Showing posts with label Democratic Change Commission. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Democratic Change Commission. Show all posts

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Don't Hold Your Breath: Caucus States Aren't Going Anywhere

Subtitle: The post in which FHQ takes out its scalpel and carves up a story overstating the likelihood of reform. I do not agree with Reid Wilson's piece up at the National Journal today.

...and there is a lot with which to disagree. What that article needs most, however, is context.

Look, FHQ doesn't have a dog in this fight. Unlike many others (mainly in the punditry), I don't engage in the normative arguments about the plusses and minuses of caucuses versus primaries. The simple fact of the matter is that it is up to the parties to decide. And throughout the post-reform era (1972-present), the national parties have deferred to the state parties on this issue of which mode of delegate allocation to utilize. The intention of the McGovern-Fraser reforms that took effect on the Democratic side in 1972 was actually to create more caucuses; to allow some participation of rank-and-file members of the party as a means of growing the party up from the grassroots. But state-level convenience overrode that unwritten intention. In reaction to the DNC's new mandate -- about binding delegates -- most states simply added presidential preference votes to their preexisting primary elections (assuming they fell roughly between a March-June window). Other states either immediately created separate presidential primary elections or gradually added them over time. It was the creation of those separate contests and in some cases the switch over from state party-funded caucuses to state-funded primaries also that most caused the frontloading of presidential nomination contests in the period between 1980-2008. [And don't hold your breath that that is over just because of what happened in the lead up to 2012.]

The point is that caucuses have largely disappeared as a part of that process. Yet, some states continue to use that mode of delegate allocation. And, again, that is something with which the national parties have been more than glad to go along. One of the pieces of political science research that FHQ cites most frequently on this front is the Meinke et al (2006) piece that makes quite clear the reason that some state parties prefer a caucus to a primary: It allows the state party more control over the process. The basic finding is that states where there is a lack of ideological convergence between the state party and the rank-and-file members of the party in the state are states where a closed caucus system is most often found (...closed primaries, too).

Now, again, pin whatever normative argument you please to that, but that is the way that it has been and the national parties have been fine with that. It would be completely out of character for the RNC to begin dictating to states what they can and can't do in terms of delegate allocation. The party has put in place some minimal restrictions on timing of primaries and caucuses over the years. It added rules that minimally changed the method of delegate allocation for 2012 -- curbing winner-take-all contests prior to April 1. And while FHQ has long argued that that latter change was a big step for the RNC, the change is not nearly as big as most have thought. Very plainly, the RNC is mostly hands off when it comes to this stuff.

The DNC, on the other hand, is not. The Democratic Party routinely tweaks its delegate selection rules from cycle to cycle and has over the years switched from a hands off entity on delegate selection to more hands on. The party since the 1980s, for instance, has required the proportional allocation of delegates to its national convention based either on a primary or the first step of a caucus/convention process.  During the intervening period between the 2008 and 2012 cycles, both the Democratic Change Commission and then the Rules and Bylaws Committee, acting on the former's recommendations, looked into the caucus process in the wake of the benefits the Obama campaign reaped from the caucus process during the 2008 Democratic nomination race. And result was not to tear down the caucus process. Instead, the result was to honor "the spirit of caucuses as an institution and an in-person party building tool." The commission recommended developing a set of "best practices" for caucuses with the goal of making the caucus process more uniform across states. [It should be noted that those recommendations led to no noticeable changes to the DNC delegate selection rules in 2012 relative to 2008.]

FHQ doesn't know what will happen specifically with Iowa and Nevada on the Republican side in the future, but there likely won't be anything more that emerges from the 2016 rules than a set of best practices for caucus states generally from either party.1 Those best practices may include some way of dealing with the vote counting issue. [Is it just FHQ or is anyone else of the opinion that the length of the count in Nevada was a direct response to the counting issues in Iowa? Knowing the process was messed up in 2008, the Nevada Republican Party erred on the side of caution and made sure they had the count right. Of course, that doesn't explain the closed door policy surrounding the count, but that's a different issue.] As I have said repeatedly -- and perhaps you've ascertained as much by now as well -- this quadrennial dance whereby the national parties set rules and states and state parties respond is a messy one.  Each of those entities -- national parties, state parties and states -- has a vested interest in the process, and getting them all on the same page across 50 states and additional territories is no small task.   Iowa and New Hampshire and a handful of other states realize this and have exploited the extant tensions between various combinations of those groups to maintain or force their way into privileged positions on the calendar. Iowa's parties band together. Nevada's don't. And that may be the downfall latter's Republicans if they can't stand up for their position or demonstrate that there will be changes in place for future cycles.

Regular readers will know that FHQ is extremely skeptical of any broad, sweeping reform to the presidential nomination system. Again, I don't have a dog in the fight. Change or no change, it provides me with a research agenda either way. But the above reasons are why it is unlikely. What we are likely to see -- or should logically see perhaps -- is the parties go one step beyond the informal coordination they had in formulating a calendar and basic rules for 2012 and coordinate uniform penalties across the parties for states in violation of the rules. Otherwise the state parties and states will continue to pit the national parties against each other to game the system. Regardless, none of the changes are going to come anywhere close to ending the presence of caucuses in the process.

Some other items in Wilson's piece that need some response:
1) "Thanks to movements inside both the Republican and Democratic national committees, 2012 may mark the end of this presidential nominating system."
Movements? What movements? Are there people in both parties that would like to see a change to the system? Yes. Is there a consensus on doing anything or in terms of what to do? No. Are we close to that? Well, the RNC passed the Ohio plan in 2008 which would have fundamentally rewritten the presidential nomination process, but it was quashed at the St. Paul convention and was never really a seriously discussed alternative at the Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee meetings that recommended changes to the Republican Party's delegate selection rules. 
2) "The sticks established in 2010—namely, halving a state’s convention delegation and giving them lousy hotel rooms—weren’t enough."
The sticks on the Republican side were not enough. But it bears repeating that the Democrats, both in 2008 and now in 2012, have a penalty in place to strip any candidate of their delegates from any state in violation of the party's rules if the candidate campaigns in that violating state. The rationale: Penalties keep the candidates away and in the process keeps the media away. States that desire an early slot want that attention. If said attention is not forthcoming, the motivation to move up is removed. In isolation -- used by only one party as the Democrats found out in 2008 with Florida and Michigan -- that is perhaps an ineffective tool; particularly if Republicans control the strings that set the date of a primary or caucus in a state. However, across both parties -- with both enforcing it -- that is likely a fairly adequate deterrent. 
3) "Because Iowa and Nevada don’t actually allocate delegates until much later, they thrive only on media attention."
Wilson also raises the notion of delegates being allocated at district and state conventions in caucus states, and that the precinct vote is nothing but a straw poll. True. Nevada is an exception and that is not made clear in his piece. The allocation and binding of the Nevada Republican delegates is based on the proportion of the vote each candidate received in the caucuses on February 4.
And while we're on the subject, it should be noted that all states allocate their delegates "later". Yes, even in primary states where there is a parallel process whereby delegates are selected. That allocation, however, is binding based on the results of the primary or caucus (in the case of Nevada.) 
4) "Reform is coming soon..."
Perhaps, but don't hold your breath that it will fundamentally change the current system. The national parties are plenty satisfied to incrementally chip away at reform whenever it becomes necessary.
1 I don't know what will happen but I have my doubts that either -- Iowa or Nevada -- is going anywhere.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Thoughts following the 2nd Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee Meeting

