Tuesday, December 27, 2022

It Isn't Just the Democrats Who Are Shaking up the 2024 Presidential Primary Calendar

Ever since early December when the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee adopted President Biden's early calendar proposal there has been a lot of talk around here and elsewhere about how those changes may affect how the beginning of the 2024 presidential primary calendar develops. Bumping the South Carolina Democratic primary up to the first slot will likely have the effect of pushing at least the Iowa Republican caucuses and New Hampshire primary into January. 

But there may be some changes forthcoming at the end of the calendar as well. 

Last week the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced the dates of its 2024 national convention set to take place in Milwaukee. And the July 15 kickoff will trigger a new provision in the rules of the Republican Party amended earlier this year. It has been the case over the last few cycles that the RNC, much like their DNC counterparts, set a window in which most states can hold primaries and caucuses. On the Democratic side that Rule 12.A window runs from the first Tuesday in March through the second Tuesday in June. And the Republican equivalent for the last two cycles described in Rule 16(c)(1) has been from March 1 until the second Saturday in June. 

Only now, there is an additional OR phrase tagged on the back end of the defined Republican window. Contests must now be held on or before "the second Saturday in June in the year in which a national convention is held or less than forty-five (45) days before the national convention is scheduled to begin."

That is where the convention decision from last week comes into play. 45 days before July 15 is Wednesday, May 31, 2024. All Republican primaries and caucuses, then, must be completed by the end of May which, in turn, means that a handful of states are out of compliance (or will be) with June primary dates scheduled under various state laws. 

Five states and territories -- Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and Washington (DC) -- will all have to either change the dates of those contests or make alternate plans. Republican control at the state level in Montana and South Dakota means changes are more likely there than elsewhere in places where Democrats hold the levers of power. But changes will have to occur in those states as well. DC Republicans already had to deal with a similar issue -- one where the primary was too late to comply with RNC timing rules -- when a mid-June primary scheduled for the 2016 cycle forced the party to opt for a March convention. Without amended laws, the others will have to seek out state party-run paths to compliance if the current laws are left unchanged. 

Now, to be clear, like the beginning of the calendar where small delegate caches do not make a huge difference in the grand scheme of a nomination race, this change at the back of the calendar likely will not be decisive. Together those six states and territories would have comprised just under seven percent of the total number of Republican delegates at stake in 2020.1 However, this rules change will have the effect of further compressing the overall calendar. Not by much, but it will push the end of the calendar up by a couple of weeks while the DNC decision on their pre-window will widen it by about as much if not a little more once Iowa and New Hampshire settle into place for the Republican process. 

In the end, this is another way in which the two national parties have diverged in their thinking -- if not approach to -- the 2024 presidential primary calendar

1 For Democrats, the share is even smaller. The five states amounted to nearly six percent of the total number of Democratic delegates in the 2020 cycle.


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