Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Northern Mariana Island Democrats Will Caucus on March 14

While it has seemingly had no public comment period online -- at least one that FHQ has been able to track down -- the delegate selection plan for the Democratic Party in the Northern Mariana Islands has made its way to the Democratic National Committee. This is something that has changed in the last two weeks because when FHQ spoke with folks  on staff with the Rules and Bylaws Committee then, the national party had yet to receive a submission.

In any event, the plan is in, was reviewed and approved by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee on July 30, and calls for a March 14 caucus. That will be the Saturday following contests in Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington. That second Saturday in March date was the same one the territorial party used in 2016. Although the news of the caucus is new, the date is not. This is only confirmation of that maintenance of the status quo on the calendar.

This leaves only Guam as the remaining Democratic contest with no confirmed date for the 2020 cycle. New York, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC all are in the midst of potential date changes but have preexisting times for their primaries on the books.

The Northern Mariana Island Democratic Party caucuses have been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Clock is Ticking on Contested Convention Chatter

The 2020 Democratic presidential nomination process is far enough into the invisible primary now that contested convention stories are popping up at a pretty brisk pace. FHQ is not quite to the point of saying another day, another contested convention story, but we may not be that far off either.

But rather than take the latest one from Cameron Joseph over at Vice News and poke holes in it, I will take a different approach and ask a different question: How much longer should we the politically attentive public expect to deal with the quadrennial rite of contested convention speculation?

There are a variety of ways to look at this, but FHQ will take something of an indirect approach. Both events in primary season and media reactions to those events help to drive attention toward the possibility of a contested convention. So let's turn to the Google Trends data from the last three presidential election cycles, the three for which full data is available.1 Rather than squeeze the full time series into one figure FHQ will break it into cycles, covering the trendlines for "contested convention," "brokered convention," and "open convention" from January 1 in the year prior to the presidential election year to January 1 of the year after the presidential election has occurred.

One thing is obvious from the figures below right off the bat: The term brokered convention remains the most used term for an unresolved nomination race at the convention stage.

During the 2016 cycle, brokered conventions reached its search height during the first week in March, the week on which Super Tuesday fell during that cycle, and then trailed off thereafter. There was a surge in contested convention searches two weeks later during the mini-Super Tuesday that formed right as the proportionality window in the Republican nomination process closed, allowing state parties to allocate their delegates in a winner-take-all manner if they so chose. But again, that was the peak and it dropped off after that point. Certainly questions lingered as to whether either party's nomination race would remain unresolved for a prolonged period after Super Tuesday, but the searches petered out for the most part.

There is a fairly similar pattern that developed during 2012 as well. The primary calendar was a bit more elongated in 2012 relative to 2016. Florida again jumped into January and forced three-quarters of the carve-out states to follow suit. But that left a significant lull in activity through the bulk of February. But the peak in brokered convention searches falls in a window that includes Super Tuesday (the first Tuesday in March) and extends to and through the following week. That second Tuesday in March featured a couple of competitive southern contests in Alabama and Mississippi that seemed like openings for Santorum and/or Gingrich to challenge Romney, but those opportunities were largely missed (in the delegate count).

Finally, in 2008 a familiar pattern is again observed. Sure, Super Tuesday was a month earlier during that cycle compared to either 2012 or 2016, but it still represented the point of peak brokered convention searches.

That repeated pattern -- a Super Tuesday peak -- suggests a few things. First, this seems to have more to do with the calendar -- the collection of contests on Super Tuesday -- than say the number of delegates allocated by a certain point on the calendar. I say that because there was wide variation in the number of delegates allocated on or before Super Tuesday. It ranged from a high of 83 percent of the delegates allocated by the time Super Tuesday was over in 2008 in the Democratic process to a low of a little more than 25 percent once Super Tuesday was completed in the Democratic process of 2016.

Second, just because searches for brokered or contested or open conventions drop off after Super Tuesday, does not mean they (nor the stories and/or events that drive them) cease altogether. But the bulk of this is yet to come for 2020. The occasional contested convention story may come up as the Vice News story did yesterday, but they largely fall on deaf ears. Most just are not paying attention yet. There may be a mini surge of searches during particular junctures in the invisible primary, but those tend to pale in comparison to the peak of searches that seemingly tend to fall at or around Super Tuesday each cycle.

