Friday, September 19, 2014

Arizona Should Replace Iowa at the Front of the Presidential Primary Queue?

That's the argument Mike Saucier and Chip Scutari make the case for writing over at Time.

The problem is that we have already played that game during the 2016 cycle. And it didn't go well for Arizona. In fact, as Saucier and Scutari note, the Arizona legislature did just the opposite, moving the Grand Canyon state's presidential primary to a later date earlier this year.

There are two major reasons why Arizona will not do this in 2016 nor in the future:
1. As long as Bruce Ash -- Arizona Republican National committeeman -- is head of the RNC Rules Committee, Arizona is very unlikely to step out of line with the national party rules on delegate selection. That isn't to suggest that the Arizona state legislature and/or governor have no ability to defy the national party, but the RNC has taken a proactive approach to what one might call primary defiance legislation since 2012. The RNC is jumping on that activity early.

2) Arizona's spot in this hypothetical primary calendar has already been taken by Nevada. This is a point that is completely lost in what Saucier and Scutari are offering in their bland, run-of-the-mill take down of the Iowa and New Hampshire duopoly atop the calendar. The national parties have already dealt with the diversity dilemma that Iowa and New Hampshire represent by adding South Carolina and Nevada to the list of privileged, carve-out states. Nevada was added for many of the same reasons Saucier and Scutari raise: proximity to the southern border, Hispanic population and western state.

Those are both prohibitive factors from the Arizona perspective. Yet, Arizona moving into the carve-out lineup is not out of the question in the future. Nevada gained its position among the first four states on the calendar because Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) lobbied hard for its inclusion when the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee had a small group of states pitch the committee during the 2008 cycle. South Carolina got the southern spot, Nevada got the western spot and the RNC got reluctantly dragged into allowing Nevada to go early in 2008 as well.1 FHQ has heard it said on more than one occasion among rules officials in both national parties that Nevada may possibly be replaced at some point,2 and that Arizona is an attractive candidate.

That isn't first, but it is in the early calendar conversation.

...and not for all the wrong reasons.

Additional note:
It should also be noted that Saucier and Scutari are at best ambiguous (if not wrong) about the impact an early primary would have on the sizable group of independents in Arizona. As they say:
At a time when both parties talk about expanding their bases—both courting Latinos—it makes more strategic sense to put our presidential wannabes right in front of those same constituencies. What better atmosphere for presidential candidates to walk into than an energized core of Independents?
If one gives them the benefit of the doubt, an early primary might help because it means the state will see competition and perhaps energize independents for the general election. Those voters would be exposed to the same campaigning everyone else in the state is exposed to.

However, the above quotation seems to mean independent primary voters. The only problem there is that Arizona has a closed primary and independents cannot vote. It is difficult to energize a bloc of voters for an election in which they are unable to participate.

1 On top of that, the Nevada Republican caucuses in 2008 and 2012 were not without their problems.

2 That point always has something to do with when Harry Reid leaves the Senate.

Recent Posts:
Michigan Republicans Take First Step Toward 2016 Presidential Primary Date Change

New York Has Reverted to a February Presidential Primary for 2016

State GOP parties jockey for primary calendar advantage

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