalty reduction: 9 delegates or one third of original delegation (5.67 delegates), whichever is smaller. Most of the rounding rules for 2016 indicate that fractions would be rounded down. That would leave Delaware with 5 delegates (plus the three party/automatic delegates); 8 total. That is a 53% reduction.
Rayno super penalty reduction: 6 delegates (presumably plus the three party/automatic delegates); 9 total. That is a 47% reduction. 
In all cases, the penalty decreases as the size of a state's delegation decreases. But the proposal Hamby described sees a very slight decrease as a delegation gets smaller as compared to the original conception of the super penalty or the version Rayno reported.  Understandably, the corrections are more severe than the original, but the Rayno version reduces a delegation more than the one Hamby described in December. For all states (not including those territories with just 9 delegates) with fewer than 30 delegates, the Hamby-described penalty is roughly 55% of the delegation (with a range of 53-57%). On the other hand the Rayno version is more severe on the "bigger" small delegation states. The reductions on states with fewer than 30 delegates range anywhere from 47-68%. 

Now, these are very subtle differences. A handful of delegates here and there makes a difference in terms of what the weight of the ultimate penalty is on an individual state. None of these states were chosen at random either. All three have at various points in the post-reform era tested the resolve of the national parties by moving in on the turf of the carve-out states (generally New Hampshire). The RNC, then, would have some incentive to close any loophole that might entice any or all of those states to jump up the calendar into, say, February.

But how to do that is the question. Pick your poison. 

The main remaining question is whether this will be enough of a deterrent to prevent states, small and big alike, from encroaching on the turf of the carve-out states. That is a question that will have to wait until 2015 for an answer. In the meantime, the RNC will have to settle on what its small state super penalty will be. 

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Primary Movement Starts with the State Legislatures: The 2014 State Legislative Session Calendar

The name of the action may have changed since the last time FHQ did this in 2011, but if we're going to follow along as states shuffle -- or don't shuffle -- around on the 2016 presidential primary calendar, that activity will happen on the state level.

…in the state legislatures (for primaries).

A number of state legislatures return to work today, but their start points stretch out across the first half of 2014. From the National Conference of State Legislatures:

Midterm years are not normally times for states to begin calendar jockeying. The national parties have yet to finalize their respective sets of delegate selection rules to govern the 2016 presidential nomination processes after all. That will happen later this year. However, that does not mean that there will not be legislation introduced that will affect when presidential primaries will be held in two years. Nor does it mean that the national parties will not begin to preemptively exert some pressure on political actors on the state level in states that may potentially cause some problems in 2016.

A few to keep an eye on in 2014:
1) Arizona:
The governor does have the power of proclamation to move the primary up but not back on the calendar. If the discrepancy in Rules 16 and 17 of the current RNC rules is resolved, then both Arizona and Michigan will find themselves in a bind at a point on the calendar one week ahead of the March 1 position all states other than the four carve-outs can fall on or after. The bottom line in the Grand Canyon state (and further east in the Great Lakes state) is that it is going to require state legislative action to move the primaries in each around.

2) Michigan:
See Arizona, minus the gubernatorial proclamation power.

3) Missouri:
The Show-Me state presidential primary is technically -- or will technically -- be in violation of the RNC (and likely DNC) rules on the first Tuesday in February. The state legislature there has also proven inept in 2011, 2012 and 2013 at moving the primary into compliance. FHQ would be surprised if there is not another attempt to move the 2016 election back during the 2014 session. But it is far from clear that the outcome will be any different now than in previous years. Regardless, the Missouri Republican Party is likely to trigger caucuses for allocating delegates in 2016 -- just like the party did in 2011 -- to avoid penalty if the state government proves resistant to moving the contest.