Over the weekend the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee reconvened in Washington (yes, sans FHQ) to further cement the rules governing the 2012 Democratic presidential nomination. The set of rules coming out of this meeting will go before the full DNC in St. Louis next month for approval. In its initial meeting in May, the committee made quick work of the most of the rules -- only tweaking some of the particulars from the 2008 rules -- but following discussion, tabled most of the more contentious issues that concerned some of the recommendations made by the Democratic Change Commission. Namely, what to do with the superdelegates' influence, how to make more uniform the caucus process across states, and how to curb frontloading. For our part, FHQ will focus on the last of those in this initial post, but will return to the other issues later. [Side note: And yes, I do need to put this all together with the changes the Republicans have proposed as well. FHQ has neglected the much more interesting and consequential Republican rules-making process. Amends will be made, I assure you, dear readers.]

Now, some have called the rules recommendations that came out of the this meeting and the earlier Republican meeting, the "most significant alteration to the primary calendars since '68..." The McGovern-Fraser reforms fundamentally reshaped the way in which presidential nominees were chosen from that point forward. They turned presidential primaries and caucuses from non-binding contests meant to influence party leaders at the national convention into binding contests that determined to some degree the level of support candidates would receive at the convention. The primary calendars after that point evolved, and though the negative effects of frontloading were being discussed as early as the Hunt Commission (the pre-1984 cycle's equivalent of the Democratic Change Commission), it took until 1988 and into the '90s for the full effects of McGovern-Fraser to be felt in terms of the calendar. And, of course, these were unintended consequences of those reforms.

Perhaps you can tell, I don't particularly like the comparison to the 1968 Chicago convention's reform measures. FHQ also has another problem with this comparison.* As I alluded to above, it overstates matters. Both parties have recognized frontloading as a "problem" for several cycles now. And it is no small feat that both the DNC and RNC determined that the best way to combat the problem was to work together, representing a unified front against would-be rule breakers (Florida and Michigan, I'm looking in your direction.). That fact alone is significant in and of itself, but this process is only in its first phase: rules formation. The national parties will have to ratify those changes in order to end this part of the cycle.

The next phase will play out through much of next year. It is one thing to institute new rules, but it is another to have the states go along with those changes. A good first step is to have both parties on the same page, but Florida and Michigan (and all the pre-February 5, 2008 states but Nevada and Iowa on the Republican side) may have set a precedent in 2008. And with so many states having to move the dates on which their primaries are held to comply with the new rules, there is more incentive than ever to shirk.

That was the real message that came out of all of these meetings on both sides. Both parties are together in terms of their calendar set ups, but the sanctions did not change in the least from 2008. Yes, the Democrats bumped up their incentives for states electing to hold later contests, but that has proven ineffective in the past. The true effect of one of those 2008 sanctions likely won't be felt until 2012 anyway. That the Democrats stripped candidates of half their delegates if they campaigned in a state in violation of the timing rules was very crafty. It kept Obama and Edwards among others out of Florida and (they took themselves off the ballot in) Michigan. That has the effect of making a state meaningless or at least far less influential than otherwise. And that penalty is back for the 2012 cycle. States might have thought twice about flaunting the rules if that sanction was in place on the Republican side. Of course, it is a Democratic sanction and I doubt it will matter much if the Democratic Party strips Obama of half his delegates in a state in violation (they won't). With all the action on the Republican side, a promising sanction won't mean a whole lot.

As I said over the weekend on Twitter, it only takes one state to unravel the best of intentions and trigger a calendar somewhere between what the parties want and where things were in 2008. So, while tweaking the timing of contests is unique in the post-reform era, it isn't that fundamental a change in the grand scheme of things and certainly won't be if states don't comply.

*Another issue is that the parties did voluntarily change their rules to allow January and February contests over the last decade and a half. That was at least an equivalent change to what has been proposed for 2012 (proportionality rules excluded).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Thoughts on the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee Meeting

As FHQ alluded to on Friday, we sat in on the festivities at the Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting on both Friday and Saturday. The intent of the meeting was to begin reconciling the recommendations of the Democratic Change Commission with the political and structural realities on the ground with regard to the rules governing the 2012 Democratic presidential nomination.

[For a blow-by-blow account of the two day rule-a-thon, you can follow our real-time Twittering at @FHQ.]

As some have already said, this was a jump off the deep end into the minutiae of delegate selection rules. However, the committee members revved up for the discussions surrounding the three areas the Change Commission was tasked with re-examining: primary and caucus timing, superdelegate reduction/elimination and caucus rule uniformity. The most animated portions of the proceedings came at the tail end of Friday's session and at the beginning of Saturday's. Of the 21 rules -- based on the 2008 delegate selection rules -- Rules 9 (superdelegates) and 11 (timing) seemed to elicit the most concern; the departure from the '08 rules the Change Commission's recommendations represented did, at least. The decisions on both rules were tabled at this meeting pending further discussion at the July 9 and 10 meeting in Washington that will finalize a set of rules for the full DNC to vote on in August.

But let's look at some of the discussion around these two issues from Friday and Saturday:

Well, if the Change Commission's recommendation is approved, they won't be superdelegates anymore. They'll be NPLEOs (National Pledged Party Leader and Elected Official). That's right. The recommendation calls for the elimination of add-on delegates and a change to the superdelegates as we knew them in 2008. Under these rules, the party and elected officials would lose their independence in 2012. They would be proportionally pledged to candidates based on the results in the primaries or caucuses in their states.

As you might imagine, this didn't sit particularly well with a group of folks (the RBC) who happen to be superdelegates. No one seemed to like the loss of independence (read: influence). That loss prompted RBC member, Mame Reiley, to ask if leaders shouldn't be able to lead instead of follow. She cited Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Obama ahead of the Massachusetts primary (and Hillary Clinton's win there) as an example. In other words, how could you tell an elite within the party to support someone they don't want to support (with the only alternative being to become a non-voting delegate)? To FHQ's mind this isn't any different from the average delegate moving over to the actual nominee at the convention despite that earlier pledge. It happens routinely. Still, the members of the RBC took issue with the proportionality calculus and how that would play out in reality. Some made the argument that it was the job of the RBC to plan for the worst case scenario, a floor fight over the nomination. But while that may be true, it isn't likely to be the reality in 2012. As RBC member, Ray Buckley said, "I'm ambivalent about this...because I don't think the president will be challenged in 2012."

