Saturday, July 22, 2023

[From FHQ Plus] A second state-run primary option in New Hampshire?

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Talk about burying the lede. This came in over the wires from NBC News this morning...
New Hampshire Republicans would prefer to keep their primary in late January, after Iowa, rather than see [New Hampshire Secretary of State David] Scanlan have to leapfrog Iowa because of Democrats’ maneuvering. Republican state Rep. Ross Berry, who chairs the House Election Law Committee, said he is considering “contingencies” that might prevent that.

Berry said he is considering introducing legislation that would allow Scanlan to set two different primary dates, one for each party. He called it a “last resort option” that would give Scanlan a new tool if he makes the determination that Iowa’s Democratic caucus is functionally the same as a primary.

“We don’t want to get caught flat-footed on it,” Berry said. “If the secretary of state says, ‘You know what, I’m cool with Iowa mailing in their stuff,’ we have no problem, I see no reason to change things,” he continued.
The rest of the piece is standard fare for stories covering the back and forth over the calendar between Iowa Democrats and the New Hampshire secretary of state. It builds up the tension that seemingly exists without getting too far down into the weeds to explain that there probably is not much tension there at all. As the piece notes, it is not unusual for New Hampshire to string this decision out. Long-time and former Secretary Gardner pulled the trigger on a choice for 2008 the day before Thanksgiving in 2007 and waited into November again in 2011. In both cases, a decision was made roughly two months before January primaries in both cycles. Regardless of the timing of a decision from Scanlan, the choice boils down to answering one simple question. And Iowa Democrats are not showing their cards at the moment (even if the state party's actions seem to tip their hand).

But still, even if the early state calendar tension is on a low simmer (at most), the notion that there is a proposal for an emergency legislative fix in the Granite state is newsworthy. Well, it is newsworthy on the surface anyway.

Digging in a bit, creating an option for the secretary of state to schedule a second presidential primary would bail out Democrats currently at odds with the national party over the DNC’s new calendar rules for the 2024 cycle. That New Hampshire Republicans would even consider that is enough to raise eyebrows. And that is without considering the costs associated with a second state-run presidential primary election. The state footing the bill for that is one thing that is almost unbelievable, but creating a carve-out for (what some perceive as) Democrats’ collective own-goal in a battleground state would seem to be a bridge to far for Republicans in control of the levers of power in the state.

But it also goes to show just how far at least one Republican is willing to go to preserve the first-in-the-nation tradition in the Granite state.

Of course, none of this appears necessary at the moment. There are questions surrounding the scheduling of the all-mail Iowa Democratic presidential preference vote. [The Democratic caucuses will be on January 15.] But why would Iowa Democrats go to the trouble of devising this bifurcated caucus/preference vote process in an incumbent cycle if they were just going to break the rules. The system is one that allows Iowa Democrats to have their cake and hopefully (from their perspective) eat it too. The caucuses will remain first (the same night as Iowa Republicans), but the delegate allocation (through the preference vote) can conclude later than that at a time that is either in the Democrats’ early window (with a waiver from the DNC) or on or after March 5. It is a system designed to preserve tradition and comply with DNC rules. It is also a system that allows Iowa Democrats to stay out of the way of business as usual in the New Hampshire secretary of state’s office.

So maybe NBC News did not bury the lede here. Maybe they just got an interesting quote from a legislator in New Hampshire with a proposal for a novel rip cord the state could pull in case of emergency. The only thing is that there does not appear to be an emergency in the near term or on the horizon.

All there actually is is an inability in the press to dig in on this story and describe what is happening between Iowa and New Hampshire. Less than meets the eye.


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