4) North Carolina:
The General Assembly in Raleigh will not reconvene for 2014 until May and even then the duration of the session is very short. Still, the omnibus elections bill passed during a special session during the summer of 2013 anchored the North Carolina presidential primary to South Carolina's. That will put the Tar Heel state in the crosshairs of both national parties penalties. The presidential primary provision added to the bill (and ultimate law) was also inserted last minute by the state Senate and rather than risk killing the bill, the state House -- a member of which is the national committeeman to the RNC from North Carolina -- opted to go along. But that did not mean that the primary move was kosher with everyone. FHQ has been told by a couple of sources that efforts are likely to be made later this year to bring the North Carolina primary back into compliance with the likely national party rules.

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Death of the Idaho Republican Presidential Caucuses has been Greatly Exaggerated

****Note (1/7/14): This post is a correction to an item that ran in this space starting on Sunday, January 5. The original text is appended at the conclusion of the following correction.

The line apparently works for more than just Mark Twain. The Idaho Republican presidential caucuses are very much alive and well.

…contrary to a report from the Idaho State Journal that was published over the weekend and that FHQ picked up on and analyzed.

FHQ received a comment and follow up email in response to our post from Ronald Nate, the chairman of the Idaho Republican Party Rules Committee that devised the caucus/convention system in the lead up to the 2012 cycle. Here is what happened in the Gem state this weekend.

1. There was a meeting of the Idaho Republican Party State Central Committee (SCC).
2. There were a couple of proposals brought up to end the practice of presidential caucuses (one each in the Rules Committee and the Resolutions Committee).
3. Both proposals failed.
4. However, a motion was filed in before the SCC to approve the (failed Resolutions Committee) measure. [Any item brought before the Resolutions Committee that receives the support of at least one-third of the committee can be brought up before the the SCC. The Resolutions Committee vote was 6-8. More than one-third of the 14 member committee was in support. That triggered the motion before the SCC.]

This is where the confusion came in.

Voting for the motion (yes) for the SCC to consider the resolution was something that proponents of killing the caucuses would have been in favor of. In other words, those against the caucuses would have voted yes. Those who were against the motion, then, were members who favored retaining the caucuses as the means of allocating delegates to the national convention. They were no votes, but caucuses supporters.

The no votes were 90 and the yes votes were 64. The motion for the SCC to take up the non-binding resolution to consider ending the caucuses failed.

Yet, that "No" win was interpreted by at least one member -- Dan Cravens, the Bingham County Republican Party chair  and source of the original Idaho State Journal story -- as one that ended the caucuses; that a no vote meant no more caucuses.

In the end, the confusion was a function of getting lost in parliamentary procedure.

For more, please see the story the Idaho State Journal ran in response to their earlier story.

I would also like to add a note of apology to FHQ's readers. I go to great lengths to catalog and thoroughly analyze everything that happens with the primary calendar and the events that ultimately fill it. But sometimes the content here is only as good as the source stories I come across (and their stories only as good as their sources). Still, I played a part in spreading what proved to be less-than-accurate information, and for that I am sorry. 


Original Post:

Idaho GOP Halts Presidential Caucuses

…for now.

From the Idaho State Journal:
The presidential caucus system established by the Idaho Republican Party in 2012 to give the state more say in the selection of a presidential candidate was killed by the Republican State Central Committee in Boise on Saturday.  
The GOP Central Committee is comprised of county leadership, including chairmen and women from each county. Dan Cravens, the Bingham County Republican Party chairman, said the majority of opposition came from North Idaho while leadership in Southeast Idaho voted to retain the caucus system.  
“It was a close vote within 20 votes,” Cravens said. “I was disappointed.”
A couple of things here:
1) There was no consensus on this decision within the State Central Committee. The vote was close, and the issue may not be dead. Interestingly, the southeastern area of the state -- the part of the state that backed Romney in the 2012 caucuses -- was in support of maintaining the caucuses. The northern portion of the state, where Paul and Santorum saw the most support in 2012, was in opposition.