There were some alternate proposals bandied about. The one that seemed to resonate was one that had alternate delegates becoming actual delegates as a means of diluting the influence of the superdelegates. This seemed like a clever enough idea, but obviously needs to be fleshed out some. That represents quite an expansion of the number of delegates which has implications for floor seating because there would still have to be alternates who also get a spot on the floor even if they are not voting.

I don't see that proposal making it nor do I necessarily see the Change Commission's proposal getting through the full DNC. One thing we can likely count on is the elimination of the add-on delegates. Beyond that, there may not be a whole lot of movement on the superdelegates issue. With Obama running unchallenged in 2012 (more than likely), that group will return to its spot in the background of the process.

[Before I shift gears to the timing issue, there's one other point I'd like to raise about superdelegates and conventions. It was interesting to me from my basement position in the ivory tower to see how these matters were viewed by some of the elites within the party. Academics tend to take a macro view of conventions. They matter in that they move the needle in the polls in their immediate aftermath. But as Seth Masket pointed out last week when the GOP tapped Tampa to be its 2012 convention site, the link between conventions location and electoral results is tenuous at best. The same holds for conventions overall. But members of the parties involved in the process don't necessarily share the same view. Instead of a macro view, they adopt a micro view. To the elites, winning in November matters, but things like convention seating and hotel arrangements matter. One of the DNC staffers was joking with me before the Saturday session about the Michigan delegates having to stay in Boulder during the 2008 convention in Denver. Rick Stafford, and RBC member from Minnesota, said the Democrats from the Land of 10,000 Lakes suffered a similar fate for holding a pre-window caucus in 1988; staying "somewhere in Georgia." These folks will protect that turf unless compelled to do otherwise. The bottom line is that these sorts of things matter to folks within the RBC and that obviously has the potential to impact the rules that emerge from this process.]

This issue was why FHQ went to Washington for this meeting in the first place. Presidential primary and caucus scheduling (or movement from cycle to cycle) is our bread and butter. And while Tom Schaller is right that not much substance came out of this meeting, the group will have a large discussion in July that will have found its roots in the groundwork laid on Friday and Saturday.

First, the Change Commission has called for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to retain their privileged positions in the pre-window period of the primary calendar from 2008. The Democrats got a major assist on making that recommendation a reality from the Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee last week. The TDSC followed the Change Commission's lead in not only keeping those four states early but in knocking back the start date of the process from January to February and preventing all other states from going before a the first Tuesday in March (A return to -- at least for the Democrats -- something akin to the 2000 primary calendar.). That's a big deal and it certainly helps both parties on the enforcement front somewhat. If both parties have the same timing rules, it makes it far less likely that a Republican-controlled state government, for example, will opt to flaunt Democratic Party rules to maintain or move to an earlier, pre-window date on the calendar (This assumes a scenario where the Democrats adopt the Change Commission recommendations on timing, but the Republicans are more open to allowing earlier contests.). Enforcement of the delegate selection rules is more difficult when the parties aren't on the same page. However, just because it appears that the parties will, I won't call it coordinate, but correspond with each other on timing, doesn't necessarily mean there won't be any rogue states like Florida and Michigan in 2012. Enforcement of the timing strictures was one of the sticking points with members of the RBC during this discussion. In the end, it really wasn't dealt with, but pushed to the July meeting instead. There are enticements (bonus delegates) for going later, but will that get the 19 states currently scheduled (according to state law) in February to move their primaries in accordance with the possible rules changes? That is the question at this point. Nothing has worked thus far on that front as a means of curbing frontloading, but both parties will have to hope that all works out for the best when and if both produce similar calendars for 2012.

There was also a varied discussion over the Change Commission's recommendation for encouraging more regionally or subregionally clustered primaries. More questions than answers emerged from this particular topic. What constituted a cluster? Are big states like California and New York large enough on their own to constitute clusters? How do you get states to cluster? What enticements can be used? How do you go about scheduling which cluster goes first? Getting states to cluster is the conundrum. It seems that Democratic-controlled states would be better able to cluster states controlled by the Republicans or with some form or fashion of divided government. [Truth be told, that is one of the major findings of my dissertation on frontloading decisions over time. But who am I to toot my own horn?] Some states are better able to move and the creation of clusters also seems as if it might be fraught with the same sort of Iowa/New Hampshire privileged position issue. [Hello unintended consequences.] I don't know that there is any way of getting to this point other than to allow states to come to clustering conclusions organically. [Think Potomac Primary or the Great Lakes or Yankee Primaries in 1996.]

One final thing that received quite a lot of discussion was the idea of opening the pre-window period to a bidding process for those four slots. A similar proposal system was used by the Levin Commission in 2006 before it added Nevada and South Carolina to the Democratic pre-window period for 2008. But RBC member, Michael Steed, proposed opening all four slots (including Iowa's and New Hampshire's) up for 2012. This received some support in the room, but was shot down by RBC member, Jeff Berman, who said it was too late in the process for that (especially if a set of rules was going to be in place for the full DNC to consider and vote on in August). The proposal process was already well underway at this point in the cycle before 2008. Another talking point concerned just adding an additional slot or two in the pre-window period. This, too, was denied, but an amendment was added to the rule that this be considered for 2016. That was passed while the rest of the timing issue was tabled for the July meeting.

At this point, the calendar will is very likely to be adopted by the full DNC, but the questions of clustering and enforcement still remain in shadowy territory. There are no clear answers for either.

Parting Shots
The theme of this meeting was the balance between crafting a set of delegate selection rules that rectifies some of the issues raised by the Democrats' 2008 primary race and reelecting the president. To some members of the RBC those two were countervailing forces. The "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" argument that RBC member Alice Germond made is a tough one to counter. Indeed. Why mess with a formula that worked? Upon further reflection, FHQ is not terribly sympathetic to that line of thought. Now, we don't have a dog in this fight. Reform or not, this site will have an eye to the 2012 rules regardless. However, this argument seems like a veiled attempt to maintain the status quo. After all, how much of the election results in November 2008 were attributable to what happened in the winter and early spring? A Democrat would have won in November regardless, whether it was Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or John Edwards. [Well, Edwards would have been in some hot water in August 2008 with the Rielle Hunter ordeal if he was the presumptive nominee at that point.] At the margins, the competitive races in Indiana and North Carolina may have helped lay the groundwork for Obama and the Democrats successfully turning those long-standing red states blue. But those 26 electoral votes would not have been decisive. They were luxuries that a severely toxic 2008 Republican brand afforded the Obama campaign and the Democrats trying to elect the president.

That said, here are a few things to note. The status quo with some minor changes is probably what both the Democrats and Republicans will produce for this upcoming cycle. There were some problems with the rules in 2008, but that was mostly a function of a close Democratic race. In the post-reform era, that has been more an anomaly rather than commonplace. The best argument for the status quo is not that it worked in 2008 or any other year, but rather that wholesale changes to the system could lead to unintended consequences. For example, no one in the Democratic Party in 1984 could have imagined the potential impact superdelegates -- new in 1984 -- would/could have had in the 2008 process. [This was a point that was raised by someone on the RBC at the meeting this weekend.]