That finally appears to suggest that if 2020 follows the same pattern, the Democratic nominee may not yet be known, but that the process will be on the way to an answer by around Super Tuesday. And if a multi-way race persists to and through that point on the calendar, then we may not reach the height of 2020 brokered convention searches until later in the calendar.

But FHQ is not willing to make that bet just yet.

1 Google Trends stretches back into 2004, but not far enough to encompass the Democratic presidential primaries.

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Monday, July 22, 2019

Sequence Matters to Delegate Allocation and Winnowing

Another month has brought an updated glimpse of the state of play in the early states on the 2020 presidential primary calendar from CBSNews/YouGov Battleground Tracker. These monthly updates are like catnip to FHQ. They are fun and, broken down on the state level, give a bit of insight into how the delegate allocation rules in the Democratic Party presidential nomination process might work. It is instructive to scroll down to the New Hampshire results, for example, and see that Biden gets 27 percent support in the poll and that translates to three of the eight statewide (at-large and PLEO delegates) in the Granite state.

And while that aspect of the exercise is on some level helpful, the overall delegate allocation aggregation is less so. And look folks, those behind these monthly updates are up front about this being a snapshot. It is and that is just like the polling on which the delegate projections are based.

But in reality, the nomination process itself is not a snapshot. Invisible primary activity affects Iowa which affects New Hampshire which affects Nevada which affects South Carolina which affects Super Tuesday and so on. The process, then, is not a singular snapshot but a series of them interconnected with each other. By lumping the Super Tuesday and earlier states together like this and producing a hypothetical picture of the delegate allocation, the winnowing process gets smoothed over to a degree that does not match how the allocation and winnowing processes have tended to work during the post-reform era. And the sequence of the process is entirely lost.

And "winnowing process" is a loaded term. In real time -- in the context of primary and caucus voting -- those winnowing pressures manifest themselves in terms of money continuing to come in, prevailing media narratives developing, and on top of both of those, the changing perspectives of prospective primary and caucus voters.

One way to think about this is by looking at the poll results in the earliest three states (Nevada is excluded), but treating them as in a sequence. By doing that the possibility of quick February winnowing appears more likely. In fact, by coincidence, it looks natural.
Candidates with 1 percent or greater shown
Candidates qualifying for statewide delegates shown in the blue box
Coming out of Iowa, the talk would be about the four candidate race at the top, putting pressure on the other candidates to wrap it up. Whether those candidates do or do not drop out or the incentives for them to stay in are greater than in the past is easier said during the invisible primary than done when votes come in and the prospects for future votes exponentially decline. For candidates for whom it was Iowa or bust, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify staying in. If one was, say, Amy Klobuchar, then one could make the case for holding on until one's home state votes on Super Tuesday. But a finish like this would make the prospect of losing at home more likely and even less palatable.

In any event, candidates outside of the top four finishers in this hypothetical sequence after the caucuses would find it even more difficult to grab attention in the eight days between Iowa and New Hampshire. In other words, candidates may move on unwinnowed to New Hampshire, but at that point are merely zombie candidates unlikely to clear any delegate-qualifying threshold.

Candidates with 1 percent or greater shown
Candidates qualifying for statewide delegates shown in the blue box
As the sequence progresses to New Hampshire, it is worth noting that the rank ordering of the top candidates does not change. Yes, that has much to do with simultaneity of the polling, but also the influence of the national level surveys at this particular point in the 2020 invisible primary.

But also note that the number of candidates qualifying for delegates (at least statewide) has decreased. Harris might peel off a delegate or so in the district count, but those are not the sort of small victories on which presidential nomination survival is typically built. In the scenario where Harris has placed fourth in the first two contests and likely missed out on delegates in New Hampshire, South Carolina (or perhaps Nevada in reality) approaches must win territory for Harris.

Additionally, Biden winning the first two contests with Sanders and Warren respectively placing and showing in both cases with more combined support for Biden would be likely to trigger at least some "one should drop out and endorse the other" chatter ahead of the contests in Nevada and South Carolina. Again that winnowing pressure manifests itself in myriad ways.

Candidates with 1 percent or greater shown
Candidates qualifying for statewide delegates shown in the blue box
But if the results in the first two contests lead to results like those immediately above in South Carolina, then Harris would have lost her must-win contest, Warren would have fallen below the delegate qualification threshold, and Sanders would face a more than two-to-one deficit in the South Carolina delegate count, the most delegate-rich of the four carve-out states.

