Thursday, February 28, 2019

Puerto Rico Democrats Eye March Presidential Primary Shift

In a nice #InvisiblePrimary piece about the role Puerto Rico might play in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination process, Marc Caputo had a line that could have been lost in the shuffle if one was not paying close attention:
Adding to Puerto Rico’s political value, Gov. Ricardo Rossell√≥ is backing a plan to move the 2020 primary from early June to one of the final two weekends in March.
That is the sort of action that usually grabs FHQ's attention. And rusty though my Spanish may be, there is no bill currently before the Puerto Rico Assembly that would shift the date of the presidential primary on the island. I have checked.

So FHQ reached out to Caputo to see if there was any more light he could shed on the matter. While there is no bill with any language to change the June primary date to March for Democrats in the territory, Caputo shared with FHQ that there is a bill that may be used as a vehicle for pushing that change. S 1026, a still-active bill introduced in June 2018 by Senator Miguel Romero Lugo (PR-District I, San Juan), currently calls for a renaming of the presidential primary act and the addition of a requirement for presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns to appear on the primary ballot. The tentative plan is to amend that bill and tack on the Democratic presidential primary date change.

The current statute treats the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries differently.1 The Republican primary essentially defaults to the first Sunday in March while the Democratic primary follows three months later on the first Sunday in June. In some ways the set up is similar to the primary scheduling in South Carolina where the two parties' primaries are typically on separate days. But in the Palmetto state those two contests have tended to be only a week apart in years in which both parties have active nomination races.

Three months between contests in Puerto Rico is a bit different. But with this potential change -- if the bill above is amended -- the later Democratic primary would be nudged up the calendar into March, the same month as the Republican primary, albeit not on the same date. That would push another 51 pledged delegates into what is shaping up to the be the busiest month on the primary calendar.

1 The statute setting the date of the presidential primary in the Puerto Rico is as follows:
§ 1324. Primary date  
The presidential primary of the Republican Party will be held on the last Sunday of the month of February of the year in which the presidential elections in the United States are to be held, as long as it does not precede or coincide with the celebration of the presidential primary of the State of New Hampshire. If there is such a conflict, the presidential primary will be held on the first Sunday of March. The Democratic Party presidential primary will be held on the first Sunday of June, that same year. In case of opting for a political party affiliated by the alternative of Assembly arranged in sec. 1350 of this title, it will be celebrated on these dates.
[Emphasis is FHQ's]

When and if the Puerto Rico bill in question is amended with a provision to change the date of the primary there, FHQ will add it to the 2020 presidential primary calendar.

Hat tip to @heyitsfoxyyyy for bringing the Caputo piece to FHQ's attention.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Ohio Bill Would Move Buckeye State Presidential Primary to May

Legislation introduced this week would shift the presidential primary in Ohio from the second Tuesday after the first Monday in March to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May.

There have been other bills floating around during the 2019 state legislative sessions across the country, but none of them have so far called for a later new date for the 2020 cycle. This Ohio bill -- HB 101 -- changes that.

But the reasoning behind the effort differs somewhat from the states-moving-back scenario FHQ described last fall and earlier in 2019. There, the focus was on what Republican-controlled legislatures might do with 2020 presidential primary scheduling during 2019:
Contrast that with the Republican-controlled state governments across the country. Their motivation is different. Protect the president? Then move back (and see the state party shift to a winner-take-all allocation method). Hurt the Democrats? Then move back and shift an important constituency concentrated in a particular region. Think about that SEC primary coalition from 2016. That could break up and push the votes of a valuable Democratic voting bloc -- African American -- to later in the calendar. That might affect some candidates more than others.
Typically partisan actors on the state level leave well enough alone if their party controls the presidency. The motivation is just different for parties occupying the White House.  And there has been more inaction than action in 2019 across the country in states whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans.

But this Ohio bill fits the pattern outlined above: a proposed backward shift and a Republican-dominated legislature.

Yet, there is a catch. This bill is not a Republican vehicle for broader calendar mischief. Instead, it is a Democratic-sponsored bill with an entirely different motivation; an administrative one. Ohio primaries are in May unless it is during a presidential election year. In presidential years, everything moves up to March. Rep. Jack Cera (D-96th, Bellaire) and his seven Democratic co-sponsors offered the bill because those March presidential primaries, according to Cera via BuzzFeed, "are an unfair burden on local elections administrators and candidates who have a narrower window to prepare for the next election."

Election administration is a common counter to any presidential primary maneuvering, and this case is no different. But it is a harder case to make in light of the fact that Ohio has had a March presidential primary since the 1996 cycle. Two fewer months of preparation for elections administrators and candidates is not nothing, but it is a practice that one could argue has become institutionalized in presidential years over the last two plus decades. This would be another matter entirely if the Ohio presidential primary was on a different date than the primaries for other offices. That would entail additional preparations and costs associated with one more election. But Ohio primaries are consolidated.

And 2020 is not a cycle like 2012 when, because of unresolved redistricting issues in the Buckeye state, the presidential primary was moved from March to May, then from May to March before it was moved from March to June and the back to March again (with May again at one time considered a potential landing spot). That was a burden to elections officials and candidates during 2011. Ohio having another March primary in 2020 does not meet the level of that sort of burden.

Reasoning aside, this bill may not be high on the agenda of Republicans in control of the levers of power in Ohio state government. And no matter what Ohio legislators opt to do, both the March date and the targeted May date have regional partners. Michigan is scheduled to have a primary on March 10 and Indiana will hold a May 5 primary.

Ohio has a history with first Tuesday after the first Monday in May presidential primary dates. The state conducted primaries in that position in both 1984 and 1988.

This Ohio bill will be added to the 2020 FHQ Presidential Primary Calendar.