Now, some of the points outlined above regarding the status quo may be moot. It may not matter and here's why: The head of the Democratic Party may want to make the Democratic Change Commission's recommendations a reality. Changes to the rules are not likely to affect the president's chances at renomination. The likelihood of him being challenged for the Democratic Party nod is as close to nil as it gets at the moment. So, why not push these recommendations through? The DNC probably won't balk at the president if this is what he wants. But is that what the president wants? That's the $64 question; the one that is likely to determine the extent to which the Rules and Bylaws Committee goes along with the Change Commission's recommendations.

But we'll have to wait until the July meeting for that answer.

[For more, please go over to DemRulz and read Frank Leone's write up of the events from the weekend as well. He offers a different perspective; both legal and from within the DNC.]

Friday, May 21, 2010

FHQ at the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee Meeting (2012 Nomination Rules)

FHQ is on site at the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting to discuss the Democratic Change Commission's 2012 presidential nomination rules recommendations. I'll have some longer updates later, but for now, you can follow in real-time with updates via Twitter.

You can follow us here:

*Also note that our Twitter feed is also in the right sidebar. [But I don't know how quickly that will update.]

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Final Democratic Change Commission Meeting

Frank Leone from DemRulz sends this along concerning the final meeting of the Democratic Change Commission today:
The DNC Change Commission held its final (hour-long) meeting this afternoon (by conference call). The Commission approved a draft report that recommends converting most automatic unpledged “superdelegates” to pledged delegates who will fill slots reflecting the voter preferences in their state’s primary or caucuses – thus becoming automatic, pledged, voting convention delegates. The DNC Rules and Bylaws Commission (RBC) will consider the Commission’s report and then forward proposed delegate selection rules to the DNC for action later in 2010.
Frank has more on superdelegates, but FHQ will focus on the primary timing aspect of the proceedings today.
Calendar: Under the Commission’s proposal numerous states (including Virginia) will have to move their primaries back to after March 1. It will be easier to achieve date changes in 2012 if the RNC agrees to have a similar starting date. Nevertheless, some states will be in a situation where there is a state mandated primary date which does not comply with the DNC’s schedule. The RBC will reexamine the delegate selection rules which provide for sanctions and exceptions.
No, there's nothing new there and FHQ has certainly documented the potential pitfalls in this March 1 plan if the Republican Party does not follow suit with a similar calendar.

I'll have more when Frank gets the full recommendations up.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Democrats and Republicans Unified on a March Primary Start? All Signs Point Toward Yes

The Concord Monitor has a great piece this morning looking at the thinking within both the Democratic and Republican Parties concerning the rules (RE: timing) for 2012 presidential delegate selection. The consensus seems to be that the Democratic Change Commission and Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee (meeting today) are both committed to closing the window (of time in which primaries and caucuses can be held) to exclude February from the equation. The Democrats are still willing to let Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina go in February and the Republicans are committed to same thing (with the exception of Nevada*). Still, the commitment appears to be there on the part of both parties to scale the length of the presidential primary process back with regard to timing.

Both groups making 2012 recommendations are committed to this, but will the actual decision-makers within the parties (the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee and the full RNC) who will sign off on this actually do that? That is the question of the moment. For the time being, though, the fact that the parties are working separately together on this speaks to the idea that both acknowledge the necessity of teamwork to change the system and avoid additional Florida and Michigan situations in either party.

NOTE: This article has also done a good job at looking at some of the rules changes from 1996 onward that brought the primary system to where it was in 2008. A good read.

*What will Nevada Republicans do if this comes to pass? It seems like they would have an incentive to shirk on this discrepancy if the penalty isn't just right to dissuade them. That will come up at some point.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Democratic Change Commission 2012 Rules Recommendations Taking Shape

Frank Leone from DemRulz sends this along:

As to timing, the discussion was relatively brief and consistent with prior discussions – Iowa/NH/SC/Nevada can go after Feb. 1, every other state goes after March 1, the rules should encourage regional clusters by offering incentives such as bonus delegates, the RBC will address enforcement procedures and sanctions, and the DNC will try to coordinate timing with the RNC rules committee. The RNC coordination process is ongoing.

Commission members recognized that the best hope for a spread out process lies with agreement with the RNC on starting date, both parties imposing the same penalties for going out of turn, incentives to states to move back and cluster, and the states recognition that frontloading is no longer the best way to get attention. One caveat – the Commission should consider the effect of offering bonus delegates both for moving back and for clustering – too many bonus delegates may distort the traditional delegate allocation which is typically based on Democratic vote and population.

Now the puzzle pieces are starting to come together in terms of both the Democratic Party and Republican Party coordinating their efforts to curb primary frontloading. Those efforts are certainly still in their formative stage, but as FHQ has indicated, if reform of the nomination process is truly desired, the two major parties will have to work together to incentivize going later in the process and punish those states that go too early.

DemRulz also has in that post (linked above) a look at the prospects for change in terms of the caucus process and the folks formerly known as superdelegates.

UPDATE: Commission member Suzi LeVine had this and more to say on the discussion regarding the timing of delegate selection events at today's Democratic Change Commission meeting in Washington:
#1: recommended encouraging regional primaries and spreading out the calendar – with incentives (ie – bonus delegates). RBC to determine incentives. (We did not address penalties or how to handle when a state’s legislature breaks the windows without the party’s permission).

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Democratic Change Commission Meeting (#3) Tomorrow

The Democratic Change Commission is scheduled to hold its final meeting at 10:30 am on Saturday December 5 at the Capitol Hilton, at 16th & K Sts. NW, Washington DC. The group is to make recommendations to the DNC by the first of the year and this is the final meeting. However, whether that means those recommendations are made public tomorrow is up in the air.

FHQ will be on the lookout for updates and news and posting them here. Here are a few links I'll be keeping an eye on:

DCC Member Twitter feeds:
Claire McCaskill
Suzi LeVine (Oh, and here is her blog where she posted some great material following the first and second meetings. Now, whether that happens tomorrow or later is yet to be determined, but this remains a great place for firsthand accounts from inside the process.)
Rebecca Prozan
Joan Garry

DemRulz (Frank Leone has had great live blogs from the first and second meetings in Washington. He has already said he will reprise that role tomorrow. In addition, Frank has a great series of posts up concerning each of the points of emphasis for the commission: timing, caucuses and superdelegates. Here, too, is his Twitter feed.)

DemConWatch (Depending on the news out of Washington on Saturday, I'll likely be cross-posting some thoughts over there. But Matt may or may not have some things of his own to add to the discussion.)

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Reconciling the 2012 Work of the Democratic Change Commission and the Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee

FHQ has been closely watching the meetings of the groups within both national parties reexamining the rules by which delegates will be allocated and presidential candidates nominated in the 2012 election. And we have done our part to bring the developments to our readers (click on the Democratic Change Commission and/or Temporary Delegate Selection Committee tags at the conclusion of the post for the full discussion). And while there has been a fair amount of individual analysis here, we have been lacking in attempts to reconcile what each party is doing with its counterparts across the aisle.