2) Idaho Republicans are now without a specific means of allocating delegates in 2016. The presumption -- the intent -- is that Republicans in the Gem state will simply revert to their later primary election. That may be the eventual course of action, but as a part of the transition to caucuses in 2012, the Idaho state legislature permanently removed the presidential primary line from the May primary ballot. Of course, this is a relatively minor issue assuming there are no future State Central Committee votes on the issue (and that enough votes crossover in support of the caucuses). FHQ does not expect that the IDGOP will take this issue up again in 2014. It may, but that will most likely occur in 2015 when the bulk of these calendar-related issues are handled.

For the time being, though, Idaho Republicans are without a mechanism for allocating (presidential) delegates to the national convention.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Christie's Primary Map May Be the Same as Romney's, But the Order of the Primaries Won't Be.

Dave Catanese over at The Run 2016 has this to say:
With the first four states likely to keep their pecking order, Christie’s team may just adopt the same mindset.  Must wins in New Hampshire and Nevada, with Iowa and South Carolina as only icing. 
The main difference would be Florida, a primary that could be rendered mostly meaningless if one of its homestate contenders jumps into the race. If say, Sen. Marco Rubio is a candidate, then South Carolina may become demonstrably more vital to Christie.
FHQ does not disagree here on the basic campaign strategic point. On the surface, Christie's strategy would theoretically be the same as Romney's. Win in New Hampshire and Nevada, take what you can get in Iowa and South Carolina and win Florida. FHQ has hinted at as much stretching back into primary season 2012.

And Mr. Catanese is absolutely correct that a home state candidate from the Sunshine state -- whether Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush -- upsets the calculus some for the latent presidential campaign of the New Jersey governor.

But here's the thing: We don't know if that is going to be the order of those contests. FHQ is reasonably confident that the four carve-out states will retain their positions with perhaps minimal pressure from any rogue states. FHQ is also fairly confident that Florida will not be one of those states pushing the carve-outs in 2016. However, given the new law scheduling the Florida presidential primary, Florida is also not likely to hold down the fifth position on the calendar as it did in 2012. Right now that distinction belongs to Arizona and Michigan.1

The situation in Florida -- the scheduling of the primary -- is conditional. The Sunshine state will conduct a presidential primary election on the first date in which there are no penalties assessed by the national parties. Many are interpreting that as the first Tuesday in March (March 1, 2016). But that misses one other highly relevant point. Florida avoids the timing penalty by holding a March primary, but there is also the matter of the proportionality window in the Republican rules.

Recall that Florida has stuck with a true winner-take-all allocation of its delegates. If the Republican Party of Florida continues with that practice in 2016, the new law would push the presidential primary in the Sunshine state back to the third Tuesday in March according to the proposed penalty structure likely to emerge from the RNC rules subcommittee reexamining the rules. Now, Florida Republicans could merely take the 50% delegate reduction associated with a violation of the proportionality requirement and go on March 1, but that is not what the law says. If Florida Republicans value the presidential primary as a means of allocating delegates, they would have to utilize the state-funded option that is administered by the (secretary of) state and follows the law.

…on March 15, 2016 along with the Illinois primary.

Arizona and Michigan now occupy the fifth position on the 2016 presidential primary calendar and are the biggest threats to the carve-out states. Florida will play a role, but it will likely be on or two weeks after Super Tuesday. That's different from Romney's map. Like Romney, Christie would like to and likely have to do well in Arizona and Michigan as springboards into Super Tuesday the next week. Christie would also need to employ a similar Super Tuesday strategy to the former Massachusetts governor: rack up wins and delegates outside the South while peeling off as many as possible delegates in the South.

That's what makes the method of allocation Texas Republicans adopt for 2016 so important. Remember "proportionality" on the Republican side isn't mathematical proportionality. There are a number of ways to get there.

1 And that assumes Colorado, Minnesota and Utah do not opt into early February dates for their respective caucuses, caucuses and primary. It also assumes that Missouri either moves its primary back or once again adopts caucuses as a means of allocating delegates. North Carolina is newly rogue as well. …but for how long?

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