7/9/19: Ohio Republicans Chart Subtle Calendar Move to Preserve Winner-Take-All Allocation

7/18/19: Ohio Budget Bill with Presidential Primary Move Passes the Legislature

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Monday, February 25, 2019

Legislation Would Push Reestablished Utah Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday

Legislation is in the works in Utah to set the date of the newly (re)funded presidential primary in Utah for Super Tuesday 2020.

Senator Curtis Bramble (R-16th, Utah/Wasatch), the floor sponsor of the House legislation two years ago that appropriated money for a 2020 presidential primary, is back to complete the task that was in 2017 left for the 2019 legislature to consider: where on the calendar to schedule the event. While Bramble is seeking to align the newly constituted presidential primary with other delegate selection events in at least 10 states, reports that elections officials in the Beehive state are advocating for a later March or even April date. There is more open space on the 2020 calendar in April and the primary would not conflict with the state legislative session.

Utah is no stranger to Super Tuesday. The state held a Friday-after-Super-Tuesday primary in 2000 alongside neighbors Colorado and Wyoming and moved the rest of the way up to Super Tuesday in 2004. The primary remained there as part of the de facto national primary that formed and took place on February 5, 2008. Technically that February date carried over to the 2012 cycle, but the legislature added an option to consolidate the presidential primary with the late June primary for other offices.

Both the February and June options are now included in the state's statute creating a Western States Presidential Primary, but are only in effect if the legislature appropriates money to conduct the election. And it should be noted that both dates are currently non-compliant with national party rules. The February date is too early (and would fall the day after the caucuses in Iowa in 2020) and the June date is too late. That along with the lack of state legislative appropriation for a primary factored into the decisions by the state parties in 2015 to abandon primaries in favor of caucuses for the 2016 cycle.

2020 will be different for Utah. The primary option was funded in 2017, but no date was set then. Bramble's forthcoming legislation will begin those deliberations. But a Super Tuesday date would align the Utah primary with potentially the newly reestablished Colorado primary.

A tip of the cap to Bryan Schott at for sharing the news of Utah bill with FHQ.

3/7/19: Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Utah

3/11/19 (a): Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Unanimously Passes Senate Committee Stage in Utah

3/11/19 (b): Utah Senate Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Super Tuesday 2020 Adds Minnesota

It was confirmed Friday that Minnesota will conduct its newly reestablished presidential primary on March 3, 2020, Super Tuesday.

The confirmation comes just a week before a statutory deadline by which the two major parties were to have either jointly agreed to an alternative date or settled on the default first Tuesday in March position. The parties opted again for the latter, bringing Minnesota's primary in line with contests in at least nine other states.

Crowding in to that earliest date allowed by the national parties has implications as Minnesota Public Radio reported:
Ken Martin, chair of the Minnesota DFL Party, said he’s not dwelling on whether Minnesota will get lost in the crowd. 
“It’s certainly a risk we take, maybe potentially getting overshadowed,” Martin said. “But it’s the only date that really works for us in terms of the schedule we need to be able to have our state convention in June and be able to do all the other business of the party.”
But Minnesota is no stranger to Super Tuesday. The caucuses in the state have been on Super Tuesday in every cycle since 1996 with just one exception.1 And that has meant being aligned with the likes of California and New York among others in 2000 and those same two heavy hitters and nearly half the states in the country in 2008. On the one hand there is lost in the shuffle, but on the other for small to medium-sized states, is giving voters a choice (or that is often the refrain from date-setting decision-makers).

In the end, Minnesota winds up right where it was in 2016: on Super Tuesday. And while there was no movement of the date, there has been movement with respect to the mode of delegate allocation. The state has been one of several to make the leap from 2016 caucuses to 2020 primary.

2/15/15: Minnesota Parties Jointly Agree on Compliant March 1 Caucuses

2/13/19: #InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Klobuchar, Minnesota and the Primary Calendar

The finalization of the Minnesota presidential primary date is reflected on the FHQ 2020 Presidential Primary Calendar.

Tip of the cap to Mike Taphorn for passing news of the confirmation on to FHQ.

1 In the transition from a window in which the national parties allowed February contests to one after 2008 when only March or later was within the rules, Minnesota in 2012 held February caucuses before Super Tuesday. But those caucuses were non-binding on the Republican side in a competitive contest and on the Democratic side where there was no challenge to President Obama, Minnesota Democrats got a waiver from the DNC to hold February contests but release the results in March.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Is Bernie Sanders a Democrat Under the 2020 Democratic Rules?

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the movements during the day that was...

The answer is yes.

But since Sanders has now thrown his hat in the 2020 Democratic ring, since the rules have changed a bit since 2016, and since this keeps coming up on the areas of social media still relitigating the 2016 Democratic primary (and with greater frequency on Sander 2020, day one), FHQ will weigh in on the matter.

But FHQ will weigh in with the goal of ultimately posing another, perhaps, more important question.

However, before that, let's first lay out what both the 2020 Democratic Delegate Selection Rules (Rule 13.K.1) and the Call for the 2020 Democratic National Convention (Section VI) say about who the party views as an eligible candidate for its nomination.

Both offer discretion to the DNC chair to determine who is a "bona fide Democrat" and an overlapping definition of what that means. Basically, a Democrat in the eyes of the Democratic National Committee is someone "whose record of public service, accomplishment, public writings and/or public statements affirmatively demonstrates that the candidate is faithful to the interests, welfare, and success of the Democratic Party of the United States."

The Call also adds that a candidate must affirm in writing that they are a member of the Democratic Party (something that does not require registration with the party), will accept the party's nomination, and run and serve as a member of the party.

[The candidate affirmation form can be found in Appendix E of the Call.]

All of this is the same basic framework Sanders and the DNC agreed to during the 2016 cycle. But it has now been formally added to the nomination rules of the party. If Sanders qualified in 2016, then he will qualify for 2020.

One member of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee placed some emphasis on the timing of the affirmation; that it is to happen upon the public announcement of candidacy. That is a fair point, but it raises a different question: Have any of the announced candidates followed this newly codified protocol and signed the affirmation form?

