Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Are Iowa and New Hampshire likely to face RNC penalties?

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...
  • South Carolina Republicans made a move over the weekend that is pretty atypical for early states. The party in a way disarmed and retreated on the calendar. Yes, the primary in the Palmetto state is still among the earliest, but it is unusual for one state to yield an earlier position to another. More on that at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
As an aside in the discussion of the South Carolina Republican primary being set at FHQ Plus, I closed by taking a big picture view of the likely early primary calendar on the Republican side:

Would the Republican National Committee prefer that primary season kick off in February as intended? Yes, but given that the Democratic rules pushed the Michigan primary into late February and nudged South Carolina on the Democratic side up to the beginning of the month, the start point creeping two weeks into January is not that bad on the whole. 

The four early Republican carve-out states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — have, under RNC rules, a window of a month in front of the next earliest contest in which to schedule their own primaries and caucuses. If the Iowa Republican caucuses do, in fact, end up on Monday, January 15, then those contests will have fit within a 43 day window before the Michigan primary, (maybe) the next earliest contest. And given the complications the Democratic calendar changes introduced for Republicans, again, it is not that bad. And it hardly counts as “chaos.”

That scenario -- that Iowa's Republican caucuses and the New Hampshire presidential primary would be outside of that one month granted by RNC rules to the early states -- brought a question into my inbox. Basically, does that set Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire up for the super penalty? After all, both would seemingly be too early by the RNC definition that far into January.

FHQ would contend that the answer is no.

There was a time -- back in 2008 -- that both New Hampshire and South Carolina were docked half of their delegates for violating the timing rules.1 But the language in the relevant rule, Rule 16(c)(1) now, was different then when it was Rule 15(b)(1)(i). Instead of a month before the next earliest contest, both New Hampshire and South Carolina were treated just like any other state for 2008, and could not conduct their primaries before the first Tuesday in February

However, there was no out for them in the rule. The 2008 Republican National Convention added a carve out for the pair of early primary states (for future cycles) but without specific reference to the actions of other, would-be rogue states, the non-carve-outs. Yet, that was after the fact. When Florida and Michigan crashed into January for 2008, it had the effect of pushing both New Hampshire and South Carolina up. Michigan triggered the first-in-the-nation law in New Hampshire, and Florida's move violated the first-in-the-South position that Republicans in the Palmetto state had carved out for themselves in the calendar over time. Republicans in all four states plus Wyoming ended up taking a 50 percent hit to their national convention delegations. 

As for the states' treatment under the current rule? 

FHQ would argue that they are fine. Yes, the excerpt above from over at Plus noted that Michigan is the next earliest contest, but there is an argument that can be made about the South Carolina Democratic primary being the next earliest state. It was the Democratic National Committee moving the South Carolina primary to the first position for 2024 that ultimately will push New Hampshire and Iowa into January. But the rule is silent on whether it is events on just the Republican primary or the overall calendar of contests for both parties that might serve as the backend of that window of time in which the early states can schedule contests. 

And it will be much easier politically to blame Democrats for contests that are too early than state-level Republicans. Yet, none of this is not official. And until Iowa and New Hampshire are in place on the calendar on the Republican side and the national party has responded, it is an open question. But it is pretty easy to chart out where that would likely go. 

In the travel primary...
The other day, FHQ referred to Nevada as "the redheaded stepchild of the early primary calendar." That has meant a number of things over the years since the Silver state was added to the early window of the presidential nomination process. Poorly implemented caucuses. Talk of replacement in the early calendar lineup. But by far the most consistent aspect of this phenomenon is how Nevada measures up to its early state peers. The Nevada Independent tells a familiar tale: Nevada in 2023 lags far behind Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in candidate visits so far in the cycle. 

From around the invisible primary...

1 Iowa and Nevada were both exempt without mention in the rule because neither selected nor allocated national convention delegates at their precinct caucuses.


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