At that point, heading into Super Tuesday, the discussion is likely to lean toward Biden and the identity of the Biden alternative (likely a weakened Sanders). And that Biden-or-not question lodged in the backs of voters' minds is the very essence of the winnowing process. The field can and often does quickly boil down to two viable options regardless of the decisions made in campaigns that are falling behind. Again, candidates can move forward in the hopes of winning delegates in the much more delegate-rich fields of Super Tuesday, but that hope hinges on actually winning votes, votes that are harder to come by once the focus has shifted to the candidates who are viable.

In summation, what delegate allocation aggregations of this sort from CBSNews/YouGov do is build up the idea that more candidates are going to receive more delegates than they are likely to in reality (or have been likely to in past cycles). And the natural extension of that is that delegates splitting in this manner is likely to lead the process in one particular direction: a contested convention. But the polling results in the earliest three states (Nevada is excluded) actually do point to a natural sort of winnowing occurring prior to Super Tuesday. But again, those a snapshots in time -- simultaneous rather than conditional snapshots -- that are going to change to some extent as the invisible primary campaign continues.

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Earlier June Presidential Primary Move Inches Forward in DC

The District Council in Washington, DC returned to work on B23-0212 this week for the first time since a committee hearing at the end of April.

But just because the bill to shift the presidential primary in the nation's capital up a two weeks to the first Tuesday in June has lain fallow since spring does not mean that the effort to move the primary has been on the back burner. And that is more a function of the legislative process in the District than it is neglect by the council.

An emergency bill of the same intent passed earlier in the spring, was signed by Mayor Bowser, and passed congressional review to enact the move for just 90 days. A temporary measure in a similar vein was also passed the council, was signed by the mayor and is under congressional review to stretch that 90 enactment to 225 days. Neither window pushes far enough into the future to encompass the proposed date of the presidential primary, so a permanent solution is warranted.

And that is why the council has shifted its focus back to B23-0212: to make the change to the first Tuesday in June permanent in presidential election years.

But why go to the trouble of the two intermediary temporary acts? In this context, it is to signal that the primary date change is coming but has to navigate the lengthy DC legislative process first. The same basic path was followed in 2017 effort to push back the date of the primary from the second Tuesday in June to the third Tuesday in June.

In other words, the Washington, DC presidential primary will fall on June 2 in 2020, but there is a bit of a wait in getting to that point based on how a bill becomes a law under the DC charter.

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

2/7/19: DC Presidential Primary on the Move Again?

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

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Ohio Budget Bill with Presidential Primary Move Passes the Legislature

On Wednesday, July 17, both chambers of the Ohio legislature adopted a conference committee report for the fiscal year 2020-21 budget. The vote in the state Senate saw just one dissenting vote while the House vote was marginally more divided. Of the 17 nay votes in the House, 14 were Democrats.

One item tucked into the 2600 page bill that likely did not drive much controversy was the provision to shift back the date of the Ohio presidential primary a week on the primary calendar. Should HB 166 be signed into law -- and it is a carefully negotiated budget bill, so approval is likely -- then the Ohio primary would fall on the third Tuesday after the first Monday in March rather than the second Tuesday after the first Monday in March as was the case in 2016.

And the reason for the change is exactly what it was four years ago when the Ohio legislature pushed the primary back a week from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March to the second Tuesday after the first Monday in March: it preserves the ability for the Ohio Republican Party to allocate the delegates in its primary on a winner-take-all basis. While the second Tuesday after the first Monday date worked for that purpose in 2016, it will not in 2020. It worked in 2016 because the first Tuesday in the month fell on March 1. With the month of March not beginning on a Tuesday 2020, it meant the primary would be slightly earlier in 2020, before the end of the proportionality window.

That triggered the primary move amendment added to the budget bill in late June. And this move should keep Ohio Republicans on the winner-take-all side of March 15 moving forward. The 2024 primary would fall on March 19, where Ohio Republicans would remain eligible for a winner-take-all allocation process (unless the Republican National Committee opts to change the parameters of the proportionality window after 2020).

UPDATE: Governor DeWine (R) signed HB 166 into law on July 18, 2019.