The answer is no. Sanders may be under the spotlight, but he is not the only candidate who has to submit the form. And none have done so as of yet because the DNC has yet to distribute the forms to the various announced campaigns. That will happen at a meeting the DNC has set up for next week.

But the initial question should be put to rest. Sanders is a Democrat under the new rules.

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. #StaffPrimary: Sanders adds a campaign manager.

2. #MoneyPrimary: The Vermont senator also had a productive first 24 hours on the fundraising front.

3. #EndorsementPrimary: And although the fundraising was a bigger signal, Sanders was able to point to a handful of meaningful endorsements on day one. Patrick Leahy was among them. The senior Vermont senator brings Sanders Senate endorsement total to one, the same number he had in all of the 2016 cycle. [Note: Sanders already had the support of Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA).] While that continues the trend of primarily home state support for the announced candidates, it is not the show of force a candidate returning for round two might otherwise want in an attempt at unifying the party behind him.

4. Gov. Baker (R-MA) is not yet ready to line up behind Weld 2020.

5. Delaney keeps plugging away in Iowa, opening a field office in Waterloo.

6. Sure, Biden leads in a South Carolina poll (and one in New Hampshire too), but at what point do we stop saying either 1) this is a reflection of name recognition and/or 2) state polls are largely reflecting national polls at this point? Not yet.

Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Senate-Passed Washington Presidential Primary Bill Passes House Committee Stage on Party Line Vote

On a 5-4 party-line vote, the Washington House Committee on State Government and Tribal Affairs passed SB 5273 on February 19.

The bill would move the presidential primary in the Evergreen state from late May to the second Tuesday in March. That provision saw wide support in the brief comments on the bill before the committee rendered its vote. Republicans on the committee balked at the unaffiliated voters votes not counting. While that provision has been advocated for by Secretary of State Kim Wyman (R) and saw similar Republican support in the state Senate during the bill's consideration there, committee testimony on both sides of the capitol has repeatedly warned that implementing such a measure would likely draw the ire of both national parties and force the state parties in Washington to move back toward caucuses in lieu of the primary option.

The bill now moves, unamended from its Senate-passed version, to the floor of the House for consideration.

Washington State Legislation Would Again Try to Move Presidential Primary to March

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- The Difficulties in Harris Locking Down California

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the movements during the days that were...

It is not any secret that the Kamala Harris campaign is making every effort to make the senator's home state of California its strategic centerpiece.

There is no lack of elected Democratic officials in the Golden state, and Harris has rolled out a steady drip, drip, drip of endorsements from statewide office-holders to those in the state legislature. In addition, her campaign is stocked with those seasoned in California politics. And it should be noted that her home state is a known ATM for Democratic presidential nomination fundraising; one where Harris has already shown some promise.

In sum, that is a recipe -- home state with a natural fundraising base and elected officials and campaign staff are eager to get on board -- for an attempt at warding off the competition.

But, of course, that is much easier said than done. While Team Harris is attempting to make California in 2020 to her what Iowa was to Tom Harkin in 1992, that is no small task.


For starters, Harris is not to California now what Harkin was to Iowa in 1992: an experienced legislator. That has its pros and cons in presidential nomination politics to be sure. More importantly, however, California is not Iowa. There are too many delegates there for other campaigns to leave on the table; to cede outright to Harris. That will draw other campaigns in, but to what extent?

From the perspective of Sean Clegg, a strategist with the Harris campaign, the forecast looks something like this:
"We believe the early primary, early voting, and the cost of communicating will make it virtually impossible for all but the top two or three candidates to play in the state in a meaningful way."
There is a finite amount of money floating around out there, and two to three candidates (including Harris) making a legitimate statewide push in California sounds about right. Others may make a play at some specific congressional district delegates in the state, but that is a tougher move that requires the type of targeting, the know-how of which may be concentrated in only a few campaigns (the most resourced).

But that is the way to "beat" Harris in California: a serious challenger or two and a death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy from others. The goal? To minimize any significant delegate advantage the junior California senator takes from the state.

The last two competitive Democratic presidential nomination cycles have seen candidates establish small but durable delegate advantages early on. Obama in 2008 used a caucus strategy along with a post-Super Tuesday winning streak through the remainder of February to develop a lead in the delegate count that he never relinquished. Similarly, Clinton's strength among African American voters in the 2016 SEC primary states laid the groundwork for a delegate lead that never really contracted between her and Sanders.

If one is in the Harris campaign, then, California is absolutely part of a path of least resistance to a similar delegate advantage (assuming there are also victories -- actual or relative to expectations -- in the early states). But that sort of 80-100 delegate advantage in California alone is unlikely. In the past, it has required the winning candidate to approach or exceed 60 percent of the vote statewide in a contest with a significantly winnowed field. Now, strange things -- atypical to past nomination cycles -- may occur with a less winnowed field and a 15 percent threshold stretched across the allocation of statewide and congressional district delegates.

However, even if the opposition to Harris is able to minimize the delegates she gains from the Golden state any advantage may play into a larger delegate acquisition elsewhere on Super Tuesday. And if other candidates are drawn to spend money to close the gap with Harris in California, then those are resources not being spent elsewhere. It is that zero-sum game that provides Harris with a structural, calendar-based advantage at this point.

But it is an advantage that probably cannot hold up or be fully realized without some success first in February. And that success is built during the invisible primary.

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. Announcements: Sanders is in, skipping the exploratory phase counter to previous reporting. Weld is exploring on the Republican side. Tammy Baldwin is not running. Merkley signals that perhaps he is inching away from a White House bid.

2. #MoneyPrimary: Sanders has also joined the group of candidates who, after launch, have quickly taken in donations from all 50 states. Bullock's PAC has done some limited spending in the early states. Brown becomes the latest Democrat to shun corporate PAC money. One outside group is working to insure that a black candidate is on the Democratic ticket.