For all the talk about working together, there actually hasn't been any overt contact between the two parties other than a post at The Hill over the summer bringing the idea up. Of course, I've also tried to do my part here. Absolutely nothing revolutionary is going to get done on the presidential primary reform front unless the parties work together. And even then, FHQ is not necessarily of a mind that reform is acutely necessary. Democrats ended up with a winner in 2008 and Republicans, purity tests aside, got the candidate best positioned to actually beat any Democrat in a year that favored the party of Jefferson and Jackson. The weak links from the 2008 cycle are the ones being addressed now by both parties: what to do about caucuses (or the larger caucuses vs. primaries question), how can we stop frontloading, and for the Democrats, what should we do about those superdelegates? And though the Republican Party has items such as rotating regional primaries and instant runoffs on the table, FHQ is hesitant to take them seriously.


Well, those ideas are grand in scope and are going to take cooperation from Democrats to implement. And as of yet, there has been, again, no action taken on that front. In fact, those ideas aren't anywhere near the Democratic Change Commission's agenda. This isn't all the Democrats' fault either. For their part, the Change Commission is firmly committed to altering the timing of delegate selection events. No, the group isn't seemingly going to advance any radical recommendation, but they are intent on closing the window in which primaries and caucuses can be held; effectively starting the process in mid- to late February instead of at the beginning of the year as in 2008. [Non-exempt states -- everyone but Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada would be allowed to hold their delegate selection events on the first week in March or there after until the process comes to a close in June.]

This, however, does not necessarily jibe well with the goals of the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee. Indeed, this March starting point has not seemingly been on the Republican group's radar for their meetings to date. That isn't to say the GOP won't go along with the idea eventually, but their motivation is counter to the plan the Democrats are advancing. The Republican Party will be more interested in a quick nomination decision, a la 2004 for the Democrats, simply because they are going to be facing an incumbent president. [Plus opening up the Tea Party rift in 2012 will likely be suicidal for Republicans. The GOP just hasn't as of yet seemed willing to take a more pragmatic route in order to win. Democrats were at that point in 2008 -- and that isn't to suggest that they "settled" for Obama. The RNC is mindful of that and would likely opt for the status quo to maintain the quick selection mechanisms that are in place within the party's nominating apparatus.]

What that means is that the Republican Party's goals are not necessarily congruent with those of the Democratic Party. On top of that, time is running out. [For 2012? Yes, for 2012.] The Democratic Change Commission's recommendations are due to the party by the first of the year in 2010. The Rules and Bylaws Committee will then decide upon the rules for 2012 some time over the summer; roughly the same time period the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee is slated to finish up its work. That essentially leaves about nine months for the parties to put their heads together on the matter of primary reform. Sure, that's an eternity in politics, but when distractions like health care and midterm elections pop up, the task becomes even more difficult. Besides, a year has already passed since the 2008 election and the parties have not actively opened a dialog on this front.

They're going to fix that in nine months? Color FHQ bearish.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why the Democratic Change Commission's March 1 Mandate Will Be a Tough Sell Without a Bipartisan Primary Reform Plan

One thing that was made clear at this past weekend's Democratic Change Commission meeting was that the group's final recommendation to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee would heed the call of the convention provision that created the group in the first place. Namely, in regards to the timing of presidential primaries in 2012, the DCC is committed to closing the window on February delegate selection events (with the exception of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina).

But the March 1 mandate is problematic for the very same reasons that make reforming the presidential process difficult: that the lack of a bipartisan approach hampers the entire effort at reform. And without bipartisan action to confront the reform process, there could potentially be several classes of states.
  • The first distinction to be made is between states that have to move the date on which their delegate selection events are held and those that don't have to do anything to reach compliance. Well, there were a lot of February states in 2008.
  • Secondly, there is a line that separates caucus states and primary states on this as well. The dates on which caucuses are held are determined by the state parties more often than not, while state governments (state legislatures and governors) set primary dates. State party compliance is easier to come by than state legislative compliance (see here for more on this point.).
  • On a level that is more troublesome, however, is where the March 1 mandate intersects with state governmental action. In states where the Democratic Party is in control of the state government, there may be some difficulty getting legislation altering the date on which any state's primary is held, but it would likely be minor compared to the potential resistance faced in states where the Republican Party controls both the executive and legislative branches.
Again, all this assumes that the GOP does nothing to significantly alter the rules governing their delegate selection process. Yes, the party took the unprecedented step of creating a group (the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee) to look at those rules outside of the convention for the first time. Now, the party could opt to stick with the frontloaded system as a means of settling the 2012 nomination quickly in order to prepare for a long general election campaign against Obama. They could also radically alter the primary process in a way that exceeds what the Democratic Change Commission is charged with examining. In either scenario, a go-it-alone strategy by either party likely nets them both a situation where there is a partisan discrepancy in some states. In other words, some states may have no incentive to go along with one of the parties' rules.

That's how we get back to the battle lines outlined above. Let's key in on that last one for the moment because that is where this gets Florida/Michigan messy. For the moment, let's assume that there are only minor changes to the Republican rules, that the Democrats go forward with this March 1 mandate for all non-exempt states, and that the GOP continues to allow February primaries and caucuses (Keep in mind Hawaii Republicans have already staked a claim to February 21, 2012 as the date for their caucus.). How many states have or will potentially have unified Republican control of the state government and could completely ignore Democratic rules (in the way that the Florida state government did a year ago)?

There are elections to be held that could change this before the 2012 delegate selection rules are adopted by both parties sometime next year. However, there are only three states that would not be in compliance with Democratic Party rules (a March 1 mandate assumed) given the current shape of the 2012 presidential primary calendar: Arizona, Florida and Georgia. Well, that's not that many. No, it isn't and that doesn't even include the caveat that Arizona's governor can use the power of proclamation to move the primary date to a more competitive date. [Traditionally, that has meant that the late February primary date that is on the books has been moved to early February. There is no language that I know of in the gubernatorial proclamation law that could allow the governor to move the primary back. That would be a test of the law. That point may be moot if Jan Brewer or another Republican is elected in Arizona next year. They wouldn't be motivated to move the date back to comply with the Democratic Party's rules for delegate selection anyway.]

Three isn't that many. Again, it isn't, but what's missing is states where there is a unified Republican legislature and a Democratic governor. The governor in those states can't make the state legislature pass a law just to comply with another party's rules. That adds three more states: Missouri, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Of course, those latter two may very well have Republican governors after the 2010 elections. Democrats in Tennessee and Oklahoma have very little depth on the bench behind either Bredesen in Tennessee or Henry in Oklahoma.

Now, we've already potentially tripled the Florida and Michigan problem from 2008. But what about early states with legislatures that have two chambers split between the two parties. One chamber (the Democratic one) may want to push a bill through that would bring the state's primary within the Democratic delegate selection rules, but the other chamber may find some better use of their legislative time. Well, that nets us two more states, Michigan and Virginia.