2/27/19: Ohio Bill Would Move Buckeye State Presidential Primary to May

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

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Wyoming Democrats Will Caucus on April 4

In a break from the plan released for public comment earlier in the year, the Wyoming Democratic Party will not caucus in March. Rather, according to the modestly revised draft of the state party's delegate selection plan, Democrats in the Equality state will caucus on April 4.

The specific date was set during the late April meeting of the Wyoming Democratic Party state central committee meeting. Not only does this timing make the delegation eligible for a 10 percent increase to the base number of delegates (one additional delegate), but it also aligns the Wyoming Democratic caucuses with contests in Alaska, Hawaii and Louisiana. Together, those contests alongside the Wisconsin primary the following Tuesday provide a smattering of delegate selection events in an otherwise quiet area on the calendar after the Georgia primary on March 24 and before the Acela primary (Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, likely New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island primaries) on April 28. Those contests sit squarely in the section of the calendar where presumptive nominees typically emerge (not necessarily in terms of the timing, but instead based on the number of delegates allocated by that point).

Unlike a few one congressional district states, Wyoming does not split up its delegation for the purposes of allocation. All 13 pledged delegates will be allocated as one pool of delegates. Candidates receiving 15 percent or more of the caucus vote statewide will be eligible for delegates.

The Wyoming Democratic caucuses date has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Puerto Rico Bill Moving Presidential Primary to March Cleared Both Houses of the Legislature

Legislation has advanced through both houses of the Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly to move the Democratic presidential primary in the island territory to the last Tuesday in March.

Rather than use a previous primary bill as a vehicle for the date change, a new bill -- S 1323 -- was introduced in the Senate in mid-June and made its through both houses on party line votes in less than a week.

Again, the intent of the bill is to move the Democratic presidential primary from the first Sunday in June to the last Sunday in March. On the surface, that looks like an attempt to align the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries, a practice that has not been typical. The Compulsory Presidential Primaries Act (CPPA) has since 2003 defined the primary date for the Republican Party on the island as the last Sunday in March and the Democratic primary for the first Sunday in June.

However, that apparent alignment does not necessarily mean the two primaries will occur simultaneously in 2020. And the reason for that is that while Puerto Rico Democrats have traditionally used the statute cited above as defining the date of the presidential primary, the Puerto Rico Republican Party has not. Instead, the GOP in the territory has used another statute as guidance for when the party presidential primary will occur on the calendar. Since 2014 that law has given both parties on the island broad discretion in setting the date of their primaries, defining a window from the first Tuesday in February through June 15. That is why the Republican presidential primary in Puerto Rico was the Sunday after Super Tuesday in 2016 and not later in March as would be the case under the CPPA.

That may at least partially explain why Republicans in the legislative assembly voted against the changes called for in S 1323. Those changes were not viewed by Republicans as necessary because another statute already allows the Democrats in Puerto Rico to make the change. An alternative route could have been to square the discrepancies across both statutes.

It is expected that Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló will sign the bill once the legislative assembly sends it to him.

The Puerto Rico presidential primary bill has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Virgin Islands Democratic Caucuses Slated for June

Democrats in the Virgin Islands retained the party's first Saturday in June date for its 2020 caucuses in the June 2019 release of their draft 2020 delegate selection plan. And if all other active legislation around the country is passed and enacted, that will make the June 6 caucuses in the Caribbean territory the final contest on the 2020 presidential primary calendar.1

The Virgin Islands Democratic delegation will have 13 delegates in total: six automatic delegates -- the territorial governor, delegate to Congress, party chair, vice chair, national committeeman and national committeewoman -- and seven at-large delegates. It is that latter group that is most noteworthy. Rather than being allocated territory-wide as is the case in the American Samoa Democratic caucuses, the seven at-large delegates will be divvied up between intra-territory districts. The St. Croix district is apportioned four of the seven at-large delegates and the St. Thomas/St. John district the remaining three. Instead of the entire pool of delegates being allocated to candidates with 15 percent or more of the vote based on the territory-wide results, there will be two separate allocations based on the two district results.