3. #StaffPrimary: Klobuchar adds staff in Iowa. And she is not the only one with a budding team in the Hawkeye state. Iowa is not the only early state where there is a battle for staff. South Carolina is witnessing its own race for campaign talent. Campaigns are looking beyond the first states too. Bringing on staff in California is a signal of the intricacies the Golden state adds to the early half of the 2020 calendar.

4. #EndorsementPrimary: Harris continues to notch notable California endorsements, adding the support of Gov. Newsom, Rep. Lee and activist, Delores Huerta. Delaney continues a small scale build up by adding more county chair endorsements in Iowa. And the chase is on for the endorsements of the newest members of Congress; the newest superdelegates.

5. Travelogue: Candidates spent quite a bit of time in Iowa and New Hampshire over the long the Presidents Day weekend. Among the candidates who have not been to either of the first two states yet, Bennet will make his maiden trip this week to Iowa.  Jim Clyburn's daughter has become a go-to shepherd for candidates trekking to South Carolina.

Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Rumblings from Vermont of a Renewed Push to Challenge the New Hampshire Presidential Primary

John DiStaso has the latest from New Hampshire on whispers of a primary challenge from neighboring Vermont:
In Vermont, meanwhile, there has been discussion about resurrecting a bill to move the Green Mountain State’s presidential primary to the same day as the New Hampshire primary. But no bill has been introduced, according to the Vermont Secretary of State’s office. 
State Sen. Anthony Pollina, a Democrat, introduced such a bill in 2015, but it went nowhere in the Vermont Legislature. 
In an interview Wednesday, Pollina said he has heard “snippets of conversations that maybe we should look at it again.” But he said it’s unlikely that he will introduce a new version. 
“It got such a negative reaction here last time,” Pollina said. “I think, frankly, it would be a great idea. And our citizens agree, but not a lot of policy-makers agree.
Vermont did, in fact, have bills introduced in both the state House and Senate in 2015 that would have required the Vermont secretary of state to set the date of the Green Mountain state presidential primary for the same date of the New Hampshire primary. But importantly, that decision would be intended to be made after New Hampshire settled on a date. No, neither bill went anywhere in 2015, nor did a resolution calling on the Vermont secretary of state's office to study the possibility of such a move to align primaries with New Hampshire.

There may be whispers of a renewed push to make such a change in Vermont for 2020, but it also looks as if the legislature remains opposed to the idea.

The Vermont presidential primary is currently scheduled for Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Amendment to Arkansas Bill Eyes March for Presidential Primary Move

New Hampshire can rest easy again.

Yes, the Iowa Democrats released their draft delegate selection plan this week, and the new process was seemingly distinct enough to avoid any future "similar contest" designation from Secretary of State Gardner. But the Granite state also lost a potential threat in Arkansas this past week as well.

Legislation introduced last week in the Natural state would have scheduled the Arkansas primary for the second Tuesday in February, the date tentatively reserved by the national parties for the New Hampshire primary. No, the threat was not much of a threat to the first-in-the-nation status New Hampshire has enjoyed. Secretary Gardner, after all, could easily move the primary in the Granite state to an earlier date in response. But with an amendment to that Arkansas legislation (SB 276), both New Hampshire's status and tentative position on the calendar are in the clear. And Arkansas would, if the amended bill passes and is signed into law, avoid any national party penalties as well.

The amendment shifts the proposed preferential primary date -- the initial round in Arkansas -- to the first Tuesday in March with the general primary -- the runoff round for other offices -- following four weeks later. This reverses the sequence that has been established in Arkansas law for years; that the runoff is set first and the initial round is set some set number of weeks before that general primary. It is a counterintuitive set up, but one that is more natural under the proposed amendment.

Although the bill was twice on the agenda of the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee in the Arkansas state Senate for an initial hearing this past week, it was bumped down the list both times. Part of that was to allow for the amendment to be added before the bill was heard. Now amended, the new version is now on the committee agenda for the coming week.

The question then becomes whether Arkansas will join other states on Super Tuesday.

2/6/19: Out of Arkansas, An Apparent Challenge to the New Hampshire Primary

2/11/19: Arkansas Lawmaker Signals a Scaling Back of Presidential Primary Legislation

3/1/19: New March Presidential Primary Bill Flies Through Arkansas Senate Committee

3/9/19: Arkansas Senate Makes Quick Work of March Presidential Primary Bill

3/13/19: Arkansas House Committee Advances March Presidential Primary Bill

3/19/19: On to the Governor: Super Tuesday Bill Passes Arkansas House

3/25/19: Arkansas Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- The DNC Debate Qualification Rules Are In

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the movements during the day that was...

The Democratic National Committee on Thursday filled in the remaining details about its upcoming initial round of presidential primary debates. Thus far, the party had announced the scheduling of the debates for the rest of 2019 and into 2020, but had remained largely mum on how candidates could qualify for entry other than to generally say entry would happen through polling and "grassroots fundraising".

That changed with today's announcement from the party.

For the most part, the DNC followed its rubric from 2016 with respect to the polling metric. Candidates can still qualify for a spot in the debate by registering at least one percent in at least three polls of which the party approves.

But in another innovation for the 2020 cycle, the DNC also added another marker candidates can hit to gain entry to the first debate(s). Modeled after the federal matching funds system in some ways, the DNC will also allow candidates who demonstrate a fundraising base of 65,000 donors spread across at least 20 states (with a minimum of 200 donors per state) into the debates as well.

That is a new spin on the matching funds system. The focus there has always been on the amount of money raised; at least $100,000 or $5000 in each of at least 20 states. But for debates entry, the metric is slightly different. The DNC is requiring some demonstration of grassroots support via fundraising, and is thus more focused on the breadth of the network of donors rather than the depth of that fundraising (the warchest accrued).

Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, for example, have all touted the fact that they raised money from all 50 states in the immediate wake of their announcements. Each is also above one percent in most polls that have been conducted to this point in the race. And that does raise a question  about where the bar is set for debates entry and whether there might be too many candidates to qualify.

