Thursday, May 18, 2023

Missing the Real Story on the New Hampshire Primary

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • How does Iowa fit into the Republican National Committee delegate rules? A deeper dive on the history of Rule 16 and how Iowa Republicans have no real recourse if New Hampshire leapfrogs the Hawkeye state into the first slot on the 2024 calendar. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
Another day, another story from out of one of the traditionally early primary calendar states. Yesterday, it was Iowa. Today, New Hampshire is on the docket. 

But folks, in their zeal to make a story out of something that probably will not be a much of a story in 2024, some outlets have missed the real story in the battle between New Hampshire Democrats and the Democratic National Committee over the primary calendar next year. Well, most have missed the true story in Iowa and thus miss the bigger picture story on the evolution of the beginning of the 2024 calendar. 

That bigger picture story? How much differently Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire are approaching the threat of 2024 calendar rules that shift each from their traditional positions. Look, as FHQ noted yesterday, Iowa Democrats' draft delegate selection plan was a deescalatory document. Yes, the date of the more primary-like preference vote is still unknown, but the signals from out of the Hawkeye state are that Iowa Democrats are playing for a spot -- any spot -- in the early window on the Democratic primary calendar. In other words, they are not fighting for first. South Carolina already has that (official) distinction They are fighting for early. Iowa Democrats are demonstrating flexibility. They appear willing to play ball with the DNC.

New Hampshire Democrats do not. 

To this point, from the draft delegate selection plan to comment after comment from New Hampshire Democrats to state legislative actions that Democratic state legislators have supported, the picture is just the opposite of what is coming out of Iowa. It is all still shock and anger and disbelief. The pose New Hampshire Democrats have struck remains defiant. And the one good thing that the latest story from Politico by Holly Otterbein and Lisa Kashinsky does is showcase how very rigid and inflexible New Hampshire Democrats are being on this. 

A party-run primary as a possible alternative?
Meanwhile, Democrats in the state are shutting down the idea of a party-run primary before they’ve even formally been approached about it. Buckley said a party-run primary would be a logistical nightmare and extremely expensive, costing upwards of $7 million. 
“Absolutely impossible,” he said. “Where would I rent 2,000 voting machines? Hire 1,500 people to run the polls? Rent 300 accessible voting locations? Hire security? Print 500,000 ballots. Process 30,000 absentee ballots.”
Never mind that states equal in size or bigger than New Hampshire held first-time, vote-by-mail party-run primaries in 2020. ...during a pandemic. Democratic parties in both Hawaii and Kansas pulled that off in the last cycle. Any thought in New Hampshire of consulting with those state parties to discover best practices, potential problems, anything? Nope. Just overestimates on scale and costs and a complete inability to think even a little outside of the box. 

And that fig leaf that was a feeble attempt at passing no-excuse absentee voting in New Hampshire?
New Hampshire Democrats also argue they’ve made a good-faith effort to meet the second part of the party’s requirements to stay in the official early-state window — expanding voting access by pushing Soucy’s legislation to create no-excuse absentee voting in the state, albeit to no avail.
That just is not very likely to carry much if any weight with the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee. Is it a good-faith effort at a provable positive step toward the changes the national party requested of New Hampshire Democrats. It is! But it is also a very small step in the grand scheme of the plan the national party has put forth for the 2024 presidential nomination process. 

It is a half step at best. All the DNC wants in something like this is a willing partner to come to the table and work toward a compromise of some sort. New Hampshire Democrats' my way or the highway approach to all of this will put them in the same boat that Florida and Michigan Democrats found themselves in 2007-08. Democratic legislators (and governors in Michigan's case) supported those rogue primaries and when the DNC suggested alternative caucuses to comply with the national party rules, both state parties threw up their hands and balked at the prospect. That got each a full 100 percent reduction in their 2008 national convention delegations.1 New Hampshire is likely looking at the same fate. 

And that is the story here. It is tale of two "aggrieved" states and how differently each is reacting to the threat of calendar rules changes for 2024. It is the rigidity of the New Hampshire Democratic Party compared to the flexibility of Iowa Democrats. What it is not is a "predicament ... of the president's own making." It just is not. That is like saying the Florida and Michigan ordeal was one of the DNC's own design. Those states broke the rules the DNC put in place for 2008. Those state parties refused to explore alternatives for delegate selection. Those parties paid a price. The 55 other states and territories followed the rules. 

In 2023, all signs point toward 56 states and territories following the DNC calendar rules. [There are other budding violations of other rules elsewhere.] Only one state, New Hampshire, is indicating that it not only will not but also will not doing anything to meet the national party even part of the way there. Folks, that is not the president's problem. It is not the DNC's problem. It is New Hampshire's problem and Democrats there are trying to blackmail the national party into caving because of the possible general election implications. That is not a new practice, but in 2024 that is a recipe for sanctions from the national party. 

[One option in New Hampshire that FHQ has suggested and still has not seen anywhere else is tying something -- party-run primary, alternative state-run primary -- to town meeting day in March. That is when the New Hampshire presidential primary is supposed to be anyway. Or would be if not for the law that says it will fall on town meeting day unless another similar election is before the primary in the Granite state. Town meeting day is going to happen after the January presidential primary regardless. It could be an option for the Democrats in New Hampshire. It could be, but again, the party so far has not been receptive to alternatives.]

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is going to announce a presidential run? If only there had been some signs that this was coming. Seriously though, DeSantis closed the deal on 99 Republican state legislative endorsements (out of 113) in the Sunshine state on Wednesday, May 16. The floodgates referred to in this space yesterday were opened up. And DeSantis has a more than reasonable endorsement primary counterweight to the Trump rollout of Florida congressional delegation endorsements in recent weeks.

FHQ could use the Landmark Communications poll in Georgia out yesterday to point out how poorly Governor Brian Kemp would do in a Republican presidential primary in his home state. But that is unnecessary -- Kemp is not running -- and would miss an opportunity to talk about delegate allocation in the Peach state next year anyway. Yet, that is something of a question mark. Georgia will have an earlier presidential primary in 2024 than it (initially) did in 2020, and Republicans in the state will have to change the delegate allocation system they used in the last go-round to something more proportional (as the RNC defines it). 

Also, it is worth noting that Trump will address Georgia Republicans at their state convention next month where delegate selection rules for the 2024 cycle may be on the agenda.

On this date... 1976, California Governor Jerry Brown won the battle but lost the war in the Maryland Democratic primary. But since Brown had not filed a slate in the Old Line state, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the delegate fight and also won in the Michigan primary. On the Republican side, President Gerald Ford swept both the Maryland and Michigan primaries. 1987, Illinois Senator Paul Simon formally entered the contest for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. 2004, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry swept primaries in Arkansas, Kentucky and Oregon.

1 Yes, both Florida and Michigan Democrats had half of their delegations restored by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee during Memorial Day weekend in 2008 and full delegations from both were seated at the Denver convention with full voting rights after a concession from the Obama campaign. But the conditions will be different for New Hampshire in 2024. Team Biden and the DNC will potentially be less willing to show such leniency. The incumbent president will not be coming off a hard-fought nomination win in the primaries and needing to bring two sides of an evenly split party together. Instead, it will be two sides: one comprised of 56 states and territories and the other of one state delegation that wants to hold onto a first-in-the-nation relic that the president is trying to change in favor of a rotation system at the beginning of the calendar. Sure, there are general election implications here as well because of New Hampshire's status as a battleground state. But it is a battleground state with just four electoral votes.


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