Splitting the allocation of such a small pool of delegates into subgroups makes it harder for candidates further down in the results to receive any delegates. For instance, hitting 15 percent in the St. Thomas/St. John district would net a candidate 0.45 delegates. Technically, that is not enough to round up depending on the actual results. Absent specific results, then, the threshold to guarantee delegates up front is 16.67 percent in that district. This serves as a cautionary note about the overall allocation process. Allocating large pools of delegates is more forgiving in the rounding process, but the more refined that gets -- the more subgroups of delegates created -- the more problematic it becomes for candidates further down in the results.

Of course, this may all be moot if the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination process has resolved itself by June 6. The presumptive nominee would likely claim all or the vast majority of those delegates. However, if the contest remains active heading into the final contest, then the delegate math (and the subtle intricacies therein) may be of some consequence. Then again, a share seven delegates is not all that likely to make or break anyone at the end of the calendar. But it would be something if it was.

1 This entails legislation in Washington, DC being passed, moving the primary in the district to the first Tuesday in June. The Virgin Islands caucuses would fall just four days later on the calendar.

The Virgin Islands Democratic caucuses date has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

American Samoa Democrats Again Aim for Super Tuesday Caucuses

The American Samoa Democratic Party on July 3 released for public comment a draft 2020 delegate selection plan.

Much of the 2016 process has been carried over to 2020. There will again be ten delegates in the American Samoa delegation: six at-large delegates and four automatic delegates (DNC members). It will be those six delegates that will be allocated based on the results of the territorial caucuses. Those caucuses will fall on Super Tuesday again (March 3, the first Tuesday in March).

Candidates receiving more than 15 percent of the vote territory-wide will be eligible to be allocated a proportional share of the six at-large delegates.

The plan treats the four members of the American Samoa Democratic Party Executive Committee -- the party chair, vice chair, national committeeman and national committeewoman -- as pledged party leader and elected official (PLEO) delegates, but only if they opt to run and be elected/selected for those positions; something new in the Democratic delegate selection rules for the 2020 cycle. Additionally, there is no specific plan outlined for pledging those delegates to candidates based on the results of the caucuses. The assumption then, it seems, is that those four DNC members from the territory will remain automatic and unpledged (and ineligible for participation on the first ballot if no one candidate receives a majority of all delegates including the automatic delegates).

The American Samoa Democratic caucuses now become the sixteenth contest on Super Tuesday 2020.

The American Samoa Democratic caucuses date has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Ohio Republicans Chart Subtle Calendar Move to Preserve Winner-Take-All Allocation

The Ohio Republican Party was going to have to make a change to its delegate allocation rules for 2020 anyway. The question has always been which route the party would take.

The easy way? Merely changing the reference to 2016 in the rules passed in 2015 to 2020.

Or the harder way? Actually changing the winner-take-all formula for allocating delegates to something matching the Republican National Committee definition of proportional because the date of the Ohio presidential primary for 2020 (March 10) falls in the proportionality window in the RNC rules.

Republicans in the Ohio legislature assisted last week in providing an answer by inserting language into the fiscal year 2020-21 budget bill (HB 166) to shift back the date of the Ohio presidential primary. The change would push the primary from the second Tuesday after the first Monday in March to the third Tuesday after the first Monday in March and out of the proportionality window.

While that would move the Ohio primary from a date with one regional partner on March 10 (Michigan) to another date with another regional partner on March 17 (Illinois), the new primary date in the Buckeye state would also coincide with St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the states, something at which legislative Democrats balked according to the Dayton Daily News. Rep. Jack Cera (D-96th, Bellaire), who has his own primary move bill before the legislature chimed in.
“We don’t like the election day on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m 24 percent Irish. It’s a holiday…Cleveland has a big St. Patrick’s Day party so some people are concerned.”
But just as was the case with Cera's bill to move the primary to early May, his and other Democrats' concerns may fall on deaf ears. Republicans have unified control of the Ohio legislature and control the governor's mansion as well.

That said, there is a date just a week later on March 24 that was vacant until just a few weeks ago when Georgia settled on a primary date. Whether that date with less of a crowd is inviting enough to legislative Republicans in a virtually non-competitive nomination environment for President Trump remains to be seen. The date change in HB 166 is permanent, so Republicans in the Ohio legislature may be more interested in ensuring that they are always on the winner-take-all side of the proportionality window than in advantageously positioning for future cycles.

The new Ohio presidential primary bill has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

2/27/19: Ohio Bill Would Move Buckeye State Presidential Primary to May

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

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