The DNC answered that too.

Neither of the two randomly drawn debate fields for the first and second debate rounds in June and July will have any more than ten candidates on the stage at once. And if too many candidates qualify, the party will accept candidates who have met both qualification standards and use polling to differentiate further if necessary.

Left unanswered by the DNC is whether the qualifications standards will increase after July. The threshold announced will only apply to the first debates. But will the bar be raised when debates resume in September and incrementally go up thereafter? The debates will likely see the 20 slots filled in June and may serve at least some winnowing role as 2019 progresses. But if the threshold to qualify for debates progresses as well, then that winnowing role may be enhanced.

On DNC Debate Requirements and Candidate Strategy

What Will a "Grassroots Fundraising" Threshold for Entry to Democratic Primary Debates Look Like?

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. Warren names a campaign manager. #StaffPrimary

2. Bill Weld is going to have something to announce at Politics and Eggs.

3. Although many have been sitting on the sidelines as the race comes a bit more into focus, big Democratic donors have been hearing from Biden. #MoneyPrimary

4. Swalwell appears to finally be on the verge of jumping in.

5. Gillibrand has made some hires, including someone recently on Sherrod Brown's reelection campaign in 2018. #StaffPrimary

6. Martha Coakley is raising money for Harris. As signals go, this is a former Massachusetts attorney general helping someone other than the Massachusetts senator in the race. #MoneyPrimary #EndorsementPrimary?

7. Klobuchar had some success raking in some money after her snowy announcement. The Minnesota senator raised $1 million in the two days after and with all 50 states represented. #MoneyPrimary

Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

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Small Signal Points Toward an Earlier 2020 New York Presidential Primary

At least one local Democratic elections commissioner is forecasting a February or March presidential primary in the Empire state in 2020. Steuben county commissioner, Kelly Penziul (D) filled in some of the (mostly to be determined) details:
The exception to the single annual primary election date in the state will be for the presidential primaries every four years. The month and date of next year’s presidential primaries are still to be determined, Penziul said. New York’s 2016 presidential primaries were held in April, but the contests are likely to be moved up in 2020.

“That would be like February or March of next year,” Penziul forecast. “We don’t know that date for sure. We might know more by the end of the year.”
Technically, New York has a spring primary to which the presidential primary is tethered scheduled for the first Tuesday in February. But the protocol in the state over the last two cycles (2012 and 2016) has been to decide on a date in the late spring or early summer in the year prior to the presidential election. A presidential primaries date is settled on then, but has also only been determined for the upcoming cycle. A sunset provision has been included in both the 2011 and 2015 laws that set April dates.

That means that the New York presidential primary has snapped back to February for the 2016 and 2020 cycles. And this is the first indication that the state may shift back in the calendar a little less than it has in the recent past. A February date would not be compliant with national party rules, so New York is likely to join the logjam that has already formed in March 2020. But whether that means joining, say, California and Texas on Super Tuesday or carving another spot later in March remains to be seen.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Klobuchar, Minnesota and the Primary Calendar

Thoughts on some aspect of the invisible primary and links to the movements during the days that recently were...

Over the weekend, Amy Klobuchar announced her intentions to make a run at the White House. Some of the reaction has focused on a campaign in its infancy and its early focus on midwestern states. That is a reasonable general election strategy in light of Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin flipping to the red column and the loss of ground the party incurred in Minnesota (while still holding on there at the presidential level).

But as FHQ pointed out, this is not exactly a sound strategy in the presidential nomination process. While Iowa certainly kicks the process off, the midwest is underrepresented early in the 2020 presidential primary calendar. In some ways, this raises the stakes for Klobuchar in Iowa, but that is not anything that is unique to her. Many candidates will run Iowa-or-bust campaigns. But not all candidates will attempt to make a win in Iowa, whether outright or relative to expectations, about their strength in the midwest. Indeed, given the calendar, some candidates may point toward their performance in the Hawkeye state as appealing to a particular constituency within the broader party network that better aligns with the next contest or round of contests.

Yes, FHQ is oversimplifying things here, but with a purpose in mind.

Here is the thing: Klobuchar may get some helpful calendar clarity within a few weeks. Although the next midwest contests after Iowa are technically Michigan and Ohio on March 10, Minnesota may join Super Tuesday on March 1 of this year. Yes, the Land of 10,000 Lakes has made the transition from caucus to primary for the 2020 cycle, but part of that former caucus law carried over one important aspect of the caucus process: the scheduling portion. As under the old caucus system, the parties have the option of selecting and agreeing on an alternative date for the primary. If the two major parties either cannot settle on an alternative or refuse to select an alternative, then the date of the new presidential primary is set for the first Tuesday in March.

That would add Minnesota into the mix on Super Tuesday alongside California, Texas, North Carolina and others, and perhaps provide a midwestern -- and home turf -- contest for Klobuchar (or others) if they are able to survive the first month of contests.

As of now, there is no reporting out of Minnesota about any alternatives being considered, so March 3 is the odds on favorite for a landing spot for the new primary. One way or another, that will get locked in by March 1, 2019

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. In candidacy announcement news, both Warren and Klobuchar have officially thrown their hats in the 2020 ring. Bloomberg follows O'Rourke in setting the end of February as the deadline for a 2020 decision. Sanders, on the other hand, is likely to go the exploratory committee route in February before later launching a full-fledged campaign.

2. Several others are making moves on the periphery of the invisible primary. Moulton is mulling, De Blasio is going to take a trip up north to the Granite state (or not), Holder is set to give a speech in Iowa (and announce by the end of the month), Bennet is running early sate digital ads, Abrams is casting a wide net following her State of the Union response, and Swalwell continues to say a decision on his 2020 plans is close.

3. And then there are folks like Mitch Landrieu who are seemingly passing on a 2020 bid. Joe Kennedy fits that category as well. And both were really only mentioned as possibilities without doing many of the things associated with folks who run or consider running.