That would present the Democratic Party with a real dilemma. Eight states would potentially be in violation of the party's 2012 rules (specifically the March 1 mandate) through no fault of their own. Either legislative gridlock or unified Republican control of the state government could prevent compliance. How do you penalize states in that scenario? Would the state parties be forced to foot the bill for a party-run primary or caucus?

It is just this sort of exercise that the Democratic Change Commission should be considering. There have been a number of questions in both meetings thus far along the lines of "is coordination with the RNC possible?" that give a sense of detachment. Both parties are set to nail down the 2012 rules next year and yet there is no apparent effort at coordination taking place (at least not at the level of the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee or the Change Commission) despite the very real possibility that problems like those described above could take place.

Food for thought.

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Wrong! Wrong! A Thousand Times Wrong! One Bit of Misinformation from the Democratic Change Commission's Meeting This Past Weekend

Monday, October 26, 2009

Wrong! Wrong! A Thousand Times Wrong! One Bit of Misinformation from the Democratic Change Commission's Meeting This Past Weekend

The one big criticism I have of what I've read about the Democratic Change Commission meeting this weekend is that there still is no viable incentive structure in place to get states who have or will in the future want to frontload their presidential primaries and caucuses to move back or stay put. That's a thorny issue, though, at the intersection of state parties, national parties and state legislative jurisdiction, so I don't blame the 37 member group for not having gotten to that point yet. [Their recommendations won't come until after the group's December 5 meeting in Washington.]

However, what I can't forgive is one bit of misinformation that made its way out of the proceedings that is bad, bad, bad. Here's the Q&A exchange with North Carolina State Senator Dan Blue fielding the questions (from DCC member, Suzi LeVine's notes):

Q: what is the situation about states having separate state & presidential primaries? Ie – California did it.

A: expensive – but sense that California being so late is problematic. Last time California went early and they still didn’t get the attention. Very unsatisfactory then. State legislature seems to like moving it up. However, remember that incumbents benefit with an early primary ‘cause challengers haven’t been able to raise money and awareness and these positions are often chosen in the primaries.

Q: How would budget deficit in California affect 2012?

A: Bifurcating the 2 primaries is expensive. Usually have to stay unhitched to address local laws. Brought up the Affect of redistricting (will happen ‘cause of census)

Q: states with federal and state primaries on the same day?

A: most are together – but will find out exact number.

WRUH-ONG! [It is difficult to make something monosyllabic, have two syllables.]

In fact, this is very wrong. By my count, the 2008 primary calendar saw just 13 states with presidential primaries and primaries for state and local offices held concurrently. The remaining states and territories had their presidential nomination contests separate from their statewide and local primaries. And I say nomination contests there because 24 of the remaining 37 states held two separate primaries while the remaining 13 held caucuses for presidential delegate selection and later primaries for the other offices.

Together at Last, or Are They?
Presidential Primaries and State and Local Primaries (2008)
Concurrent Primaries
Split Primaries
North Carolina
West Virginia
South Dakota
New Hampshire
South Carolina
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Rhode Island
North Dakota

Here's the thing: This idea -- split primaries, as I've called them -- is the number one reason why some states have moved in the time since the McGovern-Fraser reforms that were instituted in 1972 and others have not. In the 1976-1996 period, presidential primary states that already had separate primaries were over five times more likely to move their contests to an earlier date than were those with concurrent presidential and state/local primaries. Once you add the cycles of the hyper-frontloaded era (2000-2008) -- when the incentive, like in 2008, was to move or get left out -- that effect dropped to only twice as likely. And no, that doesn't even take into account the caucus states. With those split caucus states included the effect is even greater.


Well, those states that have already severed the tie between the two primary types, and have institutionalized the resulting structure over successive presidential election cycles, don't face the same problem states with concurrent primaries have. Concurrent primary states face the start-up costs associated with funding an all new presidential primary election (see constant reference to California's expensive transition in 2008 in the quoted text above). The split primary states have already dealt with and absorbed that cost. Those states, then, are much freer to move their delegate selection events where they please. And since about 1980, the motivation has been to frontload.

So, do more states hold all their primaries together? No, they do not. Two-thirds of the country, in fact, hold separate contests.

*The data for the years prior to 2000 were gather from various sources by the author, but from 2000 onward were thankfully publicly available on The Green Papers.
**Texas could also fall into the caucus category simply because of its hybrid prima-caucus system.
***Arkansas was split for 2008, but has already passed legislation that will eliminate the separate primary in 2012.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Notes on Yesterday's Democratic Change Commission Meeting

Commission member, Suzi LeVine, once again has provided us all with what she called in an email to me her "copious notes" on the events that transpired at the two part meeting a day ago.

Copious indeed. Still the best firsthand account of what is going on in these meetings. Check it out and I'll be back later with some broader comments on what transpired.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Democratic Change Commission Meeting #2: Timing

Frank Leone over at DemRulz is on the scene in Washington and has a rundown of the morning half of the Change Commission's meeting. The group picked up with what they were to have addressed during their August meeting (postponed due to Ted Kennedy's funeral): public comments on the issues the group is charged with examining.

Let's look at what was discussed on the issue of timing (Would you expect anything less from Frontloading HQ?). From DemRulz:
"Curtis Gans, Director of the Study of the American Electorate at American University made a presentation. He criticized the 1988 Super Tuesday Southern primary for starting the race to early primaries; this resulted in a process based on “state selfishness.” It is more important to select the best person to be president than for a state to get more attention. He recommended a bipartisan, durable system with less frontloading and less moving around. He recommended starting with smaller, diverse, individual primaries, and a spread-out process – not regional primaries. Regional primaries may result in different candidates representing different regions and split the party. He opposes a rotation where it all changes every four years. He favors a long process which worked this year, allowing candidates flexibility to skip certain states, 20-day filing deadlines to allow new candidates to file. Spread out individual primaries will encourage grassroots and discourage negative campaigning – if you have 20 primaries on one day, you need to rely on negative TV. He would prefer to start the whole process in March, but is okay with IA, NH, SC, and NV going early — it worked well in 2008. In response to a question from Jeff Berman, he stated that there is an opportunity for cooperation with RNC in setting calendar and the GOP is likely to agree on starting date."
...and also...
"Hon. Dan Blue (Comm. Member, NC State Senator) – late primaries can be good. In 2008, NC linked the presidential primary with state office primaries, the late primary got a lot of attention, and Obama and Democratic candidates won in November. Grouping of 29 states on the same day is crazy – you need to break it up, spread out process."
Gans is right to blame 1988, but the idea of a Southern primary movement had its origins in the mid-1970s and was actually begun when Georgia and Alabama moved to coincide with Florida in 1980 (at the Carter administration’s behest). At the time, New Hampshire and Massachusetts were early and gave Kennedy a potential leg up in the race. So, it didn’t actually start off as state selfishness so much as the administration’s need to regain the 1980 nomination. By 1988, when the other Southern states moved, that had morphed into state (or regional really) selfishness.