4. On the travel front, Klobuchar (see above) is seemingly making the midwest a focus with treks to Iowa and Wisconsin planned on the heels of her announcement. Gillibrand made her maiden voyage as a candidate to the Palmetto state, and Hickenlooper stopped in there as well. Buttigieg and Gabbard have hit Iowa following their announcements and Bullock is heading back that way for the first time since last August.

5. In the #MoneyPrimary, Klobuchar has joined the group of candidates swearing off corporate PAC money for the 2020 cycle. California remains a presidential nomination ATM, and that includes Hollywood. Booker has a super PAC aligned with his run, but does not want it. [The New Jersey senator also has a trip planned to fundraise in the Golden state.] And there is another story about Democratic donors playing the waiting game.

6. Harris continues to make moves in the #StaffPrimary. This time adding two more to her Iowa staff and both have experience with either Clinton's or Obama's past campaigns. The California senator has also hired someone with some fundraising chops, tacked on another veteran hand in New Hampshire, and added to her South Carolina operation. Harris is not alone. Warren, too, is assembling a team in the Hawkeye state. Even Hickenlooper has gotten in on the action in Iowa.

7. There still do not appear to be many breaks in the early #EndorsementPrimary trend. Announced candidates so far are getting support from home state elected officials. Klobuchar had a big showing of elected official support at her snowy rollout. Warren picked up the support of Joe Kennedy. Harris continues to rollout home state endorsements. Even Brown, through the Draft Sherrod movement, seemingly has some Ohio-based support. Gillibrand has thus far had no such luck. Not only is Governor Cuomo more focused on Biden's potential candidacy, but Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) appears to be following suit.

8. Meanwhile, the early states have not really heard much from Biden, but folks on Capitol Hill have. Strategists, however, have their doubts about a Biden run.

9. Money is not the only thing the candidates are after from California. Their campaigns are trying to figure how the Golden state fits into their 2020 strategies. That is an important story, but there is much to the consideration about how to tackle California.

10. Yes, the idea has been floated, but according to the South Carolina Republican Party, nothing has been settled with respect to canceling the presidential primary there in 2020. That decision will come later this year at the state convention.

11. Dave Hopkins nudges back on lanes and other schema for assessing the progress of the presidential nomination process.

12. Finally, Iowa Democrats have a draft delegate selection plan, and it looks like New Hampshire is satisfied that virtual caucuses do not equate to a "similar contest". Dave Redlawsk provides a synopsis of the changes and Jonathan Bernstein gives a big picture reaction as well.

Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Iowa Democrats Release Draft Delegate Selection Plan for 2020

A few weeks ago FHQ mentioned in response to some early chatter about how Iowa Democrats may react to some of the changes to the 2020 DNC delegate selection rules that the devil would be in the details.

Well, the Iowa Democratic Party provided those details today when the party released its draft delegate selection plan for the 2020 cycle.

The process
Before digging in, let's go over some basics. First of all, the is a draft. All Democratic state parties are tasked with devising a draft delegate selection plan that it then releases publicly and opens to public comment for at least 30 days. On or before May 3, those state parties then submit both the draft plan and any comments collected from the public to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) for review. The RBC then approves the plan or more often requests some changes that state parties typically work on over the summer.

What Iowa Democrats released today, then, is not a finished product. It may or may not pass muster with the RBC.

The delegate toplines
The draft plan confirms that Iowa Democrats will have a total of 49 delegates apportioned to the state for 2020. That is three delegates fewer than the 52 total delegates the party had in 2016. As in 2016, there will be eight superdelegates in 2020 in the Iowa delegation, leaving 41 delegates at stake on caucus night next year. Of those 41 pledged delegates, there will be nine at-large delegates, 27 congressional district delegates and five party leader and elected official (PLEO) delegates. Compared to 2016, the reduction in total delegates came from the congressional district subset (two fewer delegates) and the PLEO group (one less delegate).

Whereas there was only one congressional district with an odd number of delegates in 2016, three of the four Iowa congressional district will have an odd number this time around. This is a marginal consideration, especially in a winnowing contest (as opposed to those later contests where the game changes to counting delegates), but it can present an opportunity to the district winners in the rounding to determine the allocation of whole, rather than fractional, delegates. [There is some additional insight on this here in the table footnotes.]

The changes that will grab attention

...and affect strategy
Much of what led to the earlier post on the details of the discussions Iowa Democrats were having with respect to their draft delegate selection plan concerned how the party would manage to adapt to the DNC's new rules encouraging broader participation. Again, caucus state parties have to make a case to the RBC for how the caucus process is more open to participation in 2020.

The early signal is that Iowa Democrats are going to scale up the tele-caucusing and satellite caucuses the party conducted for the 2016 cycle. They have proposed doing that through a series of six virtual caucuses; one each day between January 29 and February 3 (the planned date of the caucuses). More importantly as part of the scaling up, the virtual caucuses will account for an additional ten percent to each congressional district's total apportioned delegates. In other words, if any given congressional district convention has 300 delegates, for example, then 30 additional delegates would be added to the district convention delegation. That would have meant an additional 140 district delegates or so in 2016.

This is not insubstantial. And it is certainly not insubstantial when compared to five total delegates that went to the state convention based on the tele-caucuses and satellite caucuses in 2016.

But there is catch to all of this. Positive step though this may be toward the goals laid out in the 2020 DNC delegate selection rules changes, it is a completely ungrounded number. And in fairness, Iowa Democratic Party chair, Troy Price intimated as much in his comments upon the public introduction of the draft plan.

On the one hand, the ten percent addition for the six virtual caucuses may be an expectation. The Iowa Democratic Party expects around ten percent or so of the total caucus-goers to participate via these new channels. But that may or may not be right.

So, on the other hand, this 10 percent may be a value judgment from the party. The door is open to increased participation, but that increase in preferences in virtual caucuses does not translate equally to delegates in the process relative to the preferences to delegates ratio in the regular caucuses.

Assume that in 2020 an equivalent 171,000 people caucus in the usual way just as they did in 2016. But now let's say that an additional 34,000 people opt to participate in the 2020 virtual caucuses. That is an additional 20 percent participating but affecting only that blanket 10 percent piece of the pie.

More ominously, perhaps, consider the same 171,000 turnout to participate in the whole 2020 caucus process -- regular and virtual -- in Iowa, but the virtual process peels off, say, 71,000 people who just do not want to deal with the hassle/like the convenience of the new outlet. Well, that 71,000 will determine the 10 percent of virtual delegates while the 100,000 determines all the rest.

The preference to delegate ratio is imbalanced in both scenarios.

And that may be a problem for the party when it takes this draft plan before the RBC. And FHQ says that because in many ways, this plan looks -- especially if one assumes some imbalance -- like the old Texas two-step. Under that system in the Lone Star state, roughly two-thirds of the pledged delegates were allocated based on the votes in a presidential primary while the remaining third were allocated in a caucus/convention system. Although more people voted in the primary and had an impact on the larger share of delegates, the smaller number of caucus-goers had a larger vote to delegate ratio.

While the Texas process was grandfathered into and preserved by the RBC for years, the practice was halted during the 2016 cycle. One has to wonder whether the RBC will look on this proposal from Iowa Democrats in a similar light.

However, in fairness to the Iowa Democratic Party, they honestly do not know what to expect out of this, and they certainly have at least some desire to keep people caucusing in the customary way while at the same time offering those who need accommodations an avenue to participate more easily.  This proposed system comes close to achieving that balance. "Take advantage of the virtual caucuses, Iowans, but not too much. It might affect how your participation filters into support for the candidates," is basically what the party is saying.

And because of that impact -- the effect on the candidates' fortunes -- the campaigns are going to have to be careful in promoting the virtual caucuses. Push too many in that direction rather than typical caucus participation, then your support may not efficiently translate into delegates to the next stage of the process. The ten percent addition will temper campaign activity on that front. In other words, campaigns still have every incentive to do much of what they have always done in Iowa.

The dial is still turned to the regular caucuses in this proposal.

The unheralded changes (a lightning round)
Another new addition to the 2016 proposal as opposed to the 2016 system is that 2020 will lock allocation based on final preferences during the precinct caucus stage. This is a change borrows language directly from the Unity Reform Commission report. That means that once the precinct round is complete, the delegate allocation is complete. No more can there be changes on the margins as realignment based on viability occurs at the county, district and state conventions. The selection of actual people to fill those delegate slots may be affected but the candidate to who delegates are pledged will not.

Ranked choice voting will also be a component of the virtual caucuses. Virtual caucus-goers will submit their ranked preferences and the realignment process will commence and continue until preferences are sorted to candidates above the 15 percent viability threshold.

Finally, there will also be a paper trail added. Not only will caucus-goers walk the room as they have traditionally done, but they will additionally express their preference on paper as well to aid in any recounts that may become necessary.

1/22/19: #InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- The Devil's in the Details of Any Iowa Caucus Rules Changes

Arkansas Lawmaker Signals a Scaling Back of Presidential Primary Legislation

Last week legislation was filed in Arkansas to move the presidential primary in the Natural state from May into February on the date tentatively set aside for the New Hampshire primary.

Regardless of the pedestrian challenge to the position of the always nimble presidential primary in the Granite state, Arkansas breaching February in 2020 would carry with it certain penalties from the national parties. And losing half of the Democratic delegation and around two-thirds of the Republican delegation to the national conventions looks to be enough to deter any further push to maximize the position of the Arkansas primary in 2020.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Garner is already reconsidering the date of the primary:
In its current form, Senate Bill 276, sponsored by state Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, would set the primary election in February 2020. But Garner said Thursday that he aims to move the primary election to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March, which would be March 3, 2020. Garner said he plans to fix the bill with an amendment today. 
The 2016 primary election "had a lot of energy and candidates coming here, and I think it worked out well for everybody involved," he said. Trump was among those coming to the state. 
"Let's have that same success," Garner said. 
"We are determining through the committee process whether to make [the March primary] permanent or not," Garner said. SB276 is in the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. 
"My thought process is we should [make it permanently held in March] because it was so successful. But that will be determined by the committee," Garner said. "I am very open to listening to the will of the body and the committee to determine if that's what we need to do to move forward." 
State Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb said the party supports Garner's legislation. 
"The change allows us to comply with party rules in the selection of delegates to the [Republican National Convention]," Webb said in a text message to this newspaper.
[NOTE: Webb is not only the Arkansas Republican Party chairman but the general counsel to the Republican National Committee as well. In other words, a rebuke of the February primary option was inevitable from the chief interpreter of the RNC rules.]

As FHQ pointed out last week, these moves have never come easily in Arkansas because they have typically meant moving the whole consolidated primary up with the presidential primary. That appears to be problematic for at least one subset of officeholders (or prospective officeholders). Arkansas judges will also be on the ballot on the date of the presidential primary, but the runoff for those elections would not be until the November election. Adding nearly three months would greatly increase the general election campaign for judicial candidates.

2/6/19: Out of Arkansas, An Apparent Challenge to the New Hampshire Primary

2/16/19: Amendment to Arkansas Bill Eyes March for Presidential Primary Move

3/1/19: New March Presidential Primary Bill Flies Through Arkansas Senate Committee

3/9/19: Arkansas Senate Makes Quick Work of March Presidential Primary Bill

3/13/19: Arkansas House Committee Advances March Presidential Primary Bill

3/19/19: On to the Governor: Super Tuesday Bill Passes Arkansas House

3/25/19: Arkansas Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday

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Saturday, February 9, 2019

Maine Committee Hearing Highlights Familiar Divisions in Caucus to Primary Shifts

Earlier this week the Maine legislative Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs heard testimony in response to the proposal to reestablish a presidential primary in the Pine Tree state. Heading into the hearing, the reporting indicated that costs would be the primary concern. Indeed, shifting from a caucus/convention system to a primary would mean the financial burden for funding a delegate selection event/presidential preference vote would switch from the state parties to the state and municipal governments.