The proposals are nice to see and it is great to idealize what happened a year ago, but I still don’t see any incentive structure to get any of the bloc of early states to move back in the process. The bonus delegate regime has not been effective and the winner-take-all proposal for later states is flawed. Bipartisanship would help, but both parties have to stand unified behind any plan they construct together.

Leone then adds his thoughts:
"My thoughts: The most important point re timing is that the DNC (even with the RNC) does not have the power to set a single primary date and is not writing on a blank slate. State legislatures set primary schedules and proposed changes need to account for political realities – like IA and NH are going to go first. Thus I believe that a rotating process, consisting of changing dates in every state every four years is a non-starter. Super regional primaries, that don’t change, do run the risk of favoring candidates from certain regions (although famously this was not the case in the 1988 Super Tuesday Southern primary). Mini-regional primaries, like last year’s Potomac Primary (VA, DC, MD), allow campaigns to focus their resources and states should consider such groupings. As to the basic schedule – a long term process, starting in March for most states (with the now traditional early states of IA, NH, SC, and NV going after Feb. 1) makes sense. Spreading out primaries, using bonus delegates, as was the case with NC and other states this year also allows for a full vetting of candidates and should result in a better choice."
Exactly right. Regional primaries are simply just a no-go from a state legislative standpoint. It is inherently unfair because both parties don't always have contested nomination races every year. As a result, some segment of the primary electorate on one or both sides of the partisan aisle may miss out on having an impact on their party's nomination when their state gets to go early. That alone will pit Democratic-controlled state legislatures against Republican-controlled ones.

Again though, to think of and idealize the North Carolinas and Pennsylvanias and Indianas just because they lucked out and happened to have a protracted battle fall into their laps, doesn't mean that it is possible to make states go later (or at the very best to incentivize them doing so). That assumes that the Clinton-Obama nomination race is the new normal. It could be, but I doubt it.

There's a lot of talk about the bonus delegate system and how North Carolina benefited from it in 2008. Yes, they gained, but only because they had a higher barrier to frontloading than other states had. If the Tarheel state did not hold its primaries for state and local offices on the same date as their presidential primary, they likely would have moved as well. But moving from the North Carolina General Assembly meant more than just moving to an earlier date; it meant funding an all new election (for the presidential primary) or moving everything else up. The latter is seen as a negative because that would affect turnout in down-ballot primaries in which the legislators themselves are involved (see Atkeson and Maestas).

On further on that point, Leone adds:
"Note – It was claimed that most states have presidential and state primaries on the same day, but it’s not clear that this is true and certainly hasn’t been true in Virginia."
Most states DO NOT have their state and local primaries in conjunction with their presidential primaries. That is the main reason that most of the states that have moved over the years have been able to do so.

I have shown that in my own research (Shameless, FHQ, shameless.). Prior to 1996, states with split primaries (presidential and state/local) were about 7 times more likely to make a move forward. After 1996, that dropped to only 2 times more likely. But still states with concurrent primary structures (still the minority) are less likely to move forward. That claim, then, is false. Where it is partially true is when you look at ONLY primary states. Once caucus states are considered (and most of them are held apart from the nominating contests for other offices), it is not the case. That is why caucus states have a much easier time of moving. [Dare I cite myself again? Oh, what the heck.]

I catch a lot of flack for being a negative nellie and shooting down all these ideas. That really isn't the case. I've made a career of looking at the unintended consequences of rules changes to the presidential primary process. My main argument has always been that if you are going to make reforms you absolutely have to take into consideration all of the potential unintended consequences. Otherwise, there is a risk that the reform measures just make things worse. Besides, from a Democratic perspective, the system did just work rather effectively. Obama is in the White House. [Well, some may have preferred having a Clinton in the White House.] Granted, it has worked well from a GOP perspective in the past as well.

I think the proposals to spread the calendar out are the right way to go, but there just has not been an effective incentive structure proposed that would offset the state-level desire to move forward on the calendar. The first step in getting to that point, in my opinion, is have both parties work together to create a unified reform. Without that, states will continue to have the ability to pit the two parties' rule structures against each other as a means of maintaining the status quo.

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Reminder: Democratic Change Commission Meets Tomorrow in Washington

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reminder: Democratic Change Commission Meets Tomorrow in Washington

The Democratic Change Commission, which is reviewing the Democratic Party presidential nomination process will meet on Saturday, October 24, 2009, at 9:30 (tentative) at the Capital Hilton, 1001 16th Street, NW, Washington DC. The Commission will continue to focus on state nomination process calender, superdelegates, and caucuses.

FHQ will be scouring the web for updates and news and posting them here. Here are a few links I'll be keeping an eye on:

DCC Member Twitter feeds:
Claire McCaskill
Suzi LeVine (Oh, and here is her blog where she posted some great material following the first meeting. She's already alerted folks following her Twitter feed that she'll be posting updates on her site. Now, whether that happens tomorrow or later is yet to be determined, but this remains a great place for firsthand accounts from inside the process.)
Rebecca Prozan
Joan Garry

DemRulz (Frank Leone had a great live blog from the first meeting in Washington. He has already said he will reprise that role tomorrow. Here, too, is his Twitter feed.)

DemConWatch (I don't know what Matt's plans are, but we had a nice discussion going between our respective blogs during the weekend of the first meeting back in late June.)

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Democratic Change Commission Set to Meet on Oct. 24 in Washington

From Frank Leone at DemRulz:
The DNC Change Commission, which is reviewing the Democratic Party Presidential candidate nomination process will meet on Saturday, October 24, 2009, at 9:30 (tentative) at the Capital Hilton, 1001 16th Street, NW, Washington DC. The Commission will continue to focus on state nomination process calender, superdelegates, and caucuses. I plan to attend and report.
FHQ might [MIGHT] follow Leone's lead and attend. I'll have to check my schedule around that time. I'll keep you posted.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

New Members on the Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee

It is too bad that this story appeared over at The Hill on Saturday. It is something that got lost amid the distractions of a long holiday weekend.

To the victor goes the spoils.

DNC Chairman Tim Kaine last week appointed several new members to the Rules and Bylaws Committee (Remember them?) of the Democratic Party. To me, though, the interesting thing is not the inevitability that Clinton supporters in positions on the committee were replaced by Obama supporters (or New Hampshire's representation on the R&B), but the fact that there are at least three members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee that are simultaneously serving on the Democratic Change Commission. Jeff Berman, Minyon Moore and Randi Weingarten are all pulling double duty.

Why is this noteworthy?

Well, as things are set up for 2012 (presidential nomination) rules making, the Democratic Change Commission debates, formulates and recommends a plan to tweak and ultimately govern delegate selection for the 2012 nomination. That recommendation, though, is passed off to the Rules and Bylaws Committee for approval. The Change Commission is due to make said recommendation by January 1, 2010, and if history (the 2008 cycle) is any indication, the R&B will formalize those rules some time during the late summer of next year.