And while the costs of any switch to a presidential primary were raised in the hearing, it was only part of a broader note of caution from some of those who testified. However, the overwhelming majority of those who weighed in supported the change, offering the benefits of increased participation as the chief reason for the state moving toward a primary election. Eleven of the 14 who offered testimony unconditionally favored the switch.

The resistance mainly came from Maine town clerks and registrars, those charged with actually administering elections in the state. One clerk, Christine Keller of Fairfield, argued that the proposed March presidential primary would add a high-profile election to an already busy time of the year for clerks whose duties extend beyond elections. Keller, though, was speaking on her behalf, not for all clerks in the state.

The Maine Town and City Clerks' Association provided a more measured and neutral official position, neither for nor against the reestablishment of a presidential primary. Yet, the group did share that over half its membership was against the move while only a bit more than a quarter of clerks in the state were expressly for switching to a presidential primary.

Those clerks for the shift echoed the sentiments of others in support: a primary would increase participation and help to ameliorate some of the logistical issues -- handicap accommodations, parking issues and long lines -- that drove discontent among caucusgoers in 2016.

However, that was contrasted with a list of potential problems the primary may create for clerks:
  1. the bad timing Keller noted during the height of activity for clerks
  2. the timing conflict with winter weather and any attendant logistical issues
  3. costs (and a suggestion to couple the presidential primary with the primaries for other offices in June)
  4. was 2016 a one-off event that voters may learn from for 2020 (and not wait to register on site)?
  5. previous low turnout presidential primaries when Maine had one.
  6. leaving the date of the primary up in the air as called for in LD 245 until late in the year prior to the presidential election
The costs remain the biggest hurdle to Maine having a presidential primary in 2020. Will the state provide money to municipalities from the general fund or will those municipalities be left holding the bill?

It does seem as if the clerks may get an alternative to the current legislation that will address if nothing else the uncertainty of the proposed primary date. Representatives from the office of the secretary of state noted in testimony to the committee that a bill was in the works that would definitively set the date for the second Tuesday in March (as it had been when Maine had a primary before).

In the meantime, LD 245 remains in the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs pending a future work session to potentially mark up and amend the bill.

1/18/19: Maine Lost its Presidential Primary

2/1/19: Maine Decision to Re-Establish a Presidential Primary Option for 2020 Hinges on Money

3/16/19: Alternative Bill Would Reestablish a Presidential Primary in Maine but with Ranked Choice Voting

3/22/19: Maine Committee Hearing Finds Support for and Roadblocks to a Ranked Choice Presidential Primary

3/30/19: Maine Democrats Signal Caucuses in Draft Delegate Selection Plan, but...

4/23/19: New Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Maine

5/10/19: Maine Committee Working Session Offers Little Clarity on 2020 Presidential Primary

6/3/19: Maine Senate Advances Super Tuesday Primary Bill

6/4/19: On to the Governor: Maine House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

6/19/19: Fate of a Reestablished Presidential Primary in Maine Not Clear Entering Final Legislative Day

6/20/19: Governor Mills' Signature Sets Maine Presidential Primary for Super Tuesday

Thursday, February 7, 2019

DC Presidential Primary on the Move Again?

To say that primary scheduling in Washington, DC has been chaotic in the 21st century is perhaps an understatement.

It is an understatement because the District has not had a primary date carry over from one cycle to the next since it used the first Tuesday in May position in both 1996 and 2000. That's right. In every year since the year 2000, the District of Columbia has had a different primary date than the previous cycle each time.
2000: first Tuesday in May
2004: second Tuesday in January (non-compliant with national party rules)
2008: second Tuesday in February
2012: first Tuesday in April
2016: second Tuesday in June
2020 (tentative pending any future changes): third Tuesday in June
That is a lot of movement. And add to that the fact that in 2012 the council in DC passed legislation that ultimately became law to consolidate the primary election for other offices in the district with the presidential primary. If there was a regular rhythm to the nomination processes in the capital before the turn of the century, it was a steady May date for the presidential primary and a September date for all other offices.

What is the regular rhythm of the 21st century?

Either there is no rhythm, or it is that the dates change every cycle.

And now officials in Washington are again considering a change to move the primary from June to April where it may once again coincide with contests in the mid-Atlantic/northeast. Those concurrent regional primaries involving DC happened with the Potomac Primary in 2008, alongside Maryland and Virginia, and with Delaware and Maryland in 2012.

And the arguments for are the same as is typical in other states:
At a meeting Thursday, the D.C. Democratic State Committee will consider whether to recommend moving up the District’s primary from June 16 to April 28, or some other early spring date. 
“If you want to be competitive in the democratic process, you need to be early up,” said D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who represents the District on the Democratic National Committee.
Earlier is better. 

Of course in the case of the Washington, DC primary, earlier is compliant. After moving the primary back a week to the third Tuesday in June during its 2017 session to accommodate school schedules in the district, the primary fell out of compliance with both parties 2020 rules. The primary is too late and would potential open the parties in the District to penalties from the national parties. A move, then, would be necessary unless petitioning for a waiver was successful.

But first the council in DC will likely take up legislation to move the primary. Democrats in the District took up the idea at their state committee meeting, but tabled it until March. A recommendation from DC Democrats will likely prompt some action on the council.

7/19/19: Earlier June Presidential Primary Move Inches Forward in DC

5/6/19: Committee Hearing Finds Both DC Parties in Favor of a Presidential Primary Move

4/5/19: DC Council Eyes Earlier Primary with New Bill

5/15/18:  Washington, DC Eases Back a Week on the Calendar

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