Still, what does the fact that several members are pulling the double matter? It means that the Rules and Bylaws Committee has representation (at least 3 of the 37 Democratic Change Commission members) on the Change Commission. Does that mean they can push through or prevent reform to some degree? Not really (with so many total members), but it does provide the committee with something of a symbolic footprint on the meetings this fall of the DCC. It also further bolsters the notion that real change to this process will be shunted off to be dealt with in the future and that the president (as so many presidential nominees of both parties before him) is attached to the status quo; the process though which he won the nomination.

In a summer of discontent this likely won't sit well with those on the left looking for change. And though, I'll admit that the Change Commission (at least some among its ranks) foresee the need to make some significant changes to the nomination system, that has always run against the notion that presidents stick with what got them there. Does that mean that the latter will outweigh the former in this instance. It does not, but it would be wise to consider both as the 2012 rules are being considered, crafted and certified.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nevermind: Democratic Change Commission Meeting Postponed

I don't know how I missed this on Thursday (I suppose there are only so many times you can search "Democratic Change Commission" in Google News. At least the news broke after I wrote that all was quiet.), but in the wake of the Kennedy death and funeral, the DNC postponed the Change Commission's meeting "until further notice."

Here's the write-up from the Boston Globe's Political Intelligence blog:

Here comes word of the latest cancellation out of respect for the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

A Democratic Party panel that is taking another look at the presidential nominating process -- likely including the timing of the early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire -- was scheduled to meet Saturday in St. Louis.

That will be the day of Kennedy's funeral in Boston, expected to draw many Democratic leaders.

The Democratic National Committee said the meeting of the Democratic Change Commission has been postponed until further notice. The panel, created last year, is to address "1) changing the window of time during which primaries and caucuses may be held 2) reducing the number of superdelegates and 3) improving the caucus system."

The commission must issue its report and recommendations to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee no later than Jan. 1.
There's really nothing new in there other than the delay of the meeting (That January 1, 2010 deadline looms, too though, I suppose). And with the third meeting scheduled for October 24, the panel has a bit of time during September for another meeting. But I wouldn't be surprised if they rolled the second and third meetings into one in October. And I'm going to throw this out there too: It would be nice if they would hold this meeting in the home state of the other commission co-chair, Jim Clyburn (This second meeting was in co-chair Claire McCaskill's home in the Show-Me state.). And yes, I say that for completely selfish reasons. It is far easier to go from North Carolina to South Carolina than it is to go from the Tarheel state to DC or Missouri.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Reminder: Democratic Change Commission Meets Tomorrow in St. Louis

The Democratic Change Commission kicks off its second meeting tomorrow morning at 9:30am in St. Louis. A quick glance at C-SPAN's schedules for tomorrow shows that the network and all its various channels will be focused on the Kennedy funeral* instead (That's probably as it should be.), which means that interested parties will be without live (or even taped) coverage of the event. Considering that the event is billed as being open to public comment, that's too bad. But under the circumstances, it is understandable.

But never fear, FHQ will be scouring the web for updates and news and posting them here. Here are a few links I'll be keeping an eye on:

DCC Member Twitter feeds:
Claire McCaskill
Suzi LeVine (Oh, and here is her blog where she posted some great material following the first meeting.)
Rebecca Prozan
Joan Garry

DemRulz (Frank Leone had a great live blog from the first meeting in Washington. I don't know that he'll reprise his role tomorrow. Here, too, is his Twitter feed.)

DemConWatch (I'm sure Matt will be actively covering this as well and I'll likely be pulling double duty and cross-posting over there too.)

I'll add others when and if I come across them. And if there's any interest, I'll open up a thread for comment-in-real-time in the morning. Just let me know in the comments section if you're interested.

*Speaking of the Kennedy funeral, I wonder what effect that event will have on attendance at tomorrow's meeting. It seems like several members of the 37 member group examining the reform of the presidential nomination process would be inclined to attend. Chairs Claire McCaskill and Jim Clyburn would be particularly conflicted to some degree I'd imagine, having served on the Hill with Kennedy (Rep. Clyburn, from his position in the House, didn't serve directly with Kennedy, but Sen. McCaskill did.). I suppose they could appear "via satellite" from Boston/Washington if they had to.

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All Quiet on the Democratic Change Commission Front

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

All Quiet on the Democratic Change Commission Front

Understandably Ted Kennedy's passing has Democrats thinking about other things today, but even before that, there was and continues to be an almost total absence of the Democratic Change Commission in the news this week ahead of the group's weekend meeting in St. Louis. Normally, I wouldn't make that big a deal of this, especially considering that real news of the DCC's first meeting didn't start filtering out until the Wednesday before. Even then, that scant news was able to cut through a week that involved Mark Sanford's adultery admission new conference and Michael Jackson's death. [What a week!] To me, though, this is troubling because this is the meeting that is supposed to be open for public comment. Yet, we've heard nothing from the party since the August 7 press release announced the online suggestions form.

There are however a couple of suggestions that are floating around out there that may see the light of day this weekend in Missouri.

1) End the Texas Two Step: Caucuses are definitely on the Commission's to-do list, but this is a tricky one. The problem some see in the primary-caucus set up in the Lone Star state is that primary voters' votes are discounted because not all primary voters return for the night cap caucus. That's all well and good, but this is still an issue that pits the national party against the state party; specifically a longstanding state party preference. And yes, the Democrats are more willing to strike down these types of structural anomalies than to yield to the states as the Republican Party typically does.

There's also the issue of Obama's preference. The system in Texas did allow him to best Hillary Clinton in the Texas delegate count once the caucus portion was tabulated in June. This still seems like a Clinton/Obama holdover to me; one that will be left to Texas Democrats to decide. And yes, the Texas Democratic Party has already been looking into the issue. I should also note that each state has to submit a delegate selection plan to the Democratic Party for approval (or will in 2011). The party does have the power to strike that down if they wish. But Texas can pull a Florida/Michigan move and hold a primary-caucus anyway. Both Florida and Michigan submitted plans that called for their 2008 primaries to be during the party-sanctioned period; not outside the window where they were ultimately held.

2) Be more youth friendly: The DNC Youth Council also penned a letter to the DCC and asked that the group attempt to insure that contests don't occur too early. The argument there is that contests like Iowa's January 3 caucuses occurred at a time when students were still at home on winter break. That is a legitimate concern, but seems to be moot given that the DCC seems committed to pulling back the opening of the window in which contests can take place into March again.

The Youth Council's other issue is with Saturday caucuses. Again, the concern is that weekend working youth would be disadvantaged. Some in the Jewish community may be willing to go along with the Youth Council on this one. Of course, now I really want to go and check out both the youth and Jewish proportion of the population in Saturday caucus states. In 2008 that list included Nebraska, Nevada, Washington and Wyoming. [Louisiana and South Carolina held Saturday primaries and Maine Democrats had a Sunday caucus.] This one will be talked about, because the effects aren't understood very well. There are pros and cons to having and not having weekend contests.

These and other public comments will be interesting to track throughout the Democratic Change Commission's meeting on Saturday. [No word yet on whether the DNC Youth Council has a problem with the day of this particular meeting and how that bodes for their argument. Oh, but the irony.]

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